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NBA Studs and Duds from the first weekend of the season restart

One weekend down and many to go. Our Shoot or Pass Podcast Co-Hosts will be sharing their Studs and Duds right here. Who impressed and who disappointed? Find out below!

STUDS

Chevy – Damian Lillard

While we’ve witnessed a win and a loss from the Blazers, Dame is making NBA headlines. Dame means business in the bubble. He’s not here to play just 2 weeks and 8 games of basketball, he plans on sticking around for a deep run. He’s playing playoff minutes (45 vs. the Grizzlies, 44 vs. the Celtics) and is averaging about 30 points each game (29 vs. the Grizzlies, 30 vs. the Celtics). Unfortunately, the Blazers lost yesterday after a big on Friday, but the goal here is to get within 4 games of the 8th seed to force a play-in. I think Dame can keep them hanging around for it.

Rhoby – Kyle Lowry

KYLEFORNIA knows how to party! Lebronto is no more, as Lebron and the Lakers were bullied around by Kyle Lowry Friday night. NBA players are supposed to be breaking down by their mid-30s and undersized guards aren’t supposed to be hitting threes with a 7-footer in their face or making an impact as a rim protector, however, Kyle Lowry isn’t getting the memo. He scored a game-high 33 points, nabbed a career-high 14 rebounds, and has 6 assists. I am sold. The Raptors are a force to be reckoned with in this NBA Restart.

DUDS

Chevy – Zion Williamson

I know I have to tread carefully here because this is the NBA’s new poster boy, but if I’m Adam Silver you want him to be seen and on the floor. What is his deal? A month or two ago, a picture of Zion surfaced on social media and he looked like he was in great shape and ready to lead the Pelicans to the playoffs. Needless to say, I don’t understand the way Alvin Gentry is restricting his minutes. In the loss to the Jazz, Zion was on the bench for a crucial 4th quarter. Wouldn’t you want the best player on your team to be playing in those scenarios? Definitely a concern for a rising star on a team fighting for playoff spot.

Rhoby – Shake Milton

To begin with, this stat line says it all – 0 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists. NOT a good look for the new starting PG of a Sixers. This team appears to be failing expectations. What’s new? He appeared to have no command of the ball, only took one shot in the game in the 4th quarter, made some bad turnovers, and found himself in foul trouble. He focused on racial injustice in post-game comments, which is great, but I hope he’s also focusing on his game going forward because the Sixers need him to show up if they want to make noise in the playoffs!

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NBA teams as Disney rides and attractions

The NBA is going to Disney Wooooorld!

So, I decided to describe NBA teams as Disney World rides/attractions, here’s what I’ve got so far:

New York Knicks – Tower of Terror

Yeah, I know the Knicks are not playing in Orlando. I also know that being a Knicks fan is basically like living in the Twilight Zone – frozen in time, abandoned, and constantly seeing the darkest corners of your imagination come to life.

Oklahoma Thunder – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Who said trading away Russell Westbrook would leave the Thunder stuck in a rebuild? This team is still a gold mine and can become a real big obstacle on the rickety track to NBA Finals. The Clutch Conductor (CP3) and the Locomotive driver (SGA) have led OKC to 16 games over .500 with a chance to get to the 4th seed in the WC.

Milwaukee Bucks – Soarin’

The Bucks are soarin’ high, sitting comfortably at 6.5 games ahead of the Raptors at the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to world wonder and potential back-to-back MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo

LA Lakers – Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster

This was one was easy. Hollywood. Iconic, Legendary players in LeBron & AD. LA traffic. A chance to see J.R. Smith topless stumblin’ around chugging Hennessy at a championship parade.

Toronto Raptors – DINOSAUR

Well, what else did you expect here? Will Toronto be able to travel back in time, kidnap Kawhi Leonard and bring him back to the present as a Raptor for their repeat bid? No. Their top 7 players may have been in/out of the rotation with injuries, but they are healthy now and ready to defend their title against anything – 21 NBA teams, fiery meteors, COVID-19.

Got any suggestions for NBA teams as Disney rides and attractions?

Leave us a comment or email media@18.232.170.104 for a chance to be featured on the Shoot or Pass podcast!

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.

Pressure for the Rubber Match

The chasing of Michael Jordan’s legacy or proving that betraying your former team of nine seasons was worth the switch? After blowing a 3-1 series lead in the Finals last year does that make the pressure to win this series lie with Golden State? With a 3-5 record in the NBA Finals, is it LeBron James that has all the pressure to increase his wins to four?

The NBA’s first ever trilogy in the NBA Finals comes with an intriguing question of who beholds the most pressure to win?

The Warriors lured away Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City last summer as the clear winners of Free Agency. Adding Durant to an already 73-win team seems as the sure guarantee that in about two weeks the Golden State Warriors will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and perhaps Durant as the Finals MVP?

We’re talking about pressure after blowing a 3-1 Finals lead and Draymond Green’s comments that he’d like to “annihilate” the Cavaliers. Even though the Cavaliers are the defending champions the Warriors are still favored to win the Series according to Vegas.

There is no discrimination against Durant going to the Warriors here but it does add to the story line a reason of added pressure for the Warriors to win. For once, James can walk into an NBA Finals as the All-Time Leading Scorer in NBA Playoffs history. There are daily conversations in the media, Facebook, and other areas of social media that debate Lebron versus Jordan. It seems this is the most scrutiny that faces the kid from Akron as he enters his seventh straight NBA Finals.

Durant enters his second NBA Finals with a 12-0 record combined from the previous rounds in the playoffs. Beyond the success of the Warriors, they could potentially enter the next season with four max contracts. This summer the Warriors will have to make a decision to pay Durant and Stephen Curry their max contract which will tally four max contracts alongside Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Could the Warriors losing this Series potentially create the idea of Golden State management rethinking if four All-Stars is too much?

There is still a seven game series to be played to determine if the pressure on Golden Sate can be handled. Kevin Durant seemed to allude that he would be unaffected if he remains winless in the Finals in a recent interview with The Vertical.

“It wouldn’t mean my life was complete. I’ve got a lot of life I want to lead and I’ve got a lot of [expletive] I want to achieve. So if I win a ring, it would be fun to experience that moment when the buzzer sounds and embracing my teammates in the locker room and all that stuff that comes with it, but after that, what’s next? That’s how I look at it. What’s next for me? But it’s that high. It’s that two-, three-week high, I can tell. You can tell when teams win a championship. I saw last year, the Cavs, they all went to Vegas, they all hung out in Vegas for a night. But that two-week high, I want to experience that, but it’s not going to complete me at all, as far as being a person or what life is all about. At the end of the day, it’s going to be another basketball milestone that I reach, if it happens. We’ll see. But if I don’t do it, I’m not going to ball up in my room and not come out. I’m going to work on my game and enjoy myself.”

A day before the Finals and Lebron James has only one worry. His home in Los Angeles was vandalized with a racial slur on the front gate. During  Wednesday’s media availability, all Lebron could do was express his relief that his family is safe and shed light on his thoughts about the incident. The media availability would turn into Lebron’s few minutes to share his thoughts on social issues. “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are…being Black in America is tough”.

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

2017 NBA Finals: A First Time Trilogy

“Best 2 out of 3.”

It’s a concept we’re all familiar with. As kids, we all played rock, paper, scissors, and if you lost the initial round, you would always yell out “best 2 out of 3!” in hopes of getting a rematch.

In Major League Baseball, the regular season is made up of short series between teams rather than one game match ups. Most series are 3 games long, so the team that manages to win 2 out of those 3 games is the clear victor. Even professional wrestling has a history of the “2 out of 3″ concept. A ” Best 2 out of 3 Falls” match isn’t as common anymore, but in the old territory days, it was used as a blow off to end long feuds and determine one ultimate winner.

With the exception of the NFL, all the major American sports have a best of 7 series to crown a champion, and that’s the way it should be. A 7 Game series minimizes the chances of a fluke upset, ensures that the better team comes out victorious, and leaves us with an undisputed top team for that particular year. How do we determine the top team of an era though? This last three-year span of NBA history has been an interesting one, to say the least. We saw LeBron James return to Cleveland, the rise of Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant’s unexpected departure from Oklahoma City.

So how will it ultimately be remembered? Will these last three years be seen as just an extension of the “LeBron Era?” Will Golden State finish one of the most dominating three-year runs of all time with another NBA Championship, making it the “era of the Dubs?”

Regardless, we’re going to get the most perfectly unique way to answer that question. For the first time in NBA history, the same two teams will square off in three consecutive Finals. Each team has already claimed victory and hung up a banner at the other’s expense, so the revenge factor is there on both sides. Add in that these two teams aren’t particularly fond of each other, sprinkle some of Draymond Green’s unpredictability on top, and you’ve got the recipe for yet another classic and entertaining Finals match-up.

Reaching the NBA Finals is not an easy task to accomplish. Going back the next year requires a grueling and exhausting effort. Making it three straight times is extremely uncommon. As a matter of fact, only six NBA franchises have ever reached the Finals three or more consecutive times. The Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls both did it twice. The New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, and Miami Heat each accomplished the feat once. While the Minnesota/Los Angeles Lakers have reached three or more consecutive Finals a whopping five times.

That list will add two new entries on June 1st. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have accomplished the rare feat It will be the 7th straight NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James (and James Jones), putting him behind only Bill Russel, and a handful of his Celtics teammates, for most all time.

That in it of itself is an amazing accomplishment. Just like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume most of us (hey millennials) actually witnessed Bill Russell reach 10 straight NBA Finals. So just like Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, LeBron’s seven consecutive Finals will be the defacto record going forward. Another feather in the King’s cap.

On paper, these are the two teams that should be playing for the NBA crown. They were the two best teams all season long, and most experts have been predicting this matchup since Kevin Durant decided to make the switch to Golden State. However, from a historical standpoint, neither franchise has any business taking part in the NBA Final’s first Trilogy. Would you think all the Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird talk would have produced three straight Lakers-Celtics Finals right?

With all due respect, The Cleveland Cavaliers were nothing before June 26th, 2003, when they drafted LeBron James. As for the Warriors, before winning the whole thing in 2015, the Bay Area didn’t know about being NBA Champions since the 1974-75 season. Not exactly models of consistent success.

Logic would indicate that if any two teams were going to face off in three straight Finals, it should’ve been the Lakers and Celtics. They’re the NBA’s winningest and most recognizable franchises, and the Magic/Bird rivalry of the 80’s would have been the perfect backdrop for such a historic occurrence. However, logic doesn’t always apply in basketball, and now, two teams that were once entrenched in the lower echelon of the NBA’s hierarchy will play in what’s likely to be the most anticipated NBA Finals of all time.

Both teams combine for a total of seven All-Stars and seven MVP awards. The star power is off the charts for this match up, and the plot reads almost like a Hollywood script. Last year, Golden State became the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the Finals, pouring their record-breaking 73-win season right down the drain. Kevin Durant was signed away from Golden State’s biggest competitor over the summer in attempts to right that wrong. His former partner in crime, Russell Westbrook, was fueled to an MVP-worthy season by what he saw as the betrayal on the part of Durant. If he and the Warriors are hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season though, then all the scrutiny and criticism was worth it.

While over in Cleveland, you have a King and his court, chomping at the bit to defend their crown against a Warriors team that many say they “can’t beat.” An aging LeBron has shown us all that he’s still got plenty left in the tank. The NBA’s young stars might be ready to take the league into their hands and run with it, but that doesn’t mean that LeBron is ready to hand it over just yet. That’s what makes this particular Finals so important, especially for LeBron. If he wins, that’s 2 out of the last 3, and 4 out of the last 7. That’s huge for a man that constantly has to defend his standing in the sport. However, if he loses, then you can already hear the rumblings. “Is LeBron’s time over?” “Can the Cavs still win with LeBron?”

With so much riding on this series for each team, we might be in store for the hardest fought NBA Finals ever. We should truly appreciate what we’re about to see. In hindsight, so many stars had to align perfectly for us to even get here, but we’re literally on the doorstep of it. We’ve had 67 NBA Finals, 19 different NBA Champions, 13 NBA Finals rematches, but as of this year, only one trilogy.

The 2017 NBA Finals tip-off Thursday, June 1st on ABC.

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NBA Contributor

 

Cavaliers deliver record setting win

It was 41 points that separated the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics in game two. The biggest Cavalier lead was 50 points midway in the third quarter. After game one LeBron James stated that the Cavaliers could be better, this was how much better the Cavaliers can be.

The Cavaliers shot 56-pecent from the field (48-percent from three) in the blow-out win Friday night. It was all The King leading the way for the Cavs as he finished the game with 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, four rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Love finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds alongside Kyrie Irving who finished with 23 points. The big three of the Cavaliers would finish a combined 66-percent shooting from the field.

The defense of the Cavaliers flashed it’s dominance as the Celtics shot 37-percent from the field overall (29-percent from the field). The Celtics would also finish the game with 20 turnovers. In the first-half James chased down Avery Bradley on a fast break to block his shot similar to the infamous chase down block on Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals.

The down hill spiral continued for the Celtics as Isaiah Thomas did not return in the second half due to a hip injury. Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated that it was a preexisting injury that the All-Star guard had from Game 6 in their prior series against Washington. The injury was serious enough to keep Thomas from returning in the second-half and he will be reevaluated for game three.

Prior to Game 2, the NBA announced its finalists for the Player Award show in June. Among the MVP Finalists, James’ name as absent. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard took the top honors as finalists. When asked about this after the game James stated, “No, I didn’t see it and what are you going to do about it at the end of the day? My only job is to try to be the MVP for this team every night, put my teammates, put our franchise in position to be successful and ultimately compete for a championship. For me, I know what I bring to the table. This league knows what I bring to the table. That’s for you guys to write about. It’s not for me to be concerned about.”

The Cavaliers will head to Cleveland up 2-0 in the series. Game three is on Sunday night at 8:30 PM EST on TNT.

NBA Staff: Eastern Conference Finals Predictions

Celtics (1) vs Cavaliers (2)

Name Team Games
Billy Aristide Cavaliers 5
Wesly Avendano Cavaliers 5
Nate Ledsinger Cavaliers 5
DeMario Jackson Cavaliers 5
Chevall Kanhai Cavaliers 5
Gabe Lloyd Cavaliers 6
Markus Murden Cavaliers 4