A question for each of the eight teams still alive in the 2022 NBA Playoffs

Have questions? And so are the teams still alive in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, and they’re still searching for those answers because no one has been eliminated yet.

Yes, this is where adjustments are made, strategies are tweaked and heads are scratched, all because attitudes can change with every loss or even after a win.

With the conference finals approaching next week, here are some of the key questions facing the remaining eight teams:

1. Does Luka Doncic need to withdraw Nowitzki 2011?

In some ways, what Luca is doing so far is at this level. At least Dirk has tapped into some of his veteran teammates of the championship team, and players who have proven themselves and at some point in their careers are among the best in their positions. Take, for example, the Mavs’ current coach: Jason Kidd was beyond his start as Dirk’s point guard but the Hall of Famer lock.

Whether it’s his incredible vision, incredible footwork or sheer power, Luka Doncic shows it all for Phoenix in the desired win.

Meanwhile, without Tim Hardaway Jr., Luca works with a few largely undistinguished role players: Maxi Clipper, Dorian Finney Smith, Spencer Dinwiddy, Reggie Bullock, etc. Even Galen Bronson, up until the first round against Utah, was just a solid role player. The Mavs had hoped that Kristaps Porzingis would ride a rifle alongside Luka but that didn’t quite work out.

And while the Mavs won Game 4 even though Luca lost 16 of 25 shots, he needs to play as a blazing star to create tension between the Suns, which he can do. He must steer clear of major problems and remain aggressive – and he hopes at least one of his teammates, if not more, will take his own games to the next level. Meaning, repeat game 4, if possible.


2. What is the drawback, if any, with a small warrior’s ball?

Elite attack warriors appear in the game’s dominant 3 victory over the Grizzlies.

Crazy, but the Warriors outperformed the Grizzlies in paint and outperformed them in the series. Golden State gets away with it against the Grizzlies because Memphis lacks a low attack threat — Garen Jackson Jr. spends his time standing around the perimeter — and Stephen Adams, who has just returned from health and safety issues, was poorly suited to the series.

Warriors are a hell of a match for Memphis when they get small because there is no counter; The Grizzlies aren’t really trying to exploit the vulnerability, and they probably can’t except for Morant, who feeds in paint. So if there’s a flaw, Warriors probably won’t see it until the next round, assuming they step up and play the Suns. Then they will need to change or adjust the strategy because of Deandre Ayton if nothing else.

For now? Warriors only need to shoot efficiently and also send an extra layer of defense in coating against Morant to reduce any issues with small ball flaws. Otherwise, smallness will bring great results.


3. Who should be the No. 2 choice for the Sixers?

Look, anyone still longs for a comeback who – which James Harden should not waste their time. He’s not coming back – even if he can go out occasionally, as he did in Game 4 – and we’re not even talking about the Houston Harden; The Brooklyn version is likely gone, too. How many times can Joel Embiid ask Willy Harden to “play his game” in the media vacuum?

Harden now makes it easier, not shoot a bunch of shots and go iso all day. This style doesn’t seem to exist in Harden’s makeup anymore. Even after breaking Game 4 with 31 points, he has yet to attempt 20 shots in a game with Philly, which is crazy considering how often this was a routine in Houston. So: As long as the Sixers are alive in the playoffs, their best chances lie in Harden making plays for others, primarily Tyrese Maxey, who (for better or worse) is Philly’s most competent and prepared shooter after Joel Embiid.

Harden can still smash his leg away from a dribble, and when that happens, he’ll first look for contact or go to stop the ball. Absent that, the Sixers should hope that Harden finds an open man and actually hits that jumper. On a day like Sunday, they could get together (6 for 10 3PM, 9 for 10 Ft, nine passes), but when recurrence is a surprise rather than an expectation, well: It’s not the most perfect case involving Harden, but here we are.


4. Can Jason Tatum Get His Attack On The Right Track?

Milwaukee Defense Day everyone The Celtics were great. When the Boston team makes work on nearly every possession, it only underscores how important Tatum production is. If he’s struggling, chances are the Celtics will work; Tatum is a 10-for-37 combined shot in two losses for Milwaukee.

Dollars managed to stifle the Celtics defensively.

This is a player who’s been on a scoring rupture since January, and better yet, he’s gotten more efficient. (Remember Tatum’s crazy, cold games early in the season?) If Tatum is rolling, the Bucks’ defense must adapt and throw more complications his way. When it’s cold, Milwaukee can be respectful of others. It’s really that simple.

Indeed, Boston should be grateful that Grant Williams has risen up his level (also defensively) and Al Horford is defying age. How long can it hold up? Conventional wisdom in basketball says that Tatum will shake, or at least should shake eventually. He’s very proud and takes it personally when the shots don’t fall off. Problem: He already has a pair of offensive no-shows. He can’t afford another cost, not against this team. The Bucks and Celtics are so evenly matched that neither of them can afford their star’s disappearance. If Tatum throws bricks again, the Celtics hope Giannis will too, and good luck with that.


5. Is the sun more vulnerable than we thought?

How the Suns can bounce back in Game 5 against the Mavericks.

Yes, it is true that for the second time in a row, the Suns drew 2-2 against the faulty teams (Pelicans, MAFS). But they needed six games to beat the Lakers and Clippers last season. And here’s why the optimism is heading into Game 5: The Suns haven’t lost three straight games all season, and Chris Paul just endured a rare streak game for him — knocking out one playoff and earning seven turnovers in the other. What are the chances of this happening again?

Assuming the safety of basketball takes over and the Suns advance to the next round, then the margin of error begins to close, especially if, as expected, they encounter the Warriors. This is when the Suns should deliver the score they achieved during the regular season, when they were clearly the most dominant team in basketball. With the exception of Paul, most of Phoenix’s other vital signs are solid: Devin Booker’s record, Dender Eaton’s inside work, and Michal Bridges’ defense are all intact.


6. How long can Pax live without Kris Middleton?

It says a lot about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s greatness, and Jrue Holiday’s stability, that the Bucks aren’t on the wrong side of the streak with the Celtics. Understand that the Boston team was the hottest in the league when the semi-finals started, and that the Bucks were, and still are, handicapped without Middleton, who is dealing with an overextended knee.

Well, so far, so good: Giannis has been relatively solid on both ends and Holiday’s defense helped neutralize the Celtics. But this margin of error remains narrow relative to the dollar; Remember, Giannis needed 42 points to win the third game at home which came as a result of the bell. And in the first game, the Celtics played their worst game in months and essentially handed over the win.

Most importantly, no one has filled the void left by Middleton. Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen, and Brooke Lopez were inconsistent in the setting of this series. And it really goes deeper than that; Middleton is not afraid to shoot hard in the crucial minutes, so when he’s on the ground, the defense should respect him. So, aside from his points (and under-appreciated defense), Middleton’s presence is crucial.

At Milwaukee’s last few possessions at the end of a tight third game, Connaughton mistook badly for a pair of open three-pointers after Giannis equalized the team’s double. Chances are fairly good that Middleton will make at least one of those shots – and after those fouls, Connaughton didn’t want to get a piece of the ball back. (It fell into the hands of Holiday, who made the pontoon decide the game.) The longer Middleton sat, the more he played with fire.


7. Can the Grizzlies get the regular season mojo back?

The Memphis electric star was impressive, but a leg injury makes the Grizzlies’ job that much more difficult.

The Memphis won 56 games, one shy of the franchise record, finished with the second best record in the West and defied all realistic expectations. In other words, the surprise Grizzlies got plenty of applause in what was clearly a developmental step forward for the young team.

However, we haven’t really seen this Memphis team since mid-April; Dominant runs and convincing wins have dwindled significantly. Remember, had it not been for some horrific late-game crashes by the foul-prone Timberwolves, the Grizzlies would have fallen 3-1 in the first round. And it took an incredible effort from Ja Morant (47 points) to score his only victory so far over the Warriors.

Memphis will probably be a nice storyline in the regular season, and if that’s the case, then there’s nothing wrong with that. It only proves, for advanced teams like Memphis, how challenging the next step can be, especially against a championship-proven team like Golden State. But let’s go back to the question: Can they get their binaries back? This is not entirely excluded.

Morant needs to be healthy, after injuring his knee on Saturday. They need an A-game for Garen Jackson Jr., plus better help from Desmond Payne and a solid recovery from Brandon Clarke, who was instrumental in the first round. Also, since it’s out on hold for one game, it would be helpful if Dillon Brooks tweaked Game 4’s big performance on Monday.


8. What happened to Duncan Robinson with The Heat?

He’s buried on the bench because, in short, he has stopped doing what he does best. In fact, the only thing it does is the best. And when that happens, he’s unplayable, like Davis Bertans, another three-point specialist who currently gets very little running in Dallas.

As the league drifted towards the three-point obsession, some players found themselves in demand and, as a result, had a huge success financially. As one of the league’s most proficient shooters, Bertans signed for $16 million a season in Washington two summers ago, then saw his percentage drop and soon found himself on the bench — and soon after, out of town.

There is a fear that Robinson is a carbon copy. His story is rather fascinating, how few colleges wanted him after high school, then he went without drafting, and has become an important rotation player in Miami in the past few years, even starting 67 games this season before being replaced by Max Strauss last month. After shooting over 40% in his first two seasons and being a regular starter, Robinson signed for five years and $90 million last summer.

His playoff status could change if Miami advances to the next round, but this reads as a cautionary tale for the teams: Beware of paying big bucks for one-dimensional shooters.

Sean Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him Here, find his archive here and follow him Twitter.

The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the National Basketball Association, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.

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