2024 NBA Playoffs Takeaways: Clippers' Harden, George have 'one of those nights.' Again. (2024)

Things move fast in the NBA playoffs, so to help you stay on top of things, from now through at least the end of the second round, we will have nightly takeaways from the postseason action.

Clippers Harden, George have ‘one of those nights.’ Again.

James Harden has had some monster playoff games. There were the 45 points he scored for the 76ers in Game 1 against Boston last playoffs (and he had 42 in Game 4). There was the 41-point game in a losing effort for Brooklyn in Game 3 against Boston in 2021. There was 41 for the Rockets against the Warriors in Game 3 back in 2019. Even in his current series with the Clippers, Harden’s 33 in Game 4 was at the heart of Los Angeles’ win on the road to even the series.

Harden has also had more than his share of duds. That same roller coaster pattern follows Paul George through his postseason career, even if it’s not quite as dramatic.

In a critical Game 5 against Dallas at home Wednesday night, both George and Harden had another dud. In the face of a more intense, physical Dallas defense, Harden and George combined to shoot 6-of-25 (24%), including 3-of-13 from 3, for a total of 22 points. Dallas cruised to a 30-point win.

“It's just one of those nights, some nights are tough,” George said when asked about Harden, but it could have applied to both of them. “But he’ll be better. He's got every tool in his tool set to get shots and create and score the ball. So it's more so just letting him know we all in this together. We all in this together. We’ll climb ourselves out of this hole. But again, it just starts with getting this next win.”

This is why the Clippers needed a healthy Kawhi Leonard — the man is reliable when he steps on a postseason court. He has two Finals MVPs to prove it. Without him, the Clippers were left riding the roller coaster of Harden and George's postseason games.

All that contrasts with Luka Doncic, who admitted that he would not have played if this was a regular season game because of his sore knee. Doncic played through the pain and scored 35 points with 10 assists and seven rebounds.

Luka Magic was in full effect as the @dallasmavs took a 3-2 series lead in LA!

35 PTS
10 AST
14-26 FGM

Game 6: Friday, 9:30pm/et on ESPN pic.twitter.com/XRmQKGtf32

— NBA (@NBA) May 2, 2024

The Clippers could win the next two games and take this series — George and Harden are capable of those kinds of games, too.

However, we know Doncic and Kyrie Irving will have good games, can the Clippers stars be trusted to be that consistent?

Suns owner Mat Ishbia: ‘We’re in a great position. It’s not hard to fix.’

In the wake of the Phoenix Suns being swept out of the playoffs, we laid out how difficult it’s going to be to upgrade the team’s roster and fix what isn’t working (and that’s not Frank Vogel, although the coach could be the fall guy and let go). In short, Phoenix is deep into the tax, its three stars — Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker — are locked in and about to cost $150 million on their own, and being into the second apron of the tax takes away things like the mid-level exceptions and puts limits on trades (no aggregation of salaries). In short, the Suns can make a few tweaks around the edges with players on minimum contracts, but the Suns are going to run back the core of this team.

Suns owner Mat Ishbia said in his exit interview with the media none of that narrative is true. From Doug Haller at The Athletic:

“Ask the other 29 GMs — 26 of them would trade their whole team for our whole team and our draft picks and everything as is,” Ishbia said in a scheduled news conference. “The house is not on fire. We’re in great position. It’s not hard to fix. It’s not like we’re like, ‘Hey, we don’t have enough talent to win a championship.’ We have enough talent to win a championship. Do we have enough continuity? … There’s a lot of things we can look at. Do we have the right leadership in place?”...

“We’re in a great position — not a good position — a great position,” Ishbia said. “We didn’t win an NBA championship so we’re going to figure out what we got to change, what we got to tweak, what we got to improve to be better to win a championship next year. And guess what? We might not win one next year, but we’re going to sure as hell try every single year. So get ready for that.”

A couple of quick thoughts:

• No, 26 other GMs do not want to trade places with the Suns. Some do, no doubt (Washington should, for example). But would even a majority of other GMs trade situations with this locked-in roster? I seriously doubt it.

• Ishbia thinks this team is much closer to contending than almost everyone else. I would argue they don’t have the talent to win it all.

• It sounds like Ishbia is still firmly in the New Owner phase, which should make for an interesting summer.

• He said there has been no discussion in the front office about firing coach Frank Vogel or any trades. There should have been (and likely was). Any good front office thinks through the possibilities of an offseason, hashes them out and is prepared for almost any eventuality. Not having had those discussions would be negligent.

Celtics advance without Porzingis, may have to do it again

Kristaps Porzingis missed the Celtics closing out the Heat Wednesday night due to a "soleus strain" — which is the same injury that has kept Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the entire Bucks vs. Pacers series. The Celtics said Porzingis will be re-evaluated in 5-7 days.

What this means is Boston likely will be without Porzingis for some, if not all, of the next round against the winner of the Orlando or Cleveland series. The Celtics have the depth of talent to advance past either of those teams without Porzingis. It's a lot on the shoulders of Al Horford going against a big front line with either potential opponent, but he has proven up to the task.

If Boston makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals, they will need Porzingis back with the floor spacing and rim protection he provides. For now, they can win and advance just fine while he heals.

2024 NBA Playoffs Takeaways: Clippers' Harden, George have 'one of those nights.' Again. (2024)
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