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(The regular season matters)

Mon, May 13th, 2024

The Opening Tip

  • Jamal Murray made the prayer of prayers yesterday

  • The NBA lottery was a bill coming due

Tonight’s playoff games

1. It’s definitely worth trying to win

‘The NBA regular season doesn’t matter’ is the new ‘baseball is dying.’ It’s the thing a sports fan says to their partner’s friend’s partner because that person also vaguely likes sports and you’ve run out of other talking points. It’s so en vogue that even NBA team Twitter accounts are saying it.

We’re here to make an important distinction: You might not watch the regular season. But it definitely matters.

IE .. you need to win 50 games in the regular season to win the Finals, full stop. Barring the Pacers or Cavs pulling off a miracle, this will be the 43rd time in the last 44 full 82-game seasons that a 50-plus-win team has won the NBA Finals.

More: Here are the eight teams remaining, ranked by odds to win the title with coinciding regular season wins. 

  1. Celtics, -130 (64 wins)

  2. Nuggets, +400 (57 wins)

  3. Timberwolves, +750 (56 wins)

  4. Mavericks, +800 (50 wins)

  5. Thunder, 57 wins (+1200)

  6. Knicks, 50 wins (+2800)

  7. Pacers, 47 wins (+4500)

  8. Cavs, 48 wins (+30000) 

The Bucks (49 wins), Suns (49), Lakers (47) and Warriors (46) -- the fraudulent pseudo contenders who sleep-walked through regular seasons of varying tumult -- are all gone. By next round, only serious NBA teams who won games and built chemistry from October through April will be left.

Please remember this next March, when you’re talking yourself into the 38-38 Lakers as true contenders.

2. Daily GIF: Right, right

This Hail Mary capped a 20-second 8-0 run to end the half for Denver. The final score was 115-107.

[WATCH: Nuggets-Wolves Game 4 highlights]

3. Trivia

One team since 1978 has won the title with less than 50 wins in a non-shortened season. Who was it?

2006 Heat

• 1995 Rockets

• 2022 Warriors

• 2004 Pistons

Guess, click and see if you're right.

4. What comes of these YOLO trades

The NBA draft lottery was yesterday, snuck in right before Knicks-Pacers Game 4. 

  • This one had zero juice because this draft is projected to be very bad. 

  • Alas … the Hawks won with a 3 percent chance, and the Pistons got the No. 5 pick despite a 14-win season and a 28-game losing streak. 

One interesting thing: Rent was due yesterday on three memorably bad/backfired/YOLO trades. 

  • The Nets moved up to the No. 3 pick, which they owe to Houston from the James Harden trade in 2021. (BTW: That’s three No. 3 picks in eight years the Nets have had to forfeit.) 

  • Conversely, the Rockets had to give their No. 12 pick to the Thunder as part of the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade in 2019. 

  • Perhaps worst of all: The Raptors had to send the No. 8 overall pick to the Spurs because of the Jakob Poeltl trade from the 2023 trade deadline, when the Raps zagged and became buyers despite a lousy roster they’d soon admit defeat on. 

[READ: Post lottery NBA mock draft]

Quick hits

  • Jokic pulled a textbook chair on Rudy Gobert on Sunday. 

  • ICYMI, the sideline view of Jamal Murray’s buzzer-beater is even better. 

  • Before Friday night Denver was +1600 to win the Finals. Now the Nuggets are +400

  • Bronny Jones, who averaged 4.8 PPG for a terrible college team, is expected to stay in the NBA draft pool.

  • Michael Malone breaking down Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic’s two-man game is great basketball nerd content. 

  • It doesn’t seem like OG Anunoby will be back for this series. 

  • It’s objectively hilarious that Kyrie Irving has suddenly turned into everything his previous three teams and fanbases wanted.


That's the buzzer.
Thanks for reading the 382nd edition of The Grip.