Posts Tagged ‘NBA Playoffs’

What’s a team to do? Do the underdogs have a chance in the Conference Finals?

May 18, 2016

Early in the NBA Playoffs, when there are 16 teams and 8 different series going on, there are so many games that we’re forced to be a little bit patient with our game to game reactions.

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What’s a team to do?

Now that we’ve pared down the number of teams, there’s so much more time to look at things that we make grand statements and overreact on a daily basis.  Everyone is jumping onto the Thunder bandwagon and completely writing off the Raptors after the respective Game One’s, and there is some validity to the reactions that people have, but it’s important to remember how we reacted during the last round. After the Spurs’ blowout win over the Thunder, every story was about how screwed the Thunder were and whether this was the end of Kevin Durant’s time in OKC. Fast forward a week and a half, and the narrative has shifted to where people are practically inking his signature on Thunder letterhead for him. Similarly, the Raptors were written off multiple times in the series against both Miami and Indiana. When DeRozan and Lowry were doing their best old-Kobe Bryant impressions, they were a franchise that needed to blow things up. Now, they’re the resilient team that finally broke through into the Conference Finals. Like I said, there’s a chance that the Thunder have unlocked their potential, and a very strong chance that the Raptors are toast against Cleveland, but let’s look at how things could potentially play out moving forward. (more…)

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What’s on the line? Another look at legacy.

May 5, 2016

Every year, in every walk of life, people start careers and retire, work hard or quit and succeed or fail. From the beginning of an endeavor until the very end, everything we do contributes toward our reputation.

If you’re an actor, every role you take gets added to your IMDB page. For better or worse, if your name’s on it, it’s there forever. Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors of all time, with roles in Godfather Part II, The Deer Hunter, Goodfellas and the Untouchables (among many others), but even De Niro has a few things on his resume he’d probably sooner forget. He’s great, but I don’t know if Dirty Grandpa and Meet the Fockers are going to be ones he remembers fondly on his death-bed. The good news for De Niro is that we tend to forgive actors for the terrible projects they’re a part of. When we look back at careers, we don’t care about the awful movies or shows, we just look at the things we love.

Fockers? What Fockers?

Like actors, athletes are judged based on what they produce throughout their careers. Unlike actors, we don’t forgive and forget  athletic failures quite as quickly and easily. We look at individual legacies in every sport, but with the exception of starting quarterbacks in the NFL, nobody is judged nearly as harshly as an NBA player. Karl Malone and Charles Barkley combined for 60,685 points and played significant roles on playoff teams throughout their careers, but they’re the first two players mentioned when lists of players without championships are put together.  Despite all the highlights and dominance, all we remember is Karl Malone clanking free throws against the Bulls and Charles Barkley’s forlorn expression as Jordan celebrated another title. With the end of Kobe Bryant’s career and the dwindling lights of Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan, legacy has been at the forefront of this whole season, and the playoffs are no exception. Every players’ reputation is going to be altered forever, but there are a few guys or teams who have more at stake than the rest.

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The Microwaves

April 13, 2016

The Microwaves:

The Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s and early 90’s were successful primarily based on their defense and toughness of Bill Lambeer and Rick Mahorn as well as the leadership provided by Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. However, they did have to find scoring in an era where the run and gun style was in vogue.  One often overlooked aspect of those teams was their spark-plug off the bench: Vinnie Johnson. Nicknamed “The Microwave” for how quickly he could heat up after coming into the game, Johnson was never shy about shooting, averaging 18 points and 16 shots per 36 minutes for his career. Like any other prolific bench scorer, he occasionally drove his coaches crazy, but he also carried the team offensively when the rest of the lineup couldn’t get it going. He provided them with consistent offense throughout his career, but his finest moment came in Game 5  of the 1990 finals when he hit the series clinching shot with .7 seconds left and cemented his Detroit legacy for all time.

Dating back to the 1950’s era Celtics, nearly every title winner has a microwave type of guy on their roster. Bill Simmons refers to them as “Irrational Confidence Guys”. They have no reason to believe that they’re superstars, but in their own mind, they’re equal with the best players in the league and assert themselves on offense accordingly.  Oddly enough, the Warriors don’t have any guys like this since the entire Golden State system is based on the players all having a permanent green light; with the understanding that too many bad shots will get you benched, but aside from the them, the rest of the contenders have at least one Microwave on the roster. (Author’s note- JR Smith is the ultimate Microwave, but he’s a starter now, so he doesn’t qualify.)

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Linsane in the membrane

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Deep breath- Round 2 is here.

May 8, 2015

The first round of the NBA playoffs is all about endurance. Not just for the players, coaches and training staff who endured as many as 7 games in 2 weeks, but also for NBA fans themselves. The process of separating the basketball wheat from the chaff is painful at times and grinding at best. I’ve been a Bulls fan my whole life, and it took everything I had to watch games against the Milwaukee Bucks. By the time they finished off the young Bucks in game 6 with a 54(!!!!) point win, I had seen enough terrible passes, missed lay-ups and bricked jumpers to last a lifetime. You don’t watch sloppy basketball, you survive it.

The less than stellar quality of some of the first round matchups really brought to light how beautiful and sad the Spurs/Clippers matchup was. The biggest mistake I made in my NBA preview was discounting the Clippers’ chances. Thanks to the agreement the team has with Fox Sports San Diego, I’ve watched more Clippers games than any other team all season. I thought I had a read on them; they seemed like the type of team I wouldn’t trust in the playoffs- marvelously talented but as soft as the fancy toilet paper that doesn’t leave scraps on the bear’s butt in the commercial. After the most intense series I have ever watched, one which featured Blake Griffin eating Aaron Baynes’ soul, Tim Duncan turning back the clock to 1997 and a pro wrestling style display of mutual admiration, the Clips have earned my belated respect. After Chris Paul capped off a Willis Reed style gut check with a ridiculous one-legged floater that somehow dropped in, all I could think about was how wrong I was in misjudging them.

For the first time since the playoffs started, Thursday night had no games, which finally gave me a chance to take a deep breath and think about the other things I liked seeing in the 1st round and all the things I was looking forward to in the 2nd.
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