In This Episode
Worlds collide on Takeline this week, as NBA ALL CAPS YouTube series host Aaron Edwards (also of the Locked On Suns podcast) joins Jason Concepcion as a special guest host to preview the second round match ups of the NBA Playoffs. 76ers beat writer Rich Hofmann and Buck writer Eric Nehm, both of the Athletic, join the guys to respectively discuss how Joel Embiid’s optical fracture changes Philadelphia’s series against the Miami Heat and how the Celtics can counter Giannis postseason dominance.
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Jason Concepcion: Raptors fans have acted like I was like, Fuck Canada, I think we should cut it off from the North American continent and let it float away and be destroyed, and they are wrecking me for this. So I would assume, like Sixers internally, I’d assume they’re pretty mad at looking at that play right?
Jason Concepcion: Hello and welcome to Takeline. We have another great show lined up today. We’re going to continue to talk about the NBA playoffs. We’ll be joined by the incredibly funny Aaron Edwards today, writer on All Caps, contributor on the Locked On Suns podcast. And we’ll be talking to two Athletic beat reporters covering the playoffs, Eric Nehm covering the Bucks and Rich Hofmann, who’s been covering the Sixers for a long, long time. But first let’s welcome in Aaron and producers Ryan and Zuri to just kind of like chop it up about the games that we’ve seen over the last couple of days. Let’s start with gentlemen. Welcome. Hello, how are you?
Zuri Irvin: Hey there.
Ryan Wallerson: What’s up
Aaron Edwards: How we doing?
Ryan Wallerson: Good.
Aaron Edwards: Morning.
Zuri Irvin: I’m fresh.
Jason Concepcion: Let’s start with Heat / Sixers. And the big thing you want to know about this one is Tyrese Maxey doesn’t want to sit next to James Harden. What do we think of this game? Tyler Herro hot off the bench for 25. Jimmy Butler 15 points. But doing it on both ends, neither team shot well, like the Heat romped, but like both teams shot pretty poorly. The difference being Miami Heat are, you know, did it with their defense as everyone expected, and made it really hard for James Harden as like the hub of the Sixers offense in the absence of Joel Embiid to do really anything there’s the on SportsCenter there’s like when they show you know when they’re covering on SportsCenter last night right they show one basket of Harden’s where he looks like late in the game where he kind of like gets going and he, he comes off the pick and roll drives into the lane and then like throws up like this two handed like five foot, half shot, half layup. That is like when you as a kid were playing against much taller kids and it just made me all around sad. I just like we need to stop talking about has he lost a step. Yes, stop it. The steps gone. It’s not there. He can’t do that anymore.
Aaron Edwards: Everyone knows that Harden can’t get by em now.
Jason Concepcion: Everybody knows.
Aaron Edwards: Cleveland’s going to be out there like Harden can’t get by me. Like, everybody really knows that he can’t get by you. And it’s really sad to watch. It’s like watching a declawed lion at a zoo. Like, it’s just watching a dude that everybody knows is just he just don’t got it anymore. It’s really sad, you see.
Zuri Irvin: Is he declawing himself. Is there a chance that he’s playing his way out of Philly the same way that he’s played his way out of other organizations?
Ryan Wallerson: I mean, it’s hard to tell at this point, right? Like father time comes for us all, but he’s mastered the art of the exit, so maybe. But would he? Nah, I don’t think he’d do it in the playoffs, though. I think he is just doing what he can do.
Aaron Edwards: I can like see that I’m reading the tea leaves. I can see what’s going to happen to Harden. Remember when Allen Iverson left the Sixers and then the Nuggets and then you’re like, Wow, he left memphis. Wow, he’s a piston? Like, I think it’s going to be like that for Harden. And like, one day.
Jason Concepcion: He’s on Memphis. He’s on Memphis for like 15 minutes.
Aaron Edwards: I think that’s how Harden’s going to go. He’s going to be on the Hawks one day. You’re going to be like, what is happening? And then he’s just going to be gone. And I just see his career going like that now.
Jason Concepcion: I mean. The issue is the extension, though, right? It’s like he’s up for a $47 million a year extension that we fully expected. You know, a month ago, his good friend Daryl Morey would absolutely tender him. It’s almost. Hang with me here. This is like I’m entering, like Nick. Great territory. It’s almost the best. It’s almost the kind of like a perfect pass for the Sixers because like, I think you could argue, hey, some like if you don’t play DeAndre, if you don’t start DeAndre Jordan, who gave up 3 million points per possession when he was on the court. Right then you don’t start in a hole. Maybe you’re and you know, it was a it was a game through the first half. You’re in this game. This game from that perspective was lost in the first 4 minutes. Right. Harden is doing enough in his facilitating and and at least being a threat out there. They had a shot they were 17% from beyond the arc like but they’ll hit some of those. But with Harden’s obvious decline. Now, the Sixers are competitive with a very good Heat team, and Morey can go in in the postseason. You know, after that, after the playoffs and say, well, we think you decline, James. And so I don’t think it would be right for us to give you the 47 million. It’s almost like like it would from this argument. And again, I’m talking myself out of it as I hear myself saying it from this argument, it would almost be worse financially if James Harden was like 80% of what he was or 85, because then they’d have to give him the full max.
Zuri Irvin: It’s the perfect storm.
Jason Concepcion: Ryan, what do you Ryan, what do you think?
Ryan Wallerson: I think now we’re trusting the financial process and now not the on court process, if that’s what we’re hoping for. But I will say that when we look at Harden, we lament about the past and how, you know, how that step, how devastating that step used to be. But watching that game last night in real time, Doc Rivers is seriously living in the past when it comes to DeAndre Jordan like that start was abysmal and I thought like, wow, they’re just going to lose by 50. And then he comes out and they bring it back and then he starts the second half as well, and they go right back down and then he comes in while they’re like down like nine late in the fourth. And when he comes out 3 minutes later, they’re down close to 20.
Jason Concepcion: He’s like minus.
Ryan Wallerson: Horrible just watching his minutes.
Jason Concepcion: Well, I mean, he was -17 in the first in the first 4 minutes, like of being on the court. I think that it’s. You know you want to know he’s doc is a lot like fibs you want to know why those coaches are successful? It’s because they believe in their guys to the end. That’s why it was so shocking last season when Doc was like, I don’t know if we can win a title with Ben Simmons. Like, that was a shock to hear that because usually Doc is like it does it like if I was on the Sixers, my height and my age and my fitness level, doc would be like, Oh yeah, Jesus. Given us when he’s out there, you know, like we’re scoring a point possession. It’s like the stats tell me that’s great. Like, you know, we like Jason, we like him at five foot four out there and we think like he doc basically said we like we like DeAndre and that’s and this is the this is this is the flip side of that because he gives guys this his confidence and they believe in him and they know that no matter what mistakes they make, their doc is going to let them play through it. And that allows them to have the confidence to do the things they need to do. And then the flip side is he is out here being like, DeAndre, we think you could do it. And DeAndre is like, I should have retired four years ago. Like, I have been, I have been I have been on a four year scam, you know, and it’s been successful thus far. And so this is this is who Doc is. This is who he is. Is there anything. What do you what do we make of. It’s not just like my theory. I think, like, this is like a pretty reasonable take is that, hey, don’t play DeAndre. And maybe this is competitive because the Sixers lost this in the first 4 minutes. What do you make of that?
Aaron Edwards: We saw it last year. Even K.D. had to bail. Like the only reason De’Andre Jordan got to the Nets was because Kyrie and K.D. wanted him. And at the end of the day, yes, Steve Nash is like
Jason Concepcion: Must be a great guy.
Aaron Edwards: I can’t do this guy’s, like, I love you guys, and you got me this gig, but I can’t play DeAndre Jordan. It feels like everybody else sees it. Like he must be great at practice because I don’t know what what Doc would see that makes him think that he can guard Jimmy Butler in a switch. Or can you stay in front of even Duncan Robinson? I just don’t know what Doc Rivers sees that makes him think that he can handle this. The worst thing to happen for DeAndre Jordan was playing for Chris Paul because he made him look way too good for too long and it’s just gonna stick with him. And now everybody is seeing what he actually is.
Jason Concepcion: Remember when Doc, like back during the Clippers days was like DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year. We think that. That’s right. Like I think that he is the defense. I think that that is legit. That wasn’t listen, it was not it was not legit then. And DeAndre was fine then. He was fine. But it was not that was not a real thing. And I mean, Doc, we’ll never back down from this. That DeAndre is good.
Ryan Wallerson: I kind of understand it from this standpoint. Doc being loyal to his guys and seeing that DeAndre was approaching a point of like unused ability when everything is right, sticking him behind Joel Embiid is kind of the perfect place for him to be in the NBA, but when Joel goes down then it’s like, All right, now we need a backup center. It’s the second round of the playoffs. Oh, I’m going to pay for this. But DeAndre is my guy and that is everything that you saying. Jason But so that’s another level of this Joel Embiid injury that just like is absolutely devastating. The fact that they actually had nothing behind him that was legitimate at this level.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah, they kind of wish they would have probably kept Dwight Howard, which is a weird thing to say, but he would have been a lot better person to keep for a time like this.
Ryan Wallerson: 10,000%.
Jason Concepcion: I mean, at least people would be afraid to drive the lane because Dwight would use all five fouls, you know, all six of his fouls, like on them in a single play. Let’s move on to the second game of the night Suns-Mavs. Then Aaron let’s I’ll let you kick it off but I’ll just say it seems like the Suns perfectly deployed the strategy they wanted which is okay Luka do your thing. We’ll will limit your passing as much as we can because we know the thing that makes you dangerous. These spot up shooters that are all around you, many of whom cannot dribble. So let’s see how they do. Trying to create their own offense, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, etc. and and will cut off Jalen Brunson and we’ll just see what you can do. And he did his thing to the tune of 45 points. Luka is, you know, 12 rebounds, eight assists, you know, the eight assists number. I think, you know, Luca was in a in a game in which in an alternate universe in which the Mavs win. That assist number is probably something like 12 and the Suns win easily 121 114. Aaron Edwards, your thoughts?
Aaron Edwards: I was at the game last night right behind the backboard and it was jarring, like watching like the beginning of that game. Like Jason Kidd said, they don’t have the bigs and Aiden is just on another level right now and it’s like he didn’t even see Dwight Howard there. It was really just like it was just doing practice shots in the gym because they just don’t have the bigs and it was just really insane. Like Devin Booker took on the role of guarding Brunson, which I didn’t see coming, and he did amazing job. It was just an all around. We’ll bring like the end of this the end of the game didn’t tell the real score they were playing prevent and missing a lot of shots and I don’t think Ayton touched the ball and it was just it was just a fun game to watch. Like, it was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be. Monte Just saying. All right. Bridges try to keep Booker from scoring as much as possible, but we’re going to cut the passing lanes and he’s just going to get layups and don’t foul them. Just let them get these lay offs. And he took a bunch of back threes, which everybody wanted him to do, and it was just a perfect game plan. I’m sure they’re going to come up with more stuff now because Cleveland got a lot of open shots in those 12 minutes, but I’m sure.
Jason Concepcion: He did get a lot of open shots.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah, but I’m pretty sure that I just don’t think they have the man. I don’t think they got the people.
Jason Concepcion: What do you think? So Booker, you know, was fine, but some of at least some of his plays. Looked like. The hamstring was not going to be a problem. He had, you know, he had like some nice drives. He had a nice, like, leaner three. He was it seemed to be moving well on certain plays. How concerned are you about him?
Aaron Edwards: He looked a lot better than that last Pelicans games like he at least tried to dribble by people. They had Luka on him sometimes they also they’re really good on defense. I just think matchup wise the Pelicans were just way better. They had longer dudes that could defend and they just don’t have the dudes like Brunson’s way too small he get he got switched on the eight and a couple times out there. I think Booker was getting to the rim pretty much like his old self. He still didn’t really get any free throws. So the end of the game. So I have to worry about the hammy a little bit. Like he’s still a little worried to get in there, but he dumped the ball, which I was wasn’t sure he was able to do at some point.
Jason Concepcion: Let me just say this every time I’m watching a fucking Suns playoff game on TV, obviously on TV, I’m amazed at the amount of fans there who dye their hair suns colors. I think they I think the suns probably lead the league in fans with hair dyed to match the team colors to give us give us what is the vibe in the arena like? What was it like in there?
Aaron Edwards: It was really insane. I’ve been to a couple of playoff games since last year and when when Phenix teams are good, it’s wild out here. It’s like the school wild and some of these stadiums and it’ll be like the most fancy business dude, like with his child, with just like the purple, his hair and like mismatched purple and orange juice. Like it’s the vibes are pretty nice in there.
Ryan Wallerson: That’s kind of similar to what Kelsey Ray Johnson said about Memphis last week. Like, I love hearing like about when these small market teams are good because the entire city invests in it like that. That is the easiest way to the dopest atmospheres.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah. And that’s like probably why like online everybody is there’s this thing about people saying Suns fans need to be humble because we kind of been acting ridiculous. But we had the worst team in the NBA for like 11 years. And so we’re going to act like the worst people in the world. I’m sorry. We’re not turning it off.
Ryan Wallerson: Nor should you.
Zuri Irvin: My. My thing was.
Jason Concepcion: What was. What was the. Sorry. Go ahead, Zuri.
Zuri Irvin: Well. In one, I think Luka looked really hobbled. I thought he had a lot of plays in the first half where he had no lift, even scoring 45 points. Pretty amazing. But my thing with the Suns, Aaron, let me know if this sounds right is you know how like when a mom senses that her kid is in danger and can like lift a truck and like has like the super strength?
Aaron Edwards: Yes.
Zuri Irvin: I think the Suns have like totally rebounded from the brink against New Orleans. And now they’re like on this, like, really hot track where guys look healthy. Devin Booker is like yelling at people down the court. Chris Paul’s like, feels like he’s young again. I don’t know. I think they’re just in this moment where they’re playing over their head because they sense that, oh, we everything is on the line. We have to win the championship.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah. The pelicans. The Pelicans blew us out once this year and Willie Green is a good coach like I think they beat us by like 18 are like 20 something like at one point during the season and they just had the players like they had C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram, like they were good. Like I said, like once you beat a team nine times in a row ten. Now you kind of it’s hard to really be scared of them. And I think the Suns just know the Mavericks. Like you can’t accidentally beat somebody ten times in a row. Sorry.
Jason Concepcion: Any. Any. Any final thoughts on this? Like, let’s get it. Let’s get some predictions. I think.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah, I think four or five.
Ryan Wallerson: Honestly. It might be I think it might be four.
Aaron Edwards: I think we might get Scott Foster from Game four to stop the sweep. But I think it’s four or five.
Jason Concepcion: Right? The Scott Foster effect. Obviously we were overreacting to to recency bias. But such is that’s the where that’s the way the human mind is built to work. And so but I agree I think that the matchup. They swept em in the regular season. The matchup is clearly bad. The the Suns personnel, their depth is the quality throughout their depth is not a thing the Mavericks can match. Luka is amazing, but like again, size, depth the way the players match up, it’s just not a good it’s not a good fit for Dallas and I agree. Zuri your, any predictions for you?
Zuri Irvin: No I’m with you guys. I think I think probably Suns in four or five. Aaron made the point about Dallas’ front court just not matching up with Phoenix’s and and that’s probably going to be how the series plays out but maybe like Suns in five.
Ryan Wallerson: No, I totally agree with that. I think that they should use their depth and quality of depth to try to like give but give Booker the series off, but give him as much like time on the bench as possible for him to make sure that he’s good for the next round.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah, well, Chris Paul played like 26 minutes and it was the least amount he’s played all playoffs so far, so money can see that he can probably kind of rest the series in the right way at least.
Ryan Wallerson: Coasting into the Western Conference finals. Crazy.
Jason Concepcion: Next up, let us discuss Golden State V Memphis, an exciting game one. Jordan Poole continues to be so infuriatingly fucking good. I can’t wait for them to pay this guy and see how they manage to do it because it makes me sick. 31 points, five of ten off threes. It’s like he’s like, eh, someone tweeted. It’s like if Steph had beaten Monte Ellis. And that’s exactly right. It’s exactly right. It’s like it’s like if you take the bit the if you take like the basic build of a remorseless like old school shoot, first scorer of that of the mid twenties and late nineties, but then inject him with like Warriors culture and Steph Curry like IQ and, and this is what you get and it’s, it makes me sick. The Grizzlies had every advantage to win this game. Draymond Green ejected for what some certainly will think is a drastic, flagrant two that has since been upheld by the league. Grizzlies were at home. They got seemingly and not even seemingly they got like every important call. Jaren Jackson Jr who is usually like attracting fouls like a queen bee attracts her bees is was like you know was unburdened from not having to to check like an elite offensive big man and went crazy in this game was it was like you know was really good in a way that like I think the Grizzlies would like to see in the future consistently going forward. John Morant 34 points, ten assists, Jaren Jackson Jr six three pointers, 33 points. But the Golden State Warriors eke out the win 117 116 Klay Thompson with the fucking back breaking three late in the game, missed his free throws. But it doesn’t matter. The Golden State Warriors win. And here’s a hot take. I think I think this could be like a gentleman’s sweep with every game being close, like every game being a tightly contested, like a seesaw fucking battle. But with the Golden State Warriors getting out in five, what do we think about this game going? I just stepped on my own prediction, but I’m going to put it out there. What are we to, Aaron? What do you think of this?
Aaron Edwards: I actually agree with you. I think it’s going to be like Boston and Nets without the jokes at the end, though, like, I think like it’s going to be such a good series even though like it’s just they don’t have the storylines. The Nets getting swept was just hilarious because the storylines like I think the Memphis Grizzlies, like they played really hard this season and like I just think they’re one of those teams that you’re really good in the regular season but they’re they have the learned in the playoffs so I just think the warriors just have a just the history and knowing how to play in the playoffs I just don’t think Memphis is ready and I think they’re going to play the Warriors hard. But those Krebs times like this isn’t Minnesota. Like, they’re just not going to give up leads in the last 5 minutes or 4 minutes. I just think the Warriors are going to be able to hold them off, especially once, once Klay and Steph start playing better. They played bad last game and they still got the W and Draymond didn’t play. I just don’t think that Memphis can handle that honestly.
Jason Concepcion: Zuri? Ryan?
Zuri Irvin: I think if Dillon Brooks doesn’t if Dillon Brooks doesn’t take another three pointer for the rest of the series, then Memphis takes two games. I think it’s such a black hole. It’s, like, so poorly designed. He’s such a bad shooter. I don’t know why he shoots so much and maybe runs some more plays for Desmond Bane, but. Yeah.
Ryan Wallerson: But you know what? I think it’s a brilliant education for them because it’s like, what better way to learn how to be champions and play like champions than to play champions? And yet I think coming down the stretch, they probably felt the weight of the circumstance, the fact that they were at home, the fact that Draymond wasn’t there, they really felt like they needed to get that game and they played a little tight because of it. Like John missing that walk off layup, you know, that’s a SportsCenter Top ten played like numerous times throughout the regular season. It just everything was a little bit off. But those are the moments where you need to be able to be calm and do what you normally do. But yeah, I could totally see them never being embarrassed, never getting blown out, but never being able to quite get over the hump and grab the dubb. If they do, I think it’ll be in game two. I don’t give them a shot in Golden State.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah. If Memphis loses tonight, then it’s done.
Jason Concepcion: I mean, they have to win. They kind of I think it feels like a must win. Honestly, like, I. I think we’re over. I said this to you guys in pre pro, but I think we’re kind of like forgetting the fact that Minnesota. Should have beaten the Grizzlies like several times over the course of the series, like had multiple double digit leads where if they weren’t a mistake bedeviled team that is young Karl-Anthony Towns, not that young, he’s been in the league eight years, but hey we’ll call him young. That makes a lot of fucking mistakes that they would have won like if that was a more seasoned team, they win and the Warriors are just not going to make those mistakes. They’re not going to make them like. It was shocking when Klay missed both free throws because that’s not a thing they do. But I just feel like the Warriors are going to execute. And they’re not going to make the same mistakes that the Timberwolves made over the course of their series. But it’ll be it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be an exciting series and hopefully one that is not as poorly officiated as is Game one. Okay. And then finally, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics. Here’s a game. Now you want to talk about officiating. They just let them go in this one. And I thought I saw it in a way that was obviously fans of either team are going to complain. But I thought that they did a good job in just allowing the physicality. I mean, it looked like an old school lake, like almost nineties, early 2000s NBA game at times. The Bucs romped one on 189 Giannis. It here is like the exact inversion of the Suns Mavs game. Celtics kind of got what they wanted, which was, okay, you know, let’s, let’s guard the three, let’s let Giannis like get in and pack the paint and then see if he can like and let’s make him spray the ball around. And then he did 12 assists. He got great production out of Jrue Holiday. The Bucks have been waiting for this one, 25 points, ten rebounds, Bobby Portis, 1511 and the Bucks win one on 189. And the Celtics realize, oh, we’ve got a completely different kind of superstar in Giannis versus the two superstars that mostly perimeter guys are going to shoot over you type players that we played with the Nets and KD and Kyrie your thoughts here.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah, I just think that Memphis is just they’re just more physical and I think that finals run definitely just helped them. Like Giannis has a confidence in the playoffs now that he didn’t have before. Like after getting over the hump late Budenholzer like even just last year he was his, he was on the hotseat. If they didn’t win the finals he wasn’t going to be the coach next year. I just think they’re playing with house money now and they’re just a lot more confident in the playoffs. And especially like Giannis knows who he is like, he knows he doesn’t have to get a bucket every single time down the floor and he can make the right pass and he’s getting it’s a really good shooters like everybody on this team can shoot and he knows that he can get a 50 point triple double in game six of the finals and brewer my summer like he knows he can do that too. So I think Giannis is just playing on a whole nother level too. Whereas like, I don’t know if Boston can really handle him once he really does decide to turn it on because he really didn’t score, he was just facilitating. Once Giannis really wants to get going because I’ve seen it and it ruined my leg. I think once he really gets going. And its done.
Ryan Wallerson: It was definitely a low difficulty triple that was definitely a low difficult difficulty triple double for Giannis in that game one against Boston’s like you know he has like he’s capable of so much more scoring standpoint but when he’s choosing to make the right passes and the offense is just and he’s only taking the scoring that’s just coming to him, he’s even more dangerous than than I think when he does try to turn it on individually because then he makes his entire team that much better. And yet to see him do it against the Celtics defense, which has been playing out of this world for the second half of the season and, you know, in the first round, I think it’s all the more impressive. I think a lot of us were looking at Jason Tatum like, all right, it was impressive, which I did to Brooklyn. But, you know, we kind of know that Brooklyn has no heart, but if you can do it to Milwaukee, that would really be something. That and you’d be talking about top five discussions spaces for Tatum and such. And, you know, there’s still space in that series for Tatum to force those discussions. But, you know, the first game was not did not go well for him in that vein.
Jason Concepcion: I mean, listen, they they they manifestively and objectively have no heart and thats clear.
Zuri Irvin: Yeah. Yeah, I I’m enjoying Bobby Portis playing in sunglasses. It’s almost like he’s playing poker shades. I’m not sure why. I thought I that Brook Lopez, I think, had such a tremendous game, even though he he ended up with six points and ten rebounds. I thought he just was a great force on the court. And um and Pat Collison Pat Collison playing well in Boston. I feel like if I was at NBA Jam, I’d have four or five players on my team from each of the cities that I’d play in the playoffs, just for that little boost that he had fame playing for Boston. And Doris Burke. Doris Burke called Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Jaytum, which is a personal favorite now. I think we should keep that going. Go head Aaron.
Aaron Edwards: That sounds like that’s going to be a mixed kid at AAU tournaments. Jaytum.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Aaron Edwards: What about Gonzaga? No.
Jason Concepcion: Okay. Yeah. Starting two guard for the for Gonzaga. Okay, what about now? Kind of like the Suns Mavs series. It feels like, you know, Celtics took 50 threes, they only made 18. It feels as if, listen, the Celtics are going to shoot better and this is still going to be a series. What do we think going forward about about the length of this series? I think I think I’m going to call it a seven game series. I think it’s Bucks in seven over the very, very good Boston Celtics.
Ryan Wallerson: Yeah, no, I agree with that. I’m not as much of a prisoner of the moment from the game one outcome in this series as I am and some of the other ones, you know, I think that Boston is going to demonstrate what got them here, like their defense is going to play. I don’t think Giannis is going to average a triple double in this series, so I do expect them to, you know, pull up, have their games, play their defense, make their shots, but. I don’t think they can do it four times.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah. Like like I said, I saw it last summer. It it ruined my summer. I just know what this team can do. I didn’t know what this team could do. And, like, Tatum’s really good. Jaylen Brown is really good. And I know that they can go off every once in a while, but when you want to do it, he’s going to do it. And they just don’t have anybody that can stop that. And I just think trying to stop it for seven games is just not going to happen. I just think Milwaukee’s been there before and they’ve seen it and they’ve done it on the big stage now, and I just think they can turn it on when they want. And I just don’t think Boston has like that super superstar. And I know Boston people are going to talk so much because I said this, but like he’s just not on the level like he’s a star. Good Giannis is like astronomically better and he’s it’s like he can take it to a whole another level that nobody on Boston can handle I don’t care if you’re the number one defense like that dude can turn it on I’ve seen. I’m telling you guys I’ve seen it. It was nuts to watch.
Ryan Wallerson: You sound actively concerned. Like I know you’re I know that most of your attention is in the Western Conference, but it seems like you’ve already got half an eye on Milwaukee’s exploits like damn.
Aaron Edwards: I’m definitely keeping an eye on it.
Jason Concepcion: Okay. Well, speaking of that series, let’s go to Eric Nehm, Bucks beat reporter for The Athletic.
Jason Concepcion: [AD].
Jason Concepcion: Well, it’s a wonderful day here considering that the Boston Celtics lost. They lost because the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks roasted them 101-89 in game one of their opening round, second round playoff series. And to help us discuss and celebrate what has just happened. He is the Bucks beat reporter for The Athletic. Eric Nehm. Eric, thank you for joining us.
Eric Nehm: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Jason Concepcion: Eric, what the what the fuck with the bucks, man? It’s like they come out soft every single game. One of the playoffs opening round for the last like four years. You never know what team is going to show up defensively. They’re always solid. Let’s just only put that out there solid defensively all the time. But they do go through the season in the postseason with this weird, like, lackadaisical feeling of You really need to put the knife to their throats for them to be at their best. And so, you know, here we are. We’re rolling into this second round series and we’re thinking, you know, Boston’s been arguably not even arguably, but like probably by the numbers, the best team in basketball for the last, you know, several months. They’re hitting their stride. We just watched them defend a straight the Brooklyn Nets. And, you know, we expect them to get a good game out of the bucks but but maybe to win and then the bucks just fucking steamrolled. The the Boston Celtics, I think are still missing shots at this very moment this afternoon. There’s some are still missing all types of shots. What what is it about this team that that that makes them so infuriatingly. Inconsistently consistently. I don’t know. They’re just things. They just drive me crazy. Do they drive you crazy, Eric?
Eric Nehm: You know, that’s just the beauty of the Bucks. A lot of content at all times. Really, really happy for them to help me out here. You know, it’s really interesting. During the first round series, I’d asked Giannis, like, Hey, do you guys need to lose the game to play hard? Like, is that something?
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Eric Nehm: And I I honestly felt a little bit bad because I asked it just like that, like. Do you guys need this? And he goes, No, no, no, no. And then he goes on this long speech about how he likes adversity and adversity and make the best out of you. And I was like, okay, so you do like you do need to lose? But apparently they don’t. Apparently they come out against the Boston Celtics and take it right to them. I mean, it was it was seriously super impressive, I think, for the Celtics. They went from playing. I don’t know what the Nets are playing. Just pick up basketball.
Jason Concepcion: Just roll em. Roll em out and let yeah roll it out and let K.D. and Kyrie take us home, hopefully.
Eric Nehm: Yeah. So they go from they go from that to playing like real playoff basketball. Jevon Carter is in your face, 94 feet from the basket. I mean, Grayson Allen is in your face.
Jason Concepcion: Grayson Allen’s been great. Right?
Eric Nehm: Pat Collison? What? Pat Collison’s giving you the blues? Like, come on. I don’t know if that’s how it should go, but I mean, the Bucks are ready to go and yeah, I mean, it really was a flip, the script kind of thing, because typically they lose game one by 15 points, then everyone freaks out and says, Oh my God, the bucks are terrible. And then the next game they come out and smack you because that’s just what they do. But this time they decided to flip the script. So who knows what will happen in game two? It’s it’s, it’s exhilerating.
Jason Concepcion: And you just came from practice. What are the vibes there like?
Eric Nehm: Ugh I mean for them, I think since they’ve been on the other end of it so many times. Like of someone answering a game two, they’re like, Hey, let’s just calm down a little bit. Like, you know, it was a good game one, but like, they’re going to be ready in game two, like with it’s only one game. So they are, you know, seasoned veterans in the whole making a comeback thing. So I think they are like on high alert that that the Celtics, you know, will remember how to play basketball. That that seems like something that will probably happen as the series goes. And I mean, honestly, they came into this series thinking that this was going to be, you know, like a long dragging out kind of series with these guys. So I do think we’re going to see the Celtics be quite a bit better in Game two, but, you know, they actually have to do it and the Bucks will be ready for them.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah, Giannis didn’t really even have a good game that first game like stats wise. So what, what do they even expect the Celtics even expect from em coming in? Because they technically did stop them, but Brown also had a terrible game, so they got to have something figured out for Giannis coming in.
Eric Nehm: Yeah. I mean, I think when you look at the ways teams have tried to stop Giannis over the years, it’s a pretty simple formula. Like you’re going to have like a bigger, stronger guy on the ball. You’re going to have a rim protector waiting for him to clean up all of the euro steps that he invariably does and all the spin moves that he does. Like you have that rim protector and then you have a bunch of annoying players wings, long arms, point guards trying to steal and poke the ball away. The Celtics have all of those things and they have them in spades. Like there’s just a bunch of guys. Even the bench guys can kind of do that to them. So they have all of the tools to make it really tough on Giannis and you know, as you said, like they’ve been the best basketball team for the last three months and NBA, so they have all of that stuff ready to go. I thought Giannis struggled with just how physical they were. I think he struggled finding his spots. I think he struggled finding ways through those gaps. But what he didn’t struggle to do was dish out a bunch of pieces this entire year. You know, he’s been I think he roasted me after Nets game one night when I compared one of his passes to Jokic. And he was like, Eric, come on, man, you’ve been covering me for how long? You don’t think I can pass. Like, you know, I can pass. And I was like, okay, that’s fair. But that looks like Jokic, man, like that. They’re they’re levels to this kind of thing. And he he really, I just thought, put on a show on Sunday. Like some of the passes he threw Whip pass underneath the basket to Bobby Portis. He threw a couple. No lookers to Grayson Allen. Like he was diamond.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Aaron Edwards: Since you’re on the inside, you have to know. I just want to know, like, does does Jrue Holiday feel a type of way about Marcus Smart winning defensive player of the year for the stuff that he’s been doing for, like, the last five years. Like, he’s got to feel that way about it.
Jason Concepcion: I got to say, not me. This is not me. This is probably me, just, you know, projecting my my feelings and hatred of the Celtics, like, on the game. But it felt like Smart was a little taken aback. Like, oh, my God. Like. This guy is playing just as hard defense on me as I play on everybody else. His he’s got really quick hands, too. He is extremely strong. Oh, this is going to be different, if that’s how it felt. Did it didn’t feel like that way to you.
Eric Nehm: Well, so I wrote this big long story at The Athletic this year about Jrue Holiday and his defense, like how good he is a defense. So Jrue sits down with me for 40 minutes and he’s telling me, like, all the things that he does well on defense and he does this thing and he did it to Marcus Smart on Sunday, where if you’re bringing the ball up the court as a point guard, you push really hard into him and then you’re going to do a step back move to alleviate pressure. Every point guard has learned that move from middle school. Every every crummy rec league coach has taught you this is how you break down pressure. And when you try to do it against you, he just steals the ball. You get into him and he’s just like, No, I got it. I’m just going to take it. And I told the I like I told you while we’re doing, I was like, I don’t know what to call this man. Like, I’ve literally just started to call it the Jrue because no one else does it. And he is like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And then like 5 minutes and he’s like, Oh, okay, yeah, I do do this. And honestly, I probably I’m like the only person that does it. And I was like, Yeah, you are. And he did it to Marcus Smart. And again, Jrue is way too chill. Like, he’s not the type of dude that gets in his feelings. That’s not just like who he is as a human being. But yeah, I would think he understands that what he’s been doing for the last, I don’t know, decade of his career is exactly the same stuff that Marcus Smart has been doing. Except, you know, he’s not quite as loud about it. He’s a little bit more chill, a little bit more laid back than Marcus Smart, believe it or not. And he just hasn’t gotten that same attention. So I think Jrue’s very aware. But, you know, he’ll just take his his all defense and he’ll take his championship ring that he got last year and he’ll be totally cool with it.
Jason Concepcion: Let’s talk about the rest of that supporting cast. Obviously, Khris Middleton, his status is pretty up in the air. Such an important secondary star for this Bucks team. But you’ve been getting incredible, truly like incredible performances from Grayson Allen, who I think shot like almost 60% from three in the first round, continue to do that in game one, three of six from three doing it on both ends of the floor. You know, Bobby Portis continues to be a cult hero and then you got a really great game out, added Jrue Holiday, who gave you 25 points. And it’s great to win a game when you get that kind of scoring out of Jrue. How is this Bucks team going to fill in that scoring hole created by the absence of Chris?
Eric Nehm: Yeah. I mean, I think it I thought it was going to be really tough. Let’s just say that, right? Like they played the bulls in the first round and that was not going to be difficult. The Bulls are not a very good basketball team, but against the Celtics, that’s the number one defense. This is going to be really tough. And in game one, essentially they just let Giannis pick them apart and they kept double teaming Giannis and that’s the big thing is that like Khris Middleton, I think 44% of his of his made shots this year were assisted. So he’s making most of his own shots, like he’s creating his own shots, five assists per game. Shot creation is a big thing that Khris Middleton does. These other dudes don’t do that like they literally wait and say, All right, Giannis, I’m ready. My hands are right. Come on, throw it. I got it, I got it’s going up and and that’s what they do. And in game one that’s what the Celtics let them do. Grayson Allen just sat there shooting practice. Bobby Portis sat there shooting practice. And those guys can do other things. Don’t get me wrong, Grayson and Bobby are both willing to put the ball in attack. But, like, if you just let them catch and shoot, they can be perfectly productive NBA players. Like, they both shot 40 plus percent from the three point line this year. If you let them catch and shoot, they can do that. The big question to me is what happens in this playoffs when a defense doesn’t let them do it? If the Celtics are like, okay, you know what? Maybe we shouldn’t send all these double teams to L.A. maybe we should just try to be a little bit more solid and make these other dudes do something other than shoot, catch and shoot threes. We’ll see if they can do that, though, because as we’ve seen over the over the last year, Johnson’s best player on the planet, that’s that’s just kind of what he does. You can try just about anything. He’s seen it all. He’ll still get to the rim. He’ll still down, can still make plays for other people. He can had Dirk fade away every once in a while he gets the baseline fade away. He’s got a bunch of stuff in the tool bag. So I think the first team that can make them do other things is going to be the ones that can actually slow. Is that like slowed the bucks down and make us, you know, figure out an answer to that question? Because right now we don’t know the answer to that question because everyone’s just letting them catch and shoot threes.
Aaron Edwards: Since the Celtics technically didn’t have to go against the big in the first series. Is the Lopez thing just going to be an issue for the whole series?
Eric Nehm: I mean, Brook Lopez. I just think dude’s insanely underrated. He went to the Lakers, he couldn’t play defense, and everyone’s like, this dude is washed. Like, there’s no way he’s got nothing left. And then he came to walking. It was like, Oh, he’s one of the most impactful defenders in the NBA. Sure. Yeah, this makes total sense. And he’s just like, nothing is easy at the rim. Like, if Jayson Tatum comes to the rim, Giannis will be there. And if Yanez isn’t there, Brook is going to be there. And if broken yards aren’t there, you know what? Bobby might even be there. And then after that, Grayson and Pat are going to come find their like, no matter what. There’s nothing easy at the rim against the bucks. And a lot of that is Brook Lopez. He’s he’s really figured out how to play in this defensive system under Mike Budenholzer Giannis makes things really incredibly easy for him as well but like he’s super talented and on the other end he can post up, he can run to the front of the rim, he can get tip-ins he I mean he used to average 20 a game on hook shots like that. Was it like it was like oh there’s a brook Lopez post up baseline spin only drop stopped Oh he had a hook shot okay. Yep. I’ve seen all of those moves since the 1950s. Like that used to be his game. He can do that, but he also now shoots threes and stuff. So I do think like Brook Lopez is going to be a real problem for the Celtics just because Robert Williams, for as good as he’s been all season, he’s been fantastic. Like he’s just not big enough. He’s not big enough for Brook and you go down the line Al Horford you want him on Giannis You don’t want him on Brook Like there will be matchup problems.
Jason Concepcion: It’s a great point. Let’s talk for a moment. Touch on the the the not red flags but you know like the some of the warning signs as we head later into series. Now the Celtics did miss a ton of threes. They missed 32 threes took 58 of 18 of 50. That’s two only two less than the bucks took for the whole game. You would expect they’re going to convert some of those officiating was I thought really really. You know obviously fans of the team may disagree, but I thought evenly reserved you know, like they wanted they let it go.
Eric Nehm: You guys can play a little bit, its fine.
Jason Concepcion: They let a lot of shit go but it was pretty even. Yeah. And to your point in terms of the way they played Giannis, it was Let’s double Giannis, let’s give him lots of looks and let’s see if these other guys can do anything. Now these other guys did anything. What was your sense that you got from from the team that the Celtics might say, okay, well, we did the right thing. It just didn’t come out the way that we wanted it to. Let’s try it again and see if Jrue Holiday can drop 25 on us again. Is that what they expected? They expect some tweaks.
Eric Nehm: I mean, honestly, I think both teams have the same plan, like the Bucks again for years, literally since my pillow has been done, they will not let the stars do it. You’re all there’s have to beat the bucks. Those will be the rules. You can shoot 800 threes. They don’t care and a bunch them going to be open. They don’t care. As long as it’s not the star shooting, they’re cool with it. I think the Celtics feel the same way. Like as long as Giannis isn’t the one scoring 40 points, they’re going to say, Cool. You know, if Grayson wants to have a big night, if paid ones have a big night, we’re going to live with that. And I think honestly, going into the series, that’s what I thought in Game one didn’t move me off of that in any way. Like I do think that is the approach for both of these teams. Like don’t let Jayson Tatum get loose, don’t let Giannis get loose. And let’s see, can Grant Williams hit six of ten threes in a game? Can Marcus Smart I mean, he jacks him up so like seven of 15 in a game like can one of those guys do it? And in game one the bucks all their guys did it, they were totally fine. Giannis got enough and they got through it and I just think that’s how this whole series is going to play out. Like both those teams are smart enough and well-coached enough that the stars aren’t going to get loose, that it’s going to have to be other guys.
Jason Concepcion: Your predictions, your predictions for the series, what do you got?
Eric Nehm: Oh, man. So before the series, I said Celtics in seven. I felt very good about the Celtics. I don’t think I’m going to like move off of it all the way. I think it’s still going seven I’ll go Bucks in seven though.
Jason Concepcion: I love it.
Eric Nehm: I think we’ve I think we’ve seen enough and I think you know you’re given the opportunity to flip flop so.
Aaron Edwards: I love flip floppin. I love flip floppin.
Eric Nehm: If I get this one wrong. If we get this one wrong. The first prediction is the one I did. And if I get this one right, then this was my official prediction. I’m this is a win win for me.
Jason Concepcion: That’s exactly right. He is Eric Nehm, Bucks beat reporter for The Athletic. Eric, thank you so much.
Eric Nehm: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Jason Concepcion: [AD].
Jason Concepcion: Rich, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, how is. What is there any new developments in the status of of Joel Embiid and what how is the team reacting to Joel’s injury?
Rich Hofmann: I mean I think they’re pretty mad internally I would say. It’s a very frustrating thing to lose maybe the best player in the league. I don’t want to get into that argument. I know, I know this is Takeline, but I wouldn’t want to get in that argument.
Jason Concepcion: Go ahead.
Aaron Edwards: I love it
Jason Concepcion: Please. Listen, as I was as I was saying in Pre Pro, I’ve spent the last 48 hours getting absolutely flambé by Toronto Raptors fans out of nowhere because I tweeted that I thought Siakam maybe should get a game for for what I thought was. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, but I think that was a reckless play and unnecessary in the moment. He clearly was like headhunting the guy. I don’t think I think it was like very, very borderline a basketball play and I think it’d be fine if he got the game. But like Raptors fans have acted like I was like, Fuck Canada, I think we should cut it off from the North American continent, let it float away and be destroyed, and they are wrecking me for this. So I would assume, like Sixers internally, I’d assume they’re pretty mad if looking at that play, right?
Rich Hofmann: Yeah. It was not a basketball player. And you know, the funny thing is, Doc, who he likes to complain about the officials a decent amount. I actually think. Yeah one case he was justified like the whole series Siakam uses his off arm to like I would like to see like Tobias Harris’s like rib cage I bet it’s all bruise from those bony elbows. And and he did not get called for one offensive foul the entire series on that. So for that to happen at the end of the game, yeah. I mean, like, look, the, the guy’s face is right in front of you and to swing your elbow through there. Yeah, it was not a good play. I don’t think Pascal a bad guy, you know, he’s obviously friends with Joel. They’re both from Cameroon. Joel was pretty cool with him after the game. But yeah, they’re I think overall as a team, they’re down. I mean, that’s such a freak injury. It’s honestly, it’s the most Joel Embiid Sixers thing ever though for it to happen in that scenario. Like like when whenever you have something go right and it’s like guys it’s it’s unbelievably frustrating because like you can’t even like after a game have a podcast or write something and just be like, Hey, they played pretty good tonight. Like maybe they got a chance to get to Miami if they keep playing like that. That was like Harden was looking good. You can’t say that because the other shoe is going to drop at some point. And it’s, you know, it’s it’s tough. So, you know, I mean, I think they’re they’re saying all the right things. They did. I think there were only like six and eight without him this year, which is like for them without Embiid that’s like throw a parade where they like I mean they they usually were like oh in 20 without him you know when he didn’t play. So I do think like Doc and, and Harden and Tyrese Maxey like they, they have a chance to be a little bit frisky in the series. But I think like there is an overall understanding of like and this is going to be hard and the stats even before Joel Embiid maybe he comes back in game three or game four but again they don’t even know yet because he hasn’t cleared the concussion protocol yet. You know, I know there’s been reports like of optimism, but you know, there’s still some steps that he’s going to have to take to even get on the floor in the first place. Then he’s got to play with the screwed up thumb in the mask. It’s it’s a tough spot.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah. Yeah, but odds on the Sixers dropped pretty bad since the Embiid injury came out. And do you think there’s like any of the north of Harden turning into 2017 Harden for them getting out of here or is that just like out of the question, like they know Harden can’t be what he used to be?
Rich Hofmann: Yeah, well it’s going to have to be that like I mean and from what we’ve seen in Philly, like I’ve I’ve had some takes on Harden like he his bad games are rough man like they are they’re really hard and the the good games are amazing. Like he just played a game in game six where he didn’t score 35 points. He didn’t have the, you know, the 40% usage rate that we saw in Houston. But I mean, they scored 130 points and he made the right play literally every time. 22 points. Fifteen assists. But to me, a big part of him being able to do that is he’s so good with Embiid. Like together, like he and Embiid. That was kind of the worry for a lot of people coming in. Oh, are they going to fit together? No, no, no. Like, hard. It actually needs to be like that worked right away. The problem with Harden is, you know, whether it’s his hamstring, whether it’s old age, bunch of games, lifestyle, catching up to him. I don’t.
Jason Concepcion: Lifestyle that’s like a nebulous. Lifestyle catching up with him.
Aaron Edwards: He’s seen the sun come up a couple of times.
Jason Concepcion: A couple of times. Maybe during the previous series he might have done that. He’s going to. Miami we’re going to Miami it’s going to be like lock put a lock on his hotel door. And like don’t allow.
Rich Hofmann: That was the joke that he played so well in Game six in Toronto because he finally realized, hey, if you win, you get to go to Miami on the next series. Like, that’s that’s where you get in the play for whatever reason. And to me, I think some of it is just like injury and attrition, like for playing so much basketball. Yeah, he just doesn’t have it every single game. So when he’s bad, he just looks slow and he’s not able to get he just straight up, not able to get by guys like he used to. And so yeah, they’re going to need that. Like I do think he’s going to be comfortable with the offense of, hey, you know, we’re going to play five out for the most part and we’re going to let you run around and take as many shots as you want. I think he’s going to be comfortable. Is he going to be able to do that successfully to beat Miami? I don’t know. I would say probably the other thing that would keep the Sixers in the series, like if Kyle Lowry is out for a long time, if Butler you know, if Butler reenters this this thing that kept him out for Game five, maybe that could make it a closer series. It is a shame, though. I kind of thought the Sixers had a good chance in this series if Embiid was healthy and played the whole time.
Jason Concepcion: I do too.
Rich Hofmann: The top ten talent was there, but I mean, when you remove him, you can’t like right and talk about this guy the whole year of like, man, he might be the best player in basketball and then remove him and be like, Oh, it’s not a big deal. No, it’s a huge deal. It’s massive.
Jason Concepcion: Being a very, very, very secret fan of of Sixers basketball. You know, I like to dip in and out of of internal Sixers fan conversations. I think there’s no player, which may be surprising to the average sports fan there. There’s no player that has been more derided, I think even during the Ben Simmons era than Tobias Harris. You just did a really great piece on him on The Athletic. He’s had a really strong first round. I think if you’re looking for how Harden can impact the game, you look at the games that Maxey had and Tobias Harris had in the first round in the way that Harden could set those guys up and make it easier for them. What’s Tobias Harris going to have to do, you know, with Embiid out to kind of carry the load for this team and and do we think he can do it?
Rich Hofmann: Well it’s probably like the same thing he did in the last round, plus a little more scoring. It’s so when they traded for Harden and you’re right Tobias Harris with you know Sixers Twitter is man who’s been a hot button issue because he got because he got the $180 million and he’s now worth $180 million. It’s like he’s just not his. No, no. His father is his agent. He did a nice job.
Jason Concepcion: A Long Island legend Tobias Harris shouts to him, Let me just shout out, shout out.
Rich Hofmann: And his father, Terrell, got him, you know, helped get him that contract. I mean, I would show that, like, my my son is probably not worth that contract. And I got it for him. And the whole family is doing great. So and you know, it’s kind of funny now that they’re playing the heat, too. That’s the other reason that he’s you know, he’s not as well liked because he you know, in the 2019 season, which was just this crazy year, they made two massive trades in the middle of the year. One was for Tobias Harris, but the other one was for Jimmy Butler.
Jason Concepcion: Mm hmm.
Rich Hofmann: They kept Tobias. They let Jimmy walk.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Rich Hofmann: I mean, Jimmy’s a better player than, um. it just he just is.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Rich Hofmann: And, you know, Jimmy comes with baggage that, like, Tobias, like he’s a pain to deal with sometimes. I think the heat would even probably agree with that. But, you know, like you got Joel when he’s lambasting Ben Simmons earlier this year being like, yeah, we traded Jimmy and that was a mistake. And by the way, yeah, he’s thought that for a long time. When Jimmy, Jimmy and him got along, they were simpatico with like that. Hey, like, no, no B.S. We’re going to we’re going to, you know, tell you when you’re sulking and all those things. Like, they they they were big on that. So that’s another reason to like so but and the other thing with Tobias is like he’s more of a is more of like a scorer and he’s more of a scorer on like a a 40 win team, like a guy who like, you know, puts up now not always a good, good stats bad team guy, but a little a little bit like that, right? Like, you know, holds the ball. He gets his 20 points, but like how much is he affecting the game? That’s what was so crazy about the Toronto series. He was like. He was like playing great defense on second year pass and he was pushing the ball in transition. He was like taking catch and shoot threes, which he doesn’t really like to do, which I’m sorry. You play with James Harden, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. That’s that’s what you do. We’re not calling post ups for you anymore. You got to do it. You got it. Sorry. Yup. So for him to kind of accept that role and then the funny thing with Tobias, we always joke like he’s like he’s been like the team leader. He’s like the vocal guy for a long time. And it’s always like, man, great player or a great guy, but, you know, like, it’s like he’s an even better guy, which means like, he’s not quite as good of a player. So, so for him, for him to kind of catch up in that regard and just it’s been really cool to see. But again, like I do think like this is a really hard task for him. Like he’s going to have to score more while also guarding Jimmy Butler in this series. And, you know, I’m not even going to think any less of him if he can’t do it. But, you know, we’ll see. I mean, I will say he’s probably in a better headspace and he’s been since he signed that contract in Philadelphia for sure.
Aaron Edwards: Yeah. So with that, like with the scoring of Tobias Harris is going to have to do like they have to make up for 30 points and pretty much almost 12 free throws a game they have to for against the Miami Heat. Is there anything they can do to slow the bleeding down like at least a little?
Rich Hofmann: Yeah. And the other issue with it too is like defensively.
Jason Concepcion: That’s the identity, you know, like that’s yeah, that’s your identity on defense.
Rich Hofmann: Guys, I cover the NBA. I’ve covered the NBA for a long time. Like these guys are huge when you stand next to him. Joel I’ve covered him for his whole career. It’s still like there are times where I’m just like, dude, you are massive and and have that imposing of a figure standing under the rim and be mobile kind of around the rim like that. That’s a big part of Tobias being able to slow down Seok and Jimmy in this series. So to not have that and let’s let’s be charitable, like the Sixers backup center, which has been a big sore spot for a long time.
Aaron Edwards: We’re not going to say his name are we?
Jason Concepcion: Go ahead and say it is fun. I mean, it’s like candy man. If you say it three times then he plays 30 minutes in the game, it’s great.
Rich Hofmann: I mean, yeah. And and now it’s like, you know, we have that big back and forth where Doc is like, I’m going to play him against big teams. Like, we know more than you, even though we’re just like, hey, like it’s I think you do generally no more than us, but we know this guy is not that good. Like you lose every minute, you play with him like he’s is bad on defense, all these things. Here’s the unfortunate part. Now, you probably have to play him for a little bit now because there are 48 minutes a game.
Jason Concepcion: And there’s no one else. There’s literally no other body over there.
Rich Hofmann: And the, you know, the the People’s Champ B-Ball, Paul, like he’s going to foul out in 5 seconds. And that’s why he was a good backup center. If he plays 8 to 10 minutes a game, if he gets five fouls, it doesn’t really matter. Now it’s like, Oh, well, we have to make it 48 minutes without Embiid. So that’s going to be, that’s going to be really hard and I think, yeah, it’s going to be harden it’s going to be Maxey. One positive thing I will say about this, and I don’t want to take too much for the regular season just because it’s a completely different thing. They played the Heat without Harden and Embiid in late March and the Heat had all their guys. And the Sixers won that game because they weren’t hunting a Tyler Herro like IV, like it was brutal in the fourth quarter. They scored 35 straight points just getting him on a switch. And Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton and Tobias and especially Maxi though like going by him like he didn’t even exist. That’s got to be the way to go about it. Like, the one thing about the heat is they are a good defensive team. They do play some worst offensive players and that’s got to be the goal, like Harden. He feeds on the bad players like he’s got to find. Toronto was not a great matchup because they had all those long athletes. He’s really got to find these guys for for Miami. And that’s I think that’s a big way how they score efficiently.
Jason Concepcion: Looking ahead, Joel, last time he was in the mask, we assume we’re going to assume he’s going to be back in the mask with the with the injury. He quite loudly didn’t enjoy it. He actively hated it. Really, really did not like it. He’s going to have to wear it again, you know. What were his reactions last time to the mask?
Rich Hofmann: It was unbelievable. And it’s honestly it was it feels like it came full circle because it was here in Miami when when they played the heat in that first round series like super physical first round series, Heat weren’t as good as they were or as they are now. The one thing I’ll always crack up about was and be throwing off the mask. And Brett Brown, I thought he was going to get a technical he had to like run on the court, big dude, like we’re going to get sued if you don’t put this thing on, man, like or whatever. Like, you’re not allowed to play. He would throw it off and Brett would have to run back. Dude, you have to play with this. I’m sorry. So. So now he’s got to do that with a busted thumb. It’s it’s going to be tough, but I mean, like, to me, that’s just he’s going to have to play with it. I mean, I think the fact that he doesn’t need surgery and the fact that they’re going to bring him back. Yes, he had surgery and a three week, three weeks off last time. So, you know, and I know this is this is a different type of fracture. This one, you know, I know those can be I’m I’m not an orbital expert, but I hear that it is a little bit of a different type of fracture on the other eye. That to me is still crazy, you know, and it’s for me, it’s kind of a hard thing. Like I can rationalize him playing with this thumb and it’s like, all right, he’s he’s a tough guy. Like, he’s going to get through it. Like he’ll get surgery on that at the end of the year and it’ll be fine next October. When it’s your vision, though, it’s just like that makes you a little queasy just thinking about that. But, you know, I’m sure the thing is they do have to protect him because he’s going to want to play like he from the moment his shoulder started and he sets out two years and his career, his big thing is I don’t want to be injured guy. I just it’s almost more important to him than being the, you know, the MVP of the league. I don’t want to be the guy that people say I sit out games because I had to do that for two years. And then I was on like an 18 minute limit to start like all of this, all these crazy things to the point where like he missed, I think four or five games this year due to non co he was out for COVID for four three weeks. But get rid of that like he sat out like four or five times. Just do to do the rest. I think he takes a lot of pride in that and I also think he takes a lot of pride in playing injured in the playoffs. So I do think they need to protect him from himself a little bit.
Aaron Edwards: And does the Miami Heat being like one of the more physical teams in the NBA? Does that hold any like barring to how quick they bring them back or how long they wait?
Rich Hofmann: Yeah, I mean, they’re super physical. I think they when they play in playoff series like it doesn’t really even matter who the personnel are. They just they beat Haiti. It’s JJ Redick used to say that all the time. Like he was like, man, that first round series, like they weren’t even we were a better team, but they just they almost like made us lose the next round because they just, it was super physical and chippy and all of those things. And that’s the other issue with Joel, too. Like, I think somebody told me say it’s like when Rip Hamilton had his his mass, it’s like, all right, that guy’s like, does that guy even can he dunk? Like, can you even do that?
Jason Concepcion: Right.
Rich Hofmann: Is he just going to shoot mid-range jumpers the entire night? Joel Embiid if he doesn’t go down low I know he’s a good shooter and he’s that’s honestly a big part of why he’s so good now is that he he’s got the perimeter game but Joel Embiid needs to be by the basket for a decent amount of the game and unafraid to like mix it up with people and throw his massive frame around. So it’s a, it’s definitely a different story and yeah, I would expect them to be super physical. I guess I was thinking about how you can’t be that like you can’t punch him in the face. Like, I think the thing is with the thumb, I think you can realistically be like, oh, I was going for the ball, but like karate chop him in the thumb. Yeah, whatever it is that’s reasonably he’s just going to have to deal with at least the face. It’s like, all right, well, it’ll look super obvious if they go for that at least. So.
Aaron Edwards: I mean, Pat Riley is in that building. So we’ll see.
Jason Concepcion: Rich is a staff writer for The Athletic. Follow him there for all the great content and coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers. Rich, thank you for joining us. We’d love to have you back.
Rich Hofmann: All right, guys, thanks.
Jason Concepcion: That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Plus my digital series, All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out, folks. Bye. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Engineering, editing and sound design by the great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kellman is on the Zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.