2017-2018 GS Warriors – Strength and Length in Numbers

posted in: Basketball | 0

In this 2017 year-end assessment of the Dubs, this team is a much better team than the one that won the World Championship last year. Steve Kerr made this statement before the season started. Thirty five games into the season, the Dubs hold a 28-7 record which is the best in the NBA but their record is simply a by-product of the real reasons why they are the best.

The Dubs re-signed all of their key players from last year’s championship team. In addition, they aggressively upgraded their only weakness by improving their supporting team. The signings of Omri Casspi and Nick Young improved the second team scoring power which was missing from last year. An added bonus is that Casspi fit into the Warriors scheme immediately and he has been a rock on both ends of the court. Omri runs the court like a deer and cuts like a knife getting many easy hoops in the paint. His shots have so much arc on them that the fans in the upper bowl of the coliseum get a close-up view of the basketball prior to descending toward the hoop. Omri’s 6-9 length doesn’t hurt either. Nick Young has worked hard and is now playing the kind of Dubs ball that Kerr was hoping. At the beginning of the year, Nick looked lost, especially on defense. He also had issues running and passing on offense. In the early stages, it looked like a rare mistake bringing Swaggy P to a smooth running team like the Warriors. He found his shooting range 10 games into the season so I started calling him Swaggy 3, but his defense was still suspect. In the last 10 games, all of the coaching and his hard work started paying off as Nick is now playing like a Warrior at both ends of the floor. Nick’s Swaggy references are now history.

In addition to Omri and Nick, the Dubs “bought” Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted Bell in the 2nd round of this year’s college draft. Jordan (6-9 with a 6-11 and ¾ wingspan) was a defensive gem at Oregon blocking 2.2 shots per game while scoring 10.9 points per game and lead the Ducks into the Final Four. The Warriors didn’t have any draft picks this year or last and wound up buying Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell in consecutive years. I’m thinking that the Dubs front office knows talent. And that is not the end of the talent story. Jordan Bell was NOT the best player on the Oregon Ducks team. Chris Boucher (6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan) was the MAN for the Ducks until he tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament against Cal. He wasn’t drafted so the Warriors signed him and he is now ahead of schedule in his recovery with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Lastly, the Dubs also signed Quinn Cook who played 4 years under Coach K. at Duke and is one of seven players who scored over 1,000 points with 500 assists.  He also ranks 4th best all time at Duke with a .853 free throw percentage. Quinn was cut by Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans prior to being signed by the Warriors. Cook started 2 games and had some significant minutes during Steph’s absence with an ankle injury.

Andre Iguodala has taken McCaw under his wings, Draymond Green has taken Bell under his wings, and although a bit odd, Kevin Durant has taken Cook under his wings. These are examples of why the Warriors are the best team in the league. They genuinely like each other and will go to great lengths to keep the team close and “preach the process”. On the floor, one can easily see how McCaw’s, Bell’s, and Cook’s game have improved due to the presence of the team veterans.

The unsung heroes of this year’s team are David West, Shaun Livingston, ZaZa Pachulia, and Kevon Looney. West is the enforcer, Shaun is the calming influence, Zaza is the hulk, and Kevon is the hustler. Much credit goes to Kevon as his first two years were injury ridden with hip issues. He lost 25 pounds and now looks leaner and faster than ever. His offense rebounding skills are “off the boards” and he hustles like crazy to keep balls alive on the offensive end.

As for the big 4 All-Stars, Klay is the solid rock who hasn’t missed any games this year. He is by far the best 2-way guard in the league. Steph is the captain and the leader but he has missed 12 games due to a sprained ankle. Displaying their strength in numbers, the Warriors went 11-1 during his absence. This in a nutshell shows the depth of this team and the strength in their numbers. Last year, Kevin Durant hurt his knee and missed the last 22 games of the regular season. The Warriors went 17-5 without him with a 14 game winning streak after adjusting to playing without him. Draymond is the Defensive Player of the year but does so much more on offense. He is one of the team’s assist leaders and best passers. Lastly, Kevin Durant is no longer KD. He has become K-D with emphasis on the D. Kevin is never satisfied with his game even though he is acknowledged to be the league’s offensive MVP and the MVP of the Championship series. He worked long and hard on his defensive skills during the off season. He is averaging 6.5 defensive rebounds per game which leads the team and 7.1 overall rebounds which is second to Draymond’s 7.5. He is also averaging 2.33 blocks per games which second in the league next to Miles Turner of Indiana who is averaging 2.36 blocks per game. In the Christmas day game with the Cavs, he had 7 rebounds and 5 huge blocks in addition to his 25 points. K-D is on course to win this year’s Defensive Player of the Year and he has the full support of last year’s winner, Draymond Green.

The Strength and Length of the Warriors are real and built under the leadership of Steve Kerr who won the Coach of the Year in 2015-2016 and by Bob Myers who won Executive of the Year in 2016-2017. The NBA is a copycat league and the top teams have made some dramatic trades to compete with the Warriors. The Rockets appear to have done the best job but they traded away much of their depth. The others are all pretenders. Also, look for other teams who don’t have any 2nd round draft picks to try to “buy” drafted players like the Warriors did.

For now, the Warriors look hard to beat with Myers, Kerr, and their supporting cast…

2017 NBA Free Agency Signings – Winners and Losers

posted in: Basketball | 0

Free agency in the NBA focused on one and only one thing… How to create a team that could compete against the Golden State Warriors. How did the top competitors do to close the gap?

Cleveland Cavaliers

Although the Cavs tried to sign one of the top free agent players, they failed. Paul George went to OKC, Chris Paul went to Houston, and Jimmy Butler went to Minnesota. They did re-sign Kyle Korver (age 36) and added Jose Calderon (age 35). Additionally, they fired their GM, David Griffin, right before the NBA draft and the beginning of free agency. LeBron was very fond of Griffin. Also, Chauncey Billups, a close friend of LeBron, turned down the GM slot. Something bad is brewing in Cavs-land. There still remains the possibility of adding Carmelo Anthony who stated they he would waive his no-trade clause if he were moved to either the Cavs or Houston. In the case of the Cavs, it would be a straight-up Anthony for Love trade. The big question is if the Knicks want Love on their team. They haven’t had any “love” on that team for a very long time. If the Love for Anthony trade does go down, will the Cavs be improved? In my opinion, at this stage in their careers, Love is a better player than Anthony. Thus, the Cavs will not have closed any gaps on the Warriors. However, with or without Anthony, the Cavs are still the best team in the East.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics went hard after both Paul George and Jimmy butler but lost both bids. They did land Gordon Hayward who is re-united with his college coach, Brad Stevens. It hasn’t yet been determined who the Celtics will have to give up for the Hayward signing. Regardless of who they lose, the Celtics became a better team and have closed the gap on the Cavs.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets got a boost by the Chris Paul signing. Having said that, they had to give up 7 players (Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations). This reminds me of the Hershel Walker trade between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys where the Cowboys got 5 players and 7 draft picks. As we all know, the Cowboys became a dynasty and the Vikings became the Vikings. It is fitting that two ball hogs (James Harden and CP3) are on the same team. They’ll have nobody to pass the ball to but that’ll be fine with them. The Rockets instantly became a worse team and will fall in the middle of the pack in the West.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers lost CP3 but added a boatload of players from the Rockets. They also re-signed Blake Griffin to a large contract. In my opinion, the largest addition to the organization was the signing of Jerry West. He was the mastermind in huge CP3 trade that brought 7 good players to the Clippers. It is a great first step in re-building the Clippers and I applaud the move. They have closed the gap on the Warriors but are still far away from being able to compete with them.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder added Paul George to their roster and gave up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. George is a great player but nowhere near the player that Kevin Durant is. OKC was not able to beat the Warriors with Westbrook and Durant so they will not stand a chance with Westbrook and George. Also, George is a one year rental as he will bolt for the Lakers next year when he becomes a free agent. Thus, OKC gave up a good guard in Oladipo and a potentially good center/power forward in Sabonis for renting George for one year. OKC just became a worse team.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs tried very hard to unload LeMarcus Aldridge but found no buyers. They did not sign any free agents but did re-sign Patty Mills to a hefty contract. They stood pat which is not necessarily bad as they are loaded with talent. Having said that, they may lose Manu Ginobili to retirement and an old Tony Parker ended his season with a serious injury. The Spurs need to get younger to be able to compete with the Warriors.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Of the Warrior competitors, the Timberwolves improved their team the most. They added Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague along with trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for their 2018 first round pick. The Wolves were a team of the future before these signings with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They became an instant playoff team with their new additions. In a two or three years, I believe that they will be one of the top 5 teams in the NBA and will continue to close the gap on the Warriors if they keep this team together.

Golden State Warriors

The world champion Warriors became a better team with their signings if you can believe that. Although some of the teams listed above became better, the Warriors lapped everyone. First and most importantly, they re-signed all of their key free agents (Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant, and signed Steph Curry to a max contract). The Warriors are never happy with standing pat even though they are the class of the NBA. They added Nick Young (6-7 off guard with length) and Omri Casspi (6-9 forward with length). They both shoot at better than 40% beyond the 3 point line. The Warriors are hoping to add to their lead when the second team is on the floor with Young and Casspi. Lastly, it looks likely that Zaza Pachulia will return and there is an outside chance that JaVale McGee may also come back after testing the free agency waters.

I must also mention that Kevin Durant sacrificed his salary to allow the Warriors to re-sign all of their free agents. He made it known that he will re-sign with the Warriors only after the other free agents were taken care of. You won’t find any super stars in any sport who did what KD did. He is the ultimate team player. The Warriors will take good care of KD next year by giving him a max contract.

Lastly, I must also comment on what the Warriors did in the NBA draft. Last year, they bought the rights to Patrick McCaw from the Milwaukee Bucks who drafted him in the second round. This year, they bought the rights to Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted him in the second round. Thus, a championship team having no draft picks in the last two years added 2 good players to their roster.

The biggest winner in free agency also happens to be the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors – The Gold Standard

posted in: Basketball | 0

The 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors set out to make their team better for 2018 and beyond. Mission accomplished !!!

Their Gold Standard resonates throughout the organization from ownership, to the front office, to the coaching staff and to their players. It may be cliché to state that the Warriors are family but their relationships from top to bottom are sincerely genuine.

Here are a few examples:

  • As Steve Kerr continued to endure the pain from a botched back surgery two years ago, he had the full support of Joe Lacob, Bob Myers, the coaching staff and his players. After the Game 3 win in Portland (the first game that Kerr couldn’t coach), Steph Curry held tight to the game ball as he wanted to present it to Kerr.
  • Mike Brown, the assistant head coach took over for Kerr after Game 2 of the Portland series. All he did was coach the team to a perfect 12-0 record as the acting head coach… IN THE PLAYOFFS !!! He was so gracious, he let everyone know that Kerr was still his head coach and that he was still working closely with him on every game plan.
  • Draymond talks to Bob Myers on almost a daily basis and talk as “friends”, not as “boss and player”.
  • As free agency began, the very first move made was not by any of the Warriors free agent players, but, by Kevin Durant. He opted out of his two year contract and stated that he will re-sign with the Warriors. But he also stated that he will wait until all of the Warrior free agent players were taken care of either by the Warriors or by another team.
  • Joe Lacob stated that he was extremely worried about the high luxury tax that the organization had to pay. The importance of keeping a championship team together took priority.

Let’s now assess Kevin Durant’s decision to take less money to allow the organization to re-sign his teammates. The result was that the key free agents (Andre Iguodala – 3 years, Shaun Livingston – 3 years, and David West – 1 year before retiring after 2018) all are returning. Additionally, Steph Curry signed a max contract of $201 million for 5 years. Very much deserving as he was sorely under paid for the last 3 years when he lead the team to 2 world championships and 2 NBA MVP trophies. Due to KD’s graciousness, the Warriors were able to retain the key pieces of their championship team. After the Warriors re-signed Andre, Shuan, David, and Steph, KD then signed a 2 year contract worth $52.5 million… $25 for 2018 and $27.5 for 2019. He signed for roughly $10 million per year less than a player of his stature deserves. His motives are clear… he wants to continue to play with his teammates to the point that he took a back seat to keep the team together. Can you name another superstar who did what KD did to keep his family together? Surely KD will be rewarded as the Warriors WILL re-do KD’s contract to a max contract after next season. I’m also betting that Steph will re-do his contract in 2019 when Klay Thompson and Draymond Green become free agents to accommodate their needs.

After all, the Warriors are the Gold Standard !!!

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 5: 16 and WON !!!

posted in: Basketball | 0

The Finals are over and “The Larry” is coming back to Oakland for the 2nd time in three years!!!

Steve Kerr said it best when he stated that he has never seen this much talent and skilled players on the court from both teams at the same time.

Hats off to the Cavs. They are a great great team. LeBron is the best player on the planet and he proved it by producing triple-doubles in all 5 games. Kyrie has the best handles in the world and he complimented LeBron brilliantly. It was obvious that his knee and sore back hampered him in games 4 and 5 but he didn’t used that as an excuse. JR Smith contributed in a big way in both games 4 and 5. Although Kevin Love fell off the radar in game 5, his rebounding was outstanding throughout the Finals. The Cavs were a bounce or two away from winning both games in Cleveland and they refused to quit and go away in game 5. They have hearts of a champion. LeBron said that his Cavs are a Super Team. I agree and would say that the Cavs as constructed today would beat most of the teams in the past who are acknowledged to be the best of all time (The Bulls, Celtics, 76ers, Pistons, Lakers).

The Warriors were a championship team before they signed KD. With KD, they are not only a Super Team but a team for the ages. A couple more “Larry’s” in the house will tell the story of where they belong in history. For now, they are creating a new history with every new season.

For sure, the Warriors have the best roster of any team that I can think of either in the past or present. Their motto “Strength in Numbers” is no joke. All of their 4 All Stars (KD, Steph, Draymond, and Klay) are all in their 20’s and in the prime of their careers. All of their other complimentary players (Zaza, Iguodala, Livingston, West, McGee, McCaw, Clark, McAdoo) played and made contributions in the Finals. In game 5, Iguodala was the spark plug who ignited the Warriors on their 2nd quarter run. Iggy is a veteran who knows what it takes to up the game to another level during the Finals. He won the Finals MVP in 2015 for a reason.  And a rookie, Patrick McCaw, played magnificently during the minutes that he played. Although KD deservingly won the Finals MVP award, Steph Curry had a monster game with 34 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals. KD called him the “Big Dog” for his terrific play and dissed anyone who said or wrote that Steph can’t put up numbers in the Finals.

The off season will be important to the Warriors as they have to make tough financial decisions which will impact both Livingston and Iguodala the hardest. If KD and Steph both decide that it is more important to keep the team together rather than demand the max contracts, then this dynasty will continue. If they lose either one or both, Bob Myers and Steve Kerr will find another versatile player or two who can play multiple positions and be effective at both ends of the floor. Dynasties are built around a system and there will always be great skilled players who could do very well in the Warriors’ system. Luckily for Bay Area fans, the Warriors will be on top for years to come.

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 3: Dagger

posted in: Basketball | 0

We finally had a nail-biter and one hell of a game.  The stars from both teams came to play and they put on a dazzling show. Final score was 118-113 Warriors. JR Smith banged a three with 2:30 left in the game to make the score 113-107 Cavs. That would be the last points that the Cavs would score for the remainder of the game. The Warriors closed the game with an 11-0 run…. Dagger !!!

The only unhappy campers with the outcome of the game were the Cav’s players, organization, fans, Charles Barkley and ABC/Disney. Barkey is a Warrior hater and doesn’t think a “jump shooting” team should ever win a championship. If one analyzes the strength of the Warriors, it is their suffocating defense that leads the way and creates offensive opportunities. ABC/Disney loses $75 million per game that it can’t televise. So, naturally, they are hoping for a 7 game series. Speaking of 7 game series, JR Smith tweeted last night, “Cavs in 7”, then deleted it. I think he meant to tweet, “Cavs in for practice at 7:00 am on Thursday as the last practice of the year”.

Let’s take a look at the stars’ performances from both teams:

Cav’s:

  • LeBron James (39 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) while playing 45 minutes.
  • Kyrie Irving (38 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) while playing 44 minute.
  • LeBron and Kyrie combined for 77 of the Cav’s 107 points.

Of note for the Cavs:

  • JR Smith broke out and made 5 three pointers for a total of 16 points.

Warriors:

  • Kevin Durant (31 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) while playing 40 minutes.
  • Klay Thompson (30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists while playing 40 minutes.
  • Steph Curry (26 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists) while playing 39 minutes.
  • KD, Klay, and Steph combined for 87 of the Warrior’s 113 points.

Of note for the Warriors:

  • Although Draymond Green played only 33 minutes due to foul problems, he had the largest +/- differential while he was on the court… He was +14. Draymond’s play consistently goes well beyond any box scores. He is the heartbeat of the Warriors!
  • Andre Iguodala played 30 minutes and had a +/- differential of +10 behind only Draymond’s +14 and Steph’s +11. There was a reason why Andre was the MVP of the Finals two years ago!

In a game this close, there are always some plays that occur during the course of the game that play a large role in the outcome. Here are a few of them:

  • In the 2nd quarter, LeBron threw a lob pass into Kevin Love who was guarded by Draymond. The pass was so bad, it went into the basket for 2 points, plus a foul was called on Draymond.
  • Right before halftime with the score 67-59 Warriors, they had the last shot with KD controlling the ball. For some unexplained reason Zaza blatantly fouled trying to set a screen. The foul lead to Irving driving in for a layup at the buzzer. Instead of a 10 or 11 point lead, the Warriors went into halftime with only a 6 point lead. Steph was visibly upset at Zaza.
  • Early in the 3rd quarter, KD had an open lane for an easy dunk but again, Zaza foolishly committed an unnecessary foul negating the dunk.

In terms of the play of both Centers (Zaza Pachulia and Tristen Thompson), they were both atrocious and offset each other.

In regard to Kevin Love, Steve Kerr designed his offensive game plan attacking Love any time he had a chance. Love’s defensive is simply bad. The Warriors scored 25 points attacking Love which was really the difference in the game. The other difference is that the Warriors held the Cavs to 26% shooting in the 4th quarter. With LaBron playing 45 minutes and Kyrie playing 44 minutes, the two of them simply ran out of gas. Therein lies the difference between the two teams. The Cavs are a two man show while the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers were in full display.

Let’s now analyze the last 2:30 of the game when the Cav’s took a 6 point lead at 113-107. KD and Steph took over the game offensively to outscore the Cav’s 11-0 for the remainder of the game. But it was the defensive play of the 5 Warriors on the court that shut down the Cavs. In addition, the Cav’s lack of basketball IQ showed up in a big way after KD hit his remarkable three pointer to give the Warriors a 114-113 lead with 45.3 seconds left in the game. This set up the Cavs for a perfect 2-for-1 opportunity to give them two offensive opportunities to the Warriors one. Instead, Kyrie dribbled the clock away and missed a three point shot with 26 seconds left in the game. Ty Lue, LeBron and Kyrie all should have known the circumstance, yet they squandered away a golden opportunity. Their lack of IQ doesn’t end there. After the Warriors got the rebound, they were able to run off another 13 seconds off the clock without the Cavs fouling them. With 13 seconds left in the game, KD drained 2 free throws to give them a 3 point lead. Then came the play of the game. While I was thinking that the Warriors should foul with about 5-6 seconds left in the game to prevent a three point shot to be made, LeBron got the inbounds pass and immediately went up for a three point shot. While he was going up, Iguodala with his lightening fast magical hands, swatted the ball away and the ball hit LeBron prior to going out of bounds…. Game over!!! While it was a great play by Andre, he was an inch away of fouling LeBron with the possibility of putting him on the line to tie the game. In the heat of the game, Andre relied on instinct and made the play that he is skilled at to win the game.

Lastly, let’s just marvel at some coincidences:

  • The five guys on the court in the last 3 minutes of the game were all at the Hampton’s to recruit KD last July.
  • Last year, Kyrie made the three pointer at the end of Game 7. This year, he missed the three point shot from approximately the same area of the court in Game 3.
  • Last year, LeBron blocked Iguodala in game 7 at the end of the game. This year, Iguodala blocks Lebron at the end of Game 3.
  • KD knocks down the go ahead three in front of LeBron. It was 5 years ago that LeBron and his Miami Heat beat KD’s OKC Thunder in the Finals.

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 2: Fo-Fo-Fo-Two

posted in: Basketball | 0

The final score was 132-113 Warriors.

The Good news for the Cavs:

  • They forced 20 turnovers for the game resulting in 23 points.
  • They scored 60 points in the paint, mostly by LeBron taking it to the hoop early and often in the first half.
  • Kevin Love had a great offensive game (27 points).

Now, the Bad news for the Cavs:

  • Steve Kerr is baaaaaack.
  • Although the Cavs forced 8 turnovers in the first quarter, the Warriors still scored 40 points to their 34.
  • Although the Cavs forced 20 turnovers for the game, the Warriors scored 132 points, 19 more than in Game 1 when they had only 4 turnovers.
  • There wasn’t a single Cavs player who had a + point differential while on the court. This also happened in Game 1. LeBron was -11 and Kyrie was -17, and Love was -8.
  • Conversely, there wasn’t a single Warriors player who had a – point differential while on the court. This also happened in Game 1. Steph was +21, KD was +21 and Klay was +24.
  • Steph had a triple double (32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists). But he had 8 turnovers.
  • KD had a monster game (33 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 5 massive blocks).
  • Klay found his shot (22 points and 4-7 from three) in addition to his stellar defensive play.

Plays of the game:

  • KD blocking Love on the block, then taking it coast-to-coast with a cross-over on LeBron and scoring on both LeBron and Love attempting to block his shot.
  • Steph doing a spin cycle on LeBron and taking it to the hoop with LeBron hitting only glass trying to block his layup. Additionally, Love was waiting for Steph in the paint, but only managed a weak hand in his face, then stepped back allowing Steph to easily bank his layup on the glass. This play demonstrated Love’s defense (or lack of) to a cup of tea.
  • Steph’s no-look binocular pass to Shaun Livingston for an easy uncontested dunk.

Misc stuff and musings:

  • The Warriors made 18 threes to the Cavs 8. The Cavs were averaging almost 15 threes in the Eastern Conference playoff games.
  • The Warriors shot 51.7% from the field, 41.9% from three, and 91.7% from the free-throw line with Steph being perfect at 14-14 (He was 10-10 in the first quarter). In the NBA, a mark of 50%-40%-80% in these categories is considered to be monster games.
  • On KD’s 4 point play in the second half, JR Smith fouled KD as he shot from the three point line. As he fouled KD, Smith also extended his leg right under KD. Luckily, KD didn’t land on Smith’s shoes and roll his ankle. Why wasn’t a flagrant foul called? Because KD didn’t get hurt. The NBA needs to address this somehow.
  • They are putting Tristen Thompson’s and JR Smith’s mug-shots on milk cartons as they are now officially MIA.
  • Ty Lue said that the Celics are a much tougher team to defend than the Warriors as they give them so many different looks. GEICO is now considering doing another one of their “Easier done than said” commercials with Lue in it.
  • Warriors are negotiating with a Broom company as they’ll need a lot of new brooms to keep their new arena in San Francisco clean… Just sayin’

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 1 Dominance

posted in: Basketball | 0

The final score was 113-91 but the score didn’t reflect the magnitude of the Game 1 blow-out. Let me count the ways:

  • The Warriors missed 28 uncontested shots including 10 layups. The score could have been worse for the Cavs.
  • The Warriors defense gave up 52 points to the Cavs two super-stars, LeBron (28) and Kyrie (24), but held the rest of the team to 39 points. LeBron and Kyrie shot a combined 45% while the rest of the Cavs shot 25% for a combined team shooting percentage of 34.9%.
  • Kevin Love had a quiet 15 points although he did have a great rebounding game (21).
  • Tristen Thompson was invisible.
  • There wasn’t a single Cavs player who had a + point differential while on the court. LeBron was -22 and Kyrie was -17.
  • Conversely, there wasn’t a single Warriors player who had a – point differential while on the court. Steph was +20, KD was +16 and Iguodala was +14.

Steve Kerr’s game plan was simple. Play the hell out of defense and reduce turnovers. Possession in the playoffs mean everything. The resulting play of this strategy lead to 91 points given up and the creation of 20 turnovers while committing an NBA playoff record low 4 turnovers.

Taking the defensive strategy a level deeper, Kerr knew that they couldn’t contain LeBron and Kyrie so they focused on limiting the rest of the Cav’s players, especially at the 3 point line. LeBron, Kyrie and Love had 8 three pointers but the rest of the team had only 3. When your 4th best scoring player was Richard Jefferson with 9 points, that alone tells the story of how good the Warriors’ D was. Klay Thompson had a superb defensive game. When he was the primary defender on shots taken, the Cavs were 1 for 12. The pressure that he applied on Kevin Love’s jump shot early in the game was marvelous. Love’s shot was so far over the board and west of it, he was closer to the rim at the new stadium that the Warriors are building in San Francisco. Although Klay’s shooting stats were not good (3-16), his defense was much more valuable. And, as usual, Draymond had another monster defensive game.

Additionally, Kerr wanted to keep Tristen Thompson off of the boards. The result was that Thompson had a total of 3 offensive and 1 defensive rebounds. He was a rebounding monster throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Credit goes to Zaza for a fabulous job on Tristen.

The Cav’s strategy on defense was to protect the 3 point line. The Warriors knew this so Kerr told Brown to get KD involved early and often, especially going to the hoop. I lost count of how many dunks KD made. Fresh in my mind were 3 occasions where the Warriors ran down the court on a fast break and the Cavs ran away from KD to guard Steph at the 3 point line. It was like Moses parting the sea paving the way for KD to go directly to the rim for uncontested dunks. They tried to change that strategy at halftime so this left Steph open in the 2nd half for 5 of his 6 three pointers. Cavs have to pick their poison.

The Cav’s strategy on offense was to play primarily “iso” with both LeBron and Kyrie. They would either take it to the hoop or find an open player at the three point line. This worked really well in the Eastern Conference. It didn’t work against the Warriors as they protected the three point line really well. The result is well documented above.

Game 1 exposed the Cavs as a really good team against “normal” teams as their supporting players are great 3 point shooters when uncontested. LeBron and Kyrie had their way with those teams as they always found an open Cav’s shooter so they put up some eye opening 3 point stats against these teams. Unfortunately for the Cavs, the Warriors are not a “normal” team. Game 1 also exposed the Cavs as an average defensive team, certainly not up to par with the Spurs or the Jazz. Lastly, Game 1 exposed KD as the most dominant player on the floor and forced LeBron to “try” to play defense. While KD scored 38 points, what was equally important was that it forced LeBron to expend energy on defense making him tired on offense. Against, the Eastern Conference teams, LeBron took breathers on defense allowing him to focus more on offense.

KD and Steph both stated that this is only 1 game and have a lot of remaining work to do. They are focused and “locked” in and are thinking that the only game that matters is the next game. Steph said that every 48 minute game is its own event so they have to lock in each moment. He also said that it is not about them (him and KD) but about the team as a whole. The Cavs are also a great team and have been here before. They lost the first 2 games last year and came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship. One can never count out a LeBron lead team. Having said that, I’m really anxious how the Cavs will adjust in Game 2, especially when LeBron said that KD was what stood out in Game 1. He went on and said that the Warriors were one of the best teams ever assembled last year, then they add one of the best players ever in KD… It is what it is…

What makes this year’s Warriors more dangerous than last year?

  • KD.
  • Steph is healthy.
  • Last year’s Warriors thought they were invincible. This year, they aren’t taking anything for granted. They are locked in.

Zaza Pachulia – Death Threats

posted in: Basketball | 0

OK fans… Enough is enough and death threats are clearly out of bounds and goes directly against the spirit of my site… Sports is entertainment… so relax and enjoy it !!!

Whether Zaza’s play on an already injured Kawhi Leonard was dirty or not can be debated forever. It happened, Kawhi is now unable to play, and the game must go on.

Just some points for reference:

  • The #12 jersey which hangs in the rafters at AT&T arena in San Antonio belongs to the great defensive player, Bruce Bowen. He also happens to be one of the dirtiest players in the history of the NBA for doing (on multiple occasions) what Zaza did once (unintentionally)…. Did San Antonio fans tweet death threats on Bowen and his family? If fans of all of the players that Bowen injured (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul and others) tweeted death threat on Bowen, it is simply wrong !!!
  • In the same game that Kawhi got injured, LaMarcus Aldridge slid under Steph Curry on his jump shot, but Steph did not land on Aldridge’s shoes. Same kind of play but no injury to Steph.
  • In the game after, LaMarcus Aldridge again slid his legs under Kevin Durant and this time, Kevin did land on his shoes, but, fortunately for the Warriors, he did not suffer any leg injuries. After the game, Kevin was asked about that play. He gave a very classy answer. He said that “big’s” are not accustomed to guarding shooters at the 3 point line so they do the best they can to try to block the shot. It is just a part of the game.

“It wasn’t intentional at all, and I wish it didn’t happen,” Pachulia, whose Warriors lead the series 3-0, told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday. “I know everybody has different thoughts, and see it in a different way. Ex players, non players. There are guys saying I did it on purpose. I can’t control that. But I really felt bad (for Leonard). There’s nothing you can do, basically. I said it right after the game. I said it the next day. And if I get a chance to talk to Kawhi going forward, I will mention it to him.”

“(Fans) just hear the message, and it’s, ‘Ok, Pop said so and now let’s do this,’” Pachulia told USA Today. “It’s just wrong. You’ve got to think, and realize. Threaten me, but don’t threaten my wife or say something about my kids. It’s just wrong.”

Pachulia, a 14-year NBA veteran, is fine with taking the heat following the incident, but wishes his family was left out of it. “Me as a person, as a man, I don’t mind dealing with it,” he said. “But I hate to see my family deal with it. My wife and my kids who have nothing to do with it, who are very innocent. … I just hate my family going through that. They don’t deserve that. … I’m not blaming everything on (Popovich), but he was a very big part of it.”

Pachulia also said the threats have intensified to the point that extra security has been implemented at his children’s school.

There was a well documented incident that took place at Dodger Stadium in April 2011 after a Giants vs Dodger game. Bryan Stowe, an avid Giants fan, was beaten by several Dodger fans to the point where he suffered brain damage. This senseless act changed Bryan’s life and his family and friends forever.

I’m sure that there have been many other senseless acts where fans went way out of line just because their team lost.

C’mon folks !!! You will be fans of your team for life so you just need to learn how to deal with the bad times along with the good… Figure it out !!! If you can’t, put your left hand up on your forehead with your index finger pointed skyward with your thumb pointing sideways as you are a LOSER…

Warriors vs Spurs – Game 1 Wrap of the Western Conference Championship Series

posted in: Basketball | 0

The Spurs came to play in Game 1 and took control of the game early. They played brilliant defense protecting the paint with their big’s and took away many of the pass out’s to the three point line. The Warriors were not aggressive at the get-go, turned the ball over 7 times in the first quarter and shot miserably. They trailed by 14 after a quarter, and by as much as 25 in the second quarter. The half-time score was 62-42.

Enter Steve Kerr…

Since he became coach of the Warriors in 2014, Steve tried to give his players the freedom to be themselves and to play to their strengths. He empowered them, assistant coach Ron Adams said, by cultivating a sense of self-reliance that has become even more apparent in recent weeks. Steve has been sidelined since the 2nd game of the Trail Blazers series with complications resulting from a bad back surgery more than two years ago. His teachings to both his coaching staff and his players are now paying huge dividends as his coaching staff know how Steve would want them to coach and the players have taken individual accountability for their play and know how to defend and move the ball the way Steve would want them to play.

At half-time Steve was available to the team and said a few words. He was brief but to the point. “We’ve got to find that balance between pace and discipline,” Kerr said in a clip that was broadcast by ABC. He added, “Settle in, and we’ll be all right.”

“It’s always great to hear Coach Kerr’s voice and give his perspective,” Curry said. “It’s actually a fresh perspective from somebody who is watching the game, so he sees a lot of different angles and he sees how things are developing from a broader perspective, so that’s obviously huge for us.”

Beginning the 3rd quarter, it felt like the Warriors were catching fire as Steph started red hot. But, the Spurs had their own fire and re-built a 23 point lead to 78-55. Then, at 7:55 of the third quarter, Kawhi came down on Zaza’s shoes on his already bad left ankle. This, after he had rolled that same ankle earlier in the game by stepping on David Lee’s shoes who wasn’t even playing at the time. Kawhi, stepped back onto the Spurs bench after firing a shot and landed on Lee’s shoes. There is much chatter about Zaza’s play being dirty which was instigated by the numb-nut, Jeff Van Gundy who said on national TV that Zaza should have been assessed a flagrant foul. Upon review of the replay, Zaza tried to block the shot as he should do, turned his back to Kawhi to block him out for defensive purposes, then started running up-court. He did touch Kawhi’s arm following through with his shot so it was indeed a foul. But, Zaza did NOT intentionally extend his foot to Kawhi’s landing spot, His name is NOT Grayson Allen. Lastly, Kawhi himself said that the Zaza play was not dirty. He was merely contesting the shot.

After Kawhi went out and the Warriors down 78-55, they then scored the next 18 points over the ensuing three and a half minutes to make it a game. They then took over the game by outscoring the Spurs, 58-33 in the final 19+ minutes.

The Warriors outscored the Spurs 71-49 in the second half. The Spurs shot 52.3 percent in the first half, 42.5 percent in the second. The Warriors shot 34.2 percent in the first half, 60.5 percent in the second.

The Warriors put up five more shots in the second half than in the first, and they outrebounded San Antonio 26-14 after halftime after losing the glass battle 23-17 in the first half.

Was this due to the Steve Kerr half-time speech?

This reminded me of the 1st game of the Trail Blazer’s series when McCollum and Lillard went off for 75 points and clearly gave their best effort while still losing to the Warriors by 12. When a team plays their best and still loses, it is demoralizing. The Spurs played their best game, lead by 25, lost their leader, Kawhi, after losing Tony Parker in the Rocket’s series, and still lost by 2 to the Warriors. Although a Popovich team will never quit and will always put up their best effort, the Warriors are also on a mission and they learned a lesson in the first half of this game. They will not be denied. I’m hoping for the best for Kawhi and hope he can come back for the rest of the series. If he is able to play, I see three more games left in the Spurs season.

In my mind, one thing is crystal clear… Kawhi Leonard is the MVP of the NBA for 2017 !!!

2017 NBA Finals – Cavs vs Warriors (déjà vu)

posted in: Basketball | 2

I was correct in every one of my 1st round picks that I posted back on April 13, 2017.

Here are my predictions through the Finals…

East

Cavs vs Raptors: Cavs will win in another sweep 4-0. LeBron is in high gear and the Raptors don’t have any answers.

Celtics vs Wizards: Celtics defense has got it together. Celtics will win 4-2.

Cavs vs Celtics: Cavs will win in a great series 4-3. It will go 7 due to the Celtics’ strong defense.

West

Spurs vs Rockets: Despite the Rockets absolutely destroying the Spurs in Game 1, Spurs will get their defense back and will win in a thrilling series 4-3.

Warriors vs Jazz: Although the upstart Jazz took care of the Clippers, seems like everyone takes care of the Clippers in the Playoffs. Warriors will sweep the Jazz 4-0.

Warriors vs Spurs: Warriors will be well rested while the Spurs come off of a hard fought 7 game series with the Rockets. Both defenses are great but the Warriors offense will trump the Spurs offense.

Finals

Warriors vs Cavs:

The Warriors will not forget what happened last year when they were up 3-1 in the Finals and LeBron willed his Cavs to a tremendous comeback win. There were a lot of well chronicled events leading to the Cavs championship but no excuses will be used. The Cavs won and they deserved the trophy.

Because of what happened last year, the Warriors will be extra motivated. Even without their leader, Steve Kerr, the players know Kerr’s system so well, they will continue to thrive and dominate. The other big factor is Kevin Durant. KD left the Thunder in search of a team that he could have fun playing for and with players that he could have fun playing with. This season has panned out very well for KD and the Warriors as they lead the league with the most wins during the regular season for three consecutive years.

The Warriors lost Durant for 6 weeks during the last part of the regular season but the team adjusted very nicely and won 13 straight games without him. This actually made the team stronger as the bench got extra work and responded fabulously. The Warriors’ theme is “Strength in Numbers”. Their bench is the strongest in the NBA which will be the difference in this year’s Finals. The addition of JaVale McGee and his “vertical spacing” on both ends will result in a plus points during his time on the court. I also believe that the addition of Matt Barnes will have a positive impact. He is another “enforcer” type player that the Warriors need when Draymond is resting. Thank you, Sacramento Kings for trading Boogie Cousins to the Pelicans which lead to the Kings having to drop Barnes from their roster.

The Cavs improved their team, also. There is no team in the East that can challenge them. As I said, the Celtics, can give them a good series as they are a good defensive team. However, LeBron will ultimately take over that series putting them into the Finals. The Cavs are also deep with their roster with any one of LeBron, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver, JR Smith (if he is able to come back from his thumb injury), Channing Frye, Mo Williams, or Deron Williams being able to “go off” and have great games.

LeBron will be ready as he always does come playoffs. And, he will have his team ready as he always does come playoffs.

Having said that, the Warriors bench strength and defense will be the difference and hold the Cavs in check at the critical times to take a hard fought and memorable Finals series 4-3.