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Welcome to the Morning Shootaround, where every weekday you’ll get a fresh, topical column from one of SI.com’s NBA writers: Howard Beck on Mondays, Chris Mannix on Tuesdays, Michael Pina on Wednesdays, Chris Herring on Thursdays and Rohan Nadkarni on Fridays.

So, so many things have abruptly fallen flat this postseason. LeBron and the Lakers lost Anthony Davis during their first-round matchup against the all-consuming fire that is the Suns. Nuggets superstar and MVP Nikola Jokić, somehow spectacular and present all year long, was stunningly banished to the locker room in the closing minutes of Denver’s season-ending loss. The top-seeded Sixers, who’ve blown leads of 18 points and 26 points in back-to-back losses, respectively, sit on the cusp of elimination.

Yet with each of those players and teams, there is so much more to the story. Los Angeles couldn’t stay healthy, and fought to spackle things together down the stretch, needing the play-in game to even secure its spot in the opening round. Jokić had done just about everything he could—including pushing the Nuggets past the Blazers in the first round—after losing Jamal Murray to a devastating ACL tear back in April.

Philly finds itself with far fewer excuses. But Joel Embiid is playing on a small meniscus tear in his right knee that obviously hasn’t sapped Embiid’s ability but does appear to take its toll in second halves, where he’s been nowhere nearly as effective. His costar, Ben Simmons, is an incredible defender by all accounts, but he just took fewer than five shot attempts for the second time in the Sixers’ series with the Hawks, and likely isn’t the ideal fit with Embiid the club hoped he would be when they inked him to a max deal in 2019.





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