All That Extra

I don’t care if the game was competitive and close throughout. That shit was ugly. The officiating was terrible and the flow of the game was a bit klunky. I didn’t like all the flopping (both teams are accused of being the worst), or the miscellaneous elbows thrown at certain player’s midsections(someone needs to get a fine for that). I fear that this series will devolve into a bunch of scrums and ref-baiting as both teams get to know each other even more intimately.

It was insane for anyone not to think Lebron wasn’t coming back with a monster (and highly efficient) game. It was a thing of beauty. The deep 3 pointer in Kawhi Leonard’s face was the end of a pretty filthy run by him. Rashard Lewis chipped in 14 points, Dwyane Wade had 14, and Chris Bosh had 18 points as well. Ray Allen led the bench players with 9 points (Chris Anderson had the other 3 point for the Heat subs).

Manu Ginobili outscored the entire Miami bench by himself. Boris Diaw and Patty Mills were decent (though Mills took too many stop and pop jumpers for my taste), but the guy the Spurs need to play better is Kawhi Leonard. He doesn’t necessarily need to score, but he does have to take care of the ball for the Spurs to win this thing. He had a lot of bad possessions where he took bad shots or dribbled the ball too much. The Spurs can’t afford to have him foul out either.

I wonder what adjustments that Gregg Popovich will have for game 3. Will he have Kawhi guard Wade in the first half and then switch Kawhi onto Lebron in the 4th quarter? Will the Spurs decide to let Lebron score as much as he wants and focus on shutting down everyone else? Will Aron Baynes’ number get called on to throw some ‘bows of his own?

The 2-2-1-1-1 format of the Finals is something worth watching as well. If San Antonio steals a game in Miami, the series becomes a best of 3 with the Spurs having home court advantage. For all the talk about the Spurs missing free throws and that they could be up 2-0 in the series, people are forgetting that the Spurs haven’t played all that well. Miami (their starters at least) has outplayed the Spurs in the majority of both games and could easily be down 2-0. The fact that they could almost be up should frighten Heat fans. San Antonio hasn’t played their best game yet. If they can get a complete 48 minutes of focus out of the whole team, it will be a wrap. Let’s see what happens down in South Beach.

Final Four

We’ve got our Final Four and for all my bitching about seeding and who had the easiest path, it still played out how most people predicted; Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio and Indiana vs. Miami.

It didn’t look like the Pacers would make it this far early on, with Roy Hibbert (the disappearing 7’2 black man) having the worst playoffs of all time for an All-Star (I’m 5’11 and I can get 2-3 rebounds on accident–how he goes an entire game without getting one is beyond me). But he recovered and so did the Pacers and now they finally have home court against Miami. No excuses, this what the Pacers and now they have it. This scenario reminds me too much of ’93 Knicks vs. Bulls. Knicks had home court and didn’t make a lick of difference to Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the game at that time. The Pacers have home court, but the Heat have Lebron James, the greatest player in the game now, as a wise man once said, “That shit don’t mean fuck” to Lebron.

Heat in Six

Before we get in to the Spurs-Thunder, let’s just wish a Bon Voyage to the Los Angeles Clippers. They had a great season and dealt with some ill timed distractions, but fuck those guys. Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game but on that John Stockton “sneaky dirty” tip. He whines, he complains, he fouls, and gets pissy when calls don’t go his way. Fuck him. Fuck J.J. Redick (still) and fuck Blake Griffin. Those dudes are a bunch of floppers and they get what they deserve for signing contracts with the infamous Donald Sterling. Only dudes on that team I respect are Jamal Crawford (so smooth with it) and Matt Barnes (keeps it grimey). I’m glad they got eliminated in the second round. As my homey Adrian (a lifelong Lakers fan) says, “Fuck Clippers for Life!”

The Thunder should have eliminated them in 5 games, they blew game 4 and now have to face the Spurs without Serge Ibaka because he injured his calf in the extra game they played. I would have predicted Spurs in 7 had they had a healthy Ibaka “blocka flame”, but now without him I say Spurs in six.

Scott Brooks as a coach is like the kid who comes over to play video games and he picks the best team and just shoots with the same players over and over again. He may beat you, but not because he’s a better gamer, but only because he is running with a better squad. Put Scott Brooks on the Orlando Magic, and there is no discernible difference in the win-loss records. I’m not saying Scott Brooks is a bad coach. I just don’t think he is an elite coach and he has been getting out-coached all playoffs. He also just happens to have the two best players in the Western Conference on his team. He’s a good coach though, a good personnel guy, but his in game strategy is sorely lacking.

Personally, I’m rooting for a Spurs-Heat rematch. I think the Spurs have the best chance of beating the Heat of the last teams remaining. They have the best coach, and Tony Parker is the best point guard left playing. The Spurs also have the best role players. They are better than next last year’s team based on that alone. A healthy Spurs would have smashed the Heat in six games last year (Parker was hobbled that whole series after game 1). I want the Heat to earn it if this is going to be the three-peat year. The hardest path for them would be through San-Antonio. I think this is what Spurs fans want as well, they’ll take their chances running it back against a Heat team that hasn’t gotten better (besides Lebron) but only got older.

Eastern Conference Finals begins in about an hour and a half. Bring it!

Lastly, Big shout outs to Mark Jackson, for handling his ouster from Golden State with grace. I don’t like the way it was all handled, and Mark Jackson deserved better. I hope he chills on them checks he gonna be getting til the perfect situation opens up for him. He’s a good coach who will someday be a great coach. Its obvious now that his firing had nothing to do with basketball. All that being said, I think Kerr is the perfect replacement for Coach Jackson. Kerr is really intelligent person who will certainly be a “player’s coach.”
I think his style will be a breath of fresh air for that camp. Of course, coaching is not why they lost in the first round. Their roster wasn’t nearly as good as last year’s and yet they managed to win more games this year than they did last year (this year’s conference was arguably tougher). A coach still needs players, and if Golden State trots out the same lineup next year they will NOT make the playoffs next year. The Lacob clan need to look in the mirror and decide how serious they are about becoming an elite franchise.

Have a good weekend and let’s pray for no more series turning injuries the rest of the way……. well unless they happen to the Heat.

Woodenesque? [Originally posted on sportsblog.com on 2/25/14]

20 years from now, how will Bill Self’s legacy be perceived? Ten straight conference titles in ANY sport is a major accomplishment–especially in the post Wooden era of “one and dones”. I would put Bill Self up there with Coach K, Jim Boeheim and Rick Barnes (just kidding) as best coaches in the game right now. I got into the Texas game on Saturday (for a pretty reasonable price) and if you had told me the Horns would get smashed by 30 I would have looked at you crazy. But that’s what happened isn’t it? Of course, I knew there was the possibility of an emotional letdown come Big Monday; even with the chance to clinch the Big XII title in front of the home crowd. OU came with it, but it wasn’t enough. One major goal down, now its time to finish the season strong, remain healthy, and gear up for the Madness of next month. Here are a few random observations from the past few days:

Reintegration

Everyone knows that the Thunder need a healthy Russell Westbrook to be a legitimate threat to the Miami Heat, but the Thunder have lost the last two (big) games with him back in the starting lineup. Keep in mind that Westbrook has missed almost two months of hoops action due to his knee injury. Anybody who has even just played pickup ball can tell you that even a two week layoff can make you feel rusty. So imagine what 2 months can do to someone’s game. I’m curious about the thought process with Russ, Coach Brooks, and the front office about how to get him back involved with the team. He has been playing on a 25 minute limit basis, but with the way the team and Reggie Jackson have been playing, it makes you wonder if they considered bringing Russ off the bench with the second unit, until Russ got his legs and timing back. It is one thing to be out of sync against the Celtics or Bobcats, but the World Champs? Kinda dicey to throw Russ in there with such high expectations. Glad you’re back Russ. Can’t wait to see you at full speed.

While we’re at let’s talk about KD vs. Lerbon II

The stats from this game are a bit deceiving. Lebron had 33 points (15-22), 3 assists 7 boards and 4 steals (he also had 8 turnovers), while KD had 28 points (10-22) 8 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals (5 turnovers for Durant). You could tell Lebron was locked in from the tip, he made the first 10 points for the Heat and didn’t let off the throttle until Serge Ibaka Blocka Flame broke his nose. You could jump to either conclusion that a) Lebron outplayed Durant. or b) that the numbers were a pretty much a wash.

But either conclusion would be insufficient without taking into account that Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade scored 24 points a piece. KD’s crew of Ibaka (14 points) and Westbrook (16 points) could barely muster 30 points between them.

The Heat looked more locked in, they shot 54 % and Oklahoma City only made 2-20 from 3 point land. The passing just wasn’t there for OKC, and settled for way too many jumpers (which is practically begging Miami to fast break on your team).

Let’s also put to bed this whole “OKC has the best crowd in the NBA” myth. I have been to many games at the Ford Center. They do get loud. But from my experiences the OKC faithful get loud at to start of the game, then they quiet down until something cool happens to get them loud. The Warriors fans out in the bay are a bit more involved, and sometimes directly affect plays with the level of noise they create (one can even use this same corollary with the Duke fans vs. Jayhawks. Cameron Indoors is always going HAM, while Allen Fieldhouse seems so dead sometimes when I’m there–though I don’t think it was always this way).

Boeheim Going Fed

I’m feeling this newly borne rivalry between Syracuse-Duke. The level of play of both games has been extremely high, and the pedigree both schools bring to the table amp the games up to a higher intensity. Its like watching a Final Four game without a neutral setting. Dick Vitale says that the first meeting this year was one of the five greatest games he’d ever been associated with. I cannot wait until they meet in the ACC tournament.

As for Boeheim losing his s#$% over that call, I can see why he did it (I got a chance to watch the replay last night). There was a lot of inconsistency in the officiating. One particularly error was a missed bump on CJ Fair that resulted in a traveling violation being called. The blocking call that gave Jabari Parker the AND1, was the exact same situation that went against Syracuse when Rodney Hood got the benefit of the charge. All that being said, Syracuse still had a chance to foul and get the ball back with a chance to tie it (depending on if Duke makes the ensuing one in one free throws). His ejection gave Duke four points plus the ball and thus ended the game. A tough way to end such a highly competitive game. If I’m a ref I don’t think I make a call that late, and let the game get decided on the court.

I went away from the game thinking that perhaps Syracuse is the best team in the nation, and even though the Jayhawks are the most talented, Syracuse would be a nightmare matchup for KU. Syracuse’s backcourt and disciplined big men could create a frustrating night for the Jayhawks and Bill Self. KU fans better pray this match up doesn’t happen until the Final Four in Dallas.

Jayhawks of the week:

Andrew Wiggins for his monster first half against Texas

17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists to begin the game on Saturday. The game was all over by halftime.

Tarik Black

There is no way to describe what it felt like to be there in person when EVERYONE collectively lost their minds.

Thomas Robinson
In a game where he put up 14 points and 18 rebounds. It was this block that made Jayhawks fans oh so proud.

This week is a real lull in the basketball week. KU goes down to Gallagher Arena on Saturday. Friday night Steph Curry goes up to MSG (not sure if you know this but players love to play in Madison Square Garden). Other than that, there isn’t much I’m hype for. I guess this means instead of watching basketball, I’ll be playing it instead. It never stops………….