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. 
 

Better late then never: Top 8 Over/Under’s & Award Predictions

[Editor’s note: After a full NBA Season, 2 blown 3-1 series leads, and an east coast west coast podcast beef, our hero Alex Knapp returns with another series of wild predictions and theories for the 2016-2017 season. Betting with Vegas has closed for the season, but we at Fullsass will gladly take bets with anyone willing to fork over some cash.]

THE UNDERS

OKLAHOMA CITY 45.5: UNDER (lock)

This team will be trash. I don’t believe in Westbrook to WIN, yes maybe he puts up crazy numbers (except any of the efficiency stats), but none of that will translate to wins – in fact by the end of the season it will be known that his wild ball-hog dominate-everything style of play will translate to a lot of their losses. This team won’t make the playoffs.[UPDATE* – They will make the playoffs if they trade for Rudy Gay, he would become a great addition to their squad and surprise a lot of people with how he can help a team win.]

UTAH 47.5: Under

I don’t necessarily believe the hype. Adding “Iso” Joe, Boris Diaw, and George Hill doesn’t translate to 8 more wins,as I think Joe and Boris are both washed up at this point. This team is solid, but unless Gobert becomes Dikembe (which could happen), I don’t see this team being as good as everyone wants them to be. They could win 45 games though. I just think the difference between being good to being great is a big leap in the NBA. Plus Hayward is slated to miss some time with a finger injury. He is more important than people realize.

PORTLAND 46.5: (Under….I know…sorry)

With Ezili still sidelined (until possibly February–yikes!) we still have yet to fix our interior defense (Statistically Plumlee was the worst interior defender out of all 30 starting centers). The jury is still out on whether Evan Turner can actually fit in and impact games, or if he is destined to land in Stotts 3/4 merry-go-round rotation. Crabbe isn’t worth 17 million. Dame and C.J. are the same turnstiles on defense. We don’t have a consistent 3rd best offensive option – in a league that demands one. Basically we are the same team we were last year –a team that overachieved last year –and will regress to the mean this year, at right about 42 wins. I’m pessimistically taking the under.

MINNESOTA 41.5: Under

This is an all time hype line set by Vegas. People want this team to be so good so fast that they would probably be willing to bet the over no matter what it was set at.
Yes, this team is exciting. Yes, a bunch of young athletes just got the coach they desperately needed. BUT NO – Tibs is not worth 13 games this season, just not this season.
This team will get to 38 or 39, contend for the 8th seed – and then, next season…Explode for to a top 4 team in the West. I don’t know why people still hate on LaVine, guy is an athletic freak with a motor and near perfect form on his JUMP shot.

THE OVERS

HOUSTON 41.5: Over

Can they score? YES. Can they defend, TBD. I like the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon letting it fly from deep. I think Clint Capela will and can anchor their interior defense – whether they let teams bomb from 3 may not be something he can control. I think they secretly have a very competent and fun, deep bench with guys like Montrezl Harrel, K.J McDaniels,  Tyler Ennis, and Portland-native NBA-underdog Kyle Wiltjer (dude won’t play, but he can score).
With Hybrid PG Harden running the show, what could go wrong?

INDIANA 43.5: Over

Eastern Conference Finals dark horse winner right here:
Competent PG’s, top 5 player in the game, Myles Turner is a beast just needs to get more consistent every night, Thad Young is a professional starting NBA PF, and a decent enough bench. They need to find a way to rebound and guard the 3pt shot (ultimately that’s just effort). Nate McMillan doesn’t add any wins to this team – but the addition of Thad and emergence of Turner does.

DALLAS 39.5: OVER (lock)

In the last 15 seasons (Dirk/Cuban era) the Mavericks have missed the playoffs ONCE, in ’12-13 with a record of 41-41. That was also their lowest winning percentage in the last 15 seasons.
This team wins more than 40 games and makes the playoffs every year, and this year will be no different. Lock of the century.[UPDATE* They started 0-3 and I still don’t care. This team will make the playoffs. ]

NEW ORLEANS 36.5: Over

When you read my individual award selections below, this “over” will make more sense to you:
Another year of Gentry to install a faster paced offense, a handful of decent/hungry FA role player signings to help build out around Davis, hopefully Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday come back sooner rather than later to give Ant more offensive options to play with. My boy Tim Frazier finally gets the burn he deserves (ghost handshake). Davis is a fucking beast, so if he can get even a tiny bit more help than last year and stay healthy, this team should clear this over/under.

2016-2017 Individual Award Predictions. 

The predictions below take into account the Las Vegas betting odds, specifically the “Moneyline odds”, the number in parenthesis is how much money you make for every $100 you spent betting on this specific thing. These can also be translated into more standard fractional odds (+1300 = 13/1).
My picks are what I think the pre-season “best bets” would be. Where you can make the most money for something that actually has a chance of happening.

MVP

My Pick: Anthony Davis (+1300) – I think the Pelicans have a bounce back season under Gentry and with a restock of roll players, and Buddy Hield firing from deep (see below), I think they make the playoffs. Davis’s 25ppg, 13rpg, 2 blkpg could make a strong case for him. [UPDATE* – Dude averaged 42 points through the first 3 games. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?]
More likely to happen: Kawhi Leonard (+1100) – The best bet if the Spurs have the best record in the NBA–which I think they could. Kawhi is going to be all over the floor, on every end, and with Tony Parker’s decline in production, and Duncan doing laps in a pool somewhere – Pop will lean on Kawhi to shoulder the offensive load a lot of nights. I’m excited to see it. 
Long Shot: Paul George (+2200) – A bit more of a long shot bet, but he is the 2nd (maybe 3rd) best two-way player in the league. I think he is going to put up super dope numbers and Indiana is a top 4 team in the East (see above). PG for 3!!!!

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My Pick: DeAndre Jordan (+800) – DeAndre could possibly just beast shit up this season. He’s consistently averaging around 15rbs and 2.5 blocks the last couple seasons. He anchors the Clippers D and yet is athletic enough to chase stretch 4’s and 5’s to the perimeter when necessary. Watching him defend the Pick and Poll during the last playoffs was pretty devastating. He impacts EVERY shot at the rim. This could be his Dwight year.
 
Could Happen: Rudy Gobert (+550) – IF the Stifle Tower becomes Dikembe Mutumbo this season, then Utah will be a serious team to deal with, and all the Jazz hype will be vindicated. This goes contrary to my Utah under 47.5 pick (see above), but for those of you inclined to agree with the likes of Zach Lowe – then this might be the pick for you.
 
Long Shot: Jimmy Butler (+330) – I consider this one more of a long shot, but if the Bulls are going to be any good this year, somebody is going to have to play lockdown D and it seems like Butler is the only one we can turn to. If some crazy sport tracking data comes out where Butler is the best on-ball wing defender in the NBA (opponent shoots lowest FG% against him, opponent takes less shots, opponent is forced into higher degree of difficulty shots, etc), then Jimmy may have an outside chance.
 

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My Pick: Buddy Hield (+1400) – Buddy is the Jimmer we always needed. The guy can flat-out score and with Jrue Holliday away from the team, Tyreke still injured, and a cast of new characters – Buddy will crack the starting lineup, play at least 20 minutes a game and lead rookies in scoring, while helping Anthony Davis get back to the playoffs (see above).
Could Happen: Buddy Hield (+1400) – I’m all in on Buddy.
Long Shot: Joel Embiid (+900) – Let’s say Ben Simmons misses the entire year with his foot injury. Let’s say one of Okafor or Nerlens gets moved for a competent wing/guard. Let’s say somehow the 76ers are halfway decent, even just winning somewhere around 25 games. Let’s say Embiid doesn’t get seriously injured this season and plays 70+ games. This would be your rookie of the year – he’s that talented….but only if all those other things I said happen.
 

COACH OF THE YEAR

My Pick: Stan Van Gundy (+2000) – If the Pistons win 55 games this year (oh baby watch out), that’s an 11 game upgrade over last season – Then SVG will be the COY. Or maybe I’ve just become brainwashed from JJ Redick saying he is the best coach in the NBA over and over on his podcast. GET OUT OF MY HEAD JJ! 
More Likely to Happen: Brad Stevens (+700) – People love this dude, and for good reason. He is probably the best coach at drawing up after-timeout plays (ATO’s), and it seems like Boston is primed to make a serious push for the best record in the East (they added Al Horford and I think Lebron will chill during the regular season).
Long Shot: Rick Carlisle (+5000) –  This Mavericks team WILL make the playoffs this year, just like they have 15 of the last 16 years since Cuban bought the team. AND, they will win more than 40 games, just like they have 15 out of the last 16 years (The shortened lock out year they went 36-30, and lost in the 1st round of the playoffs). AND if they compete for the 4th seed (it could happen), then Carlisle WILL be your Coach of the year. All he does is win.

FINALS

Western Conference Finals

Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
That’s right, we are going to get the matchup everyone wanted last year – and this one is going to be a doozy. The Warriors are going to be the best offensive team we have ever seen in the history of the NBA by several metrics. And this Spurs team is going to fare better in the playoffs then they did last season with the addition of Pau Gasol. They still have a solid bench with Patty, Manu, Simmons, Kyle Anderson, and I like the additions of David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon, and Dejounte Murray.

Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics 
I really want to pick my sleepers of Indiana or Detroit here, and I actually think the Eastern playoffs are going to be chalk full of awesome series. But you just can’t bet against Lebron, the guy is just the GOOG (Greatest Of Our Generation) and Boston is primed to take the leap after adding Al Horford and Brad Stevens in his 4th season.

Championship Series

Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I have never done this in my life. I have never EVER picked a repeat title series. It’s just not something I do, it’s completely the opposite of my personality. VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE! I’m the kind of guy who can’t order the same thing twice in a row when visiting a restaurant, even months apart. “I had the burger last time…so I HAVE to get the chicken…” But this is different, I just see it in my head – the epic climax to the three-part series. Curry and new best friend KD try to prove they are the best tandem in the history of the game, while Lebron and his Frien-emies, Kyrie and KLove try to work together to repeat for the title. Dubs in 7.

  f16fe4_33a1706de82a46a9b053723415da08dc  Alex Knapp is a Portlander living in Brooklyn, New York for the past 7 years. 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. 

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. 

REMATCH

Before I break down the NBA Finals rematch between the Cavs and the Warriors, I gotta give it up to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As busterish as they have become, they balled out this post-season.

Steven Adams may have been the biggest surprise. He went from role player to key player this year, and he may soon be the third most important player on this team. Like most people, it was easy to get blinded by the fast start of the Spurs and Warriors. Oklahoma City was a threat to both of those teams, but it was difficult to take the Thunder seriously because of the way they lost games to inferior teams in the regular season.

Even if Andre Roberson spends the summer taking 400 3 pointers a day, I don’t see him being more than a Thabo Sefalosha 2.0. They could use a consistent 3rd scorer, and they can bring Kanter and Waiters off the bench next year and be back in the Western Conference Finals next year (assuming Mike Conley doesn’t go to San Antonio).  But for real, I got a little bit more respect for the Thunder after this post-season.

 

Good Ass Games of the Week:

Cleveland vs. Golden State  Best of 7

Games 1,2,5,and 7 in Oakland

Games 3,4, and 6 in Cleveland

 

People are saying that these are the same teams from last year, except that Cleveland is healthy. This is true to some degree, but both teams are actually better than last year. Cleveland not only has a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but they also have Channing Frye to bring off the bench as a 3 point threat. Now that Cleveland has these three weapons on offense, I’m going to ask this question: Who are they going to guard?

People assume that Game 1 of last year’s Finals would have automatically gone to Cleveland had Irving not been injured, but he was getting roasted on the other end of the court by Steph Curry. Kevin Love should send a Derek Jeter style gift basket to James Harden for taking attention away from his own poor defense. One could argue that they were better defensively up front last year when Love hurt his shoulder.

In order not to get swept in this series, Cleveland needs to do 3 basic things:

  1. Win the 3 point battle. Easier said than done right? Besides chasing the Dubs off the 3 point line and forcing them to take 2’s, Cleveland will need Channing Frye and J.R. Smith to stretch the Warrior D by continuing to hit from outside the arc. This would of course, open up the floor for Kyrie and Lebron to attack the rim and put the Warriors bigs in foul trouble.
  2. Force the Warriors to turn the ball over. The Cavs love to get out running in transition and get easy baskets (dunks). This is exactly how the Thunder pushed the Dubs to the brink of elimination. The Warriors can’t be casual with the ball like they were last round. Hopefully that was their wake up call.
  3. Get Big. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love need to get double-digit boards every night if they hope to have a chance. Thompson’s effectiveness as a rim protector may be compromised if “Mo Buckets” Speights can get loose with his jump shot. I’m curious what counter will Tyronn Lue uses if this problem arises. Timofey Mosgov may or may not get some run this series.

carl-aqua-teen-al-davis

I’m interested how the cupcake opponents and long layoff will affect the Cavaliers. It is hard to simulate the kind of intensity that the Warriors had to muster to come out of the last round. I would not be surprised if the first half is won easily by the Warriors. I don’t see Game 1 being an overtime thriller like last year (I’m also the same guy who said Warriors in 5 last round). Also would anyone be surprised if Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving got injured and missed a game or two this series?

I think the Warriors will in this in 5 games, and I’m only saying 5 out of respect for Lebron James. They’ll win at least one at home in Cleveland.

 

BM

@clickpicka79

#thisagoodassgame #fullsass

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

Everything We Could Have Asked For

This Western Conference Finals has given us drama, great soundbites, and (what do you know?) great action on the basketball court. This series has been the saving grace for this year’s playoffs. The Spurs-Thunder and Blazers-Warriors rounds had their moments, but this year’s Western Conference Finals has lived up to the hype that was percolating even as far back as last year (before Kevin Durant hurt his foot up in Oakland on the last possession in the first half of a regular season matchup).

I’ve spent most of the season bashing the Thunder for their histrionics, style of play, and lack of depth (for good reason), but they have been nothing short of impressive this postseason.

To many Thunder fans, the team fell into what felt like a mid-season swoon. This organization  faced some real life adversity;with deaths close to team members, front office heads and assistant coaches. Billy Donovan lost his best bench coach, Mo Cheeks (the Russ whisperer) to a hip surgery, during this difficult period (a lot of people are quick to praise Billy Donovan for making all the right moves. I agree that he has gotten better with his rotations and substitutions, but I also don’t think it is pure coincidence that Cheeks’ return had nothing to do with their success).

8c85fb4c380d148a21bf3d840740f166

Oklahoma City’s role players have really stepped up their games. Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow have been put into situations where they can succeed (a product of good coaching). Dion Waiters has cut down on his bone headed plays. Kyle Singler is sitting on the bench where his ass belongs. The biggest leap, however; is Steven Adams’ sudden ascension as the third member of OKC’s “Big 3”.

Adams’ impact on the game has been the most  visible factor of this playoff run. Adams has influenced the rebound margins, defensive efficiency, and he is making a contribution on the offensive end; catching lobs, getting garbage buckets on offensive boards, and making nasty baseball passes for layups. When you think about all the front office moves made after the 2012 Finals run, (Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb, Mitch McGary, Kevin Martin) it may not be a stretch to think that the Adams draft pick (acquired in the James Harden trade) may have saved GM Sam Presti’s  job.

For the majority of this series, OKC has outplayed Golden State. Golden State’s role players have struggled this round–especially from the Oracle. The good news is that there is a game 7. Warriors blew game 1 with careless turnovers, and bad body language. People were shocked, but they deserved to lose that one. I didn’t care for their casual approach going into game 1, the way they played was disrespectful to the game, and the basketball gods made them pay for it.

The team returned to form in game 2, but they ran into a buzzsaw in games 3 and 4 (man those fans were loud).

The “Dray-gate” controversy and Warriors going back home with a 3-1 series deficit was exactly the type of drama this playoffs needed. Despite it being a “good ass game”, I knew there was no way they would lose in Oakland. draymond-green-030216-getty-ftrjpg_11yxu7bourk4613knzedu46jtp

Game 6 was going to be the true litmus test for both teams, with the Warriors facing an elimination game, on the road, in one of the most hostile environments in the NBA (Sorry Oakland, but the true Warriors fans have been consistently priced out ever since your team started winning again). Needless to say, game 6 delivered.

Klay Thompson put on one of the most memorable playoff performances I’ve seen that didn’t involve a certain young man from Akron, Ohio (no not Steph). The Warriors needed every one of the 41 points he put up, but the fact that he also played great defense, makes it even more impressive. He has been the playoff MVP for the Warriors this year.

The adage about road players not traveling well held true to form, as Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Draymond  Green did the heavy lifting. Andre Iguodala played timely defense, and had a clutch basketball to tie it up at 101-101. The reason I feel so confident about the Warriors wrapping it up tonight is that “No Buckets” Speights will turn into “Mo Buckets” Speights, Sean Livingston will contribute more offensively than he did on Saturday. I also think Harrison Barnes is going to show up. With the postseason Barnes is having, he may have cost his agent a family vacation in Rome this summer. I really thought he was going to make himself some money in April. I really wanted to see him take that leap this year (I’m sure I’m not the only one).

I think the game will be close until about the 4th quarter, and then the Warriors will go on a run to ice the game. I think the role players will be too much in this game. I knew the Thunder were in trouble during game 6 when they went to the half winning only by 5 points.

They’d dominated the entire half, and gotten the majority of the favorable calls, and still did not win. I would be incredibly shocked if the Warriors dropped this one tonight. Oklahoma City had their chance and they just couldn’t make it happen.

You can call it a meltdown, or you can say that Golden State was clutch. I’ll believe either narrative. No matter what happens tonight, I dare anyone to dispute that this series saved the NBA postseason this year.

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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