Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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Doesn’t it feel like 2021 just started a week ago? How on Earth is it March already?

We’re at the halfway point of the NBA season, and a playoff picture rough draft is forming. Nothing is set in stone just yet, but playoff basketball is coming – don’t worry.

In recent NBA news, we learned that two stars, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and the L.A. Lakers’ Anthony Davis, will not be participating in the All-Star game. If you’re either one of these teams, you don’t give a flying hoot about a game that has no meaning in the standings.

Why?

Because many have touted these teams as likely Finals opponents.

Think about it. What matchup would you rather see: The Lakers Big Two vs. The Nets Big Three or the Los Angeles LeBrons carrying a washed Marc Gasol vs. Kyrie Irving and James Harden?

I’m not saying that this is the definite Finals matchup, but Brooklyn and L.A. have put the league on notice.

With Durant and Davis injured, the two teams have gone in different directions. The Nets just had an eight game winning streak snapped by Dallas on Saturday, while the Lakers snapped a four game losing streak with a victory over Portland on Friday. Things are about to get ugly. On to the second half of the season!

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: The Milwaukee Bucks were a complete disappointment last year.

Despite superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo winning his second straight MVP and having the highest ever PER (player efficiency rating) in a single season, the Bucks royally collapsed in the second round of the playoffs.

This year could be different, though.

Jrue Holiday was sent to Milwaukee in the offseason to give Antetokounmpo another weapon. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez can provide assistance when called upon.

After a five-game skid, they’ve now won five out of their last six. One might argue that the first four wins were against inferior opponents (OKC, Sacramento, Minnesota and New Orleans), but they got a hard-fought win against the L.A. Clippers.

Milwaukee is currently the third seed in the East, only a hair behind Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Those three, and Boston, are the only teams in the conference with winning records! This is the time for the deer to be feared.

Lowlight: The Denver Nuggets were swept by the Washington Wizards. I could end this section here and that would be sufficient. But, I wouldn’t do that to you.

The Nuggets’ loss was by only two points, which is painful for any team.

The Nuggets had home court for their second matchup on Thursday. The game was fairly close right up to the final buzzer.

Denver’s Jamal Murray had the ball down by two with seconds remaining. It was a 4-on-1 fast break (four Nuggets players were against one Wizards defender). Instead of cutting to the basket to tie the game, the other three players stood behind the three-point line.

The final shot was off; it resulted in not only a loss, but an embarrassing one.

To me, this seemed like a simple layup drill. It’s not like the paint was being clogged by Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! There was no one home.

Murray went on social media later in the night to apologize to the fans. Although that’s a nice gesture, I think one of the three shooters should be apologizing. Better yet, all three of them should.

Random Stat: The Miami Heat have come out of nowhere in recent weeks.

They played a bunch of games in the beginning of the season without some of their key starters. However, I guess they remembered that they were the team representing the Eastern Conference last year because Miami is now in seventh place.

Heat fans also can boast that their team defeated the Utah Jazz, who are still the hottest team in the league with a 27-8 record.

Based on the strength of their schedule immediately following the All-Star break, a few wins could raise Miami even higher in the standings. There’s essentially no reason to disregard Miami as an afterthought. Keep an eye on them.

For comments/questions about this story, tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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