Return from Hiatus! – NBA Playoff Predictions, Two Week Recap, and More

In case you haven’t noticed  (which is probably most of you), it’s been about 19 days since my last post, which is, ahem, quite a long time. I don’t really have a great excuse except that I’ve been interviewing for a job, which has occupied most of my attention, and then took a beach vacation where there was no wifi. Either way, it’s been way too long since I’ve put anything up, and for that I’m sorry. It’ll never happen again. It didn’t mean anything! I didn’t even know her last name! Yes I used protection! Just don’t tell the kids…

What We Missed from the Past Two Weeks (Or more appropriately, “What I Failed to Write About from the Past Two Weeks”)

The NHL Playoffs Have Delivered Drama, Excitement, Passion, Great Fans, and Quality Play (Everything that’s absent from the NBA…Sike! Basketball rules.)

There are few things in sports that are more fun to experience than playoff hockey. If you haven’t tuned in, I suggest you give it a try. I’ll admit, I haven’t followed them this year as well as I should, but if I did, I would lose my title of “Extremely Dedicated Flyers Fan When they Make the Playoffs,” which I refuse to do. Hockey just isn’t the same for me when I don’t have these guys in it (not all of them are even Flyers anymore, but whatever):

 

David Beckham Retires

It’s great to see any legendary athlete go out on his own terms. Good for you, Becks. Even without soccer, you’ll still make all men feel less good-looking. And we’ll always have this:

Actually, you know what? After watching that video again I have more to say. Beckham’s free kicks are one of the coolest buildup/”Oh S**t” moments you’ll ever see in sports. As soon as a team makes a foul within 35 yards of the goal, you can literally feel the tension, even from a fuzzy youtube screen. The fans start buzzing, the goalie starts nervously barking at his wall (as if he even has a chance to stop Beckham’s shot), all of Beckham’s teammates start grinning. And when the goal happens, Beckham always puts on his joyful, “You really thought I’d miss?” face as whole nations celebrate “The Captain of England’s” excellence. It’s at the inevitability-level of Jordan with the last possession, Brady/Peyton/Elway with two minutes to go, Federer in a grand slam (for a very long time, at least), and Tiger leading on Sunday. Just awesome. Farewell David.

No Triple Crown Winner this Year

*Cue to whoever is concerned about the Belmont Stakes’ TV ratings banging their head against a desk*

Baseball is in ‘Full Swing’ (GET IT?!?!?!?)

Ugh. The Phillies stink, so I’m tuning out. I’m cherishing non-baseball SportsCenter Top 10 highlights for as long as I can.

Summer Movie Time!

Iron Man 3, WHITE HOUSE DOWN, Star Trek Into Darkness (was the lack of a “:” in the title intentional?), Fast & Furious 6, WHITE HOUSE DOWN, The Hangover Part III, Man of Steel, WHITE HOUSE DOWN, Monsters University, The Wolverine, The Lone Ranger, WHITE HOUSE DOWN, WHITE HOUSE DOWN, WHITE HOUSE DOWN.

So the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs Happened…

And I didn’t write about them once. I’m absolutely ashamed, especially because I WAS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING and I didn’t even document my thoughts on the blog. Just a horrific situation for all involved (which, I’m pretty sure, is just me). Seriously though, there is a draft on my computer that says “Miami in 5,” “Pacers in 6,” “Memphis in 6,” and “San Antonio in 7.” The Last two are obviously wrong, but I had the right team, and more importantly, I had the right reasons for why each team would win. Whatever. I know in my heart that I’m a genius.

There’s still plenty to be said about the second round though. Here’s what we’ve learned from these four series:

Smallball hasn’t taken over – yet.

Pretty interesting that three out of the four teams who advanced feature Roy Hibbert, Z-Bo/Marc, and Timmy Duncan, don’t you think? The growing belief that relatively small, more athletic, three-point shooting lineups are the way of the future has taken a bit of a body punch from these playoffs, since those teams (Golden State, Houston, and Denver come to mind) are no longer playing.

Playoff series are one of the greatest displays of NBA coaching prowess, as the coach who is able to make the proper adjustments tends to win (are you listening, Scottie Brooks?), but there comes a point where you can’t scheme away a skilled big man. If a guy is bigger and stronger than your best players, and able to score, he will always have the advantage. That’s never going to go away.

With that said, I still think that athletic, position-fluid lineups who value the three-point shot (the trendy thing to discuss now is the corner three), excel in quick-pick and roll basketball, swarm the ball defensively, and rebound above their size are going to be the norm in basketball for a very long time. Even the teams with quality bigs (Spurs, Grizz, Pacers) are largely reliant on their smaller guys. All three have excellent point guards (Parker, Conley, and Hill is playing at a high level right now), and more importantly, all three have elite perimeter defenders (Leonard/Green, Allen, and George/Stephenson).

Look at the Spurs/Warriors series: the reason San Antonio won is not because Duncan and Splitter took over the series (although Duncan was excellent), but rather that the Spurs forced Golden State to play through their bigs, and Duncan and Splitter were better than them. Once Gregg Popovich was able to figure out how to neutralize Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors had to give too many touches to Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry, and couldn’t force their perimeter advantage anymore. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this trend plays out in the next two rounds.

Kevin Durant can’t do it all by himself.

For a few years now, Russell Westbrook supporters have essentially been saying this to OKC fans who think Durant would be better off without him:

The Russy Westbrook fan club is obviously feeling vindicated by OKC’s elimination since the Thunder’s struggles without Westbrook seemingly prove his value, but I think we actually learned more from his injury than the simple fact that he’s a great player. What Russell’s absence did more than anything was expose the flaws of Scottie Brooks and Durant’s supporting cast. In these playoffs, Brooks appeared to be inflexible with his schemes and unwilling to think unconventionally. When David Lee went down, Mark Jackson slid Harrison Barnes down into a small-four position (a lineup that had barely played all year), and had lots of success with it. When Westbrook went down, Brooks simply replaced him with backup Reggie Jackson, looked at Durant, and said, ‘SAVE US!!!” The problem, however, is that Durant was just okay, not transcendent like he needed to be for the Thunder to have a chance.

Durant didn’t have any help either. Serge Ibaka, the man who will now be forever  known as “Not James Harden,” was a no-show. Reggie Jackson had his moments, but was erratic and didn’t look capable of running an offense for extended minutes. Kevin Martin, AKA “Also Not James Harden,” only had two good showings, and was -16 in game five. Oh yeah, and remember how the Thunder are paying Kendrick Perkins around 24 million dollars for this year and the next two seasons? He played 44 minutes in the last two games combined.

So really, Durant’s inability to save OKC this year was less of an indictment of his ability, or a triumph for Russ, but rather a reality check for Thunder fans that outside of those two stars, this team (and coach) have some serious issues.

The Bulls are going to be a ton of fun when Derrick Rose gets back next year (if he ever does).

What a gutsy effort from a group that personifies what team sports should be about. Bulls fans should feel a sense of pride for how great these guys played; at the very least, the Bulls can say they ruined Miami’s projected 16-0 playoff run.

Even better for the Windy City is the emergence of Jimmy Butler. If he is able to sustain this level of play for an entire year, all of a sudden Luol Deng becomes a somewhat expendable, yet valuable trade asset (perhaps in a package deal with Carlos Boozer for a marquee big man?). Having Rose back will cure many of Chicago’s offensive ailments, but having a scoring big guy to compliment Noah’s defensive abilities would be ideal.

The Heat better get their second championship this year, because next season getting out of the East might be a whole lot tougher.

Steph Curry is must-see-TV.

The commercial for NBA League Pass next year should just be a compilation of each Curry bucket from the playoffs, with a tagline at the end that reads, “Every Basket. Every Game. NBA TV.” I’d better get some sort of credit (a free subscription would be fine) when this happens.

Curry is now a bonafide NBA star, and I can’t wait for him to break Glen Rice’s single-quarter scoring record in next season’s All Star Game.

The NBA Conference Finals Have Arrived

Prediction Time!

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

I said at the beginning of these playoffs that Indiana would be Miami’s biggest threat in the East, and I still think I’m right. Indiana plays more physically than anyone in the league, and Miami showed some frustration at this style in the Chicago series, which could be a good sign for Pacer fans.

Everything really rides on Roy Hibbert. Miami doesn’t have the size to counter his post game, so if he shows up offensively Indy could have  success inside. Hibbert also has the ability to bother Miami’s finishes at the rim, which is essential to beat the them. If Hibbert gets in constant foul trouble or struggles to finish around the basket, Frank Vogel and Co. could be in trouble.

Sports pundits keep saying they’re worried about Dwyane Wade’s health, but I’m not sure it matters at this point. Everything that Wade gives them when he’s healthy is something that LeBron James can do anyway. Obviously, Miami would love to have a healthy Wade for the rest of the playoffs, but I think they would be fine without him too.

Do I think the Pacers will beat the Heat? No. Miami would beat the Monstars in a seven games right now. But I expect a very competitive series. The Hotness will win game two and game five by 30 points each because Indy will go horrendously cold for long stretches, but the rest of the games will be bloodbaths.

Prediction: Miami in 6.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis simply overpowered the Thunder with their interior play, and I expect them to try to do the same in this series. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have been tremendous, and on paper they would project to do the same against the Spurs.

The real key here will be Mike Conley. Will he be able to keep pace with Tony Parker? If Parker gets going, and Marc/Zach are forced to chase him around pick and rolls all series, things could get ugly quickly.

Everyone seems to be on the Grizzly bandwagon, but I’m not ready to hop on just yet. This Spurs team played the last few games of the Golden State series with an edge that I hadn’t seen from them in a while. I expect a big series from Kawhi Leonard, and I’m not sure Lionel Hollins can keep up with Popovich in the “playoff-adjustments” category.

Prediction: Spurs in 7.

So there you have it…

Two weeks worth of writing in about 2000 words. I should not write for a long time more often! Just kidding.

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One thought on “Return from Hiatus! – NBA Playoff Predictions, Two Week Recap, and More

  1. OKC just hurt themselves even more and this is why. Russell is listening to what the media is saying about how OKC playing bad without him. Now he will think that what he does is justified. He might take even more shots next year. They really should have kept James Harden.

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