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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The other team in Florida might be named the Magic and the former NBA great and current analyst might be called Magic, but what Lebron James did last night in Boston was pure Magic. With 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in Miami’s crucial 98-79 romp of Boston, Lebron put himself in the record books as one of the only two players in playoff history to boast those types of numbers. The other man was a guy called Wilt Chamberlain…have you heard of him? At halftime, with a 13 point lead over Boston, Lebron told ESPN reporter Doris Burke that he did not plan on coming out of this game at all. James shot 19 of 26 from the field and finished four points shy of his playoff career-high, while only sitting for the final 3 minutes of the game because it was long over.
I know I rag on Lebron a lot, along with the rest of the world, but James set that shit up for himself. He played with America’s minds and decided to go to a powerhouse stacked team rather than have a franchise built around him. Regardless of if you like him in Miami or not, his decision was cowardly. When I rip Lebron on the regular, it is usually about his lack of finishing out the fourth quarter strong. Now James might have done the majority of his scoring and stat building in the first 3 quarters, but to me that was a great strategy. He didn’t give himself a chance to blow it in the final minutes. James was smart enough to completely take over the game for the first 3 quarters so he wouldn’t have to worry about closing crunch time minutes. All jokes aside, Lebron put on one of the most dominant playoff game performances I have ever seen…and it made me sick. Saturday night in Miami should be a good one for the fans.
It must be tough on the Boston faithful to see their Celtics lose on their home court like this. Even their mayor seems to really be supporting their team and star players “KJ” and “Hondo,” as he has with other Boston sports teams. Take a look:
“KG” and “Rajon Rondo” were not Boston’s problem last night. I would have to take credit for yet another curse I inflicted on a player. Paul “The Truth” Pierce had his worst game in the 2012 playoffs with a pathetic 4-18 shooting and a minimal 9 points. The aging Celtics finally showed their age last night as they looked sluggish up and down the court while James absolutely took advantage of their spotty play all night. I rarely, if ever, pray for anything Boston but I would love to see them put up a good fight Saturday in Miami. Here are the highlights from last night’s game:
Maybe Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics finally read our website because when we did our Eastern Conference Finals preview, we stated that outside of coaching, the Celtics had one huge advantage over the Heat. That advantage is named Kevin Garnett. Boston went to him early and often with the games results speaking for themselves. The Celtics went on to beat the Miami Heat in Boston last night 101-91, led by Kevin Garnett’s 24 points and 11 rebounds on 10-16 shooting.
After getting fouled hard, Garnett laid on his back waiting for his teammates to help him get up. Instead, Garnett rolled over onto his stomach and began doing push-ups on his knuckles.
“I’m getting crap about my form, but I want people to know it’s because it was on my knuckles,” Garnett joked in the locker room after leading Boston to victory. “That’s old school. My uncle taught me to do push-ups on my knuckles. That’s some Army-Navy stuff.”
It’s easy to joke around when you win big the way Boston did last night, but the fact is that they are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and Miami is not a team who loses often. Rondo had another impressive game with 21 points and 10 assists, while Boston’s bench did something they were yet to do this series…show up! Role players Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling scored a combined 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting, but it wasn’t their points that Boston needed. These two athletes provided constant pressure on Dwayne Wade and Lebron James and really were the difference makers in the game. Boston looked great last night but they need to play with a level of consistency if they have any hopes of making this a series. First, they have to focus on winning Sunday in Boston.
In 2008, the Boston Celtics put together an incredible team with 3 future Hall of Famers to win the Championship. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen played their hearts out while they all tried to win their first ring. When Garnett and Allen signed with the Celtics in the off-season there were a lot of expectations placed on their team to win it all, which is never a good thing…ask Miami. What people didn’t talk about was this young and athletic point guard from Kentucky that was helping lead the Celtics to their first title since Larry Bird brought their last one home in 1986. (If it wasn’t for Bill Buckner, 1986 would have been a perfect year for the city of Boston.)
The biggest stigma placed on Boston in that 2008 season was their supposed lack of a point guard. Little did everyone know that they were sitting on a goldmine. Rajon Rondo quickly quieted all the skeptics with his fearless driving to the hole and smooth, precision passing. Fast-forward over 4 years later and now the stigma has been placed on “The Old Big 3,” while Rondo is now considered the team’s sole savior. In 2008, if Allen, Pierce and Garnett shot a pathetic 16 of 42 from the field and combined for a dismal 44 points, I can guarantee that they would not have won a playoff game. Well, that is exactly what happened last night in Boston’s 85-75 game 7 win against the offensively challenged Philadelphia 76ers. There was one reason and one reason alone that Boston won last night’s series clinching game, and his name is Rajon Rondo. Rondo posted a triple-double for his third time in this seasons playoffs and his eighth ever in the post-season. These playoff triple-doubles put Rondo in an incredibly elite class of players, tied with Oscar Robertson and trailing only players that you might have heard of like Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain for most ever.
As the 21st pick of the NBA draft in 2006 by the Phoenix Suns, there were not many expectations that came with Rajon Rondo into the league. Phoenix actually shipped him to Boston for a protected future top 10 pick. Turns out that wasn’t the best move. Rondo has quickly established himself as a premier PG and is arguably the best passer in the game. His next match-up against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals is going to be a HUGE stage for him to prove his prowess.
Although I hate all things Boston, especially the Celtics, I think I hate “Team Flop-a-Lot,” a.k.a Miami Heat, much more. I would like to see the veterans on Boston pull out a win in this series, but my professional opinion is that Miami will win this series in 6. You can read about why in my Eastern Conference Finals preview article tomorrow.
They might not be the teams you support and they might not be the teams you want to watch, but there is no denying how exciting the two NBA playoff games were last night. Basketball fundamentals are what won the games last night with foul shots and defense playing major roles. First, there were the Boston Celtics proving that age does matter against the much younger and faster 76ers. That was followed with Kobe being Kobe and completely taking over the fourth quarter of an intense and important game against the Thunder. Both home teams ended up winning close games in the waning minutes with support from their emotional fans.
In the opening minutes of the game, the Celtics came out firing on all cylinders while Philadelphia struggled to hit a shot. Rajon Rondo was getting his teammates the ball with the same efficiency he did in the regular season that led to him leading the NBA in APG. It didn’t look like Philly stood a chance when the game reached halftime and they were trailing 46-31. Well, whatever coach Collins said to his team at halftime seemed to work. Boston quickly extended their lead to 18 and looked like they were going to pull away with a 3-1 series advantage when something seemed to click in the minds of all the Philadelphia players. Shots started to fall and Philly quickly shrank the deficit and tied the game late in the fourth quarter. That’s when they turned to their most inconsistent offensive player, but team captain, Andre Iguodala. With less then 90 seconds left and the game tied at 83, Iguodala pulled back and drained a jumper over Ray Allen. After a defensive stop, Lou Williams drove down the court and found a wide open Iguodala at the 3-point line and…swish!
“That’s not the first time he found me in that same exact spot,” Iguodala said. “Just not as big a platform as it was tonight. But it worked out for us.”
It worked out and more. The comeback victory was the biggest blown lead in the Boston Celtics playoff history. Now the series is tied 2-2 going back to Boston and it seems like the momentum is on the side of the 8th seeded 76ers.
If there was still a question as to who is the most clutch player in the game is it was answered last night. Kobe Bryant proved why he will be a first ballot hall of fame inductee and why he will go down as one of the greatest players of all time. The Lakers shot a collective 41 of 42 from the foul line, which is the second best free throw shooting performance with at least 30 attempts in playoff history, behind the Mavericks shooting 49 of 50 back in 2003 against the Spurs. Two nights prior, the Lakers blew a 7 point lead in the final 2 minutes in Oklahoma to fall behind the Thunder 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. In this game, the Lakers trailed by 5 with 3 minutes left and depended on clutch play from Kobe to finish out the game with a win. Bryant finished the game 18-18 from the line and 36 points total while leading his team to a 99-96 victory. The two teams meet again tonight in the Lakers first back-to-back playoff games since the last strike-shortened season back in 1999-00.Lets hope that every playoff game from here on out are just as exciting as these two were.