Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Jana Jackstis

One round down, three to go. The first round is officially finished, and we’ve seen some spectacular basketball. Spectacular basketball comes with a side order of fun facts.

For the first time since 2010, the Finals will not have LeBron James or Steph Curry! James lost his first ever first-round series, bringing his record to 14-1. The eight teams remaining are the 76ers, Nets, Bucks, Hawks, Jazz, Nuggets, Suns and Clippers.

The Mavericks and Clippers series was such a unique series. Why? It’s the first time in NBA playoff history that the road team won the first six games of the series. Talk about home-court disadvantage!

During playoff time, coaches on struggling teams might get a little nervous. Not winning a title is one thing; losing your job is another.

Terry Stotts of the Portland Trailblazers and Steve Clifford of the Orlando Magic have mutually parted ways with their teams. With Damian Lillard once again being a first-round exit, the front office should choose the next coach wisely if they want him to stay. [Lillard wanted Jason Kidd to replace Stotts, but Kidd declined]. The Magic are in a full rebuild, so anyone that understands that a basketball is orange should be good for now.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: The 76ers took care of business in their first round series against the Wizards. If Joel Embiid didn’t get injured in Game four, Philadelphia would’ve gotten the sweep. However, at least they didn’t go to seven games or, even worse, lose the series.

The Wizards just couldn’t keep up with the 76ers’ firepower. Not having center Thomas Bryant and rookie forward Deni Avdija didn’t help Washington either. With the way Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal dragged this team to the postseason, something tells me that they won’t be going away for a while. The irony about all of this is that the Wizards were the first “Lowlight” I covered for this column!

Meanwhile, for the 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks have been an exciting test. Embiid’s health will still be monitored for the rest of Philadelphia’s title run. With the way things stand, many have the series going to six games instead of four or five. The series is tied 1-1. Here’s to a great battle!

Lowlight: I had the Lakers and Clippers meeting in the Western Conference Finals. One of those teams is out of the tournament.

Although I understand that Lakers fans are disappointed in their team, let’s make something clear: y’all won the title last year. The Lakers are tied with Boston for the most rings in NBA history! You’ll be back… maybe. This isn’t 2010 anymore.

Back then, James went on TV to make “The Decision” to sign with the Miami Heat. He was still young and constructing his Hall-of-Fame resume. Fast forward to 2021, he’ll turn 37 in December. No one wants to admit it, but Father Time will eventually catch up to James. Every athlete declines at some point.

Anthony Davis’ health is also worrisome. Whichever doctor cleared Davis to play in Game six against Phoenix needs their head examined. After those two, there are still issues.

For example, fans want to chuck Dennis Schröder and Kyle Kuzma into the Pacific Ocean. Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson went so far as to say Schröder isn’t a Laker because he “lacks the winning mentality!” Ouch!

Give it up to the Suns, though. They weren’t messing around and are now up 1-0 to Denver in round two. Devin Booker exploded for 47 points in the final game of the series. One of these teams is doing just fine. The other needs to take a look in the mirror.

Random Stat: As we talked about at the top of this week’s article, James or Steph Curry will not be involved in the Finals for the first time since 2010. There’s another fascinating fact about these playoffs: one of these teams is going to be very happy to win.

Before you sarcastically tell me, “No, Larry. I thought the team that loses the quickest wins the title,” let me explain.

Five of the eight remaining teams have NEVER won the Finals! The guilty parties are Utah, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles [Clippers] and Brooklyn. Obviously, the first four are Western teams; Brooklyn plays in the East. The Hawks haven’t won it all since 1958 [when they were called the St. Louis Hawks], the Bucks’ last ring was in 1971 and the 76ers’ most recent win was in 1983.

This stat hasn’t been impressive recently, since we’ve been so used to matchups such as Cavs-Warriors.

“When was your most recent championship win?”

“Last year.”

Winning more than one trophy is cool, but winning the first one in decades is also pretty neat.

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