What We Learned in the West About Kevin Durant, Flimsy Ankles, and LaMarcus the Ghost

1st Round of Western Conference Playoffs is Over. The lessons.

Don’t Mess with Basketball Gods: The Golden State Warriors were lackadaisical and not interested and played two more games than they should have against the Clippers. And then Steph Curry and Klay Thompson sprained their ankles with Thompson’s being the most worrisome. The Warriors are calling Klay’s ankle a “significant” sprain and he is questionable for Game 1 against the Rockets. Lesson: Don’t get all cute and think you are immortal.

Not the Dynamic Duo: Paul George chose Russell Westbrook for the next three years only to flame out in the playoffs while assuming Russ’ arrogant air of non-accountability. In the first round of the playoffs, George and Westbrook were dropping bricks.  39% of the time the ball went in. They took 81 threes in five games but made only 26 (32%). And neither one could guard Dame Lillard. Lesson: Summer 2018 dreaming is over. Now it’s time to look in the mirror.

The Playoffs MVP (so far). Damian Lillard did everything for Rip City and the numbers tell the story. He won 4 out of 5 playoff games. He posted a 26.9 PER, 119 Offensive Rating, and 105 Defensive Rating. It’s the best offensive and defensive rating of his career. More Lillard numbers: His 165 points eclipses last year’s point total, and the year before that. He had a playoff career high 46% shooting and a sick 48% from three. Most importantly, Russell Westbrook didn’t faze Dame one bit. He took it all in and had the last word. Lesson: Pressure reveals character.

Kevin Durant Can’t Be Stopped: It wasn’t the 50 he dropped. It was how he scored in the first round. Like dude was playing in his backyard. He mid-ranged the Clippers to death. He took 75 two point shots and made 50 of them. His offensive rating was 129, tying a career high, and his PER was 30.9.  His 210 points sent the Clippers on vacation. Lesson: Best player in the NBA coming through when it matters is why he is best player in the NBA.

LaMarcus Aldridge Can’t__________: You fill in the blank. Here’s some help. Shoot. Show up in crunch time. Defend. Move his feet.  Lesson: Can’t give the Spurs some of that $22 million back. Be careful who you trust.

Sweet Lou Gave 110%: Lou Williams kept the Clippers from being swept by the Warriors. He had epic performances as Lou will do when he is not being guarded and totally disrespected. He’s never been a perfect player and while he was doing his magic act Kevin Durant was matching him point for point. But Lou mattered on the big stage, bucket after bucket after bucket. Lesson: $8 million is a bargain

Donovan Mitchell Made Me Close My Eyes: Everyone loves The Donovan Mitchell story. Rest assured, if that was James Harden sucking in the playoffs except for one brilliant quarter, he’d be hearing about it. But we love Donovan. Good kid. Good upside. He has a lot of Allen Iverson game but he’s not close to Iverson. Mitchell is inconsistent. He’s an average dribbler with so-so footwork. The double team against Mitchell works, forcing him to make contested shots. He missed. And missed. And missed. Utah has to get a second scorer to give him some breathing room. Lesson: It’s Hard to Be the Only One.

James Harden Will Not Change: The MVP is an anomaly. Brilliant in the regular season but he gets  all kinds of freaky ugly in the playoffs. He shot 37% in the first round.  Harden routinely does this to us. Making us think this is the year he can knock off the Warriors but to beat the Warriors you have to be efficient. You can’t trust Chris Paul to carry you home. Lesson: People are who they are.