There are many big questions that get asked during the playoffs, because there are many big talking points that should be (and need to be) addressed. Most of them are just versions of similar conversations from previous years—Can the [TEAM] really beat the Warriors? Will LeBron really make his [NUMBER] Finals in a row? Are the [TEAM] for real? Etc.
But the smaller questions are good, too. I might even argue that they’re better, and more interesting, and more vital to the basketball-watching experience, particularly as that basketball-watching experience has been atomized by the internet these past five or so years. Here are some of them:
- Did you notice that DeMar DeRozan is incredible? (I did, and it’s beautiful to watch.)
- WHY WON’T THE BUCKS PLAY GIANNIS AT THE 5 MORE? (I DON’T KNOW. IT’S SO DUMB THAT THEY DON’T. THEY DID IT A LITTLE IN GAME 2 AND IT FELT SO GOOD AND SMART.)
- I mean, what the fuck, Kawhi? (More on this in a minute.)
- Would you rather have Steven Adams or Clint Capela? (Give me Steven Adams, always.) (But still: The fact this is a debate is how you know that James Harden is the MVP of the league this year.) (God, I hate typing that out.)
- Is there a certain number of playoff games the Pelicans can win this year that will prevent Anthony Davis from leaving soon? (We saw a similar thing play out last year with the Jazz.) (This year feels different, though. Seeing Davis win Game 2 in that awful road red Pelicans jersey just really felt right. You could squint your eyes and see him doing it in the second round, third round, and Finals. Not this year, of course. But eventually. It really felt real.)
- Why did Drake call Kelly Oubre Jr. a bum? (More on this in a minute.)
- Why is Hassan Whiteside? (That’s it. That’s the whole question. It’s just: Why is Hassan Whiteside?)
- Which of this year’s 0-2 teams have the best chance of coming back? (More on this in a minute.)
- Is Kevin Durant legit the best basketball player in the world right now? (It certainly feels that way, but it’s hard to say whether it’s because he’s really become that or it’s because LeBron just isn’t trying as hard as we know he can. It’s like if you ran a race against Usain Bolt and you beat him because he was jogging. You can say you won, and you can make the argument that it means you’re faster than him. But, really, we all know what it is.)
- Was it disrespectful for The Raptor to show up to Game 2 of the TOR-WAS series dressed like Russell Westbrook from Game 1 of the OKC-UTAH series? (More on this in a minute.)
- Isn’t it crazy how you thought that Draymond Green couldn’t get any more villainous and then he showed up to the playoffs with a perfectly trimmed mini-beard and he instantly became 200 percent more frustrating? (And to be clear, I am very pro-Draymond. He’s one of my favorite players. It’s just that the Warriors are playing my beloved Spurs so all of my sights are a little bit off target.)
- Should someone take Joel Embiid’s social media accounts away from him? (More on this in a minute.)
- Don’t you feel bad for Kevin Love? (Yes.)
- Don’t you feel good for Jrue Holiday? (Yes.)
- Don’t you feel nothing at all for Jimmy Butler? (Yes.) (YES.) (It’s so weird.) (There was definitely a point in his career when it seemed like he was heading toward BELOVED status. But now? It’s just … like … there’s nothing there. You know what it reminds me of? It’s like if an old friend contacted you through Facebook and you set up a dinner so y’all could catch up and you’re expecting for a rush of feelings to hit you when you see them but they walk in and there’s no movement in your chest and so you end up there in your booth picking at mozzarella sticks just sort of waiting for the night to be over.) (That’s how it feels watching Jimmy Butler right now.) (I’m sad.)
Let’s grab all the “More on this in a minute” ones and stretch them out some.
I mean, what the fuck, Kawhi?
I mean, I don’t understand what’s happening. (I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING!) I mean, it’s fine that he’s rehabbing and not playing, but why is he not with the team? (WHY IS HE NOT WITH THE TEAM?!) I mean, isn’t that the worst, most damning sign? (ISN’T THAT THE WORST, MOST DAMNING SIGN?!) I mean, if he’s just worried about coming back too early and risking possibly messing up his mega $200 million payday he has coming, I get that. And I support that. I am all for that. That money is his, and he should have it. But can we at least get a text, Kawhi? (CAN WE AT LEAST GET A TEXT, KAWHI?!) I mean, can we get a five-second video saying you’re seeing all the rumors circulating and that you want to make it clear that you love the Spurs and are going to stay with the Spurs? (ARE YOU GOING TO LEAVE THE SPURS?!) I mean, would that really be so hard? (WOULD THAT REALLY BE SO HARD?!) I mean, come on. (COME ON!) I mean, but also, is there a chance we’re all just overreacting? (IS THERE A CHANCE WE’RE ALL JUST OVERREACTING?!) I mean, he’s been a quiet, reserved guy for literally every moment of his career. (HE’S BEEN A QUIET, RESERVED GUY FOR LITERALLY EVERY MOMENT OF HIS CAREER!) I mean, why should this be any different? (WHY SHOULD THIS BE ANY DIFFERENT?!) I mean, why should he have to do something out of pocket just so Spurs fans can feel a little better about themselves? (WHY ARE WE ALL BEING SO INSECURE?!) I mean, I’m sure everything is fine. (EVERYTHING IS NOT FINE!)
Why did Drake call Kelly Oubre Jr. a bum?
This seemed to be a thing that happened because Drake is a Raptors fan and he was sitting courtside and Oubre was running by and so Drake said it because he said it. But I don’t know. Maybe it was in response to a tweet that Oubre sent nearly seven years ago saying that Drake had “NO swaaaaagg.” Or maybe it’s because Kelly went to Kansas and Drake is a Kentucky fan. Or maybe it’s because Oubre is spelled with an “ou” and that’s how they spell some words (colour, honour, flavour) in Canada and Drake, who is from Canada, took offense to it. (“It’s appropriation, yeah,” Drake probably said, his occasional Jamaican accent ringing out.) Or maybe it was something else entirely. Either way, it was adorable to watch Oubre answer questions about it afterward. (The best part was that Oubre, as Rob Perez noticed, went back and deleted the “NO swaaaaagg” tweet.)
Which of the teams down 0-2 have the best chance at coming back?
San Antonio: The Spurs played as hard as they could and as well as they could for most of Game 2 and the Warriors, who eventually went on to win by 15, rarely looked anything other than slightly annoyed. San Antonio just can’t keep up with them. The Warriors showed up to the series with a duffel bag full of knives and grenades. The Spurs showed up to the series with a duffel bag full of sunflowers and Go-Gurt packets. They have a 0 percent chance of coming back.
Minnesota: Here’s the thing: The Wolves looked good in Game 1 against the Rockets, and there was for sure a chance for them to steal it. Had they done so, it would have shaken the Rockets just enough to make the series feel interesting. (There aren’t earplugs big enough to drown out all of the “I TOLD YOU CHRIS PAUL WAS NOT GOING TO BE THE ONE TO GET THE ROCKETS OVER THE HUMP” yelling that would’ve happened if the Rockets would’ve lost Game 1 following that late-game Paul turnover.) But the Rockets sneaking a W after that very bad performance by Paul only served to boost CP3’s confidence. Now he can screw up and it’s not going to cost his team the series, and that sort of freedom is wildly powerful. If Harden and Paul lose in the playoffs, it will be to a team that’s better than them, and Minnesota ain’t that. The Wolves have a 2 percent chance of coming back.
Washington: The most representative moment of where the Wizards are right now as a team is that clip from Game 2 where John Wall and Marcin Gortat are fussing at each other on the bench and Bradley Beal, broken and battered and frustrated, is sitting there by them, holding his face in his hands to keep it from falling off.
They have a 5 percent chance of coming back. (The only reason it’s not “0 percent” is because there’s always the chance that John Wall will roll an ankle or something and has to sit out for a few games and the Wizards will go bonkers without him.) (And for the record, I am 100 percent in the camp that believes the Wizards are better with John Wall, it’s just that sometimes it seems like maybe some of the Wizard players are on the other side of that argument.)
Portland: The first bad thing: The Blazers need to win four of the next five games, three of which are in New Orleans. (The Blazers were 21-20 on the road this season.) Second: It looks like Damian Lillard forgot that he’s one of the best guards in the league, and that C.J. McCollum forgot that the two of them together are a fucking nightmare when they’re rolling. (They shot a combined 13-for-41 in Game 1, and a combined 16-for-39 in Game 2.) Third: Rajon Rondo made two 3s in Game 2, and “Rajon Rondo Makes Two 3s” is a headline that happens only when you’re in the middle of losing a playoff series to a sixth-seeded team missing its second-best player. Fourth: Jrue Holiday has, it would appear, legally changed his middle name to “Is Sending the Blazers on an Early.” (That’s such a bad joke.) (I am so sorry.) And the fifth bad thing is Anthony Davis won a playoff game, and Anthony Davis winning a playoff game is like that part in The Edge when Anthony Hopkins realized that the bear had a taste for human blood and was going to attack Hopkins and his friends until they were dead or he was dead. The Blazers have a 12 percent chance of coming back.
Milwaukee: Milwaukee looks extremely bad right now and I can’t even imagine all of the things that Jason Kidd is laughing about at home when he watches them. The Bucks have a 13 percent chance to come back, mostly because someone on the Celtics gets hurt every 45 minutes and eventually they’re just going to run out of players to put on the court.
Should someone take Joel Embiid’s social media accounts away from him?
Never. He is a master. Joel Embiid deciding whether to use his Snapchat or his Twitter or his Instagram to post a message is the basketball version of that scene in John Wick Chapter 2 when John Wick is deciding which weapons he’s going to use in battle.
Was it disrespectful for The Raptor to show up to Game 2 of the TOR-WAS series dressed like Russell Westbrook from Game 1 of the OKC-UTAH series?
No. It was wonderful. And proof positive that if dinosaurs returned to earth, humans would be able to have an amicable, fruitful, meaningful relationship with them, which is not the message that the Jurassic Park movies have been propagating for years and years and years. (My no. 1 hope is that the dinosaurs show up back on earth in some sort of pre-biblical raptor rapture, someone tells them about Jurassic Park, one of the lead raptors goes and watches it, then writes some really long, really thoughtful piece about how hurtful anti-dinosaur prejudices are. A talk-show host sees it—maybe Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel or some other rich white man not named Jimmy—and invites the raptor onto their show. “Tell me about this piece you wrote,” says Fallon. “It was really touching, and you brought up a lot of a great points about what it’s like to live on the other side of the human-dinosaur relationship, one where you’ve been vilified and turned into, for lack of a better word, a monster.” And the raptor starts getting very emotional, and everyone is really dialed into the moment because they can see this raptor, once thought to be little more than movie-monster fodder, is a complicated, complex creature with a wider emotional range than anyone could’ve ever expected. The raptor is right on the verge of tears, and it’s great and everyone in the audience is right there with it, all of their previously held dinosaur hatred just melting away. And the raptor begins to talk, and as it does, Jimmy leans in so he can absorb all of the cosmic energy, but then the raptor is like, “Bitch, sike,” and then bites him in half. “Y’all got that shit exactly right!” it hollers, and then a bunch of other raptors come rushing into the studio and it’s just like the movies. That’s my no. 1 hope.)