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5 Quick Points — Western Conference Finals Game 1

5 Quick Points — Western Conference Finals Game 1

Last night the Oklahoma City Thunder did not play their best basketball. Both Kevin Durant (10-30 from the field) and Russell Westbrook (7-21) shot well below their averages and occasionally struggled in the first half with turnovers. The Warriors got 26 points from Curry, 25 from Klay Thompson, and 23 from Draymond Green last night, which on most nights is enough to emerge with a win.

However, in game 1 the Thunder ended up victorious by a final score of 108-102, taking a lead in the Western Conference Finals. They won in Golden State, and now hold home-court advantage for the rest of the series.


Five Quick Points

  • Steven Adams — shoutout to the big kiwi for his postseason so far. He has provided the steel on the interior of the Oklahoma City defense, and his defensive rebounding has allowed the Thunder to get out in transition on missed shots. Limiting Golden State to one possession each time down is a major factor in beating them, as they like to take a lot of quick open 3’s while you are scattered on offensive rebounds. Adams is locking down the glass, and finished last night with a +19!!!! No other played posted a +/- greater than 8, as Adams proved to be one of the most important on the court. Also, with 1 minute left and the Thunder holding a 101-100 advantage, Adams (a career 55% shooter) stepped to the line and made two crucial free throws, and he made them look easy. Oklahoma City needs him to continue to dominate.

 

  • Golden State Bench — If you have watched enough Golden State this season, you know that their bench often times begins those mini-spurts that see them stretch 6 point leads to 17. Guys like Livingston, Iguodala, and Speights (to a degree) have the ability to provide you with 10-15 points on their own, and if 2 or 3 of them get going you have a solid second unit. Last night, the entire bench struggled, which I believe says more about OKC than Golden State. The Thunder have the depth inside with Kanter, and with Foye and Waiters coming into the backcourt you have a formidable team. Look for the bench to have to play better if Golden State expects to win game 2.

 

  • Dion Waiters — Quick one here, but I was extremely impressed with Dion Waiters last night. He played 30 minutes, going 4-6 from the field and 2-2 from 3 point territory. He had 4 assists and 0 turnovers. He played well defensively on Klay, and even checked Draymond Green a few times. That is a mature performance for a guy who the media (basically just Twitter) likes to call selfish and make fun of. Good for you, Dion.

 

  • Curry/Durant Turnovers — What the hell was going on last night with these two guys? Curry had 7 turnovers and Durant had 5, while neither really found their signature rhythms last night. Durant, at times, looked like he did not want to be there (lobbing up passes to no one, throwing up shots when he felt a little contact) and Curry seemed uncharacteristically sloppy. For this series to reach the ultimate level people are expecting, we need these two to wake up.

 

  • RUSSELL THA GAWD — Russell Westbrook won that game last night for Oklahoma City, make no mistake about it. Numbers say he played well, 27 points to go along with 12 assists, 6 rebounds, and 7 steals, but they don’t tell the story. There were stretches of that game where Golden State seemed to be pushing their foot down onto the neck of the Thunder, and only one player stood up and defied that. Westbrook in the third quarter carried his team to within striking distance, and then he continued to drive right at the heart of Golden State. He assisted or scored what felt like every single basket in the second half, came up with loose balls, and hit the important late free throws. Last night was the Westbrook game.

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(Game 2 will be Wednesday at 9 p.m est in Golden State)

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Why have the NBA Playoff’s been so bad?

Why have the NBA Playoff’s been so bad?

The NBA Playoffs have been a pretty big disappointment thus far. No hiding it or sugar coating it, it’s been pretty bad. Void of epic back-and-forth series, and filled with plenty of this:

So, as a result, Matt and Mikey took the time to break down a few things that have happened thus far in the NBA Playoffs. The categories are

  • Series that Disappointed the Most
  • Player that Disappointed
  • Biggest Surprise
  • What You are Looking Forward to Most in Round 2 

Without Further ado:


Series That Disappointed the Most

Matt: Dallas/OKC: The NBA had so much to benefit from the Dallas/OKC series. If Dallas won, or at least took it to 7, then the dominoes would start to fall. Durant rumors would coincide perfectly with the emergence of this season’s overachievers (Boston, Portland). Picture this scenario: Dallas upsets OKC and that same night Portland beats LA and Boston wins a game 7 in Atlanta. There are a few “what ifs” in that scenario but it actually looked plausible for a moment. Overnight, the Cs and Jailblazers become legitimate threats to steal KD in free agency. Instead, Westbrook had to do Westbrook things and absolutely smoke Carlisle and the boys. I thought this series was going to be competitive, it had upset written all over it. A genius coach helps an aging star make one final stand against the new kids on the block. It sounds too good to be true. And it was.

Mikey: Portland/LAC: I know it’s a little weird to say that one of the only series currently knotted at 2-2 has been the biggest disappointment, but this one certainly has IMO. Damian Lillard, whom I have lauded before, has disappointed me in the sense that he hasn’t taken a strangle-hold on the series thus far. I expected a playoff version of Dame and McCollum to be world beaters and announce their presence by demanding we watch them via 30+ point shooting outbursts. That just has not been the case. Couple THAT with a less-than-100% Blake Griffin (who can barely get off the ground and is now injured), Chris Paul announcing he will miss the remainder of the playoffs with a broken hand, and Deandre Jordan’s inadequacy from the line… and you have a horrible series. Oh, and Austin Rivers will be the point guard going forward. Blazers in 6, and good riddance to the Clippers as we know them.

 

Player that Disappointed:

(c) Nick Turchiaro
(c) Nick Turchiaro

Mikey: Demar Derozan: I mean, come on man.

FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG BLKPG TOPG PPG
2015-16 Regular Season 45% 34% 85% 4.5 4 0.3 2.2 23.5
2015-16 Postseason 30% 0% 73% 3.5 3.3 0 3.3 13.3

What these stats show me is that Demar Derozan of the Toronto Raptors is not a playoff guy. That’s going to cost him SO much money if this does not turn around QUICK. The biggest issue, other than Paul George being on him every night, is his inability to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. Couple that with a cold streak from outside (see 0% from 3 this postseason) and you have a recipe for disaster. I like Derozan, I don’t like the fact he is playing himself out of money. He needs to pick it up, get Toronto to the next round, and get to the damn basket in the process.

 

Matt: Steve Kerr. Do former players count here? Why not. Steph Curry is not injury prone however, he has injury history. When he got hurt in game 1 of this series, I wasn’t really concerned. I thought, “Hey, the Dubs will just rest him until the semis, he’ll come back fresh and ready to go.” But then he played. And he got hurt, again. Bad. Steve Kerr and the Warriors management have all the responsibility for this one. Golden State would have beaten this excuse for a playoff team with or without Curry. No one actually gave Houston a chance even when Curry went down in the opener. Therefore, there was no reason to play Curry. The whole “rhythm” theory…simply stupid. I’m not a gambling man but I would be willing to bet that the best shooter in league history would find a way to get his rhythm back after he sat a handful of games. Steve Kerr threw away his title hopes because he wanted to beat the Rockets in 5 instead of 6. Let that sink in.

 

Biggest Surprise 

Matt: Brad Stevens Coaching: The coaching during the game 4 Cs/Hawks series. Not too many coaches would think to put the 6’4” Marcus Smart on 6’8” Paul Millsap. But Brad Stevens did and it won the Celtics game 4. Smart shut down Millsap in the 4th and OT, which essentially stymied the entire Atlanta offense. Stevens also had the gall to put Jerekbo in the starting lineup and it has paid off immensely. The two final plays in regulation of game 4 were representative of the way this series has shifted. Stevens drew up a simple, yet effective Smart/Thomas pick and roll, defying conventional pick and roll personnel protocol. Then Budenholzer drew up a play that saw Korver run off an off the ball P&R. The first option failed and it looked as though Budenholzer forgot to implement a second option. Stevens has made adjustments reminiscent of Pop, Carlisle and Rivers. I knew he was good, but this good? Wow. Game 5 will be one for the ages.

Mikey: Charlotte Hornets: I was praying to the many faced God that the Celtics wound up with Charlotte instead of Atlanta in the first round as a fan of Boston myself. I thought that Charlotte, filled with the best college basketball players Jordan could find, was a cake walk. I was really really really wrong about this team. They have something pretty special down in Charlotte. The energy in the building, the electricity that Kemba Walker plays with, and the surprising emergence of Frank Kaminsky have the buzz really…. buzzing. If they get past Miami, which is looking like a possibility, they have a chance at defeating whomever emerges from the Indiana/Toronto matchup. I like the East for its parity this year.

 

What am I looking forward to most in Round 2:

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Matt: Kevin Durant: KD has a little nastiness in his game. He is one of the few players in the league who doesn’t really care if he is best friends with you. I like that, too. So for this series, I took an online class under Dr. Bill Simmons in Body Language 104. If KD is the competitive MVP we know him to be, then OKC management can take a breath. It means he is dedicated to the club and focused solely on winning a championship for this season. Yet, if he is even remotely friendly/respectful to Kawhi, then it’s time to hit the panic button. The Spurs are my sleeper pick for KD this summer. He has college roots in Texas and if you want to win a title, what better place to go? A competitive KD is one who is dedicated to OKC. At least for another year. Still, watch for how KD responds to The Claw and his defensive prowess. If this series plays in favor of the Spurs (which I think it will), then my eyes will be even more glued to KD. During game 7, when it is clear that the Spurs will take the series, Russ will be devastated. KD on the other hand, may walk off with a demeanor that does not quite match his superstar teammates. If that is the case, then get ready for a wild NBA offseason.

Mikey: Steph Curry: Okay, so I am not a Steph Curry fan. I just don’t like him. I don’t know what it is, if you ask me to explain it I will ask you why you don’t like carrots or whatever weird shit you don’t like personally. I thought Patrick Beverly would do some shady shit and Steph would end up injured, and it half happened that way. Now, the biggest storyline in professional sports for the next 2 weeks that is not about deflated footballs will be the knee of Steph Curry and when he can return to action. I think they can win a difficult series with Portland (or the corpse of LAC) but they need him back for whoever comes out of that unbelievable OKC/Spurs series that should be one for the ages. In 2 weeks time we will see Steph again according to team doctors and all initial reports. But, the most intriguing thing to watch moving forward through these playoffs is whether or not we will actually see the Steph we saw in the regular season again.

by Mikey and Matt

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Well, That Sure Was Something — A couple things from Last Night

Well, That Sure Was Something — A couple things from Last Night

Last night was probably the best night of regular season NBA action in history. Records, retirements, me saying “I don’t believe this” a thousand times. Let’s take a look at the two main events:


1 – Mamba Out

I am not a Kobe Bryant fan in that I usually found myself wanting him to lose throughout his career. His brilliance with a basketball is unquestionable. His drive and determination are evident. I just don’t like him. Last night I cheered him on like I was born and raised in Los Angeles. His career could not have ended in a more perfect way – apart from a championship I suppose.

He took all of the shots. ALL OF THEM. He scored 60 points on 50 shots. FIFTY. And then ended his career with an assist (?!). He outscored the Jazz by himself in the 4th quarter, leading the Lakers to a come-from-behind win. I failed to notice what the score was as this took place; I was simply watching Kobe go to work in a game I thought they would lose. All of the sudden they were down by one with under a minute to play.

Just as they had all night, Kobe’s teammates fed him the ball like he was a starving child. They couldn’t get it out of their hands and into his hands quick enough. It was perfect. It was the most Kobe thing of all time. And but of course he hit the shot. And then two free throws. And then left the floor as the enraptured fans let rip from deep down a raucous cacophony of cheers and “Kobe” chants. You couldn’t help but smile and join in on the euphoria. I love basketball. Kobe was phenomenal at basketball (and apparently still is). What a way to go.

 

2 – Steph Curry With The Shot, Boy

 

So…

… *sigh*

… I’m not sure what to say, here. Let’s start with three point field goals:

  • Before this season, no one had hit 300 3s in a season
  • The previous record for 3s made was 286, which Curry set last year
  • This year, Curry broke his own record in February
  • Third place in 3s made in a season was set by Klay Thompson this year at 272
  • Curry came into last night’s game sitting at 392 (refer to first bullet point)
  • He made 6 3s in the first quarter
  • He finished with 402 3s on the season (refer to the first bullet point)
  • You are now free to let your brain melt and drip out of your ears

And then there is this:

That’s 50% on 2pt field goals, 45% on 3pt field goals, and 90% from  the line. IS THAT GOOD. Let’s find the one contrarian who doesn’t vote for Steph for MVP and introduce him to the Bastard of the Dreadfort.

Oh, and the whole business about the Warriors (73-9) breaking the 1995-96 Bulls (72-10) wins record. Also, no one is beating them in the Playoffs (Good try, good effort, Spurs; it’s not happening).

Watching Steph is bad for my neck because I am constantly shaking my head back and forth with incredulity. He seems impossible. He seems other-dimensional. He seems…well, let’s just let a real writer sum it up:

 

What a time to be alive.

 

by Michael H.

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How Steph Curry is Killing Pick Up Basketball

How Steph Curry is Killing Pick Up Basketball

Steph Curry doesn’t ruin a lot of things. In fact, it is actually pretty cool what he is doing this season. Single handedly making a professional sports league open discussions about changing the rules of the game very rarely happens. When it does, we tend to glorify those athletes with whom the discussion originated, specifically in the NBA.

George Mikan was so damn big that the goaltending rule originated. In 1945 he continually caught the ball on its way down into the hoop. This was obviously not okay, so, a rule was put in place. George was 6’10”, unusually large at the time, and was just catching people’s shots at the rim in typical “NBA Street the Video Game” style.

Wilt Chamberlain, believe it or not, actually used to DUNK FREE THROWS. The ex-Kansas big man would lob the ball towards the rim, get a running start, and basically just flush it down. This resulted in a 1956 rule change about breaking the plane of the free throw line (among other things).

March 24th 1956 - free throw rule proposal

 

In other sports, Bob Gibson threw so damn hard the mound was lowered in Major League Baseball, Sean Avery screened goaltenders too well for some people, and Tom Brady’s injury changed the rule on defenders lunging at a player while currently on the ground. Rule changes are rare. Rule changes because of one athlete are usually tied to something special.

Basically, all I am saying is that the actions of an individual player that result in the alteration of the rules of a professional sports league are notable. Steph Curry has opened up discussion amongst NBA owners (and pundits) about the alteration of the 3 point line in professional basketball. This comes as a result of Steph continually hitting 30-40 foot shots, and shooting a disgusting percentage from ‘beyond the arc’.

 

Did you see that shit up there? He just walked up the court, pulled up from 38 feet, and buried a game winner. This game was in an unfamiliar gym, against one of the best basketball teams in the world, and in overtime. It actually annoys me how good that is. Hundreds of thousands of people shoot basketball daily. One guy is SO MUCH BETTER than everyone else is. The next best shooter in the world is arguably his teammate, and there is zero ground for comparing the two.

This piece, although Steph inspired, is about the common man. The one who plays basketball twice a week locally. Not only does this hypothetical man inspire zero rule changes in major professional sports, he actually kind of sucks at basketball. He is you, he is me, and he is everyone.

Pick-up basketball has been played since good old Jimmy Naismith first shot toilet paper into a trash can (or something like that). Men and women get together, pick sides, and play basketball. They need not know each other previously, and need not know each other afterwards. For those 11, 15, or 21 points (if you play to anything else you are an asshole) these makeshift teams do battle on the court for supremacy. They use a combination of very little skill, very little chemistry, and very little motivation to produce a game of basketball.

Steph Curry killed pick-up basketball. At least for the time being.

 

Playing basketball with your friends (or local group) used to be a lot different. I am going to sound a little like Oscar Robertson here, but the game was a lot simpler before Steph came around.

Steph Curry’s rise to stardom has resulted in his emulation by the common man on the court. It goes without saying, but that is NOT boding well for the local pick-up basketball scene. Guys are trying to shoot fall back three pointers off the dribble, a shot that typically registers a success rate among mortal men of roughly 0%. There are players trying to cross over into step-back 3’s, trying to do a layup by tossing a 15 foot floater, even attempting a pull up from 35 feet in the beginning of a possession.

Not only can these “athletes” not pull off these moves successfully, but it usually results in an airball and immediate forfeiture of all teammate respect. I mean, only one guy in the NBA is doing it, do you really think it’ll work for you? If it was so easy, don’t you think other guys in the NBA would be doing it? It is absolutely ludicrous to think that shot is going in, man.

I understand all the common mistakes in local basketball, but this is one I simply cannot allow to continue. I was okay with people trying to shoot Kobe fade-away jumpers, guys trying to triple pump in the lane when Derrick Rose was big, and I was even cool with a few big men stretching it out beyond the arc in the more recent “stretch-4” era. This was all fluid in the game, and little things that ultimately didn’t result in the stoppage of the flow of play.

In fact, the emulation of my NBA heroes resulted in the lowering of hoops to 8 feet and repeatedly dunking the ball in an attempt to be Vince Carter and T-Mac. They were cool. I wanted to dunk so bad. Guy’s who shot 3’s weren’t the ones you wanted to be. They were loser white dudes who usually played for Duke (more on that coming later this week).

However, mimicking and attempting to recreate Steph in all his baby-faced glory usually ends the game. All you need is one guy on either team to want to be Stephen Curry, and you have a constant pendulum of 35 foot airballs walking you up and down the court aimlessly.

Take it from a girl who knows absolutely nothing about basketball, whom I recently spoke to after she came and watched a pickup basketball game I was partaking in. “It just looks like a lot of walking and chucking 3’s”.

My response, “It used to be a lot different”.

basketball_short

 

by Mikey

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The National Branding Association, What will become of the new NBA

The National Branding Association, What will become of the new NBA

Growing up I hated Kobe Bryant, Probably because I was too naive and drank the Boston kool-aid that makes us all “overly enthusiastic” for our teams. Today, I understand and appreciate all that he has done and given to basketball. The world needed someone after Michael, and there he was. Last week, after I was watching that circus of an All-Star game and Kobe Bryant stepped off the court one last time I realized how strange of a period the NBA is in.

The league hasn’t been in better shape, and I have no doubt that it’ll one day pass the NFL (I don’t know when! But c’mon almost a billion people play basketball). But this is something special; we’re in the early process of ushering out some of the greatest contributors to the game.

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We have sure-fired 1st ballot Hall of Fame players, looking to bolster their resumes and elevate themselves to that next tier of legends.

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We have a bevy of Superstars hitting that are hitting the prime of their careers.

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And an emergence of young talent that will launch the National Basketball Association into the stratosphere.

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Today, when I say “that kids good” it really applies, and that blows. It’s hard to imagine a league without Kobe, one day Lebron will be gone, and KD will be a thing of the past. The NBA will remain, but how will it look?

Let’s take a jump that rabbit hole.

This year’s salary cap is set at $70 million. Next year, $89 million. The projected cap two years from now is a staggering $108 million. Next year is the beginning of the NBA’s new 9-year $26 BILLION dollar contract with ESPN and Turner sports. This can spearhead a lookout in next year’s NBA season though, due to an opt-out in the current collective bargaining agreement. The last CBA (2011) saw the players take a -7% hit on their revenues. Now they’re at an even 50/50 split with the league when sharing revenues. Franchises across the league claim to be losing money (they may or may not), a good reason why in the last CBA the player’s revenue took a hit. As they player contracts begin to grow, Adam Silver will need to restructure the labor agreement (Thank god it’s not Goodell). Nevertheless, money will be flying around the NBA for some time. Lock-out possibly to come.

Let’s shift the focus over to the young professionals now. Right off the bat their childhood wishes are granted, making seven or eight figures to play ball. D’Angelo Russell is making $5.1 million to START, Bill Russell had to rebound and defend his way to making $100,000. They are going to capitalize to the fullest, but how will the franchises combat that? Longer contract terms can be a viable option. I was having a conversation with my roommate and he said Hockey and Baseball have the right idea. They can throw massive contracts at these guys and it’ll almost be too big to pass up (Google Bryce Harper potential contract and not shit your pants).

How much is too much money? I believe there has to be a breaking point where it just doesn’t matter anymore, somewhere to the tune of 8-years $320 million sounds reasonable (I would live in Milwaukee too if that were the instance). Having longer terms can stabilize the league too; knowing your cornerstone is locked up for almost the next decade allows you to build through the draft. Under the assumption the league continues to grow then those max deals won’t be that much of a financial burden, as the cap rises year after year that expense will accost for less and less (the Jae Crowder deal is MAGIC, and a good example).

On the flip-side, more and more we hear that current pros across all sports haven’t touched their career earnings and have only spent endorsement money, the kids see that. What we don’t see are the kids walking into the league with PhDs in social media. They’re about to kill it, they are in a rare sport where you share the floor with nine other guys and your faces (brands) are plastered across my television screen. So what will happen moving forward? You’re going to see them EVERYWHERE! The basketball culture is exploding into fashion, music, acting, or whichever outlet their face can be seen. Their phones are personal branding tools, a bridge where the outside world can get to know them as individuals. These guys will be WORKING! Because Michael laid out the blueprint, we’ve just advanced so much in the world there are so many different avenues to take instead of just flat out being the world’s greatest basketball player.

The talent of the league won’t diminish, the players are great! But don’t be surprised when you see their face or logo at every corner. I’m already pissed that my future son will probably want some Thon Maker shoe or something. But the NBA is smart; they are letting these guys go wild because of the direct correlation of twitter/IG/future app followers to game viewers.
It really is amazing to live in a time to see sports blow up so quickly, no matter how strange it looks…

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Killian Slattery
@kslattery05

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