LeBron and Kyrie dazzle in Cleveland’s Game Five win

2016 NBA Finals - Game Five
OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 13: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with teammate Kyrie Irving #2 after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals with a score of 112 to 97 at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Dual Tsunamis hit the Bay Area last night in the forms of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The duo combined for 82 points in what was one of the greatest spectacles in NBA Finals history. Cleveland rode the wave of their two Super Stars to a 112–97 victory, sending the series back to Cleveland for Game Six.

It turns out when the Warriors have to play without their best defender, who is probably the best defender in the league, their defense goes to shit. Cleveland shot 53 percent from the field in Game Five, and Kyrie Irving decimated Golden State’s defense shooting 74% from the field and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. Kyrie carried the Cavs down the stretch, at one point scoring seven straight points. This game will be the crown jewel in a Finals in which Curry already has games of 34 and 30 points. It seems like he is gaining more confidence with each game, and has been nothing less than formidable playing against one of the best defenders in the league in Klay Thompson.

LeBron was magnificent in this game, his stat line (41 PTS, 16 REBS, 7 ASTS) will go down as one of the most impressive in Finals history. This game was a reminder that you really shouldn’t talk smack to one of the greatest players in NBA History. This was the most aggressive James has been in these playoffs. Without Draymond Green on the court to switch on to LeBron off of screens, The King was hellbent on taking the ball to the rim against the likes of Maurice Speights and James McAdoo. What’s more, James found his range in Game Five, hitting four of his eight three shots from deep.

It wasn’t just on offense that James was dominant last night, he was also a terror on defense. He rolled back the clock on this chase down block of Steph Curry, leaving the Oracle in a state of shock and awe. James played 42 minutes, and if felt like he was all over the court the entire time. I’m beginning to think that James is actually some kind of basketball playing cyborg, because no one with as many minutes as this guy should be able to play impeccable basketball for this long of a stretch. He’s played over 40 minutes in his last three games, and will probably play over 40 in Game Six. LeBron and I are about the same age, and there are days when I can’t even bring myself to walk out of my place to get groceries. Meanwhile this guy is chasing down players ten years younger than him and sending their layup into the third row. He’s carrying the torch all of us 31 year olds who are trying to hang in their against the oncoming scourge twentysomethings.

This game became the worst case scenario the Warriors must have considered when Draymond Green got suspended. Not only did they not close out the series, but they also lost one their starters, Andrew Bogut, to injury. Bogut fell down awkwardly in the third quarter and was later ruled out with a left knee sprain. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI sometime later today, and status is unknown for Game Six.

Stephen Curry had another lackluster game, shooting just 8-for-21 from the field and had just four assists to go along with four turnovers. The Warriors offense was out of sorts against the Cavs. The only player who had a decent night shooting was Klay Thompson, but that offense was negated by how great Irving played for the Cleveland. The Warriors role players did not show up lat night, Marreese Speights was 0-for-6 from the field, Shaun Livingston 3-for-7, and no other bench player made more than one field goal attempt.

This was not a good close out game from the champs, but they can take solace in the fact that they only have to win one of the next two to lock up their second ring. With Draymond back in the lineup there will not be nearly as many open lanes for James and Irving to exploit. For as fun as it was to watch LeBron hit step back threes, I doubt that he will be able to replicate that kind of shooting in Game Six. It should also be noted that Irving was hitting a lot of contested shots in last night’s win, the same kinds of shots that cost the Cavs in Game Four. The way these playoffs have gone it would be no surprise if the Warriors blew the doors off of the Cavs in Game Six, leaving the cursed Cleveland fans to once again have to watch an opposing team’s trophy ceremony on their home court.

It was a pleasure to James and Irving turn last night into their own personal “Where Amazing Happens” commercial. There have not been that many definitive moments from these playoffs, and not only did they provide career defining performances, but they also gave all of us basketball fans at least one more night to celebrate the game we love. Let’s hope that Game Six has the same kind of energy as Game Five. The gauntlet has been thrown down, let’s see how Steph, Klay, and especially the returning Draymond Green responds.

LeBron James has been pretty consistent

LeBron Stats.jpg

via NBA Reddit

While we are spending this season talking about how amazing Stephen Curry is, and for good reason, it’s always good to take a step back and remember just how awe inspiring LeBron James game has been year-after-year.

I wish I was half as consistent of a writer as this guy is on the hardwood. I have a good reason for not writing the last couple of days, but I will talk about that more when the time is right. For now, enjoy the hoops tonight and I’ll talk to you all soon.

Golden State Gift Guide

Good afternoon! I hope that everyone is having a happy Serial Season 2 Release Day! It’s taken all of my willpower to keep from listening, but with the long hours of holiday driving right around the corner it is important to remember what the true purpose of Serial is – to keep loved ones sane after driving back from their umpteenth Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus party.

Speaking of the Holidays, there are few presents I want under my tree more than watching an undefeated Warriors team put their streak on the line against the Cavs in Cleveland on Christmas day. Golden State, as you may have heard, is 23-0 as of this writing. This run is already the single greatest in the history of America’s big four professional sports, and is almost unfathomable for a team that is coming off a championship run.

The stats for this current Warriors streak speak for itself. Golden State is scoring a league high 115.8 points per game, with a point differential of +14.6. That’s a jaw dropping 3.4 points higher than the second place San Antonio Spurs. They also lead the league in three point percentage and assists per game. Their Net Rating of 16.3 is the highest I’ve ever seen. Which is all to say that there has never been a team quite like this year’s Warriors. To watch them play during this current streak is like watching a big cat play with its prey.

It seems like anytime a team is able to keep the game close going into the fourth quarter Golden State is able to unleash their version of the Kracken –  a small ball lineup that features Draymond Green at center, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes at forward, and the Splash Brothers.  This lineup has the best +/- in the league, and is currently shooting an otherworldly 63.6% from the field and (I had to double check this) 62.5% from three. The NBA has never seen a lineup as unguardable as this.

Then there’s the question of Stephen Curry, and what do we make of this season that he is having. When you watch a lot of basketball it’s easy to become jaded by everyday greatness. LeBron James has been the best basketball player on Earth for around a decade, and somehow his current stat line of 26/7/7 seems almost pedestrian, because we’ve seen him dominate for such a long time. It’s human nature to take things for granted. That’s why I feel like it’s important to keep reminding people that what Steph is doing this season deserves to be treated like the marvel it is.

Curry is averaging 32 points per game this year with a shooting line of 53/46/90. His current PER of 34.7 is on pace to demolish Michael Jordan’s current record of 27.91. His .700 True Shooting percentage is so far ahead of historical records it almost makes the stat seem obsolete. That’s what Steph is doing right now, he’s making the entire league look like a flip phone and he’s the iPhone 7. He’s having the kind of season that destroys comparison. Michael Jordan in his prime could never fathom shooting the way Curry does, or playing as efficiently. He wouldn’t know how even if he wanted to try. This may be my favorite thing about the current Curry era. It feels like the death nail in the “next Jordan” quest. When you talk to kids who love basketball, they no longer want to be like Mike, they want to dribble and shoot like Curry.

There are other teams around the league that are trying to emulate what the Warriors are currently doing, but you cannot emulate a style that relies on the skills of a Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. I find it really interesting that the Spurs, a team whose space and pace style of the last few years was a huge inspiration for the current Warriors juggernaut, have zigged where everyone seems to be zagging. San Antonio is currently leading the league in points against (88.7) as well as three point percentage allowed (.309).  They are averaging the fourth lowest possessions per game at 95.7, which is a far cry from the past couple of years. Coach Pop knows that you can’t beat the Warriors at their own game, and is quietly forming an immovable object to counter Golden State’s unstoppable force. I’m already salivating for a potential Western Conference Finals between these two teams.

Ankle sprains to both Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson will pose the biggest challenge to the Warriors streak for a league record 33 straight wins. Barnes is expected to miss the next couple of games, and Klay will be a gametime decision when Golden State goes into Boston on Friday to play an increasingly frisky Celtics squad. If the Warriors can get out of Boston with a win they their schedule sets up almost perfectly for a Christmas showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in what will be one of the most hyped Christmas games in years.

Even if the Warriors streak ends on Friday in Boston, it does not lessen what is happening this year in the Bay Area. I don’t think there has ever been a team that has played the game so close to perfection when it comes to sheer aesthetic beauty and cold blooded efficiency. There is no statistic that can capture the excitement of Stephen Curry going NBA Jam for a quarter, or watching Draymond Green lead a fast break flanked by four deadly three point shooters. This is basketball of the highest order. Every game this team plays feels like a gift from the basketball Gods.

Get Well, Lamar Odom

My heart was broken earlier this week when I saw the news about Lamar Odom being found unresponsive in a Nevada brothel and the subsequent news about him going into a coma, and being on life support. Today I was delighted to find out that Odom is reported to be out of the coma and breathing on his own.

There’s no player in sports that I feel empathetic towards more than Odom. As a Lakers fan it was an absolute pleasure to watch Lamar create on the court. As a 6’9″ player who could run an offense, guard multiple positions, and create at will he was ahead of his time. In a lot of ways he embodies what it means to be a modern NBA player. The Lakers don’t even come close to winning the 2009 and 2010 titles without him.

Ironically it’s in this time where his game would shine the most, that Odom has hit bottom. I don’t want to get into all of Odom’s history, if you are interested you can read this incredibly well thought-out article from Sports Illustrated’s, Lee Jenkins. Just know that this is a man who has dealt with tragedy his entire life, but by all accounts has never been less than gracious and kind with everyone he has ever met.

It’s been in this time of crisis that so many players and coaches have come out to show their absolute support and love for one of the most genuinely good souls in the league.  Kobe Bryant, by no means the warmest of souls, spent hours by Odom’s bedside after he found about his friends condition. There has been a deluge of positive Tweets from current and former NBA stars, and here is Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich on Lamar as a person.

I don’t concentrate on what kind of player he is,” Popovich said after Friday’s practice. “I feel all the other things, because I know him as a person. Warm-hearted. Good-humored. Wonderful guy to be around. Who cares about how he played? It’s about who you are and he was a good person

I’m usually the first person to tell people not to care about athletes personal lives, but I can’t help but feel for Lamar Odom. He is one of the most unique talents that I have ever watched play. I don’t think any basketball nerd will ever forget him. Now at the all too young age of 35 Odom is in a fight for his life. It’s not a game any longer. It’s not reality TV. It’s just a good human being trying to fight off his demons. I’ve never wanted to cheer for him more.

Welcome Back

Whew. It’s been a while. In the time that Chad and I have been away from this site many things have changed. We’ve both moved, found new jobs, one of us is married and the other is currently on the cusp of asking the question.

With all of these big life changes its been tough to find the time to sit down and talk about sports, but cool stuff continues to happen even without us there to write about it. It’s been particularly hard to watch the NBA this year, with the game evolving into a fast paced, death from above, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it butterfly, without being able to sit down and write about it.

Look, I’ve always been a huge fan of the NBA. For my money there is no better sport when it comes to the style of play, the personalities of the players, the quality of the writing and the bliss that is NBA Twitter/Reddit/Vine. There is hardly a waking hour that goes by without me taking in some kind of NBA related shot. I work nights, so I miss a lot of games live, but thanks to social media and league pass I really don’t miss anything. When Stephen Curry decides he wants to hobble Chris Paul, the world let’s me know about it almost immediately.

Basketball is now the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer football. The NFL is not going anywhere in the US for awhile, but with the new information we have on concussions, and the general seediness the league seems to currently be seeped in, there is a foreseeable future in which basketball could be the worlds most popular professional sport, and that delights me to no end.

I’m a hoops junkie. This year alone I’ve probably watched over a 200 games, read hundreds of columns and listened to endless hours of basketball focused podcasts. I’ve watched so many Warriors games that my normally basketball agnostic girlfriend has become a fan. There are even days (God help me) when I find myself re-watching games from earlier in the season.

All of this to say that there has never been a better time to start watching the NBA. The regular season is winding down, and the next couple of weeks will full of important games featuring teams playing a breed of basketball that I’m not sure the casual fan has had a chance to take in yet. There has been a space and pace revolution that teams like the Spurs, Warriors, Hawks, and even Cleveland are using to turn the entire Association on its head. It’s been a lot of fun to watch this style of player affect how every team shapes their lineups, as well as offensive and defensive philosophies.

The game is just a lot of fun to watch. Which brings me back to this website. I just can’t sit idle anymore while one of my favorite past times is blooming into the beautiful game. There’s so much I want to talk about. I want to talk about about how Kawhai Leonard is becoming the next Scottie Pippen, and how Stephen Curry is the leagues most valuable player (but probably not the MVP). I missed my chance to be one of the first people on the Anthony Davis is not a human being, but a cyborg built in a lab to be the ultimate basketball playing machine. Mostly I just want to write about the sport I love, and perhaps I may even have a thing or two to say about other goings on in the wide world of sports. We’ll see.

It feels good to be back. Just don’t ask me about the Lakers.

Phil Jackson – Prophet

While most of the sports writers in America are trying to figure out how and why David Stern vetoed today’s Blockbuster Chris Paul trade, Phil Jackson must be somewhere in Montana smiling.

In an interview Jackson gave in 2010 he talked about some of the issues surrounding the league owning the New Orleans Hornets. Let me know if any of it seems familiar.

“Who’s going to pull the button on it?” Jackson asked. “When Chris says he has to be traded, how’s that going to go? … Someone’s going to have to make a very nonjudgmental decision on that part that’s not going to irritate anyone else in the league.”

How’s it going to go Phil? Not well. Not too well at all.

Source: Orange County Register