We are now in the Conference Finals stage of the NBA playoffs. The final four teams are ready to duke it out for the championship, which makes this the perfect time for a POP QUIZ!!! Air horn noises! Streamers!
That’s right, it’s a deliciously fun teaching technique to throw out the pop quiz before the subject block is complete. I’ve written a quiz about the playoffs thus far and I threw in some questions about what will happen next just to infuriate the perfectionists. So, sharpen those number two pencils (Do kids just take tests in pen nowadays? I envy their confidence), pull out the cheat sheet from your sock, and get ready to hear at least one echoing fart while the whole class is silent.
1.) Is Phoenix for real?
A. Yes, dummy. They are crushing teams on both ends of the floor. They can shoot, they’re unselfish, they have young talent, and quality veterans. They have the best uniforms left in the playoffs.
B. No, they benefited from injuries to Anthony Davis and Jamal Murray.
C. Only if Chris Paul returns from Health and Safety Protocols.
D. All of the above.
E. Read my letter to them.
2.) Can Luka have his “LeBron in 2007” moment next year? (LeBron lead a really really weird/crappy team all the way to the NBA finals).
A. Folks are fleeing the organization. I don’t know how this relates, but it feels noteworthy.
B. Luka has the talent to lead an otherwise garbage team to a deep playoff run. Hardaway Jr. and Finney-Smith can absolutely be role players a la Boobie Gibson and Donyell Marshall.
C. No, LeBron is truly unique in his ability to lift those around him up.
D. Wait, there was a guy named Boobie?
3.) Last year, Jamal Murray came flying out of nowhere to knock the basketball world off its axis, dropping 50 point game after 50 point game. Who is this year’s Murray?
A. Reggie Jackson.
B. Trae Young (hint, this is the actual answer).
C. Anyone other than Ben Simmons.
D. Poor, poor Donovan Mitchell. All this guy does is play awesome basketball even when hurt and his teams keep getting blindsided.
4.) The Clippers need Paul George to put his recent playoff struggles behind him. Will Paul George be Pandemic P or Playoff P?
A. Pandemic P. Yes, he showed he could win a few games without Kawhi Leonard, but the true magic of his disappearing acts is that he will do it at absolutely the worst time. That means when they’re down 3-2 to the Suns or something.
B. Playoff P. He’s a star more often than he’s not, even if he’s had some bad games. I only care about Kawhi’s health.
C. Terrance Mann is better.
5.) Offense ruled this regular season. Teams took more threes than ever before. The advanced offensive ratings were staggering. Points per 100 possessions were at an all-time high. Can any team play defense?
A. Yes, playoff basketball games always slow down. Teams will start to defend. Look at the blindfolded rock fights that the Bucks and Nets had.
B. No, the best defense is a better offense.
C. Numbers may be down from their regular season heights, but a team with 3 all-defensive players (76ers) still blew two gigantic leads. 20 point swings have become routine. That’s because it is all based on whether the team is hitting shots, not how well they are defended. Just a theory.
D. The top 5 teams in defensive rating are the Bucks, Suns, 76ers, Nets, and Hawks. All of those teams made deep playoff runs. Defense still matters.
6.) The past ten years have really highlighted the rise of the “superteam.” Can a homegrown team––my definition is a team that drafts or develops its top two stars––actually win this thing? Or do you have to swing for big moves?
A. My definition struggles with the Hawks and Suns. Both teams made moves that improved their mostly homegrown teams. The Suns drafted most of their core but brought in Paul. The Hawks drafted Young but brought in most of their key players through other moves. Therefore, the answer is most likely a hybrid approach.
B. The Lakers are out. The Nets are out. Those are the biggest superteams around. Both teams also suffered key injuries at the worst time. Coincidence or Karma?
C. Nuggets and Jazz are out. They qualify as homegrown. They also had some injuries, although the Jazz felt like they could have overcome them. (76ers out )
D. So maybe it really only matters about who gets hurt and when. Aren’t sports fun?!
7.) As of Saturday, the following two players have both played in 11 playoff games this year.
Player X: 35 min/g | 18.1 PTS | 4.3 REB | 1.5 AST | 0.9 STL | 5.8 FGM | 3.2 threes
Player Y: 35 min/g | 14.6 PTS | 5.3 REB | 2.6 AST | 1.2 STL | 5.8 FGM | 2.5 threes
A. X= Bogdan Bogdanovic, Y= Bojan Bogdanovic
B. X= Bojan Bogdanovic, Y= Bogdan Bogdanovic
C. All of the above.
8.) Has COVID played a role in the playoffs?
A. Yes, just ask Chris Paul, who is missing games in the conference finals because of the protocols.
B. Yes, the number of injuries this whole season has been a direct result of the shortened off-season, which was a result of COVID.
C. COVID affects everything. Please, please please get vaccinated. You will always be able to find a “medical professional” to back up a crazy opinion. Please just look at the bulk of the evidence, however. The majority is not always right, but this is science.
D. What’s COVID?
9.) Are the Hawks overachieving?
A. No. They brought in reliable role players with varied skill sets. They surrounded Young with bigger shooters. They’ve got solid rim-running bigs. Nate McMillan is a good coach. They are a balanced team. This is what they should have done.
B. Yes. The Knicks were pretenders and the 76ers let them hang around and imploded.
C. No, but I still think they should have taken Luka.
D. Are you kidding me!? Yes! No one saw this coming!
10.) Who is leading the playoffs in Rebounds Per Game?
A. Julius Randle
B. Clint Capella
C. Giannis Antetokuonmpo
D. Rudy Gobert
11.) The Top 5 players in Defensive Win shares are all on the Milwaukee Bucks.
C. It’s true. Can I define that stat? No. Is it interesting? Sure.
D. None of the above.
12.) Three teams (Trail Blazers, Jazz, Clippers) are shooting over 40% from three, and a fourth (76ers) are at 39.9% Is that good?
A. Yes. Only the Clippers did that during the regular season. The 2016 Warriors were the last team to do that. It’s good.
B. Statistically good, but good for the game? Depends on how old the person you are talking to is. More threes certainly create more variance in the outcomes.
C. Maybe not. Only one of those teams made it to the Conference Finals.
13.) Were the Nets the best team?
A. Yes, if they had their three stars, they kill that Bucks team. No one would have stopped them.
B. No, injuries are a part of the game, but look out next year!
C. Yes, and the rest of the NBA is breathing a sigh of relief.
D. Technically, yes. KD is the best player in the league and he proved that in spades this series.
14.) Who takes the fall for the fact that the 76ers seem to flame out every postseason?
A. Doc Rivers. Blowing playoff series is what he does. (See 2020, 2017, 2016, 2015, etc.) I will say, he was in a bind with Simmons and Thybulle both being offensive liabilities and Curry getting roasted by Huerter. Harris missed 4 point-blank shots in game 7. Those are not coaching problems. Still…the confirmation bias evidence is starting to grow.
B. Ben Simmons. LEARN TO SHOOT. YOU WILL BE AN MVP. Just like a little. Simmons doesn’t have to be a Curry. His inability to be any sort of threat killed the Sixers on several possessions. He had some nice passes, but yikes.
C. Joel Embiid. Just kidding. The guy got hurt, played through it, and was dominant at times. This is not the answer.
D. None of the above. The Hawks deserve some respect on their name. They balled.
15.) Who will win it all?
Pencils down. You have completed the quiz. Please pass your papers to the front. Post your answers in the comments! Have a great day!
Are you grading on a curve or more appropriately, an arc?