Coming into the season, NBA circles were wondering if fans would see a repeat of last year’s Finals. San Antonio was a bigger question because of their age, but like they do every season, the Spurs are once again contending for a top spot in the conference and continue to be in the circle of title contenders. When will people learn that there’s no reason to write off the Spurs? Even as they’ve been dealing with injuries throughout the season, San Antonio continues to play their style of basketball and continues to win lots of games. Last night’s victory over the Heat proves that despite whatever the Spurs are going though, they will contend for the top seed in the western conference and be a favorite to be the last team standing in June. Tim Duncan was great (23 pts, 11 reb) as he continues to defy all aging logic but the biggest reason for the Spurs end-to-end victory was their fast start. If a team with strong fundamentals and great coaching gets off to the 15-point first quarter lead, there’s not a lot that the opponent can do to recover. It also helped that Kawhi Leonard was very effective in defending LeBron last night, holding the red-hot reigning MVP to 6-18 shooting from the field. James tried to put some of their fault on the jerseys they were wearing but i’m not buying it. Every player on the court was wearing them and every player had to make adjustments to their shooting technique. My personal opinion is not in favor of the jerseys but the old “when life gives you lemons…” phrase comes into play when I hear complaints about them from players.
In other news last night: the Lakers are a really bad team. Quick shout out to Kendall Marshall because without his 3-pointer late in the game, the Lakers would have suffered their first 50-point loss in franchise history. Despite that last minute effort, the purple & gold still managed to make history after losing by a total of 48 points. That’s the new record and that’s also the new standard of Lakers’ basketball. Did I mention that last night’s loss came to their cross-town rival Clippers? Last night’s big win by the Clippers over the Lakers pretty much sums up what these two teams have been going through this season. The Clippers and more specifically Blake Griffin continue to impress, battling in a western conference that gets tighter and tighter as the weeks go by. I know the Rockets have a better record than the Clips as of today but right now, i’m taking the Clippers as the team to break up a Thunder-Spurs clash for the conference title. Speaking of the Thunder, Durant and Westbrook both had great games last night in Phoenix. Quick tangent: why didn’t TNT flex away from the battle in LA and show this game instead? Anyways, the Suns had a better team effort as they took the victory 128-122 in a nice, high scoring game. Things are led by Gordon Dragic, who continues to be the breakout star of this season, but the rest of the Suns squad has been just as impressive. Phoenix is very fun to watch and could make some serious noise come playoff time.
Lots of good games tonight and lots of good games this weekend. ESPN’s double slate should be solid tonight with Memphis at Chicago plus Indiana at Houston. The action slows down a bit on Saturday but Sunday has plenty of action to ignore whatever things you’re supposed to get done. ABC’s showcase Sunday might be a bit lopsided but there are other games to watch. Sunday’s night action could feature three of the best games we’ll see all season with: Blazers at Rockets, Pacers at Mavericks and Suns at Warriors. A great slate and a great way to end the weekend.
The headlines are going to feature LeBron James and his mask, wearing it after suffering a broken nose last week against the Thunder. Yes, the mask looks plenty cool and the various nicknames trending around Twitter were fun, but that wasn’t the best story line in the NBA last night. It’s a shame that NBA TV can’t just cut away from their regular programming when there’s something like a triple overtime game going on. That’s what we were getting last night when the Wizards were visiting the Toronto Raptors last night. But no, let’s keep watching re-runs of a “classic game” from 40 years ago. I understand that it’s more complicated than that but can’t TV executives just make a judgement call there? Anyways, once I knew the game was heading into double overtime, I went online and found a way to “legally” watch the game on my computer instead. One thing really stuck out at me from the Wiazards-Raptors triple overtime marathon: John Wall can bring it on any single night when the game is on the line, he brings his best and makes his teammates better. Wall and Marcin Gortat (combining for 62 pts, 15 reb and 10 ast) led the way for Washington as they outlasted Toronto to take a triple overtime victory on the road. Gortat was signed during the off season and may wondered whether or not he was going to be a solid addition. The Wizards big man has been inconsistent at times but last night proves that he can certainly be a significant part of the this team. For the Raptors is was more about losing personnel as the game went on. As the game gets longer and longer, there’s a bigger chance of teammates fouling out and depleting your chances of playing at full capacity. Still, DeMar DeRozen (34 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast) and the rest of Toronto should hold their heads up because last night was a battle. Who knows, we might see these two teams square off in a playoff series and have ourselves a sequel of sorts.
Now we can go ahead and focus LeBron (or LeBane, LeBat etc.) and how the Heat took care of the Knicks at home pretty handily. If I had to describe the Heat’s performance last night it would be: effective. I mean, the team combined to shoot just over 60% from the field. James (31 pts) and Wade (23 pts) themselves alone were 23 of 32 from the field as they led Miami to a 108-82 victory, their 9th in the last 10 games. Carmelo Anthony, who scored 29 points, and Tyson Chandler (19 pts, 16 reb) were the lone bright spots for New York last night, as their dark season continues to unfold without a real ending in sight. Melo’s scoring in the 2nd quarter kept the Knicks in the game but once the 3rd quarter was over, Miami stepped up their defense and took the game out of reach. It’s clear that Miami is on a different level and as the season has progressed, is forming into the favorite once again. Questions still remain on defense but right now, the Heat are playing some of their best basketball of the season. Other games around the NBA included a surprisingly close game between the Bucks on the road in Indiana. The Pacers did well to close the game out but may be without George Hill for a couple of games, after suffering a shoulder injury. He’s listed as day-to-day right now but we’ll have to see how much the Pacers are affected by it. The late night match up on TNT had the Nets visiting Denver, two teams that are very much underachieving this season. What in the world was Denver doing last night? The Nuggets should be embarrassed after only managing to score 9 (yes, NINE) points in the first quarter. Let’s remember that Brooklyn hasn’t exactly been known for their “lock-down” defense at any point this season. Shout out to Reggie Miller (part of the announcing crew) who did a good job to call out Nuggets coach Brian Shaw during their pathetic first half performance. The Nets took care of business and went on to rout Denver and we even saw Jason Collins get some playing time, notching 3 points.
In case you aren’t tired of LeBron yet, here’s a funny bit with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show:
There’s not a single doubt in my mind that some sort of selfishness will come off as I choose to make a post about the NBA the day after Dirk hits a game-winning shot. Let’s add that to the fact that it was a “lucky” shooters bounce and that it happened over Moe’s Knicks. At least, if Moe is still a fan of a Knicks team that continues to baffle their fans and any other neutral observer. How does a team with one of the best forwards in the league manage to be five games behind the 8th seed in a terrible eastern conference? Carmelo Anthony’s best efforts (44 pts, 9 reb) weren’t enough to lift the Knicks past the Mavericks, who took the victory with a buzzer-beater. Dirk’s game-winning shot was unorthodox but like Dallas seems to have all season, the bounce just went in their favor. And to anyone wondering: no, Dirk’s shot was not pure luck. When the shot went in and I finally stopped celebrating, my thoughts immediately went to a similar shot he made against the Bucks a few years ago. It’s a shooter’s bounce, plain and simple. There is some luck involved but like Durant, Stephen Curry, Dirk and any other great shooter in the league can attest to, the technique and touch are what creates the odds in their favor. While #41 was the hero for Dallas, what’s being overlooked is how well the supporting cast was for the Mavericks. Particularly the back court of the Mavs (Ellis, Calderon and Carter) who combined for 65 points and pretty much matched the Knicks’ barrage of 3-pointers. The somewhat cast-off squad of Dallas continues to battle for a playoff spot in a tough western conference while the Knicks try to avoid an implosion that’s too significant to recover from.
It wasn’t a particularly busy night in the NBA (only five games) but one thing that stood out to me when scanning the scores last night was the Bucks’ trashing of the 76ers in Philadelphia. How does the worst team in the league go into another team’s building and handle business so effectively? Especially a team that has been as horrible as Milwaukee has been all season. To the Bucks’ credit, the Sixers are the second worst team in the league record-wise but it’s still worth a look. Philly hasn’t been shy about their tanking efforts this season and with a ten-game losing streak in their hand, the tanking hats were fitted nice a tight last night. The result was a dominant win by Milwaukee, at one point leading by 29 points. If that doesn’t indicate how bad the game was, maybe this picture of a court-side fan sleeping from the 3rd quarter will do the trick. When’s the last time we saw something like that? It’s always been a dream of mine to sit court side at an NBA game but this guy must be so used to the seats or the basketball was so bad that a nice nap was inevitable. I fully understand why a team would tank because if you’re going to be bad, one might as well be really bad. That’s the life of an NBA team that doesn’t attract a major superstar to their team. Get some nice picks in the draft, hope their gems in at least one way and add the pieces from there. But at a certain point, how much does the product get compromised? People pay some hard earned money to go and watch pro basketball in person. How much obligation does a team have to put their best possible product out there all while knowing that this season is a sacrifice/investment for the future? It’s a debate that can go on forever but if there’s a fan sleeping right in front of a game, then we might have gone too far with “tanking” or whatever one will call it.
After a nice little break, i’m officially in full-on NBA mode. I know the winter Olympics have been in full swing for some time now but growing up in Texas, where we get a few inches of snow maybe once or twice a year, it’s not exactly in my circle of immediate interest. I’m Team USA all the way but i’ll watch the medal count from a bit of distance. Speaking of distance, how about LeBron’s game-winning shot against the Warriors last night? While Durant continues to rip through the league on a daily basis, LeBron reminded us last night that on any given night, he can be the hands-down best basketball player on the planet. Maybe Durant will answer with his own near triple-double tonight against the Lakers? More than the game winning shot, LeBron’s stat line (32 pts, 13 reb, 9 ast) shows that against a good team like Golden State, James can still do more than enough to help the Heat be successful. But is it a bit too much? Miami has shown signs of regression from last year’s team. We’ll have to see if they can gain some ground on Indiana in the second half of the season. One that thing that will help is Indiana losing at home to my beloved Mavericks. Dallas won a tough, physical and important game on the road in Indiana. Winning in the Pacers’ home arena is impressive for any team but I don’t know what to make of it because just the night before, I was watching the same Mavericks team get hammered by the Bobcats. Speaking of impressive, watching Blake Griffin emerge into the team’s best player while Chris Paul comes back from injury has been as impressive as anyone in the league. Last night was no different (32 pts, 10 reb) as the Clippers got a huge win over Portland in a key game that involved two teams that are in the middle of a western conference that seems to get tighter every single day.
There are only two games tonight (Nets at Bulls, Thunder at Lakers) that are both on TNT but the they shouldn’t affect the standings too much. Brooklyn and Chicago could prove to shift a couple of spots but the overall standings shouldn’t be affected so it’s a nice spot to take a quick look at the standings as we head into the NBA’s all-star weekend. It continues to be a two-horse race in the east but the western conference has a few distinct races within the top 8 teams that make it, like most seasons, the more interesting conference. The first is the race for the top spot in the conference. The Thunder have a pretty strong grip on it right now but San Antonio continues to hang around, despite dealing with lots of injuries. Going by how Durant is currently playing and the fact that they only play each other one more time, it’s going to take a big late surge for the Spurs to have a real shot at taking the top seed in the conference. The next group includes the Rockets, Clippers and Blazers, all with near identical records. Technically the Clippers and Blazers should be flipped because of the loss column but that silly “division winner rule” still applies and they get the higher seed. Which one of these teams ends up with the best record? I’ll side with the Clippers because they continue to ride Griffin’s big play until Paul (their best player) is completely 100%. I’m having hard time understanding Houston’s chemistry and Portland’s defensive questions continue to linger. The final group is currently led by the Mavericks, followed by the Suns and Warriors. These three teams are only separated by half of a game in the standings and to be quite honest, it’s a complete crapshoot. All have questions regarding their squads and any of these teams can hold the 6th seed or even catch up to the previous group. Memphis is still lingering (only a couple of games out of the playoffs) but after their great January, the Grizzlies have stumbled a bit so it’ll be interesting to see if they can regain their winning form after the break.
Here are the Top 10 plays from a nice night of basketball. Back tomorrow to preview All-Star weekend.
Once the first snap of the game resulted in a safety, I thought to myself “Well…now anything is possible” and a bit of impossible did happen. How does Seattle, a team built around their superior defense, prove their worth on the biggest possible stage? I’d say that completely dominating the opponent in a Super Bowl is a good start. Let’s also mention that the Broncos, the team that Seattle overpowered, set records on offense by the season’s end. Denver had Peyton Manning last night, one of the best of all time but for pretty much the entire game, Manning did not live up to what he had done all season long. Seattle’s first Super Bowl title was won by their defense, shutting down the Broncos offense and controlling the pace of the game in a 43-8 rout in favor of the Seahawks. I’m actually still having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what happened last night. My prediction had the Broncos winning a close game but I never doubted that Seattle was good enough to take the title themselves. Of course, I never could have predicted that the Seahawks could go out and put up such a dominant performance. Even though i’m pretty sick of hearing the phrase “defense wins championships” it was very evident that Seattle’s defense was so good and had such a presence, that Denver had no answer.
Let’s not forget that despite taking a back seat in the headlines, Seattle’s offense deserves some credit. Russell Wilson had a very solid game (18-25, 206 yds, 2 TDs) but what was most impressive about his game was his ability to formulate some nice drives once Seattle needed their offense to really put the game away for good. Denver actually did a very good job of defending Marshawn Lynch, something that teams were finding hard to do. But despite the Broncos’ best efforts of defense, Seattle was still able to get key first downs after Denver put the pressure on. Malcolm Smith was a great choice for MVP but it’s shame that there isn’t a way to give the award to the entire defense as a whole. Or what about Percy Harvin? The ultimate x-factor stayed true to his label and had one of the biggest plays of the game, the kick off return to start the second half and essentially clinch the game for the Seahawks. I thought Denver could recover from 22-0, still only three scores, but once the lead was pretty much 30 points, it felt like it was officially over.
At 36-0, the clock was the only thing left to settle but one had to wonder: are the Broncos going to score at all? It doesn’t matter how good anyone thought Seattle’s defense is. No one could have predicted that through almost all of the 3rd quarter, Denver would still have a 0 on the scoreboard. Demaryius Thomas was the only bright spot in Denver’s dreadful night, breaking a Super Bowl record with 13 catches to go along with 118 yards and a TD reception. Thomas now holds that reception record but i’m pretty sure that doesn’t make him feel any better about losing the game in such a disappointing fashion. Peyton Manning is the main target of negative discussion today, many questioning how good Manning really is and where he now ranks in QB history. It’s crazy how one one player, in the span of 24 hours, can go from potential “GOAT” to “perennial choker” just because of one performance. It’s fair and unfair at the same time. Last night’s game will be a big black eye on Manning’s career-long resume but as I’ve stated previously, it should not take away from what he’s already done.
Congratulations to Seattle on their first Super Bowl trophy. Very well deserved.
Alas, we’re only about 52 hours away from Super Bowl XLVIII from officially kicking off. It seems like a month since we last saw a real NFL game. No, the Pro Bowl doesn’t count because well, it’s the Pro Bowl. The only thing that’s unfortunate about it being two weeks since the last pro football game, is that Broncos-Seahawks is the final game of the season. Luckily for us, this is the match up that most NFL fans were waiting for. The top two seeds in each conference will bring their contrasting styles of play to the field, a cold field where it will be decided which team is the king of football. But first, we have to set aside all the off the field topics that, in all honesty, won’t matter once the ball is officially kicked off. Let’s forget about Marshawn Lynch’s lack of communication to the media and what Sunday’s game means to Peyton’s legacy. Let’s also forget about how “smart and articulate” Richard Sherman actually is. Let’s also forget about anything and everything that involves some sort of beef between Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan. There’s nothing worse than two retired NFL players, both who spend a lot of time on TV, creating some sort of riff to take the attention away from the actual game itself. I know the Super Bowl is more than “just a football game” but this time around, let’s just focus on what is going to happen on the field.
Most Intriguing Match Up: The obvious choice here is Peyton Manning and his weapons against the Seahawks secondary. It’s pretty plain and simple: the top offense in the league going against the best defense in the league. The four-headed monster (Thomas (2), Welker and Decker) will try and continue their season-long success against the toughest group of pass protectors in the league. Sherman will most likely cover Demarius Thomas the entire game so keep an eye on that for the entire game. How many flags will we see on Seattle? I expect the Seahawks to bring the pressure early, often and at the highest intensity. But despite that very intriguing match up, it’s not the one i’m most interested in. Let’s see how well Seattle’s running game does against the Denver defense. Something sneaky that has not been discussed enough is the fact that Denver has stopped two great running teams (Patriots and Chargers) in their playoff victories this year. Can Marshawn Lynch be effective? How well is Russell Wilson going to be able to use his legs to extend plays and find open receivers? They’re all questions that will be answered in the most interesting match up of the day.
The X Factor: You mean, aside from Percy Harvin? Harvin is probably the x-factor to end all x-factors. He might as well be the host and spokesman for the hit show on Fox. But since he’s too obvious of a choice, we’ll take it to the other team for this one. Little has been said about Knownshon Moreno, the Denver running back, who despite being just as important as any of their receivers, doesn’t get anywhere near the same attention. In case you didn’t know, Sunday’s game will feature some cold weather. No real chance of rain/snow but still, cold and just a bit windy. Guess what that means? More running plays! Moreno will be featured more heavily and because Seattle’s pass defense is especially good in the red zone, watch out for multiple hand-offs when the Broncos are close to the goal line. Manning will be the biggest figure on offense, as usual, but I have a feeling that Moreno will come up with some big plays in key situations. Possibly to run the clock down in the 4th quarter? We might even see #27 on the Broncos break his own world-record for tears shed during a national anthem.
So, who wins?: It’s hard to say. Vegas like the Broncos (-2) but as we know, Vegas is in the business of making money, not predicting the outcome of the game. Initially I thought that Denver would take the win, as they are the better team on paper and are better on offense than any other team ever. Seattle’s defense is excellent BUT the Broncos are better at offense than the Seahawks are at defense. Historically speaking, defense does win championships, we’ve heard it over and over. This trend is true in the Super Bowl and while I don’t know the exact stat, I think the top defense is 9-2 when it comes to the big game. Seattle has all the signs on a championship team: defense, running game, big-play potential. Will that be enough? Yes, Seattle had the best defense in the league but Denver had the best offense of all time. The Broncos broke records left and right, leaving opponents in the dust when trying to figure them out. It has just felt like Manning’s year from start to finish. My immediate gut feeling was that the Broncos would come out on top in a close game and i’m going to stick with my guns. Broncos-24 Seattle-23. Omaha!
There’s no doubt that Richard Sherman will get the biggest crowd and the most attention during Super Bowl Media Day. Sherman has been hanging out in a whirlwind of discussion, ranging from his play on the field to his comments away from the field. At least we know this, #25 on the Seahawks is a smart guy and whether he’s playing all of this up for “his brand” or not, he’ll come to play on Sunday. Much like the rest of the Seahawks team, the most important game of their lives starts on Sunday at approximately 6:25 ET. Seattle is trying to win their first Super Bowl and cement their place in NFL history. But it’s very difficult to really cement your place in a league where everyone forgets how good you have been from week to week. Just ask Peyton Manning. He’s coming off the greatest season in history for a QB and today, during Media Day, he’s still being asked what this season and what Sunday’s game means for his legacy. Manning was quick to shrug off the question stating that “I’ve been being asked about my legacy since I was about 25 years old. I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you’re 25 years old. Even 37 — I’d like to have to be, like, 70 to have a legacy. I’m not even 100 percent sure what the word even means.” Sure, it’s only of those robotic-like answers that we’ve to expect from a professional like Peyton Manning but it holds a lot of truth. When you’ve had a career like Manning, can one game really define your legacy? It can but at the same time it can’t.
We can all agree on this: Peyton Manning is among the greatest QBs that the NFL has ever seen. Where you rank him among the other greats (Montana, Elway, Unitas, Brady etc.) is up to personal preference for the most part. How much do you value postseason success? How much do Super Bowl titles matter? Those have been the biggest criticisms when it comes to discussing Manning’s “legacy” as a quarterback. If Manning leads the Broncos to win Super Bowl 48, how much does his legacy change? Remember, there has never been a starting QB to win a championship with two different teams. Manning would also be the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl since John Elway, the man who recruited him, did so himself. Two rings are better than one and two rings since his last one (2007) would be something that only his little brother as managed to do. Let’s not forget that this is that same little brother’s stadium where Manning will be playing in on Sunday. I could go on and on about how much is at stake but I can’t help but side with Peyton Manning when it comes to to his opinion on the matter. We all know how much is on the line, it’s the Super Bowl. The biggest sporting event in the country and one of the biggest in the entire world. So there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a major part of how we look at Manning but it’s not going to make or break what he’s done in his already legendary career.Let’s save all the legacy talk until Manning’s career is completely over, not before one championship game.
First of all, i’d like to apologize to the NBA. It’s mostly been football for me the past few weeks, the main attraction this time of year, but i’ve been watching the Association on a more casual level. There are various reasons for that (I won’t bore you) and while it’s mostly been Mavericks basketball, i’m still keeping tabs on what’s going on around the NBA circles. Until the Super Bowl is over, i’ll keep it casual with the NBA but since it’s the only pro-football game left for this season, my basketball coverage will continue to improve in the next couple of weeks. After all, what can happen during the NBA regular season that can eclipse the all-mighty NFL? Enter Kevin Durant. Durant’s current scoring streak includes 30 points or more in 8 straight games, with totals that include 46 (last night), 48 and 54 points. At first sight, I thought to myself “well, this is the most impressive scoring streak since Kobe’s stretch in the 06-07 season” and then I came across this stat sheet. My predictions were correct! Kobe was more of a volume shooter (scoring 398 in 10 games) and while Durant has “only” managed to score 383 points in 10 games, he’s doing it more efficiently than Kobe did. Think about this: in the month of January so far, #35 of the Thunder is averaging 37 points/game while shooting just over 52% from the field. If that’s not must-watch basketball, I don’t know what is. For those that are interested, Durant does play tonight as the Thunder are in San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The top two teams in the western conference going head-to-head that also includes the most impressive shooting stretch in the past 7 years? Yes, all basketball fans should be watching ESPN at 8pm ET tonight.
As impressive as Durant’s streak has been, it’s not everything that has been going on with the NBA right now. Can I just get one thing on record? Let’s all pump the brakes on statements that say Durant is now the favorite for MVP and that Indiana is now the favorite to win the title. I get where the debate is coming from. It’s a fun one to have right now because Durant has looked so impressive and because Indiana appears to be taking complete control of the top spot in the eastern conference. But as we’ve seen in the past, the MVP isn’t won over a month long stretch in January and NBA title isn’t won because you’re the top seed in the conference. I give plenty of props to Durant for making it an actual conversation now but my money is still on LeBron, he does more for the Heat than any player does for their team. I’m also impressed with Indiana’s 4 game lead over Miami for the top spot in the conference, making it very clear that they want home court advantage in the postseason. Right now, I think Indiana would be favored, mostly because Miami seems to be in a bit of a rut but once the weather gets warm again, Miami will be the favorite. By the way, check out the Pacers in Phoenix tonight; contrasting styles that should provide a great NBA product. I know this topic is a bit old now, but I’ll just ask the NBA a quick question: can we send Miami and Indiana to the western conference, Utah and Sacramento to the eastern conference and make the east the new D-League?
Here’s a highlight video of Durant’s 46 against the Blazers last night. It starts to get ridiculous around the 1:30 mark of the video. A sequel is possible tonight!