Clicks to Pick Week of 10/15/17

*Illustration by Louis Eastman

 

Monday

 

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Tuesday

 

Boston at Cleveland

Houston at Golden State

 

Wednesday

 

Philadelphia at Washington

 

Thursday

 

Clippers vs Lakers

 

Friday

Cleveland at Milwaukee

Boston at Philadelphia

 

Saturday

 

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Sunday

 

Minnesota at Oklahoma City (Good Ass Game of The Week)

 

 

 

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 @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Believeland Pt. 3 : The Cleveland Curse Has Lifted

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We finally got the #Goodassgame we all deserved. With so much history on the line, game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals felt like an NCAA title game on steroids. Conventional NBA wisdom states that the home team usually wins because role players don’t travel. Well this was not the case last night. Everyone who played chipped in for Cleveland.

Kevin Love got 7 rebounds in the first quarter alone, pulling in 14 total for the game. J.R. Smith, who’d been playing solid defense all series, played 38 minutes and threw in 12 points on offense. Kyrie Irving started out slow, but picked it up in the second half, scoring whenever the Cavs needed an answer on the court.

Tyron Lue shortened his bench to an 8 man rotation, with Mo Williams logging a team low 4:45. Lebron an ironman with an iron will logged a team high 46 minutes and 49 seconds. The man looked absolutely gassed during one TV timeout and yet still, he managed to pull off one of the sickest chase down blocks in playoff history.

Say what you will about Lebron James (and I have–he’ll never live down lobbying for suspensions of both Steph Curry and Draymond Green #fuckboishit), but you can’t ever say he never shows up for big games. After logging another triple double (don’t get too hung up on the 9/24 shooting) to put the Kyrie in a position to hit the game winning three pointer, with less than a minute left, Lebron won what should have been his second of back-to-back  Finals MVP’s.

All that being said, the Warriors should not have let the game get this close. They threw away possessions, they couldn’t squeeze the 50-50 balls, they had turnover after turnover during fast breaks where they had numbers, and gave the Cavs too many extra possessions. Golden State had been playing with fire all post season, and it finally caught up to them. I just had this feeling the whole game that if the Warriors were not leading by at least 5 baskets during crunch time, that the Cavs were going to find a way to win.

While Tyronn Lue  wasn’t exactly Coach of the Year material, he did enough to give Cleveland a chance to win this thing. You could tell around game 3 that he finally figured out how to use his chess pieces. Shortening his bench was a very smart move, Matthew Dellavadova was a liability every time he was on the court. Channing Frye gave up more backdoor than–never mind that’s just too easy of a joke to make.

Keeping Tristan Thompson on the floor kept the Warriors from going small, and when Andre Bogut got hurt (an underrated passer in addition to his defense and rebounding), it spelled trouble for the Warriors. Festus Ezeli is a much better player when he can just catch lobs, and any time Anderson Verajao touched the ball for more than a second, a disaster occurred.

The lack of contribution of the role players in the last two series really surprised me this post season. All season long, this was Golden State’s biggest advantage over teams, and for whatever reason, they showed up to the party without even bringing a case of beer. Harrison Barnes stunk up the joint, and probably played his last game in a Golden State uniform (Kevin Durant to the Warriors may not be as far-fetched as it originally sounded–he was exactly what they needed against Cleveland. There would have been no answer for that puzzle piece).

The role players who seemed to make the most impact didn’t get much run. Leandro Barbosa (+5), Shaun Livingston (+8), and Mo Speights (+3) only played a combined 20 minutes; with Livingston getting 16 of them. I ride for Steve Kerr. He possesses one of the most intelligent basketball minds in the game today, but he made some head scratching decisions down the stretch–mainly playing Ezeli, Verajo and Barnes too much, when it was clear they weren’t going to get it done.

For my money, the turning point in that game was when Festus Ezeli got caught on a switch, and bit on the Lebron James pump fake (way out on the perimeter) that netted James three free throw attempts. Lebron hit all three, the Warriors failed to score the next time down, and then Cleveland scored with a Kyrie Irving bucket to tie it on the next possession. That was the last time in the game that Golden State had command, as things got tight for both teams for a 4 minute scoreless stretch. The Warriors quit passing, and quit moving without the ball, and became a jump shooting team that couldn’t get shots to fall. Which again, maybe the bench guys should have played more, because you know, starters get tired in these type of games.

This was akin to the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl 2 years ago, where Seattle should have blown New England out, but the minor details allowed Tom Brady and company to hang in there long enough to figure out a way to win.

It is hard to feel sorry for Golden State. I can see why they were becoming so hated outside of Dub Nation. The bandwagon fandom surrounding their hype machine was getting tiresome (half of them Lakers fans wanting to latch onto a winner). They were depending on Andrew Bogut to remain healthy for 2 years in a row, with a front court that even the ’93 Suns would think was suspect. Their owner went on the New York Times bragging about how their organization was “light years ahead of everyone else”, and even hinted about a menage a trois with last year’s Finals Trophy (and to think people put their lips on that thing). Their star guard kept tempting the basketball gods with his circus plays and trick shots, haughtily laughing every time he ripped out the hearts of teams and fan bases alike. To be up 3-1, and to lose in this matter, is the most excruciatingly extreme serving of humble pie that can ever be served to a team. The Warriors got what they deserved, and if there is anybody I do feel for, it is the true blue fans who were coming to the games even when they sucked–the ones who seemed crazy for believing that they could beat the #1 seeded Mavericks in 2007.

I’ll be the first to say that the Draymond Green suspension was horseshit. How Dellavadova’s nutshot constituted a common foul and Draymond’s incidental contact merited a flagrant foul is beyond me. We can say that is why they lost, but there is a reason teams employ the “next man up” philosophy (NFL careers were birthed from this philosophy at the “U”). Golden State just wasn’t as good as we (or they) thought they were.

You have to give credit where credit is due. Cleveland stepped up their game when they needed to,and the Warriors played as if they were still facing the Blazers (no disrespect). Years from now, we will remember that Lebron James took a shoot first, one assist having ass point guard, an embarrassingly bad, and one-dimensional power forward, J.R. “You trying to get the pipe” Smith (someone who Chauncey Billups once famously asked George Karl to “get him the fuck out of the game”) –the textbook definition of an NBA knucklehead, Richard Jefferson’s honeycomb eating looking ass, and a bunch of other nobodies, and won a championship for one of the most cursed sports cities in the history of cursed sports cities.

If Lebron retired tomorrow, this would be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame. Last year, Lebron was John Henry, this year he is Paul Bunyan. Even a hater like me has to respect that. This man has not missed an NBA Finals since 2010, and guess what people? Barring a seismic shift in the east, he’ll probably be back next year. I would not be surprised if it is against Golden State again either. But that is for an NBA Preview to be written later.

Despite all the hullabaloo about Cleveland and Lebron and curses, let us not forget who the real winner was last night: Oscar Robertson. To borrow a phrase from Jason Whitlock, he was probably “watching last night’s game, cackling while rolling up a blunt.” Cleveland’s perimeter defense smothered the Splash Brothers by getting up in them and picking them up at half court–exactly the type of defense Robertson said was needed to contain those beige muthafuckas. Respect to the “Big O” and his hating ass.

Since we are at it, the biggest L goes to Under Armour, whose poster boys, Cam Newton and Steph Curry could not get it done this year when it counted the most. To quote Mars Blackmon, “is it the shoes?”

All jokes aside, this has been year 3 of this blog, and thanks to all of you who take the time to read this bullshit. This was easily the least work, and most fun of all the seasons of writing this. I may actually be getting the hang of this. Also big ups to my podcast partner, Craig Stein for starting the FullSass Podcast with me. It has been both a fun and invigorating project, and I look forward to stepping up the sass level to something fuller next season. One last shout out goes out to the PDXPats crew for all the inspiration and competition. I look forward to being on the show again, and I promise we won’t write anymore diss records if you don’t give us a reason to.

It’s been real folks. Now go out there and get some sunshine and fresh air, and live like normal folk. #Ballislife, but there is also life outside of ball.

 

Peace,

BM

#fullsass #thisagoodassgame

@clickpicka79

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

Believeland Pt. 2

Yikes. This series has sucked. There has not been a close game yet; the best we’ve seen is a game 4 first half that ended in a 61-61 score. It has been a very intense series however, and thus highly illuminating. What have we learned?

  1. Cleveland fans deserve every horrible sports trauma that has come their way. These past two weeks every insufferable, pathetic schmuck I’ve come across from Cleveland made me wish that the city and all of its sports teams just fall into Lake Erie. One Cleveland ex pat had the gall to ask me if Chief Wahoo offended me because I was Native American. I responded “No it offends me because I’m a human being.” He didn’t get it. I hope that city never wins ANY kind of championship. I don’t care if its team ping-pong, curling, or MLS soccer. lbj-crying-again
  2. Lebron is a whiny bitch. How can a man so powerful and so great be such a fucking whiner? This guy steps over another player (one of the most disrespectful things to do to another person–just ask Lebron’s coach) and gets riled up when that player calls him a bitch. I’m not saying the (flick?) in the balls was justified, but compared to the ball slaps and “Mitch Cup Checks” that everyone else has endured, how can anyone with a straight face say that deserved a flagrant foul upgrade? If there was a pivotal point in the series, this was clearly the series turning event. Oh by the way, Lebron lobbied the league to suspend Draymond Green for 2 games for that little “flick of tha wrist.” Lebron is an incredible player, but I’ve lost all respect for him as a competitor. This, and the way he has been manhandling Steph Curry has shown me that the man has no sportsmanship. I won’t even go into how he should be called for an offensive foul every time he throws an elbow on the people guarding him. Seriously, fuck that guy.
  3. Golden State is not the best team of all time. This series should have been over in five games. The role players have disappeared time and time again the last 2 rounds. No one has consistently stepped up when the moment called for it. I expected Harrison Barnes to deliver in the clutch in game 5 when Green was suspended. Festus Ezeli has been terrible, and Speights has been non-existent. With Andrew Bogut out for the series, the Warriors desperately need the bigs to get BIG. If they don’t show up Sunday night, it’s going to be a shitty Father’s Day for the Dubs. They might get drove, because Tristan Thompson is not going to let up, and neither will “LeBitch” James. I think this has been the impetus for the Warriors not executing their offense. Their shots made from assists have gone drastically down, and Klay and Steph have been relegated to shooting contested three pointers. I think the trust factor is the reason they have been just chucking it up and running back on D, after Cleveland gets a rebound. That record-breaking Chicago team would’ve handled them in 6 games.
  4. The refs have been terrible all playoffs, but they have really outdone themselves in the Finals. This is the best the NBA could come up with? No one knows what a foul is from one play to another. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just keep the best crew on for the whole series? How about that for some much-needed consistency? I swear to God I will fucking throw my glass of ginger ale if this game 7 is decided by some shitty officiating.
  5. Lastly, if anyone is wondering what happened to the Warriors home court advantage, then I will direct them to Darren Rovell’s twitter account. These tickets are beyond Super Bowl prices, and the rich casual fans are ruining the atmosphere of what was once the hardest building for opposing teams to get a W. Sadly this is just a preview of what home games will be like when they move across to San Francisco. So techie bros, when you are asking how the NBA’s best regular season team of all time dropped 2 home games in the Finals (Frankly any team that does this deserves an L), just look in the mirror. All the real, and hard-core Dubs fans are not in the building. They are the ones who know how to affect the outcome of a game. The people in the stands were on pins and needles in game 5, and I’m convinced that nervous energy seeped onto the court.

Normally I would say game 7 favors the home team, but I am not as confident in the Warriors as I was 3 games ago. The only thing keeping me from picking Cleveland in game 7 is the fact that they rep Cleveland. What could be more Clevelandish than them going down 3-1, busting their asses to get a game 7, and then shitting the bed in the most heartbreaking way?

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Quick story: During this year’s past football season, I was at a bar with some buddies watching the Browns-Ravens game on Monday night. It was an absolute travesty to watch, but I happened to be there for a hoops game, and decided to watch the 4th quarter. The game was terrible, and both teams were tied 27-27 (trust me, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as the score would indicate), but Cleveland lined up for a sure-fire game winning field goal as time expired.

Right before the snap, my buddy says “You know what would be funny? If the Ravens blocked this kick and returned it for a touchdown.” I then said, ” Man that would be the most Cleveland-est way for them to lose the game.”

Guess what happened. Yep. Cleveland found a new way to blow a sure win. In the tradition of Earnest Byner, and Jose Mesa, someone on the Cavaliers is going to find a new way to break this fanbases heart, and I will be elated. My money is on Kevin Love or J.R. Smith. And if I’m wrong, and the Cavs win this series, then Lebron James is the greatest player we’ve ever “witnessed” play, AND I will buy a Lebron jersey to play pickup in–along with a headband accessory– for the rest of the year, until the next basketball season starts. But no matter what, I will forever in my heart feel that he pulled some bitch shit this series, and he will one day get his comeuppance. Schadenfreude can be so sweet if you open your heart to it. He won’t be the best player forever. Even Jordan got his ankles broken.

Enjoy the last game of the season.

 

BM

@clickpicka79

#thisagoodassgame #fullsass

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.

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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).

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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

#fullsass #thisagoodassgame

 

 

A Quick One (while he’s away) pt. 3

Last night was such a treat. Sunday and Monday night provided us with two of the better games of the playoffs. For all the talk about how the Eastern Conference was better than the Western Conference, I don’t think I’m out of line to use the trash, disguised as playoff basketball, as a counter to those claims.

Eastern Conference basketball has been awful to watch, and this has been no aberration. It has been this way for years. Just rip the damn thing up and start over. Send Memphis to the east, realign the conferences, and have the playoff seeding 1-16. If it weren’t for the Spurs-Thunder and Blazers-Warriors series, this year’s playoffs would be a bigger flop than the most recent Fantastic Four movie.

A few quick thoughts before tonight’s game 5:

  • Game 4 was just as intense as I was hoping it would be. I’ve been to a couple of elimination games, both in the Oracle, and at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and Sunday’s game between Oklahoma City and San Antonio might have been the most intense basketball game I’ve attended in person. The folks in OKC finally understand how to be a fan base. For years they needed the P.A. announcer’s assistance to know when to get loud, when to cheer, and when to chant. I wasn’t even on the court and I was affected at how loud it was in the arena. The only time it got quiet was when Kawhi dunked on Steven Adams, and I may have been the only screaming at that point–that shit had me juiced. I will say this though, YMCA strikes me as a song you would play in the arena, when the game is secured, in the regular seasonnot in the 3rd quarter of a hotly contested playoff game.
  • The refs from Sunday should never be allowed to work a playoff game together again. They were horrible. If players can get their pay docked for conduct detrimental to the league, then the same should apply to referees. Danny Crawford (go figure) and his crew could not figure out how they wanted to call the game. They would let one thing go–like Kanter throwing elbows as he bullied his way into the paint, and then call a touch foul against the defender guarding him. It seemed like every other foul was a make up call, and it marred what otherwise was a beautiful game to watch in person. At least we can say it wasn’t one-sided; they were at least consistently bad for both teams. We’d have been better off if the refs were sent home, and the players called their own fouls.
  • Minus a couple of lulls, Game 4 was the best game I’ve seen  Thunder play. They were great on defense–especially down the stretch of that game. The Spurs were making tough shots, while the Thunder were consistently finding ways to get easy buckets. They had 23 assists compared to San Antonio’s 12. Both teams had 12 turnovers, and the Spurs were only outrebounded by 6 boards, but it felt like OKC was killing them on the glass. Stephen Adams has been the biggest X factor among the Thunder role players, notching a double-double in each of their wins, while only getting single digit field goal attempts in their losses. Every time the Thunder went to the Westbrook and Adams, good things happened.
  • Gregg Popovich will have some tinkering to do to counter the Thunder’s game 4 adjustments. The Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Russ Westbrook, Kevin Durant line provided the most challenges for the Spurs, and makes me wonder why it took Billy Donovan so long to try this out. While I wouldn’t call for him to make this his starting lineup, there seems to be merit for using this crunch time lineup for what is now a 3 game series. There are scoring options at every position, and OKC’s height gives each Spurs defender something to worry about. For as skilled as the Spurs are, their front line is a little too small vs.teams like Cleveland and OKC;who pound them into submission on the glass, and their backcourt is too small when facing teams like Golden State and Oklahoma City (who also happen to be bigger than them in the paint as well). It just goes to show well how the Spurs execute on both ends of the floor. Even with the size mismatches (and disparity in quickness), it still takes playing a perfect game to beat them.
  • As much shit as I’ve talked about Durant trying to play the villain, and the depths of busterdom befallen the Thunder, you have to be a real hater not to dig what happened Sunday night. KD put up 41 on the NBA’s best defense while his moms (the real MVP) danced in her courtside seats. When he got hot in that 4th quarter (scoring 17 points and having some timely assists to boot) it was eerily similar to the game 4 of the 2012 series where no one could guard him, scoring 18 points in the 4th quarter. With the ascent of Russell Westbrook and his scoring histrionics, it can be easy to forget the former Longhorn is still capable of outbursts like these.
  • Game 5 will be just as much of a dogfight as the past 4 games, if not more. Neither team wants to be one game away from elimination. The Spurs bench and role players output has been matched, (if not surpassed) by the Thunder supporting cast. Oklahoma City is outrebounding San Antonio, and they are getting way more easy buckets than the Spurs. I’m not sure if the Spurs can recover from losing two games at home in a series. Tonight’s tickets will read game 5, but it may as well read game 7. History has shown that most teams that win game 5 of the best of 7 series (when tied 2-2) end up winning the series.

 

I may have already said this before, but I think the Curry injury has been one of the best subplots of the playoffs. His injury had many ramifications for not only the Warriors, but for everyone who, up until the injury, were playing for second place. Cleveland has been feasting on bad teams during the first two rounds, and they’ll probably sweep the winner of the Toronto-Miami series (especially if the Heat don’t have Whiteside). I can only hope that Miami will at least make the Cavs work for those 4 W’s.

Last night’s heroics by Curry ( 40 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists–17 points in OT) only proved why he is the unanimous MVP. But did anyone else see the game Draymond Green had? Not only did he fill the stat sheet, (21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 7 blocks) but he also set the tone for the Warriors second half comeback.

The consecutive defensive sequences where he blocked first Plumlee, and then McCollum energized the team, and that was the point when I knew we were in for a #goodassgame. Make no mistake about it, last night’s game was the game of the year. With Curry’s status in limbo, Livingston getting ejected, and Portland having a chance to tie the series at home, those things only served to make things more lit.

Lastly, how beautiful was that inbounds play that Kerr and co. designed—the one to get the game tied at 3? Curry threw the pass before Harrison Barnes (maybe their  3rd best option to shoot a 3 pointer) had come off of screening Klay Thompson’s man. The Warriors’ floor spacing on that play was almost as gorgeous as the pass.

Though this series is pretty much over, I do not expect the Blazers to fold up like lawn furniture. They’ll take an L, but the Warriors are going to have to work for it. There is nothing to hang your head about Blazers fans. Everyone (including me and other contributors for this site) picked this year’s team to SUUUUUUUUCCCCKKKKK, and they didn’t. That is a win in itself.

Last night’s game proves why it is always more important to make the playoffs (with the possibility of getting bounced) than to tank and hope for lottery ping pong balls. You can’t put a price on experience. The guys in that Trailblazer locker room will never forget the growth they experienced this year–from making the playoffs, to bouncing the Clippers, to giving the Warriors all they can handle in the semi-finals, and this can only help them in aligning next season’s goals.

If you are a free agent frontcourt player looking to play a prominent role for a contender, you have to at least take a meeting with Portland right? The draft is always a crapshoot. You never know what the ping pong balls will reveal, and not all top 3 picks are can’t miss franchise players (Portlanders certainly knows this is true). The Blazers run this year proves that if you put in the work and try your best, you never know what can happen. Sure the Blazer improbable run was helped by collective slides by Houston, New Orleans, and Utah, and then again by the Clippers suffering major injuries to key players, but their hard work, focus, and belief in each other put them in a position to succeed. Blazers fans should be greeting them at the airport when they get back from Oakland after Wednesday’s game.

Enjoy tonight’s game.

 

Peace,

BM

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

#thisagoodassgame #fullsass