Archive for the ‘LeBron James’ Category

NBA: Finals-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

NBA: Finals-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat (Photo credit: completely deck)

 

There are moments in sports that prove larger than life. For the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat that moment approaches in San Antonio, Texas.

 

After two games in Miami the Spurs and Heat have each drawn blood and drawn even.

 

Many now see this series as a “best-of-five” situation, where perhaps they should see it as a “best-of-the-next-three,” and here’s why: the winner of the three-game series in San Antonio will win the championship.

 

Let’s just take a look at the three possible scenarios at stake – either team sweeps, the Spurs win two of three, or the Heat win two of three.

 

The first scenario is obvious and needs no expounding upon. If either team sweeps the San Antonio series they will have won the Finals series 4-1. What may not be obvious is the answer to the question, “which team has a better chance at accomplishing said task?”

 

It may be tempting to give the Spurs the benefit of the doubt, seeing as it is their home court and, surely, the thought of not having to return to Miami for either Game 6 or 7 must give quite a lot of motivation. History, however, would lean towards Miami.

 

Since forming the Miami “Big Three,” the Heat have lost Game 1 four times (including this series). They did not lose another game in any of those three prior series, including the Thunder Finals series last season. It’s highly unlikely that that trend should continue, however.

 

So which, then, of the other possible scenarios is more likely to occur? – San Antonio or Miami winning two of three games?

 

To answer this, one must determine which team is more likely to win Game 3.

 

Miami will enter Game 3 with an anticipated higher confidence. The fact that Tim Duncan didn’t play a minute of the 4th quarter and the rest of the Spurs starters hit the bench with 7:43 remaining in the game could have done nothing but dampen the confidence level of San Antonio.

 

Hope is not lost, though, for Spurs fans. The best coach in the NBA is at the helm of the Spurs in Gregg Popovich and, as many coaches will agree, it is easier to make adjustments and thus improve after a loss than a win. Popovich will have a big task in front of him as turnovers were the Spurs downfall and forcing turnovers the Heat’s biggest strength. If the Miami Heat can continue to pressure the Spurs into turning the ball over with their stifling defense, the Spurs may have no chance at victory apart from stellar defense of their own and lights-out shooting from behind the arch.

 

Game 3 is also a must-win for the Spurs for the fact that Miami is 11-0 following a loss. If Miami wins Game 3 and follows their trend of no-back-to-back losses, the Spurs cannot make up the difference.

 

If San Antonio wins Game 3, and split Games 4 and 5 with the Heat, they force Miami’s back to the wall and force them to win Games 6 and 7, a feat that is not impossible by any stretch but certainly daunting.

 

If Miami wins two of the three games in San Antonio, you can all but kiss the Spurs’ chances at a fifth title goodbye.

 

 

 

***  Historical Tidbits  ***

 

In all four of the Spurs’ prior championship victories, they had home court advantage in the best-of-seven series.

 

Only once have the Spurs split the first two games 1-1 in the Finals – against the Nets in 2003. Spurs won in 6.

 

Miami’s “Big 3” is 8-3 in Game 3’s

In the last seven Finals series when started 1-1, the team that won the next best-of-three-games series won the title six  times.

 

 

 

Much to the surprise of most, the Chicago Bulls won Game 1 on the road to start the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 1-0 lead over LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Among the adjustments the Heat must make for Game 2 are three top priorities: Tighten up their 4th quarter defense, play with a greater sense of urgency, and run the offense through LeBron James in late minutes when the game is close.

These three adjustments seem elementary at best, as a 5th grader could make these observations, but these issues seem to be a recurring theme for the Miami Heat in the postseason.

Just last season, the same lackadaisical tendency was shown during each of the first three Heat series. Against the Knicks in the first round, after the Heat rolled to a 3-0 lead, Miami went into cruise control and cruised to a Game 4 loss.

Against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics in rounds two and three, the Miami Heat started each series with 1-0 and 2-0 leads respectively, only to allow that seemingly “lazy” play to let Indiana and Boston to gain leads in those series.

It wasn’t until the Heat tightened up their defense late, played with a sense of urgency, and allowed LeBron to run the offense that the Heat regained control and ultimately won those series.

I thought that the Heat’s defense in the last two minutes was lacking in two respects. First, they needed a better effort shutting down the ball handler, Nate Robinson. From watching tape on the Brooklyn Nets series, Coach Spoelstra must have realized Robinson was going to be a threat if not contained. Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen, although excellent defenders in their own right, are not the best available options in that situation. LeBron James has proven to be a shut down defender time and time again and I expect given a similar situation late, will defend Robinson in isolation.

The second piece of that puzzle is a stronger presence in the paint. Chris Anderson has shown that he can provide that much needed rim defense in case the perimeter defense is broken. Robinson is deadly of the dribble and showed that he could get his shot in close, without much help from either Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem.

As far as playing with urgency, I doubt anything needs to be done here. Losing to the Bulls in game 28 of “the streak” had to have put a bad taste in the Heat’s mouth, of which Monday night’s Game 1 loss surely reminded them. Look for Miami to come out swinging in Game 2.

Lastly, the Miami Heat are at their offensive best when LeBron James has the ball. Not only does he command the attention of, likely, the Bulls’ best defender, but also that of the potential double team help from the wing, anyone assisting on the pick and roll, as well as the man defending the paint, should he need to come up to guard against James’ drive to the rim.

Fortunately for the Bulls in Game 1, this strategy for the Heat was stymied somewhat, as the shots weren’t falling on the James kick-outs for three (the Heat shot just 29% from behind the arch, down from their season avg. 39% and started 1-8 from three).

If the Heat can make the needed adjustments while finding their offense, it should mean getting back on track and possibly even an early end to the series. If not, it still could be an early end to the series…

It’s time once again for postseason greatness in the NBA.

Here are the Eastern Conference series:

(1) Miami Heat vs (8) Milwaukee Bucks

(2) New York Knicks vs (7) Boson Celtics

(3) Indiana Pacers vs (6) Atlanta Hawks

(4) Brooklyn Nets vs (5) Chicago Bulls

Break Downs and Predictions:

(1) Heat vs (8) Bucks:

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This series hardly requires any breaking down. Simply put, the Miami Heat are out of the Bucks’ league.

It’s possible that the Bucks may come within ten points of the Heat in one or two of the games, but even that is being optimistic.

Prediction – Miami wins series 4-0

(2) Knicks vs (7) Celtics:

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Much like the “2-vs-7” match-up in the West between the Spurs and Lakers, this series is very likely going to the final seventh game.

The New York Knicks have seen MVP level play from star Forward Carmelo Anthony and stellar support from J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler.

The Celtics have been coping with the loss of All-Star Point Guard Rajon Rondo to an ACL injury. Stepping up to fill the void has been Avery Bradley. Forward Jeff Green has provided much needed scoring and will likely be the “X-factor” in the Knicks series.

Because both teams have formidable scoring threats as well as defensive abilities, I would give the edge to the better head coach. Doc Rivers is one of, if not the best coach in the East.

Prediction – Boston wins series 4-3

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(3) Pacers vs (6) Hawks:

They should call this series the “under-the-radar” series.

Both the Indiana Pacers and Atalanta Hawks have done simply just enough over the course of the season to make the playoffs without turning many heads or making any waves.

This strategy worked well for the Pacers last season as they proved the first real test on the Heat’s road to their championship, nearly stealing the series while Dwyane Wade struggled and Chris Bosh recovered from injury.

The Hawks pose no such threat to the Pacers who, even without Danny Granger, should handle Atlanta without much issue.

Prediction – Indiana wins series 4-2

(4) Nets vs (5) Bulls:

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The Chicago Bulls surely thought they’d be going into the first round of the playoffs this season with a healthy Derrick Rose, who tore his ACL in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

That, however, is not their reality as Rose continues his rehab months after being cleared by team doctors to return to action.

The Brooklyn Nets pose a large challenge for the shorthanded Bulls with All-Star Center Brook Lopez and elite Point Guard Deron Williams enjoying home court advantage.

The biggest chance the Bulls stand at beating the Nets is by exploiting their physical play. The X-factors for Chicago will be Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson.

Prediction – Chicago wins series 4-3

That wraps up the Eastern Conference first round match-ups. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Jazz Lakers

After a heartbreaking loss to cross-town-rival L.A. Clippers, the Lakers are once again on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.

That coveted eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff seedings is now held by the Utah Jazz, after they beat the Golden State Warriors on the road.

The Jazz hold a current half-game lead over the Lakers, which, because the Jazz own the tiebreaker between the two, is actually a 1 1/2 game lead. In other words, the Jazz’s proverbial destiny is in their own hands. Win out, and they’re in.

But, how likely is it that the Jazz win out? Not likely. However, the Lakers schedule is no treat either.

Jazz remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs Oklahoma City

4/12 – vs Minnesota

4/15 – at Minnesota

4/17 – at Memphis

Lakers remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs New Orleans

4/10 – at Portland

4/12 – vs Golden State

4/14 – vs San Antonio

4/17 – vs Houston

Mathematically, the Lakers need to win two more of their remaining games than the Jazz do. (i.e. if the Jazz win three of their four, the Lakers must win all five remaining games)

Looking at the Jazz’s remaining games against the Lakers’ remaining games, it seems highly unlikely that the Lakers get that spot back.

I would bet the Jazz end up winning three of their four games, with the lone loss coming against the Thunder at home.

This puts the Lakers in a terrible spot. Winning all five games is going to be nearly impossible. Nearly.

The two games I can see as the Lakers’ biggest issues are San Antonio and Houston.

The good news for LA is that both of those games are at home and both of those games are the last games of the season, which means both the Spurs and Rockets may be resting starters by then, as both of them have clinched their playoff spots.

The bad news, is that the Lakers aren’t exactly the most popular team in the NBA and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that every team remaining on the Lakers’ schedule would love to play the “spoiler” role.

There seems to be two top dogs remaining in the NBA playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

English: Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

English: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spurs have been on a tear lately, going 20-0 in their last 20 games. These 20 victories include series sweeps over the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers as well as convincing victories in Games 1 & 2 of their Western Conference series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Miami Heat have also completed Game 1 & 2 of their conference finals series with the Boston Celtics.

Both Eastern and Western Conference Finals series head back to the lower-seeded teams’ home courts for Games 3 and 4 in Boston and Oklahoma City, respectively.

Ah, all of a sudden, the task doesn’t seem so easy for the favorite Spurs and Heat.

The Thunder fans are real hyped fans. What would you expect from a state whose entire population is currently stir crazy waiting for college football to start? Seriously, what else is there? (See also Jazz fans).

Both the Spurs and Heat have had to overcome being behind late in a game and overcoming deficit to earn the win. Alternately, they have each cruised for a dominant victory.

Spectacular as each team is, the Heat and Spurs both have chinks in the armor that have been exposed at one point or another in these playoffs.

For the Heat, interior play has been absolutely key. With the injury suffered by Chris Bosh early in the second round against the Indiana Pacers, the Heat’s defense against the low post and rebounding has been a cause for concern. The Pacers were able to take advantage of the deficiency in Games 2 and 3 of that series and earned W’s against the favored Heat. Of course, Dwyane Wade‘s struggles to score were no small factor either.

LeBron James has produced consistently the entire postseason, averaging 29.6 points/9.2 rebounds/5.8 assists per game. Dwyane Wade more than any other Heat player determines the outcome of the game. When he plays well, he compliments LeBron’s contributions and victory is imminent. When Wade plays poorly, LeBron finds himself in the same scenario as rookie Michael Jordan, scoring 63 points against the Celtics in 2 OT in a losing effort.

The Spurs are the epitome of “team basketball.” Their crisp passing and intelligent play has been frustrating the last 20 teams San Antonio has faced.

Tony Parker, who is averaging 20.5 points/3.8 rebounds/7.1 assists per game in the Spurs’ “sweep-fest” is clearly the most valuable Spur at this point. He and Tim Duncan are the strongest contributors on the team with great production out of Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and others. It appears the only thing that can stop the Spurs is either father time as the games move forward, or the offense missing jumpers and letting the opposition go on the fast break.

The Thunder and Celtics both have their backs to the wall and will look to defend their home courts in order to steal one on the road. You can bet if the Spurs or Heat can get just one win on the road over the next two games, it’ll be a Spurs/Heat finals.

English: Basketball player LeBron James during...

Image via Wikipedia

LeBron James is on a mission.

Through the Miami Heat‘s first nine games, James ranks number one in the NBA in scoring with an average of 30.1 points per game, second in field goal percentage making 60.1% of his attempts, fourth in steals with 2.0 per game, ninth in assists at 7.6 per game. He also averages 7.6 rebounds a game, which ranks 27th in the league.

Throw in the added support from a stellar Miami cast, which lost nothing in the offseason, and you have a recipe for a repeat visit to the NBA Finals. So why will the Heat take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy this time?

To best answer this question, one must consider the two biggest obstacles from last season:

– New head coach

Erik Spoelstra was not only in his first year as the Miami Heat head coach, but in his first year as a head coach in general.

At times, it was apparent that Spoelstra was searching for his groove and struggled with game-time decisions. Add in the fact that he had to gain the respect and trust of three all-star talents, while trying to find places for the role players and the Miami Heat’s run to the NBA Finals last season was phenomenal.

With a year now under his belt, Spoelstra will be able to rely on experience, which includes a hotly contested series in the Finals. How many coaches can claim that first year luxury?

– Team Chemistry

Last season was the first time LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had played on the same NBA team. Many people argued whether or not the three could co-exist at all, and not just before the season tipped off. Talks of different line-ups and who the real leader of the team was were season long topics.

I believe the answer to this question is simple. LeBron is the leader. Wade and Bosh are both highly skilled second fiddles and that dynamic has been displayed early this year with great results.

The Miami Heat are 8-1 and, apart from a home loss Monday, January 3 to the Atlanta Hawks, have looked dominant against some good talent already.

If the Miami Heat can stay healthy, I don’t see another team in the NBA this season with the man power to stop them from achieving their immediate goal of winning the NBA championship title in 2012.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

It most certainly was not the series ending most NBA fans and analysts expected, or more accurately, hoped for.

The Miami Heat won Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, clinching the series 4-1. The Chicago Bulls had no answer for Miami’s 4th quarter magic for the fourth straight game. The Bulls led the Heat 77-67 with 2:40 left and the windy city could not have been louder or more supportive. Yet, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade apparently decided the series had gone on long enough.

The game seemed to favor Chicago, however.

The Bulls put their foot on the accelerator early and controlled the Heat the whole game. Their defense forced turnover after costly turnover. Once the game clock ran down around 3:00 in the 4th quarter, Rose and the rest of the Bulls coasted. They ran late shot clock plays that are just flat-out unproductive against a team as defensively capable to stop any offense as Miami is.

The Miami Heat have been the poster children for “love to hate ’em” teams. Well, the hate will continue in their wake to the 2011 NBA Finals Series.

The Dallas Mavericks, having won their clinching 4th game of the Western Conference Finals Series at home in Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, will no doubt have watched this game closely with the rest of the country.

Any Mav’ that denies watching the game, is either lying, or “Tivoed” it.

My opinion is that the Miami Heat just won their first title tonight. Delayed though the trophy ceremony might be going forward, (technically the Heat still have to play Dallas). Sorry Mark Cuban, but front row seats to your own team’s embarrassing execution are still front row. Right?

Miami Heat

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Well, it’s happening a lot sooner than I had anticipated.

The national media circuits are beginning to pay positive attention to the Miami Heat. Note: I said Miami Heat, not LeBron James.

ESPN created a monster in producing and airing “The Decision,” the hour-long special in which LeBron James revealed he would be leaving Cleveland after 6 years with no rings.

The weeks leading up to “The Decision” were filled with shameless advertising and hype. News segments were mere rumors and speculation. In one day, LeBron would start out leaning towards New York, by noon it was Chicago or New Jersey, and by the time the actual day came around, most everyone already knew LeBron was going to leave to go to Miami.

All signs pointed to him leaving!

And the Cleveland fans knew it because the media knew it (more or less). Therefore, you saw the Cavs fans making pleas, literally begging LeBron not to go.

All I’m saying is, James’ decision did not shock anyone.

What did shock me was how quickly the media turned its back on its involvement in the whole “Decision” debacle. Sports T.V. shows, sports talk radio hosts, and the overall sports community spent easily the entirety of the next week speaking of nothing besides the Miami Heat and specifically LeBron James.

They gaged the country’s opinion on “The Decision” and when they found it to be overwhelmingly negative, they washed their hands of LeBron, painted a picture of a villainous fiend, and tossed him under the bus.

The regular season talk was focused on different players throughout the year but one theme rang true loudly: The national media have withheld spotlight from James as an individual when it applies to praise for excellent play. Instead, they direct the praise to the Heat as a whole, or to Dwyane Wade.

This is not to say that LeBron is under the radar. The media are more than happy to talk about James’ shortcomings, missed opportunities, etc.

Now that the Heat have shown brightly the first round and beginning of the second round, the national media is catching on to something: This Miami Heat team is good. Very, very good.

In the sports news business, it’s all about being first to break news or being the first to predict the champion. When their horse goes down (i.e. Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, etc) often times, the analysts or radio hosts will simply pick a new team he/she claims to have known all along would win it all.

As a lonely passenger at times on the LeBron bandwagon, it has been, at times, hilarious to watch these analysts pretend other players deserve the MVP, blowing losses out of proportion, and force-feeding the masses inflated and irrelevant stats to dismiss LeBron’s dominance.

I figured it would take more time before the same people who threw James under the bus would crawl back and play nice.

LeBron said way back when this whole media frenzy started getting vicious that he was going to keep track of the nay sayers.

I hope he unleashes on someone to be honest. I hope he throws down on a reporter who ripped James’ integrity during “The Decision” hot bed. I hope he calls one of these smile-fakers out, quoting the outrageous attacks on his leadership qualities, finishing capabilities or work ethic.

There won’t be much left to say when Miami’s “Big 3” are raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

17,000 points.  LeBron James became the youngest player to  score 17,000 points.

I am going to declare this right now. LeBron will be the all-time leading scorer in the NBA and will take Michael Jordan‘s place the way Aaron Rodgers is working to eclipse Brett Favre‘s legacy.

I may be a LeBron apologist with a lot of his antics and whatnot become I have watched the guy since we were both in high school. Highlights on SportsCenter after all his games, showing his raw athletic ability and overall dominance on the court.

The King James and Miami Heat band wagons are awfully lonely. Give it time.

It doesn’t matter what color the uniforms, when LeBron and Kobe are going to be on the court at the same time, it’s the biggest event of the season. The fact that it’s only going to happen twice a year, presumably, until Kobe retires (barring a meeting in the NBA finals), turns the media and fans ravenous.

Discussions of who the better player is between the two, who would you rather have on your team, and endless comparison’s and polls (which I find ridiculous anyway since, clearly, LeBron is the superior player) can be found on every Sportscenter report, sports talk radio, and NBA pre-game interviews.

After losing to the Chicago Bulls at home, Coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned during his post-game interview that some “guys were crying in the locker room.” Needless to say, the media blew those words up to the point where it was front page news.

The Heat struggled their way to a 5 game losing streak going into this match-up with the Lakers.

Most NBA analysts wrote the Heat off after going winless in 5 straight games. Add in the fact that the Lakers were on an 8 games win streak, and I suppose you could find good justification.

LeBron, as he has in 10 of 16 games against Kobe (including the last 4 straight), walked off the court the victor.

Who’s crying now?