Playoff thoughts: NBA edition

I’ve had a few of you write in lately and ask me to chime in on the NBA playoffs.

Considering a) I’ve been working a ton, b) the playoffs are just now starting to get interesting and c) I’ve actually spent more time watching the Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff run (we’ll make a hockey fan out of that kid yet!), I haven’t had as much time to dive into the NBA post-season as I’d like.

But since you asked…

 

Oklahoma City knocks off San Antonio

To be honest, I’m not as surprised as the rest of you.

One reader called it a San Antonio collapse.  I saw it more as them getting flat-out beat.

The Spurs lost only one game at home all season and yet Oklahoma City waltzed right on to San Antonio and beat them twice in the same series.  The odds were against that but common sense wasn’t.

Match-up wise, this was a bad series for the Spurs.  I read a Sports Illustrated article about Russell Westbrook last year.  The author of the article asked teammate Nick Collison what he thought of Westbrook, to which he gave perhaps the best response about a professional athlete I’ve ever heard.  Of Westbrook, Collison said “his give-a-fuck level is very high.”   Ain’t that the truth!

Catfish

Westbrook plays like a man possessed on your average day, never mind the post-season.  His Game One line against Golden State included 27 points, 12 assists, 7 steals and 6 rebounds.  His running mate Kevin Durant, who for some inexplicable reason ESPN.com ranked the 8th best player in the league this pre-season, isn’t bad either.  Ranking Durant 8th is like saying “The Godfather” was a pretty good movie but I digress.

Despite their successful regular season, San Antonio is a team in transition, a bizarre blend of old school and new.  What they lacked, however, was the hungry.  Oklahoma City has that.  The fact that Tim Duncan can barely jump anymore didn’t help much either.

I’m not ready to slam the Spurs’ window shut just yet (we do that every year) but clearly they recognize changes must be made.  Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are all on the dark side of thirty and what’s worse, they’re playing like it.  Winning 60 games in the regular season is a feat but it doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t win 16 in the post-season.

So no, I wasn’t surprised that the Thunder survived and advanced, however…

 

Oklahoma City knocks off Golden State in Game One of Western Conference Finals

After Game one of the San Antonio-Oklahoma City, I prematurely Tweeted “Billy Donovan, meet Gregg Popovich.”   The Spurs had just beaten the Thunder by 32 points.

Well, Billy Donovan is currently having the last laugh.  His Thunder just won four straight against both San Antonio and Golden State.  I’d say Coach Donovan is adjusting quite nicely to life in the NBA.

Billy D in OKC

To put things in their proper perspective, San Antonio and Golden State went a combined 79-3 on their home floors this season and the Thunder have won three post-season games in those two arenas in the past two weeks!

Color me impressed.

Back to Westbrook, the last thing anyone with a sore knee wants to do is cover that guy.  Despite Steph Curry’s uncanny 17 overtime points in his first game back from injury, having to cover a determined Russell Westbrook for forty-eight minutes is an entirely different animal.

For the record, it WOULD surprise me if Oklahoma City went on to win this series and advance to the Finals but when you have two of the best four (or best eight according to ESPN) players in the world on your team, I suppose anything is possible.

And they’re showing us that right now in front of our very eyes.

 

Meanwhile, in Cleveland…

Don’t look now but Cleveland is quietly embarrassing opponents, sweeping both the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks.  While most of us expected Golden State to run through the playoffs, it’s actually Cleveland that looks unbeatable.  And while Golden State and OKC beat up on each other, I don’t foresee Cleveland having much of a problem with Toronto, as witnessed in Game One.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are both healthy and there’s no more talk about the Big Three not getting along.  In fact, in Tuesday night’s post-game presser, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving looked downright chummy.  Winning sure does cure a lot of ills.

Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers

They may be a wee bit tested in the Toronto series but their big test will be when they face the winner of OKC-Golden State.  Toronto is just another appetizer before the main course.

 

Coaching Carousel Continues

The Indiana Pacers decided not to renew Frank Vogel’s contract making him the hottest coaching commodity on the market.  He’s already been linked to New York, Orlando and basically every other team with a coaching vacancy and some common sense.  (Wait, that would exclude New York.)

The Orlando gig came open when Scott Skiles, a former Magic player, decided to up and leave the franchise, citing philosophical differences with management and his inability to connect with players of a younger generation.

Some kids came into the bar the other night.  We got to talking about music.  They mentioned the name of some young artist who I didn’t recognize.  I played it on the iPad.  It was no Marvin Gaye but it certainly wasn’t horrible.  So I played them some Marvin Gaye.  They liked it.  See, coach?  Kids aren’t all that tough to communicate with.  Plus I’m pretty sure post moves and solid defense techniques haven’t changed all that much over the last twenty to thirty years.  Teach and overcome.

Personally I thought Skiles going back to Orlando was the boost they needed to become a playoff contender.  Old school meets new.  It didn’t work out that way.

Scotty B Gone

Scotty Brooks, who was fired by Oklahoma City last season and replaced by Billy Donovan, has landed in Washington.  And on the sidelines calling the games for ESPN, Mark Jackson is still bitter about being fired by Golden State.  Ah, the circle of life.

Two seasons ago, Jackson was fired and replaced with Steve Kerr.  The rest is history.  Kerr led the Warriors to a title the following year and the NBA’s best ever regular season, with a little help from Luke Walton, the season after that.

No one is going to cry for NBA coaches getting a raw deal.  None of them are starving.  By the end of every season, only one coach is labeled a genius.  The other twenty-nine are polishing up their resumes.

 

The officiating

There have been a few bad calls this off-season.  So…. how exactly is this different from any other post-season in any other sport?

The refs blew about eight calls in the final seconds of Oklahoma City-San Antonio Game Two, none more glaring than the player inbounding the basketball and creating contact with the man defending him.  The domino effect of swallowed whistles that succeeded that miss only compounded the cluster that became the end of the game.  As if Gregg Popovich needed another reason to be testy with the media.

nba refs

The refs also missed a key travel call in Game One of the Thunder-Warrior series.  As long as humans are wearing stripes, we are going to have mistakes.  Get over it.

If you don’t want a referee’s missed call to adversely affect the game, don’t put yourself in that position in the first place.

 

And finally, an insignificant war of words

Once again, the media is trying to generate news where there is none.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Steph Curry won this year’s MVP award and became the first to do so by a unanimous vote.

No one in their right mind could argue that any other player had a better season.

So what does some numbskull reporter do?  He asked LeBron what he thought about Steph’s MVP.

Here was LeBron’s response:

“Look at Steph’s numbers.  He averaged 30, he led the league in steals, he was 90-50-40 [shooting percentages from the free throw line, field and beyond the 3-point line], and they won 73 [games]. So, I don’t — do you have any debate over that, really, when it comes to that award? But when you talk about most ‘valuable,’ then you can have a different conversation. So take nothing away from him. He’s definitely deserving of that award, for sure.”

Move along, nothing to see here.  For all intents and purposes, LeBron agreed Curry should have won the award.

LeBron and Steph

So what does another ‘journalist’ do?  He asked Curry what he thought of LeBron’s comments.

Here was Steph’s response:

“I’ve gotten really good at ignoring people … that is the theme of the last two years. I’m all right.”

Look, if Steph plays LeBron in the Finals, again, it will be captivating television.  I don’t need some tool with a microphone and a degree in sports journalism to stir up the proverbial pot.  This is exactly why so many of us watch television with the volume turned down.

Curry had the better season.  LeBron said so.  In another week, we might be lucky enough to see which one of them has the better post-season.

 

12 thoughts on “Playoff thoughts: NBA edition

  1. I get the feeling the Raptors have bitten off more than they can chew against the Cavaliers. Meanwhile , the series between the Thunder and Warriors has gotten real interesting with their series tied at one game apiece.

    Way to go LeBron, having signed your $1 billion dollar deal with Nike but you’re still peeved at Steph Curry winning the NBA League MVP by a unanimous vote . LBJ is proving to be a classless ba$tard .

    Check out the new ode and let me know what you think.

  2. Rob Hennigan and Alex Martins as the top-two personnel executives inside the Orlando Magic organization are about as clueless as they come. The team has no real depth to it , they can’t play defense at all. Who would you say was the best all round player on their roster ?

    Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier are good , but they need to provide more support to Nikola Vucevic , the best player on the team by far. Hennigan and Martins are not in the know , when it comes to real basketball acumen and the Orlando Magic now need to go out and hire a real general manager with acumen . The candidates they have seen for the coaching vacancy with the exception of Frank Vogel, have been an absolute joke. Who will they think of next ?

    Professional sports in Central Florida continues to be lame and laughable to say the very least. About the only thing of real interest at the moment is the news concerning the Tampa Bay Lightning and that’s if you’re actually interested in hockey (NHL) ?

  3. Never-mind the NBA Playoffs , how’s that Knicks’ head coaching vacancy search coming along ? I am surprised you haven’t been a approached by Phil Jackson for the position ? I was under the impression you were both on a first name basis and close to each other ? I guess the $5 million year tag on the position, wasn’t enough of an inducement to head to the Big Apple ?

  4. MVP, schmemVP. LeBron has plenty of those…His motivation is a ring for the pathetic pro-sports city of Cleveland and revenge for Curry & GS waxing him last year. Some dopey reporter stirring up shit should just help the fire that much more. Well, that and he has Kyrie and Love healthy now. Should GS get past OKC (not a given), we’ll watch it play out because the Cavs advancing IS a given. (Barring injury)

    Happy to have Luke and the #2 pick in LA. Things are looking up in LaLaLand for a change.

    Which reminds me…David Stern is a fag.

  5. The Raptors are outmatched, Al. Plus the Cavs are clicking on all cylinders.

    And what’s up with Lowry leaving the bench during game time to collect his thoughts? Have you ever heard of anything like that before?

    Personally, I think the Magic’s problem is with leadership at the top. If RDV were in any way interested in putting together a winning team, it would have been done by now. Hennigan was supposed to come in a put this team on the right track. That isn’t even close to happening.

    And if Phil Jackson wants me to coach the Knicks, I’d do it gladly. I’d have that ship turned around in no time.

  6. So, Bleed, assuming things stay the course, how heavy of an underdog do you think Cleveland will be against Golden State?

    I was hoping to get a nice number on that series but they way they’re playing, I’m not too sure that’s going to happen.

  7. Course altered.

    Golden state has it’s hands full with OKC right now…That series can go either way. They need to focus on that before worrying about any odds vs the Cavs.

    Cavs meantime dropped game 3…Though, I don’t think we’re likely to see another loss vs Toronto after that wake up call. I wouldn’t put money on it, but I still think the Cavs take that series pretty easily.

    Personally, I think any one of those 3 squads has as good a chance as any.

  8. Bleed…

    Toronto was a six-and-a-half point DOG tonight on their home floor. I guess Vegas thought Game Three was a fluke or at least thought that bettors would think Game Three was a fluke.

    I cashed in on them moneyline.

    Not long ago, you’d have to lay money on Golden State to win a title. You can now get them at +135.

    That still seems like a pretty smart bet to me. I just hope I don’t get kicked in the groin for it. #Draymond

  9. Congrats bro, I certainly didn’t see that coming.
    That’s why they play the games.

    Looking forward to GS/OKC tonight…But I’ll keep my NostraDUMBass trap shut this time.

  10. We shall see.

    I took Cleveland minus the twelve tonight. Paid off.

    Tomorrow night in Oakland will be interesting.

    Thoughts?

    On a side note, Joakim says he wants out of Chicago. Let’s say his former college coach woos him to come play in OKC. How about that for a fearsome threesome!

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