The NBA playoffs will resume on Saturday, with the three games originally scheduled for Wednesday on the agenda. Three matches in Game 5, two of which in elimination with the Bucks and Lakers leading 3-1 in their respective series. But it’s the other Game 5, between Thunder and Rockets, that boasted the biggest development on Friday.
Russell Westbrook, who hasn’t played in a game since August 11 due to a quadriceps injury, is ready to get back into action. According to a report from ESPN.com, he looked “as explosive as ever” during a team scrum on Thursday, and there were no problems during Friday practice either. As a result it is listed as “available” for Saturday, and while no specifics have been given regarding a possible minute restriction, I don’t expect Westbrook to hit its seasonal average of 35.9 minutes for. And his return to training will impact many players within the Rockets rotation starting with Danuel House, who would return to the bench if Westbrook assumed his usual starting role.
In 52 starts this season, House averaged 10.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.1 from 3 points per game, with intermediate shots of 43.2% from the field, 36.8% from three and 80.6% from the foul line. The numbers drop for House when he comes off the bench (11 games), as he averaged 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.7 from 3 points each with divisions of 39.7 / 33.9 / 83.3.
Eric Gordon will also suffer, as his overall field goal percentage without Westbrook during the regular season (38.1%) was higher than his percentage when the two were on track together (35.5). A positive aspect for Gordon when playing alongside Westbrook was his 3-point average, as he did 1.8 per game compared to 1.4 without Russ. And as you’d expect, Gordon’s usage dropped considerably when he’s down with his recently injured teammate, dropping to 16.8 (26.6 without Westbrook). Gordon should get more spot-up chances when he’s on the pitch with both Westbrook and James Harden, but there won’t be as many chances to attack dribble defenses based on numbers.
Finally there’s Harden, whose usage dropped from 42.0 to 30.6 during the regular season when he shared the floor with Westbrook. In the first four games in this series Harden’s usage is at 33.1, with Gordon (29.4) being the only other regular above 20 percent. Where Westbrook’s return can help Harden is in the fourth quarter, as his presence gives Houston another player who can make things happen by dribbling. Not that Oklahoma City would suddenly leave Harden open in an effort to keep Westbrook out of the basket, but rejoining Houston’s best tandem could mean more pick and roll action between the two (with Harden as the screener). There was a brief look at this in the seeding matches, and I expect Mike D’Antoni to attend it sometime on Saturday.
While House would be a better game than Ben McLemore, with his return to the bench I like Jeff Green even more from a DFS point of view. Its price is expected to be modest, and for the series it boasts an offensive score of 117.4 with averages of 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.3 from 3 points per game. Gordon probably switches to a guy’s move in points and three, which could have some value depending on its price.
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Two days after members of the Celtics and Raptors released their frustrations in the aftermath of Jacob Blake’s police shooting, it was Milwaukee that made the first definitive move. The Bucks’ decision to forgo Game 5 (which Orlando did not accept) halted the playoffs and opened the door for some much needed conversations between the team and public officials in Wisconsin. Three days later they will try to close a sold out Magic roster that will be without Aaron Gordon (hamstring) and Michael Carter-Williams (knee).
With Gordon out, expect another great game from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has won three 30/10 games in this series. The only game that Giannis didn’t hit those numbers was Game 2, and all he did was aim for 28 points, 20 rebounds and five assists. Good luck, Gary Clark.
What Milwaukee really needs is to see Khris Middleton find her stroke. While he is certainly able to contribute in other areas, things get even easier on offense for Giannis when his partner is at his best. For the series Middleton is shooting 33.9 percent from the field with an average of 13.5 points per game. It might not be a big deal in this series given Orlando’s injuries, but it will be in the second round where the Miami Heat await. As for Orlando in Game 5, Nikola Vucevic is the only sure thing at this point. Markelle Fultz struggled with her shot, but is still a better choice than DJ Augustin, who leads the second unit.
The Lakers will also face an exhausted opponent on Saturday, as Portland will be without Damian Lillard (knee). That means big use for CJ McCollum, more shots for Carmelo Anthony and probably a starting lineup spot for Gary Trent Jr. Trent has taken the next step in his bubble play, and with an eye on next season he would make it worth the worth taking a late flight in the deeper leagues. But Lillard’s absence leaves Portland without its leader, and that’s a big deal in this bout. LeBron James (groin), Anthony Davis (back), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (knee) are all listed as likely, so the expectation is that they will be fine to tackle their usual workloads.
As for Rondo, he is listed as dubious, so it doesn’t seem likely that he will make his bubble debut on Saturday night. A win would give the Lakers (at least) an extra couple of days of rest than their opponent in the second round, as the Rockets / Thunder series will run at least six games. This could give Rondo, who has recovered from a broken thumb only to be sidelined due to spasms in his back, the time it takes not only to return but to be effective on defense.
Whether it’s Houston’s Harden / Westbrook tandem (and small overall rotation) or Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder’s Oklahoma City triumvirate, the Lakers will need Rondo even if he’s not a big threat as a scorer. .
Dallas made it official Friday that Unicorn would not be playing again this season due to a knee injury, and in the process he finally revealed the full extent of the problem. Originally reported to be a sore knee, Porzingis was actually dealing with a torn lateral meniscus which he suffered during Match 1. This meant he played games 2 and 3 on the injury before the pain became too much to bear.
As has been the case in each of the games Porzingis has lost, Luka Doncic’s usage is even higher than it already is, and extra scorers like Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Seth Curry are of even greater significance for Dallas. rotation. Game 6 of the Mavericks series with the Clippers (which LA leads 3-2) is scheduled for Sunday.