Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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We’ve reached the midway point of May, which means that the Conference Semifinals are officially over. Four teams remain in the Conference Finals battles.

The top Eastern seed, Miami Heat, continued to hold a home-court advantage as they welcome the Boston Celtics to South Beach for the first two games. The Golden State Warriors are back from the dead, as they have reached the Western Conference Finals again.

With Klay Thompson’s injuries over the last few years, the Warriors have been mortal. Now, it looks like they never left. Their next challenge is the Dallas Mavericks.

Lastly, I’m shocked that the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns were eliminated in the second round. They were last season’s championship matchup. Both had to play a game seven against their respective opponents, and both got destroyed.

Let’s just say the NBA isn’t always kind.

Second round Eastern Conference eliminations: Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks

Second round Western Conference eliminations: Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

Even though the Memphis Grizzlies were eliminated in six games to Golden State, they went well above expectations this season. They earned the second-best record in the league and the second seed in the West. Phoenix was first in both of those categories.

What made it more impressive was that Memphis did great when Ja Morant was on the sidelines. The Grizzlies had a 20-5 regular-season record without Morant. Against the Warriors in the second round, Memphis went 1-2 without him.

Besides injuries, the main obstacle that was keeping the Grizzlies from going further was the youth factor. Young teams without much playoff experience rarely go far in the postseason. There shouldn’t be many problems for them to go on a title run next year.

I must say, though. Memphis did a lot of trash talking. For example, Dillon Brooks said this to the Associated Press.

“We’re young, and [the Warriors are] getting old. They know that we are going to come every single year,” Brooks said.

Golden State superstar Steph Curry added that Brooks told him that the Grizzlies were already a “dynasty.” This is ironic since the Grizzlies reached their only Conference Finals appearance nine years ago and have never sniffed the finals in their franchise’s history.

Congrats to the Grizzlies on a memorable season, but don’t plan the parade down Beale Street just yet.

Lowlight

Isn’t it cool that Philadelphia used to be America’s capital in the late 1700s? Basically being the “center” of the country sounds neat.

The 76ers are at the center of the NBA, too– for the wrong reasons.

To put it nicely, at least the Founding Fathers had more potential than the 76ers. The 76ers are a joke. Now that Miami eliminated them in six games, Philadelphia has been bounced from the second round four times in the last five years. The one exception was during the Orlando bubble in 2020 when the Celtics swept them in the first round.

As a fan of this team, it’s clear that major changes are needed, although they might not happen. James Harden looks like a shell of what he once was. Ironically, he was the NBA MVP just three seasons ago!

On the other hand, half of Joel Embiid’s body was literally broken while playing in the Heat series. He had a torn ligament in his shooting thumb and an orbital fracture.

The bench is atrocious. And then there’s Doc Rivers.

A report came out on Friday that said Rivers’ job is safe for next year. I was not a big supporter of Philadelphia hiring him, primarily because of his questionable playoff history.

As much as I want to believe this is a championship-caliber team, they think the NBA Finals happen in the second round.

Random Stat

As I mentioned in the opener, Klay Thompson’s injuries kept him out for two straight seasons.

In the series-clinching Game 6 against Memphis, though, he added another gem to his resume. He had 30 points and eight triples.

Interestingly, Thompson has a nickname across the league, “Game 6 Klay.”

If you don’t understand the reference, it started in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Warriors were down 3-2 in the series and playing on the road in Oklahoma City.

Thompson didn’t care. He scored 41 points and hit 11 three-pointers– which is now the second-most threes in a single playoff game.

Since then, he’s had other great performances in Game 6 of other series. Don’t ask me why, I’m just the writer. That would be a question for Thompson himself.

However, what a comeback it’s been for him. Returning from a torn ACL and then a torn Achilles is no easy feat. We hope to see more dazzling games from No. 11… even in another Game 6 or two.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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