[caption id="attachment_314222" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] (@MiamiHEAT)
Good morning, folks. Tyler Herro must enjoy this. Let's talk NBA Bubble.
Heat finish off Bucks as Herro gets his revenge
I'm starting to run out of superlatives for Tyler Herro's
boundless playoff swagger.
The 20-year-old Miami Heat rookie has proven to be a necessary component to this team's success for this postseason and beyond. He didn't explode for 40 points or anything crazy in a potential series-clinching Game 5 matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he once again performed like he's been in this situation before. Or maybe it was just his destiny to finally enact sweet, sweet revenge on an entire state's worth of people who thought he made the wrong decision when he chose Lexington over Madison. He'd been proving them wrong for a few years now, but this was the icing on the cake. Not only did Herro shine in college against the wishes of his hometown peers, but he just helped send home the best team in the NBA and the best one the state of Wisconsin has seen since Kareem Abdul-Jabaar was 23 years old. If that doesn't make you smirk as a Kentucky fan, I don't know what will.
Herro finished Game 5 with 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, as the Heat grooved to a 103-94 series-clinching win over Milwaukee. He's become a permanent member of the closing rotation and, to be blunt, has outplayed his shooting guard counterpart, Duncan Robinson. While one-on-one attacking still isn't Herro's game quite yet, he continues to dazzle as an underrated passer and finisher at the rim. He showcased his basketball IQ with a brilliant two-for-one play near the end of the third quarter after canning a pull-up in transition before acting as a point guard in the early stages of the fourth.
As expected, Bucks superstar and the soon-to-be two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did not play after suffering an injury to the same ankle in back-to-back outings. Without the best player in the series on the floor, it was up to Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe
to make up for Milwaukee's lost production. The duo combined to shoot just 10-37 from the field, including a 3-13 clip from beyond the arc. For the third straight postseason, Bledsoe is sent home early with little to show for it.
His struggles have been noted long before Game 5, but Bledsoe's Tuesday night showing was a perfect encapsulation of his playoff career. While his defense was top-tier throughout the majority of the evening and he made some impact as a playmaker, it was the opposite end of the floor where he couldn't buy a bucket. It didn't matter if shots came right at the rim or if he was pulling up for an open jumper, he couldn't pay the basket to let him score. In nine playoff games in the Bubble, Bledsoe shot 38 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep.
*Side note: It's almost a bit hilarious how Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer waited until his best player was injured before he began rolling out heavy minutes to the ones who needed them the most. Middleton was in for 41 minutes on Tuesday. And by hilarious, I mean mind-rattlingly frustrating.*
As for Heat big man Bam Adebayo
, he finished Game 5 with 13 points, six rebounds, and two assists, putting on another impressive defensive exhibition and even showing off his improved jump shot. From what I saw, Adebayo was 3-3 on attempts outside the paint, even if they were bunny shots from 10-feet out. It's his willingness to take them with confidence that impresses me and now he's beginning to make them with regularity. If he can continue that into the Conference Finals, Miami is only going to be that more dangerous.
*Fun fact: Adebayo shot 69 percent from the free-throw line during the regular season. He is shooting 87 percent during these playoffs. There is a direct correlation between him shooting better from the stripe and making more mid-range jumpers.*
Now let the Giannis to Golden State rumors begin...
Playoff Rondo shines again during important Game 3 win
Someone on Twitter sparked the idea that maybe the reason Los Angeles Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo
is so much better in the playoffs is that he actually cares. And as much as I hate the idea behind that theory, I can't exactly find a way to argue against it. When the stage is the brightest, the former Wildcat simply plays better. During an important 112-102 Game 3 win over the Houston Rockets, Rondo assumed the position of the Lakers third "star".
Rondo recorded 21 points and nine assists for L.A. while shooting an impressive 8-11 from the field and 3-5 from deep. His passing abilities have been invaluable for the Lakers, particularly when it comes to feeding Anthony Davis
and LeBron James whenever the two have mismatches. Rondo and Davis linked up twice for Davis' classic spin-off-the-defender-for-an-alley-oop play while also finding LeBron twice right at the rim when he had a smaller defender on him. It's easy points like those that the Lakers haven't been able to get without Rondo. The real bonus of Rondo right now is he's making his outside shots. While I'm skeptical that will keep up, it at least helps open up the floor just a tad bit more. Rondo was even more impressive in the fourth quarter, adding 12 points and five assists during that period.
''Playoff Rondo is real,'' Davis said after the game. ''His intensity picks up. He wants to guard the best perimeter guy. ... He's shooting the ball very well, making the right passes. His IQ is on another level.''
The game itself was a ton of fun to watch, too. Both sides were battling back-and-forth all evening up until halfway through the fourth quarter. No team could manage so much as a five-point lead throughout the first half and into the third quarter. But then LeBron, Davis, and, yes, Rondo, took over down the stretch. LeBron, in particular, pulled off three different blocks that will give you 2016 NBA Finals vibes. Davis finished his night with 26 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists on a 9-13 shooting clip as he and LeBron combined for 62 Laker points.
Series standings from Tuesday
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(5) Heat defeat (1) Bucks 4-1
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(1) Lakers lead (4) Rockets 2-1
Other notes from the Bubble
- The two All-Defensive Teams for the 2019-20 season were announced on Tuesday, with Anthony Davis making the First Team. Two other former Wildcats, Bam Adebayo and Eric Bledsoe, also received recognition, making the Second Team.
- Head coach Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder mutually agreed to part ways after five seasons together. His contract was set to expire at the end of this season, and with OKC on the cusp of embracing a full-on rebuild, the two sides decided to end their relationship. Donovan will now be one of the most highly sought after coaches on the market, for both NBA and college teams. The Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers have already been named as parties interested in his coaching services. Donovan posted an overall record of 243-157 during his time with the Thunder. I still remember being upset when Kentucky made Billy Gillispie the head coach back in 2007 over Donovan... Ahhh what a time that was.
- LeBron James picked up his 162nd NBA Playoff win on Tuesday, the most in league history.
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TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE
6:30 (ESPN): Raptors @ Cetlics (Kanter) [BOS leads 3-2]
9:00 (ESPN): Clippers (Patterson)
@ Nuggets (Murray) [LAC leads 2-1]