House Money (Tried to Told Ya’ll)

Didn’t I tell you the Rockets were busters? Didn’t I tell you that James Harden’s game is all smoke and mirrors? Didn’t I tell you that Tony Parker’s injury would be a blessing in disguise? I love to troll as much as the next man, but I don’t just be saying shit to hear myself talk. Ya’ll gon learn to start listening to me. As my dude Bomani Jones is fond of saying, “Listen to me now. Believe me later on.”

We got a game 7 in Boston on Monday between the Wizards and the Celtics. I would be shocked if the Celtics lose this game at home. Role players tend to not show up in elimination games on the road. John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to need help if they are going to advance to the next round. I’ll definitely be tuning in because a) its Monday and I don’t have anything better to do, and b) its game 7.  You really find out what these players are made of during the pressure packed situations. I love elimination games. Whoever wins this series will be lucky to get two wins against the Cavaliers.

 

The Warriors vs. Spurs Western Conference Finals may as well be the NBA Finals. Barring major injury to key contributors, whoever comes out of this round should be the clear-cut favorites against the Lebrons. People think this is dissing Lebron, but the beauty of basketball is that your weaknesses will get exposed. Everything comes out in the wash when you cut corners in hoop.

Cleveland has yet to play an offensively competent team in the playoffs and that trend will continue until they face the Warriors or Spurs. Cleveland statistically had one of the worst regular season defensive statistics of all the playoff teams. Luckily for the Cavs, playing in the east and having Lebron can cover up a lot of ugly blemishes. Lebron is like the most effective IG filter for any NBA team.

He has proved from time to time that he can drag the worst four scrubs ever assembled and still take them to the NBA Finals. Mad respect given, but to win in pro basketball the other players–four to nine–have to play well. You can’t convince me that the Warriors and Spurs aren’t stocked with superior role players in comparison to the Cavaliers. Go look it up if you don’t believe me, and after you do, I want you to make a list of all the players on Cleveland’s roster not named Lebron or Tristan who can defend their position well.

Bringing it back to this series for a second, the only chance that the Spurs has is through in-game adjustments and timely substitutions. Jonathan Simmons has proven he belongs on the court, and Gregg Popovich will have no choice but to give Dejounte Murray some run against the tall guards of Golden State.

Throw out what happened in the regular season, as these are two different teams from what you saw before April began. The biggest problem the Spurs face is the incredible amount of length and quickness they have to throw at San Antonio. Matt Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston all can come off the bench and disrupt an offense with their defensive versatility.

Spurs can take advantage of their mismatch in the paint with Pau Gasol and Lamarcus Aldridge if they can somehow get the ball across the court, and keep their entry passes from getting intercepted or tipped away (thus creating transition opportunities for the Warriors and igniting their offense). Spurs fans know that David West isn’t the defender he once was, but look for Javale McGee to continue to impact the game with his presence in the paint, rebounding, and athleticism.

The play of Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, Jonathan Simmons and Dejounte Murray–San Antonio’s ballhandlers not named Kawhi– will determine if these games are close nail biter endings or blowout losses. If the Spurs can slow the tempo down, attack the paint, and get Kevin Durant and Draymond Green in foul trouble, this could be a troublesome affair for the Warriors.

On defense, the Spurs will have to run the Warriors off the three-point line and control the boards. The Warriors feast off of open threes and transition points, so it will be important for San Antonio to not hoist jump shots early in the shot clock, and not turn the ball over.

Lebron couldn’t beat the Warriors by himself in 2015, so don’t expect a hobbled Kawhi Leonard to carry the San Antonio to finals alone. Aldridge and Gasol are going to have to chip in on the boards and points in the paint . I’m not sure what we can realistically expect David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon to contribute. Dedmon (with his stone hands) has played himself into Pop’s doghouse and Lee had serious issues on defense last round. If Dedmon can’t catch passes, then he will need to play smart defense and rebound to stay on the court. Lee could be a good piece on the offensive end, but better believe that the Warriors will go at him when he gets back on D. Golden State loves finding the mismatches and attacking it. #mouseinthehouse

This may sound obvious, but the Spurs will have to play their best team ball of the season to even have a chance at winning this series. By Game 4, both coaching staffs will have a clear idea on which lineups and matchups work most effectively, and the real chess game will begin. Popovich has to use all his chess pieces effectively in order to advance to the NBA Finals, so keep an eye on the role players in this series.

The margin of error is very small, and though San Antonio has proven they are talented and fearless, the biggest hurdle they will face is a mental one.The discipline and focus that it takes to beat these Warriors four times in seven games is what will determine who wins. The Spurs must stick to their game plan, value every possession, and take smart shots. The Warriors will penalize them on the other end every time they turn the ball over, take a bad shot, or forget how to set screens and make the extra pass.

At this point, San Antonio is playing with house money. Having won 60 plus wins and advanced to the Western Conference Finals only a year removed from Tim Duncan’s retirement, this season is already a success for them. They are also huge underdogs. They will be facing tremendously less pressure than veteran players like Zaza Pachulia, Matt Barnes, Javale McGee, Kevin Durant, and David West (who knows how many seasons he has left in him). Pressure does funny things to people, don’t discount that element this round.

As much as I want to say Spurs in six games, there are just too many unknowns. I still can’t pick them to——— nah you know what? Fuck it. Spurs in six. I’m putting 100 dollars on San Antonio and in a week and a half, I’m collecting 900 dollars. If you like watching exceptional basketball execution, then I suggest that you watch every minute of this series. Get your bets in before 2:00 pm today because Los Spurs are going to shock the world!

Buen Provecho

 

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

ROUND 2: FIGHT!

Some thoughts on the first round before we advance to the conference semi-finals:

  1. Even though the Jazz have a game 7 in L.A. this afternoon, I think this series ended Friday night when Utah couldn’t take game 6 at home. I partly blame Quinn Snyder for that loss. I don’t know what the man has against Boris Diaw, but he has not played him very much this round. Diaw has performed fairly well despite his diminished role. Friday night he logged 14 minutes scoring 5 points, grabbing 2 boards, 1 assist, and plus 13 +/- ratio. His passes were crisp, his screens were solid, and he was constantly moving without the ball–always in the right place at the right time. Quinn Snyder insisted on playing the inexperienced Brazilian guard Roger Neto, who took a series of bad shots during crunch time that contributed to the 11 point deficit that the Jazz faced down the stretch (his +/- ratio was a negative 10). Shelvin Mack never saw the court, and neither did Dante Exum. The Jazz lost by 5 last night. I’m putting it on wax now: when they look back to see why they lost the series, you can point to Quinn Snyder’s weird substitute patterns. Oh well, I’m looking forward to a Clippers-Warriors 2nd round because there will be a lot of shit talking as the Clippers get beat in five. It could been you Utah fans, losing in maybe six.
  2. There is still a little room to jump on the Mike Conley bandwagon, but we don’t know how long there will be seats available. He had a hell of a series, and after all the think pieces that have been and will be written, we can finally say that Mike Conley is no longer underrated.
  3. Tony Parker is still washed, but he may have enough juice to get the Spurs to the Western Conference Finals. That game 6 performance in Memphis was vintage Tony. Much respect to the OG Frenchman.

 

Thoughts on the Second Round

  • Don’t get caught up in the hype of the Lebron vs. Drake subplot in the Cavaliers-Raptors series. That one is going to be a snoozer. Toronto will be lucky to win one game next round. I am actually rooting for a Cleveland sweep simply because it means less screen time for Wheelchair Jimmy— at least until the Warriors make the Finals, and of course he’ll be all up in the mix like he was there from day one. #nonewfriends
  • We might actually see some fisticuffs with the Celtics-Wizards series. John Wall has already shown the world what he is capable of this playoffs. The problem is that no one could sit through and entire game of an Atlanta Hawks game without thinking “people still play basketball this way?” This series will be much better for basketball purists as the highlight matchup of John Wall/Bradley Beal vs Isaiah Thomas/Avery Bradley will be scintillating at times. The biggest question for the clash of backcourts is “who is Isaiah Thomas going to guard?” #mouseinthehouse Thomas may get 20-30 points, but he may also give up 50 too. Celtics have a slight advantage with their overall depth, and I think this will make the difference as they beat the Wiz in 6 games, although I’d almost talked myself into Wizards in 7.
  • There is a hint of 1995 in the air with this Rockets-Spurs series. Just like in ’95, both teams have legitimate MVP candidates, but unfortunately, no one will know who won the award until late June. Spurs can breath of sigh of relief after surviving the Grizzlebies, but the Rockets provide a different kind of challenge. The Rockets’ style of play creates a ton of possessions, so expect a lot of substitutions and a lot of fouls. The Rockets aren’t known for their defensive prowess, but they do have a couple of good defenders on the team (Trevor Ariza and Pat Beverley), and they have some good rebounding forwards in Nene and Clint Capela. I think this is the perfect kind of series for Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, and David Lee to shine. You know Kawhi is going to get his, but the role players on the Spurs will have an easier time scoring on this Rockets unit than last series. Also, I’m not sure James Harden’s ankle is completely healthy. I’m taking San Antonio in six out of respect, although my gut says it will only take five games.

Enjoy the semi-finals.

 

BM

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Moving The Needle

Essentially nothing has changed though, it is still going to be a Cavaliers-Golden State Finals (barring major injuries of course). I would have liked to have seen more player movement among the bottom teams to set up future moves during the draft, but whatever. We may look back on this trading deadline as the day that some GM’s cost themselves jobs. {Yawn} Wake me up when the playoffs start. Continue reading

Knapp Time: Alex’s Picks To Click For the Week of Nov.14th-20th

This A Good Ass Game will be run by carefully chosen special guests while Bobby Mickey is on vacation in Bermuda. This Week’s Clicks to Pick are brought to you by Alex Knapp. You can also check out Alex Knapp’s Weekly Hot Take Roundup here. #fullsasstakeover

 

 

MONDAY

Thunder @ Pistons 7:30pm EST

Record wise this is the best game of the night, and somehow the Pistons got off to a decent start despite missing their all-star PG, Reggie Jackson. I could see Westbrook going for 45 but the Pistons still wining this game. Should be fun to watch.
Mavs @ Knicks 7:30pm EST
Old man Dirk vs Young man Zinger. Worth a click.
Magic @ Pacers 7:00pm EST
Here are two young and fun east coast teams battling for a playoff spot. Each team needs to win this to prove to they belong in the playoffs.
Indiana is better but I think Orlando gets the win.

TUESDAY

Bulls @ Blazers 10:00 pm EST (NBA TV)
The jury is still out on the new-look Bulls. After a hot start they’ve stalled with 3 straight losses (can’t score sometimes).
When they shoot above 40% from 3pt land they win. When they shoot below 36% from 3pt land they lose. There is very little in-between.
Dame vs Rondo, C.J. vs Wade/Butler, Myers Leonard vs Doug McBuckets?!?!?!
Toronto @ Cleveland 7:30pm EST (NBA TV)
Oh you that lame kind of NBA fan who only watches “the best” teams play? That is sooooooo cool LAME.

WEDNESDAY

Golden State vs Toronto 7:00 pm & Memphis vs Los Angeles Clippers 9:30 pm
Both the ESPN matchups will likely be more blah then exciting. I can’t stand watching Toronto or Memphis. I hope KD and Curry go for 80 combined and Blake Griffin ends somebody career with an earth shattering dunk.
Rockets @ Thunder 8:00 pm EST
Harden vs Russ. Gonna be high scoring!!!
Bucks @ Hawks 7:30pm EST
If the ESPN games don’t hold your attention, then watch the Greek Freak play a squad with an actual good team defense. They will be a good test of his skill level. NBA nerds will get off watching how many different defensive looks coach Bud throws at him.

 THURSDAY 

Blazers @ Rockets 8:00pm EST
Both the TNT games kind of suck here too (Philadelphia vs. Minnesota; Los Angeles Clippers vs. Sacramento). You can call me a homer but I’d rather  watch Dame and Harden go buck wild on each other (neither of them can play a lick of defense).

FRIDAY (GOOD ASS GAME OF THE WEEK)

Warriors @ Celtics 8:00 pm EST (ESPN)
Celtics always want to beat this team, and coach Brad Stevens usually has a good enough–
creative game plan to make it fun and exciting. My money is on an overtime win by the Celtics.

SATURDAY (Go Do Something Fun)

Warriors @ Bucks 8:30pm EST
Maybe…
Hornets @ Pelicans 7:00pm EST
Watch “The Brow” drop 50 on Kemba and company.
They have no big man to guard him. Cody Zeller, Roy Hibbert, Marvin Williams? Get the fuck outta here with that weak shit.

SUNDAY 

I will be at the Blazers @ Nets game, so I hope it’s a blowout.
Other than that, this looks like a football day (Cowboys-Steelers; Patriots-Seahawks).
f16fe4_33a1706de82a46a9b053723415da08dc      Alex Knapp is a Portlander who has lived in Brooklyn, New York for the past 7 years. He is a filmmaker and actor currently working in HR to pay the bills. Alex is an avid NBA basketball fan who likely has an opinion on every team and every player, seriously – try him. You can check out his podcast with Anthony Levy, PDXPATS on iTunes. 
 

Skeptical Optimism

Though there were a lot of positives to take from last night’s blowout win over the Warriors, Spurs fans are well advised to temper their expectations and curb their enthusiasm. Before the season began, I predicted the Spurs would win around 53 games, and despite last night’s performance, I am sticking to that prediction.

Don’t get me wrong, San Antonio looked fantastic (at times) last night in Oakland, but there were a few concerns raised throughout the game. For half the game they looked sloppy on offense giving up 13 turnovers (luckily the Warriors didn’t capitalize on them). The Spurs were in the minus column anytime Pau Gasol (-13) or Tony Parker (-12) were on the court. Gasol looked lost defensively, and I’ve written Ad Nauseam about Parker’s decreased mobility, as he approaches his mid-thirties.

San Antonio’s lack of rim protection may not hurt them against most of the league, but against strong physical teams like Cleveland and Oklahoma City, they may encounter some challenges (one could argue that a team like the Clippers could provide some headaches with their frontcourt as well).

There was plenty to be happy about, but to paraphrase what Reggie Miller said during last night’s telecast, “It is just one game.” The score is not indicative of how good either team is.

Though Warriors fans should be concerned, there is no reason for them to panic. Other than Durant’s offensive performance, people should consider this game an aberration. If Golden State gets outrebounded by 20 boards on a consistent basis, it will be a long season, but I don’t realistically see that happening. As a team they shot 46 percent, but only fared 21 % from the 3 pt. line (You won’t see them shoot that poorly from 3 too often), while the Spurs shot 50 % from the arc and 48 % from the field

Other notes:

  • Kawhi Leonard has shown himself to be worthy of being in this year’s  MVP discussion with 35 pts (a career high) on 10-21 shooting, and 5 steals–including one cookie theft from Steph Curry that ended spectacularly.
  • I’m still not sure how the Spurs are going to keep David Lee on the court, but he played decently last night. In 11 minutes of play, he managed to get a +13 rating with 6 points and 6 rebounds.
  • Although they will miss Danny Green’s defense, these next two weeks present an opportunity for wing players like Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons to get more minutes. Anderson was one of the few players to nab a minus rating with a -3, but Simmons played brilliant minutes (+33), with 20 pts on 8-14 shooting, one filthy block on Steph Curry, 3 steals, and 4 rebounds.

Once again, Spurs fans have a lot to look forward to this season. They look younger, faster, and more athletic than last year’s team, but younger teams see both bigger spikes and dips in play. No rational basketball fan really thinks this is how San Antonio plays for the rest of the season, and Golden State has no choice but to get better. With 7 new players on the Warriors roster, moments of confusion and miscommunication are expected as players work on their chemistry.

The Warriors looked like they were still in preseason mode. I would be very surprised if they don’t pick up some players off later in the season (either through waivers, or trade) to supplement their Big 4. Their lack of depth showed, as their bench got outscored 56-16. That doesn’t happen to championship teams.

No matter if you are a Spurs or a Warriors fan, the thing to keep in mind is that it is one game–the first game, and that it is a long season. Making a prediction either way for either team would be akin to marrying someone immediately after your first date. It’s the NBA, and a lot of things will change between now and April.

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Finally Some Games That Count

Being the hoops junkie that I am, many people are surprised when I tell them that I don’t watch preseason NBA basketball. Sure it’s an early peek at the rookies and NBA retreads who are fighting to make the rosters, but I just (metaphorically) can’t get it up for games that don’t count for anything.

What does surprise me is how little I missed the NBA this off-season. Opinionated hot takes of Kevin Durant’s departure aside, there was little to glean from checking the web everyday for NBA news. I watched nearly 300 games last season, and by the time Golden State choked away the NBA Finals, I needed a break from watching basketball. I thoroughly enjoyed living like a normal person this summer.

I did a little bit of traveling, read a few (basketball) books, moved cities, found a new full-time job, and spent some time with my non-basketball friends and family. But all that shit is over come Tuesday night. The season is starting, and despite the inevitable Dubs-Cavs Finals on the horizon, it will be an enjoyable one to watch. While most people were chomping at the bit, I’m of the belief that the season is starting at EXACTLY the right time. In fact, it was only a couple of days ago that I realized that opening night was on Tuesday–the off-season just flew by.

The reason I watch so much basketball is so that you don’t have to. There are tons of games to comb through, but I’m willing to step on any potential land mines so you can live the normal life that I can only dream about. I could have used maybe one more week to get my life together, but no matter; the time has come for us to admire dunks, emit loud shrieks and weird squeals. So without further exposition, I give you the first Good Ass Games of the 2016-2017 NBA season. Buen Provecho.

          GOOD ASS GAMES OF THE WEEK

Monday

No games scheduled

Tuesday

Utah at Portland (Good Ass Game of The Week)

Expect to see me talk about Utah a lot this season. They have a bunch of interesting players on this year’s roster; including one of my favorites, the infamous Boris Diaw. Portland is already embarking on a Joey Harrington type MVP campaign for Mr. Damien Lillard. This is a late game, but the high I’ll be feeling on Wednesday morning will be worth the lack of sleep. If this don’t turn out to be a Good Ass Game, then my name ain’t Bobby Mickey.

San Antonio at Golden State

This game will be a nice snapshot of what Spurs fans have to look forward to this season. San Antonio will have a great season and will probably grab 50 wins. They will beat the teams they are supposed to, but they will get their asses handed to them by teams with top-tier point guards (they will especially feel the loss of Danny Green in this one). Wins against Cleveland and Golden State will be tough to come by.

Wednesday

Dallas at Indiana

I’m willing to bet any Mavs fan their favorite flavor of Gelato that the Mavs take their first L of the season. Any takers?

Charlotte at Milwaukee

This one is going to be a low-key Good Ass Game. If you miss it, at least watch the highlights. I bet there will be at least 3 top ten plays from this game alone.

Minnesota at Memphis

OOOOWEEEEEE! Teen Wolves go to the grindhouse. Who else is excited for the first appearance of the vein in Tom Thibodeau’s forehead? To quote the great Marv Albert, “YEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Sacramento at Phoenix 

File this under TAP THAT VEIN GAMES.

Thursday

Boston at Chicago

This game has the potential to be a snoozer, but I gotta know if this has all been an elaborate Machiavellian plan by Rajon Rondo to get close enough to Dwyane Wade for payback for that time Wade dislocated his arm. If you think I’m not hoping that Rondo gets his revenge, then you don’t understand the depths of my pettiness. I hope Rondo makes Wade’s life a living hell for the duration of this season.

San Antonio at Sacramento

One day, we may finally get to see Boogie Cousins play for a stable organization. Sacramento is still a shit show, but they have just enough good players to make you intrigued.

Los Angeles Clippers at Portland 

This is the real pick to click of the evening. It’s a TNT game, and a 9:30 tip-off. I’ll be lucky to  be able to watch any of this game. But you definitely should if you have cable and you like watching beige acrobatic dudes make fake tough guy faces.

Friday

Phoenix at Oklahoma City

Just for funzies, if you have nothing better to do around this time of the evening, I’d suggest watching the first half, hitting the liquor store, calling in a pickup order, and then getting back home in time to watch the 4th quarter.

Charlotte at Miami

There is a faint buzz surrounding the “Me So Hornets” (I’m sorry I had to) this season as they should be the favorites to win the Southeast division with or without a healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Holy Shit! I think I’m starting to get excited about the season starting).

Los Angeles Lakers at Utah

In a first for this site, the Salt Lake City Punks have made the Good Ass Games of the Week three times in a week. What better way to spend a Friday night than ingesting legal substances and watching some west coast basketball.

Houston at Dallas

Let’s be honest Dallas fans. This is the year the bottom finally falls out. After years of post 2011 mediocrity, the Mavericks will finally be bad enough to land a lottery pick. Or will they? They are a difference making point guard away from giving teams trouble in April, but for some reason, people don’t like to come to Dallas. Is it because their genius head coach is an asshole? Or is it because the Mavs owner has been piecing together the kind of rosters that NFL Fantasy owners scramble through during bye weeks. Old man Dirk won’t be there for you forever Mark Cuban, the losses are going to come for you, and when they do, they are going to want some cocktail……….FRUIT!!!!!!

Saturday

Minnesota at Sacramento

I’m pretty sure this is an NBATV game so if there is a party or social function you’re getting pressure to attend, do that instead–especially if you have League Pass. This will be one of those games no one talks about, but then you check your Twitter feed, and there will be four or five GIF’s and Vines documenting sick dunks and crazy highlights.

Sunday

Golden State at Phoenix  

I’m curious about how the Suns will play this season. It is weird to see Earl Watson go balling for the UCLA Bruins to coaching an NBA team. It makes me feel old. This probably be the last time I mention the Phoenix Suns this season, unless it is to discuss trade possibilities. They have some young talent on this team, and may be where Utah was 2 seasons ago, unfortunately for Suns fans, ownership can get out of its own way. By February, you may see half of these players playing significant roles for playoff teams.

San Antonio at Miami 

We are finally going to find out if Erik Spoelstra is a good NBA coach. If the Heat win more than 42 games, he may be a candidate for NBA Coach of the Year.

Milwaukee at Detroit

No Reggie, no problem. This game may not get out of the low 90’s, but it should be competitive (in a Princeton-Boston College second round NIT game kind of way). This may be the earliest playoff preview we get this week.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Fool’s Gold and Other Crazy Theories

Before we start the Western Conference Finals preview, I want to congratulate the 2015-2016 Spurs on a great regular season. Having broken the franchise record for wins, and securing the second best record in the league this season, a 2nd round knockout would appear to most people as a disappointing season. No doubt there is a sour taste for most Spurs fans, but to put things in perspective, this wasn’t a choke-job for San Antonio. They are just finally “too old.”

This didn’t just magically happen a couple of weeks ago, they’ve been that way. It just finally got exposed. Anyway who watched the Spurs play the Cavs, Warriors, or Thunder this season, could see the nicks in their armor if they looked hard enough. During the regular season, the Spurs had beaten a Curry–less Warriors team once in 4 games, the Thunder once in two games, and the Cavs once out of 2 contests.

The Spurs are old, their once mighty backcourt appeared slow and undersized against the top dogs, and they still managed to eke out 67 wins. That is a mixture of superior coaching, a watered down league this year, and highly intelligent ballplayers. What San Antonio lacked in size and speed, they made up for in technique and basketball I.Q. But let’s face it folks, basketball smarts can only get you so far in the vertical game.

The Thunder were stronger, and faster than the Spurs who got outhustled and outmuscled. Those two things are forgivable. What I did not expect was for the Thunder to outthink the Spurs.50-50 balls fell out-of-bounds, instead of Spurs players grabbing them–they would leave the refs to make a call on possession almost every time this happened. I was also surprised at all the hero ball I saw from players trying to make double and triple moves down in the post instead of working the ball around for a better shot. Role players like Boris Diaw, David West, and Patty Mills were largely ineffective. Danny Green has played well enough on defense, but San Antonio needed him to shoot better.

One big silver (and black?) lining to take from Game 6 was the incredible second half effort by the Spurs (led by Andre Miller and Tim Duncan) that got them to within 11 points. They’d fallen behind by 27 points and though a comeback was feasible, San Antonio could have easily laid down like a more busterish team would have done.

I consider those 67 wins to be Fool’s Gold. The league this year just wasn’t that good outside of the top 4 teams, and it was only a matter of time until the Spurs played a team younger, faster, and more superstar driven. This may sound crazy, but maybe they OVERachieved this season.

One of the main subplots to this year was “will this be the last run for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili?” I may sound crazy for a second time in two paragraphs, but I think these guys still have something to offer. If there were a way for Popovich to work the roster to where Timmy, Manu, and Tony came off the bench, I would like to see it.

Neither of them are superstars any longer, but they are still good, serviceable players in small doses. Couple that with their veteran leadership, and you have something to keep them around for. Unlike guys like Iverson and Kobe, I think the Spurs big 3 realize their limitations. As elder statesman of the NBA, it would still be cool to see them around, and know they are on the bench, and in the locker rooms, pulling pranks and giving advice.

The Spurs will have to do something different going forward however, Boris Diaw isn’t getting any younger, Danny Green is who he is as a player, and it seems crazy to expect him to get much better. Rumors are swirling about Mike Conley Jr, and Pau Gasol moving down to San Antonio. Those would be good acquisitions, but free agency is always crazy, and you never know which of the younger guys on the Spurs roster will make a leap in the Summer Leagues. But forget all that noise, we still got basketball to watch THIS year.

I won’t even bother going into the Eastern Conference Finals, because you know, Cleveland.

Golden State vs. Oklahoma City will easily be the Good Ass Games of the Week, beginning tonight in about 15 minutes (so pardon any typos or grammar errors–I’m tryna get this shit done in time to watch tipoff).

How the Thunder can win

 

It will be easy to get caught up in the hype of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (yes yes we know–two of the five best players in the league) but its the role players who stepped up big time for the Thunder last round versus the Spurs. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson, and (yes) Dion Waiters all chipped in to make the Thunder play the best they have played all season.

They will need that to continue in order to compete for the Western Conference championship. You already can count on the 60-70 points combined by Durant and Westbrook. The biggest question is where will the other points come from. Adams got some easy buckets against the Spurs off of stray rebounds and alley-oops. KD and Russ will need to find a way for him to get 2-3 easy buckets a game.

During the home game that they lost back in February (the OT loss), the Thunder outrebounded the Warriors by 30 boards and still lost. That is unheard of. They will have to continue pounding the glass with their big frontline of Ibaka, Adams, and Kanter if they want to limit the Warriors possessions.

Lastly, the Thunder will have to take care of the ball. Turnovers are costly against any team, they are deadly against the Warriors, who have no problem converting a steal, or a poor shot, into a dunk or 3 point bucket. The Warriors are already efficient in their half court sets, not taking care of the rock is basically handing them points.

 

Why the Thunder won’t win

 

Besides sporting the best shooting backcourt of all time in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson,  the Warriors happen to have an undersized power forward out of Michigan State, who also doubles as a top 10 player in the league. Though Thunder may have an advantage with their bigs (with an ailing Bogut and clumsy Anderson Verajao) they will have no answer for Draymond Green. I cannot wait to see the Ibaka vs. Green matchup in the low post and on the 3 point line. Dray is going to eat, if Donovan rolls out the Kanter, Adams front line with Waiters, Durant, and Westbrook on the wings. Also, don’t sleep on 3 point threat Marreese Speights, who has no problem hoisting one up.

Russell Westbrook is going to have to play defense this series in a pick your poison scenario of guarding Curry or Thompson. The Thunder don’t have a deep bench when it comes to their guards. If Kyle Singler sees a minute of this series, I’ll be shocked, and Cameron Payne may get his lunch money taken from him if he sees more than 20 minutes a game.

If that weren’t enough, the Warriors sport a large mismatch anytime Harrison Barnes is on the floor, and Steve Kerr (coaching advantage:Dubs) can bring Andre Iguodala or Shaun Livingston off the bench anytime he needs to spell someone. Brandon Rush, and Leandro Barbosa will see significant minutes against whatever scrub the Thunder roll out, both are luxuries that Gregg Popovich did not have against Oklahoma City.

I think at least 4 of the games will be decided by 6 points or less, but I have the Warriors winning in 5 games. I think the Thunder found a favorable matchup last round, and their luck will run out against the defending champs. What we saw against the Spurs was an aberration and not a trend. This is not meant to disrespect to the Thunder, or their fanbase (though I am hearing a lot of Thunder in 7 predictions). I think OKC provides the best possible matchup for what I expect to be a thrilling Western Conference Finals.

Buen Provecho,

BM

Thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

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