-year-old Final

90-year-old says final goodbyes to wife as COVID-19 deaths increase in 26 states | WNT – ABC News

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Final Houston's

Houston’s Final Countdown? – Bleacher Report

The photo popped in late May, providing a rare burst of gleeful titillation amid the bleakness of an NBA blackout:

James Harden, ambling down a desert hill, looking slightly disheveled, like a prophet descending from the mountaintophair askew, his famed beard a bit choppy. He appears breathless, sweaty and, whoa, svelte! Like, strikingly so.

“Skinny Harden makes Rockets title favorites,” Ben DuBose of RocketsWire gushed, citing a quote from former NBA champion and ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s one of the most prolific scorers ever to touch the basketball,” Perkins said on ESPN’s The Jump, “and now he lost weight and is dedicated? It’s going to be dangerous, and it puts the Rockets up there as a heavy favorite to win the title, if the season resumes.”

The season is at last set to resume, with the Rockets scheduled to play the Dallas Mavericks on July 31, the first of their eight “seeding” games to be played in the Orlando bubble. Houston, 40-24 when play was suspended in March, is currently tied for sixth in the Western Conference, with a reasonable shot at cracking the top four.

But a championship? Those odds may be as steep as the Tempe Butte path that Harden ran religiously during his now-famous pandemic workouts.

The clear title favorites both reside in Los Angeles: the Lakers of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and the Clippers of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. When the season stopped, the Rockets were jockeying with Utah, Denver and Oklahoma City in the West’s crowded second tier.

30 teams, 30 days: The biggest story from each NBA team ahead of the league’s return.

Atl | Bos | Bkn | Cha | Chi | Cle

Dal | Den | Det | GS | Hou | Ind

LAC | LAL | Mem | Mia | Mil | Min

NO | NY | OKC | Orl | Phi | Pho

Por | Sac | SA | Tor | Uta | Was

Houston’s title hopes rest, as ever, with Harden—a prodigious points machine closing in on his third straight scoring title—and his latest co-star, Russell Westbrook, who will be making his Rockets playoff debut. And Harden’s new physique will be more than just a curiosity as NBA games resume.

Every Rockets flameout has sparked questions about their franchise star: Did he wear down? Get fatigued? Is he built to carry a team through 82 games and an extended postseason? Perhaps a sleeker Harden will be a more resilient Harden, a spryer, livelier Harden. And maybe four months of forced NBA limbo will mean he’s fresher to start this postseason anyway.

Yet it’s arguably not the load Harden carries on his frame that should concern the Rockets. It’s the workload he carries on the court.

Even with Westbrookanother certified scoring maestroon board, Harden shoulders a massive offensive burden. His usage rate (an estimate of possessions used while on the court) this season is 36.4 percentthe second-highest mark of Harden’s career and on pace to be the 10th-highest in NBA history.

And history suggests that is not a healthy—or successfulway to pursue a title.

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Harden’s been putting in the work ?

(via @CPolk41)

Only one player has had a regular-season usage rate of 35 or more and made the Finals the same season: Allen Iverson, who posted a 35.9 for the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers before losing to the Lakers in the championship round.

Twenty-three others crossed the 35 mark (and qualified for the minutes leaderboard) prior to this season. Eight didn’t make the playoffs. Eight lost in the first round. Five lost in the second round. After Iverson, only two other members of this extreme ball-dominance club even made the conference finals: Harden in 2018 and Gervin in 1982.

“The reliance on one player to produce the vast majority of your offense is less than ideal,” one team executive wryly noted. “You’re definitely hitting on something that is absolutely a flaw in building a team. But that just [underscores] how challenging it is to get the second-best player [to complement the first].”

Usage rate is only one way to measure offensive workload, and it isn’t a perfect gauge. The formula accounts for field-goal attempts, free-throw attempts and turnovers, so a low-turnover player who doesn’t pass much but shoots a lot could conceivably post a lower usage rate than a do-everything lead guard like Harden.

Still, a high usage rate does tell us something about the player and his team. Nearly all of the top usage seasons came from elite talents, Hall of Famers like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, and former All-Stars like Jerry Stackhouse and DeMarcus Cousins. And many of them were anchoring lineups with a shortage of scoring options.

Whether an NBA star is commandeering his team’s offense by choice or by necessity is an age-old chicken-and-egg debate. And it’s fair to question whether this matrix of high usage and low playoff success is a case of causation or correlation.

Yet given these two dozen examples spread across four decades, it’s hard not to conclude that extreme reliance on a single star hampers a team in the playoffs.

“As a historical matter, that’s pretty unassailable,” said Seth Partnow, the former director of basketball research for the Milwaukee Bucks, who now writes about analytics for The Athletic.

As Partnow observed in a story in December, teams in this era are increasingly depending on a single, multifaceted superstar who controls the entire offense—as the primary ball-handler, playmaker and scorer. Partnow has a word for it: heliocentrism.

Think Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, Luka Doncic in Dallas, Trae Young in Atlanta, LeBron James everywhere he’s been, Harden in Houston and, previously, Westbrook in Oklahoma City. (Interestingly, James never has cracked the 35 usage mark.)

If the season ended today, Antetokounmpo’s 37.4 usage would rank seventh all-time, with Doncic (37.0) eighth, two spots ahead of Harden.

Their teams have won a lot of games with that approach. But the playoffs are different.

Opponents have time to scout and prepare, to tailor their defensive schemes for a single teamor a single star—and then adjust as the series unfolds. Few teams will alter their defense for a single night against Harden or Antetokounmpo in January. But they’ll spend hours and hours plotting in the spring (or this year, summer).

“The playoffs are the most overly scouted, overly prepared-for situation that you’re going to be in,” a longtime advance scout said. “So if you have one player who’s that high-usage, ball-dominant, then coaches are going to game-plan around that. There is a way that you can make James Harden give the ball up, and then make Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers and other guys around him make plays.”

James Harden's virtuosity has gotten the Rockets into the playoffs in each of the last eight seasons but has yet to carry them into the Finals.

James Harden’s virtuosity has gotten the Rockets into the playoffs in each of the last eight seasons but has yet to carry them into the Finals.Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The Rockets’ three-point-heavy attack, and the uniqueness of Harden, are inherently harder to prepare for in the regular season, said an assistant coach on a perennial playoff team.

“You’re not used to seeing their style,” he said. “Houston has nearly perfected the way they play in terms of their three-point shooting and what they want to do. Their players know their roles. You get them in the regular season, that can be tough. … In a playoff series, you start to try to find ways defensively to stop James and some of their other stars and role players.”

That might mean sending different looks at Harden every possession: single-teams, double-teams, smaller defenders, larger defenders, help defense from different angles.

“You can definitely mix in pressuring him, mix in some full-court [pressure], mix in some traps,” the assistant coach said. “If you can speed him up, if you can find ways to wear him down defensively, that helps.”

Added Partnow: “If there’s always someone who is fresh and can go 105 percent, for a guy [Harden] who’s being asked to do that muchI don’t know if I can prove it, but it certainly stands to reason that over a game, over seven games, that has a chance to wear [on him].”

Only one other Rockets player inspires any trepidation for opposing teamsWestbrook, whose ball-handling and explosiveness make him a constant threat. But his historically poor three-point shooting gives opponents the latitude to tilt their defense toward Harden, clogging his shooting space and his driving lanes and forcing him into tougher shots.

“I think it’s a flawed model,” the same scout said of the Harden-Westbrook pairing, echoing doubts that have persisted since the Rockets first acquired Westbrook last July in a trade for Chris Paul.

The Rockets co-stars, both of whom are former MVPs, might be the two most ball-dominant, high-usage players in NBA history. It’s unclear yet whether they are truly complementaryor any better than the previous Harden-Paul pairing, or even the Harden-Dwight Howard tandem that made the conference finals in 2015. Eight years into the Harden era, the Rockets are still searching for the right formula, and the right tag team partner, to launch them to a championship.

They’ve been close, making the conference finals twice in a five-year span, only to be denied both times by the Warriors, including an epic seven-game series in 2018, when an injury to Paul helped sink them. Had the Rockets had broken through then, perhaps the skepticism about winning with a ball-dominant star would have faded.

“It’s almost like the hot hand,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “It’s extremely hard to prove or disprove.”

Harden’s effective field-goal percentage has taken a tumble in each of the past four postseasons, by an average of 4.4 percentage points from his regular-season marks over that span. Of course, the level of competition is also higher in the playoffs, and the quality of defense generally increases, too. Some decline in efficiency is expected, even for the game’s greatest stars.

But a string of noteworthy flops have come to define Harden’s playoff resume.

In 2015, he went 2-of-11 from the field and had 12 turnovers in a postseason-ending loss to the Warriors.

In the eight games between the All-Star break this season and the suspension of the season, Russell Westbrook shot 53.4 percent from the field with 8.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

In the eight games between the All-Star break this season and the suspension of the season, Russell Westbrook shot 53.4 percent from the field with 8.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

In 2016, with the Rockets down 2-1 to the Warriors and playing a critical Game 4 at home, Harden put up only 18 points on 4-of-13 shooting in a loss. He bounced back with 35 points the next game but committed seven turnovers in the season-ending defeat.

In 2017, Harden scored 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting and committed six turnovers while being eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals.

The Rockets’ best run came in 2018, when they made it to Game 7 of the conference finals against the Warriors. It ended with their worst collapse—27 straight misses from three-point range, including 10 from Harden, who finished 12-of-29 from the field and 2-of-13 from behind the arc.

The Warriors knocked out the Rockets again in 2019, in the second round, but Harden was mostly stellar in that six-game series, averaging 34.8 points with an effective field-goal percentage of .534.

Parsing out all of the factors in a star’s playoff record is an inherently fraught exercisewhat to attribute the star himself, or his teammates, or the opponent, or even random chance. Is it fatigue that’s dragged down Harden every spring? A deficient lineup? The bad luck of existing in the same era as the Steph Curry-Kevin Durant Warriors?

Or does the intense reliance on a single star limit the Rockets’ chances against elite teams? Is predictability the Rockets’ greatest handicap? Perhaps, Partnow said, invoking a baseball analogy to make the point.

“The fewer things you have to prepare for, the better you can prepare for those things,” he said. “If you’ve only got one pitchit’s almost a Mariano Rivera thing, right?for an inning, that one pitch is devastating. If the Yankees had tried to make Mariano Rivera a starter, how well does it work the third time through the lineup? And the analogy is not to the third quarter, but it’s more to the third game of the series.”

Whether Westbrook’s presence changes anything remains to be seen. The Harden-Westbrook partnership was still evolving when the season halted on March 11, having produced both exhilarating highs (a 121-111 victory over the Lakers on Feb. 7) and shocking lows (a four-game losing streak in March that included defeats by the Knicks, Hornets and Magic).

Every Rockets game in the bubble will feel like a referendum of one kind or another: on Harden, on the Harden-Westbrook pairing, on the Rockets’ analytics-driven offense, on their small-ball, center-less lineup and even on their leadership.

Head coach Mike D’Antoni is in the final season of his contract. Morey has been viewed as vulnerable ever since his controversial tweet on Hong Kong last fall. It’s unclear how another playoff pratfall will impact everyone’s future.

Moreover, the Rockets are leaning on one of the oldest rotations in the league, and their two stars are in their late primes. Harden turns 31 on Aug. 26, just as the first round of playoffs will be wrapping up. Westbrook turns 32 in November.

The West will only get tougher next season, with the Lakers and Clippers still around, the Warriors fully healed and the Pelicans and Mavericks rising.

There’s a heightened sense of urgency all around. In the view of the longtime advance scout, it’s truly now or never for the Rockets.

“This,” he said, “is the last dance for them.”

All advanced statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

Howard Beck, a senior writer for Bleacher Report, has been covering the NBA full time since 1997, including seven years on the Laker beat for the Los Angeles Daily News and nine years as a staff writer for the New York Times. His coverage was honored by APSE in 2016 and 2017, and by the Professional Basketball Writers Association in 2018.

Beck also hosts the Full 48 podcast, available on iTunes.

Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck. 

Two-time NBA champion and Inside The NBA on TNT co-host, Kenny “The Jet” Smith joins The Full 48 with Howard Beck to discuss the NBA restart, the bubble, which teams are likely contenders for the title and Kenny’s early playing days with the Sacramento Kings.

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Final playoffs

2020 NBA Playoffs: Final Seeding and Round-by-Round Predictions – Bleacher Report

0 of 8

    Harry How/Getty Images

    An NBA champion will be crowned for the 2019-20 season.

    With 22 teams returning to play in late July, the 2020 postseason will run from mid-August to mid-October, finally providing a conclusion to a season that began nearly a full year earlier.

    With eight regular-season games left to be played for each squad, there won’t be much time for teams to move up and down the standings or for franchises just outside the playoff picture to fight their way in. Home-court advantage will no longer play a factor, with all teams playing inside empty arenas as Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

    Given the new changes and altered playing atmosphere, here’s how the playoff bracket could look and postseason predictions for all 15 series.

1 of 8

    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Eastern Conference

    1. Milwaukee Bucks

    2. Toronto Raptors

    3. Boston Celtics

    4. Miami Heat

    5. Philadelphia 76ers

    6. Indiana Pacers

    7. Orlando Magic

    8. Brooklyn Nets

    Western Conference

    1. Los Angeles Lakers

    2. Los Angeles Clippers

    3. Denver Nuggets

    4. Houston Rockets

    5.Utah Jazz

    6. Oklahoma City Thunder

    7. Dallas Mavericks

    8. Portland Trail Blazers

    With most teams unlikely to move much from their current playoff spots, all eyes will be on the No. 8 seed in the West.

    Now with a healthy Jusuf Nurkic (who was set to return from a leg injury on March 15) and Zach Collins, the Portland Trail Blazers will stay within four games of the Memphis Grizzlies to enter a play-in tournament—all while holding off the New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns for the ninth-best record in the conference.

    Portland wins two games against the Grizzlies and the right to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

2 of 8

    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    1 Bucks vs. 8 Nets

    With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving officially not coming back this season, the Bucks should feast on the Nets in this opening-round matchup.

    Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen are good enough to make for some competitive games, but the Bucks and their NBA-best record are ultimately too powerful on both ends of the ball.

    Like the Bucks’ first-round series against the Detroit Pistons last season, expect a sweep. But also expect a much better Brooklyn team to challenge Milwaukee for the best team in the East next season.

    Result: Bucks in 4

    2 Raptors vs. 7 Magic

    A repeat of last year’s opening round, the Raptors and Magic once again do battle while maintaining the same seeds.

    Josh Robbins of The Athletic suspects that the Magic will be “ultra-cautious” and not play Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu when the season resumes. Isaac would be the Magic’s best chance at slowing down Pascal Siakam.

    While the Magic stole the opening game from the Raptors last year, this Toronto squad is even better defensively from the team that won the title. If Orlando is without Isaac, expect a sweep.

    Result: Raptors in 4

    3 Celtics vs. 6 Pacers

    Victor Oladipo was just starting to look like himself when the NBA went on hiatus, and the Pacers have more help around him than ever.

    Indiana will look to dominate the paint with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, meaning Jayson Tatum will be forced to defend one of the Pacers’ premier bigs if Boston goes with its traditional starting lineup.

    While Indiana has the advantage inside, the Celtics have too much talent in the backcourt and on the wing. One of just three NBA teams to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating, Boston should ultimately move on in what should be a competitive series.

    Results: Celtics in 6

    4 Heat vs. 5 Sixers

    Two of the slower, more physical teams in the NBA, the Heat and Sixers will play the most entertaining first-round series of all.

    Both teams were terrific at home this season and well below .500 on the road, so playing at a neutral site will ensure the best team will win.

    The Sixers have the better overall roster, and Ben Simmons looks to have put on significant muscle the past few months. Joel Embiid could be a tough cover for the 6’9″ Bam Adebayo, and Al Horford brings the experience of 11 prior playoff trips despite his disappointing season.

    Jimmy Butler should do his best to get into the heads of Simmons and Embiid, reminding them who carried the Sixers in the playoffs last year. While Miami could be considered the favorites, Philly is built for the postseason with its big, physical, slow-it-down style of play.

    Result: Sixers in 7

3 of 8

    Kim Raff/Associated Press

    1 Lakers vs. 8 Blazers

    Portland’s reward for storming back and grabbing the final seed in the West? LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Despite Damian Lillard believing his team can knock off L.A., James has never dropped a first-round matchup in 13 playoff trips, a streak that’s not ending this season, either.

    With Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back, Lillard and CJ McCollum are good enough to make this a far more competitive series than we typically see between first and eighth seeds. Despite Portland’s newly healthy roster, James and the Lakers move on.

    Result: Lakers in 6

    2 Clippers vs. 7 Mavericks

    The Clippers already possessed one of the best rosters in the league even before adding Marcus Morris Sr., Reggie Jackson and Joakim Noah, now making them perhaps the deepest as well.

    While Dallas has the NBA’s best offense rating this season (115.8), this will be the first playoff trip for both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Compare that to Paul George (76 games in eight years) and Kawhi Leonard (two-time NBA Finals MVP), and the experience between the two teams is pretty mismatched.

    The Mavericks had a successful season even making the playoffs with their young stars, but the Clippers are just too good on both ends.

    Results: Clippers in 4

    3 Nuggets vs. 6 Thunder

    The Thunder weren’t supposed to be this good after trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but Chris Paul’s first (and only?) fairy tale year in Oklahoma City has to end sometime.

    Denver isn’t as good as its 43-22 record would indicate, ranking sixth in net rating in the Western Conference despite being No. 3 in the standings.

    The reason the Nuggets move on? A now-skinny Nikola Jokic, who looks to be in the best shape of his five-year career.

    Result: Nuggets in 7

    4 Rockets vs. 5 Jazz

    This would be a nightmare matchup for Utah given Houston’s new small-ball identity.

    With no traditional center in their lineup, the Rockets may force Rudy Gobert off the court for stretches, taking away one of Utah’s greatest strengths.

    The Jazz will also be without Bojan Bogdanovic, the team’s second-leading scorer who recently underwent surgery to repair a ruptured scapholunate ligament in his right wrist.

    Houston knocks out Utah in five games for the third year in a row. 

    Result: Rockets in 5

4 of 8

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    1 Bucks vs. 5 Sixers

    Unlike most teams, the 76ers may have the individual defenders to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    Joel Embiid, Al Horford and even Ben Simmons can take turns guarding the reigning MVP, and Antetokounmpo shot just 47.8 percent overall and 15.8 percent on three-pointers in three games against Philly this year.

    The Sixers need to turn this into a slugfest, forcing the Bucks to create offense in the half court while bullying them with Embiid on the offensive end. Milwaukee had the fastest pace of any NBA team this season (105.36), while Philly ranked 19th (99.36).

    The Bucks can smother the Sixers on the three-point line with Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, George Hill and Eric Bledsoe, making points difficult for an already offensively challenged team.

    The Sixers represent a far more difficult challenge than the Nets, but the Bucks are too good to bow out yet.

    Result: Bucks in 6

    2 Raptors vs. 3 Celtics

    Battling for second place all season in the East behind the Bucks, the Celtics and Raptors represent the past and future of the conference.

    Toronto has the advantage in the frontcourt, where Pascal Siakam should feast if Jayson Tatum or Enes Kanter is tasked with guarding him. Marc Gasol looks to be in great shape, and Serge Ibaka has played well all season with his free agency looming.

    If Boston can weather the storm in the paint, it has a huge advantage in the backcourt.

    Kyle Lowry turned 34 while the NBA went on hiatus and will have to defend one of the quickest guards in the league in Kemba Walker. Trying to guard 6’7″ Jaylen Brown won’t be easy for 6’1″ Fred VanVleet, and the Celtics have a stopper in Marcus Smart who can shut down either Lowry or VanVleet for stretches.

    With Tatum taking the next step toward stardom, this series could cement him as one of the best forwards in the league. The C’s went 2-1 against the Raptors in the regular season and will take them down to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Result: Celtics in 7

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    1 Lakers vs. 4 Rockets

    Having three months off should do wonders for both LeBron James and James Harden, two of only six players in the NBA to have played at least 2,000 minutes with a usage rate of 30 percent or higher.

    With Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., the Rockets have different options for trying to slow down James, while Harden and Russell Westbrook will be incredibly difficult covers for the Lakers guards.

    While small ball may work in the first round against Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis is athletic enough on both ends to stay on the court. He’s agile enough to defend the perimeter, and using 6’6″ or 6’7″ forwards to try to guard him in the paint could turn into a disaster for Houston.

    With Davis, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, the Lakers have enough rim protectors to make life difficult for Harden and Westbrook at the basket, forcing them into more outside shots.

    The Rockets have gotten incredibly cold from the three-point line in the past, and Davis is good enough to handle Houston’s small-ball style.

    While the Jazz are a dream matchup for the Rockets, these Lakers are not.

    Result: Lakers in 6

    2 Clippers vs. 3 Nuggets

    In this prediction, the Nuggets got by the Thunder in a close first-round series.

    As good as OKC is, these Clippers are far better.

    Nikola Jokic should have a monster series given his success against the Clippers during the regular season (20.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 55.6 percent shooting in 28.3 minutes). Life won’t be quite as easy for Jamal Murray, as he should see a healthy dose of Patrick Beverley every night.

    With Murray somewhat neutralized, Denver will need Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr. and Gary Harris to pick up the slack. Against two of the NBA’s best defensive forwards in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, that won’t be easy.

    The Clippers had four players average at least 20 points per game against the Nuggets during the regular season (Leonard, George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell), putting up 118 a night as a team.

    As good as the Nuggets are, this series won’t be close.

    Result: Clippers in 4

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    1 Bucks vs. 3 Celtics

    While the Bucks lead the Celtics by nearly 10 games in the East standings, this series won’t reflect that kind of disparity. Nor will it look like a repeat of the gentleman’s sweep Milwaukee handed Boston in the playoffs a year ago.

    Milwaukee has maintained its hierarchy in the East, dominating opponents on both ends behind MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and a supporting cast that fits around him perfectly.

    Boston is a completely different team from the last time it met Milwaukee in the playoffs, swapping Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker while seeing massive improvements from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.

    Whereas the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors may struggle defending the Celtics’ plethora of wings, the Bucks are far better equipped.

    In the end, the series will come down to the C’s limiting the effectiveness of Antetokounmpo, who torched them for 27.0 points, 15.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 54.3 percent shooting in a pair of meetings this season. Even Middleton went for 24.5 points on 64.3 percent shooting in the two games.

    Tatum doesn’t have the size to defend Antetokounmpo, and using Daniel Theis raises the question of who guards Brook Lopez if the Celtics use their traditional starting five.

    Boston is a team on the rise in the East, but it doesn’t have the necessary size to match Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

    Result: Bucks in 7

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    1 Lakers vs. 2 Clippers

    The battle of Los Angeles seems inevitable, as the Lakers and Clippers combine both star power and depth into two of the NBA’s best rosters.

    The Clippers won the regular-season series 2-1, with Kawhi Leonard leading all scorers with 30.7 points per game.

    Leonard is also considered the best in the league at defending LeBron James, using his combination of size and strength dating back to their Finals matchups in 2013 and 2014. James struggled during the regular season, averaging just 23.0 points on 38.3 percent shooting overall and 21.7 percent from three.

    James doesn’t have to lead the Lakers in scoring with Anthony Davis around, but his efficiency and playmaking remain crucial to L.A.’s success.

    Whoever James defends will likely struggle as well, given the 35-year-old has had three months to rest and typically saves his best defensive performances for the postseason.

    Role players will also make a big difference in this series, be it Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell for the Clippers or Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo for the Lakers.

    This has all the makings of a seven-game series. Betting against James in such scenarios rarely works out, and Davis put up 26.3 points facing little resistance against the Clippers in the regular season.

    The Lakers advance to the NBA Finals by the slightest of margins.

    Results: Lakers in 7

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    1 Bucks vs. 1 Lakers

    The best regular-season teams meet each other in the NBA Finals, with the front-runners for MVP squaring off.

    Besides this being a battle for league supremacy, it’s also a test to see who the NBA’s best player is. While Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like he had taken the title from James last season, the four-time MVP’s performance this year while leading the league in assists means he hasn’t surrendered his crown quite yet.

    The teams split their two regular-season meetings, with Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis each averaging 33.0 points.

    This may actually be an easier series for James on a personal level if Antetokounmpo is tasked with defending Davis. While Khris Middleton is an excellent defender, he’s not on the level of Kawhi Leonard. Middleton averaged just 13.5 points on 34.5 percent shooting against the Lakers this year, and the Bucks need his offense to complement Antetokounmpo’s given Eric Bledsoe’s previous playoff struggles.

    The key for L.A. in the series will be the defensive play of Davis (and sometimes James) on Antetokounmpo. Davis is one of the few players with the size and athleticism to reasonably match up with the 6’11”, 242-pound power forward, and James has the strength to help limit his drives to the paint.

    If together they can hold Antetokounmpo to a reasonable scoring total and force him into outside shots, the Lakers will become the 2020 NBA champions.

    Result: Lakers in 6

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Annalise's Final

Annalise’s Final Fate Revealed – How to Get Away with Murder – ABC


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Published on 14-May-2020

Not everyone makes it out alive – find out what happened to Annalise (Viola Davis), the K3, and everyone else in the final scenes from #HTGAWM. From the series finale – Season 6, Episode 15 – ‘Stay’. Watch ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ on, streaming, on demand, and Hulu.

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