Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

1068
Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

With the exception of the Toronto Raptors, every NBA head-coaching vacancy has been filled.

The Detroit Pistons are hiring former Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams to replace Dwane Casey. It seems like Detroit actually wants to start contending in the Eastern Conference!

With players like Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, and with the fifth-overall pick in this month’s draft, the Pistons could look to make noise in the play-in tournament. Or who knows? Maybe they won’t even need the play-in tournament to make the playoffs?

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns are hiring Frank Vogel to replace Williams. Vogel, a Wildwood Crest, N.J. native, has been the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, and most recently, the L.A. Lakers. He won a championship with L.A. in the 2019-20 “Orlando bubble” season.

Phoenix’s goal for next season should be to make the Conference Finals at minimum, since they have a strong core of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton. After trading a boatload of assets for Durant, though, their bench depth was questionable.

Lastly, the Denver Nuggets are tied 1-1 in the Finals against the Miami Heat. Denver won 104-93 in game one on Thursday, while Miami took game two 111-108. Game three is on Wednesday, June 7 at 8:30 p.m. EST in South Beach.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

We keep doubting the Heat, yet they find new ways to impress us.

After getting destroyed in game one, Miami was never out of game two. Max Strus and Duncan Robinson’s timely three-pointers were crucial. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo’s defense was great, especially Butler’s on the final play of the game.

The Heat allowed Nikola Jokić to score 41 points in game two, but his four assists were his lowest in a playoff game this year. Denver’s Jamal Murray was held to under 20 points for the first time since game five of the Western Conference Semifinals.

There’s also a good possibility that Tyler Herro returns for Miami in game three. He’s been out with a broken hand since the Heat’s first-round series against Milwaukee. Herro started every game he played for the regular season, averaging 20.1 points per game.

What if head coach Erik Spoelstra wants to ease him back in by bringing him off the bench? Herro won the Sixth Man of the Year award last season. Game three will be a turning point in this series regardless.

Lowlight

Although Denver just suffered their first home loss in this postseason, I feel like they had a golden opportunity to go up 2-0 in the series. Now, they have to earn home-court advantage back on the road.

Game two saw both teams exchange large runs. The Nuggets, at one point, even held a 15-point lead. That was the largest lead for either side. However, the Heat killed them from three-point range, shooting 17 for 35 (48.6%).

Denver’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fouled a three-point shooter twice, which is one of a coach’s pet peeves. The usually-reliable Michael Porter Jr. contributing just five points isn’t going to cut it. Denver just seemed “off” at times during game two.

With the next two games being in South Beach, one would think that Miami has the momentum. The road team’s goal in any playoff series is to steal one on the road. Stealing both away games is better, but one will do the trick.

In order for the Nuggets to jump in the driver’s seat again, Jokić can’t be the only one scoring. His talent of distributing the ball at an insane level is what propels this team. If I’m a Nuggets’ fan, I’d be nervous if Denver loses game three.

Random Stat

Miami Heat president Pat Riley has to be one of the most successful people in NBA history. Did you know that he’s been a part of 19 of the NBA’s 77 Finals (24.7%)?!

He won his only championship as a player in 1972 while with the L.A. Lakers. During his coaching career, Riley won with the Lakers as an assistant in 1980 before becoming the head coach. When he became a head coach, the Lakers won four titles in seven Finals appearances under his reign. He lost in the Finals as the coach of the New York Knicks before winning another ring with Miami.

Now, he’s made the Finals six times as the Heat’s president, with two wins under his belt in the LeBron James years. If you want a path to as many championships as possible, look no further than Riley. Winning nine titles in 19 attempts, or 47%, is really good. I think it’s safe to add that he’s probably the most influential figure in Heat history.

The team started as an expansion team for the 1988-89 season, and Riley became the team president and head coach in 1995. Even if Miami can’t get it done this year, Riley can just chuckle with his nine rings.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

Comment