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On To Round Three…

…otherwise known as the Eastern Conference Finals.

So I was wrong about the Washington Wizards beating the Boston Celtics in the second round.  Wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, won’t be the last.  But we can all admit it the series really could have gone either way, when all was said and done.  And the fact that the C’s needed a big effort in Game 7 from Kelly Olynyk, of all people, to advance to the next round should scare the bejesus out of anyone rooting for the hometown team.

Kelly Olynyk?  Sweet, another thing that makes me look bad.  Though I won’t feel as bad when he averages about 5 points a game in the East Finals.

In any event, the Cleveland Cavaliers and King LeBron James await.  And I have to tell you, while watching Game 7 of the Wizards series, the Blowhard really wasn’t totally emotionally invested.  Normally in the playoffs, especially Game 7’s, we are hanging on every shot, every rebound, every referee call…everything.  All the while essentially funneling beers in the process.

But Monday night?  I don’t know.  It was sort of a weird feeling.  In the end, I determined that my lack of emotion came down to two things:

*I felt that the Celtics were going to get screwed in the draft lottery Tuesday night.  I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this year.  And from all indications there are a handful of pretty good players in the draft this year who should make an impact in the NBA.  So even dropping down to #4 may not have been catastrophic.  But with the way the C’s and Danny Ainge have been slowly rebuilding this team, I felt like anything less than the #1 pick would be a pretty big disappointment.

*More importantly, the fact is the C’s have zero chance in this series.  Yup.  That’s ZERO.  Not a snowball’s chance in hell.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  Ok, enough.  But part of me was like, why bother winning this series?  So they can get embarrassed in the next one?

Stupid, I know.  You never know what can happen in any given series, right?  And when you can win a round in the playoffs, you certainly do it.  But I couldn’t shake the malaise.

Truth be told, we do know what is going to happen in this series.  What’s left to determine is how many games it will take for the Cavs to beat the Celtics.

Cleveland is 8-0 in the 2017 playoffs.  They seem to be on a mission toward another championship…or at least an expected date with Golden State in the NBA Finals.

Who’s going to stop LeBron James?  34.4 points per game in the playoffs, up from 26.4 during the regular season.  Jae Crowder?  Ummmm, I don’t think so.  The C’s could use his 6 fouls anyway.  Obviously, despite their defensive prowess, neither Avery Bradley nor Marcus Smart will be able to do it.  Jaylen Brown?  Please.

Sure, they can double and triple team the King.  But then Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love or J.R. Smith, or…a bunch of other guys will be running around wide open.  Kyle Korver will inevitably bury countless open threes.  Maybe Channing Frye too.

Tristan Thompson will undoubtedly slaughter the Celtics on the boards…along with Love and James.

I could go on, but will mercifully stop.  The people who say the Celtics have a chance will point to the fact that they got the #1 seed in the East for their performance in the regular season.  Key phrase?  “Regular season”.  Cleveland rested a lot, knowing they had a long playoff run to prepare for.  They most likely coasted in other games.  Then with a week left in the regular season, they came to Boston and blasted the C’s.  That just cemented they did not care about seeding.  They felt they could win anywhere, anytime.  And they are likely right…at least through the Eastern Conference.

There’s really nothing more to say.  Cleveland ends the run.  This time for real.  Four games to one.  I actually was going to say it would be a sweep, but the C’s may steal one.  Which one?  Guessing that if it’s any, it’s actually Game 1 tonight.  Cavs haven’t played in 10 days and may show some rust.  Celts are coming off a big Game 7 win and may be carrying some of that positive energy forward with them.  The game is in Boston.  Who knows, maybe the players are pumped the organization got the #1 pick yesterday!  Ok, not likely.

But if they don’t take Game 1, sadly it looks like a sweep.  It’s been a helluva ride though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The NBA season is finally over?!

Congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers for winning the 2015-16 NBA Championship.  Really pains me to say it.  But after coming back from a 3-1 game deficit and winning 2 of the last 3 games at Golden State, where the Warriors only lost twice in the regular season, well, I suppose I have to give them their due.

And LeBron?  I’ll give him his due too…but not for Game 7.  James was certainly ballin’ in Games 5 & 6, pouring in 41 each time to get it to a Game 7.  Sure, he had a triple-double in the deciding game, but was he the reason they won?

Nope.

I’ll tell you the reason the Cavs won:  Golden State choked.  No two ways about it.  Certainly in their home games at the end.  Losing the 3-1 lead.  Game 7.  Add anything else to the list if you want.  Gag job.

Not having Draymond Green in Game 5 most assuredly cost them as well.  Having him available at home, up 3-1, may have sealed the deal right there, regardless of how awesome LeBron played.  But hey, Draymond earned that suspension.

But then having all hands on deck for Game 7 at home and losing that one?  Inexplicable.  Inexcusable.  Oh, and don’t give me “well, they didn’t have all hands on deck because Andrew Bogut was out.”  Ok, no one has actually said that, but I’m just making sure.  Although…Festus Ezeli started for Bogut, played 11 minutes, went 0-4, missing a few bunnies and was otherwise generally useless…so perhaps Bogut could have given them…SOMETHING?  Ok, probably not, so let’s move on…

I’ve got a few numbers for you:

5 for 32:  Harrison Barnes’ shooting in the last 3 games.  16%?  Yikes!!  Barnes seems to be a decent enough player and is still only 24.  Many people think he could get a max contract this offseason.  A max contract for the 4th option on ANY team?  Seems like a little much.  Either way, shooting 16% over the most important games of the year doesn’t seem like the way to go about getting that contract.

41 for 83:  The Warriors took 83 shots in Game 7.  Almost half of them were three pointers.  I’m wondering if there could be a stat for “foolish” three pointers.  Cuz a fair amount of those 41 could be classified as that.  In my opinion anyway.  I know, I know…this is their game, that’s how they play…blah, blah, blah.  Maybe they do fire up a lot of threes, sure.  But in the most important game of the season, shouldn’t they be a little smarter about the quality of those shots?  Side note:  Golden State should have won the last 2 championships and are no doubt a great team.  But if the league is completely trending to their style of play…which it very well could be…then this will make me dislike the professional game even more.  If that matters at all…

17, 14, 10:  Golden State turnovers in Games 5-7.  The Game 7 total of 10 is actually much better than their averages of 14.9 per game during the regular season and 14.0 per game overall in the playoffs.  I’m actually quite shocked at all of these totals actually.  Watching the games live it just felt like a ton more.  Especially down the stretch in Game 7.  Maybe it was some of their stupid forced passes that turned into kicked balls by Cleveland that kept the number low.  There were plenty of those.  But I also remember some stupid behind the back passes that sailed out-of-bounds as well.  I actually don’t have much of an argument here based on the numbers.  But they played sloppy down the stretch, no doubt.  There is no disputing that.

Long story short?  Now that LeFraud has “gone home” and won his championship and all, every one of his apologists immediately came out of the woodwork and took aim at the “LeBron bashers.”  He finished up the series well, no question.  He won the MVP and that was likely the right call.  Although…only Kyrie Irving really merited any consideration otherwise.  So it’s not like the choice for that was excruciatingly tough.  He is clearly one of the best players in the game today, if not the best.  And is one of the better players in NBA history.

But in reality, how tough was this playoff “run”?  They advanced to the Finals through an extremely mediocre Eastern Conference, steamrolling through Detroit and Atlanta and while also burying Toronto with minimal effort as well.  Then they played a Golden State team that yes, went 73-9 during the season.  But then went a rather pedestrian (for them) 15-9 in the playoffs.  Quite honestly, they may have been out of gas from chasing the regular season win record (hello, 2007 New England Patriots?).  Steph Curry was hurt and maybe even more than he let on.  The Green suspension opened a door, although again, it was certainly deserved.  Not to make excuses for the Warriors, but let’s be honest:  The playoff Warriors were not the same team as the regular season Warriors.

So let’s give the Cavs and James their due, absolutely.  But let’s not get carried away.  And by “carried away”, think LeBron going down to the floor in Game 7 like he was shot and then hitting a key free throw anyway.  The wrist may have hit the floor, but didn’t seem to warrant the reaction a soccer player would normally cook up.  Wasn’t as bad as him flopping when teammate Tristan Thompson accidentally hit him in the Toronto series.  But ridiculous in its own right regardless.  Though…witnessing Anderson Varajeo continuously diving all series, in limited minutes, no less…and watching Marcus Smart do it all year here locally…I suppose this is also part of the game now…

Congratulations, City of Cleveland.  Congratulations, LeClown James.  Now go away.

Onto the draft…already some activity.  Can’t wait to see how much more goes down.  Feel like it’s going to be a wild night.  Hoping for it actually, certainly in the Boston Celtics’ case…

Playing catch-up…basketball edition…

*NBA Finals.  Watching NBA basketball these days sometimes can be like watching paint dry.  But at least the playoffs are better, as they should be.  Doesn’t hurt that the teams are better of course.  Anyway, watching this year’s Finals are actually still like watching paint dry for me…since I don’t really want either team to win.  I have found myself rooting for Golden State however, which kind of goes against how I conventionally root for teams when my team is not involved.  Since the Warriors won last year, I would normally pull for Cleveland.  Especially since they haven’t won anything in their history.  And the city hasn’t won anything in God knows how long.

But ever since “The Decision” fiasco, everything “LeBron” leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  There really is no other way to describe it.  The dude is a great player.  And it’s not like he is a criminal or anything.  Or a despicable human being.  But the whole way that initial move to the Miami Heat went down.  Then the way he “came back home.”  Coach David Blatt getting fired earlier this year, despite being 30-11 at the time, because that’s apparently what James wanted.  The fact that his coaches are actually just puppets anyway, since he is really the coach.  And all that crap…

Listen, I know the NBA works differently than other major sports.  Teams need the “3 stars” to even be in the conversation for a championship.  And that recruiting and behind the scenes work has to be done.  And that coaches kind of don’t matter on many teams.  And that it is more of an “entertainment” business than ever.  Etc.

But all of this stuff just seems different the way it has gone down with and around LeBron.  My opinion.  So I won’t root for him.

Not to mention that J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova are punks.  And Kevin Love is…well, the Cavs got back into the series last night with a blowout win at home…without Love.  (3 games in the Finals, 3 blowouts.  Awesome.)  Hmmmmm…is it because Love is a wuss and they don’t need him?  Nah.  It’s because they were home and their backs were against the wall.  And, more importantly, the Cavs started hitting some shots again, specifically three’s.

Although, I really don’t know how I feel about Love.  Many Celtics fans would be happy to trade the #3 pick in the upcoming draft for him.  I don’t think I would do that.  I haven’t been impressed with him on the Cavs.  Not just because he seems “fragile”, to be nice.  It’s his game.  Granted, he is no more than the third option in Cleveland.  And I don’t feel like they are utilizing him correctly.  Of course, I don’t see many Cavs games.  But it seems to me that he mostly plays beyond the three-point line while he played more in the paint with Minnesota.  Maybe I am completely wrong about that, but either way, what it comes down to is that I am conflicted on who he really is as a player.  What I am not conflicted on is that I don’t believe he can be a lead dog anywhere.  If he is, he may be the guy he was in Minnesota, plenty of personal numbers but no wins.  That all being said, if Cavs fans think they don’t need him at some point in this series, that is probably foolish.

Lastly, don’t let the above fool you into thinking that I like the Warriors.  Not necessarily.  There are some good players on that team.  The offense is constantly moving around.  73-9 is an impressive accomplishment.  But watching guys mostly hoist jumpers up all day isn’t my cup of tea.  Some of those shots are ill-advised.  Sure, a lot of those even go in.  And they do get a fair amount of layups in transition.  But I can’t say I love their style.  Call me one of those NBA old-timers if you wish…and I do miss the Celtics of the 80’s!!

*Still trying to figure out how Steve Kerr won Coach of the Year when Luke Walton actually coached about half of the games this year.

*Boy, Oklahoma City sure blew a golden opportunity.  Had a 3-1 lead against Golden State in the Western Conference Finals.  I was actually hoping they would pull it off, but even with that lead I knew it wasn’t over.

Not that I really care about OKC.  The primary reason I was hoping they would win this and then the whole enchilada?  Maybe the chance of the Celtics getting Kevin Durant would increase…even if it was only infinitesimally.

I’ve said all along that I don’t believe there is the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell that Durant comes to Boston.  Especially once they won some games in the playoffs.  But then they got up against the Warriors and I wondered what KD would think if OKC won the whole thing.  Would he think that his job was done there and would be willing to move on to a new challenge…specifically bringing a title back to Boston, a franchise steeped in history?  Of course he could have moved on to other challenges elsewhere, but I thought the odds would increase if they won it all.

Now?  Almost zero chance.  I’m actually thinking he signs a one year deal (to match the length left on Russell Westbrook’s contract) and gives it one last go in OKC.  The Thunder would surely add some pieces to make the team stronger.  Then either way, after next season, both KD and Westbrook head off to “greener pastures”, though not likely the same exact pasture.  THEN maybe the C’s?  Ok, still a slim shot there too…

*Boston Celtics announce contract extensions for GM Danny Ainge and Coach Brad Stevens.  Didn’t see this one coming, though I had no idea on how many years Ainge had left on his deal.  Stevens had three, so who was expecting any more years there?

I don’t know why anyone is opposed to these deals.  Some have pointed out that Ainge has only won once in 13 years, so why extend?  And Stevens had three more years, why extend at this specific point?  And what have they done together thus far to warrant the deals?

I’m not going to say Ainge is a Hall of Fame GM or anything.  But he put together a championship team previously, and one that could have won one or two more if things broke right.  And now, he has accumulated a ton of assets that will hopefully bring the organization back to being a championship contender sooner rather than later.  The process is clearly in mid-stream, so he absolutely deserves a chance to see out his plan.

Stevens has gotten the team to improve every year since he came aboard.  Of course having the players helps with that.  But while they don’t necessarily have the right players, he has gotten them to play hard and be competitive during his stint.  The players love him.  People within the league speak highly of him.  College programs undoubtedly want him.  If tacking on some more years and throwing some more dough at him keeps him around to see out the above path, then so be it.

Let’s just hope though that these aren’t the only “fireworks” that we have been promised since last offseason…

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