Who To Watch (May 3 – May 9)

Welcome back!

Folks, we have made it through 1/3 of 2019, which sounds crazy considering 2018 seems like it was just yesterday (time never slows down, does it). Anyway, this past week the intensity we saw the past 2-3 weeks let up, but now we have some truly competitive matchups taking place in the NBA and NHL. Every team except Houston has won at least one game in the second round of the NBA playoffs, while in the NHL, other than a 3-0 lead Carolina has over the Islanders, every other series is tied 2-2. In baseball… you know what, we’ll congratulate CC Sabathia for becoming the the 17th pitcher in MLB history to strike out 3,000 batters, and only the third lefty to ever do so. Other than that, eh, it’s on the back burner until the playoffs lighten up… unless you consider Nick seeing Jared Carrabis at South Station last Friday news (no, he was not able to say hello to the Rocket). In the NFL, we saw 2018 first round pick Josh Rosen get traded to Miami, ending his tenure in Arizona. Other than that, rounds 2 through 7 of the NFL Draft took place, as teams restocked with young talent (both through the draft and via undrafted free agents). Oh, and the Rockets apparently cried to the league about Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

Buy/Sell time.

Buy

Kerm: Kawhi Leonard

It’s rare to pick a player after two consecutive losses, but Kawhi Leonard has been nothing short of spectacular this postseason. In last night’s Game 3 loss, he put up another incredibly efficient 30+ scoring performance, and didn’t miss a shot in the third quarter. I still have faith in the Raptors to win this series because he’s the clear best player in the series.

If the Raptors manage to lose to Philadelphia, he’s the one person guaranteed to walk out without a shred of blame.

When to Watch: 

Game 4: Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers (5/5, 3:30 PM)

Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors (5/7, 8:00 PM)

Game 6: Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers (5/9, TBD)*

Mike: C.J. McCollum

The dominant story of the Trail Blazers’ postseason by far is the incredible play of Damian Lillard. However, that doesn’t mean the rest of the team hasn’t stepped up their game along with him, and the first person to look at is C.J. McCollum. Just in their past game against the Nuggets, which Portland came in down 1-0 in the series, Lillard struggled and McCollum was the next man up. McCollum put up 20 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds – plus 2 steals and a block – in a well-rounded effort that included a handful of key shots that stemmed the tide of a few Denver runs. McCollum has been performing at a high level this entire postseason, averaging over 22 PPG and shooting over 42% from three. The Blazers took homecourt from the Nuggets after splitting the first two games in Denver, and have a real chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals. With the clutch play of McCollum and the overall awesomeness of Lillard, things are finally coming together for Portland.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trailblazers (5/3, 10:30 PM)

Game 4: Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trailblazers (5/5, 7:00 PM)

Game 5: Portland Trailblazers vs. Denver Nuggets (5/7, 10:30 PM)

Game 6: Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trailblazers (5/9, TBD)*

*if necessary

Nick: Kyrie Irving

Image result for kyrie irving
Kyrie had one of the worst games of his career during Game 2, scoring 9 points while going 4 for 18 (Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

An interesting start to this series for Kyrie. After scoring 26 points with 7 rebound and 11 assists in Boston’s Game 1 win, Kyrie only scored 9 points during their Game 2 defeat. He was 4 for 18, and it seemed like nothing would fall for the 6-time All-Star. It was an ugly game. Boston was losing 74-71 in the 3rd quarter despite this bad performance, but the wheels fell of for the Celtics after that, as Milwaukee went on a 31-4 run; it happens. Kyrie will need to be on his game moving forward, and he knows this. Here’s what he had to say about responding:

“This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for.”

-Kyrie Irving on moving forward following Game 2 (per ESPN)

Kyrie has talked about the postseason for awhile now, and his love for it. With the playoffs comes adversity, and this will be Kyrie’s first chance as the leader of a team to respond to a playoff loss, especially in a key Game 3 that could swing the momentum of this series. The last time Kyrie was in this situation (coming off a playoff loss), he scored 40 points, going 15 for 27 from the field and 7 for 12 from three in a win for Cleveland against the Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals; if he does that tonight, Boston will be in GREAT shape. I’m buying that Kyrie showing up.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (5/3, 8:00 PM)

Game 4: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (5/6, 7:00 PM)

Game 5: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks (5/8, 9:00 PM)


Sell

Kerm: Kyle Lowry

Image result for kyle lowry
In his hometown, Kyle Lowry really showed how much he loved Philadelphia, scoring 7 points while going 2 for 10 from the field (Credit: Nick Wass/AP)

It’s hard not to compare Kawhi’s elite scoring efficiency with Kyle Lowry’s horrendous Game 3 shooting. This is the fourth game where Lowry scored in the single digits this playoffs. Obviously the game isn’t all about scoring, but his plus/minus was a game low -28. Going into the playoffs we knew who would get the blame if the Raptors got bounced early, and Lowry is only proving that true with his struggles to make an offense impact.

When to Watch: 

Game 4: Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers (5/5, 3:30 PM)

Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors (5/7, 8:00 PM)

Game 6: Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers (5/9, TBD)*

*if necessary

Mike: Clint Capela

Image result for clint capela
Clint Capela has been rather silent this postseason, especially compared to his output during the regular season (Credit: Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

Last year the Rockets took the Warriors to 7 games in the Western Conference Finals, and coming into this year, it looked like they had the best chance out of the rest of the West to challenge Golden State again. We got the matchup a round earlier than last year, and after the Clippers took the Warriors to 6 games and the Rockets dominated the Jazz in 5, it really looked like Houston had a shot. Now two games into the series, that’s not looking like the case anymore, and one player that needs to step up to change that is Clint Capela. The Rockets don’t need much from him on offense, but the 9 PPG he’s averaging in the series so far is subpar. On the defensive end, Capela has really been struggling. Capela was a -17 in Game 1 and a -19 in Game 2, as the Rockets lost by 4 and 6 points, respectively. If the Rockets want any shot at challenging the Warriors once this series goes back to Houston, Clint Capela needs to lock down on defense and start performing on offense.

When to Watch:

Game 3: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets (5/4, 8:30 PM)

Game 4: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets (5/6, 9:30 PM)

Game 5: Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors (5/8, 10:30 PM)*

*if necessary

Nick: Khris Middleton

There is a theory that when Khris Middleton faces the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, he becomes Michael Jordan. Well if by that you mean number 1 at something, then the data backs it up. Middleton has the highest 3P% of any player versus one opponent (min. 3PA) in NBA playoff history, going a blistering 63.6% from downtown. In 9 career playoff games against Boston, Middleton has averaged 24.1 PPG, and in addition to his 3P%, he shoots 58.99% from the field; absolutely insane. This is just reverse psychology, there is no way he can be THIS good THAT much longer, and folks, I will be the happiest person in the world if he goes 50% from the field and 40% from three moving forward.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (5/3, 8:00 PM)

Game 4: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (5/6, 7:00 PM)

Game 5: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks (5/8, 9:00 PM)


Credit to photo above goes to Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The “Who to Watch” series drops every Friday, via Hold My Drink Sports

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