We got a big night of basketball last night. The Clippers-Thunder game is taking all of the headlines right now and while I have plenty to say, let’s talk about the eastern conference game from last night. Washington dominated the Pacers during the second half of last night’s game and sent the series back to the nation’s capital for a 6th game. The Wizards were pretty impressive from start to finish last night. Their rebounding edge (62-23) was astonishing and their combo of Marcin Gortat and John Wall as well. Gortat and Wall led the way for Washington, combining for 58 pts, 21 reb and 7 ast in their blowout win over the Pacers. Can we see some consistency from either of these teams? As great as Washington was last night, they have failed to look just as impressive against the Pacers when they’re in front of their home crowd. The Wizards controlled nearly every factor of the game last night but can they do it more than one game in a row? Wall had some turnovers but his shooting display was impressive, scorching the Pacers during a big 3rd quarter for Washington. It was a huge surprise because, so far in this series, Indiana has controlled every single 3rd quarter. Last night it was the 3rd quarter where the Wizards put the game out of reach. What went wrong for the Pacers? Well, to start off, they can’t let another team have a near 3-to-1 rebounding edge over them. They also need a more balanced attack on offense. Aside from Paul George and David West, no other player had a double digit scoring night. Indiana has to revert back to their style of games 2-4 if they want finish the series. It’s very rare for a team to come back from a 3-1 deficit (8 out of 219) but Washington has all the tools to do so. And at the same time, Indiana has all the tools to close them out. Which team will execute?
Now to the bigger story of the night. Where do I even being to discuss the Clippers visiting the Thunder last night? The Thunder took a big lead over the Clippers in their series last night, outlasting LA in a game that ended in a whirlwind of questionable calls and bizarre execution. I tried as best as I could to describe the chaos that happened at the end of that game in once sentence. Being a neutral observer, it was hard for me to watch last night’s game. It’s impossible to argue that the referees didn’t have a big influence on last night’s game. But it’s also impossible to argue which team received most of the benefit. At first glance, one would obviously say the Clippers. The replay that appeared to favor LA, the apparent touch committed by Reggie Jackson. Yes, there was some big influence by the officials but did they tell Chris Paul to foul Russell Westbrook on that terrible 3-point attempt? Westbrook (38 points) makes the clutch free throws and the Thunder take the lead for good. Despite all the talk about the referees going on, why aren’t more people talking about the lack of execution down the stretch by either team? For two teams with championship aspirations, they played some really ugly basketball during the final minutes. It’s a shame really. These are two of the most entertaining teams in the league and unless we get a 7th game, the most important game of the series will remain known for bad officiating and poor play instead of must-watch basketball. Chances are that the Thunder will go on to win the series but they haven’t been impressive enough so I could (hope to) see a 7th and final game. Let’s just hope it’s better all around basketball this time around.
Not going to sugarcoat the games tonight. I expect both the Heat and Spurs to close things out tonight and prepare for the conference finals.
The NBA postseason is down to their final eight teams. After a most exciting first round, teams are now set on making the conference finals. What’s the best way to assure your ticket to your respective conference championship? Winning early, especially if it’s on the road, is certainly something that every team wants to do. Right on cue the Wizards did just that, taking an early lead in the series after their impressive victory over the Pacers in Indiana. I did in fact choose the Wizards to win the series in 6 games and while Washington has been impressive in their own ways, it was more because I don’t trust the Pacers. Indiana only seems to win when it’s a “must win” or some sort of situation where they have a fire lit under them. Washington on the hand has taken advantage of whatever situation they’re put in and has the type of team that usually strikes when given the opportunity. I really enjoy watching their speed in transition, toughness inside and long-rate shooters. Last night it was Trevor Ariza (6-6 from 3-pt range) who stepped it up and continued to frustrate the Pacers’ defense. The Wizards’ power game inside really set the tone early, using different looks from Nene, Marcin Gortat and Drew Gooden (what?) to play effectively in the paint. Then again, going up against Roy Hibbert will make any other big man look good. Hibbert, the LVP of the playoffs, continues to fall into his terrible streak. Last night he didn’t manage to score or grab a rebound in 18 minutes but hey, at least he got a couple of block and an assist so that’s an improvement, right? Baby steps for the Indiana center but they don’t have time to wait for Hibbert to play like normal again. The Pacers have now started their second straight series with a loss at home.
The Thunder didn’t lose their first game in the last round, but they’re currently in the same position as the Pacers, looking at a 0-1 hole to start their series. The Clippers dominated the Thunder on the road last night, led by Chris Paul’s hot shooting night. It was very surprising to see LA go into a usually-hostile environment and control the game by that big of a margin, for that much of the game. The beginning of the first quarter was up for grabs but as the second quarter got going, so did the Clippers offense. It also helps when your point guard is scorching hot from the field and, more specifically, from the beyond the arc. Paul’s impressive shooting display (8-9 from beyond the arc) led the way and opened up the way for the rest of the Clips offense do as they pleased. The Thunder defense had NO answer for anything that the Clippers were doing. OKC’s defense gave up 100+ points through the first three quarters. Of course, it doesn’t help when other than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, none of the other Thunder players were much of a help to the offense. Serg Ibaka managed to score in double figures but he should be more worried on how to stop Blake Griffin. The Clippers look like the more balanced team, actually running plays while the Thunder can’t seem to find an offensive rhythm. Durant was just named the league’s MVP but if he wants to prove that he can carry the weight of that trophy, his team needs to turn things around quickly.
Congrats to Kevin Durant on being named the NBA’s MVP for the 2013-14 season. Here’s some of his best from the season.
Mask on mask crime
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:
It’s only been a few weeks of NBA basketball but the Wizards were already beginning to be the butt of jokes around the league, starting at a horrendous 0-12 but they finally broke that streak as they got their first victory in a close game last night over the Trailblazers 84-82. My favorite pun about the Wizards being win-less was their name change to the “Lizards” because you know, their team only has Ls. Anyways, now that the Wizards have finally got their first victory the bigger question is, when will their NEXT win come? They have a few tough games in a row (at Knicks, Heat, at Hawks, Warriors) but then they go to New Orleans who still might be without their rookie sensation Anthony Davis. If the Wizards aren’t able to win that game, they’re looking at another tough stretch and it won’t be until the 3rd week of December until they face an opponent that they can compete against. Of course this is professional basketball and upsets do happen throughout the season but 1-21 is a really possibility for these Wizards. Keep an eye out for that.
The Brooklyn Nets were in Boston last night, taking on the Celtics in what could be seen as two of a few teams that can take down the Heat in the eastern conference. The game started out with some good basketball, both teams playing well but the Nets began to pull away in the second as just as the Celtics began to cut into the lead a fight/skirmish occurred between PG Rajon Rondo and F Kris Humphries. The incident occurred after Celtics forward Kevin Garnett took a hard from Humphries and Rondo (right next to the play under the basket) wasn’t too fond of the foul so he basically tried to retaliate in defense of his teammate. Were Rondo’s actions uncalled for? Yes and no. It was ok that he stood up for his teammate but Rondo was too aggressive and it resulted in himself and Humphries being ejected. Anyone who has played sports knows that sometimes in the heat of battle, tempers flare but this was an important game for Rondo as his assist streak was on the line. A little less emotional next time Rondo. Gerald Wallace of the Nets was a little too aggressive while trying to break up the fight so he also earned an ejection from the referees. Also, Paul Pierce got his ankles broken by Joe Johnson during the 4th quarter.
James Harden returned to OKC for the first time since the trade to the Rockets but his return was spoiled pretty quickly by the Thunders’ defense and Durant’s 37 points. Not only did Harden shoot bad (3-16) but he also had six of his shots blocked by his former team. While other teams seem to be taking the spotlight early this season (Knicks, Lakers, Nets etc.) i’m not surprised to see the Heat cruising along where they left off last season. This is their title to lose so we’ll see how other teams respond because when the Heat are next on a team’s schedule, it’s the biggest test of the season. The Heat are the best team so far, followed closely by three powerhouses in the western conference (Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder) and my fifth best team is…the Brooklyn Nets. Don’t get mad at me Moe, I know your Knicks are doing well to start the season but i’m going to wait until Stoudemire’s return and see how that goes before I include them in the NBA’s elite.
Quick reminder: NFL action tonight as the Saints visit the Falcons. If you’re not feeling that game there two good NBA games tonight as well (Spurs at Heat; Nuggets at Warriors) so there’s plenty to watch tonight for sports fans. Enjoy!
Here’s the fight:
Seems like the NBA season arrived out of nowhere. Maybe it’s just me as a Dallas fan, after not acquiring Deron Williams during the off season mixed with the Dirk injury, there really wasn’t anything to look forward this seasons. Not the case for the Miami Heat, who completed their championship season last night by raising their new banner and bringing out some shiny new rings. LeBron gets his ring and the “king with no ring” jokes can officially be buried and put to rest. Last night featured a nice opening slate of games for the league, leaving more headlines for everyone to talk about.
Things officially got going outside of the national spotlight between the Cavaliers and Wizards, two teams known for their young and talented players. Everyone knows these two teams won’t be talked about much when the postseason comes around but they played excellent basketball, particularly the Cavs. Cleveland’s two starting guards (Irving and Waiters) look like they have a great future but as great as they were, this game belonged to Anderson Varaajao. The Brazilian big man notched the biggest rebounding game of his career on his way to a near triple-double (9 pts, 23 reb, 9 ast) and led the Cavaliers to a 94-84 victory over the Wizards. The Wizards started off slow on offense, clearly missing their best player John Wall due to injury. Washington was able to cut the deficit in the 4th but down the stretch the Cavs looked to Irving (game high 29 pts) for the plays to seal the deal and take home the victory.
Down in South Beach, the Miami Heat continued their postseason success against the Boston Celtics in a heated game. Dwyane Wade led the scoring for the Heat (29 points) and they were able to show balance on offense and defense to take the victory over Boston 120-107. Things got chippy at the end of the game after the Celtics failed to rally and Rajon Rondo (20 pts, 7 reb, 13 ast) committed a flagrant foul on Wade, causing players from both teams to separate the two (pictured above) but it was nothing serious. Just two teams that aren’t particularly fond of each other playing a physical sport. Speaking of no love, i’m sure by now everyone else has seen Kevin Garnett give Ray Allen the cold shoulder when he approached the Celtics bench. More drama for a heated rivalry. LeBron James kept his momentum from last season but he did have to leave a couple of times during the second half due to cramping, nothing that Heat fans have the worry about.
Of course I saved the best for last just for Bryan. Just kidding, this game actually was the last to be played and caused the most noise around the league after it ended. In case you didn’t stay up for this one, a Dirk-less Mavericks (say that with a straight face) went into LA last night and ran around the new look “penciled in as the West champs” Lakers and defeated the star-studded team 99-91. The Mavs, looking very different themselves, were led by Nick Collison (17 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast) but as evident with his stat line, it took a complete team effort by this depleted Dallas team. Six different Mavs players scored in double figures and they simply looked like they wanted it more, playing with much more urgency than the Lakers. Expectations are very high for this Laker team but if they’re going to reach the title game like most expect them to, they’re going to have to use Steve Nash (only 4 assists) much more effectively. Kobe and Gasol were able to get their points (combining for 45) but that isn’t going to matter if the team shoots 38% from the charity stripe.