We Have A Series

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3-2 at this point. 1 game left in Cleveland. Possible game 7 back in Oakland.

I said 4-2 Cavs so I’ve been disqualified for a bit now. I did predict Kyrie’s breakout.

The Warriors are a resilient, tricky bunch.

The Cavs have a lot of talent and heart too.

We all want a game 7, I think even Warriors fans want a game 7. They don’t want to clinch away from home again.


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Steph Curry has been disappointing in The Finals again. The regular season MVP seems to have some issue when high-level defense is played on his perimeter trick shot game.  When Curry isn’t making 3’s he isn’t doing much for his team. All this whispering about injury is bull. You either play or you don’t, phantom injuries that you won’t speak about don’t matter.

Cavs really need some offensive output from JR Smith and Kevin Love. I’d like to see some contribution from Channing Frye also.

Should be a battle Thursday. Here’s hoping the Cavs live to fight one more day. Game 7 winner takes all I like my chances with Bron and Kyrie.

All To Plan

Prince’s passing has left me a bit shaken. I’m avoiding the mysterious theories and thinking this generally healthy and sober man had pill demons that caught him and he walked into his personal elevator and never came out. The lyrics to Let’s Go Crazy are now loaded with intrigue.

Addiction did not appear to be a long term problem for Prince as he showed none of the outward signs over the last 30 years of his career. But rumors are flying that the last year has been a rough one for the 57-year old entertainer. Painful hip problems led to Percocet and other powerful pills with never-ending prescriptions, and in no time the mighty had fallen. I’ll wait for the tox report before commenting more, but it’s not an uncommon story.

LIFE MOVES FORWARD. The sun comes up tomorrow with or without us. Ask the Atlanta Hawks.

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Prince loved basketball so if there’s an afterlife he’s enjoying this one.

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I’ve been saying all year that the regular season success of the Golden State Warriors is perfect for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It benefits the Cavs more than anyone else.

Regular season means nothing. Playoffs and Championships mean everything. It’s why Jordan is Jordan, Kobe is Kobe, Russell is Russell, Duncan is Duncan, Bird is Bird, Magic is Magic… and then there’s all those other players. Many winners and legends in the mix but there’s only a few that walk around with their hand(s) full of rings.

 

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Lebron James is on the cusp of the circle of greats. He has an impressive resume going to the last 5 finals and winning 2 of them. Most playoff records are owned or being hounded by James and his various teams. But he needs to get to 500 and get one with his hometown Cavaliers to cement his legacy.

Cue the perfect scenario – make James the underdog.


 

Last year was his first year back with his old family after running off to Miami with a supermodel, and it was awkward at times. The big 3 were actually Lebron and two confused all-stars lacking big game experience, a motley mix of role players, and a head coach who had never even assistant-coached an NBA game before.

But Lebron being Lebron, the addition of Iman Shumpert and JR Smith from the Knicks and Timo Mozgov from Denver seemed to fit together for the moment. JR was the sharpshooter, Shump the defensive stopper, and Timo the new Big Z that Lebron could play pick and roll with.

Delly also emerged as a decent backup PG and all around defensive irritant, and the team clicked going into the playoffs. But by the time they reached the Finals they had lost 2 all-stars and were logging huge minutes on the guys left.

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They still got 2, nearly 3 games from the healthy and clicking Warriors, but ran out of juice after running out of options. They were outmatched, out-coached, and still getting to know each other as a team. Delly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital for fluids. Cleveland licked it’s wounds yet again. There’s always next year.

 


This next year has been stable so the soap opera NBA media basically ignored the Cavaliers all year. Blatt wasn’t fired mid-season so much as forced to step aside for his star assistant, a move that all of us saw coming sooner or later. The Cavs didn’t miss a beat since very little changed.

Other than that all everyone talked about was the amazing unbeatable Warriors, and if the Spurs would have enough left in the tank to derail them. These amazing Warriors with their newly crowned King of the NBA Steph Curry! Could they ever be beaten? Have we ever seen something so dominating?

 

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Buzz. No one really cares. It’s the regular season. I’d be terrified if the Cavs won 73 games this year. The last team to win so many games is only talked about because they swept their way through the playoffs (actually 12-3) and got their FIFTH ring in 7 years. See the gentleman with all the rings above.

The Cavs are being treated like an underdog this year but the stats tell something different, and so does the eye test.

 


 

So the setup is perfect. The Warriors are unbeatable. Until their fragile superstar goes down that is, then they are beatable. The Spurs look damn good as usual, the perfect slayer of dreams. The Cavs are rolling, the East (which was stronger than the West overall this regular season) is folding with playoff jitters, and here we sit.

The thing about my predictions is I don’t always see the end of the story. Rarely, actually. I usually see the setup and build.

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I can imagine this is our year. But I was born in #TheLand 9 years after it’s last major title so I don’t get my hopes up too far. My storytelling mind does enjoy this narrative though.

Curry will be back, and the Cavs will face a strong team out of the west. I hope it’s the Warriors because we all want the rematch from last year. The Spurs have always dealt with Lebron better than anyone else.

 

Ouchies On A Cold Night

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts during Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

What?


 

Warriors came to the winter wonderland of Cleveland last night and beat the doo-doo out of the Cavs. The Cavs were rolling, playing good ball on their road trip, but it was off from the start last night.

No ball movement, clanking shots, no offensive rebounds – recipe for failure. Overall the Warriors just looked good – faster and stronger than last year. Still hitting those ridiculous shots.

Not much of a game since the Cavs had no fight in them. But message sent, if the Cavs make it out of the East again they are going to have a battle with the West. As usual.

 

2015 NBA Finals Post Mortem

It’s over. Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors, 2015 NBA Champs. They earned it by plowing through the regular season, rolling to the Finals, and catching an injured Cavs squad that didn’t have the bodies to match up. They complete their historic season with MVP Stephon Curry and rookie head coach Steve Kerr.

Lebron is dead! Lebron is dead! Ding dong, Lebron is dead!

Lebron is dead! Lebron is dead! Ding dong, Lebron is dead!

 

If we had a healthy Cleveland team featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to go along with Lebron James – that would have been a heavyweight battle for the ages. Instead we got to see Lebron try to beat the Warriors more or less by himself, and he got amazingly close, but just didn’t have the talent left on the bench to put down the Warriors. 5 of the 6 games were close but as the time wound down the Warriors had the depth and energy to persevere.

Lebron dropped historic offensive numbers while picking up the slack for his injured scorers. The 2 replacements from the bench (Tristan Thompson and Matt Dellevadova) had to play heavy minutes, completely depleting the Cleveland bench and leaving Coach Blatt with very few options.

The Cavs did get a little pat on the back for effort, the Cleveland fans showed out nicely (louder than the “roaracle”), and Vegas gave the city of Cleveland it’s “wait for next year” hope by making the Cavs the early favorites as the 2016 champs!

 

20k inside the arena, 20k outside the arena. Well done.

20k inside the arena, 20k outside the arena. Well done.

3-2 Warriors – Cavs Facing Elimination

First off, what a year for these two teams. The Warriors completed a dominant regular season with an unorthodox style led by their shooting, often times quick hit 3’s early in the shot clock. They played defense, they mowed through the West, and they are 1 game away from their first title in 40 years.

The Cavs were the story this year in the NBA, and they didn’t fail to deliver some drama. Much of it was little more than hype by the press but there’s no denying that a first year coach, 3 all-stars that had never played together before, and the feel-good retribution story of Lebron and his hometown of Cleveland/Akron was compelling.

Driving this outfit of undermanned misfits to a ring might be too much even for Lebron. But it’s been a fun ride. If the Cavs succumb he will take an unfair hit for his overall finals record and not given the credit he deserves for this season.

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My prediction of Cavs in 6 is out the window, and unless Kyrie’s broken kneecap heals by Tuesday it’s tough to see them winning 2 straight in the condition they are in now.

Tough but not impossible though — if the Cavs can hold home court Tuesday night I’ll take my chances in Game 7 with Lebron, no matter where it’s played. Cleveland equals tough, so don’t get overconfident Dubs fans!

I say Cavs in 7 with at least 1 more 40/15/15 game from LBJ. Or Cavs are out of juice and Warriors in 6. If so it will be sad to see them celebrate in the Q.

Either way, good finals, hard fought, the Warriors are a little dirtier than I thought they’d be (not a bad thing), and it does have the feel of the first of several future Finals matchups. It’s a testament to Lebron and Blatt that the Cavs are here at all, missing 2 all-stars.

1st and 2nd overall pick, 2003.

1st and 2nd overall pick, 2003.

2-1 Cleveland With Momentum

The Warriors MVP woke up, finally, towards the end of game 3, down by 20. It was good but scary as a Cavs fan to see Stephon Curry hit 3 straight.

Other than that, Cleveland has owned this series. Through their own inability to close they are up 2-1 as opposed to 3-0, winning nearly every quarter of this series so far.

The Cavs seem to want it more, the Cleveland crowds are better, the city is rocking, things are looking up. But it’s only 2-1, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Dubs and Cavs have come back from 2-1 already this year.

Dellavedova breaks arms, legs, neck. Will play game 4

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Series Reset 1-1, Moving To Cleveland

Why The National Media Continues to Favor The Warriors

1. They refuse the Eyeball test. Stats are interesting, insightful, and of course the most important single stat determines a win or loss. The new generation of analytics along with our visually mobile culture create an environment where we are easily swayed by charts and graphs. Basketball is suffering through this currently. There are ‘new method verse old school’ arguments around, and in this case I split the difference. Show all the stats and graphs you want, but don’t disregard the eyeball test! Lebron looks like he wants that Trophy more than he ever has before, his team is wounded and scary, they are bigger, play better defense, and who picks against that? Warriors look like they’ve never been there before, the coach and entire roster. Oh yeah, they haven’t. 9 rings on the Cavs, 17 Blatt trophies, and that shows in that no one on the Cavs are sweating (except Kevin Love at every mention of Kelly Olynyk.)

SLAM!

SLAM!

2. Know the sport.  There are fundamental rules in the NBA game that many people miss. First – Playoffs are different than regular season. Regular season is actually the pre-season and people never understand that. Everything is harder in the playoffs. Everything s l  o   w    s   down, every window closes, every gap is smaller, every possession matters. You know the rule that good offense beats good defense? Reversed in the playoffs. Teams shut other teams down, destroy their offense, sweep them out at every level of the playoffs. No team would beat the same team 4 games straight in the regular season but the playoffs are different. Therefore, any analyst that talks about the regular season during the finals is rubbish.

Regular Season? You talking about the Regular Season? We ain’t talking about the Finals, we talking about Regular Season? We ain’t talking about The Finals. The Finals. You asking me about Regular Season?

 

POW!

POW!

These false experts also forget that the NBA Finals is closer to a pickup game played before the world than any formal event featuring beautiful basketball exhibitions. It’s a blood bath, a grind house, a painful struggle that only true champions survive. Cleveland learned this lesson in 2007 when professional champions from Texas exposed our overachieving newbies and a virgin GOAT. Fools underestimate the Eastern Conference champs every year based on regular season offense, combining both mistakes into the great lie. It’s 5 on 5, 1 basketball, for the chip, and regular season stats, politics, concepts, and offense go out the window.

Shump!

SHUMP!

3. Play the sport. If you, your kids, your brother, even your cousin you hang with spent real time playing basketball then you know a real baller, both playground and organized team. They didn’t need to be great themselves, just good enough to be on teams, go to practice, be on travel teams, good enough to get picked at the courts, and to even hold court. If they were professional or semi-pro they are experts. Yes high school counts, maybe even middle school! Bottom line is until you’ve jammed your hip and ass into some dude’s sweaty crotch over and over to keep him off the boards and chop him down a bit on offense you don’t really know basketball.

Appetizing description, I know, but my point is reading or watching basketball is not playing basketball. It’s a grind, it’s a game of sweat, cuts, poked eyes, bent fingertips, millimeters, frustration, and anger. It’s not stats, a narrative, or psychology. Most analysts never played, and only some of them admit it and let the real experts drive their narrative.

ROAR!

ROAR!

National analysts follow bandwagons and they follow sexy stories. We saw it a decade ago with Lebron. Perhaps the Miami version of Lebron wore out his welcome and the narrative has pushed past him, therefore he is not the sexy story, the obvious story, and this is basketball, not Hollywood. Austin Carr said the Warriors play “good basketball but pretty-boy basketball”. Welcome to the trenches.

Game 2 Notes: Nothing Stunning At All

The Cavs have been having their way with the Warriors for most of the series so far. The first 2 games have been controlled by Cleveland throughout, with leads being elusive and short-lived for these overly-hyped regular season Warriors. It could be 2-0 either way, but each game had the Cavs ahead with the Warriors making late runs to get back in the game.

I sense the virginity at Oracle. True, the Cavs organization has no NBA championships, but there’s 9 championship rings on that roster compared to 0 worn by Warriors. I don’t even think a Warrior player has ever even been to the Finals, whereas the Cavs have 22 previous Finals games on the roster. [See Tales of the Tape for the lowdown]

Steve Kerr is much loved and respected around the NBA. He won 5 rings as a player and was popular on TV. But he’s a virgin as a coach. Blatt has coached 17 championships. 17. Discount that all you want, it’s still more than Kerr.

Steph Curry is much loved and respected around the NBA. Steve Nash perhaps helped the Cavs last week by declaring Curry the best shooter of all time!  But he’s a baby-faced virgin too, on a bigger stage than he’s ever been on.

The media is still amazed at how this supposedly superior Warriors team and being handled by what they consider a 1-man show from a weak conference coached by a newbie. None of this is true, even though it’s the narrative they are all pushing.

Golden State is the latest NBA gimmick, and gimmick’s don’t always win championships. Sometimes they do, and I’m not writing off the Warriors completely. I do believe they were the best regular season team but that means nothing now. They are still capable of shooting 50% from 3 and spanking the Cavs. It’s a long series.

You are now going to see the best basketball player in the world play in front of the best fans in the best NBA arena. Sure Oracle might be slightly louder, but it’s due to the ancient building’s lack of acoustic treatment, not because Warriors fans are somehow more psyched than Cleveland fans.

No California sports fans are out-rooting Cleveland sports fans. Cavs fans know the game, know that defense is more important than “splashing”, and know when it comes down to the game on the line, they’d take Lebron Ramone James over anyone not named Michael circa 1992.


 

Previous Finals Posts:

Game 1: Missed Opportunities

NBA Finals: Tale of the Tape

Cavs v Dubs: The Main Event

Game 1 – Missed Opportunities

Wow what a game, what a story.

The big Russian dunks on everyone!

The big Russian dunks on everyone!

First off, message sent.  Everyone claiming the Warriors were clear favorites, ready to wipe the pathetic “leastern conference” champs out with ease, watched the Cavs handle the Warriors for most of the game. Cleveland responded to every Warriors run, made just as many big shots, and controlled much of the game. The “Roaracle” sat nervously on it’s collective hands.

Secondly – what a huge missed opportunity! The first team to get a road win takes the advantage and the Cavs had one right in their hands. They couldn’t finish it out in regulation, let the Dubs take a late lead, then had to tie it and had nothing good for the last shot. Lebron was very good but a stepback three is not needed there, he should have driven and looked for contact.

Then after 44 minutes played Kyrie tweeks his knee again and the Cavs collapse in OT. Uncle Drew had looked good until then, scoring on and defending MVP Curry, but it wasn’t enough.

Warriors are the deeper team but they looked small compared to the Cavs. They are also dirtier under the glass than I thought — holding, pulling, and applying arm-bars all over Tristan and Mozgov, and very few were called. Bogut and Green used every trick in the book to keep the Cavs off the glass, and most of them were illegal, but almost nothing was called.

I’m more surprised than mad about that. The Warriors were more physical than the Cavs and they got away with more dirty plays, and I expected that to be opposite.

I still say Cavs in 6 or Cavs in 7. Lebron, Mozgov and Kyrie played well for the Cavs but no one else really did. Lebron outscored the splash-bros by himself. If/when the Cavs click they are going to blow the Warriors out, hopefully they do it at least once in Oakland.


Previous NBA Finals posts:

NBA Finals Tales of the Tape

Cavs v Dubs: The Main Event

NBA Finals – Tale of the Tape

NBAFinals_TaleTape

 

These categories are ranked in importance from top to bottom. Notice how Regular Season is near the bottom. Championship experience and pedigree is valued above all else, and in that department the Warriors are total virgins.

As you work down the stats for the Playoffs notice that the Cavs have slightly improved since the regular season ended and the Warriors have slightly declined. Also notice that the Warriors still pass and shoot the ball better than the Cavs.

Coach Blatt is being ignored and disrespected by most NBA types, as they outright dismiss his steady ability to collect championships over a 24 year coaching career. These championships are across various tournaments, leagues and continents, but the same thing happened almost every time – Coach Blatt’s team brought home the trophy. No way can that experience be discarded because it didn’t take place in the NBA. Champions are champions, only the details change in every quest.

 

Other NBA Finals Hype:

Cavs v Dubs: The Main Event

Cavs v Dubs: The Main Event

Finally we have arrived at the main event. Actually, we have to wait 8 days for it (the longest time ever!).

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Update — Check out the NBA Finals Tale of the Tape

 

I’ll be doing some statistical and eyeball analysis over the next couple of days before announcing my pick for the finals. Initial thoughts:

  • Since the Cavs made their big roster shakeup and Lebron’s winter break, they have a better record than the Warriors.
  • Lebron out-ranks everyone in the series in championship pedigree. Knowing how to get one is different than wanting one.
  • The Cavs roster has more playoff experience, more finals experience, and more championship rings than the Warriors.
  • Blatt and Kerr are rookie NBA coaches, but Blatt has coached several major championships around the world over the last 20 years. He’s no rookie coach, he’s a rookie NBA coach. In actual games won he’s closer to Popovich than Kerr.
  • The Warriors offensive strength is their outside shooting. Just like the Hawks, who shot 20% lower against the Cavs than anyone else.

So that’s just some food for thought as they announce the Cavs as underdogs.