The NBA’s Worst First-Round in Recorded History is thankfully, finally, over. The Conference semifinals started up over the weekend, and the minds behind Ball Don’t Lie have put together a tidy package of previews for you to peruse: EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 4. Atlanta Hawks, by Eric Freeman . 2. Toronto Raptors vs. 3. Miami Heat, by Kelly Dwyer . WESTERN CONFERENCE 1. Golden State Warriors vs. 5. Portland Trail Blazers, by Eric Freeman . 2. San Antonio Spurs vs. 3. Oklahoma City Thunder, by Dan Devine .
It feels like it's been roughly 100 million years since the biggest, weirdest and most ridiculous story of the NBA's 2015 offseason — the Dallas Mavericks' courtship and ensnaring of prized free-agent center DeAndre Jordan, followed by the change of heart that led Jordan back to the Los Ageles Clippers — exploded in a panoply of emojis . Evidently, I'm not the only one who feels that way — after all the smirks , slights , sorries and so whats , Jordan and Mavericks lead recruiter Chandler Parsons have apparently buried the hatchet: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] "#nohardfeelings," reads the hashtag on Parsons' Sunday Instagram post . I guess time, apologies and labored explanations really do heal all wounds. Because, y'know, there were wounds : Parsons: “I’m shocked, very disappointed, frustrated, disrespected. This is something that I’ve never seen in my career, and I know that it doesn’t happen very often. When a man gives you his word and an organization his word, especially when that organization put in so much effort and I walked him through this process and was very, very open and willing to work with him, it’s just very unethical and disrespectful.” [...] “The kind of guy that he is, the kind of guy I thought he is, would never do something like that. That’s tough for me to swallow, just from the fact that I know how excited Mark was. I know how invested Mark has been throughout this whole process. That’s what I don’t get. “Be a professional. Pick up the phone. If you’re not going to meet with him, pick up the phone and tell the guy that you’re committed to what you’re feeling, what you’re going through and maybe he can talk it out and help you. But do not ignore the guy. Do not make him sit there and sweat it out. That’s just very unprofessional. I can’t get over that part.” Like, for real : "We had Mavs gear shipped to DeAndre for the season," Parsons tells Yahoo. "We picked out his locker. We picked out where he was going to sit on the team bus and plane. We picked out his No. 6 jersey. We narrowed down which home he would buy in Dallas, talked about restaurants here. "I think I've earned the right to speak freely about the Mavs and our future. There was no way DJ was going to come unless I presented our pitch. It's not like I was gassing him up and lying. Everything he was saying that he wanted, we were going to give to him. Everything: the opportunity to get the ball more, to be an MVP candidate, to be the man and take the next step in his career. "It's not like I was just making this [expletive] up. He's still a friend. But when I saw him in Las Vegas for Team USA, all I could really say was, 'Are you [expletive] serious?'" And : "He was one of my really good friends, so when he told me something I took his word," said Parsons. Now, though, despite Parsons' recent assertion that the relationship between the two is "pretty nonexistent, honestly," the two chill bros have decided to make the best of their teams' respective early postseason exits by resuming the practice of chilling with each other. It's nice to see friendship conquer all, you guys ... just so long as Chandler doesn't allow his new adventures with his old boo get in the way of pursuing new relationships . More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
How They Got Here • Toronto : By not making it easy. As if they wanted to beat us to the bad punchline, Toronto dropped a home matinee Game 1 for the third postseason in a row. The team had just peeled off a franchise-record 56 wins, and no NBA team plays more home weekend matinees than these same Raptors, but none of this seems to matter once the klieg lights hit. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] The group rallied to take two games on the road in Indianapolis, but nearly squandered Game 7 at home – allowing a thin Pacer squad to make the deciding contest a one-possession game in the final minute. Though coach Dwane Casey did well to prime his rotation with plenty of opportunities, he was left reliant on tired “ us against the world, boys ”-motivation techniques despite entering the series with a No. 2 seed in the face of a team that needed until the last weekend of the regular season to make the playoffs. • Miami : By, well, not making it easy. The Heat outscored the Charlotte Hornets by 62 points in Miami’s seven-game win – 62 points, and they lost three games! Unlike the scattershot Toronto/Indiana series, however, the Heat weren’t exactly stubbing their toes on the way toward the Conference semis. The team rarely turned the ball over, it did well to stay above the fray when challenged (even while losing), and coach Erik Spoelstra deftly managed his rotations on the fly. Amar’e Stoudemire is no longer in the picture – let’s put it that way. In what in many ways may have been the NBA’s most entertaining opening round series (Heaven help us all), the Heat downed Charlotte 4-3 behind a monstrous and well-inspired Game 7 thrashing. In an odd amplification of a mediocre year offensively, five Heat players averaged double-figure points in the series even with Chris Bosh sitting on the bench. Luol Deng came out of nowhere to hit 20 of his 39 three-point attempts, Dwyane Wade somehow sealed a Game 6 win with his first (and then second!) three-pointers since December, and Heat stalwart Udonis Haslem actually played 27 in the series – once again allowing us to describe him as a “stalwart.” All of this comes on the heels of a regular season that saw the team win 48 games, with Wade playing healthy and consistent basketball alongside the emerging in-prime talents of center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic. Head to Head: Toronto took the season series by a 3-1 margin. Miami’s lone win should probably be sloughed off due to the presence of one Christopher Wesson Bosh. Bosh, who has sadly been out since the second week in February due to blood clots, scored 23 points on just 14 shots in a Nov. 8 win , declining to turn the ball over while pulling in eight rebounds in just 30 minutes. That kind of all-out play, unfortunately, won’t show up in the Conference semis, as Bosh hasn’t even accompanied the Heat to Toronto for Game 1. In an NBA still smarting over the absences of Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the loss of the brilliant, entertaining and avuncular Bosh remains the league’s most under-reported story. From that early setback, the Raptors took control of things. Perimeter players DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross combined for 68 points in a 108-94 win on Dec. 18 , pitched on the second night of a back-to-back. With Heat starters Dragic and Whiteside out, Toronto pounced by 20 on Jan. 22 , and with Wade out the Raptors prevailed by eight on March 12 . Likely Starting Lineups : Toronto is to be credited for mixing things up. Big forward Luis Scola remains a team favorite and clear leader, but after starting in each of the 76 regular season contests he appeared in and the first four games of Toronto’s opening round series against Indiana, former supersub Patrick Patterson got the call as lead power forward. This followed Norman Powell’s demotion from the front five in favor of the improving (after midseason knee surgery) DeMarre Carroll’s re-introduction as a starter in Game 2. Patterson’s statistical contributions were modest, he added 23 points and eight rebounds in total as a starter, working around 25 minutes a game, but his noted ability to stretch his range past the three-point line kept the Pacers on edge. Carroll’s two-way work was more prominent; he tied for the Raptor points lead in Game 6 with 15 and scored in double-digits three times, alongside his stellar defense. They’ll join Toronto’s All-Star backcourt of DeRozan and Lowry, with center Jonas Valanciunas jumping at center circle.
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