The Dion Waiters shove that broke the internet

If you fell asleep before the end of the Oklahoma City 98-97 thriller over the San Antonio Spurs, you missed one of the greatest moments in modern NBA history. The Spurs started the game shooting 1-13 from the field, fell behind early and scrambled back into the game late. LeMarcus Aldridge played one of the best games of his career, dominating Serge Ibaka in the post on his way to 41 points, 10-10 from the free-throw line and 15-21 from the field.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both got back on track in game two, Durant finished with 28 points on 11-19 shooting and Westbrook finished with 29 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. Steven Adams had a solid game down low, scoring 12 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Yet the rest of the Thunder looked legitimately terrified when they were called upon to make plays. There was a possession in which rookie point guard, Cameron Payne nearly went into the fetal position when Kawhi Leonard put him in straight jacket 35 feet from the basket.

Somehow the Thunder held a five point lead with 30 seconds left. That’s when things started to get crazy. The first play that made the game interesting, was this mind boggling behind the back pass from Tony Parker to a wide open LeMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge drains the three to make the score 96-94 with 25 seconds left.

Next we have Russell Westbrook getting intentionally fouled, and after Russ makes both of his free throws the the lead is back up to four, 98-94.

On the ensuing possession, the Spurs go back to Aldridge – a guy who shot 0-16 from three during the regular season, and had made his first three pointer of the postseason in the prior possession – for the game saving shot. Aldridge pump fakes from beyond the arch as the shot clock is ticking down, and Serge Ibaka goes for it like a moth to the flame. Aldridge leans into the airborne Ibaka, drawing the foul, and goes to the free throw line for three shots. This play just highlighted how much Aldridge owned Ibaka in this game. He knew that Ibaka was going to go for the fake.

Aldridge makes all three free throws, bringing the score to 98-7. Oklahoma City calls a 20 second time out, and we are all set up for the craziest 13 seconds in of professional basketball in recent memory.

The first thing to take note of on this play is that Billy Donovan elects to have Dion Waiters be the inbound passer on a game deciding play. Donovan was horrible in his lineup decisions tonight, but there may be no more unforgivable decision than having Dion Waiters throw the ball in.

Let’s see the final possession play out in its entirety before we start dissecting.

On first blush it looks like Waiters throws a bad imbounds pass, which gets intercepted by Green, leading to a missed shot by Parker, a follow-up missed shot by Aldridge – who may or may not have been fouled – and a final scrum for the ball as the clock runs out.

What an ending right?

But wait, there’s more! After the clock has ran out Chris Webber immediately calls out Waiters for pushing off on Ginobli before the inbounds pass. Let’s check that out!

Whoa! Hey ref, you are standing three feet away, how do you not call that! There is very clearly a shove from Waiters, which is needless to say an offensive foul. The internet was in an outrage from the second the no-call was exposed. Vines sprung up like so many weeds in an untended garden. My twitter feed was painted with the frowny faces of a thousand emojis. Such injustice, what a disgrace to the game!

But then, just the self righteousness reached peak levels, this screen shot showed up on my feed.

Wait? Is that Ginobli’s foot on the line before the inbounds pass is thrown? Yes, yes it is. That changes everything, because as we all know, in accordance with the Official NBA Rule Book as stated in Page 39, Rule No. 12, Section II, #5

“EXCEPTION (5): In the last two minutes of the fourth period and last two minutes of any overtime period, a technical foul will be assessed if the defender crosses or breaks the plane of the boundary line when an offensive player is in a position to inbound and prior to the ball being released on a throw-in.

Ouch. So if the referee was actually paying any attention to what was happening three feet in front of his face he would have noticed Ginobli’s foot was over the inbounds line. The Spurs would have been issued a technical foul, and this whole mess would not have happened. This new evidence was championed by the smug, cool headed rationalist among the NBA Twitter elite, but it’s not as fun as becoming irate over Waiter’s shove. I mean, just look at that shove! How does anyone get away with a shove like that!

(Coughs, Jordan. Coughs, game six)

So there you have it, a game that ended on a crazy two-way no call. Surely nothing else could make that play any more nuts…

Just kidding!

What if I told you a fan literally reached out and grabbed one of the players as they were trying to get up and make a play at the end of regulation? Would you believe it? Because it totally happened!

 

So it goes…

The game ended, and the referees grabbed their shit and got out of dodge as soon as they could, but not before Coach Popavich could get some – and I’m just making assumptions here – unpleasant remarks in.

What we have in the fallout of all the craziness is a series that is now tied at one game apiece, heading back to OKC on Friday.  The Spurs spent a hell of a lot of energy climbing themselves out of the early hole they dug in game two, and wasted what was an absolute classic performance out of LeMarcus Aldridge. If the Thunder find it within themselves to pull of an upset in this series, both teams will look back at the closing moments in this game and wonder what could have been.

The NBA is the perfect sport for the modern internet, where highlights get packaged into bite size bits of digital bliss. Tonight Dion Waiters provided everyone who follows the NBA online with a hearty feast, and for that I salute him.

Round Two – Fight!

Round Two Fight!

The slow, unstoppable march of progress drags us to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The weaker teams are left dead along the road side. Among the dead are the teams that were held back by injuries, age, inexperience – or in the case of the Rocket’s – a real hatred, the likes of which I’ve only seen in Shaq and Kobe’s last year together on the Lakers.

Now we are down to eight teams: the Warriors, Trail Blazers, Thunder and Spurs in the Western Conference and Cavaliers, Hawks, Heat and Raptors in the East. There have already been a couple of games played in the Western Conference Quarter Finals. The Spurs and Warriors both easily won there games, leaving the world wondering which powerhouse looked more impressive. Let’s take a look at these Western Conference heavyweights.

The Spurs’ 124-94 victory on Saturday night was one of the more impressive playoff beat downs in the history of the game. If there ever was going to be a passing of the torch from the Spurs big three to the new blood of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, this was it. San Antonio’s young stars combined for 63 points on 28-36 shooting.

The evolution of Leonard continues to be one of the biggest stories in the NBA. In game one he was able to hold Russell Westbrook to 5-19 shooting, while also scoring 25, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out five assists. Most players would not be able to score more than 15 points while guarding one of the leagues most aggressive guards, but Kawhi makes playing great defense look easy. This guy has already won a Finals MVP and a Defensive Player of the Year Award, he is the centerpiece of the most successful franchise of the past ten years, and by the way, he’s only 24 years old.

The Spurs played beautiful basketball Saturday night. They ran the pick-and-roll to perfection, often bring out the Thunder’s shot blockers and exploiting the lack of defense at the rim. They were also able to utilize LeMarcus Aldridge better than I thought was possible. Aldridge was unstoppable both in the post against Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka and coming off of picks in the high post. Playing in a system in which the players are looking to pass coming off of picks, Aldridge is the kind of versatile weapon that makes the Spurs unstoppable when he is playing well.

There are no easy answers for the Thunder going into tonight’s game. They absolutely need Durant and Westbrook to play better, but it’s up to Billy Donovan to find better shots for his two superstars, and Donovan has not shown himself to be very good at making game-to-game adjustments. They got by last round by Durant making tough shots, but the Spurs are not a team that you can just brute force your way through.

The other problem Oklahoma City will have to figure out is how to get Enes Kanter enough minutes to get his points without being a total disaster on defense. Nothing excites Greg Popavich more than having an easily exploitable big man on the court. Having Kanter have to play the pick and roll against the likes of Aldridge or Diaw is like throwing a chum out to the sharks.

I don’t see this series ending in a sweep, and there will probably not be another 30 point blowout in this series, but the flaws that San Antonio exposed on Saturday Night are fatal for Oklahoma City, and there is no throwing a bandaid on them. It’s going to take legendary performances out of Durant and Westrbook for the Thunder to win this series. If this is the last time we see the most dynamic duo in the NBA play together, let’s hope they go out fighting.
While the Spurs performance in game one was utter domination, the Warriors showed in their 118-106 over the Trail Blazers that they are only getting better. In the context of a team that won 73 games in the regulars season, that has to terrify the rest of the NBA.

We still don’t have a solid timeline as to when Steph Curry will return to play. In his interview during the game Curry seemed optimistic that he would at least be a game-time decision for Saturday’s game three.

We are starting to see Draymond Green become the ultimate point-forward, being able to set up the offense and get his teammates the ball where they are most lethal. Green had another triple double in game one, scoring 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 11 assists. With Draymond taking more of play making role in the Warriors offense, Steph Curry will be able to get more open looks coming off of screens and off of weak side action. This is going to be a huge theme if/when Curry gets matched up with the likes of Kawhi Leaonard next round.

Green also continues to be the master key that allows Golden State to play any style of basketball they see fit. Draymond is so adept at switching onto smaller players in the pick-and-roll that it can completely gum up an opposing teams offense. There was a possession yesterday in which Green switched on to Lillard off a pick and roll, stayed step for step with his man on the drive, then switches back onto the man he was originally defending to contest his shot. This all happens in flow of the game so seamlessly that you have to watch it multiple times to truly appreciate what Green is doing.

Green has mentioned his true joy as a defender is locking down bigger players in the post. He completely destroyed Mason Plumlee yesterday, holding the Trail Blazers big man to one point on 0-7 shooting. This play is pretty good representation of how Green treated Plumlee all game.

You can’t talk about the Warriors win in game one without mentioning how brilliance of Klay Thompson. Much like Kawhi Leonard, Thompson is asked to both defend the opposing teams best perimeter player as well as be the engine that drives his team’s offense. Of all the players who have benefited from Curry’s absence I think Thompson has improved the most. We all know that Klay is a dangerous spot-up shooter, but in game one the lone splash brother was making shots off the dribble both from range and at the rim. he finished the game with 37 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and from deep. He drained seven three pointers, many of which were contested and a few were shot from ranges that would even make Curry blush.

The defending champs are playing incredible basketball right now without their best player. The defense that has been come-and-go in the regular season has turned up a notch in these first playoff games. The Trail Blazers will not win a game this series if they can not free up Dame and CJ who were a combined 13-43 from the field in game one. The Warriors are not good enough to win a title without Stephen Curry, but they will be a better team because of this stretch of games without the MVP. The only real flaw I see with this team is what happens when they have to play guys like Ian Clark and Brandon Rush for extended minutes, but that problem solves itself if-and-when Curry gets back on the court.


I want to leave everyone with a lasting image of Paul George, who was the best player of the first round. His team may not yet ready to be a true contender but PG is absolutely talented enough to be the best player on a championship squad. Here is George throwing down a 360 dunk in the midst of the Pacers 101-83 loss to the Raptors. It was an audacious dunk, and while some will probably argue that it was disrespectful, I loved it. George thanked the fans of Toronto on Twitter after the game for being awesome. He is a stand-up guy. But sometimes you have to let the people know that you are not to be trifled with. I tip my hat to you Paul George, you have earned all of my respect this postseason.

Tomorrow I’ll be talking more about the Cleveland Cavaliers and their seemingly inevitable run to the NBA Finals. Tonight Cleveland plays Atlanta at home in game one of their series and the Spurs look to go up 2-0 on Oklahoma City. Enjoy the games everybody!

Lakers hire Luke Walton – Look for a fresh start

Reports came out tonight that Luke Walton has accepted the job as Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton has served as an assistant under Steve Kerr for the past couple of years, gaining a lot of praise for his performance coaching the Warriors while Kerr was absent. Walton was coaching when Golden State went on their 24 game winning streak.

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Walton’s future employment prospects. It was reported that Walton talked with Phil Jackson about taking over the Knicks coaching job. I had my doubts that Walton would leave the Warriors bench this year, but the news of his signing in LA was exciting, but not entirely unexpected.

In a story that made plenty of headlines this week, Bill Walton advised his son not to take the Lakers position, and it’s hard to blame a father for advising his son not to take a job in what seems to be a toxic work environment.

The Lakers have won just 38 games in the last two seasons. Byron Scott was the worst possible person to coach the rookie and second year players that will make up the core of this team. Now it will be up to Walton to repair the damage that has been done.

I don’t want to get carried away with this hiring, but if nothing else it is proof that the Lakers front office are capable of making rational basketball decisions. The praise for this hire has been alarmingly unanimous with NBA writers around the internet. Walton was the number one name floating around when it came to possible head coaching hires and the Lakers got him.

The Lakers! The same team that hired Byron Scott not too long ago.

There’s going to be a huge learning curve going from being an Assistant Coach for one one of the best run organizations in the league to taking over a team that is the midst of a Game of Thrones-esque family power struggle for control. Not to mention the disparity in talent between Golden State and LA.

As of this writing the dollar amount has not been reported, but I hope Walton was rewarded handsomely for taking over this rebuild, because there’s going to be a lot of work to do, and Lakers fans are not exactly known for there patience when it comes to the Purple and Gold being contenders.

I wrote a little bit yesterday about the Celtics being able to rebuild their franchise on the fly by stock hoarding draft picks and getting the right coach in place to take over a young team. Walton spent two years studying under Steve Kerr, the second best coach in the NBA, a disciple of the All Knowing, Greg Popavich. Walton has a good understanding of how the modern NBA works on offense and defense, and had a couple of months to learn how to balance players minutes – something that is vital in today’s game, yet so many head coaches in the league still struggle with this so much.

Walton has also been praised as being a great players coach. The guys in Golden State swear by him. It’s going to take a deft touch in repairing the broken chemistry in the Lakers locker room, and having a head coach that can have some reliability with the guys in the locker room will be a new, sorely needed development.

With a team as bad as the Lakers, it’s all about making one good move at a time. They have a ton of cap room, and a chance at a top three pick. Let’s see if they can get the pick right, and hopefully with this hiring they can draw some actual NBA level veterans who can help their young core grow. I’m not expecting any super stars to head to LA right away, but the next couple of years is all about building the brand back up to a point where they are able to land stars, hopefully while doing a better job of grooming their young players.

This is asking a whole lot out of Jimmy Buss – and/or whoever is calling the shots now – but hopefully these last couple of years of being a laughing stock has made it clear he/she needs to turn things over to people who know what they are doing.

The Celtics are eliminated from the Playoffs, but the Future looks bright in Boston

In a game that took a backseat to the NFL Draft, and all of the insanity surrounding Laremy Tunsil, the Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics 102-94 to advance to the second round.

The Hawks came in with a single goal – do not let Isaiah Thomas beat us. Thomas was greeted by multiple defenders every time he came around a pick or drove into the lane. He finished the game with 25 points, but was only 9-24 from the field and 1-7 from deep.

Atlanta’s defense was stout, blocking 12 shots and holding Boston to 36 percent from the field on the night. A lot of the Celtics shooting woes were a result of missed three pointers from players who did not look comfortable taking wide open shots.

This game exposed the Celtics’ fatal flaw – a lack of shooting in their offense. With Thomas getting so much defensive attention, it was up to players like Jae Crowder (5-15), Evan Turner (4-17) and Marcus Smart (4-11) to pick up the slack. There comes a point when too much can be asked out of role players, and as much as I like the guys I mentioned above, you can’t count on any of them to carry an offense over an extended period. The Hawks were aware of this, and devised their entire game plan around forcing the Celts offense to overextend.

The Hawks did a great job of moving the ball around on offense. Six players scored in double figures, and Atlanta finished the night shooting over 50 percent from the field. The combination of Korver’s shooting, Teague’s driving and the ultra solid duo of Millsap and Hortford proved to be too much for Boston. The Hawks were able to get and convert open looks on a more regular basis than the Celtics.

As Boston goes into the off season armed with with the Nets and Mavericks first round pick as well as four second rounders, the mission will be to make a deal for a second playmaker. As great as Isaiah Thomas has been, he is more suited to be a microwave shooter who can come off the bench and wreak havoc on opposing teams’ second units than a starter. Thomas is not a guy you want to have carry a team offensively as well as guard starting quality opposition. The Celtics GM, Danny Ainge has done a brilliant job of assembling this core of great young players, and is not afraid of making a big move to to put his team into championship contention.

As much as it pains me to say this being a Lakers fan, the Celtics are most promising young team in the NBA. While they lack the big name stars of a Timberwolves or Trail Blazers, they are organizationally in a place to be competitive for the foreseeable future. There are no certainties in the NBA, but Ainge has seemingly done the improbable in rebuilding a franchise from top to bottom in less than three years.

The Hawks will move on and try to slay the dragon that is the Cleveland Cavaliers in round two. Game one will take place in Cleveland on Monday night. There are a lot of intriguing match-ups to consider in this series.  Will the Hawks try to throw the bigger Millsapp on LeBron James, or will they unleash their junk yard dog, DeMare Carroll on the King. Can Bazemore stay in front of the increasingly lethal Kryie Irving, or will the Hawks turn to another option to keep the Cavs version of Isaiah Thomas from torching them. I will look at this series closer on Monday, but for now congratulations to Atlanta for beating one hell of a feisty team in the Boston Celtics.

Tonight we get three games. The Pacers look to stave off elimination at home agains the Raptors, in a game that will air on NBA TV and ESPN News (?). The Miami Heat will try to find their offense, which has been M.I.A. in the last couple of game agains the Charlotte Hornets. That game starts at 7:00 PM CT on ESPN. The night cap is between Portland and LA, as the Trail Blazers look to finish off the M.A.S.H. Unit that are the Clippers. I don’t know about everybody else, but I am ready to get into the second round where the match-ups become a lot more interesting, and we can shed some of these teams that are fatally flawed.

Warriors put Rockets out of their misery

At least it was a quick death.

The Warriors were not concerned with who was or was not playing in their 114-81 embarrassing of the Houston Rockets.

The champs shot close to 55 percent from the field and hit 11 of their 19 three point attempts. They had 30 assists to only 9 turnovers. I’m not sure there has ever been a team that can so brutally destroy a team when they smell blood in the water.

Golden State outscored Houston 37-20 in the first quarter, and the lead quickly jumped to 30 points in the second half which is where it stayed. What we watched tonight was a team hungry to prove they can compete for a title no matter who was their starting point guard. On the other side of the court was a team that looked relieved that their long nightmare of a season was finally coming to an end.

Shaun Livingston found himself wide open under the basket for easy layups. Livingston scored 16 points in 28 minutes, and only turned the ball over once. His play has been exactly what the Warriors have needed out of him in Curry’s absence. Both Livingston and Kerr seem to know exactly what is needed out of the veteran for this offense to keep firing on all cylinders.

In what seems like a preview for what we will see in the next series, Draymond Green was running the offense a majority of the time he was on the the court. Green almost had a triple double scoring 15 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists tonight. He finished the game with a plus/minus of +32 in the 31 minutes he was on the court, a number will probably not be reached again for a long, long while.

The player who looked like he was having the most fun out there tonight was Klay Thompson. The lone splash brother had the hot hand, shooting 7-11 from three in a 27 point in 29 minute performance. There was no better time to get Thompson’s confidence up than tonight, and Klay was shooting – and making – shots from ranges that are usually reserved for Steph.

James harden was the only Rockets player to hit a field goal in the period, scoring. Harden scored 25 points on 8-12 attempts in what was the only highlight of Houston’s first half. He finished the game with 35 points on 12-23 shooting.

In what was an odd move that could easily be seen as a FU from Rockets Coach, JB Bickerstaff to Dwight Howard, the Houston big man played over 45 minutes in the blow out. Howard was 3-13 from the field, scoring just 8 points even though he played much of the second half against the likes of Anderson Verejao and Maurice Speights.

I’m not a huge fan of criticizing head coaches in the NBA, but Bickerstaff is not up to the task of coaching an professional team. He has no control over what happens on the court, and his rotations have been horrible since he took over the team. An argument could be made that no coach would have been capable of effectively leading this group of players, but Bickerstaff failed at the basic player management, and play calling that you would expect out of a top level high school coach.

Much like the Clippers, I see the Rockets completely blowing up this team in the offseason. There is about a zero percent chance that Dwight Howard remains on this team. He and James Harden have the on court chemistry of Donald Trump and the Republican establishment.

The obvious move is to get Dwight Howard out of town as soon as possible, but given the way he has been maligned over the last few years I pity the team that thinks they can get real value of the past-his-prime center.

For a team that supposed to be built around James Harden, and his ability to drive the lane and get people wide open looks from beyond the arch, there sure weren’t a lot of players who could make standing threes on this roster. I think Harden is still very much a top five player in this league, and if he has the right players around him I think he could be the best player on a championship squad. His flaws, especially on defense are glaring, but surround him with smart defenders who can also hit open shots and you have the makings of a title team – IF – and I can’t make that if any more pronounced, Harden is as motivated as he was in last years MVP caliber season.

Up next for the Warriors will either be the Portland Trail Blazers or the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite putting up a good fight for a half the mash unit that are the Clips went down to the Blazers 108-98 to go up 3-2 in the series. The dup of Lillard and McCollum scored 49 points. Mason Plumlee added 13 points and 15 rebounds to the win.

Portland will have a shot at closing out the series at home Friday Night and if they do so will get their crack at the defending champions. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but Golden State did beat Portland five out of the seven times they played in the regular season. I would love to see how well Klay and Iggy could match up with Lillard and McCollum, but that is a conversation for another day.

Tonight the champions did what you would expect out of a 73-9 team, they delivered a knock out punch to a team that visibly teetering on the brink. Even without Steph on the court their offense was a marvel to behold tonight. Even if Houston was willing to dig in their heels and try to take one more game of the Warriors, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. The Rockets laziness was defeated play was the difference of this being a 15 point win for Golden State or the 33 embarrassment it ended up being.

I’m sure there will not be a whole lot of celebration in the warriors locker room tonight. They know that the real challenge begins next week. This is a team that looks ready to stare down any foe that is put in front of them.

Pacers fall short at buzzer

Raps Pac game five

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching your favorite team hit a last second shot to tie or win a game. The same can be said when that same shot is waved off.

The Indiana faithful had to come to grips with all of these emotions after Solomon Hill drained a three pointer moments after the buzzer had gone of in the Pacers 102-99 loss to the Raptors. Just a few hundreds of a second earlier and the game would have went into overtime.

This was a complete collapse from Indiana, who led much of the way off of the strength of Paul George. George has been the best two way player of these playoffs. He finished last night with 39 points, eight rebounds and 8 assists. The Pacers were 15 points better than the Raptors when he was on the court.

Indiana was moving the ball well and finding open looks from the corners in the first half, and went into halftime with an 11 point lead.  The offense bogged down to a crawl in the second half. The Pacers offense scored just 38 points, and the torrential downfall of threes in the first two periods (11-17) slowed down to a sprinkle in the final two (2-12).

It was DeMar DeRozan who kept the game within reach for the Raptors. DeRozan has been off and on all series but was aggressive in game five, getting to the free throw line early and often and finishing at the rim at a much higher rate than games 1-4. The Raptors needed everyone of DDR’s 34 points in this one.

Kyle Lowry was not his usual self, shooting just 3-11. He was able to make a couple of big plays on defense late in the game.

Norman Powell came up big in the Raptors comeback – playing good defense, including a steal and thunderous dunk that capped of a 17-2 run that tied the game up in the fourth.

I feel bad watching Paul George try to drag this team to wins night after night. The Pacers bench unit is the worst I’ve seen out of all of the playoff teams this year. The only player that I would take off of this team besides George is Myles Turner, the seven foot tall rookie who has shown nice range and an ability to make great passes out of the high post. The rest of this roster is not suited to make a deep playoff run.

I’m getting really tired of watching Monta Ellis make five or six terrible decisions from the point guard spot, Ellis can at this point is nothing but a streaky scorer who is not consistent enough with his shot to justify his bad defense and poor decision making.

Rodney Stuckey has never been a great player, but he is currently shooting just north of 30 percent from the field, and is missing an unacceptable amount of shots from point blank range for Indiana.

Then there’s the case of Ty Lawson, a player who was much talked about when Houston brought him on last offseason to be a key piece in the Rockets run-back to the Western Conference finals. Well – that did not work out for anyone involved. Lawson never found his place on that Rockets’ blown up chemistry experiment. Since coming to the Pacers he has been relegated mostly to third man duties at point guard and his averaging just two points in 11.6 minutes in this series.

This all to say that Paul George deserves better. The former ALL NBA player is under contract with the Pacers for two more years, and has a player option for the 2018/2019 season. I have no doubt that George will continue to add to his game in the next couple of years, but I would hate to see all that talent wasted on a team that has no sense of identity.

Let’s hope that the Pacers front office can get at least one more championship caliber player around him so we can watch one of the leagues best players get out of the first round, because this team is not going anywhere until they do.


Speaking of teams that are not going anywhere, anytime soon – news broke yesterday that Blake Griffin will miss the rest of playoffs.

Griffin was noticeably in pain at the end of game four, it obvious that he was not fully ready to come back from his quadricep injury. Blake was averaging just 38% from the field in the first round, and there has not been the same kind of crazy athleticism in his game.

There is very little change that a Clippers team without Chris Paul or Blake Griffin can get past the Trail Blazers, to say nothing of the Warriors – Curry or no Curry.

There’s a very good chance that the Clippers break up this team in the post season. Griffin is owed a little over $20 million next year and has a player option for 2017/18, but LA was able to play at a really high level without Blake in the regular season and we all know about the baggage the All Star has with the team.

Of all the pieces the Clippers have to move, Griffin is clearly the most enticing. Blake is only 27 years old, and when he is healthy there are few power forwards who are better. Even though Griffin doesn’t hit a lot of threes, a growing necessity for big men in the league, his passing and mid-range game are more than enough to make him capable of being the second best player on a championship team.

The problem with Blake Griffin, when it comes to way this Clippers team in constructed, is that they already have a max player who can not hit threes and spends a lot of time clogging up the lane in DeAndre Jordan. Both players work best when they are featured in the pick-and-roll with Chris Paul, and both are too good to want to come off of the bench. DeAndre Jordan is $40 million over the next two years, and that is a hefty contract to move for a guy whose free throw shooting at the end of games is so bad that he is unplayable.

There’s a lot to be said about keeping a strong contender together, even if they are not one of the best two teams in the league. When Stephen Curry went down with his injury it looked as if the Clippers were finally going to have their shot at making a real title run, but with the injuries to Paul and Griffin I feel like their windows has slammed shut.

I could be wrong. The Clips could run this team back next year, but this has the feel of a organization that needs to shake things up.

The NBA Playoffs are dark and full of terrors

game of thrones nba

The NBA is a bit like Game Of Thrones, with less nudity (mostly) and dragons.

You have multiple contenders for the throne, some who are fighting to recapture old glories and others who starved for a first shot at the crown.

No one is safe. We saw this last year with the Durant, Irving and Love injuries – and of course with recent events we are reminded how much of a moving target the chase for a title truly is.

Then there are the White Walkers, a seeming inevitability that are the San Antonio Spurs. Their stifling defense and cold, machine like precision on offense are enough to send chills down anyone’s spine.

We even have our own Jon Snow is the form of Stephen Curry. Everyone knows he’s the rightful heir to the crown, but there’s this little hinderance getting in the way of him taking it.

Curry does not need a resurrection to save his team’s season, but Golden State may have gotten some luck from the old gods and new with the events of the last 24 hours.

Be careful out there NBA fans, the night is dark….


Just hours after the Golden State Warriors were hit with the news that Stephen Curry will miss around two weeks with a Grade 1 MCL sprain, Chris Paul broke his hand in the third quarter of the Clippers’ 98-84 loss to the Trail Blazers.

This is brutal. Chris Paul was in the midst of one of the best season’s in his Hall of Fame career. Paul had been averaging 24 points, 7 assists, and over 2 steals in the series. In any other season, Paul would have been a top contender for MVP, carrying a Blake Griffen-less to the four seed in the Western Conference.

I had been thinking all day about how Paul had to be chomping at the bit to finish off the Trail Blazers and get a chance to take out the defending champs before Steph Curry could get back in the lineup. Now the Clipper face an uphill challenge of beating a confident Blazers squad without their court general.

It’s not just that LA is losing one of the great offensive minds in the game, they are also left having to find an answer on defense to the two headed dragon of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. The two have been improving every game of these playoffs.

There was a lot less isolation out of Portland’s offense last night. The ball has been moving around, and players like Al-Farouq Aminu who scored a career high 30 points, were key in the Blazers win. Mason Plumlee is showing that he one of the best passing big men league, doling out 10 assists, while grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking four shots.

The Clippers still hold home court advantage in this series that is now tied up at 2-2, but the advantage has swung decisively in Portland’s favor. As much as Austin Rivers has improved in the last year, he is a huge step down from Chris Paul, especially on offense. Jamal Crawford will see increased minutes for the Clips, but his defense is brutal and he is playing against the best backcourt currently in the playoffs (given Steph’s status).

It feels a little twisted to think about how all of these series are going to pan out given the current rash of injuries, but if the Portland/LA series goes to seven games the Warriors get a couple extra days of rest. Curry’s timetable for return is not set in stone, there is a chance that he could return by game two or three of the next series. That’s if they can dispose of the Rockets tomorrow night without Curry.


The Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the second round last night by disposing of the Dallas Mavericks, in a 118-104 game that was filled with pregame drama.

Before the game Dallas’ enigmatic owner, Marc Cuban said of Russel Westbrook, “I think he’s an All-Star but not a superstar.” This led to much conversation on the interwebs, and served as a great interlude to Westbrook’s dominating 36 point, 9 assist, 12 rebound outing.

I’m not sure if Cuban is off base with his comments. When I think of the word superstar, I tend to think of NBA players who transcend the game like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, but if my team was playing for their playoff lives the last thing I would want to do is rile up Russell Westbrook. Westbrook may not be a superstar in the conventional sense, but he is an absolute X-Man on the court. He’s one of the handful of players I’ve watched in my lifetime that has no parallel.

Westbrook was two rebounds a game short of averaging a triple-double on the season. He has the best first step in the game, and delivers a couple of moments in every game that are awe inspiring. Watch him go up for an offensive rebound, land, then take off like a Sonic Boom back towards the basket. He attacks the basket with such ferocity that you would think it was holding his kids hostage. Russell may not be a “Superstar” but he is the closest thing to a shooting star we have in the game.

 

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Durant took the opportunity to call Cuban an “idiot” in the post-game press conference. The former MVP has definitely been a bit prickly as of late. There was the flagrant two in game four, the litany of mean mugs after made baskets, and now this. There is an incredible amount of pressure on this team to get back to the NBA Finals, especially given Durant’s upcoming free-agency.

The Thunders two super… stars definitely have their phasers set to kill right now.

The OKC will start their series with the San Antonio Spurs next Monday. Get your popcorn ready. It’s going to be savage.