2024 Playoffs Western Conference First Round: (3) Minnesota Timberwolves vs (6) Phoenix Suns

InstaFace

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NBA Series preview: https://www.nba.com/news/2024-nba-playoffs-series-preview-wolves-suns

Schedule:

Game 1: Suns vs. Timberwolves; Saturday, April 20 (3:30 ET, ESPN)
Game 2: Suns vs. Timberwolves; Tuesday, April 23 (7:30 ET, TNT)
Game 3: Timberwolves vs. Suns; Friday, April 26 (10:30 ET, ESPN)
Game 4: Timberwolves vs. Suns; Sunday, April 28 (9:30 ET, TNT)
Game 5: Suns vs. Timberwolves; Tuesday, April 30 (TBD, TBD)*
Game 6: Timberwolves vs. Suns; Thursday, May 2 (TBD, TBD)*
Game 7: Suns vs. Timberwolves; Saturday, May 4 (TBD, TNT)*

Odds: MIN +114, PHX -124, which would make Minnesota the only high-seed underdog (dubiously, imo)

Fan podcast series preview:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXIBXzNDcSU
 

m0ckduck

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dubiously, imo
Agree. I see this series as similar to Cleveland-Orlando in a lot of ways, and have the underdog (MIN, ORL) in each. The favorite (PHX, CLE) has far more elite shot-making and better postseason pedigree (not that CLE has been great here, but at least Mitchell has had some big series). The underdog is super young, has tons of defensive energy and some truly disruptive players on that end (Gobert, McDaniels, Suggs, Isaac) but truly shaky offensive execution esp. in crunch time.

I think it's going to look really rocky in early games for MIN and ORL. But I think their energy, athleticism and hunger will eventually wear out the favorite over the course of the series if it extends to 6, 7 games. Each of these teams would clearly run through a wall to win a playoff series. It's not clear to me that PHX or CLE even really enjoy playing together or knows how to play together optimally. I could see either packing it in a bit as the series go along. (Edit: not to draw too many similarities between MIN and ORL— the Wolves are obviously a better team and I feel more comfortable about them advancing than ORL. Just saying there are similarities in style and dynamics between these two series).
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Interesting Athletic article (registration may be required) on some of the unusual training methods Gobert is using to improve his agility and hand-eye coordination: https://theathletic.com/5421528/2024/04/18/rudy-gobert-timberwolves-offensive-development/. As the article notes, the methods attempt to "train the brain" in addition to the body and claims to be the next fronteir of athletic training.

A couple of snippets:
Four years ago, Gobert set out on a mission to refine his game. The hunger to be more than just a defensive stalwart brought him to a Brazilian coach who specializes in neuroscience and cognitive development. The work the pair have been doing together has Gobert — and his teammates — feeling more confident than ever in his ability to punish teams offensively as the Wolves look for their first playoff series win in 20 years.
“I think when the playoffs come, teams are going to try to adjust to what I do,” Gobert said. “I think being able to have these little extra weapons is going to be key for us.”
Take a look at Gobert’s basic counting stats — 14.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 66.1 percent field-goal shooting — and there isn’t a real noticeable difference from most of his 11-year career. Dive deeper into his shooting profile, finishing package and expanded role in the Timberwolves offense and a different story starts to unfold.

and
Fernando Pereira may have envisioned Gobert earning the trust of different teammates when they began working together while with the Utah Jazz in 2020, but the results are exactly what he believed could happen. Using unconventional drills aimed at targeting the neuropathways of the brain, Pereira and Gobert have worked on sharpening his fluidity, decision-making, anticipation and reaction time.
Compared to the first season the two worked together in 2020-21, Gobert’s turnovers are down 10 percent, assists are up 26 percent and the amount of field goals he has made after taking two dribbles is up 64 percent since 2019.
“This is the future of sports,” Pereira said.

and
They set out on a plan together, focusing on Gobert’s decision-making, scoring versatility and fluidity of movement. The early days of the partnership laid clear how much work there was to be done. Pereira started to use soccer-based drills to get Gobert’s lower body to catch up to his upper-body motor skills. He would dribble a ball with each hand while Pereira kicked a soccer ball to him, forcing his brain to align the upper and the lower.
“The craziest part is that after a month that I got to starting, my footwork got a lot better,” Gobert said. “And my coordination got better. And I started to feel it on the basketball court.”
Pereira designed a program to get Gobert’s footwork to be more nimble and his hand-eye coordination to be sharper so that he could better catch the ball in traffic.
His drills included balance work, distraction, a ball rolled through his legs, a slap on the shoulder and anything to mimic the sensory overload the brain can endure during a game. If Gobert could stay focused and make the right decisions during the drills, then it would translate to the games.
“We changed the brain wave,” Pereira said. “It’s not just repetition.”

more at the link.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Im in no position to judge whether any of that makes sense, but it sure sounds like bullshit.
Many many moons ago, I was visiting my bother and my sister-in-law. SIL is an occupational therapist. I was having shoulder pain. SIL said, "There's this new tape you should try. You put in on your shoulders and it helps." I said thanks and threw it in a drawer. Didn't make sense to me how taping one's shoulder might help at all.

I still have the tape SIL gave me as I never used it. As I'm sure you know, it's all the rage, even though no one is really sure whether it has benefits: https://www.healthline.com/health/kinesiology-tape#_noHeaderPrefixedContent.

I think training like this is going to become more and more common. Will it actually help? Who knows? But as we know, athletes will look for any edge.
 

Smokey Joe

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Interesting Athletic article (registration may be required) on some of the unusual training methods Gobert is using to improve his agility and hand-eye coordination: https://theathletic.com/5421528/2024/04/18/rudy-gobert-timberwolves-offensive-development/. As the article notes, the methods attempt to "train the brain" in addition to the body and claims to be the next fronteir of athletic training.

A couple of snippets:
Four years ago, Gobert set out on a mission to refine his game. The hunger to be more than just a defensive stalwart brought him to a Brazilian coach who specializes in neuroscience and cognitive development. The work the pair have been doing together has Gobert — and his teammates — feeling more confident than ever in his ability to punish teams offensively as the Wolves look for their first playoff series win in 20 years.
“I think when the playoffs come, teams are going to try to adjust to what I do,” Gobert said. “I think being able to have these little extra weapons is going to be key for us.”
Take a look at Gobert’s basic counting stats — 14.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 66.1 percent field-goal shooting — and there isn’t a real noticeable difference from most of his 11-year career. Dive deeper into his shooting profile, finishing package and expanded role in the Timberwolves offense and a different story starts to unfold.

and
Fernando Pereira may have envisioned Gobert earning the trust of different teammates when they began working together while with the Utah Jazz in 2020, but the results are exactly what he believed could happen. Using unconventional drills aimed at targeting the neuropathways of the brain, Pereira and Gobert have worked on sharpening his fluidity, decision-making, anticipation and reaction time.
Compared to the first season the two worked together in 2020-21, Gobert’s turnovers are down 10 percent, assists are up 26 percent and the amount of field goals he has made after taking two dribbles is up 64 percent since 2019.
“This is the future of sports,” Pereira said.

and
They set out on a plan together, focusing on Gobert’s decision-making, scoring versatility and fluidity of movement. The early days of the partnership laid clear how much work there was to be done. Pereira started to use soccer-based drills to get Gobert’s lower body to catch up to his upper-body motor skills. He would dribble a ball with each hand while Pereira kicked a soccer ball to him, forcing his brain to align the upper and the lower.
“The craziest part is that after a month that I got to starting, my footwork got a lot better,” Gobert said. “And my coordination got better. And I started to feel it on the basketball court.”
Pereira designed a program to get Gobert’s footwork to be more nimble and his hand-eye coordination to be sharper so that he could better catch the ball in traffic.
His drills included balance work, distraction, a ball rolled through his legs, a slap on the shoulder and anything to mimic the sensory overload the brain can endure during a game. If Gobert could stay focused and make the right decisions during the drills, then it would translate to the games.
“We changed the brain wave,” Pereira said. “It’s not just repetition.”

more at the link.
This is kind of like dieting. It doesn’t matter what diet you use, if you start paying attention to what and how much you eat, you’re going to lose weight.
If you start working on your footwork and paying attention to your decision making, you’re going to get better no matter what pseudoscience you wrap around it.
 

InstaFace

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This is kind of like dieting. It doesn’t matter what diet you use, if you start paying attention to what and how much you eat, you’re going to lose weight.
If you start working on your footwork and paying attention to your decision making, you’re going to get better no matter what pseudoscience you wrap around it.
Scal was making that same point, in a different way, about Embiid yesterday on his Sirius XM show. People were calling in asking why it takes Embiid so long to get into game shape after being out, like it's been weeks. And Scal was sympathetic to those complaints, like - "look, I don't know what it takes to get a body that size ready for an NBA game. I'm sure it's harder than it was for me. But if you're out for a while, recovering from knee surgery, are you doing everything you possibly can to stay as close to in-shape as possible, so you can be ready to go when the knee is OK? Are you in the pool every day, doing cardio, are you conditioning your other muscle groups... or are you just sitting on the couch doing "rest". Because if you're just doing "rest", I get why it might take a while to get ready, but also why fans might be upset".

It may not hugely matter the particular approach Embiid took to staying in shape while out, or getting himself back into shape when ready. No two PTs or S&C coaches' opinions are going to be the same about the particulars. But it does hugely matter whether he took it as seriously as he possibly could, as a matter of professionalism, or whether he was just half-assing it until the doctors said he was good to go.
 

Auger34

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I’ll be honest here…Bradley Beal kind of stinks. Really happy the Celtics never gave up anything for him
 

ElUno20

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Dear god, just double him. Get the ball out his hands. Wtf is vogel doing
 

Cellar-Door

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The Wolves are more of a problem for Denver than Phoenix, correct?
An interesting question. On the one hand MIN is just a better team than PHO, on the other Nurkic has been one of the most effective matchups on Jokic. Different versions of both teams, but Phoenix gave them more trouble in last year's playoffs.
 

Auger34

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An interesting question. On the one hand MIN is just a better team than PHO, on the other Nurkic has been one of the most effective matchups on Jokic. Different versions of both teams, but Phoenix gave them more trouble in last year's playoffs.
Everyone on the Nuggets last year, something cited a shit ton by Zach Lowe, said that the Wolves were their toughest out.

Im not sure it’s that tough of a question
 

Cellar-Door

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Everyone on the Nuggets last year, something cited a shit ton by Zach Lowe, said that the Wolves were their toughest out.

Im not sure it’s that tough of a question
What players say to the press is generally of little value, I put a lot more stock in the actual games than that.
 

Euclis20

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Everyone on the Nuggets last year, something cited a shit ton by Zach Lowe, said that the Wolves were their toughest out.

Im not sure it’s that tough of a question
And just a few days ago, Jokic said that the Lakers' series was their toughest. Guaranteed that if Phoenix and Denver both advance, we'll hear chatter about how Denver's biggest test last spring was how to slow down both Durant and Booker.

What players say to the press is generally of little value, I put a lot more stock in the actual games than that.
Yeah this.
 

Auger34

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Ok…then the Wolves match up better with the Nuggets than the suns. Funny how a players quote can’t mean anything but the sample size of, checks notes, 6 games is infallible.

The Wolves are big and can throw a ton at Jokic. They have the players to clamp down on Murray and they don’t allow shots at the rim. They don’t shoot a million midrange jumpers and actually understand the shot profile it takes to win in the playoffs

The Suns will be “out mathed” by the Nuggets every game. They have to play Nurkic who offers nothing against Jokic. They have 0.01% shot of actually beating the Nuggets.
 

Ale Xander

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25 points is something

But MN isn't that great a 3PT shooting team, this can't really continue to this extent.
 

InstaFace

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watching the game now on VOD, and early in the 3rd, Grayson Allen commits two dirty fouls in the space of like a minute. First (bump on a MIN player going up for a layup) wasn't even called, second was called a offensive foul and reviewed for a flagrant (came through with his elbows, a real empe strike) but stood as a common foul.

Edit: the game itself is really high quality though, definitely two teams worlds better than anything from the play-in tournament or indeed any Eastern Conference game played today.
 
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Kliq

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I haven't watched a ton of the Suns at full strength this season, largely because that has been a rare occurrence, but Beal and Booker feel kind of redundant in terms of skill set, and Beal feels like he is stepping on Booker's toes a bit. KD is an alien and can fit in anywhere, but I hated the Beal trade as soon as it happened. The lesson from Denver and other recent champions is to have a good depth of key role players that know their role. Suns loaded up on stars and have no depth, and the team feels like a mess.
 

Euclis20

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I haven't watched a ton of the Suns at full strength this season, largely because that has been a rare occurrence, but Beal and Booker feel kind of redundant in terms of skill set, and Beal feels like he is stepping on Booker's toes a bit. KD is an alien and can fit in anywhere, but I hated the Beal trade as soon as it happened. The lesson from Denver and other recent champions is to have a good depth of key role players that know their role. Suns loaded up on stars and have no depth, and the team feels like a mess.
I've been wondering if there was a way for Phoenix to keep Chris Paul and trade Ayton+ for Porzingis, instead of Beal. Allen has been a huge part of their team and they wouldn't have been able to pick him up later, but starting with a core of CP3/Booker/Durant/KP provides a lot better balance than their current group, I think.
 

HomeRunBaker

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This is kind of like dieting. It doesn’t matter what diet you use, if you start paying attention to what and how much you eat, you’re going to lose weight.
If you start working on your footwork and paying attention to your decision making, you’re going to get better no matter what pseudoscience you wrap around it.
This is bingo right here! Back when I was in the health & fitness industry many years ago I’d often here people discuss different diets, what works and what doesn’t, what is good and what is not, then they would ask me for my opinion as if I was E.F. Hutton. I’d always say, “The one that makes you less likely to buy Doritos and Ice Cream when you go shopping.” Like one out of every five figured out what I meant and had their ah-ha moment.

Damn, pulled out an E.F. Hutton? Aged and old right there.
 

InstaFace

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Worth noting that Isaiah Thomas got crunch-time minutes last night.

He might not be King in the Fourth anymore but he had enough to get on the court, and that's pretty cool.
 

Dr. Gonzo

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Worth noting that Isaiah Thomas got crunch-time minutes last night.

He might not be King in the Fourth anymore but he had enough to get on the court, and that's pretty cool.
He came into the game with 3:37 left in the fourth with the Suns down 20.
 

InstaFace

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Ok, not crunch time, that was the wrong choice of words. But obviously the important part of the post is that it's cool he got on the floor.
 

HomeRunBaker

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KAT gets himself in foul trouble yet again.
The 2nd was a tough call but no excuse on #3 when you already know you have 2. If he hasn’t got it by now he may never. I know he’s still relatively young but whatever that thing is you need he just doesn’t have.
 

JCizzle

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Not a fan that McDaniels can just shove Booker into getting a T. He clearly initiated.
 

lars10

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Not a fan that McDaniels can just shove Booker into getting a T. He clearly initiated.
Yeah.. I guess you can just run into a guy twice and if they react in any way it's on them? Seems dumb.
 

Eric Fernsten's Disco Mustache

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Given how amazing the top three players are for Phoenix, every few months I'm reminded how low-level depressing it is to watch them play

The stars don't play defense away from the ball, so their half court defense is always 1-2 passes from being a sieve. Too much of their offense is different people going 1:1. The rest of the rotation is both really unimpressive and full of guys who don't complement the stars all that well. I mean, a few minutes ago I spent way too much time trying to figure if Greyson Allen or Nurkic is their 4th best player.

Drew Eubanks is getting meaningful playoff minutes right now, and being expected to score! When you're looking for playoff contributions from a guy with the name of a 1930 baseball player, roster building is not going well...

How can Bol Bol not get into this game?
 
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Kliq

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Edwards and Towns both laying eggs and Phoenix only up by one at the half.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Suns are absolutely wilting against the Wolves physicality and they don’t move at all. Shades of previous versions of stagnant Celtics offense. One of the “big” “three” takes his turn and the other two stand still and see what happens. While Vogel flails about the whistles.
 

Cellar-Door

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The Suns are a case study in how not to build a contending team

Like, who thought a 35-year-old Eric Gordon is someone you want to have to depend on for meaningful playoff minutes?
They are a classic example of "dumb rich guy buys team immediately makes terrible decisions" The Booker/KD pairing was really good, but Beal..... WHY? That's both a terrible fit and completely gutted their ability to have depth.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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I don’t think there is a price I would accept from Phoenix to trade, say, Derrick White for Beal.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Where do we think KD tries to go once this fails?

Philly? Knicks? Back to OKC?