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Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Playoffs Preview

nbaMy favorite time of year is among us as the NBA Playoffs kick off tomorrow afternoon.  This has been quite a crazy season for the NBA with new teams, (Rockets, Nuggets, Warriors, Nets) emerging as contenders and some of our perennial postseason mainstays, (Mavericks, 76ers, Jazz) find themselves watching from home with the rest of us.  Regardless of who takes the hardwood, (insert joke here), we are sure to get some great competition and I am sure there will be an upset or two that will have critics and gamblers both up in arms.  Here is a breakdown of how the Sports Debaters feel the first round will go down.

Heat over Bucks

Heat over Bucks

Knicks over Celtics

Knicks over Celtics

Pacers over Hawks

Pacers over Hawks

Nets over Bulls

Nets over Bulls

Thunder over Rockets

Thunder over Rockets

Spurs over Lakers

Spurs over Lakers

Nuggets over Warriors

Nuggets over Warriors

Clippers over Grizzlies

Clippers over Grizzlies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heat vs. Bucks

I won’t waste too much time on this one.  The Heat have the best team in the NBA and the best player in world to go with it.  Lebron James has a huge point to make and that is to let his critics, which there shouldn’t be many of anymore, know that last year was not a fluke.  If you want to be better than Jordan you are going to have to get 5 more of those nice shinny things for your fingers that they give you with that beautiful gold trophy.  The Bucks don’t stand a shot in hell and if Milwaukee’s sub-.500 record is any indication of how this series will go then the Heat will have plenty of time to prepare for their second round matchup.  We are predicting the easy sweep for Miami in this one.

Series:  Heat 4-0

meloKnicks vs. Celtics

What has already been a storied rivalry is about to get more intense then ever.  Between the horrific Boston Bombings on top of the altercation between Melo and Garnett in the beginning of the year, this series has a shit load of emotional baggage entering the first round.  Boston and New York have historic rivalries in pretty much every sport and competition, so when these two cities meet in a postseason it is nothing short of bananas.  This Knicks won the regular season series against Boston 3-1 and they look to carry their current hot streak into the playoffs.  With Rondo out with his torn ACL and Melo playing better then he ever has, I expect the Knicks to be able to win their first playoff series in over a decade.

Series:  Knicks 4-1

georgePacers vs. Hawks

The Indiana Pacers started this season on fire.  They seemed to be able to shut down any offense with their stingy defense and it really seemed as if they could solidify themselves as the second best team in the East.  Fast forward to today and the Pacers ended the season very sloppy and they have a lot of negative momentum entering the postseason.  Having said that, the only team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs that has looked worse than the Pacers in the final month would have to be their first round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks.  They will definitely deny it, but the Hawks tanked the end of the season just so they wouldn’t have to face the Heat in the second round.  Don’t you worry Hawks fans because you will not have a second round to stress about.

Series:  Pacers 4-2

deronNets vs. Bulls

The Brooklyn Nets entered this season with extremely high expectations due to their owner guaranteeing a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in their first year in Brooklyn.  They did have a fairly impressive regular season and have the honor of hosting the nitty gritty Rose-less Bulls in the first round.  This will be a tough battle for both sides and the entire series will come down to 3 points; 1) Will Deron Williams keep up this amazing stretch that he is currently on?  2)  Will Brook Lopez be able to prove that he is the best offensive center in the East? and 3)  Will Nate Robinson be able to shoot 60%+ from the floor while running a fluid offense?  Luckily for the Nets, I think the answers to those 3 questions are Yes, Yes and No!  Expect this series to be close but I feel that the Nets will have the honor of losing to the Heat in round numero dos.

Series:  Nets 4-3

durantThunder vs. Rockets

All season long there have been endless debates on whether the Harden deal was good or bad for the Thunder.  One thing is for sure, it was definitely good for Houston.  The Rockets boasted one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA and it was 100% due to the fact that James Harden separated himself as one of the leagues elite players.  Sure Lin, Parsons and Asik all played important roles, but Harden put the Rockets on his back and helped them just sneak into that eighth spot in the West.  Harden is going to try and prove the Thunder organization wrong as he will try and upset them in the first round, but the dominant scoring duo of Durant and Westbrook will prove far to lethal for the Rockets to handle.  I do feel that Houston will be able to squeak one victory out of this series tho.

Series:  Thunder 4-1

duncanSpurs vs. Lakers

If Sunday’s matchup between these two teams is any indication of how this series will go, we are in store for an instant classic.  Without Kobe, the Lakers seem to be playing with a new sense of physicality and a whole new game plan.  The inside-out game that the Lakers have gone to these past 2 games is really proving to be effective.  Both Dwight and Pau have each lead their own respective teams in the playoffs and they seemed poised to give the Spurs a run for their money this year.  Some people are calling me crazy with this prediction but i feel that this series will be going into 7 games and while I do feel that the Spurs will pull it out with their home court advantage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way.

Series:  Spurs 4-3

lawsonNuggets vs. Warriors

The Denver Nuggets have been the silent killers this year as they have quietly inched their way into the tough fought for third seed in the West.  Denver’s best trait throughout this season was their home court dominance (38-3).  Even with Danilo Gallinari going down for the season with a torn ACL, the Nuggets still have a ridiculously solid rotation top to bottom.  The matchup I will be watching in this series is the battle between Curry and Lawson.  These two young dynamic point guards is going to be the deciding factor in the series.  While Curry has one of the smoothest strokes in the game, Lawson has developed into one of the best all-around PG’s there is.  The Warriors have had a great season and their head coach, Mark Jackson, may very well take home Coach of the Year honors, but the Nuggets are too deep and too good at home.

Series:  Nuggets 4-2

griffinClippers vs. Grizzlies

In this repeat matchup from last years first round between the 4 and 5 seeds in the West, we are sure to get our money’s worth.  The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to seek revenge for their game 7 loss at home last year to the Clippers.  Now that the Grizzlies got rid of their top scorer and go to guy at the end of games, who are they going to turn to at the end of a close game?  I’ll tell you who; no one!  I think that the Grizzlies over performed all season long and now that the playoffs are here, I feel that the Clippers will show why this is their best team in franchise history.  I expect Griffin and Jordan to dominate Marc Gasol and Randolph all series long.  Chris Paul is going to have a field day with Mike Conley Jr as well.  Don’t expect to see this series go to 7.

Series:  Clippers 4-2

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Midway Through the NBA Season

seasonThe first half of the NBA season has been quite a wild ride.  There have been the typically predictable outcomes, like Miami leading the Eastern Conference and the West being led by the Thunder and Spurs, but who would have predicted this far into the season that the powerhouse Lakers would be the laughing stock of the league.  We have seen more injuries this year than I have ever witnessed in all my time following basketball and with the trade deadline quickly approaching every team is making their final panic moves to prepare for their end-of-the-season runs for the playoffs.  Here is a quick recap of where players and teams stand so far and what I feel is going to happen next.

melo paulMVP Race:  The obvious front runners for the MVP crown through the first half of the NBA season are perennial favorites Lebron James and Kevin Durant.  Lebron is having just an unreal year with the 4th highest PPG (26.5) in the league and he is also filling the rest of the stat sheet with 8.3 RPG and 7.1 APG.  His most incredible stat in my opinion is the fact that he is shooting an astonishing 55% from the field when his career average is only 48%.  Durant is leading the league in scoring (29.6 PPG) and has led the Thunder the the NBA’s second best record (34-11).     The two players that are trailing these two superstars, but not by far in my opinion, are Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.  Carmelo is having a career year leading the Knicks to the second best record in the East and only 1.5 games behind the Heat.  Paul has help build relevance around a franchise that has been completely irrelevant throughout their existence.  Any of these four players could win the MVP without too much argument but I think it will all come down to which players team finishes the season the strongest.

knicks heatConference Titles:  The Eastern Conference is hands down the weaker of the two conferences.  That being said, I still feel that the NBA Champions will come out of the East…maybe some biased there or maybe just sensibly sticking with the returning champs.  As of right now the Miami Heat hold a 1.5 game lead over my New York Knicks for Eastern Conference supremacy.  Even though the Knicks haven’t been this good in a while, most analysts (like myself) picked the Knicks to finish 2nd or 3rd this season with their successful off season.  What most people didn’t predict is that the Boston Celtics would be clinging onto the 8th seed in the East, and with the loss of Rondo for the year they will most likely fall out of that position as well.  The surprises in the East are the Chicago Bulls, who hold onto the 3rd spot sans Derrick Rose, and the Brooklyn Nets, who since the firing of Avery Johnson have gone 13-5 for the once choked out PJ Carlesimo (If you don’t get that joke look it up), have really been showing that they are a top tier team in the East.

westThe Western Conference is a whole other beast.  There is no rhyme or reason to anything that is happening out West right now.  The Spurs are once again defying the laws of age by holding the NBA’s best record (37-11) while the Lakers have shocked the world with a sub-.500 record this late in the season.  The Thunder have been holding strong and the Clippers are proving that all of their recent draft picks as well as their Free Agent spending is truly paying off.  The Grizzlies have established themselves as the scrappy team that needs no superstar to be successful.  I feel the biggest surprises in the West are the the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, the Portland Trailblazers and especially the Golden State Warriors.  All four of these teams are surprisingly over .500 and they all have a solid chance of making it in one of the bottom 4 seeds in the West.  I do beleive that the Lakers will turn this slow start around and finish with the 6th or 7th spot in the West but I think the Conference for the most part is wide open for the taking.

del negroThe 2nd Half of the Season:  Before the season started I predicted that the Lakers would be facing off with the Heat in the NBA Finals.  With the D’Antoni cursed Lakers playing like absolute garbage I am now changing my prediction to the Heat versus the Clippers.  Most people are going with the Thunder but I think that the depth that the Clippers have as well as their veteran leadership is just the perfect recipe for success.  So technically my prediction for an LA vs. Miami Finals is still a possibility   I don’t even think that the Heat are a 100% lock to make the Finals.  The Knicks have had stretches of inconsistency lately but they have proven that with a fully healthy roster that they can beat anyone in the league.  If the Knicks meet the Heat, whom they have beaten twice already this season in blowouts, in a seven game series, I do beleive that they will have a chance to dethrone King James and company.  I also wouldn’t sleep on the Bulls because once Rose comes back healthy they will be considered a top 5 NBA team once again.

rookieAs for the end of the year awards, I feel that Vinny Del Negro deserves Coach of the Year for how he has the Clippers playing.  I assume Lebron will win his 4th MVP but I would love to see Carmelo finally get one.  Rookie of the Year will go to Damian Lillard and there are no questions about that.  As for 6th man of the year, it’s a close battle between Jamal Crawford and JR Smith, but I think Crawford has the slight edge.

I have loved every minute of the first half of this NBA season and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.


The Current NBA Season in a Nutshell

nba

I B N NBA FOOL!

An 82 game NBA season can have a lot of ups and downs and can often be very unpredictable.  While a lot of people don’t put to much emphasis on the early season, I find every game as important as the next and think that you can see a teams true colors right from the get go.  I have always had a huge passion for NBA basketball.  I mean I am such an NBA nerd that my family was introduced at my Bar Mitzvah to the “We Are the New York Knicks” theme song.  So in this article I have decided to take the majority of things that have been happening around the NBA through the first fifth of the season and break it all down.  There have been some predictable outcomes so far but there have also been some great new surprises.

knicks grizz

So ready for the dance that we can’t even wait! Oh really? College?? Okay, let’s just pretend you didn’t see this.

I’ll start with the topic I am most proud to talk about; the standings.  While everyone could have predicted that the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs would be among the leaders in the their respective conferences, no one would have been able to foresee who would be on the top of the East and West at this point in the season.  Right now, my New York Knicks are on top of the Eastern Conference with a 12-4 record while the Memphis Grizzlies sit on top the the Western Conference with an NBA best 13-3 record.  Both of these teams have come out of the gates determined to place themselves among the perennially elite teams.  Other surprises thus far include the great starts by the Brooklyn Nets (11-6) and the consistently awful Golden State Warriors (10-7).  The Nets and Warriors are two franchises that haven’t seen much success in their past but this year seems to be a redeeming light for them both.  On the negative end we have our usual bottom dwellers like the Wizards, Raptors, Kings and Hornets but I am positive that no one expected the Lakers to be an abysmal 8-10 or even the Rose-less Bulls, who had the best record in the NBA last year, at 8-8.  The Lakers fired Coach Brown and hired the much maligned Coach D’Antoni, who is off to an embarrassing 3-5 start.  He might be more hated in LA then he was in NY and I know Phil Jackson is just sitting back laughing.

vazquez

Greivis Vásquez de Josué Rodríguez <– hogar nombre mi culo!

anderson

Screw Anderson Cooper – this is an Anderson Keeper!

On to my favorite aspect of the game; the statistics.  If I started by asking who are the top 4 scorers in the NBA, I am pretty sure that most people would be able to guess it correctly even if they haven’t been following this season too closely.  Kobe, Melo, Durant and Lebron always find themselves among the scoring leaders but the real surprise is the 80 million dollar man who now ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, James Harden.  Harden is proving that he is an elite scorer when he’s not shadowed by Durant and Westbrook.  When it comes to dropping dimes, no one in the league does it as well as the man I said would finish this season as the NBA MVP; Rajon Rondo.  Rondo is averaging a staggering 12.9 assists per game and had a ridiculous streak of 37 straight games with at least 10 assists until he decided to body check Kris Humphries Kardashian which resulted in him getting ejected.  The surprise name in the top 5 in assists has to be Greivis Vasquez.  You might be asking yourself who the fuck is that.  He is a 2nd year Venezuelan man out of Maryland and plays for the lowly Hornets.  Vasquez will soon be a household name and can be connecting with the Unibrow for years to come.  There are a lot teams that don’t value rebounding the way I think they should.  I mean my Knicks have the best record in the East but they are among the bottom 5 teams in rebounding so there are ways to win without it.  Having said that, I am a firm believer that if you want a Championship you need to rebound.  Someone with a team that stands a chance this year needs to trade for Anderson Varejao, who is averaging an NBA leading 15.4 RPG, because I haven’t seen a player attack the glass the way he does since Dennis Rodman.  Zach Randolph is 2nd in the NBA with 13.3 RPG and he is doing most of his damage on the offensive boards.  I feel Randolph has not been getting his proper accolades because in my mind he is the main reason the Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA.

The final topic I want to talk about is my picks for the end of season awards thus far.

rondo

A Rondo Round we go

MVP:  Rajon Rondo – I picked him before the season started and I am sticking with him for the time being.  Rondo is averaging 13 PPG, 13 APG, 5 RPG and he is shooting an impressive 50% from the field.  The Celtics aren’t nearly as good as they used to be, but Rondo is showing signs that he is only getting better every time on the court.  For my Knicks fans, Melo was #2 on my list for MVP so far.

lillard

Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you.

ROY:  Damian Lillard – I talked about this rookie out of Weber State before the season started stating that he is the 2nd best rookie behind Anthony “Unibrow” Davis.  Since Unibrow has been plagued with injuries, Lillard is my current front runner for rookie of the year.  Damien is averaging 19.1 PPG, good for 11th in the NBA, to go along with 3.3 RPG and 6.3 APG.  His connection with Lamarcus Aldridge will only get stronger and Portland will be a relevant team once again some time soon.

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The best Crawford out of LA since Mommie Dearest!

6th Man:  Jamal Crawford – The 12 year veteran out of Michigan is arguably off to his best start of his career and is one of the main reasons why the LA Clippers are an impressive 11-6.  Crawford is averaging nearly 18 PPG off the bench and every time he enters the game he brings the type of electricity that makes teams more fearful of the reserves than the actual starting lineup.  With more consistency, JR Smith can give Crawford a run for his money.

lionel

He He He He. Bear with me while I chortle. Get it? BEAR with me?

Coach of the Year:  Lionel Hollins – His Grizzlies record of 13-3 speaks for itself, but the former Portland Trailblazers star has his team buying into his philosophy that is perplexing any opponent that faces them.  Grizzlies are super efficient on both the offensive and defensive ends and Hollins is the main reason why.  My boy Mike Woodson would definitely be second on my list for COY followed by the Nets Avery Johnson.

It’s been a great season so far, especially for my Knicks, and I look forward to what the nest few months will bring.  I’ll make sure to keep everyone posted.


Who Will Win it All This Year?

Every season the NBA General Managers and front office’s get surveyed and vote on the regular season awards, trophies and titles that will be given out throughout the year.  This is an anonymous survey and no teams can vote for themselves or their players.  The most intriguing vote is obviously who will take home the grand prize of NBA Champion.  This season, there was an overwhelming dominance in votes for the Miami Heat to repeat as champions.  70% of executives voted for the Heat to win it all while the Lakers received 23% and the Thunder closed it out with 7%.  I know that Miami and the Thunder made it to the Finals last year and the Lakers had the biggest offseason of any team in the league, but does that make the 3 of them the only viable candidates to win the whole thing?  With teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs filled with quality veteran rosters and new young and developing teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and even the Brooklyn Nets, I feel that there is a lot more competition out there than the NBA executives seem to think.  I don’t feel this season is so cut and dry and I would like to see who everyone out there feels will win it all this year.

 

 


Fined For Flopping

I’m like JC; sacrificing myself for my team and taking the punishment for their sins.

Even though “flopping” has become an NBA enigma over the past two years, it really has been around since the days of Celtics great, Frank Ramsey, and his famous flailing arms he used time and again.  While Ramsey might have been the first recognized “flopper” that the NBA had to offer, the true art of flopping wasn’t mastered until a scrawny big eared sharp shooter out of UCLA entered the league.  Growing up a die-hard Knicks fan, I had to suffer through many beatings by Reggie Miller.  While Miller will go down as one of the NBA’s greatest shooters of all-time, he will also be remembered as the best “flopper” ever.  Reggie made it an art form.  He was so good at deceiving the referees that it seemed towards the waning years of his career that he depended more on the foul line then on his natural-born talents of shooting.  Now, flopping has gotten way out of control in the NBA and it has taken from the integrity of the game.  NBA Commissioner, David Stern, and his crew have helped develop a rule that will fine guilty flopper’s and could even lead to a suspension.

Please just don’t hit me no more! Oh the humanity!

My favorite NBA personality, and former NBA head coach, Jeff Van Gundy, has been at the forefront of battling flopping and making it a penalized offense.  While Jeff has made exaggerated remarks claiming that he wanted players to be fined millions of dollars for these cowardly plays, really all he was trying to do was bring order back to the game.  Flopping has gotten so out of control, that is became distracting topics of debate on popular shows like Sportscenter, Mike and Mike, First Take and many other sports media platforms.  To me, it’s an extremely embarrassing thing when a player dives on the floor in attempt to deceive the referee and get a foul call, rather than manning up and just playing the game the way it was meant to be played.  Now, these dastardly acts will cost their makers a lot of money or even have them suspended for a period of time.

They moved so fast and hit me and ran! That’s why no one is near me – I can’t even tell if I’m on the floor or the ceiling.

While it’s nearly impossible to see every flop live, the NBA will put together a committee that will review accused flops days after the game and then announce whether or not a player has been hit with one of these fines.  Here is how the fines and possible suspension will go.

  • Violation 1: Warning
  • Violation 2: $5,000 fine
  • Violation 3: $10,000 fine
  • Violation 4: $15,000 fine
  • Violation 5: $30,000 fine
  • Violation 6 and above:  According to the NBA, “He will be subject to discipline that is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension.”

The judges loved your disco styling, but thought your dance steps were … oh, you’re playing basketball? Sorry.

I don’t agree with the first violation being a warning, because every player in the league knows when they are flopping, so that in itself should be enough warning.  I do like the fact that the NBA said they were going to do something about these outlandish flops and now they have.  While a lot of people have different definitions of what a flop actually is, the NBA released their statement today defining it:

OH MY GOD! Did you see that?! That big bad man pushed on me an’ he was shoving an’ then his breath was awful an’ … $5,000? Why?

“Flopping will be defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.”

Yeah that’s right – I’m gonna fly to the basket AND fall to the ground on the same move! I ain’t wasting time waiting for someone to come near me to foul me.

If this rule was intact in the 90’s, when Reggie was in his prime, I believe that Miller would be nearly bankrupt today.  That being said, I am very happy that the NBA has made moves to fix this epidemic and I have hope that there will be no more flopping soon enough.  We can celebrate this minor victory for the league once the season starts, but for now, enjoy this hilarious video of some of the greatest flops and flopper’s that the NBA has ever seen.


It’s About Damn Time, It’s About Damn Time!

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The long road to a championship, rode long by a champion.

NBA Rookie of the Year, 8-time NBA All-Star selection, 2008 Scoring Title, 3-time NBA MVP, and 6-time NBA All First Team selection would seem to be enough accolades to be considered one of the best ever.  Well, for Lebron James it wasn’t until last night when he led his Miami Heat to the NBA Title and picked up his first ever Championship ring and Finals MVP award.  The dark cloud that has been following over Lebron’s head since he decided to take his talents to South Beach has finally gone away and now the best player in the world can get the credit he deserves.  I can’t say I was rooting for James to win it, but as a basketball fan and they way he won it was absolutely remarkable.

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Over sounds of Thunder, the Heat lightning struck and burned

From the opening tip in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, James seemed determined to finish the series in Miami and not have to travel back to the most hostile environment in the NBA, OKC.  Fittingly, Miami’s first two points were from an emphatic slam by James and from that point on you just felt that his talents had finally surfaced in South Beach the way he promised his fans back in 2010.  Throughout the playoffs I was cheering against Miami for no other reason than I am a huge supporter of the underdog.  I mean I am a Mets, Knicks and Jets fan.  In this game, as the minutes slowly diminished and Miami was rapping up their rout of the Thunder, 121-106, I found myself smiling and slightly impressed with what Miami had accomplished.

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Double Check? No, I was just checking to make sure I didn’t wet myself from laughing!

There’s something to be said about winning a championship, but there is a lot more to be said about a team that wins a championship when most of the world is rooting against them.  As much as I would like to not give any credit to anyone except Lebron, I can’t.  This Championship run was a legitimate team effort.  From consistently strong games from Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, to surprising shooting performances from Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, there was really no chance for OKC.  The second that the Thunder developed a game plan, Miami seemed to have their counterattack ready to go.

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It was Miller time even before the celebrations began!

In the clinching game 5, Miami’s surprising star was non-other than “Sir Limps A Lot,” Mike Miller.  Like a robotic zombie, Miller limped up and down the court and just drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer.  Miller entered the game 0-3 from downtown, but after game 5 finished he was an astonishing 7-11 for the series.  For all you math whizzes out there, that means he went a lights out 7-8 from beyond the arc in an NBA Title clinching game…that is amazing!  I hate to say it but even Miami’s undeserving coach seemed to of run a few plays that actually looked like he knew what he was doing.  I find it remarkable that a team that has basically been together for 2 years waited till their final game of the NBA Finals to show the world their best stuff.

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Yeah – something even bigger than MY head and that shines as much as me.

Sure Miami won their second Championship ever as a franchise and it was a total team effort, but what the fans of basketball will always remember this series as is Lebron’s first title.  Now, will it be the first of many like Lebron promised us two years ago?  In my opinion I think it is.  If last night’s game, and all of the playoffs for that matter, is any indication of how Lebron’s game is improving then the rest of the world should step aside.  Michael Jordan didn’t win his first Championship until he was 28 and the now 27 year-old James has a platform to measure the rest of his career against.  Congratulations to the Miami Heat for winning the NBA Championship and a special congratulations to Lebron James for not only proving the haters wrong, but proving that he is the best player in the world.


Super Mario and the Heat Are One Game Away

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Big 3 look good, but Mario is the real chalmer.

It wasn’t Lebron James, it wasn’t Dwayne Wade and it wasn’t Chris Bosh, so who pushed the Miami Heat to a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 4 of the NBA Finals?  His name is Mario Chalmers and he was absolutely marvelous.  When the Heat were down and needed a place to turn, Mario took a note out of Russel Westbrook’s book and focused more on scoring rather than passing.  Now that is not typically the mentality you want from your starting point guard but there are many times when it is effective.  Chalmers scored 25 points which was only 1 point behind James for their team high.  There were times late in the game where Chalmers looked as dominant as he once did when he played for the Kansas Jayhawks.

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West broke without Westbrook

OKC came out to a blazing start and seemed to have complete control over the game.  Unfortunately for the Thunder, they really only had one player show up and that was Russel Westbrook.  Westbrook had a performance that I can only describe as one of the most impressive offensive outbursts I have ever seen in an NBA Finals game.  Russel had a stat line of 43 points, including 17 in the fourth, and 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  Westbrook’s PIC (Partner in Crime), Kevin Durant, seemed a little flat during the game and although he finished with 28 points he never seemed to make the big shot that shifted momentum back into the Thunder’s favor.  Sixth man of the year, James Harden, was pathetic all game and if he doesn’t turn it around then the Thunder have absolutely no chance to beat Miami Thursday.

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It took a while but I found the definition of Referee that seems to fit: “a person who is willing to testify to the character or capabilities of someone”. So not necessarily someone who judges play, but a character reference for Lebron.

Now I don’t like making excuses, especially in the Finals, but something is getting out of hand.  The refereeing in this series as well as every one of Lebron James’ series, has been inconsistent and unfair.  Westbrook had 43 points, he took 18 shots from within the painted area and seemed to get hacked nearly every time.  He accumulated 3 foul shots.  Lebron and Wade had 51 points combined, they took a total of 17 shots from within the painted area and got to the line 17 times.  That stat seems a little off because there is no way the calls can be that lopsided.  OKC went to the foul line the second most amount of times out of every team in the NBA during the regular season but only made it there 16 times in game 4.  That is a fucking joke because the refs seem to cradle Lebron James’ testicles in their hands as he hacks players without whistles on a regular basis.  Even my PIC, NYBobby, called me during the game to say he noticed what I and the basketball world have been saying all year.

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Despite obvious help from refs, James still manages to be the best B-baller on his own.

ESPN analyst Steven A. Smith has been criticizing the refereeing all playoffs long and said this morning that one of the reasons that Durant is getting the shit end of every call this series is because he is too skinny.  That really pisses me off because with that logic I should be in the NBA because my fat ass would be getting every call in my favor.  Now I will stop bitching about the refs and give some credit where credit is due.  Lebron James is the best player in the world.  He can dominate whenever he wants and in game 4 he even proved that he can score without being able to use his legs.  Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game that James was cramping because he was dehydrated.  Well Erik, maybe you should grab the man a cup of water once in a while because he is about to win you your first of many undeserved championships.  The series seems to be slipping away from OKC and now Thursday’s game will determine if these two teams are going to travel back to Oklahoma.  If OKC can win Thursday then its anyone’s series from there on.


The Fundamentals Are Not So Fun

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My, am I excited! This might really happen.

Last night was the perfect description of what Pat Riley and the Heat organization envisioned when they put together their team of all-stars in 2010.  Fluid ball movement and precision passing for easy baskets inside the paint is the only way Miami can succeed and they did it nearly flawlessly last night in their 91-85 victory.  Led by 29 points and 14 rebounds from James, Miami found different ways to hurt the Thunder throughout game 3 of the NBA Finals last night.   Wade, although he had a poor shooting performance, finished the game with 25 points and 7 boards and 7 assists, which was without question his best game of the Finals thus far.  Chris Bosh also provided his second straight double-double since being reinserted into the starting lineup that seems to have the Thunder flustered.

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This James was just not up to the task that the other James was.

So where did the Thunder go wrong last night?  Durant finished with a respectable 25 points with over 50% shooting, while Russel Westbrook added a hard-fought 19 points.  The key missing piece to the puzzle was James Harden.  The sixth man of the year shot a pathetic 2-10 from the floor and finished with a dismal 9 points.  The Thunder can not beat the Heat in Miami without the spark off the bench that has made them such a formidable team throughout the year.

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Not since Alan Ladd has a Shane been this heroic
[if you are not over 50 you probably don’t get this reference]

The loss might also be attributed to the fact that Shane Battier, Miami’s former sixth man but now starter, is having one of the best 3-point shooting Finals of all time.  Through the first three games of the series Battier has made at least four 3-pointers.  No one in the NBA has done that in four straight finals games since Dennis “3D” Scott did it back in 1995 for Florida’s other team, the Orlando Magic.  It’s amazing because Battier is coming off career lows for field goal percentage as well as 3-point percentage, but he has absolutely been Miami’s x-factor this series.  I’m sure NYBobby is thrilled with my shout out for Shane based solely on the fact that I am a UNC Tar Heels supporter, while he goes for their rivals the Duke Blue Devils, Battier’s alma mater.

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Erik?

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Erik?

Maybe the reason that the Thunder lost isn’t because Miami’s “Big 3” got their shit together, or because James Harden was building a house with his bricks last night, or because Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra has a striking resemblance to a Tarsier Monkey from his native lands of the Philippines (I don’t know why I feel the need to trash him, but I do).  Maybe the reason the Thunder lost is based solely upon their lack of execution when it comes to basketball fundamentals.  OKC shot an out-of-character 15-24 from the foul line and committed 6 fourth quarter turnovers.  They also finished the game with a minuscule 11 assists on 33 field goals made.  While the Thunder went most of the season lacking an assist man, they were also the best foul shooting team and they committed the second fewest turnovers, so these two stats are inexcusable.  If OKC has any hope of making it out of Miami alive then they better get their act together. And maybe Scott Brooks shouldn’t ever have his two best players, Westbrook and Durant, on the bench for the same time for 5 minutes like he did at the end of the third quarter where Miami made their comeback.

P.S.  NBA referees please know that it is acceptable to call fouls on Lebron James!