Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. The two best bench players in the NBA put on quite a show last night. James Harden (left) hit the big shot in the end though to help the Thunder go up 3 to 2 in the Western Conference Finals
By Josh Kramer
We could quite possibly be watching history in the making in regards to NBA Playoff basketball. 94% of teams that have gone up 2 to 0 in best-of-seven NBA series have gone on to take the series. Only 14 teams in NBA history have ever climbed out of a 2 to 0 hole to win a best-of-seven game series. Both conference finals series began with the higher seed taking a 2 to 0 lead. Things appeared to be over. Then both lower seeded teams miraculously defended their home floors (and OKC won one on the road last night).
Can Boston and/or Oklahoma City pull off the unthinkable? Oklahoma City can. Yes, I am going to keep doubting San Antonio. I wouldn’t count on it from Boston. The Thunder have been the team to watch out West all year. Despite a very slow start in the conference finals, their bigs (Ibaka namely) awoke in Game 4 and James Harden hit the shot of the year in Game 5. Remember, Westbrook and Harden combined for a mere 18 points on Saturday. OKC still won. Last night, the OKC bigs, Ibaka and Perkins combined for just 13 points. OKC still won. The Thunder will knock off the Spurs and become team number 15 to climb out of a 2 to 0 hole. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Anze Kopitar, Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Dustin Brown, French Open, Jack Nicklaus, James Harden, Jonathan Quick, Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Kings, Miami Heat, NBA, New Jersey Devils, Novak Djokovic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, Serge Ibaka, Stanley Cup, Tiger Woods, Victoria Azarenka
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Curtis Granderson (left) and Derek Jeter (right) are two of the main reasons why the New York Yankees are right in the thick of things in the AL East as usual.
By Josh Kramer
Can you say playoffs? The past month and a half has been defined by playoff action. Last week though, Grand Slam tennis in Paris was added to the slate. Not to mention Tiger Woods tied Jack Nicklaus with PGA victory number 73. I thoroughly enjoyed last week, but this week will be even better as we delve deeper into the playoffs and action at Roland Garros. Here are the events to keep an eye on.
5. A 20-minute long red flag at Dover on Sunday. 12 cars were involved in the massive collision that occurred on the exit of Turn 2. Hopefully next Sunday will be a little less eventful at Pocono Raceway as Jimmie Johnson looks to jump Greg Biffle atop the Sprint Cup Series.
4. It took 8,020 and games and 134 pitches from Johan Santana. But the Mets finally have a no-hitter. Both Roy Oswalt and Dustin Pedroia are making two very different types of comebacks. And after a stellar career in which he posted a career .309 batting average, Magglio Ordonez is officially hanging up the spikes. Also what is the deal in the East? All teams are within striking distance in both the AL and NL East, with no team trailing first place by more than 3.5 games. The matchup of the week will take place in the Bronx.
Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees: Every team in the AL East is very much in contention at the moment. Amazingly, all five teams have a positive run differential. The AL Central currently only has one team with a positive run differential (Cleveland). But let’s be entirely honest. Does anyone truly think the Orioles or Blue Jays will be in contention come October? The AL East has been a three-team race for years now and will continue to stay that way into the foreseeable future. The Yankees and Rays happen to be two of those three teams in contention each and every year.
As is typically the case in New York, the Bronx Bombers have been dropping bombs all year long, leading the American League in home runs. Tampa Bay on the other hand has won in a much different fashion, relying heavily on their very talented pitching staff. David Price and Jeremy Hellickson have both been stifling the opposition since the beginning of April. For the Yankees, the Captain (Derek Jeter), who actually just celebrated the ten-year anniversary of becoming the Yankees captain yesterday, has turned into a modern-day version of Ponce de Leon, discovering the baseball fountain of youth. Also, Curtis Granderson’s insane power has been another key to New York’s success. The Rays swept the Yankees to open the season back in early April. New York returned the favor by taking two of three at the beginning of May. Look for Tampa to turn the tables yet again taking two of three, with Hellickson and Price starting two of the games. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged AL Central, Andreas Seppi, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Cleveland Indians, Curtis Granderson, David Price, Derek Jeter, Dominika Cibulkova, Dustin Pedroia, French Open, Greg Biffle, Jeremy Hellickson, Johan Santana, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Kings, Magglio Ordonez, Miami Heat, NASCAR Spring Cup Series, NBA, New Jersey Devils, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Novak Djokovic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Roland Garros, Roy Oswalt, Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Victoria Azarenka
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. At times, Chris Bosh (pictured above) gets lost in the shuffle on Miami’s loaded roster. People are beginning to realize his importance as Miami struggles to survive in the East without the third member of their “Big Three.”
By Andrew Wittry
From the start of the NBA season, the Miami Heat have been the Eastern Conference favorites. After Chris Bosh’s abdominal strain sidelined him in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals things began to change. Then falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Heat were thrown into a must-win scenario in Game 4. It was the first time all season that Erik Spoelstra’s squad had been in danger of being eliminated by a non-elite team (any team outside of the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs). Their one-game deficit also marked the widespread realization of how important Chris Bosh is to the Heat. Bosh often gets discounted when it comes to Miami’s “Big Three.” Wade is the long-time hero of Miami who brought a championship to South Beach. LeBron is the four-time MVP who puts the Heat on his back night in and night out. And what is Chris Bosh? In reality, he is an All-Star level talent who has 20 ppg and 10 rpg potential; however, the former Georgia Tech forward is the third scoring option in Miami and does not get the credit he deserves for the role he plays alongside D-Wade and LeBron.
It was not until Chris Bosh had to miss the rest of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals that fans began to understand just how integral he was to the Heat’s success. Without Bosh, the Heat have the dynamic tandem of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, aging forwards, and inconsistent shooters. With Bosh on the floor, defenses have to pay attention to both Miami’s guards and forwards. However, if Joel Anthony is involved in a pick-and-roll offense, defenders can concentrate on James and Wade since Anthony is not a major scoring threat. Even if the Heat are Dwyane Wade’s team, Chris Bosh is a more important player. Without Wade this year in the regular season, Miami went 7-1. Without Bosh, they were 4-5. Continue reading
Posted in NBA
Tagged Andrew Wittry, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, David West, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, Indiana Pacers, Joel Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Lebron James, Miami Heat, Mickael Pietrus, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder, Roy Hibbert, San Antonio Spurs
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Manu Ginobli (pictured above) stole the show in Game 1. Will OKC slow down the streaking Spurs tonight?
By Josh Kramer
Continue to doubt the Spurs. I know that I have. 19 victories in a row is no fluke. Not to mention that nine of them have occurred during playoff basketball. Through three quarters on Sunday night, it looked as if the Thunder were on their way to making a major statement, and negating San Antonio’s home-court advantage. Instead, San Antonio came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth court, denying OKC a major opportunity. Sunday was as prime example of why no game is every over until the final horn sounds. Now history is against the Thunder who lost in the conference finals last year as well.
First of all, winners of Game 1 in the conference finals have gone on to win the series 80% of the time. Secondly, San Antonio became the fourth team in NBA history to start the playoffs with nine straight victories. All of the previous three advanced to the NBA finals with two taking home the championship. Thirdly, the Thunder outplayed the Spurs for well over three/fourths of the game and still lost. Scott Brooks has to be scratching his head still as to what happened late Sunday night.
Manu Ginobli was the difference maker as he has been for the better part of a decade now. How many players can come off the bench and influence a playoff basketball game the way he can? Not many, though James Harden, OKC’s bench star, can really play. Also, OKC has to find a way to get some point production out of their bigs. The Spurs cleaned up in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 50 to 26.
Despite all of my rambling, I still like the Thunder to take this series in the end. There is something about this young and exciting group out of OKC that has really caught my eye. The “Big Three” of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden will not be denied two years in a row. They are far too good and determined to let that happen. Look for an inspired effort tonight from Russell Westbrook after a less than stellar Game 1 performance. The majority of the country wants a Thunder versus Heat finals matchup. With a victory tonight, the Thunder will really increase the likelihood of this dream matchup coming to fruition. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Barry Bonds, Bjorn Borg, French Open, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Kings, Manu Ginobli, Mark McGwire, Martin Brodeur, Miami Heat, NBA, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Novak Djokovic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, San Francisco Giants, Scott Brooks, St. Louis Cardinals, Stanley Cup
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. The point guard matchup in the Western Conference finals between Russell Westbrook (pictured above) and Tony Parker should be one for the ages.
By Josh Kramer
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Western Conference semifinals were a major bust. The city of Los Angeles (Clippers and Lakers) was entirely overmatched and mustered up one total victory. Now, the matchup everyone has been waiting for in the Wild Wild West is set. Who isn’t excited for the Spurs/Thunder showdown set to start on Sunday?
Not only did the supposedly “over the hill” San Antonio Spurs tie for the best record in the NBA, they also have won 18 straight games. The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off an emphatic thrashing of the Los Angeles Lakers. OKC has been the favorite all year long out West, and lived up to the part until the final couple of weeks of the season when San Antonio leapfrogged them for the number one seed. So despite San Antonio possessing the number one seed and cruising through the first two rounds, all records get tossed out the window. The score is 0 to 0 come Sunday.
Not only did the Spurs and Thunder finish 2nd and 3rd in the NBA in terms of scoring offense this season, they also finished 16th and 17th in terms of scoring defense. These teams put up frighteningly similar statistics during the course of the 66 game shortened season. Can you say seven game series?
Flip a coin on what “Big Three” is better. On one hand, San Antonio has the old-school trifecta featuring Parker, Duncan, and Ginobli. On the other hand, OKC has a terrific trio in Westbrook, Durant, and Harden. This series will start and end at the point guard position though. Tony Parker versus Russell Westbrook. Continue reading
Posted in NBA
Tagged Gregg Popovich, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Manu Ginobli, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. LeBron James (pictured above) put on a remarkable performance in Game 4. Sadly, it is ring or nothing for the King this year.
By Josh Kramer
40 points. 18 rebounds. 9 assists. That was LeBron James stat line on Sunday. Recognition was given for a good 24 hour period. Come Game 5 (tonight), the remarkable performance will be a mere memory. People are still far from satisfied with the King. In taking his talents to Miami back on July 8, 2010, James chose a different life. A life where the criticism never ends. Where the expectations grow at an infinite rate. A life where the word “satisfaction” does not exist. And of course a life where returning home is more of a chore than a celebration.
You all are quite familiar with the story. Not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7. It is a quote on the same level of the classic Allen Iverson “We talking about practice” rant of ten years ago. This season, LBJ put up arguably the greatest season of his already amazing career, helping him earn his third MVP Award in the past four years. The amazing thing is nobody seems to care. All anyone cares about are his missed free throws at the end of Game 2 against the Pacers. Or the fact that he dished the ball to superstar teammate Dwyane Wade for the final shot in Game 2.
Watching LeBron play this season and during the early going of the playoffs has been a treat. The guy is doing once in a lifetime type of things on both ends of the floor. Sadly, the expectations are so high on the King, if he does not bring home a ring, it will all be nothing. His remarkable 2011/2012 season will be thought of as a failure. Will the Heat cut down the nets? I am honestly not sure. A lot hinges on when Bosh comes back and if he is at 100%. Haslem did his best impersonation of the injured Chris Bosh on Sunday. When push comes to shove though, Haslem is not nearly the caliber of player that Chris Bosh is. Plus, OKC or San Antonio would be stiff competition if Miami were fortunate enough to get by Indiana and then the winner of the Boston/Philadelphia series.
I am by no means a LeBron James fan (I am not a hater either). I never have been. But I am a fan of the game of basketball. The way James fills up the stat sheet on a nightly basis deserves some praise. What he did on Sunday was truly remarkable. Sadly, if the Heat lose Game 5, it will all be forgotten. Despite many saying Dwyane Wade is the leader of the Miami Heat, it is LeBron James who carries the team and the city on his shoulders. It is LeBron James who took the brunt of the criticism when Miami came up empty-handed in 2011. And it will be LeBron James who shoulders the majority of the criticism no matter how well he plays if the Heat do not capture a ring in June. I guess that is the life of a King. Things are great when you are winning. Things are horrible when you are losing. The life of a King is bittersweet. Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Allen Iverson, Anze Kopitar, Belmont Stakes, Chris Bosh, Dustin Brown, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, French Open, I'll Have Another, Indiana Pacers, Jonathan Quick, Lebron James, Los Angeles Kings, Miami Heat, Novak Djokovic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Coyotes, Rafael Nadal, San Antonio Spurs, Stan Van Gundy, Udonis Haslem
Photo courtesy of inflexwetrust.com. Larry Bird (pictured above) added an NBA Executive of the Year Award to his already impressive resume yesterday. What can’t this legend do when it comes to basketball?
By Josh Kramer
Some people can just do it all. Larry Bird is one of those people. Yesterday, Bird added to his already amazingly long list of basketball achievements in taking home the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award. Bird not only excelled as a player, but he saw great success as a coach, and now is thriving as Indiana’s President of Basketball Operations. Bird is the only person in NBA history to be named MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Bird would trade the latter two awards for the 1979 NCAA Basketball Championship though. But I digress.
What Bird has accomplished is absolutely mind-boggling. Just ask Michael Jordan how difficult it is to transition from a player to an executive. Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats set an NBA record for the lowest winning percentage of all time this season. Sure plenty of former players have turned into great coaches. Phil Jackson, the “Zen Master,” is one of those guys. But was Jackson half the player that Bird was? Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Charlotte Bobcats, Chris Bosh, Coach of the Year, Donnie Walsh, Executive of the Year, Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Miami Heat, Michael Jordan, MVP, NBA, Phil Jackson