NBA Column: My apology letter to the Spurs and Nets

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich directs his team against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of Game 1 of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Denver. The Spurs won 101-96. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Dear San Antonio Spurs,

I’m sorry for what I said last week in my first-round playoff predictions. It was foolish of me to doubt what has been the most dominant franchise in basketball for the last 20 years.

I said, “Pin the Nuggets’ great offense against the Spurs’ bad defense, and this series could be ugly. I have the Nuggets in four.” Though hindsight is 20/20, picking the Nuggets, who are making their first playoff appearance since 2013, to sweep the Spurs, who haven’t missed the playoffs since 1997 (the year I was born), is an awful take.

The best head coach of all time, Gregg Popovich, managed to fix his struggling defense in time to slow down Nikola Jokic and the high-powered Nuggets offense in Denver. They managed to hold Jokic and company to 96 points, and they only allowed the do-all center to score 10 points. The Nuggets averaged 110.7 points per game in the regular season.

Stopping Jokic is the key to stopping this offense, and the Spurs exposed his fatal flaws as a scorer. San Antonio had five players outscore Jokic, getting an outstanding all-around effort from everyone who took the floor.

Who in their right mind would doubt a Popovich-coached team in the playoffs, especially on the defensive end of the floor? Now the Spurs lead the series 1-0 after stealing Game 1 on the road. Predicting a sweep was senseless, and once again, San Antonio, I’m sorry.

Dear Brooklyn Nets,

I would also like to apologize to the Nets for predicting that the Philadelphia 76ers would not only sweep them, but “blow the Nets out of the water.”

In my prediction, I also said, “The Nets have been a nice story this season, but the 76ers are just too talented. I think they are going to come out with something to prove, so I have the 76ers in four games.”

Like the silly fool I am, I failed to recognize that Philly’s fatal defensive weakness is guarding great score-first point guards. I heard from multiple media sources going into this series that D’Angelo Russell could give the 76ers problems since Philly doesn’t start a conventional point guard. I recognize Damian Lillard as Steph Curry lite, Kemba Walker as Damian Lillard lite and Russell as Kemba Walker lite, so I should’ve known that Russell had the skill set to burn the Sixers like those other one-guards have this season.

Ben Simmons, who is six-foot-10, “fills the point guard role on offense, but on defense J. J. Redick is often matched up with the other team’s shortest starter. As great of an offensive player as Redick is, he’s a big liability on the defensive end. As a result, Russell went off for 26 points.

Another thing that I failed to consider was that Caris LeVert is actually really good at basketball. After an impressive start to the season averaging 18.4 points through the first 14 games, LeVert went down with a gruesome foot injury and missed two months. He returned in February playing limited minutes but never quite returned to his beginning-of-the-season form. Then in 23 minutes of his first playoff game, he goes off for 23 points.

The Nets currently lead the series 1-0 and took home-court advantage away from Philly. I overvalued the 76ers’ starters and failed to see how much talent this Nets team has in their own right, and for that, I’m sorry.


Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at sean.janos@uconn.edu.

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