Stretch Run [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 2/20/14]

A big day today for this hoops fan. It is Sir Charles Barkley’s birthday (my nephew also born on this fine day 3 years ago). The NBA trade deadline ends in roughly 2 hours. Duke and North Carolina play tonight at 8pm, but the big boys throw down in OKC. KD vs. Lebron II: The return of Russ. If that isn’t enough, Golden State and Houston face off at 9:30 pm. I’m clearing off my schedule and unless there is an emergency, I’m not leaving my bedroom past 7 pm central time, except to eat and use the bathroom.

N.U.T.S (Never Underestimate The Spurs)

I should know by now that even if the big 3 of the Spurs aren’t playing, that Popovich will have his team ready to compete. The highlights were awesome and the game went down to the wire. I’m actually less surprised about the Spurs winning as I am that the Blazers still played relatively well without Lamarcus (out for a week with a groin injury). I’m sure Damien Lillard chipping in 31 points helped keep them in the game.

I had the choose between the 9 pm tip-offs of the Golden State and Sacramento game and Spurs-Blazers. No “Boogie” no problem right? Maybe I should have watched the Portland game, but the Dubs are one of my favorites (I kind of feel like the Kings are this surrogate delinquent child that I want so badly to see succeed) Isiah Thomas had a nice heat check moment (he put up 26 points 7 assists) that made me text my old roommate a University of Washington alum, and he responded that the Spurs game was amazing.

The Kings kept coming at the Warriors, but by the last minutes, the game was practically over, with Warriors up by 10. Curry wasn’t even the star of the game; it was David Lee with a “ho hum” 23 and 11. The most memorable part of the game was Jermaine O’Neal getting T’d up by the refs because he chose to let a ball (one he could have easily grabbed and retained possession of) go out of bounds, and the refs awarded it to Sacramento. I thought this was silly because the refs judgment would not have entered the picture had he just grabbed the board, but his tech allowed Sac to help cut down a shrinking Warriors’ lead, and got the Sacramento crowd into the game.

It was during the game that I saw that the Dubs had traded Kent Bazemore and Marshon Brooks for Steve Blake. I’ve always been kind of cold on Steve Blake ever since he missed a breakaway dunk that cost Maryland a sweet sixteen game back in 2003. He’s a good backup, I think I had my heart set on Golden State acquiring Andre Miller–no matter how unrealistic that was. He will definitely help the Warriors down the stretch. If they can find another big man on the cheap to play defense, they might be able to sneak into the Western Conference Finals.

Suddenly Everything Has Changed

There are 5 games left on the regular season schedule.

Kansas has 2 games on the road, one in Stillwater, the other in Morgantown. With the 3 home games against Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech. I think if they beat Texas on Saturday and go at least 4-1, the conference title streak is easily intact. 3-2 will be pushing it, and KU fans may be rooting for other teams to lose. Backing into a regular season title doesn’t leave me feeling good about the Jayhawks chances of making the Final Four. I never thought it would be easy, but I also didn’t think the Jayhawks would struggle this much to score either.The offense this year has been just as ugly as last year’s squad, where it seemed like players didn’t know what to do. I do have to admit that I found the Andrew Wiggins baseline dunk amusing, for no other reason that invoked that scene from “Friday” (a wise Jaye Crockett moved out the way –making him Pooh’s dad–cut to 1:29 on that scene). Embiid’s baseline move early in the second half was pretty ill too. This hasn’t been the most cohesive unit ever put together, but you’re almost guaranteed a Sportscenter moment or two every game.

Texas could really put some pressure on the Jayhawks with a victory on Saturday. Their remaining games are Baylor and TCU in Austin, and games in Lawrence, Norman, and Lubbock. Even with a win in Allen Fieldhouse, they would still have a tough road ahead of them.
Iowa State is still a dark horse, but they have 3 of their last 5 games on the road, and would need a lot of help considering that KU already beat them twice, and they split the games against UT. Oklahoma would need a LOT of help as well, with a 4-2 conference record. I didn’t realize they were 19-7 for the year. I would be surprised if they didn’t make the tournament.

I’m still trying to talk myself out of going to the game on Saturday. If the atmosphere is anything like the OSU game on Januray 18th, then its going to be loud. There is a lot more on the line than revenge for this Saturday’s game. I wonder how the Longhorns are going to respond when they walk into the Fieldhouse and feel all that pressure. Saturday is simply the denouement of a hype week for hoops. Tonight is the apex. Enjoy!

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