Tag Archives: Warriors

Winners and Losers NBA Finals edition

I wrote a few days ago about Lebron in the internet age.  I have to admit it got me to thinking about how the Finals, and his entire career has been a no-win situation for him since he got here.  Hyped since day 1, it was impossible for him to be what everyone wanted him to be.  Why did we love Jordan?  Because we didn’t know we needed him to be the standard until he became it.

After winning game 6, the Cavs have forced a game 7 in the NBA Finals.  This will be the 18th Game 7 in NBA Finals history.  The last Finals to go 7? Lebron remembers- that was in 2013 when the Heat were saved by a miraculous 3 by Ray Allen in the final minute in Miami in game 6 against a talented Spurs team to win the second of their back to back titles.  The last team to overcome a three games to one deficit were the 1966 Lakers who took the series to 7 until ultimately losing to the Boston Celtics.

People have tried to force the buy into the dislike that the Warriors have for Lebron and vice versa by hyping up every back and forth between the two teams.  Want trash talk?  Red Auerbach announced before the season that he would retire after the season was over giving his haters one last shot at him in 1966.  After an emotionally uplifting come from behind victory in Game 1 by the Lakers, Auerbach pulled yet another one of his classic psychological chess moves by announcing that Bill Russell would succeed him as head coach becoming the first African American head coach in the NBA all but destroying any momentum the Lakers had going into game 2.  The Celtics won the next three by an average of 13 points and eventually won the series.

In 1951 The Rochester Royals went up three games to none against the New York Knicks.  The Knicks won the next three to force a Game 7 in improbable fashion…and then lost game 7.

What does this mean?  It means that doing what the Cavs have already done is ridiculously difficult.  Just so everyone’s on the same page, they are facing the greatest regular season team in the history of the NBA, the defending NBA champions.  They also have a lineup called the “lineup of death”.   They also employ the reigning two time defending NBA MVP who still has not had a signature game and there’s  an unsettling inevitability that it will happen.

Last night’s victory had wives losing their minds, then there were the psychological tricks the Cavs were supposedly playing on the Warriors family and friends bus.  But the Cavs didn’t win Game 6 in Cleveland for any other reason than Lebron James willed them there.  It got me to thinking about who could be the biggest winners and losers here once Sunday’s Game 7, not just within this series but in the NBA as a whole.  Here’s my list:

WINNERS (if Cavs win):

  1. Lebron James- If the Cavs manage to pull off what no one else has done in NBA history, which is win a Game 7 on the road, against the greatest regular season team in NBA history, after being down three games to one, it would catapult Lebron into a whole other stratosphere.  Songs would be sung about him, babies named after him, and streets too.  Historically, the significance of it would make him unlike any other athlete that has ever graced this game and hopefully would even give the Lebron haters some chill, though I doubt the Curry household would.  Also Lebron the GM would get a huge boost.
  2. Cleveland- This city hasn’t won a championship in so long, and has been starved for some real hardware that I don’t know if there will be a city left to do a parade on Monday morning.
  3. Kyrie Irving- He’s done more in these last two games to answer questions about his ability to lead a team than ever before.  Not at the level of James, but his Game 5 performance will be difficult to duplicate.  Shooting 71% and hitting some of the highest degree of difficulty shots you’ll ever see.  Also being called champion will help Kyrie shake the stigma of being a good player on a bad team.
  4. NBA- A small market like Cleveland winning will only make the NBA look better.  Even if I’m stirring the conspiracy theorists with this idea, the NBA needs to go into the next lockout having had a team from a small market win to prove that their current financial system has NOT kept small market teams at a disadvantage.
  5. Ty Lue- Taking over a team in midseason after a questionable coaching change which was rumored to be a Lebron power play and Lue has been admirable in not being the center of it all.  You can tell the Cavs players enjoy playing for him and go all out.  Even if we have no idea how to gauge his ability to coach because he’s coaching a stacked squad, Lue will have NBA champion on his resume as head coach and player and that’s a feat not many have accomplished.  In fact here’s the list: Rick Carlisle, Pat Riley, KC Jones, Phil Jackson, Billy Cunningham, Tommy Heinsohn, Bill Russell, and Red Holzman.  That’s some elite company no matter how much you give him credit for.

LOSERS (if Cavs win)

  1. Warriors being the greatest team in NBA history- The obvious choice, but really its their place in history.  It ain’t no thing if you ain’t got that ring.  Being the greatest regular season team of all time is a good accomplishment but nothing to write home about.  The Bulls will pop champagne, and those other teams like the 86 Celtics, 87 Lakers will all rest easy and have the right to puff out their chest and say they were better too.  If they lose Game 7, the Warriors will have lost as many games in the playoffs as they did during the entire 82 game regular season.
  2. The Curry’s- This is now the second Finals where he’s gone MIA.  Yes, he scored 30 points last night but it was the quietest 30.  He also fouled out of a game for the first time and showed un-Steph-Curry-like undisciplined behavior.  He’s the reigning two time MVP but if they lose this series after being up 3-1, Steph will bear a lot of the blame and for the first time in his career face criticism.  That should make for a fun summer for the Curry household.  Continuing in the Curry household- her twitter rant after Game 6 will be discussed incessantly until Game 7.  If they don’t win, I’m sure Warriors fans will support Ayesha’s thoughts and complain about how the NBA doesn’t want the Warriors to win.  This will harm the Curry brand which was really beginning to take off.  NBA and other corporate sponsors can’t be too happy about her flying off the handle.  They don’t take too kindly to being called names by wives or part of the crew types calling their product or company into question.
  3. Draymond Green- The nut job as I’m calling Game 5 will rank as one of the weirdest suspension/momentum turners in NBA history.  Green’s value is immense to the Warriors, but his play and attitude were limited in Game 6 as he played with the thought that any kind of brash play would likely see him get suspended for an all important Game 7.  I’m assuming he’s saving all that rage for do or die Game 7.
  4. Knicks fans/Celtics fans or any fan base that wants a superstar off their team and Kevin Love on it-  If the Cavs win, the push or Kickstarter campaign to trade Kevin Love will take a huge hit.  No complicated three way deal that will net the Cavs Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks draft picks they desperately need to continue the rebuild or no superstar Kevin Love to join the revolution in Boston.
  5. NBA refs- If the Cavs win, tape of Game 6 will be studied as closely as the Kings/Lakers series in 2002 and the Heat/Mavs series in 06.  Tim Donaghy’s legacy will be safe and secure.

WINNERS (if Warriors win)

  1. Steph Curry- No one stands to gain more by his team’s success than Steph Curry.  I’m not saying he’s a product of that system- you can’t make that argument for Steph when he’s undoubtedly the greatest shooter this sport has ever known.  But he’s pretty much been non-existent in the NBA finals for the second consecutive year and the internet notices shit like that.  I’m expecting a 30+ point effort, but I think the Cavs have allowed Steph to get his 30 albeit working hard, but he may have been exposed defensively.  Steph has to be aggressive in Game 7 and if he does, he can secure his legacy.
  2. Klay Thompson- It seems people discuss Steph and Draymond when it comes to this team, but Klay does as much as Dray on the defensive side of the ball (look at his assignments during each round of the playoffs, Harden, Lilliard, Westbrook and now Kyrie) and has done more than Steph on the offensive end.  The Warriors do NOT force a Game 7 against OKC without Klay’s insane 40 point game.  He loves being in the background which tells you why the Warriors have so much success because all of their stars are uncharacteristically unselfish and genuinely like playing with each other.
  3. Kevin Love trade mongers- Knicks fans/Celtics fans will be spending countless hours on the trade machine to try and figure out how to get Kevin Love to Boston and the Knicks with a few draft picks.
  4. Joe Lacob- His NYT article probably turned off a number of people.  It made him out to be the arrogant douchebag we’ve all come to expect the rich to be.  If the Warriors win, those people can all suck it.  Many of his enhancements have enabled the Warriors to become the standard for front offices to aspire to and Lacob will have engineered one of the greatest turnarounds for a franchise in sports history.
  5. NBA tweeners entering the draft- The shift in thinking about how to employ players like Draymond has changed.  Every league is copycat so many teams will look at players who fit that description during the draft and may reach to grab them in hopes of getting the next Draymond Green.  Denzel Valentine’s draft stock is already flying high and I’m sure teams will be paying close attention to shooters who can stretch the floor.  There will be teams trying to fit square pegs in round holes in hopes of duplicating the Warriors success.

LOSERS (if Warriors win)

  1. Lebron James- Because he’s Lebron and no matter what, the haters will come out.  That’s the burden he bears and whether right or wrong, fans will forget the back to back 41 point games and herculean effort to force a Game 7, only done twice before in NBA history in order to troll the King.
  2. Kevin Love- Second to Lebron, the NBA will collectively ponder the future of Kevin Love in Cleveland.  Since he got to Cleveland, it hasn’t been a clean fit and his play in Game 6 was everything you needed to know.  He picked up 2 fouls in the first three minutes and saw most of the second half from the bench.  This was a top 15 player in the NBA two years ago but things have NOT gone well.  Love will likely have to leave Cleveland and be put up on the pantheon of hated athletes in Cleveland.
  3. Old Guys- All the Hall of Famers who have opened their mouths about a jump shooting team winning will have to admit that they were wrong.  Which they still won’t do, but maybe next time we won’t pay attention to click bait articles about a quote from an 80’s player that discounts the Warriors success.  They can stop the whole Kurt Rambis would’ve stopped Lebron and Draymond from entering the lane.  Seriously you think THIS GUY is stopping Lebron from getting in the paint?
  4. Harrison Barnes Free Agency- Barnes had a chance to step up in the Finals and take a $100M contract even if everyone would be screaming that its a bad contract.   This Finals has only proved what we all knew.  This guy isn’t worth the money and while its still entirely possible that Barnes can go off in Game 7, and the cap is so crazy high and every team has so much money that they may throw money at him- I can’t see him being the star and Steve Kerr sat Barnes down for a majority of the second half while the Warriors were trying to make a comeback.  Kerr thought a clearly hobbled Andre Iguodola was a better option.  Ouch.
  5. City of Cleveland- It bears noting that no fan base is more prepared for defeat and gut wrenching loss than the City of Cleveland.  No fan base has seen their hopes dashed in the way this city has.  I will say that this team right now has very 2004-Red Sox feel to it to me.  Take it as you will.

 

 

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Daily Rounds 12/29

The Knicks were tied heading into the fourth quarter but lost 92-78 to the Warriors.  Mike Vacarro says that the Knicks are still working out the kinks and so it may look like this for a while.  Mark Jackson got the last laugh against the team that almost hired him says Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News.  Howard Beck of the New York Times says that IF the Knicks superstars could’ve saved them they would have.  Meanwhile the Knicks newest import found the court yesterday and Jeremy Lin’s journey has been tumultuous to say the best in the last 18 months but at least he didn’t have to travel far to reach his newest team, says Howard Beck of the New York Times.  

Howard Beck touches on exactly what was wrong with the Knicks.  If the stars aren’t hitting their shots, it will be almost impossible for the Knicks to win.  That’s the problem in a nutshell.  The Knicks don’t have a playmaker that can create offense for the team.  There isn’t a point guard on the team that will create shots for other players.  This team will look better when Iman Shumpert returns and Baron Davis too.  Those two guys slash into the basket and create offense for themselves or others.  They don’t have that kind of athleticism right now.  Amar’e is a pick and roll player.  Melo is a pick and pop player.  The Knicks don’t have the player that will generate offense right now.

Like I wrote in my post game report early this morning, Toney Douglas’ progress as a point guard has been non-existent.  He’s a few seconds late seeing almost everything which means he’s not a natural floor leader.  More and more I see him the more and more I have an appreciation for true point guards who have such excellent court vision and can see a play develop before it happens.  Good point guards can see things happen before they do and I’m rethinking this whole “we need Dwight Howard over Deron Williams” argument that is developing.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, all they need is a semi-reasonable point guard who can play the position and run a simple pick and roll.  A pick and roll because that’s ALL Amar’e needs.  That’s all Carmelo needs.  Someone to hit the man as they are running right to the hoop.  The Knicks are too much of a half court team and settled for far too many jumpers while the Warriors were getting to the hoop with regularity.  Tyson Chandler got into foul trouble and without him the Knicks were a layup line again.

There was far too many troubling signs on offense that continue to plague them  If the Knicks superstars aren’t hitting their shots nobody is trying or attempting to grab the offensive rebound and nobody is trying to initiate any offense.  The limitation the Knicks have is that too much of the offense depends on Melo and Stat.  Stat is not an offensive initiator.  He took far too many double teamed and contested shots instead of finding the open man.  Too many isolation situations where there was NOBODY willing to pass off.  It was too stagnant while on the other end, the Warriors were putting on a clinic.  This time an average point guard dominated the Knicks.  It was kind of sad to watch and its troubling that the Knicks don’t have any kind of sustained defensive intensity right now.  I get that they need more practice time.  I get that they need more time to get used to one another and the defensive schemes of Mike Woodson.  I get all of that, and I see some improvement from Amar’e but again, its not a sustained effort throughout and that’s what they need.

The Knicks will need to work on how to run plays on offense that consist of more than one guy being isolated and everyone standing around watching.  Now granted there will be few games like this where the Knicks have both stars off their games.  And right now the Knicks have two guys capable of dropping 30 on any given night and so the Knicks will overcome and have rare games like last night but here’s the good news:  The Knicks had a pretty terrible day shooting and yet they still led through three quarters of the game.  Their defense kept them in it and they were great in keeping their hands actively in passing lanes.

The final verdict:  these games will be far and few between.  The Knicks will play better.  They just need to keep their defensive intensity alive for longer stretches.  Slow and steadily the Knicks are getting better.

Osi Umeniyora returned to Giants practice right in time for the G-men who will need the waves of pass rush to stop the Cowboys and it appears, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, that he returned faster than ever.  Jorge Castillo of the Star Ledger reports that amidst the thrill of victory was the reality that the Giants passing attack has suffered in the last two weeks and will be depended upon to play well Sunday night.  

Osi is going to be key for the Giants but I agree with Jorge, the passing attack has been average.  Eli has been good, however but the receivers haven’t been making plays.  Apart from that 99 yard play, the Giants have been uneven.  I think it has to do with the reshuffling of the line.  I liked Mitch Petrus at Guard and Kareem Boothe at Center.  If the Giants hope to fly they need Jake Ballard back and they need Travis Beckum to finally show some kind of skill.  They need Hakeem Nicks to catch passes again.  They need Mario Manningham back in the line up.  They need guys to step up on offense.

The defense is tough to figure but it can only get better having Osi in it.  Osi figures to get plenty of pass rush and in the report, it says that he will probably only see action during obvious pass rush situations.  Which would move JPP into the interior and give the Giants four really good strong defensive players on the line.  That line would cause massive mayhem and given that the Cowboys will have Sammy Morris and a banged up Felix Jones, the Giants will need the athleticism to get pressure on Romo.  Add on to the fact that Romo will have a banged up arm its not looking good for the Cowboys.

Which is what scares me about Sunday night’s game.  Add on to the fact that the Giants are playing at home which has been anything BUT good.  Like I said earlier: this game is so evenly matched that it can literally go EITHER WAY.  Ugh.

The Miami Heat were in their second close game in a row and they found a way to win.  And for the second consecutive game, crunch time buckets went to player not named Lebron James and that will get plenty of the attention if its a trend that continues.  Tom Haberstoh of ESPN’s TrueHoop (who’s been fantastic by the way) covers the Heat and said that the bucket that Wade hit to win it for the Heat should not have counted according to Rob Mahoney.  On a night full of close games, another one came down to the wire between the Thunder and Grizzlies and Kevin Durant won the game for the Thunder, but it wasn’t without conflict.  According to Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, Durant and Westbrook got into a fight where both had to be restrained.  This is bad news for the Thunder.  

These are two of the most talented teams and the two that most of the expert crowd predict to make the Finals this year.  But this shows the problem with having too much talent in two different ways.  Last year, the Heat struggled with who would get the crunch time scoring opportunities and especially who WOULDNT.  The Heat this season have played 2 close games out of three and are already hearing the whispers of superstars who can’t get it done.  And again, Chris Bosh is quietly having monster games in which both Lebron and Wade are expected to step up.  Regardless of what happens, the Heat are facing similar pressure to show up every night.  In front of a sell out crowd, the Heat got the opposing team’s best game.  The Bobcats played tremendously last night and came close to pulling off the upset had it not been for the general excellence of Lebron and Wade.  Lebron had the monster game.  Wade wasn’t nearly as effective and Bosh was having a really good game as well.  The Bobcats put forth their best effort and yet the Heat’s three man team were too much for the Bobcats to handle.  Of course it didn’t help that Paul Silas chose to not play his two most effective scorers in Byron Mullens and Kemba Walker (I already know what you’re thinking, Kemba who right?) down the stretch.  But its interesting that the Heat still play in that rock star atmosphere where every single game they play they get the very best from the competition and they are surviving on pure talent.  The point though comes down to what exactly was the rationale behind giving a cold D-Wade the look at the final shot OVER Lebron who had 35 points OR Bosh who had 28 points.  Wade who was troubled by an ankle sprain that kept him out for most of the third quarter came back in and defensively played great blocking a few shots and coming back in transition to finish a few more.  But offensively the night belonged to Lebron and yet the coach decided to draw up a play for a cold D-Wade who finished the night 5 for 13.  So why would the coach give the ball to Wade if Lebron had it working last night?  And that’s the question that will be posed to Lebron every time a game comes down to the wire and the Heat require someone to hit a clutch shot or make a clutch decision.  That’s the price of being given such uncoachable talents (I promise that’s not an insult and that’s a compliment).

On the other end, this brotherly blood feud between Durant and Westbrook was eventually bound to happen but it appears that the schedule is not the only thing that’s being compressed.  With only 66 games, it appears the drama is fitting itself in pretty early with this team.  After finishing a stinking 0 for 12 and with no regard to his team’s position in the game, Westbrook kept shooting and I kept thinking to myself “uh oh”.  To me, and this is just me, Westbrook has the higher ceiling than Durant.  Durant is a phenomenal scorer and he can make plays happen and he’s a willing passer but Westbrook has the ability to be it all.  Scoring/defensive/slasher/playmaker and thus I’d rather take Westbrook’s upside more so than Durantula.  I think Durant just works on his shooting and becomes automatic like Dirk in the coming years while, if Westbrook dedicates himself he can become a much better player.  Which is why I floated the possibility of the Lakers making a run at Westbrook instead of Chris Paul.  I love Paul and to me he’s the best (pure) point guard in the NBA today BUT if they added Russell Westbrook and Kobe took him under his wing, how awesome would he be for them?  He’d give them the kind of jump athletically they haven’t had in quite some time and for Kobe having that second superstar on his team would help his old legs because he could resolve himself to be that pop and stop shooter.  Kobe’s getting up there in age and the Lakers are asking him to be the focal point of the offense and while he can manage that on some nights, its not something he can do on a nightly basis.  Its also interesting that I see a lot of parallels between Kobe and Russell Westbrook.  Westbrook has the talent to be a great, not good player in the NBA.  He just needs guidance.  Something he will NOT get in OKC.  He’s as untouchable as Durant and while Durant is more highly regarded among front office people, Westbrook is like I said more talented potentially than Durant and so keeping him in a Thunder uniform is of utmost importance.  But imagine the Lakers offer them Andrew Bynum for Westbrook and Nazr Mohammad.  Imagine what that does to the Thunder?  That front line would be beastly.  Kendrick Perkins and Bynum down low and Durantula playing the three.  AT 6 feet 11.  How tough a match up would that be for opposing teams?  Meanwhile the Lakers get a good developing young player WHILE still preserving precious cap space for Dwight to supersize their front line WHILE still having Pau Gasol for next year.  Imagine THAT team in LA.  How does this not work out well for both teams?  Please.  Someone tell me?  Oh wait.  You can’t.

Aside from the issues that Durant and Westbrook have, which are real and exist and were eventually going to reveal themselves, the fact is the Thunder have a problem that most teams would love to have.  How Scotty Brooks handles that will be something to watch.  Remember, this is what Phil Jackson used to do really well.  Great coaches know how to handle egos and massage them while making the co-existence workable for the betterment of the team.  Embedding that team philosophy in guys who clearly are looking out solely for their own stats is tough but a necessary evil in this profession.  At some point, Durant and Westbrook will have to face the prospect of putting aside their issues and working out an understanding.  Westbrook will be told he’s the playmaker and Durant will be told to shoot because that’s how this will work.  Until Westbrook can be trusted on a nightly basis to keep the plan, this situation bears watching.  How long can you trust Westbrook to set aside his ego?  How long can you expect Durant to play Mr. Nice teammate?  How long before it becomes painfully obvious to everyone involved (Sam Presti, please) that the Thunder NEED to get some value for Westbrook now before it becomes impossible to get anything good for him? People may say its too early but let’s be real, the path to a championship has been cut to 66 games and now is a better time than any to make that run start to count while you still have a chance to.

Ken Davidoff of New York Newsday finds common ground for A-Rod and the Wilpons.  Kinda.  

This shady German operation has me thinking about aging superstars and their constant need to compete with their younger competition.  Whatever happened to aging gracefully?  Speaking of gracefully has anyone put those sad puppy Coupons out of their misery yet?

Mike Pereira went postal on Jon Gruden in this FoxSports column.  

Me and Mike Pereira are FOREVER cool after this.  Does anyone else feel like Jon Gruden likes almost everything on the planet?

Finally, if women EVER wanted to understand why they feel they are being objectified on television.  They had better hope that THIS never gets shown in front of a nationally televised audience.  

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