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Matt Moore | Action Network NBA Insider

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April 24, 2023 5:40 am

Matt Moore | Action Network NBA Insider

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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April 24, 2023 5:40 am

 NBA Insider for The Action Network Matt Moore joins the show to talk all things NBA Playoffs thus far through round 1.

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Amy Lawrence

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He's not only a writer, an insider, but also a podcast host. And yes, the Timberwolves make nothing easy on themselves, Matt, but what have you learned, if anything, about the Nuggets in this series? Because there certainly was a lot of talk about them at the end of the regular season, if they were a worthy number one, if they could play like the top seed in the West. Yeah, and they've been impressive. You know, I think even in this game where they wind up losing, ultimately, just the comeback into forced overtime was pretty impressive from them.

They've shown a level of seriousness that I think is important for you to not mess around too much. Now, they take the loss tonight. Minnesota plays great in particular, but even forcing them to overtime. You know, Minnesota played great, but Denver has played with a lot of confidence in this series. And that continues, I think, bode well for their chances of making it out of the Western Conference. Their defense looks better. Their offense, obviously, led by Jokic. Murray's had a game.

MPJ's had a game. Still almost sold this one tonight, so a lot of opportunities for them in this series. They do need to wrap it up, though. That's the challenge when you've got a team on the ropes.

If you don't wrap it up, then it keeps extending and more of the pressure shifts to you. Why haven't the Timberwolves made any progress in terms of getting closer to being a contender, even with all the moves they've made? You know, I think they had a real growth trajectory last season, and the move for Rudy Gobert shifted their identity so much. And they had to figure out how to really play without or with Gobert this season with Towne.

And they never really got an opportunity to do that. And the reason they never really got a chance to do that was because then Kat got hurt. And so they had to figure out then how to play without Towne with Gobert, and they managed to do that. And they actually stuck together this season. They could have bailed at a lot of different points that they fought through.

They fought through the play-in. They actually showed a lot of resiliency this season, but then now they're trying to figure it back out with Gobert and Towne. And when you lose pieces like Nas Reed and you lose pieces like Jayden McDaniel, their best Premier Defender, it makes it that much harder. I don't know if this is going to work long-term.

I don't know if you can feel confident that this is a formula that's ultimately going to work for Minnesota. But I will say that I've admired their resilience when there's been a lot of opportunities for them to go the other direction. And they've managed to stick together. And even you saw tonight, on the edge of elimination, going to overtime, could have caved, but they fought back and managed to extend the series. Well, while we're talking about the top of the West, the Memphis Grizzlies get this incredible game from Ja Morant as he returns, and yet still get smoked by the Lakers.

I'll ask the same question. Why haven't the Memphis Grizzlies gotten any closer to their goal, even after the great build-up from last season? I think they really take a step back this season. Honestly, when you look at it for a number of reasons, between their half-court offense was really bad this year.

It got a little bit better after they had Luke Knarr, but you still see the problems with them trying to consistently create buckets. And I think when we look at what they're capable of, they have a really hard time when the game slows down. That's on top of all their issues with composure and maturity and things like that.

And that's an evidence that they really needed somebody to settle them down. And they've had a hard time with that this season, trying to find the right answer for how to do that in collect situations. I think they need a couple of changes. I think they need, honestly, they need better half-court scoring, they need some evolution from Ja in that regard.

But they also need a few more adults in the room, so to speak, because all of the trash talk and everything else. It gets to be, there's playing with passion and emotion and confidence, and then there's just overextending yourself and getting a little too far out over your skis. I think we've seen that consistently from them this season. We're always excited to have Matt Moore on the show with us, and this is the playoff edition.

He's both a writer and podcast host for Action Network. It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. The great series in the West to this point has been the Kings and the Warriors, a one-point game. Now the series is tied again, so a bunch of different layers to pull apart here. First of all, did you ever think you would see Steph Curry, of all players, pull a Chris Webber move and call a timeout that the Warriors didn't have? Because, man, that made it a lot closer than it needed to be.

Yeah, crazy. They've got this late in with a minute to go. It looks like they've got it wrapped up. And to the Kings' credit, they keep fighting. And yeah, the Warriors with a number of uncharacteristic foibles kind of late in that game kind of shows you how thin their margin for error is. I think if you're the Kings, you feel pretty good about this series. Obviously, you would like to go up 3-1, but when you look at how this series has gone, the opportunities that they've had, even on the road, even in a tough environment like that, they've shown a lot of poise to be able to keep these games within range.

It continues to be an awesome series. It's going to come down to shot-making. The biggest problem, I think, for the Kings, honestly, is that, you know, demonus of bonus doesn't necessarily seem like he's having a real hard time. Every minute that he plays with Steph Curry, or with Steph Curry, the Kings are absolutely getting destroyed. So they're going to have to figure that out as the series goes along. But the Warriors are up against it. They're having to play Steph long minutes. They're having to play starters long minutes. You know, obviously, you've got the Draymond situation.

This is really touchy for the defending champs, and we're just going to have to see if they've got enough in them to get it done. What's your reaction to Draymond coming off the bench for the first time in a playoff game? Smart stuff from him, honestly, to kind of give Kevon Looney more of an opportunity because he's been really good in the series. I think it's an interesting sacrifice that he made and shows his level of dedication. Now, you know, the Kings will probably adjust, and I think that when you're starting Jordan Poole, there are certain things that you give up in those situations as well that can create difficulties for you.

So they're going to have to manage that. If they keep up with the strategy, I expect Draymond to probably start next game. But, you know, I think it presents a twist that the Kings had to adjust to, and now it's reset things to put more pressure on the Kings to counter-adjust heading back into the final three games of the series. What's the reason, if you can pinpoint one or two, that the Warriors have been so unbelievably bad on the road this year? A lot of it comes down to defense, and you kind of dig under the hood. It looks like it's really the defense. Their defense at home is spectacular. Their defense on the road really struggles. Their offense is kind of touch and go, quite honestly, in both locations, but their defense really struggles. Honestly, in this series, they've done really good in the half court versus the Kings. They've managed to hold them to really good numbers in terms of shooting. But on the road, one of the problems is that their transition defense has been bad because they keep turning the ball over. They just don't play with the same amount of poise that they play at home, and that's true for a lot of teams.

The Grizzlies are great at home and bad on the road. They've been kind of the same kind of squad. So, for the Warriors, they've always been the team that turns the ball over a lot. I think what we're kind of seeing is, again going back, the margin for error is so much lower with this squad. The stars are a little bit older, the bench is a little bit worse, and now this margin for error. So, when you have these games where you're losing the offensive rebound battle, you're turning the ball over. That creates this environment where if you don't have that home crowd behind you to boost up your shooting, you can have these rough performances, even if you really can't explain how bad they've been on the road this season. Matt Morris with us here after hours on CBS Sports Radio. So, shifting our attention to the East, pretty interesting to see Julius Randle on the bench for the fourth quarter with the game on the line between the Knicks and the Cavaliers on Sunday.

How did you like that move? Exactly what they needed. The Knicks are winning the series with their bench. That's how they're winning the series. If you look at the overall numbers, they're not winning in the starter minutes. The Cavs are winning the minutes versus the starters, but when they get into the Isaiah Hartenstein minutes, when they get into the Obi Toppin minutes, that's where they're really winning.

They bring more athleticism, more energy, and they're really countering what the Cavs do. Randle, at this point, I don't want to believe this about a player. I thought he had a really great block today. He had a good bucket late, but in general, Randle has kind of shown himself to not necessarily be what you would call a 16-game player.

He struggled when the playoffs had hit. Him not speaking to media today, pretty rough. Just come out and say, hey, just glad we got the win. I'm willing to do whatever. That's how you put yourself out there. I know he's a competitor, but you want to see a guy be like Draymond Green and be like, I can come off the bench.

Whatever is necessary for us, that's what I'll do. It was the right move, not just because they got the win, but because, honestly, the Knicks are a little bit better with Toppin. They might be better switching that up and getting Randle going versus the bench units for Cleveland rather than the starters. Other than a lack of a bench, which, as you point out, is pretty shallow for the Cavaliers. Donovan Mitchell had a tough game on Sunday.

What are they missing? Because they also haven't had the same bite that I expected as a team that has a couple of legit superstars or superstars in the making. Yeah, Derek Garland got going second half, and that was good. Evan Mobley has really struggled.

This is his first playoff series. That's one thing I definitely didn't factor in enough when I picked the Cavs in the series was that this is the first playoff series for both Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. They just don't have the experience, and you can see they kind of got overwhelmed by MSG in the first game and a half. Fell down in the second half, I thought, but the other problem is J.B. Bakerstaff feels like he can't trust Isaac Okoro because of how far the Knicks are playing off of him, so he's trying to play more shooting. But you play Chetty Osmond or Karis Lavert, and the Knicks are just destroying those guys defensively.

They're getting them involved in pick-and-rolls, they're hitting them on the weak side, and they're slow to rotate. They can't defend without Okoro on the floor, and truth be told, Okoro helps him rebound because he's an athletic body versus Josh Hart. But J.B. Bakerstaff just has not been able to trust Isaac Okoro, despite the fact that the Cavs have won all year with defense, that's been their strength, and they've gone away from that. To be honest with you, Tom Thibodeau has had a lot of struggles in the playoffs coaching, but he is decisively winning this matchup versus Bakerstaff. Looking at the Philadelphia 76ers, they get right back to the second round, which is what has been their nemesis the last couple years. We don't know yet about Joel Embiid and that right knee. I do like their depth, but how confident are you that they can actually break through and get to the East Finals?

Not very, I'll be honest. This Celtics team, if they were facing anybody else, including the Bucs, even if the Bucs had Giannis, I would feel better about them. But this Celtics team has just been their kryptonite.

It has just absolutely been the team they can't get past. It used to be that Embiid really struggled with Al Horford. He's dominated that matchup over the last 3-4 meetings. But here's the other problem. Even when the Nets were sending those really aggressive double and triple teams at him, Embiid finished that series with more turnovers and assists.

That's worrisome. This has been his problem. When teams start to double and triple him, he turns the ball over. The Celtics are maybe the best team in the league at doing that and disguising it by not showing that they're going to double, bringing it from the weak side, bringing it off of cuts, veering off, and being able to bring attention to the ball and turning him over. He's had a really hard time beating Boston. You add in the offense that the Celtics bring to the table and how James Harden sometimes, like Game 1, looks awesome, sometimes does not look like the same guy, and the Celtics' ability to switch. This is a really tough matchup for him.

I'll say this. If the Sixers get past the Celtics, who I think are the best team in the league, then they'll finally earn it. All the hype, all the expectation, all the criticism that they want to silence, they'll have earned it. There is no tougher task than with waiting for them after the Celtics wrap it up versus the Hawks. Any concern at all about the Celtics' defense? They're giving up a lot of points against the Hawks. This is not the same defense that we saw in the playoffs last year. It's been inconsistent this year overall.

I think there's got to be some concern. To an degree, I think the Celtics are a little bit in cruise control here. They know they can get through the series without really putting the foot to the floor. I expect better things from them when they get to a series versus the Sixers. Now, the problem is eventually, that's just what you do every game.

That's become who you are. That's a concern. I don't think they're as good defensively as they were last year, but they're way better offensively. More than anything, the Celtics still can throw different coverages at teams, which not a lot of teams can switch the level to which they can. That's going to be one of the challenges.

You want to play Rob Williams because of his size and room protection, but that means you're probably dropping and picking a role, which gives James Harden a lot of room. They're going to have challenges against the Sixers team. 16 is really good, but the Celtics have shown that they have the weapons, the versatility, and the depth to counter.

They will always have enough answers, and that's got to be what they're banking on. Matt, more of the Action Network is with us from Denver here on After Hours, CBS Sports Radio. The Milwaukee Bucks, the top seed in the East. They don't have Giannis. He's listed as day-to-day. How far can they go without him, Matt? They're in trouble in the series. If Giannis doesn't come back, there's a lot of momentum, optimism, all these words about him playing in Game 3, and nope, not available. That trick does!

Yep. He participated in practice on Sunday, and so you're hopeful. Maybe he's trending towards it, or at least he did individual work is what Mike Butenholzer said, so you're hoping that he can go, but look, this Heat team is just zombies, and they just keep coming at you no matter what they're missing.

No Tyler Hero, now no Victor Oladipo. They've been really an average team all year, but they just crawl their way in. They lose that first play-in tournament game. They win the second one.

They just kind of keep coming. Now, obviously, Jimmy Butler misses the game. That changed the equation, especially with the other injuries that they've had, but with Milwaukee, they have such a problem with shot variance in the playoffs on both sides. Teams shoot great against them, even contested. That's what Miami's doing in the series. They're shooting ridiculous on contested jumpers, and the Bucks have these stretches where they just can't hit water if they fall out of a boat, so it's going to be touch and go here. They're not safe in this series, and if they get out, but Giannis is banged up, and they do face a Knicks team that's now up 3-1. The Knicks have the offense to really go after them.

It'll be a battle. The Bucks rode to the finals, all of a sudden looked very difficult. Before the playoffs started, a lot of people were pointing to the top three teams in the East, the Bucks, the Celtics, the Sixers, as the best three teams in the NBA. Anything you've seen at this point that would change your mind? Maybe the Phoenix Suns and the way they're playing right now?

No, I can't get there. I think that still the best teams lie in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks, when they're good, are amazing.

They're incredible. They're dominant. The Celtics have so many answers, like I talked about, and their baseline floor on both ends of the floor is so high. Then you've got the Sixers, who bring so much offense to the table with Harden and their shooting, and Embiid playing at an MVP level.

He should get his MVP next week. Whoever comes out of the East should be a pretty heavy favorite. Phoenix is struggling in this series versus the Clippers team that's obviously short-handed, but it's a very bad matchup for them.

It doesn't mean they're going to have the same situation. One of the problems is Phoenix is just playing a lot of heavy minutes for their starters. Those guys are playing heavy, heavy minutes. I don't know if they're going to have enough energy if they do reach the finals, and that's before we start talking about the likelihood of them facing a Denver team who looked as good as anybody in the first round.

That second-round series is going to be incredible. Who would you choose as your MVP? I would have gone with Giannis, honestly. Not as good of a year as he's had statistically overall, but he did catch up to Embiid in terms of his efficiency. I spent a lot of time on the MVP, and when Giannis was on the floor, they won more of their game.

They won at an extremely high level. I thought Nikola Jokic probably should be second, quite honestly, based off of how good they were when they were at their peak, but the Nuggets didn't play great defense for the first month and a half of the season, the final month of the season. Embiid, I think, is a worthy winner. These guys are all incredible. Embiid's going to deserve it when he wins.

He certainly wants it bad enough and made that pretty apparent over and over and over again. But I do think he deserves it, and it's good that he's going to get the recognition that he feels he deserves. I would have gone with Giannis based off of impact on both ends of the floor or Jokic because of the offensive ceiling, but Embiid is more than deserving of the MVP. I know they're not classic big men, back to the bucket centers, but it's kind of cool to see this run of dominant big men in the MVP conversation. Yeah, it reminds me of those 90s when you had David Robinson and you had Hakeem Olajuwon and you had Shaq and everybody had their guy. And all these guys battling and doing it different ways where Embiid's much more about scoring, much more about force and aggression, obviously a great rim protector, and yet Jokic makes everybody on his team better. And then Giannis, honestly, he's a forward but still a legendary big man because of his physical advantages.

It's really cool to see the combination of size, speed, power, and skill that these guys are showing because they are complete packages offensively. And we still have a ways to go before that MVP award, so you can check out Matt's column, the cases for and against the top contenders. It's pinned to the top of his Twitter, at HP basketball. Matt Moore, one of our favorites going back now, my gosh, 11 years he's been coming on the show and he is now with Action Network.

You'll hear him as a host and also you can see what he writes there. Matt, it's always great to catch up with you. Thank you so much for a couple of minutes.

Thanks for having me. It took me a little while, but I decided to claim autism as my superpower. When you hear the word autism, don't let that hinder you from doing whatever it is that you want to do. That's what Special Olympics tells you. You get involved in sports, but then you take it from the playing field out into real life. Family means to me community, acceptance, love, embracing a person just as they are. That's what Special Olympics did for me. It's all about family. Subscribe to Agents of Inclusion on the free Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts. Help save lives. Donate today at your local CSL plasma center and be rewarded for your generosity.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-24 06:45:00 / 2023-04-24 06:54:10 / 9

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