Tag Archives: Miami

Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.

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Looking Backwards and Forwards with the Finals

Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan

Wow. What a series. Not exactly exciting, per se, but it was amazing nonetheless. Just watching the well-oiled machine from San Antonio dominate in every way possible was stupendous to watch. Series like this one show that when Duncan, Parker, Manu, and Pop all finally retire, the Spurs will keep on rolling on as they always do.

So, if you recall, before the Finals (well actually it was during them, but whatever), I wrote a piece talking about what was at stake for each important player in these Finals (if you didn’t, check it out at https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/what-these-finals-mean/). Well, now that the Finals are over, let’s take a look back and a look forward for what these Finals have meant. Let’s start with the Finals MVP.

Kawhi Leonard:

The Finals MVP, obviously, had a very good series. The question is whether or not this series shows that he can become the next Spurs superstar, following in the steps of George Gervin, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan.

He’s a good player, sure, but he’s not an elite scorer. He’s a very good defender, hassling LeBron all series, but does that make him fit to lead the Spurs into the future?

The accepted requirement for a superstar is to be an elite scorer and the crunch time guy for his team. Leonard doesn’t exactly fit those requirements. He’s not an elite scorer (although he’s capable of scoring more than twenty points a game) and he doesn’t have the ball in his hands at the ends of close games. However, I don’t think it matters all that much.

The Spurs ecosystem is such that all five players on the floor are supposed to pass up good shots for better ones and that anyone can score at any given moment, so the individual scoring numbers for Spurs are generally suppressed. Leonard doesn’t need to score 25 points a night for San Antonio to be considered a superstar, because that’s not what’s needed of him by his team. Along those same lines, as I said earlier, because the Spurs always look for the best shot no matter what, even in crunch time, Leonard can’t get every crunch time play run for him. Leonard can’t be a superstar by those traditional requirements because, again, that’s not what San Antonio asks him to do.

All Leonard needs to be able to do to be considered a superstar by the standards of the Spurs is to take over when it counts, like Tim Duncan. Duncan always knew (and knows) when, to win the game on any given night, that he needed to, let’s say, score twenty points and grab ten rebounds. This was an important quality of Duncan’s, as it allowed him to really turn it on in big games and to lead his team to victory.

As shown by these Finals, it’s pretty clear that Leonard knows how to take over in important games and that he has the capability to lead the Spurs into the future and to assume Duncan’s mantle as the face of the franchise.

Tim Duncan:

Duncan, already the best power forward ever, is now pushed up even higher up the list of the greatest players. By my estimate, he’s pushed past Bird (only won three titles, had a loaded team, didn’t last as long as he could have due to injuries) and Magic (was the second banana to Kareem for much of his career) and is even with Bill Russell for the third best player ever, behind Kareem and MJ. In fact, I think Duncan is better than Russell because while Russell won eleven titles in thirteen years to Duncan’s five, Russell played in a much weaker era with better teammates than Duncan.

There are a few notable similarities between Duncan and Russell: Duncan is a great teammate and is very unselfish. Russell was like that too. Duncan always shows up for big games. Again, just like Russell. Duncan even shares the same reticence and privacy that Russell had half a century ago.

Almost as important, Duncan now clearly asserts his dominance as the best post-Jordan superstar. The runners-up, in order, are LeBron, Kobe, Wade, and Shaq.

Shaq won four titles and was dominant whenever he wanted, but about a third of his career was while MJ was still around, so he’s technically not a true post-Jordan superstar. Also, he failed to become what he could have been had he tried and worked harder, so he was unable to get the maximum amount of points that he could have earned.

Wade won a title by himself, and won two titles and two runner-ups in the Finals in a subservient role to LeBron. As he only played at a high level for a few years before breaking down due to injuries, it’s tough to give him full credit.

Kobe won five titles but three were in a secondary role to Shaq’s. His teams also haven’t had success when he was the only star on his team and his team has won 45 or fewer games multiple times, so he loses points there.

If LeBron had won this year, he’d top this list, but even so, because of his runner-up finish this year, he still moves past Kobe to spot number two. He could have been even better and more dominant, but he never really stopped messing around and started really working on his game until after the 2011 Finals loss to Dallas. He’s accrued as many honors as you can get as an individual player and has had three runner-ups in the Finals and two championships, all as an alpha dog, so it’s impossible to put him lower than second on this list.

Duncan now has five championships, along with a resume so long that the Spanish-speaking announcers during the World Cup wouldn’t be able to say the whole list in just one breath. Those accolades are what make him the best post-Jordan player.

Another way that Duncan broke new ground is in adaptability. At the start of his career, Duncan and the Spurs relied on post-ups and slowing the game down. After the rule changes midway through the decade, they changed course to become a player and team that are essentially 3-and-D, along with great ball movement and selflessness. This transformation was impressive and it just adds to the legend of Tim Duncan. Whenever he decides to retire, the league will sorely miss him.

The Spurs Way (and International Players):

Speaking of adaptability and selflessness, the Spurs Way has proven its’ use throughout the series and the entire season. We’ve already discussed the stylistic and strategic changes that the Spurs have made, but let’s talk about a few other components of the Spurs Way.

  1. Only high character guys. They haven’t had a bad character guy since Stephen Jackson, way back in 2003. Since then, they haven’t risked any locker room cancers and instead have focused only on players that can contribute to a healthy locker room.
  2. Passing and unselfishness. All you need to know about the Spurs’ offense is that when announcers say that so-and-so made the “extra pass”, members of the Spurs just hear “the right pass”.
  3. International players. An astounding NINE of San Antonio’s players are not from the United States (compared to zero on Miami). There must be something about international players that the Spurs have discovered that makes them inherently… better, I suppose, (although I was thinking about “different, but in a good way”) that the Spurs now use to their advantage. Something that I find to be, perhaps, indicative of the gap between international and American-born players, is what happened in Game 1 of the Finals, the infamous Cramps Game. American players like LeBron were felled and couldn’t function properly, while players like Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were used to the brutal conditions. Parker said that it “felt like [I was in] Europe… We never have AC in Europe, so it didn’t bother me at all” while Duncan said that he hadn’t played in conditions like this since he “left the Islands” where he was born. Be it that international players are tougher, more skilled, or anything else, they, and the Spurs Way, brought the title back to San Antonio, a pretty powerful endorsement of them.

The Spurs Into the Future:

The Spurs are in good shape for the future. Of the San Antonio Big Three, Parker remains in his late prime, while Duncan and Ginobili, while clearly past their prime, remain good players and will be able to play for as long as they want. They have the future leader of the franchise, Leonard (as we talked about earlier), and a number of good players alongside him. They have around ten million dollars in cap space this summer and they can manufacture good players out of thin air. As long as R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich, and Tim Duncan all help run the team in some capacity, the Spurs will be in good shape.

LeBron James:

How can you blame LeBron? Here’s a chart that showed the Heat’s EWA, or Estimated Wins Added by Heat players during the Finals (courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:

Per DiemESPN Stats & Information

LeBron had nearly two, Bosh had about a half, and the rest of the Heat dragged LeBron down. The chart pretty much says that LeBron was dominant and incredible, Bosh was decent, and that the rest of the Heat were garbage, pulling LeBron down with them.

No matter how good LeBron might be, he can’t win one on five against the Spurs. LeBron was guarded by Kawhi Leonard, (who defended LeBron perfectly) but since the Spurs didn’t have to pay much attention to anyone on the floor other than Bosh, they could help onto LeBron to make it much harder for him to score. And, because there weren’t any scoring threats on the floor other than him, (apart from Bosh) he couldn’t rack up assists and get his teammates easy points when the Spurs helped off of them to guard him instead.

This wasn’t 2011 against the Mavericks all over again. In that series, LeBron forgot that he was LeBron and that he is unstoppable when he decides to be, and did nothing for minutes at a time, losing him a title and a lot of respect from the world. In these Finals, LeBron did everything that he possibly could. This time, LeBron didn’t lose the Finals; the Heat did.

And that’s really what these Finals should be about: Miami didn’t lose the Finals as much as San Antonio won them. Miami didn’t choke away a victory as much as San Antonio went out and got it. San Antonio outclassed Miami in every way, and rather than blaming LeBron for the shortcomings of his teammates or talking about how Miami sucks, we should all be applauding the Spurs for the marvelous tutorial on how to play the sport of basketball. That’s the story that people should take away from these Finals. It’s possible that we will never see the level of offense that the Spurs exhibited during this series ever again, so why squander it by blaming LeBron for something that isn’t is fault? Honestly, I think that we should all just take a moment and appreciate the rarity and history of what we were lucky enough to see.

The 2015 Heat:

Outside of three early termination options (from Bosh, LeBron and Wade) and a player option (from Udonis Haslem) (the difference between EWOs and POs is that the former is ending the deal a year early while the latter extends the deal an additional year), Miami only has just over four million dollars on their cap for 2014-2015 (from Birdman, Norris Cole, and Justin Hamilton). This gives them the freedom to improve. However, it may not be easy as that. Just to bring back their three stars, unless they take a massive pay cut, will be somewhere around 50-60 million dollars combined. Wade alone, when he picks up his player option, will be around a 20 million dollar cap hit. It’s almost impossible to be able to perform enough cap gymnastics to get around that.

Remember, this is a team that got solidly beat in the Finals. Just keeping their players (who are, keep in mind, all getting older) won’t be enough. They need to add a number of supporting pieces, but they don’t have the cap space to do it. Next year, even if they bring back LeBron and Bosh, they’ll be an older and shallower team, even weaker than they were this year. The Heat are in bad shape for the immediate future (or at least as bad as you can be when you just were the runner-up in the Finals) and it’s going to be interesting how they manage to deal with their bleak outlook for 2015 and beyond.

The Decision 2.0.:

How does this series affect LeBron’s decision? As we mentioned earlier, this series, it was LeBron (with some Bosh) against the Spurs. His teammates (again, excluding Bosh) were useless. Miami’s options to upgrade the team are almost nonexistent. Wade will accept his player options for the next two years because it’s a lot more money than he would get on the open market. Why would LeBron want to stay in Miami when he has to carry the team by himself, accept less money, and only be a championship contender because the Eastern Conference is complete garbage?

I’ve been advocating all along for LeBron to go to the Clippers (you can check out a few of my prior articles for the reasons why). An interesting direction that LeBron leaving Miami for the Clips might push the league towards is a league of superstars, rather than a league with individual teams. Instead of cheering for the Heat or the Thunder, fans will cheer for LeBron or KD, independent of the team they play for.

The NBA would never allow that to happen because it would push way too much power to the players, which could lead to an intriguing scenario: the players leaving the NBA and forming their own league, to officially take control of the basketball league away from the NBA. Here’s an article about that very concept from about two years ago, during the lockout: http://grantland.com/features/we-need-renegade-basketball-league/. It’s co-written by my favorite writer, Bill Simmons, and it’s certainly worth a read.

The ideas that the article proposes are fascinating and it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to see this possibly happening. If the players took over and made it a players’ league, the NBA couldn’t do anything to stop them, the players would make more money with fewer restrictions, and we’d all get to finally stop seeing stars force their way to one team or another, because a star would own and run his own team. There’s no downside for anyone other than the owners of NBA teams, and if it ends up happening, that’d be one of the coolest things in the history of sports.

Speaking of cool things in sports, go turn on your TV and watch the World Cup. It’s been great so far and it’s worthwhile to watch. An article recapping the first slate of games for each team should be up, at the latest, within 24 hours, so if you haven’t watched the World Cup so far but want to get into it, you should check that out along with the last article I posted, previewing the World Cup.

Also, if you enjoyed this article, share the link to it on social media and with your friends and family, coworkers and acquaintances, and anyone else who you think might like it. Every page view, like, and share helps. Thanks in advance and thanks for reading!

Week In Review May 26th-June 1st, 2014

Here is (and I reserve the right to change my mind as much as Brett Favre) the last Week In Review, or at least for a while. The explanation is at the end of the article. The big question is whether or not hearing this now will make you skip to the end of the column, read it, and leave in tears and never come back. Or, maybe, you’ll skip the first part and leave in tears and never come back. Or, (and here’s what I’m hoping for) you’ll savor the last Week In Review that you’ll see for awhile, then get to the end, read the explanation and understand, and come back as soon as my next column gets posted. Yeah, you’re right, it’s definitely going to be the first option. Oh well, it was worth a shot. Hope you enjoy the column!

 

Monday, May 26th, 2014

 

Los Angeles beat Chicago 5-2 to come within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. This is not good at all. Remember what I said last week about the Rangers? They’re worse than the two teams from the West so they need the series out West to go to seven bloody games so they can hopefully steal a couple of games against an exhausted team. That’s their only chance. Now, the best case scenario is Chicago winning twice before the Kings manage to finish them off. Why? Well, if Chicago wins three straight to get to the Finals, then they’ll be on a roll and very confident but if LA closes the Blackhawks out faster, then they’ll be reasonably rested. If LA wins in 7, then they’re tired, not confident, and drained—the best case scenario for the Rangers.

 

The Heat beat the Pacers 102-90 to take a 3-1 series lead, all but putting away Indiana. I was gonna think of something funny to write but then I realized that the Pacers are hilarious by themselves and that I don’t need to add anything to that. But seriously, Lance Stephenson. What an idiot! He insulted LeBron, making LeBron find his inner Marshawn Lynch and go BeastMode by exploding for a 32-10-5. Don’t be stupid. Never insult LeBron.

 

This is also big because for years LeBron was unable to find his inner fire and take over a series. The only hope for opposing teams is to leave him alone and hope that he doesn’t decide to win. If you light a fire under him and get him motivated, then he’s unstoppable. Remember the Heat-Celtics series from a couple of years ago? The Boston guys were talking trash the whole series with no response from LeBron. However, by Game 6, LeBron finally snapped and went for a 45-15-5 to essentially put the series away, before the Heat won Game 7. The lesson? Don’t mess with LeBron. Lance Stephenson doesn’t seem to realize this. I’d look a lot smarter if the Heat didn’t have a 3-1 series lead, but even if they didn’t, I would say this anyways: the Pacers have no shot after insulting LeBron.

 

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Oklahoma City beat the Spurs 105-92 to tie the series up at two. Westbrook had a game for the ages with a 40-5-10 with 5 steals. A stat that the world has been in awe of is that the last person to do that was MJ. Well, as I seem to be doing often, I’m going to tell you how stupid that is. Saying that an arbitrary baseline for a stat line suddenly becomes significant so that there’ll be a story doesn’t make the stat impressive.

 

While it may be true that the last person to notch a 40-5-10-5 was MJ, and getting a 40-5-10-5 is very impressive, being the last person since MJ isn’t. It was a very, very good game, but when you narrow the criteria down for an achievement so specifically, it’s nowhere near as amazing as the media will make it out to be.

 

You see, stats aren’t all that important because individually, they don’t say all that much. For instance, let’s say that someone scored 45 points. Your first thought would be “Wow!”. But that stat doesn’t tell the whole story. To score 45 points, the player took 50 shots and made 20 of them. Then it’s a lot less impressive. To properly figure out the meaning of stats, you have to take everything into account to make sure that the numbers aren’t messed up by something else.

 

The Rangers lost to the Canadiens 7-4. It was pretty bad. While it’s great that the Rangers fought back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it up at 4, it also seems pertinent that they let the Habs regain the lead and were unable to score again. Also, the biggest thing: Lundqvist played badly enough that he was pulled. If Lundqvist isn’t playing at an elite level then the Rangers won’t play very well either. This is not good.

 

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

 

Well, Chicago managed to beat Los Angeles in double OT, 5-4, to narrow the series deficit to 3-2. All good. Two reasons why I’m happy Chicago won: one, by winning, they’re extending the series and two, as I said earlier, this is what the Rangers need.

 

The Heat lost to the Pacers 93-90. So much for what I said earlier. LeBron didn’t show up tonight, merely getting a 7-2-4. However, if LeBron manages to rip off a legendary performance on Friday night then I knew it all along. Still, something important to note, the Pacers starters all played their best tonight and still only beat the Heat by 3. Paul George scored 37, David West got a 19-9, Hibbert finished with a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Indiana played its best tonight and only won by 3 at home. That, in addition to LeBron, is why I’m confident Miami will easily beat the Pacers.

 

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

 

The Spurs blew out the Thunder at home, 117-89, continuing this series’ tradition of the home team winning in a blowout. Serge Ibaka was a non-factor in this game, only scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds along with a couple of blocks. This is another series tradition: if Ibaka plays badly then the Thunder lose. In Games 1 and 2, Ibaka was hurt so the Thunder lost. Ibaka returned for Games 3 and 4 and, while he wasn’t great, he was adequate, so the Thunder won. In this game, Ibaka was complete crap so the Thunder lost again. I’m happy. I’m hoping for a Heat-Spurs rematch so I’m cheering for Miami and San Antonio.

Lundqvist got mad that I doubted him and decided to prove me wrong. He blocked every shot he faced (although there were only 18) and outdueled Tokarski (who wasn’t too shabby himself in stopping 31 out of 32 shots) 1-0 to send the Rangers to the STANLEY CUP FINAL!!!! WOOHOO!!!!! THIS IS AWESOME! YOUR MIND-VOICE IS PROBABLY SCREAMING RIGHT NOW. YOU JUST SMILED AND LAUGHED. UH OH. I THINK MY CAPS LOCK IS BROKEN. I’LL BE SCREAMING IN PERPETUITY. THIS IS NOT GOOD. I SHOULD PROBABLY GO GET IT FIXED. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN GET IT FIXED?

 

Friday, May 30th, 2014

 

Well, I managed to get it fixed, thankfully. If I hadn’t then I’d be in trouble. I can’t hand in HW in all caps. I can’t make review sheets for Finals while in all caps. It’d be like me screaming at them that the conjugation of tener is tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, and tienen! (By the way, I may or not be using this to help me study) I’d be kind of like a drill sergeant. Drop down and give me twenty! Hey, I’m pretty good at this. Anyways, back to the sports.

 

In hockey, the Blackhawks beat the Kings 4-3 to tie the series up at 3.This is going fantabulously (a combination of fabulous and fantastic. It’s a thing). Now the Kings need to pull out a Game 7 victory on the road for everything to be perfect. This is quite splendiferous. The Rangers made it in and all we need are the disheartened Kings. Los Angeles, New York stands behind you. Chicago should be scared. Although it’s the third best city in the country, when the top two cities team up against it, it’s going down. Number four is Boston and Miami probably rounds out the top five.

 

Miami closed out Indiana 117-92. LeBron rebounded from his crappy performance with 25 points and Bosh also has finally exorcised his demons against Miami, capping off a very good series with a 25-8. By the way, the Internet is hilarious. For instance, Lance Stephenson has given rise to a number of amusing GIFs. He lied down on the court and he blew in LeBron’s ear, lending good material to the enterprising photoshop wizards of the Internet. Much hilarity ensued. My two favorite pictures are as follows: First, with the lying down one.

 

 

And now for the blowing one.

 

Embedded image permalink

 

Speaking of 50 Cent, why haven’t the Mets signed him to a three year contract yet? In a related note, I hate being a Mets fan.

 

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

 

Wow that was an epic game. OKC was up seven at the half but after a 37-20 3rd quarter, San Antonio pulled away to enter the 4th with a ten point lead. Then the Thunder mount a ferocious comeback to take the lead, 99-97 with 32 seconds left. Naturally, Manu Ginobili hits a three to take back the lead, 100-99 with 27 seconds left. Then the Thunder foul Ginobili but Manu misses the second free throw! Westbrook gets fouled and nails both free throws to tie the game up at 101 before it goes to overtime after Manu misses a jumper. Then Tim Duncan turned back the clock and outscores OKC by himself, 7-6, in overtime, to finish with a monstrous double-double with a 19-15 and putting away the Thunder. What a game. And I’m so excited for the Heat-Spurs matchup. I think I may even have a column about it in me, although it’d come out on Friday, after Game 1, so my prediction wouldn’t be as trustworthy. Actually, that’s a good thing for me: it’s a lot less likely that I make a stupid prediction that I come to regret and that people will point at for years as proof that I know nothing about basketball (which may or may not be true actually).

 

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

 

Woohoo!!! Sports finally is working out the way I wanted it to!!! And no, I’m not talking about its abs. I got the Finals matchup I wanted, with the Heat and Spurs both advancing. Now, if you’ll remember, (and if you don’t, you might want to consult your local physician for a serious potential case of amnesia) earlier this week I talked about the best possible way for the series in the West to end for the Rangers. Remember? Chicago wins two straight before losing Game 7 at home? Yup, it happened exactly as I wanted it, if not better. The winners of the games happened the way I wanted, which is nice. Still, the Hockey Gods smiled upon me and gave me more than I had ever dreamed of. They sent a couple of games to OT (including Game 7) just to drain the Kings even more. What could be better?

 

For the actual game, the Kings won 5-4 in OT, capping a tiring run. They’ve played the maximum amount of games so far, 21, and a bunch of those games have gone into OT. How tired must they be? Of course, the Rangers played twenty, so I guess that’s not much of an advantage. Oh well.

 

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed and I’ll see you guys later!

 

Wait a second, about this column, it’s tough to do. There’s not nearly enough fun stuff to talk about for every day normally, especially when, in a couple of weeks, all there is for a couple of months is baseball. Ugh. (By the way, some time during the summer I’m going to write a column about why I hate baseball. I can probably get a couple of thousand words out of that.) It was fun during the playoffs with nonstop action and lots of important games, but I think I’m going to shelve it for the time being.

 

However, I’ll still be writing, a lot, just not in the Week In Review format. I’ll find other things to talk about, and hopefully I’ll be able to say more about these more interesting topics. If people send in enough emails asking questions, then I can have a fantasy baseball article. In fact, send in emails with whatever you want to talk about and I can have a mailbag, in which I answer questions and comments from my readers.

 

In happier news, I can’t wait until Thursday! Here’s to a Finals for the ages!

Oh, and to all of you guys who skipped the whole article that I spent my time on, even though you probably can’t read this through your tears, screw you.

 

Damn it, I’m alienating my whole readership. I had better end this article ASAP. Bye!

 

Week In Review May 19th-25th 2014

Well, it’s time for everybody’s favorite recurring segment on this blog, the Week in Review! Of course, there only is one recurring segment on this blog so I suppose that people can’t afford to be choosy, but whatever.

 

Sorry for the day late post—I was sick over the weekend and I only started to feel a little bit better yesterday. Of course, I relapsed today so that kinda sucks. I still managed to power through for you, my loyal reader. No need to thank me for putting my career in front of my health! By the way, I’m fourteen.

 

So this column was going to be crazy long so I took out the lottery part and made it into its own column as you presumably saw (and if you didn’t, go read it, you slacker!) it made this a lot shorter… so it’s still very long, but not crazy long, so it’s all good. You’ll thank me after you’ve read through all of this.

 

Monday, May 19th, 2014

 

Carey Price is out for the rest of the series!!!!!!!! Sorry for all those exclamation points—I was excited. Let me explain: Carey Price is Montreal’s starting goalie and has been playing at an incredibly high level these playoffs. As always, for deep runs into the playoffs, a hot goalie is almost a requirement. The Habs were in good shape as long as Price was playing well. Then this happened:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSqo-FohCbQ

 

Yeah, so the Canadiens are pretty much screwed in regards to ending their 21 year Stanley Cup drought, as are the Canadians, who haven’t had a Stanley Cup won by a team from Canada since 1993, when Montreal won it. The drop-off from Price to backup, Peter Budaj, is a chasm and when the opposing team has the goalie who’s now indisputably the best and hottest goalie remaining in the playoffs, you’re not exactly in good shape.

 

With an injury causing ripples this serious, it’s easy to blame Kreider for gunning for Price but look at the video again. Kreider was tripped and then fell into Price. I can’t see anything that could possibly be misconstrued as him aiming to hurt Price. Clearly he’s not turning into Bernard Karmel Pollard, which is great for Habs fans.

 

In something too long and too important for mere parentheses, Bernard Pollard is a safety in the NFL. What relevance does this have to this situation? Well, over his career, Pollard was the one who hurt Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and was the last person to tackle Aaron Hernandez, leading to near universal hatred from every Patriots fan. Now, whenever someone takes out an important player for the opposing team, they get compared to Pollard.

 

In something I found out a few hours after I wrote this originally, apparently Budaj isn’t going to be playing and that the Habs’ third string goalie is going to be playing the series. The series changed from a tossup favoring Montreal slightly, to Rangers in six as the accepted view, to the debate if the Rangers are going to sweep or if they’re going to win in five.

 

Speaking of which, as I found out later, the Rangers beat the Habs 3-1 to take a 2-0 series lead with the series heading back to New York for two games. Rangers fans (like me) are hoping that the series in the West goes to seven games so the Kings and Blackhawks beat up on each other so that the victor emerges bruised and bloody, to play the rested Rangers for the Stanley Cup. On talent alone, the Rangers aren’t anywhere near as good as Chicago or LA, but with rest for them and the other team being exhausted, will that be enough to push them over the top?

 

The Spurs beat OKC 122-105, showing that Ibaka’s injury is a very big deal and that the wily veterans still have enough left in the tank to defeat the young and athletic duo of Westbrook and Durant. Now, imagine the Thunder with Harden. They would have had the best 2-guard (Harden), a top 3 PG (Westbrook), a top 5 center (Ibaka), and the second best 3/stretch 4 (Durant, behind LeBron, although you could make the case that he’s nearly LeBron’s equal). Unbeatable. And now, when Durant and Westbrook’s shots aren’t falling, what do they have left to score and keep OKC’s offense alive? Jeremy Lamb? Steven Adams? Perry Ellis? Puh-lease.

 

Harden would have been great: instant scoring off the bench who could carry the team for a quarter if Durant and/or Westbrook were in foul trouble or mired in a bad shooting streak. But instead, Clay Bennett decided to be a cheapskate and not pay the perfect player for his team what he deserved. This is after he stole the team away from Seattle, sending Seattle into a funk that they hadn’t recovered from until the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory a few months ago. Maybe Bennett should be added to the list of All-Time-Crappy-Owners that we talked about last week? (Let me know and send me an email). In case you couldn’t tell, I still can’t get over how bad that trade was for OKC.

 

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

 

In the horrible games that the Pacers have been wont to play lately, the Heat beat Indiana 87-83. How boring can you get? It’s funny, though, because the Pacers spent the whole year talking about how they were going to get home-field-advantage throughout the playoffs so they could beat the Heat, but now, in a best-of-five series, the Heat have home-court.

 

This is a problem for me. I like LeBron and, since the Nets got eliminated, I’ve been cheering for the Heat, but I need them to lose. Why? If Miami wins the championship again, then LeBron will almost HAVE to return to Miami so he can gun for a four-peat, something that neither Kobe nor Jordan ever accomplished. I want him to lose so he can go to a real contender. The Heat don’t have much cap space or good, young players, and LeBron will have to carry the team every night because Wade is always hurt and, even when healthy, he can’t dominate like he used to. If LeBron goes to Clippers (who have enough cap-space to accommodate him), he’ll get to play the 3, and he’ll get to play alongside Chris Paul (the best PG in the league), Blake Griffin (an elite power forward) and DeAndre Jordan (the shot-blocking menace playing center), meaning that he doesn’t have to carry the team every night, he doesn’t have to do everything himself, and he’s got by far the best team in the league for the next few years with a great shot at a championship EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. And all of this won’t happen if he wins again this year.

 

Should the Heat win it all this year, I hope that LeBron will opt into his option for 2014-2015 to chase the fabled 4-peat before entering into free agency in 2015 and going to the Clippers. Of course, basketball is stupid and it never turns out the way it should, so don’t bet on it happening.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

 

San Antonio beat the Thunder 112-77, a 35 point blowout. Durant and Westbrook combined to shoot 13 for 40, a horrible display of shooting. As I said earlier, how much easier would it be for the Thunder if, when Durant and Westbrook aren’t able to score, to just let Harden carry the offense? And another thing that I forgot to mention earlier, as the Thunder don’t have much of an offensive system past “Hey Kevin/Russ, go score”, how much less of an offensive load would they have to carry if they still had Harden? As Harden is an offensive weapon in his own right, no opponent could swarm Westbrook and Durant while knowing that no one else on the Thunder will make a shot. Rather, because opponents would have to account for Harden as well, Durant and Westbrook would get far easier shots.

 

In hockey news, Los Angeles beat Chicago, 6-2. The Kings were down 2-0 before scoring six straight goals to win it. This is the first time all postseason that Chicago has lost at home. They’ve got a better advantage when defending their home than anyone other than the Byzantines in Constantinople. Yes! I made a reference to history! I’m totally acing this history final!

 

 

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

 

The Rangers lost to the Habs, 3-2, in overtime, in a very exciting game. Dustin Tokarski, the third string goalie for the Canadiens, let up only two goals in 37 shots, in a very impressive performance, outdueling Henrik Lundqvist, the hottest goalie remaining in the playoffs. The Rangers went up 1-0 in the first period, then the Habs tied it up. Then Montreal scored again to take a 2-1 lead, but after the Rangers pulled the goalie, they managed to score to send it to overtime, during which Montreal managed to score again to narrow their series deficit to 2-1 on the strength of their 3-2 victory. As far as I can tell, individual goalies aren’t particularly valuable in the NHL. For instance, Carey Price was playing incredibly, he got hurt, and Tokarski came in and played well in the first game and dominated the second. This is representative of the NHL overall (if you can think of any other examples, shoot me an email at sushi.krox@gmail.com).

 

Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the United States World Cup squad and there’s been serious uproar about it. I find that to be very foolish. Donovan, while he was very good a few years ago, is 32 years old and past his prime. While he may provide veteran leadership, the benefits of that leadership are apparently not enough of a boon in order to make it worth it to use up a roster spot that could be used for a younger, more valuable player. Of course, as always, there’s been an uproar about Donovan’s omission from the team. Why? Well, there’s one big reason. In the 24/7 world of sports coverage, there’s not enough real stories to fill up the whole time, so the networks will manufacture story lines to pass the time and make a big deal about things that really aren’t big deals. On the Internet, websites like Bleacher Report chase page views and create story lines that seem exciting so people will view their page. Remember what I wrote about Lance Stephenson last week (and if you don’t or if you haven’t read it, go read it)? Exactly the type of idiocy that people blow up out of proportion in order to get page views or to waste time. God, that really annoys me.

 

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

 

Yet another boring Friday in the sports world. As it was like this last week as well, I hope it doesn’t continue like this: I need content. I’m dreading when the playoffs for both the NHL and NBA end and the only sport going on is baseball for a couple of months until football starts again. Ugh.

 

Anyways, so the latest subject that I want to talk about is the World Cup. Yes, I know, I talked about it yesterday, but this is a separate topic, or at least as separate as it can be when you’re talking about the World Cup.

 

Maybe, the reason why Klinsmann left off Donovan is because he’s preparing for 2018. Think about it—America is stuck in the Group of Death, alongside Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. If America has nearly no chance to get anywhere, then why not give playing time to the younger players who are going to be better in four years, rather than worse? Get them their reps, get them to know how it is to play on the biggest stage in the world, let them play so they can say in 2018 “I’ve been here before, this isn’t a big deal anymore”. Clearly the United States doesn’t have a shot in this World Cup and I think it’s a good move by Klinsmann to recognize that and prepare for the future.

 

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

 

The Pacers were ripping through the Heat: they had a lead of fifteen points, they were outmuscling Miami, and Roy Hibbert had more than zero points and zero rebounds. Then, it all changed. Miami turned it on and, after a couple of 3s from Wade, Ray Allen hit a few threes, and Hibbert went back to being Hasheem Thabeet. All is well in the world. Wade and Allen are probably chuckling right now thinking “They said we were old and washed up? Haha, (censured to allow this blog to still be mostly PG) please!”

 

How bummed out are the Pacers right now? They spent the whole year talking about how awesome they are and how they were going to beat the Heat, traded for Evan Turner and Luis Scola (sacrificing picks and players to do so), and were playing well. Then they sucked for three months and got whupped by the Heat on national television. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

 

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

 

The Thunder managed to stem the bleeding, beating the Spurs 106-97, with Serge Ibaka returning to the lineup after he was supposed to be out for the rest of the year. Since Ibaka is emerging as a legitimate third banana to Durant and Westbrook, I can’t wait until Sam Presti and Clay Bennett trade him away for a low first rounder, a couple of second rounders, and that guy at your rec center who always dominates the pickup games. Bennett will get away with being a cheapskate too—all his mistakes are covered up by having Westbrook and Durant. And he also stole the Sonics away from Seattle. What a scumbag.

 

The Rangers beat Montreal 3-2 in overtime to take a 3-1 series lead! Just one more win, a seven game series in the West, and the Rangers have a good shot at their first Cup in twenty years! At the very least, they’re one win away from being in their first Final in twenty years. And, they’ve got a 3-1 series lead, almost insurmountable. The last time the Habs recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a series was so long ago. Let me just look it up to lend credence to my argument. *looks it up* The last time Montreal came back to win a series from a 3-1 deficit was… four years ago, against the Capitals, in 2010. Gulp.

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