NBA Third-Quarter Awards: No team was better than the Bucks, and Dame Lillard was on another level

Mo Haidar / Yahoo Sports Illustration
Mo Haidar / Sportzshala Sports Illustration

When the Grizzlies faced the Lakers on Tuesday, it was their 60th game of the season. Memphis was the only team in the NBA not yet to reach that milestone; this means we are now officially in the last 20 games of the 2022-23 NBA season, and that can only mean one thing:

It’s time to give away some purely hypothetical, intangible equipment that has no monetary value, but some of which is worth more than money. It’s time, my dears, for the third quarter awards.

One quick (but important!) note before we get started: This election is not meant to predict who will end up winning the real NBA trophies at the end of the year. Instead, they are solely based on performance, since our latest posting – a 20-game period from January 11 to March 3 – to allow us to take stock of what we’ve just seen so we can better prepare for what’s to come.

So let’s unite heart to heart and hand in handto view and read what just happened, starting from the place whose name Algonquin for “Good Land”:

(All statistics as of Friday morning.)

Team of the Quarter: Milwaukee Bucks

I’ve been digging into the Bucks’ recent surge shortly before the All-Star breakand it goes on fast! Mike Budenholzer’s team was considered the best in the NBA. write down (19-3) and net rating (plus -10.9 points per 100 non-junk time possessions) in the third quarter, depriving the season longest winning streak and went undefeated in February thanks to the phenomenal performance of their finally (mostly) healthy core four.

Perennial MVP nominee Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged more points per minute over the past six weeks to make almost 12.5 rebounds and six assists per night despite being held for less than 10 minutes in two contests on both sides of the All-Star break due to a right knee injury. Jrue Holiday played brilliantly to seal his first All-Star appearance after 10 years with one of the best stretches of two-way play to date: 22 points, 7.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in the third quarter about what would be the best in your career firing efficiency despite the level of usage that would be its highest since 2015-16all continuing guard the best strikers in the sport.

Chris Middleton has been beaming since he got back from his wrist and knee Problems, averaging 14.9 points, 5 rebounds and 4.1 assists in just 19.9 minutes per game off the bench. Supports it all gives tree Brook Lopez, blocking the lane – 7th in blocks per game in the third quarter, keeping opponents only 47.7% hit under the ringaccording to Second Spectrum, continuing to score more points than he had since he was on the Brooklyn Net.

The return of Middleton, in particular, helped balance the offense, which had often struggled for scoring shots early in the season. Additional Milwaukee shooters suddenly have easier access to better looks; in turn, they canned them more often. Only Warriors did more three-pointers per game in the third quarter than the Bucks and the only member of the Milwaukee rotation not to hit more than 35% of deep during that run was Middleton – a 38.9% pro shooter who you expect to find his level soon.

Best interval, shot creation and shot production translated into top 5 half court offenses in Q3 — what if you add to how destructive Giannis & Co. can be in transition, and how suffocating they are on defense (even against major offenses) makes Milwaukee an incredibly difficult team. Strong enough to keep the Celtics in the sprint for first place in the East? This remains to be seen. However, the last six weeks have made it clear that a full-fledged Bucks team needs to have a hell of a finishing blow.

Also getting theoretical voices in my brain: Nuggets (best write down And net rating in the West, approaching seed 1), the Celtics (still with the Bucks in the east despite Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Robert Williams III missing time), the 76ers, and the Cavaliers (a level below a triple and the bucks, but strong enough on both sides to fuel hopes of a deep run) and the Kings (15-7 in Q3 with an absolute sizzling offense that they hope will be enough to contain the newly emerging Durant-ified Sans for third place).

Man of the Quarter: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

There are many great answers here, including Antetokounmpo; Nikola Jokic, whose average third quarter about 24-14-11 at 67% shooting started this week clipping for tv O stat padding; and Joel Embiid, the dominant nightclub in Philadelphia. This trio will likely lead the majority of MVP votes and have legitimate championship hopes in a couple of months. Lillard, on the other hand, is likely to receive recognition at best only with a negative vote – if, as the leader of a Portland under-500 team still trying to make it to the play-in tournament, he will receive any recognition at all. .

These quarterly awards, though, are nothing more than what I want to write about… and right now, I feel like I bow my head to the guy who averaged almost 39 points per night. for seven fucking weeks.

After scoring 40 points three times in his first 40 games of the season, Lillard did it 10 times in his last 21 games, including 50 for 28 shots against Cleveland 60 for 29 shots against Utah and, of course, a career-high 71 on 38 against Houston on Sunday, leading the league in scoring in the third quarter.

Lillard emptied the entire court in the third quarter with a sky-high shot. real shooting percentage (which affects the accuracy of 2’s, 3’s and free throws) usually associated with underused big men catching and pushing (and Jokic, the exception to so many rules). He fired 70% inside the restricted area (which would be a career high) for the whole season) and averaged 15.2 points per game non-stop. goes to the cart (the same). Any fear that he will lose the ability to get to the free throw line is very troubling. last season; no one took more freebies than Lillard’s 245 in the third quarter (averaging 11.7 attempts per game) and he missed a total of 11 of them, which is 95.5%.

He also practiced 57.1% of his Durantian-like mid-range attempts, although he rarely took them, instead opting to launch almost a dozen threes a night and slosh 40.2% of them. (Again: both would be the pinnacle of a career.) Lillard took 184 pull ups 3s in Q3; only 122 other players even took so many shots general. During this time, he made more triples without a rebound than 14 TEAMS!

The threat of these warheads, which Lillard is becoming increasingly comfortable taking from absurd length, 21 out of 55 (38.2%) of beyond 30 feet in Q3 – can stretch the defense to the limit. This requires constant attention, the second and third defenders trick Lillard away from the ball, which creates more opportunities for his teammates; even leading the league in scoring during that stretch, Lillard was also in the top 20 in helps, minor or “hockey” passes And glasses created with help in Q3.

The team that went down to 27th in defensive effectiveness after a strong start at this end, he wins solely due to the strength of his attack; it takes an overwhelming force that produces points to take him to the finish line. According to Lillard, the Blazers scored 114.3 points out of 100 in the third quarter. roster data – A attack below league average, not enough to make this porous protection stand. Yes, even with him? Hot 122.9 points out of 100: best bet in the league.

None of this makes Lillard an unsolvable equation. The Warriors closed it out on Tuesday, causing hard blitz and box-and-ones knock the ball out of your hands and force your teammates to play; he scored just 6 points on nine shots in the second half, the Blazers only 40 points as a team, and the Golden State ran in a rout. That the Warriors began dipping into their postseason reporting bag to cool off Lillard on Tuesday nights in February indicates just how hot he was — as he shows arguably the best game of his career in the middle of his 11th season. how he provides his team’s best (and arguably only) chance of winning with sheer willpower and a quiver full of pull-up arrows, and how he is arguably the best show in town right now.

ARTVIMB: Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Embiid, LeBron Jamesget well soon), Jason Tatum, Kawhi Leonard (averaging 28-6-4 on the 53/50/91 range because some guy wrote that Clips really needed to see Prime Kawaii soon), De’Aaron Fox (who is in his 30s). seven in a row and nine of his last 10 go-go kings) and Domantas Sabonis (seven or more assists 12 times in 21 games in the third quarter as a secret setter for the league Violation #2), Jalen Brunson (27.8 points and 5.6 assists per game). in the third quarter on shooting 51/46/83 for a red-hot Knicks team that boasts wonderfully the second best attack of the East this season) and Julius Randle (who endures better numbers than his All-NBA season;…


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