Tag Archives: Winning

Fear The Blue

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan describes his show as being ” a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” For those of you who haven’t seen Breaking Bad (what is wrong with you? Watch it now!) it is the story of a meek and mild mannered chemistry teacher named Walter White who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, decides to use his science knowledge to cook meth.

Somewhere between the beginning and the end, Walter White becomes bad. Like really, really, bad. All at once you realize this sad sack of a man, this humble school teacher is the main villain of the show and you’re not quite sure when that happened.

Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers. They started the season in average fashion. Literally. They were a .500 ball club during the month of April winning 13 games and losing 13 games. They were worse the next month posting 10-17 record, which is on par with the Houston Astros. The awful, awful Astros. They were also average in the month of June. A smidgen better but still basically average.

But July? July was the month they put it all together. The Los Angeles Dodgers achieved a National League best 19-7 record. It looked like Mr. Chips was becoming Scarface right before our eyes.  There was no stopping them now. The Dodgers were (and still are) on a roll. They have won, wait for it…41 of their last 50 games. That is so ridiculous and incredible I’m nearly prompted to invent a word but I have too much respect for both myself and the english language.

This start, as it always does and should in baseball, with pitching.

Pitching 

I hope that it’s no secret at this point that Dodger’s ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. It’s not even close to debatable. Kershaw’s ERA (earned run average) is an astoundingly low 1.80, which is the lowest in the MLB. This year he’s making a strong case for a second Cy Young award to add to his trophy case. His low ERA combined with his league best WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) 0.85, is solid proof that if you are a batter facing Clayton Kershaw, the odds are very greatly against you hitting the ball, much less getting on base. Clayton’s 4-seam fastball is the nail in the coffin for most batters.

Zack Greinke is my favorite pitcher, and not just because he’s a top 15 pitcher. He’s my favorite because he’s tough. Zack Greinke will never back down from a fight.  Which he clearly demonstrated when a pitch got a way from him and hit Carlos Quentin of the Padres earlier this season. An enraged Quentin, charged the mound, and in the ensuing tangle caused Greinke’s collar bone to fracture. Zack Greinke did not back down. Which wasn’t great for the team at the time since they missed they way he retired batters and dominated games with his  fastball. However, the Dodgers have back their 2.81 ERA man , and he’s got 12 wins for the team.

How do you spell underrated? You spell it Hyun-Jin Ryu. How do you pronounce it? Don’t ask me that. What I do know is that the young pitcher from Korea, Hyun-Jin has a 95 mph fastball that has location to back up it’s speed. That 2.85 ERA is no joke either.  The man can pitch and when he does, the Dodgers roll.

Batting

There’s nothing scarier than a well rounded team thus, the scariest thing about the Dodgers is that they can pitch and hit. The Dodger’s team batting average is .268 and their on base percentage is .331, making them top 5 in both statistical categories. They are also 15th in the MLB in RBIs (runs batted in) with 496 so far this season. This makes them a nightmare to pitch against despite the fact that they don’t hit a lot of home runs,  because they are always generating points.

If the Dodgers could be reduced down to one man on the team, that man would be Andre Ethier. He’s the prototypical 2013 Dodger. He’s got 45 RBIs this season, gets on base pretty frequently with an OBS of .361 (which is a Dodger season high) and he’s batting .288, so by all accounts a good season. Ethier is extremely consistent. He’s as rock solid as they come and in fact, has been his entire career.

Adrian Gonzalez celebrates the winning run. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Adrian Gonzalez in his first season as a Dodger has been the team’s most reliable offensive threat. He’s batting .299, making him one of the best hitters in the league right now. His patience at the plate is on of the key reasons for this. Gonzalez, to be blunt, just knows when to swing. He’s used his knack for making contact with the ball to get players in scoring position home. He’s got 78 RBIs tying him for 16th in the league. The Dodgers received Gonzalez last year in a trade with the Red Sox in an attempt to win right away. I’d say it worked out just fine.

There are rookies and then there are super rookies. You know the guys; RG3, Lebron James, and Mike Trout. Athletic freaks of nature that are incredibly good at what they do. So, I present for you consideration, Yasiel Puig.  On June 2nd the Dodgers called up their 22 year old rookie from their double-A team, the Chattanooga Lookouts. In just 70 games Puig is looking like a star. He’s already got 12 home runs this season, he bats .346 and is a quality outfielder. Already. Very rarely does this guy look like a rookie.

Matt Kemp deserves a mention. He got injured July 21st and should return sometime in September according to Manager Don Mattingly. Kemp was having another solid season for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp’s return may complicate a few things for the Dodgers though. With Kemp they have to find a way for 4 outfielders to play, but there are only 3 outfield positions. With Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford playing at the level that they are, Don Mattingly will have to figure out what to do with this team.

Are the Dodgers the best team? The Braves might have something to say about that. There’s no denying it though. The Dodgers are baseball’s hottest team. Los Angeles can hit with the best of them and, pitch better than the best of them. They’re dangerous title contenders, and are not to be taken lightly. Watch your back Atlanta. Scarface has arrived.

 

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2011 NBA Draft: The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain Weird

I should have done this a while back, but I was out of town and had some business to attend to. The draft was intriguing(well, the first part anyway) there were surprises and twists. That being said none of this is going to change the fact that this draft class is one of weakest in recent years. As a result teams tried to do the best they could with what they had, but let’s face it, they didn’t exactly have a lot to work with. This however is sports. Someone’s got to win and someone’s got to lose. Let’s start off with . . .

The Winners . . .

Like the Utah Jazz for instance. The Jazz selected Enes Kanter from Kentucky (though he didn’t actually play any games for Kentucky) with the third pick. Kanter is a skilled big man with strength and solid moves in the post. Listed at 6’11” Kanter also adds length to a Jazz team that could stand to use it. Utah also selected Colorado’s Alec Burks with the twelfth pick. Burks is a skilled ball handler with good court awareness. He’s most dangerous when running the floor and is a good rebounder for a guard. While Burks is good at attacking the basket, a skill needed by the Jazz, he won’t be mistaken for a solid shooter anytime soon.

I’m proud to say that the Washington Wizards definitely put on a good show at the draft by making smart decisions. As a Wizards fan I couldn’t be happier, but I’m not ready to say that the incompetence of the past is behind us just yet. With the sixth pick in the draft, the Wizards took Jan Vesely from Partizan Belgrade (Serbia). Vesely is 6’11” and has a motor like you wouldn’t believe. He’s athletic and extremely active. He can also dunk with the best of them and may prove to be a fantastic running mate for John Wall. The Wizards also adressed some defensive needs by drafting Florida State’s Chris Singleton.  Singleton is an extremely active defender who doesn’t let opponents off easy. He runs the floor well and gets back on defense. His offensive capabilities are limited however and leave much to be desired. In the second round Washington adressed the issue of a backup point guard when they opted to draft Butler’s Shelvin Mack. Shelvin has a big body for a point guard. He’s not quick or explosive, but can shoot the ball well and is an above average passer and decision maker.

The Detroit Pistons are another team that took advantage in this draft. Brandon Knight fell into their laps at the eight spot in the draft. Brandon is one of many “shoot first” point guards in this draft. Knight can certainly score the ball. He uses his shot to create space and then is quick enough to convert that space into a lane that gets him to the bucket. He’s just 19 years old, and while a capable point guard doesn’t always make the best decisions. He didn’t always pay attention on defense, but he improved overall coming up to the end of the season. I thought the Pistons dominated when it came to “value” picks. Which is to say that when they had to pick lower picks or in the second round they got the best value for their trouble. Enter Duke’s Kyle Singler. Singler was grossly underrated in this draft in my opinion. He’s a good shooter that can put the ball on the floor and make plays. He’s a pretty good defender and is a very smart ballplayer. He picks up systems quickly and should have no problem fitting into whatever a coach demands of him. Their last pick netted the Florida’s Vernon Macklin. Vernon’s a big man with serious hops. His size and strength give him certain advantages, but at 6’10” he’s a bit small for a center. Macklin is still a great fit for Detroit.

The Charlotte Bobcats looked like they had some sense when the drafted UConn’s Kemba Walker. Another “shoot first” point guard who is a bit undersized, Kemba is if nothing, a winner. We all know what Kemba is capable of. He just knows how to win. He is a potent scorer who can score in droves. He’s got great ball-handling ability and court vision. He’s also a great leader, and Charlotte was smart to pick him up. The Bobcats also received Bismack Biyombo from the Sacramento Kings in a trade. Biyombo, just like his fellow countryman from the Congo Serge Ibaka, is a tenacious defender of the basket. Anything coming to the bucket when he’s on guard is liable to be sent three rows deep into the bleachers. He’s got a long frame, great instincts, and great anticipation. His downside is that he has no offense at his disposal. None. Biyombo has great potential though, after all, even Ibaka has a mid range jumper these days.

Lastly the Portland Trailblazers made a number of moves, that flew under the radar. With the twenty first pick and their first pick in the draft Portland selected Nolan Smith from Duke. Nolan Smith was originally a shooting guard, but when Kyrie Irving got injured Nolan was called upon to take over the point guard duties. He did and he did so very well. In fact he did the job so well that when Duke got Kyrie back in the NCAA tournament there was a debate as to wether or not Kyrie should even get his job back. Nolan can shoot and is incredibly intelligent. He was one of my favorite players coming into the draft. Portland is hoping that his coachability will allow them to use him to take over for Andre Miller(who was traded to the Nuggets) and be a reliable guard going into the future. The Trailblazers also got Texas’ Jordan Hamilton in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks. Hamilton has the ability to score at will from any point on the floor. His decision making is not very good however. Often times Jordan can be passive and indirect. He sometimes settles for shots when he ought to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. His defense is also suspect. Late in the second round the Trailblazers picked up Jon Diebler of Ohio State. Diebler reminds me a lot of Kyle Korver in terms of his mobility and defense. A three point specialist, Diebler is predictable. He will shoot. A lot. His release is extremely quick so he only needs seconds to get his shot off.

There were quite a few teams that did well for themselves, however there were some teams that wasted their picks. These guys are . . .

The Losers . . .

This should go by more quickly than the winners because most of these teams had a single pick in the draft and then failed to adress their needs with the single pick that they had.

For instance the Toronto Raptors went ahead and wasted everyone’s time by taking Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania.I like Jonas and won’t spend much time bashing him, but one would think a team with many needs wouldn’t take a chance on Andrea Bargnani 2.0, yeah I said it. Toronto had a chance to adress their distinct lack of reliable point guard and maybe make a splash in this draft. Instead they opted to draft a guy who probably won’t be in the league for another two years, because of his prior contractual obligations and is a carbon copy of a guy they already have on their team.

Speaking of redundant draft picks, the Oklahoma City Thunder had one of the head scratchers of the day when they opted to draft Reggie Jackson, a point guard from Boston College. First off, head coach Scott Brooks keeps telling the media that Russell Westbrook is going to be the point guard moving forward. Secondly the Thunder have Eric Maynor who is a point guard who like Westbrook also like to shoot. So how much sense does it make then to draft another shooting point guard? None. It doesn’t make any sense. The Thunder could have used a true big man who will work in the post and grab boards(neither Perkins nor Ibaka truly do this). The Thunder could also have drafted for depth and in that regard Jordan Hamilton, and Jimmy Butler were still available and would have given more to the team than Jackson will.

This of course leaves me with the bad taste in my mouth, that is the Memphis Grizzlies picking Josh Selby. Selby should never have been in the draft. He’s not NBA ready at all. He was highly recruited coming out of high school and grossly under performed in his time at the University of Kansas. I don’t care who you draft, just not this guy. He’s simply not going to get better between college and the pros. He needed to stay in school and develop. Isaiah Thomas would have been a good pick, or Ben Hansbrough(who by the way went undrafted).

This was a bit lengthy of course, but before you check out the  . . .

WTF???!!!! Pick of the Draft.

The Los Angeles Lakerspicked Daruis Moore from Michigan. This was a decent pick considering where they picked from, but from that point onward proceded to pick a parade of international players whose names I will not begin to type here they’re so long. Okay, fine I’ll copy and paste. Who the hell was scouting Chukwudiebere Maduabum? These players will likely not make the team and were seriously just wasted picks.

 

 

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The Dallas Mavericks are the Champs!

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t shoot the ball very well and it didn’t matter. The Mavericks as a team stepped up and did their jobs. I don’t just mean Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, or Shawn Marion. I mean everyone. Brian “The Custodian” Cardinal knocked down a big shot and defended the paint, Ian Mahinmi played solid defense off the bench, and DeShawn Stevenson was lights out from down town. Dirk didn’t need to be Superman to be an NBA champion because he played on a team that recognized the importance of their duties and they executed them. Seriously? Who would have thought that Dallas could rely on Brian Cardinal on the biggest stage in the stead of Tyson Chandler, who couldn’t stop picking up stupid fouls to save his life? The Mavs teamwork and perseverance won them this title. Save the big German himself, there are no stars on Dallas’ team. No standouts or exceptional athletes, but there were a bunch of cause committed to a cause who all knew their roles and played within them. Their team was in a quite literal contrast to the Miami Heat.

Lebron wasn’t aggressive, but neither was Dwayne. They didn’t play off of each other or even with each other, but more or less seemed to be playing over each other. Neither ever made the decision over the course of the game to dominate. How could they? If one guy takes shots he’s taking away from the other. Let’s not even mention Bosh who was the best Heat player in my opinion. He played with more heart the James and Wade put together, but he didn’t get any touches. He was so efficient that he outscored Dwayne Wade and took 7 less shots to do it. He scored 19 points on 7 of 9 shooting. The Miami Heat may have had the superior athletes, but unlike Dallas they were not a team. When your teammates are scoring off of put backs only, you’ve got a team problem. The turnovers and miscommunication that happened all game for the Heat would have led a sane person who hadn’t ever seen them before to believe that they had never played together. These are the things that a team that has spent time together would know how to do. When things got tough we saw the Heat fall apart, and I for one that they were better than that.

The Dallas Mavericks were humble even in victory, which speaks to the kind of guys that are on that team. I didn’t like Jason Terry before this series, but I have respect for him now. I see a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He played his best when it mattered most. When Dirk was struggling Dallas stayed afloat due mostly to how well Terry was playing. He made good decisions with the ball and made the most of his opportunities. Dirk did what Dirk does. He could not be found for most of the game, but when Dallas needed a closer in the fourth quarter he was there when they needed him. Only Dirk could score 3 points in the first half of a close out game and then show up with a big 18 points in the second half to finish his opponent off.

I can’t say enough about how well Dallas played. They really had a spectacular performance all series long. This is one of the most enjoyable NBA Finals in quite sometime. The story lines were good and the games were epic. What more could a fan ask for? I just hope that everyone remembers how this feels because we might have to go on that feeling going into the near future. An NBA lockout is looming and the owners and players can’t seem to agree on any issues.

Both teams played hard and the Mavericks are the champs. Congratulations guys on a season well played.

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NBA Finals Game 5: Dallas in the driver’s seat.

This game marked a number of firsts for the Dallas Mavericks. They lead for the first time in this series. The Mavs shooters got going for the first time in this series. More importantly, Dallas wasn’t playing from behind the entire game for the first time all series long. This game was all about offense. The pace suited the Mavs from the jump. Dallas shot 57% from the field and 68% from beyond the arc! These numbers look like Xbox numbers. It’s unreal how well Dallas shot the ball. Nobody on that team who attempted a three point shot was below 50% in three point attempts. Dirk Nowitzki had a silent 29 point game. It wasn’t loud I hadn’t noticed that he scored 29 until the game was over. The Mavs didn’t shoot well on accident, even though they did make some well defended shots, instead they took advantage of the Heat overplaying Dirk and ran a number of screens with him to get their shooters open.

Jason Terry played like his nickname implied. The Jet has never flown higher. He was scorer and facilitator. He became more than a spot up shooter. He ran routes, made great passes, and put the ball on the floor in ways that we have never seen him do before. He was there when his team needed him. He exposed the defense of Lebron James. Either Jason Terry is a better driver than we all gave him credit for or the defense of Lebron James has been overstated a bit. Terry got by Lebron just about anytime he felt like it, especially in the fourth quarter when the Heat needed stops. The most notable example of this is when Terry beat Lebron and got into the lane causing the defense to collapse onto him. He then kicked the ball back out to Jason Kidd who hit the three that put the Mavs up 105-100 with a minute and 27 seconds left in the game.

Dallas played a well rounded game. This is why I picked the Mavs to win this series. I thought that the depth of the Mavs could overcome Miami’s talent. Last night Dallas had 5 players in double figures. That kind of scoring is absolutely invaluable to a team. Everybody on that team was making plays. The struggling J.J. Barea finally had a game that he could be proud of in this series scoring 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting. He used his dribble penetration to create havoc in the paint.

Miami on the other hand was not so lucky. As Lebron said in the post game press conference, offense wasn’t an issue, but defense was. The Heat were caught in a game that didn’t suit their pace. They pride themselves on what they do on the defensive end of the floor. If you look at the percentages of what Dallas was scoring (as mentioned above) there wasn’t a whole lot of defense being played in this game. Lebron played a good game. He had a triple-double with 17 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. It wasn’t enough to win this game. Miami didn’t need a good game from Lebron, they needed a dominant one. They needed him to take over at points especially with Wade out with his hip contusion. In that way I think he failed them. They needed a guy who was going to take over the game. That’s how they’re built. The Heat are a very superstar-centric team. They need their superstars to dominate because that’s where their scoring comes from. Bosh is inconsistent and Wade can’t do it alone and I though Lebron had a real opportunity to step up and prove himself. Instead he played good enough to compete, but not good enough to win.

It was a must win game for the Mavs and they won it. This is the closest Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Kidd have ever been to being NBA champs. The Heat are going to have to put the home court advantage to good use. Nothing is worse than having a team celebrate a championship on your floor.

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NBA Finals Game 2: Fantastic Finish.

These NBA playoffs have produced some great moments. Brandon Roy’s 20 point 4th quarter, unlikely rise of the Memphis Grizzlies, the OKC Thunder collapse up 15 to the Mavericks, and Miami Heat’s epiphany when they figured out how to make everything work and then promptly proceeded to sink the Bulls. Last night was the grand-daddy of them all. The Miami Heat had a collapse that was awful in a number of ways. It was unexplainable given the talent on the floor. Lebron James and Dwayne Wade were literally getting any shot that they wanted. In crunch time however, they both settled for shots that they didn’t need. We’ve seen this before with the Thunder. Instead of playing to win, the Miami Heat were playing not to lose. They were hoping that time would run out and that they would have a big enough lead to have won the game when it was all over.

The key to the game. The specific player that this Mavericks could be attributed to besides Dirk is Shawn Marion. Marion always made smart plays throughout Dallas’ scoring drought and subsequent run. He made a number of big shots and his defense was invaluable to the Mavs. Marion scored 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting and had 8 rebounds on a night when that’s what Dallas needed. After getting out rebounded in game one 46-36 Dallas needed a healthy helping of boards and both Marion and Nowitzki delivered. Dirk grabbed 11 rebounds to go along with his 24 points and game winning shot. Dallas needed every rebound they got because they turned the ball over 18 times. Many these turnovers, as is always the case with the Heat, were converted directly in to points.

It’s a game like this where the lack of depth really kills the Heat. They have guys on the floor like Joel Anthony that doesn’t even attempt a shot. He gives them nothing offensively. I know he’s on the floor for defense, but so is Tyson Chandler and Tyson scores points. When Carlisle says a certain matchup that he doesn’t like he is able to make adjustments mid-game because of how deep his team is. Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have this luxury. He has to leave things as is in most cases. He can tweak, but the adjustment will always be one of scheme and not personnel.

Lebron and Dwayne did all that they could early on. Especially Wade who came out of the gate, guns blazing, being aggressive and attacking the basket in a way he hadn’t done previously. Wade scored 36 points in the game. Lebron scored 20 points and was also aggressive early in the game. However, neither player was able to sustain their efforts into the 4th quarter and that was the main reason for the collapse. With Bosh seemingly neutralized by Chandler and Haywood the burden of scoring is completely on Wade and James. They played tentatively coming down the stretch and cost their team a ball game.

Dallas just saved their championship hopes in this game. If they had played all game though, the way they ended the game, they would not have needed to panic. All I know is if the guys compete at this level every game, we could be looking at one hell of a series.

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NBA Eastern Conference Finals Recap: Game 4, The Heat take Charge in OT.

Chicago had an opportunity to win the game in regulation and they had to. It was obvious to everyone involved that if the game went into overtime Miami would win. Overtime is a sprint, not a marathon, and this Heat team seems specifically built for sprints. Dwayne Wade who was contained for much of the game got loose in the extra period and made the Bulls pay for not being able to stop him. The Heat also made Chicago pay for not have someone who would attack the basket when Derrick Rose was doubled. The defense of Lebron James, as per usual, is greatly understated. He guarded Derrick Rose 1 on 1 two times at the end of regulation, and stopped him both times.

The Bulls had not one, not two, but three players who scored 20 points. They also played stellar defense but, they still lost the game. They dominated the  paint and matched up about as well as anyone could with the big three and still lost the game. Mike Miller was a part of the reason why. He was a loose end. The one guy that everyone could count on to miss open shots because of his busted thumbs knocked down a couple of big three pointers and then hit a crazy crossover step back shot. I didn’t even think it was the same guy to be honest. It all seemed so  . . . foreign. I guess it looked that way to the Bulls too because they were not prepared to stop him until he pretty much cut into their lead single-handedly. He provided Miami with 12 quick points and 9 rebounds. Dwayne Wade had an off night for most of the night but Lebron and Bosh both did their part to keep the Heat afloat for the entirety of the game. Bosh had 22 points and James would get yet another 30 point game in these playoffs scoring 35 points.

Derrick Rose was 8 of 27 scoring 23 points. He was 1 of 9 from beyond the arch but this number is inflated I think. Rose takes all of his teams bad shots. What I mean by that is that anytime the Bulls have a bad possession or the play breaks down, wether it’s Derrick’s fault or not, Chicago gets the ball back to him to try and score as time expires. As a result it’s always a three or a long two and it’s never a good shot. The Bulls need a new bailout plan. If not for the sole reason of catching the Heat off guard. Derrick takes bad shots because those are often times the shots that his team gives him. When the offense stagnates or a play just doesn’t work, Derrick is forced to be the playmaker and Miami is making that about as difficult as anything for him right now.

Carlos Boozer could have an article unto himself. Boozer provided 20 points and 11 rebounds but, he didn’t do anything defensively but get his team in trouble. The Heat picked on him in their pick on roll because it was easy points. Omer Asik wouldn’t have gotten beaten that easily. Boozer is a poor defender and often time plays pretend defense. He gets low like he’s actually doing something but Miami Heat players no matter their size or position blew by him again and again. Boozer may be a big body but he plays like his feet are stuck to the floor. Noah covers for him a lot and picks up his slack but, if Noah gets hurt or fouls out of the game Boozer would be exposed.

Chicago doesn’t have a real offense problem so much as a punishment problem. If a defense will double team your point guard then you ought to punish it for being that aggressive. The Bulls don’t have another player who will just attack the basket. Chicago also has the same problems any defense would have against the Heat. Who do you let beat you? If you contain Wade and James then Bosh will get you. Containment of all three leads to Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and James Jones slipping through the cracks. This series could be over or it could be anything but. We’ll find out on Thursday.

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NBA Eastern Conference Recap. Game 1. The Heat Get the Boards.

The Miami Heat won the defensive brawl 85-75. Series is tied 1-1.

Miami was able to come out on top in the NBA version of a street fight. When you talk about two stingy defenses that can lock up at a moments notice these are the two teams in the league that you would be referring to. Miami and Chicago are both playing championship level defense. What put Miami over the top was Lebron James. He made the big plays that mattered down the stretch including a clutch three pointer that sealed the deal. The Heat got what they wanted with Bosh having a below average game and Lebron and D. Wade scoring in the 20s. It looked like Derrick Rose had to carry the team because the Bulls seemed to lack their game one energy. Derrick was 7 of 23 and scored 21 points so that didn’t really do Chicago much good. Chicago must have felt like they could shoot threes because the jacked up 20 of them and only made 3 as a team. Miami would  not allow them in the paint with out punishment. This made the Chicago bigs ineffective and the guards to shoot from long range. Luol Deng was 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. If the Bulls moved the ball some more they could have been able to get inside but, Lebron and Wade were jumping the passing lanes and stealing carelessly thrown passes. This eventually shut down Chicago’s offense.

Chicago had equally intense defense but Miami moved the ball. Allowing the offense to run outside the big three was a great adjustment by coach Spoelstra. Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller not only opened up Miami’s shooters (Mike Bibby had some open shots that he flat out missed) but it opened things up for Lebron and Wade as well. Lebron, Wade and Bosh are going to have to pick their spots carefully. In the game they shot the ball efficiently and they have to continue to do so if they have any plans on going to the NBA Finals.

Chicago needs to allow ball movement to open up spaces in the defense. I love Derrick Rose’s game but he needs to stop doing that thing where he leaves his feet and makes a pass. It gives Miami a chance to predict where it’s going because they know he has to move the ball before he lands. It’s just a fundamentally unsound way of playing the game. Chicago’s bigs need to follow the example of rookie Omer Asik  and keep their hands up at all times. They’ll foul a lot less that way and it allows them to use their height to their advantage.

Miami did a fantastic job of not getting killed on the glass and were able to out rebound the Bulls defensively. Miami was able to be better in the paint all around out scoring the Bulls 50-34 in that area.

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NBA Playoff Recap: 5-15-11; One Series Ends As Another Begins

The Oklahoma City Thunder Rout the Grizzlies In Game 7 105-90. The Thunder Advance to the Western Conference Finals.

After his poor shooting performance in game six Kevin Durant put on a performance in game seven that is the stuff of legends. Durant was aggressive and Russell Westbrook helped. Westbrook looked for the pass and was able to set Durant up with a back door passes that led to layups and dunks. Durant scored 39 points on 13 of 25 shooting. Russell Westbrook also had a tremendous game. He had a triple-double, the first one in a game seven since Sottie Pipen back in 1992, including several possession saving offensive rebounds. The Grizzlies, who rely on their bigs for points, played a good game. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley played really well but, Memphis is a team that needs everyone to pitch in and they got absolutely nothing from their bench. The Memphis bench scored 22 points. The OKC bench scored 32 points, 17 points of which came from James Harden.

Oklahoma City had the kind of game that made it look like they should have had this series wrapped up a long time ago. This was a close series obviously but the Thunder made it look bad. The Grizzlies seemed powerless to stop Durant or anybody else on the floor. Defensively OKC locked up and Memphis couldn’t get things going in the paint, especially in the second half of the game. If the Grizzlies had a player who could get his own shot from just about anywhere on the floor they might have stood a chance, however Rudy Gay was wearing street clothes. This is one of the greatest series in recent playoff history. All of these games were good games and the Grizzlies played their hearts out. Zach Randolph had 17 points on 6 of 15 shooting but it looked like he could have gotten a little bit more help from Gasol. Gasol had 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting. O.J. Mayo was consistently beaten by James Harden who beat him off the dribble and was sticking jumpers in his face.

The Thunder are going be tough out for Dallas. If you read my poorly and hastily written western conference preview you would have seen that I picked Oklahoma City to win it. Their combination of youth, speed, and range when shooting I think gives the the edge. The Thunder are a better match up for Dallas than the Lakers were.

The Bulls Stampede the Heat 103-82. Chicago leads series 1-0.

The Bulls and Heat seemed to match up evenly. Derrick Rose started the game with some bad turnovers but after he settled down the Bulls were able to get some thing going offensively. Offense for Chicago is almost entirely directed to the defense they played. The match up of Taj Gibson and Lebron James was an amazing one. Taj kept Lebron from getting any steam and charging into the lane and even blocked him a couple of times. The advantage of the Bulls is their bigs played really well. Noah, Boozer, and Asik dominated the inside on both ends of the floor.

If you go out and get a Taj Gibson poster Dwayne Wade will be in it. Gibson made big time plays and even though he only scored 9 points the difference in hustle between him and Lebron was obvious. Hell, the difference in hustle between the entire Bulls team and the entire Heat team was not only a glaring mismatch but might possibly be the biggest indicator of how this series is going to go.

Derrick Rose had a good game after his slow start, he scored 28 points on 10 of 22 shooting and he had 6 assists. Rose had a little bit of trouble with the double team early on. It’s similar to the one used on him by the Pacers and the Hawks but because the Heat are so much more athletic any mistakes he made turned into points for Miami. Derrick allowed his teammates to beat the double team for him. Luol Deng took advantage of Miami defensive break downs and scored himself 21 points. Boozer and Noah had 14 points and 9 points respectively.

Miami came out and laid an egg offensively. After those first points off of turnovers they had from Derrick Rose’s earlier mistakes they didn’t really do anything. Lebron and Dwayne had trouble finding a rhythm. Lebron had just 15 points and Dwayne Wade had just 18 points. The real reason Miami ever had a chance in this game was none other than the third wheel himself, Chris Bosh, who scored 30 points whilst shooting 12 of 18 from the field and grabbing 9 rebounds. Bosh was aggressive early and was the only Heatle who played like he had any heart.

If the Heat allow themselves to be bullied by Chicago’s defense this series isn’t going to last very long.

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NBA Playoff Recap: 5-12-11, The End of the Green Gang

The Heat Close Out the Celtics 97-87. Miami wins the series 4-1.

The Celtics, one of the great teams of the last decade, go out with a whimper. For most of the game it looked like they would be able to beat the Heat and hold on to force a game 6 back in Boston. They had the lead for most of the game. Miami looked a bit sluggish in the first half and ended the half down by two, being buoyed by the 23 first half points of Dwayne Wade. However in the long run Coach Spoelstra’ s plan payed off. He didn’t bother to put a man on Rondo. Because of Rondo’s elbow he couldn’t shoot the ball from distance. This allowed Miami to double-team Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’ Neal.

Dwayne Wade and Lebron James both had 30 point games. Wade ended with 34 points on 13 of 19 shooting, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Wade played with a ton of energy led his team in hustle plays. On one play he blocked Garnett on one end of the floor and had a one man run out in which he was able to score on the other end.  His defensive and offensive effort helped keep the team in the game after the fail to start very well in the first quarter. Lebron James had 33 points shooting 11 of 20 (5 of 7 from three), 7 rebounds and 4 assists. I thought Lebron was relatively passive in this game. At least until the fourth quarter anyway. He settled for quite a few threes and I still like guys with Lebron’s abilities to cut to the basket. It forces a defense to pack in and then other players can have open shots but Lebron was content to shoot jumpers. In fairness to him though, he was making them.

Bosh also contributed. It’s not going to show up on the stat sheet as Bosh scored well below the rest of the big three. He was 4  of 9 from the field and scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Bosh was a presence inside the paint. He actually stood his ground and defended the bucket. In games 1, 2, and 3 he didn’t do this. Garnett would move at him aggressively and it was clear he wanted no part of the contact and ferocity of Garnett. Last night Bosh stood his ground and changed shots.

The Celtics never really had a chance in this game once Paul Pierce got into early foul trouble. He picked up 2 early fouls in the first quarter and then another two in the second. Pierce could not play his style after that. Pierce had 12 points on 5 of 12 shooting.

With no Rondo and no Pierce the Heat should have been dominating this game. I give credit to Boston for putting up a fight and not laying down but this wasn’t their game to win. Garnett and Allen, who shot 6 of 12 for 18 points, were not going to win this game by themselves. Miami still has weaknesses and holes. If Chicago wins their series that could be a very interesting matchup. If Atlanta wins that could be good too but only if they limit their mistakes. Both of those teams I think will test the depth of Miami.

I just don’t want to see any more of this:

Boom! Thunder Crush the Grizzlies 99-72. Oklahoma City leads the series 3-2.

This game was a head scratcher to me. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both score under 20 points each and the Thunder win by 27 points? If you had told me that before this game started. Especially being one game removed from the recent overtime thriller. I might have tried to back hand some sense into you. I would have been wrong but, I would have done it.

When Oklahoma City’s bench players step up it turns OKC into a well rounded team. The Thunder had four players in double figures. Durant was 7 of 14 with 19 points and Westbrook was just 4 of 10 with 11 points. What really helped OKC out was the number from the whole team. Daequan Cook scored 18 and Nazr Mohammed scored 10. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and James Harden had 9 points each. These are small number from an entire team. It’s hard to beat a team when they play like this. I’m interested in seeing as we move forward wether or not this was an anomaly or the true potential of this Thunder team.

Memphis just looked . . . bad. The Grizzlies looked like they were clearly still fatigued from the triple overtime game. Marc Gasol was really the only effective Grizzly. Tony Allen and Mike Conley were missing layups all night long. Zach Randolph was ineffective. He would score just 9 points. Everyone contributed but no one stepped up. The Thunder tightened up the defense in this game and none of the Memphis Grizzlies adapted.

After getting out to a quick start Memphis fizzled out. It was a terrible game and a tremendous beat down. If Memphis can pull themselves together when they go back to Fedex Forum they’ve got a punchers chance of winning a game 7.

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NBA Playoff Recap: 5-11-11, Okay so it was just the Hawks and Bulls.

The Bulls Lockdown the Hawks 95-83. Chicago leads the series 3-2.

The games was a getting back to the basics, sort of game for the Bulls. The Bulls know that when they play staunch defense they’re a very difficult team to beat. The Bulls made it uncomfortable inside for the Atlanta bigs and even though Al Horford had a decent night, with 12 points on 6 of 14 shooting, he settled for more than his fair share of jumpers. I’m sure Larry Drew will have a conversation with him about this later. Josh Smith also had another good game where he was active in the paint, on both ends of the floor. He even started the game by taking a charge. Smith and Horford were able to rebound and score but weren’t allowed to be all that effective late in the game. Zaza Pachulia helped to keep the Hawks afloat for a while but it just seemed like the Hawks big men didn’t want get physical down low. This might have had something to do with how aggressive Carlos Boozer was being. He was backing guys down in the paint instead of settling for that jumper that he usually goes for. Carlos was pushing guys and yelling. He needs intensity like that every night.

Derrick Rose was just more efficient all around. He scored just about as many points as game four and made just about as many shots. The difference? He took less shots than in game four. He took 24 shots in game five last night as opposed to 33 shots in game four. Rose looked to get his teammates involved early which was a good thing because he found a very hot Keith Bogans in the first half. Bogans was 4 of 7 (3 of 5 from three point range) for 11 points. This gave Chicago an early lead to hold onto. It looks like the Bulls are more comfortable holding onto a lead than chasing it.  Luol Deng played much better as well. Deng was much more aggressive and was able to get to the free throw line a few more times. He also had some cuts to the basket that Chicago is going to need if they want to win it all. Rose was able to draw defenders which left Deng with a nice open lane to the basket and it was nice seeing him take advantage of that. Deng had 23 on 8 of 18 shooting.

The Hawks are not out of this series yet. Despite the loss they clearly had a lot of good things going for them. Josh Smith continued to be active. Kenny made a good point on Inside the NBA last night. Even when Josh Smith shoots poorly if he continues to be active getting rebounds, going after loose balls, and setting picks for his teammates then the Hawks a very capable of beating Chicago. Another thing that Atlanta has going for them is Jeff Teague. Teague has been playing good defense on Rose (even though its obvious he doesn’t know what to do with the Boozer/Noah/Asik screen that frees Derrick up) and even better offense. He simply hasn’t been making bad decisions. He has the ability to get to the basket, he shoots well, and he runs the offense like a vet at times. I wish coach Drew would run the offense through Teague instead of Joe Johnson. Joe Johnson is the one reason the Hawks might lose. When Johnson is hot he’s damn near unstoppable. When Johnson is bad or even average all he does is kill offensive possessions. There is no extra pass or anything like that. The offense just stops. Joe does his thing while the other four guys stand around and watch.

The Bulls and Hawks have the potential to be one of the better series in the playoffs so far. It wouldn’t have seemed like a good matchup at first but, its been fun to watch.

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