Category Archives: Basketball

NBA Endgame: Game 7

 The best two words in sports: Game 7.

We almost didn’t make it here. The Spurs looked to be in near total control through most of Game 6. Duncan looked like the early 2000’s Duncan, the Heat’s Big 3 was having a rough go and Birdman was racking up fouls like he was setting up for pool.

And then it came, like we all knew it would; or at least hoped. The hellacious run by Miami in the fourth quarter when the Spurs were up by 10 was something else. Suddenly, the momentum shifted and things were starting to get tense and true worry set in.

Finally, the Heat played desperate.

It all began when LeBron lost his headband, making Twitter practically implode and his game improve. He suddenly started attacking more fiercely, going to the rim with more force and concentration. 

And when leaders lead, the rest follow.

Mike “One Shoe” Miller hit a huge three that sent the crowd into a frenzy and suddenly the White Hot Heat were back. The Spurs tried to hold on but they just couldn’t manage it, thinking they were in good standing up 5 with less than 30 seconds to go. And before you know it, a shot made, a free throw missed and the Heat only trailed by three.

What happened next has to be one of my all time favourite shots, in any game. The ball gets fired into the air, misses, Bosh soars and rips down the rebound, firing it back out to one Jesus Shuttlesworth, who (with a man all over him) cleanly stroked one of his picturesque treys, snapping the net back like a hungry croc’s maw. 

All I could hear was, “BACK OUT TO ALLEN, BANG!!!” (See below) And then it was almost drowned out by the ear shattering cheers of the Miami crowd.

Overtime came and went, and the Heat managed to pull out a gutsy 103-100 victory, with Ray Ray hitting the final two free throws as calmly as an ocean breeze to put the game out of reach. And just for good measure, the final shot attempt, made by Tony Parker, to tie the game was blocked by Bosh.

And now we move on to Game 7.

How do I feel about it? Just glad we have a Game 7. But in all honesty, I don’t know who will win. I’ll tell you my pick at the end. Think you can wait that long? Hope so.

If history is any factor, then the Heat have some good numbers on their side. The last time a road team beat the home team in a Game 7 was in 1978; done by the Washington Bullets. Only four teams have done that since then. Ray Allen knows all about that stat, as he and his former team, the Celtics, tried to defeat the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. They were up 14 at the half and ended up blowing the game late.

Since we’re here, why not look at some other memorable Game 7’s? 

1969: Celtics defeat Lakers 108-106 – This was one of the best Finals ever. Bill Russell’s Celtics going on to edge West’s Lakers at Staples Centre. In this case, the road team actually did win Game 7 in a grind. At the time, Lakers owner Jack Cooke infamously placed thousands of balloons with the words, “World Champion Lakers” printed on them and hung them from the ceiling, completely sure of himself that the Lakers would take the game. 

Well, Wilt Chamberlain injured himself that game grabbing a rebound and sat out until the Lakers eventually cut the lead down to 103-102 with only two minutes remaining. Wilt told his coach he was ready to go back in and he was told, “We’re doing fine without you”. Then, with about a minute and a half left, Don Nelson fired up a desperate shot that hit back rim and fell through, putting the Celtics up 105-102 and the rest is history. 

Amazingly, The Finals MVP was not given to a Celtic, but to Jerry “The Logo” West, who had a triple-double with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He was also averaging 38 points in the series. This was the first year The Finals MVP award existed and was the only time it was ever given to a player on the losing team. But I guess you could say he kinda earned it.

1976: Knicks defeat Lakers 113-99 – This has to be one of the most dramatic games of all time and is by far one of the best Game 7’s. After Game 6, no one thought that Willis Reed of the Knicks would be able to play in Game 7. But then, during warm-ups, Reed walked out onto the court and the crowd went absolutely bananas. Reed scored the first two baskets of the game and the building was louder than a rock concert for the rest of the game, helping the Knicks out tremendously, who got a huge boost from Walt Frazier (36 points, 19 assists, 7 rebounds). 

Reed went on to win Finals MVP, of course.

1962: Celtics defeat Lakers 110-107 – This was the Celtics’ sixth straight run at a title. It was also only one of two Game 7’s in The Finals that went into overtime. Laker’s guard Frank Selvy famously missed an I-can’t-believe-he’s-that-wide-open shot at the end of regulation, leading to Bob Cousy eventually dribbling out the clock for another Celtic title.

1984: Celtics defeat Lakers 111-102 – This was a heated game. No, really. I mean, it was like 91 degrees and the players and fans were sweltering. They even brought in extra ceiling fans to try and cool the place down! The Celtics manhandled the Lakers most of the game, until a sudden run cut the Celtics 14 point lead to 3 with about a minute to go. Then in a stunning movement, Cedric Maxwell knocked the ball out of the hands of Magic Johnson and from that point on the Lakers just couldn’t respond. Larry Bird was named Finals MVP.

Magic still calls the following summer the longest of his life.

LeBron James, on whose shoulders the Heat’s chances are riding, has played in a total of four Game 7’s prior to tonight. He is 2-2 and has won his last two; against Boston last season and against the Pacers last round.

The last time the Spurs played in a Finals Game 7, it was against the Pistons in 2005. Tim Duncan won the MVP in that series and the Spurs took home the championship.

Now, there are some key factors that need to be looked at before this game. Such as:

Duncan: The greatest power forward ever tried to close out the series in Game 6, scoring 30 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Duncan had 25 of those points in the first half of the game, being held to only 5 the rest of the way by two things: a smothering Heat defense and age. 

Can Duncan rebound from having given so much energy in the last game? I’m going to say no. He looked weary from having to go all the way into OT and the defense that Miami played on him flat out wore him down. The big fella put all he had into Game 6 (48 minutes played) and maybe that was all that he had left in the tank.

Allen vs Green: Can Ray Ray best Green tonight like he did in Game 6? Sure. I think that the Spurs absolutely need Danny Green tonight to win this game. He had an awful game last time out and only hit one shot for three points. Remember, Green has never been on this sort of stage while being regarded as someone who can change games. Some of the shots he got late in Game 6 weren’t awful looks; but he missed. Seemed like it was the pressure that got to him more than anything else.

Allen; however, has been there before as proven by his unreal trey to save the Heat’s season. If he (and a one-sneaker Miller) can get going earlier tonight, then the Heat will have a much better chance at the trophy. The look on Allen’s face late-Game 6 was one to remember; he was completely locked in and the result was beautiful. Let’s hope it happens again.

Ginobili vs Wade: Looks old now, doesn’t he? Too banged up now, isn’t he? Both Wade and Manu have had their problems in this series and both have had one game each where they temporarily silenced their critics. For Wade, it was Game 4 and for Manu it was Game 5. Does one of them have one great game left?

That could be the deciding factor. So, place your bets. 

Small Ball: Who plays it better tonight? Miami or San Antonio? That will be a huge factor in who wins the game. Throughout the season, the Heat proved that they had mastered the art of small ball and that they are one of, if not the best, small ball team ever.

And then, out of nowhere, the Spurs beat Miami playing small ball in Game 5. True, the Heat looked disoriented the entire game but come on. Both teams know how to play and win with this style, it’s just a matter of who shows up with their big boy pants on (Thanks for that one, Pop).

Pop vs Spo: One is a big name and the other has a big name. Pop has been heavily favoured as the the better coach in this series and is widely regarded as the best coach in the league. He’s made some fantastic chess moves (inserting Manu as a starter) in the battle of lineup changes that he’s had with Spo and even had one or two slip ups that everyone took notice of. 

Spoelstra, on the other hand, has been overlooked once again. He (in my opinion) should have won Coach of the Year and has done a stellar job with his small ball team, even though he’s been forced to make extreme lineup changes (Miller for Haslem) that have and haven’t worked. 

The battle has been even thus far; that’s why we’re headed to Game 7. Both coaches are brilliant and know their teams. They’ve had one day and one practice between last game and today; let’s see what they cook up.

Parker’s right leg: Will it hold up? It’s done so thus far. But one can’t help but wonder, in a season where injuries ran rampant, what if he breaks down?

Home Cookin’: There’s a reason the home team hasn’t lost a Game 7 since 1978. The home crowd acts as a 6th man in these situations and they did so in Game 6, giving the Heat just enough extra energy to summon that Mission Impossible run in the fourth quarter. 

Once again, this is Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Something has to give and perhaps the deciding factor will be the roar of the Heat fans. Either way, it’s gonna be loud tonight. Love it.

The 4-time MVP: This is LeBron’s night. No matter which way you slice it, this is his night. From tip-off to final buzzer, he needs to be locked in and raring to go. The stage is set for a game for the ages and the MVP needs to take advantage. Allen helped him get out of Game 6 and now he needs to finish it off. He’s had two triple-doubles in this series; in games 1 and 6. 

He doesn’t need to play Michael. He doesn’t need to play Magic. He needs to play LeBron. And at his very peak, the best player in basketball can lead his team past any foe. 

Time to prove your haters wrong again, King.

The way I see it, this game is set up for potentially two scenarios: 

1. The Heat blow out the Spurs – San Antonio looked gassed at the end of Game 6, and not only that, but Manu and Duncan (for the last few minutes) looked old. They can’t play old if they’re going to win a championship. They have got to bring it every night. But that hollow look in Ginobili’s eyes looked troublesome for Spurs fans

Miami; however, got it’s second wind near the end of Game 6 and although they will certainly be just as tired, they’ve got the home crowd advantage plus they will be pumped from coming out on top last game. If they can ride that momentum and power through the first few minutes in a hurry, then the Spurs might just cave. 

No one can afford to be tired, injured or old. This is Game 7.

2. It’s a nail-biter – The exact same thing as in Game 6 could potentially happen tonight and that’s what most people are rooting for; another amazing game. Both teams were taken to their limits last game and both saw what the other team was made of. They’ve been at each other all series; they know each other well now.

There are no secrets, no new advantages. Just basketball for 48 minutes. 

I’ll call it now. This game has a high probability of going into overtime again.

Now finally time for my pick, huh? 

This is a difficult choice because of the Manu-Game-5 memory, but I’m going with Miami. They’ve got history on their side, home court, the 4-time MVP and the man I never, ever count out in Dwyane Wade. The Spurs have to be dealing with some mental challenges right now – guys like Kawhi Leonard and Manu, who both missed key free throws down the stretch that could’ve won them a championship. The Heat are rolling and I think they’ll come out blazing as a continuation from the end of Game 6. The home crowd will be huge and if Ray Allen and Mike Miller are on (remember his 7-8 from downtown in last season’s clincher?) then Miami will be in excellent shape.

All I can say for Danny Green is, good job. You did far more than expected in this series. But it’s time for the top dogs to fight now. 

Game 7 is a game of superstars and, in this case, Big 3’s. 

So I guess there’s only one thing left to say:

Manu. Duncan. Parker.

Wade. Bosh. James.

Who you got?

Game 6 will Shape Legacies

I have always been an avid follower of the man known as The King, or LeBron James. I watched him throughout his final high school year when he still played for St. Vincent-St. Mary’s high school and then as he entered the 2003 NBA draft at the tender age of 18, where he was taken first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Throughout his roller-coaster career of success and failure, I have watched and supported him, hoping only the best for him as nearly everyone around me decided they would jump on the infinitely long I-hate-LeBron-James train. 

I’ve felt every heartbreaking loss as only a true fan of a player or a team can, and couldn’t even watch TSN or any channel that would show another team claiming victory year after year that wasn’t led by LeBron.

There are three losses that really take the cake.

1. Getting swept in the 2007 Finals by the Spurs – A very young LBJ carried a horribly crappy Cavs team all the way to The Finals, making the run seem impossibly amazing. If he had won a title that year, when he was only in his fourth year in the league, we would have far more LeBron-Jordan comparisons than we do now. But alas, the Spurs were too well coached and too strong, with a then still-young Big 3, who had to try and hide their laughter as they kicked guys like Daniel Gibson to the curb and made LeBron James run himself into the ground shooting outside jumpers.

2. Defeated by the Celtics in Game 6 of the 2010 playoffs – Again, this was supposed to be LeBron’s year. Every year he didn’t win a title was supposed to be his year. And with his contract ending at the end of the season, Cavs fans could only hope that this truly would be the season that The King brought Cleveland a championship. Who stood in his way? Yet another Big 3. This time composed of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen (now on the Heat), who shredded the Cavs and sent them packing for the summer, leading to the infamous LeBron-taking-off-his-Cleveland-jersey-for-the-last-time moment that set up The Decision and thousands of rabid Cavs fans burning his jersey in the streets like he was the anti-Christ. 

Long forgotten in that game was the fact that LBJ recorded a triple-double (27 points, 10 assists, 19 rebounds) and was playing with a bum right elbow that actually caused him enough pain that he shot his free throws left handed. Yeah, that one hurt.

3. Defeated by the Mavericks in Game 6 of the 2011 Finals – But this. This was by far the most painful series I have ever watched as a LeBron fan and hope to never see anything like it again. This series spawned the LeBron-will-never-be-clutch jokes, the LeBron-can’t-make-change-for-a-dollar jokes and seriously wounded his comparisons to one Michael Jordan. LeBron absolutely vanished in this series, coming up short in every game in a mind-boggling Miami Heat version of Where’s Waldo. With this coming the season after The Decision, where LBJ told the world via an hour television special that he was “taking his talents to South Beach”, the man was roasted alive and vanished within himself for the summer, ultimately coming back the next season a more mature player and claiming his first title. I will never forget this series if only because LeBron simply disappeared for no discernible reason.

With these three haunting memories and many more lurking, James definitely doesn’t want to add any more to the list. Nor do fans like myself. 

This Game 6 will be another hurdle that James will have to deal with. Lose, and you can add it to the top five worst losses he’s had to take. He’d become 1-3 in The Finals and have lost to a team that is riding the hot hand of a scrub who suddenly caught fire in the spotlight of the big stage. The blame would fall upon him again and all of the haters would have a new reason to jeer and the “…not five, not six, not seven…” video (below) will suddenly be hilarious again.

I highly dislike the current Finals format; 2-3-2. It really seems to undermine the team with the best record by having them play three games away from home smack in the middle of a possibly long series. If the away team hits fast and takes one of the first two games, then there is a fairly high chance that the team with the better record could lose the series before they even get a chance to return home.

The format was created in the 1980’s, when the legendary Magic-Bird clashes were taking place, and were very sensible at that time. The media was having difficulty covering the games and flying back and forth from coast to coast, not always having the money or time to do so. 

But things are different now. The 80’s are long gone and so is the old NBA. But I digress.

The Heat now get to play the (possibly) final two games at home and if they can take tonight’s Game 6, then thankfully history will be on their side. When the home team wins Game 6, they have almost always gone on to win Game 7 and it’s been that way before Magic and Bird even stepped on an NBA court.

Also to add to this hopeful news is the fact that LeBron is the highest scorer in elimination games in NBA history at 31.5ppg (MJ was 31.3). Which leads me directly into one of my favourite memories of The King that I’m sure most people will remember – especially if you’re a Heat or Celtics fan.

Last season, when the Heat made their 2012 championship run, LBJ and his squad faced an elimination Game 6 against the Boston Celtics at The Garden. LeBron came in silently, casually destroyed the Celtics (45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists) and walked out. That was, arguably, the best game of his career and one of the best individual performances ever. The look on the man’s face (somewhere between Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone) is simply unforgettable. 

lebron-james-destroys-celtics

That’s the kind of game I’m hoping to see from him tonight. Another career defining 48 minute stretch that reminds the world of his greatness that seems to be forgotten every time he has a turnover or misses a shot at the buzzer.

As for the other two of the Big 3, the consequences don’t seem quite as dire. 

Dwyane Wade will always and forever be a top five shooting guard. That will never change, even if Miami loses tonight. Wade has already won two rings and is looking for his third. Another one would make his career all the sweeter but no one judges what he is capable of – and if they do, they can look to Game 4 of this series (playing with two bad knees) where he came out of the blue to score 32 points, dish out 4 dimes, grab 6 boards and record 6 steals in a vintage show. 

Wade has been a mystery in these playoffs and in this series. No one truly knows what’s going on with him. But the fact of the matter is, he has shown up for big games (Game 7 against the Pacers and Games 4 and 5 against the Spurs) and been a burden in most of the others. He may be picking his spots and choosing when to turn it on or it could simply be that some days he feels better than others, but whatever it is, if the Heat want a win tonight then they need this (see below) Dwyane Wade.

As for Chris Bosh, he will take a harder fall than Wade if the Heat lose and maybe as hard as LeBron. Bosh has been playing poorly through most of these playoffs and looks uncomfortable most of the time, as though one of the Spurs guarding him is constantly poking him in the butt with a tack. 

He’s had only one good game in The Finals (Game 4 where he had 20 points and 11 rebounds) and has ben virtually non-existent the rest of the time. Coach Spo has said many times that the Heat go as Bosh goes and that could explain their massive inconsistency thus far. Miami absolutely needs him to rebound and be an inside presence in tonight’s game or they can call it quits because everyone knows that at some point Tim Duncan is going to go off because he’s been quiet so far. 

So as a silent plea to the heavens, please let Chris Bosh go full Boshtrich tonight. Please.

chris-bosh-roar

The most underrated legacy that will be affected by tonight’s game and the outcome of the series is that of Erik Spoelstra. He was my pick for Coach of the Year and is as underrated as Boris Diaw is fat. Spo has done a fabulous job with this team – he’s taken them to three 50+ win seasons, three straight Finals appearances, one championship, 66-wins this season and took on the heavy task of creating a method that meshed the powers of James, Wade and Bosh into that of the Big 3. 

Been a long time since we’ve seen this, huh? (See below)

Yes, tonight we will see a legacy defining game. Greg Popovich will tell his players that they need to play like it’s Game 7, because if it gets to a real Game 7 the odds are not in their favour. The Spurs will come to play tonight at the Heat will have to be ready.

On the other end, there’s no way LeBron wants another black spot on his resumé and will hopefully come out looking to have a big game like he did last season and like he’s done in all the elimination games he’s ever played in. If Wade and Bosh decide to join the party, things will get very interesting.

For now, all we can do is hope and wait. I’m glancing at the clock right now and realizing that there’s less than two hours until tip-off, which means it’s time for me to go don my LBJ 2012 championship jersey and mentally prepare myself for the grudge match that will most certainly take place. 

Get ready for one for the ages, folks. And one that will make legacies, and break them.

NBA Talk: May 12

You heard right, the Warriors are giving the Spurs a challenge.
You heard right, the Warriors are giving the Spurs a challenge.

What happened today: Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors managed to knock off the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena to knot the series up at 2-2. The game had to go to overtime before ending, but it was worth a watch. There was a lot of sloppy play but some exciting ones as well. Both of these teams looked a little gassed and both star point guards of the Warriors and Spurs were dealing with injuries. Curry was playing through a sprained ankle and Tony Parker went on with a calf bruise. This series has been insanely interesting to watch and looks to be one that goes all the way to a Game 7. 

Who showed up big: Harrison Barnes of the Warriors came up big in this afternoon’s game with 26 points and 10 boards. If you’ve forgotten by this point, he is still a rookie. And a damn good one at that. The kid is fearless and explosive, willing to take any clutch shot or attempt a dunk over anyone. He struggled early on in the game today and didn’t shoot a very high percentage, but that didn’t stop him from taking the shots he should’ve been and he made a lot of big ones near the end of the game, along with backup point guard, Jarrett Jack.

Who’s surprising me right now: The Memphis Grizzlies. These guys really do grind out every single game and it’s showing against the reeling Thunder. The Grizz lead that series 2-1 at the moment with a chance to go up 3-1 at home next game before heading back to OKC. The reigning defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol, has been just fantastic in this series as has Tony Allen. The tough, physical defense of the Grizz is doing one heck of a number on the Thunder, who are without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and are looking for more scoring options than just Kevin Durant. The Grizz have handled business so far so there’s no reason to think they can’t or won’t win this series. Even without Westbrook, losing in the second round would be a massive failure for OKC and an upset that I can’t honestly say I saw coming.

Best thing about today’s games: Steph Curry getting the MVP chant when he went to the line in Oracle Arena. These playoffs have made everyone realize, if they didn’t before, that Curry is one of the greatest pure shooters to ever play the game of basketball. Every single time he rises up for a shot, Warriors fans cheer and opponents hide their eyes because it just looks like it’s going to fall. Curry’s also adept at creating his own shot, something that’s hard to do in today’s game. He can shoot while being guarded by anyone, anywhere. He showed off his in-the-gym-range this season when he lit up the Garden for 54 points. He won’t win any real MVP awards, but this kid can play.

What I’m looking forward to for tomorrow: Two things. How the Knicks make use of Stoudemire being back in the lineup. Does he make the Knicks a better or worse team and how rusty is he now? I’m ready to see Bosh take it to Boozer again in Game 4, just like he’s been doing all series. Ever since Boozer made that “Two and Half Men” comment two post-seasons ago, Bosh hasn’t held back on asserting dominance over the opposing big man.