Posts

Injuries are not an excuse for the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets’ excuses began almost immediately and were entirely valid.

Kyrie Irving sprained his ankle and James Harden was playing on a bad hamstring, leaving Kevin Durant as the lone healthy member of the Nets’ “Big Three.”

“I’m not trying to be a hero out there,” Durant said after his dazzling 49-point Game 5 performance. “I know I can’t win a ballgame by myself.”

But to beat the Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and avoid elimination, Durant needed to prove himself wrong and win entirely on his own. His failure to do so unmasked the one fatal flaw of an NBA superteam: injuries happen, and they are not an excuse for a loss.

Injuries are a part of sports. They are a challenge to overcome, not a narrative to fall back on. To say that a healthy Nets team would have beaten the Bucks is akin to saying that a higher-scoring Nets team would have beaten the Bucks. Sure, it’s almost certainly true. But what’s your point?

Like it or not, contrary to Durant’s opinion, basketball is all about winning on your own. Modern day greats like LeBron James and, yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo were their own superteams. Players so transcendent that the ability of their teammates was completely irrelevant.

The irony is that no recent superteam has proven capable of reaching that level of individual dominance, and Durant was involved both times. Stephen Curry could not will the Warriors to a 2019 Finals win with Durant and Klay Thompson sidelined. And now, even Durant’s 48 points in Game 7 were not enough to beat the well-rounded Bucks.

Make no mistake: Durant was nothing short of incredible during this series and was literally a big toe away from changing the outcome of the series. But to build long-term success, the Brooklyn Nets will need to find a better strategy than haphazardly stringing together All-Stars and hoping they are healthy for the playoffs.

NBA Draft 2020: Wise-Decision Leads Golden State Back To Championship

Not too many teams picking at the second spot in the NBA Draft are NBA Championship contenders, but that’s where the Golden State Warriors find themselves in 2020.

The chaotic 2019-20 NBA season wasn’t one to remember for the Warriors and it feels like decades ago we were talking about the “Curry Era” and the Golden State Dynasty.

So, it’s crazy to think the Warriors could be a draft pick away from taking back the top spot in the league.

While, as of today, there is still talk of the Warriors looking to move the second pick in the 2020 draft and while that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, I feel there is significant production available at that spot via the draft itself.

As long as Minnesota doesn’t do anything crazy, it seems the Timberwolves will take LaMelo Ball at number one meaning the Warriors would have maybe the most impactful player in this year’s draft fall right into their lap.

That player is Memphis center James Wiseman.

Wiseman didn’t play much at Memphis due to some recruiting issues, but in three games, we were able to see some glimpses of his potential including his 28 point, 11 rebound performance against South Carolina State.

In high school and on the traveling circuit, Wiseman had all the intangibles to be a straight-to-the-league player if that was still available.

Nonetheless, Wiseman has drawn comparisons to players like DeAndre Jordan, Chris Bosh, or even a Kevin Garnett in terms of what he’s able to do on the floor both on offense and defense.

Of course, the big issue with Wiseman in this year’s draft is how little everyone has actually seen him play. Again, Wiseman hasn’t played an actual basketball game since November of last year.

That’s where Golden State comes in.

Wiseman is the perfect fit for the Warriors as he wouldn’t be option one, two or even three in his first season with Golden State.

He would be able to adapt to the NBA speed and style at his own pace while still doing the things he does well: rebound, play defense, and create inside-out opportunities for the sharpshooting Warriors.

Those three skills alone make Wiseman, in my opinion, the obvious choice for the Warriors at the two-spot in this year’s draft. Even trading away the pick doesn’t bring in as much value as Wiseman does in year one.

Now, as usual, the Warriors will shop around and may land a few veteran players to fill their roster, but the one good thing about the struggles of last year is the Warriors have had a bunch of time to recover from injuries and rest before the start of the next season while many playoff teams have had less than four months of an offseason.

With a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green plus the option of not trading away Andrew Wiggins and keeping Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, Marquese Chriss, and Ky Bowman under contract with the addition of Wiseman make the Warriors the team to beat in the NBA in 2020.

Whether the Warriors have plans to pursue a big name in the free agent market next season or not, drafting Wiseman this year make Golden State yet again the elite of the NBA.


For more NBA content, check out the Shoot or Pass podcast – new episodes drop on Mondays anywhere you get your podcasts and right here on www.BaselineTimes.com

Follow us on Instagram & Twitter – @baselinetimes

Warriors take 3-0 lead on Kevin Durant dagger

The Golden State Warriors won’t stop and can’t be stopped.

With just under four minutes left the Cavaliers led by six points for the first time all series in the fourth quarter. With under a minute left in the game Lebron James would pass to Kyle Korver for a corner three-point shot that could have put Cleveland up comfortably.

Instead Korver missed the shot as Durant rebounded and headed the other way to hit the dagger three as James contested the shot.

Durant finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

It was a coming out game for Kyrie Irving who finished with 38 points and six rebounds. Irving rebounded from his poor Game 2 shooting as he shot 55-percent from the field Wednesday night.

James would finish with 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. J.R. Smith also had a rebound game shooting 5-of-10 from the field and finished with 16 points. James, Irving, and Smith would be only Cavaliers scoring in double digits.

The Warriors take a 3-0 lead in the series. No team had ever came back and won the series after trailing the series 3-0.

Game 4 is in Cleveland on Friday night. Tip-off is at 9 PM EST on ABC.

How Cleveland Must Defend the Land

The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in a familiar place after Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals. It was a little over a year ago they lost Game 2 110-77 in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Let’s fast forward to 2017 and add an ingredient to the mix. Kevin Durant is sporting blue and yellow for Golden State and coming off a 33-point (13-of-22 from the field), 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and five blocks performance in Game 2.

What’s the quick fix for LeBron James going back home? “I just need food and wine and I’ll be alright”, stated James after the Cavaliers 132-113 loss in Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals.

If history plans to repeat itself in 2017, James certainly has all reason to be calm as the Cavaliers ran away with a 120-90 victory in Game 3 of the 2016 Finals.

“Defend the Land”

The 2017 Playoffs slogan is stamped on every corner in Cleveland as the is city still ignited by their first NBA Championship last year.

Through two games in the 2017 NBA Finals, the margin of victory in this series so far is 20 points for Golden State. Perhaps on the bright side is that the margin of victory was 26 points after Game 2 in last year’s Finals. As the series shifts back to Cleveland for Game 3 and Game 4 there are a few key details the Cavaliers will need to improve on.

Pace

The Warriors are an offensive juggernaut and pouring in points at an ease. Of course, this is all possible and obvious when you add Durant to the mixture of already prolific three-point shooters in NBA history. However, the Cavaliers will need to play a pace that favors them. Let’s kick it to turtle mode for this one. Slowing down the pace and avoiding unnecessary turnovers can increase the chances to keep the Warriors from transition threes. The one concern for Cleveland would be settling into isolated play with the slower pace. The ball must move while the shooters are freed up for Cleveland. They’ve shot the three ball terribly at 31-percent in Games 1 and 2 which is below the 43-percent average coming into the Finals.

Tristan Thompson

He was certainly my X-Factor coming into the Finals and still remains that. His limited minutes in the series so far has not allowed Cleveland to see many second chances. Thompson is averaging 21 minutes a game in the Finals and only four rebounds a game. Prior to the Finals, Thompson averaged 4.2 offensive rebounds and pulled in 9.3 rebounds per game in the Eastern Conference journey. The Cavaliers will need to try and keep Thompson on the floor and battle on the glass. The offensive rebounds can give the Cavs second chance looks at home.

Better Guard Play

The starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith will have to improve their shooting which is no easy feat to match Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Irving and Smith shot 19-of-51 (37-percent) from the field combined in Games 1 and 2. Smith has only attempted six shots in the two games combined. They say shooters will have to shoot themselves out of a slump, however, time is limited if Klay Thompson remains hot next to Curry.

Chess Match

The highest level of play comes with a chess match demeanor. Steve Kerr returned to the bench in Game 2 and certainly out-coaching Tyronn Lue. The talk of Game 2 was what adjutants would Cleveland make to recoup from their Game 1 loss. One obvious adjustment seen from Coach Lue was Channing Frye off the bench in Game 2 as he did not play in Game 1. With J.R. Smith having no impact on the series thus far perhaps a change in the starting line-up could help boost the Cavaliers. Whatever it is, Cleveland needs a significant adjustment that may come from Lue’s call.

Will History Repeat?

Flashback to the 2016 NBA Finals. In Game 3 of the very same Finals, Kevin Love did not play due to a concussion. This served no difference as Cleveland avenged their first two losses with a 120-90 win. If this series is headed in favor of the history between these teams things are looking up for Cleveland.

Game 3 is on Wednesday night in Cleveland. Tip-off is at 9 PM EST on ABC.

Golden State: Thine Kingdom Come

Death, Taxes, and a Lebron James NBA Finals appearance are the only three things you can’t avoid in this world.

Lebron James is one of the top 3 players ever, a certified GOAT contender, and when he’s unstoppable it’s magnificent. This is not one of those times. The 2017 GSW are the best team in the NBA. Lebron James is the best player in the NBA. One of these bests must give coming next week, and it’s going to be Lebron James.

Let’s look back to last year’s finals and that now infamous blown 3-1 lead against the King, specifically games 5 and 6 the most pivotal. Game 5 saw Draymond Green excuse himself from playing in the finals and Bogut go down. In game 6 we see Iggy get debilitated for the rest of the finals. Lebron started smelling blood, and just like one of the GOATs he is, he took advantage of it and made history for his city and team. However, that’s not happening this year and for a few good reasons. The main of which is an import from a small town in Oklahoma.

This isn’t 2016 Golden State. The Warriors have four defensive answers to Lebron James. Not to say Lebron will be stopped, he’s the King for a reason, but this series will be difficult for him like no other this postseason. After having a run embarrassing big men in the East, Lebron is going to have to go against a team built defensively around great rim protection. Kevin Durant has been swatting shots this season like he doesn’t pull up from 30 feet on the other end of the court. Javale McGee has turned into the new Marcus Camby from the bench, and his protection of the bench is going to be vital. James isn’t going to have the free reign of the paint that he had against Boston. The length, athleticism, and team defense of GS aren’t going to allow it. Golden State is going into this series with the best defense in these playoffs with opponents averaging 99.1 pts per 100 possessions. With it being lower at 94.1 with Draymond on the field, Golden State has to be feeling good with their defense heading into the finals.

Who’s guarding Kevin Durant on the perimeter? Kevin Love? Not really. Lebron is most likely to be tasked with guarding KD and this is going to weigh heavily on the series. I think KD is mentally prepared for the finals this time, unlike in 2012 (being on arguably the best team ever eases a lot of qualms). With Golden State abusing screens, Cleveland is going to need to be sharp on all their rotations. Tristan Thomspon is going to be key in this aspect. Thompson has been able to hold GS to .86 points per screen when he picks up the defender afterward. If Thompson is kept out of foul trouble, a vital role this series for him, he’ll probably be tasked with hedging defenders the whole series. Iman Shumpert is also going to be needed in this series to try to keep Klay’s quiet playoffs in check.

Something that people overlook is Cleveland’s three-point shooting ability. Last year Lebron was able to collapse the defense around him so well that Love, Frye, and Smith were able to keep burying their opponents on the perimeter. That’s not likely to happen this year. Cleveland is somewhat normal behind the line these playoffs. Love is going to need to help force that issue in the finals. With Golden State being so good defensively, Love is going to have to spread the floor more reliably. Love is going to have to be more aggressive in general in the finals. Kyrie just had his best game of the playoffs being aggressive and just like last year, it’s going to take him being able to take over for Lebron if they want to repeat as champions. Because on the other end of the floor if KD is slipping, which for him would probably be two missed shots in a row, who’s next in line to pick up from there? Just Steph Curry.

2016 saw a stacked 73-9 Golden State team collapse to Lebron James who was on a mission. This year’s Warriors team is even better than that team. Lebron is going to have to play at a level that we’ve all seen, but this time he’s going to need to never drop from that grace. There’s just too much on Golden State this time. Last year was one of the most magical, storybook NBA finals the league has ever seen. We saw a King put on the ropes and then conquer the champions. This isn’t last year.

Prediction: Golden State in 4.

Markus Murden
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@MXMurden

Warriors sweep Spurs, head back to NBA Finals

Without Kawhi Leonard for the third straight game the San Antonio Spurs hoped to extend their season. That notation would fail as the Warriors cruised to a 129-115 win. The Warriors would lead by as much as 22 points and put the nail in the coffin to sweep their third straight series this postseason.

Stephen Curry led all Warriors as he finished with 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting form the field. Kevin Durant makes his second trip to the NBA Finals since 2012 when he face LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Durant finished with 29 points (10-of-13 shooting), and 12 rebounds. Draymond Green finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.

The Spurs were led by Kyle Anderson off the bench with 20 points. Again, unable to find any rhythm San Antonio struggled to find consistent offense without their All-Star Forward Leonard. LaMarcus Aldridge finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds in Game 4.

The Warriors have now become only the second team in the Western Conference to appear in three straight NBA Finals. They join the Los Angeles Lakers as the only other team.

With the uncertainty of Manu Ginobili’s future the AT&T Center chanted his name in the final two minutes as the Argentinian may have taken his last step off the court. As Ginobili was subbed out there was a momentary pause for a standing ovation even from the opposing Warriors.

Golden State will have nine days off as the NBA Finals are not scheduled to start until June 1st.

Warriors remain undefeated in 3-0 series lead

For the second straight game the San Antonio Spurs were without their All-Star Forward Kawhi Leonard. An ankle injury that seems to be serve enough where Leonard cannot play has kept the Spurs at a disadvantage for most of the series. A 120-108 victory put the Warriors up 3-0 in the Western Conference Series.

The Spurs would lead momentarily in the second quarter by as much as six points but not before the Warriors would finish the first-half up by nine points. The biggest Warrior lead would be 18 as the Spurs played a more competitive game than game two. Kevin Durant’s 19-point third quarter helped the Warriors create separation and never look back on their lead. Durant finished the game with 33 points and 10 rebounds.

”I feel I can make every shot I shoot because I shoot good ones and I try to get to my spot,” Durant said. ”So, when they called my number, I just tried to go out there and be aggressive.”

Stephen Curry scored 21 points and which helped him become the franchise leader in postseason points, passing Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

The Warriors also received extra help from Klay Thompson who scored 17 points, and Javale McGee finished with 16 points, in which 11 came in the first quarter for the Warriors.

David Lee was fouled on a lay-up late in the first quarter and came down without applying pressure to one of his knees. He was later in a wheelchair being taken to the locker room for further examination. Lee’s status for game four is uncertain.

LaMarcus Alridge finished with 18 points and five rebounds for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili lead the way for Sa Antonio with 21 points on 7of-9 shooting.

The Warriors will try to sweep their third straight series this postseason on Monday night. Tip-off is at 9 PM EST on ESPN.