Eric Bledsoe missed a stepback three to start the night in Detroit, and he missed all three of his other long-range attempts in Game 3. Unlike in Milwaukee in the first two games, his shots largely did not fall in Detroit.
But that was just an off shooting night. Similar to the first two games in Milwaukee, he made a positive impact in just about every other area. Through three games, Playoff Bledsoe 2018–19 appears to look an awful lot like Regular Season Bledsoe 2018–19, which is the best player he has ever been.
After missing that first three-pointer, Bledsoe decisively went to the basket three times in the next few minutes and finished at the rim each time.
On a night when he only got one jumper to fall, he made a point of attacking, and found success with seven makes around the hoop. Bledsoe transformed into an elite finisher at age 29 this regular season, as only DeMar DeRozan converted at a higher clip within five feet of the basket among guards who made more than two of those shots per game. In the playoffs, he has been even better, connecting on 77.8 percent of shots from 0–5 feet.
His defense in the regular season attracted all-defensive team honors attention. Do not be surprised if he makes one of the teams. In the playoffs so far, he has remained at that level.
On both sides of the ball, he has balanced intensity with calmness, a tough trick to pull off this time of the year. He looks not only confident but also alert. His awareness in seemingly small moments, like landing just in bounds after corralling an offensive rebound off his own miss, foretells good things in big moments.
Midway through the third quarter, Bledsoe got three straight hoops at the rim, all a little differently, all rooted in playing one step ahead.
First he got all of Detroit running into one another and went in for a dunk.
Then he sprung open off ball for a dunk.
Then he got to the rim and seemed to almost plan his own offensive rebound, anticipating he was going to miss the initial attempt and coolly flipping in the putback, like an older brother might.
If things go well, very well, or extremely well, Bledsoe might face point guards like Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons or Steph Curry in these playoffs. For now though he is clearly playing in the moment, not looking past anyone or down on anyone. He looks learned, like a vet. He looks in his prime, his bag.
On his final play of Game 3 before being subbed out for good, Bledsoe delivered the type of not-routine pass that he has made routinely in the first three games. Ersan got fouled so it did not go down as an assist but that is not the point anyway.