Cavs convincingly crack Warriors in Game 3: Kyrie has 30 pts, 8 ast; LeBron 32pts, 11 rbnds.

(As seen on The Pick and Roll).

Australians Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova played limited minutes in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals, which saw Dellavedova’s Cleveland Cavaliers thrash Bogut’s Golden State Warriors 120-90.

Bogut played well in the first quarter early, scoring four points on a dunk and a lefty hook, blocking a shot, and grabbing a couple of rebounds. He sat for much of the rest of the game, playing just 12 minutes total, as Warriors coach Steve Kerr elected to use a smaller lineup.

Dellavedova also sat for most of the game, as his fellow point guard Kyrie Irving had a breakout performance, scoring 16 points in Uncle Drew-like fashion in the first quarter, before finishing with 30 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and multiple highlights:

Playing most of his eight minutes in “garbage time”, as Cleveland led by 27, Melbournian “Delly” hit his patented wrong-footed floater, but didn’t do much else.

The Warriors trio of MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green finished with 35 pts combined, their lowest collective total for the entire season.

Cleveland role players JR Smith and Tristan Thompson did their bit, with Smith hitting five threes for 20 points with a stellar +/- of +33, while Thompson had 14 points and 13 rebounds with seven on the offensive end, including this rebound and-one:

Lebron James dominated, with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and multiple highlight plays:

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD_/status/740742700446535680

Kevin Love, who missed the game due to concussion, was replaced in the starting line-up by Richard Jefferson, who pitched in with nine points and eight rebounds. Love is expected to return for Game 4.

Cleveland are now 8-0 at home in the 2016 playoffs, and with this resounding win, they must be feeling confident going into Game 4 at home on Saturday (Australian time) with a chance to even the series.

 

 

NBA Finals Game 2 coverage on The Pick and Roll

6 June 2016

My Australian-focused coverage of Game 2 of the ’16 NBA Finals, as published on The Pick and Roll:

Warriors wreck Cavs in Game 2; Green 28 pts on five threes, Bogut five blks

With crucial contributions from forward Draymond Green and Australian center Andrew Bogut, the Golden State Warriors thrashed the Cleveland Cavaliers by 33 points to take a 2-0 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Bogut finished with five blocks, including 4 in the first quarter, including this swat that led to a three from two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who had 19 points and nine rebounds in only 25 minutes of action:

Bogut also had six rebounds and two steals in just 15 minutes of action, having been rested for much of the game due his team’s dominance. His immovable screens, running of the floor to defend the fast break, box outs and offensive rebounding (three for the game) shows that the 7 footer from Melbourne is a model team-oriented player for any young big man to watch.

The Warriors’ defense was superb, forcing the Cavs into 17 turnovers, 35% on field goals and 22% from three. Cleveland’s top 3 players of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving combined for just 34 points on 14-38 from the floor.

Love (five points, three rebounds in 21 minutes) left the game early in the third quarter after receiving an accidental elbow to the head from Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (who had five points and rebounds respectively), and has been diagnosed with a concussion that might keep him from Game 3 in Cleveland in three days time:

The Cavs’ Australian guard Matthew Dellavedova played just under 17 minutes, most of which were in “garbage time” (when the starters are rested during a huge deficit in score). “Delly” had seven points on a poor 2-9 shooting, but had a better “plus-minus” (a measure of contribution to the team) than his superior at point guard, Irving (10 points on 5-14 shooting), and had this great assist to James for the jam:

The Warriors’ best player on the floor (and in the series so far) was second team All-NBA forward Draymond Green, who scored 28 points on five threes, including this fadeaway that sent his team and the packed Oracle Arena into a frenzy:

Green’s all-round performance showed the versatility and depth of the Warriors team that won a record 73 games in the regular season. Green had seven rebounds and five assists, including this dime to Bogut:

Shaun Livingston had 20 points in Game 1, and backed it up with seven points and five assists in Game 2. Brazilian Leandro Barbosa, who was supported by fellow countrymen and soccer star Neymar as evidence of basketball’s growth around the world, had 10 points. Forward Andre Igoudala led the team with a plus-minus of 28 and this putback slam:

The Warriors’ best player of their playoff run, Klay Thompson, had 17 points with four threes, and his fellow ‘Splash Brother” Curry chipped in with four threes also:

As the Cavs’ best player,  James carried his team for much of the game, finishing with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, with this dunk:

..but he had seven turnovers and could only do so much for a team that was outmatched by the Warriors combination of stifling defense, shooting (54% total, 45.5% from three) and teamwork (26 assists, with all seven bench players getting minutes).

The series moves on to Cleveland, where the Cavs will try to turn the series around after being defeated by 48 points total in the first two games, an NBA record differential for that span. Only three teams in NBA history have won the Finals after losing the first two games.

 

 

 

Klay’s record performance catapults Warriors to do-or-die Game 6 victory

In Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson hit an NBA playoff record 11 three-pointers, with 41 points in total, to help defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder and force a series-deciding Game 7 in Oakland.

The May 28th 2016 match-up was highlighted by Thompson’s unprecedented shooting prowess, stealing the limelight from his reigning two-time MVP teammate Stephen Curry’s 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, as the Warriors came back to outscore the Thunder by 15 points in the final quarter to win 108-101 .

Thompson had 16 points at half-time, continuing to provide consistency (26.5 ppg during the playoffs) for a team that had won an NBA regular season record 73 games and cruised through the playoffs until the difficult Thunder series, where they had found themselves 3-1 down after two horrific road losses.

However it was the second half where Thompson shot as fast as his machine-gun namesake, finishing with the following shot chart..

..highlighted by these displays of catch-and-shoot wizardry…

..before hitting this three from almost half court to break the record:

As the other half of the “Splash Brothers”, Curry sealed the win with a floater over renowned shot-blocker Serge Ibaka (13 pts, 9 rbnds, 3 blks):

The Thunder, bolstered by their boisterous home crowd..

https://twitter.com/skinnersource/status/736729010437128193

..led the game until three minutes before the final buzzer, off of the solid yet inefficient performances of their stars Russell Westbrook (28 pts on 10-27 shooting, 11 asts, 9 rbnds, 4 stls, 5 turnovers) and Kevin Durant (29 pts on 10-31 shooting, 7 rbnds, 3 blks, 3 turnovers):

The play of breakout Thunder role player Andre Roberson proved crucial, who was limited to under 30 minutes due to foul trouble, but had eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal, and 5-5 shooting from the field:

Center Steven Adams, who had nine points and rebounds but was also limited by foul trouble, got payback against Warriors forward Draymond Green (14 pts, 12 rbnds, 6asts, 3 stls), who had kicked him in the nuts in game 4, and subsequently set Twitter ablaze:

Nonetheless, it was the clutch play of Thompson, Curry and forward Andre Igoudala (8 pts, 7 rbnds, 3 stls) that proved the difference:

The Thunder shot only 3 of 23 from three point land, as opposed to the Warriors’ 21 of 44, and didn’t convincingly out-rebound the Warriors as they did in their Games 1, 3 and 4 wins.

The series meets its conclusion in Oakland on Monday, where home court advantage due an undoubtedly packed Oracle Arena, and the momentum of winning two straight games after overcoming the 3-1 adversity, will make the Warriors favourites to reach the NBA Finals for the second year in a row.

The tough Thunder unit, who are capable of winning crucial playoff games on the road (see Game 1 of the series and 2016 playoff record against the Dallas Mavericks and higher-seeded San Antonio Spurs), can never be counted out. But they are facing a historically deep and talented team:

https://twitter.com/H2KLegal/status/736759347523506176

 

MVP Curry takes over Gm5, wins series

On the night he was awarded the first-ever unanimous MVP award, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry held back a late Portland Trail Blazers assault to win the series in Game 5 of the Western conference semis,  125-121, in arguably the most entertaining game of the playoffs this year.

It was the Warriors’ Klay Thompson that led the way for much of the game..

..but it was “Chef Curry” that took over in 4th, scoring 14 of his team’s 32 in the period, hitting unbelievable shots, including lefty floaters and crossing over Blazers bigs for his patented fadeaway threes:

The Blazers’ CJ McCollum responded by scoring 16 in the final quarter, including this jumper after decking Curry with the crossover:

But McCollum’s heroics, reminiscent of his 30 point breakout game in college against Duke, was in vain, as the Warriors iced the rest of the game with clutch free throws, and another insane fadeaway from Curry:

Oakland native Damian Lillard was hot early for the Blazers, scoring 21 in the first half, and made his 41st three pointer of the playoffs, a Blazer record for a single postseason:

Unfortunately Lillard came up short late, playing hero ball and getting poor shots off, keeping the ball from the red-hot McCollum:

Nonetheless, full credit to the Blazers, who were underdogs throughout the entire season, having lost 4 starters in the previous offseason:

Role players Al Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless had 16 and 13 apiece, including shooting 6 of 11 on three pointers total, a vast improvement from their previous seasons.

Allen Crabbe proved useful off the Blazers bench with 20 points with five threes.

Mason Plumlee had five points, four assists and six rebounds, seeming hesitant to drive against the Warriors’ defensive force Draymond Green, who had 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Plumlee’s opponent Andrew Bogut suffered a hamstring injury which could be an issue in the Warriors matchup with the winner of the Thunder-Spurs series.

The Warriors’ Harrison Barnes had 8 points and 7 rebounds, while Shaun Livingston chipped in with 10.

As the true star of the show, Curry (with 29 points and 11 assist, after recently coming back from a leg injury!) was humble in his incredible achievements, thanking his teammates during his short-lived MVP speech, and fortunately recovered from being left hanging by commissioner Adam Silver when receiving his second consecutive MVP award:

Dub nation rolls on to the Western Conference finals, having faced a spirited Blazers team that didn’t let the Warriors, they of the unprecedented 73 win season, sweep them. In fact, they nearly won Game 4 as well as Game 3, but were beaten by Curry’s record breaking 17 points in overtime.

The Blazers will enter the 2016-2017 season with a youthful playoff-experienced squad, as the average age is 23 and a half, compared to the league average of 27. They have plenty of cap space (around $65 million!) to re-sign Harkless, Crabbe and center Myers Leonard, who missed the playoffs with a shoulder injury, as well as a free agent like veterans Al Horford or Dwight Howard, potential defector Barnes, or (god-forbid for the rest of the West) top free agent Kevin Durant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spurs 97 @ Thunder 111, as Durant and co even series on Mother’s Day (NBA Western Conference semis, 05/08/16)

“I gotta do better next game”, said the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, after outscoring the entire San Antonio Spurs squad in the 4th quarter, to will his team to a Game 4 victory in the NBA Western Conference semi-finals on Sunday.

Durant, finishing with 41 points, had 5 turnovers, and was visibly disappointed with his ability to keep hold of the ball. With his mother cheering on from the sideline on the Mother’s Day matchup in OKC, it is evident “The Slim Reaper” was raised well, humble in victory.

Durant scored 29 points in the second half, and hit some daggers late:

Durant’s partner in crime, Russell Westbrook, was just 5-18 from the floor, but had 15 assists and 7 rebounds, with a relatively low 3 turnovers. He hit this late shot to send the capacity crowd (and Durant’s mah) at Chesapeake Energy Arena into a frenzy:

Westbrook got an early tech for firing up against the referees, a warning sign as you’d like a playoffs point guard to be composed, but ended up playing (mostly) in control, getting the ball to KD in the right spots:

Unusually, The Thunder had more assists (23) than the Spurs (12). Thunder were often able to stop Spurs like power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and defensive MVP Kawhi Leonard when they went iso, with good help defense. Nonetheless, here’s a sexy Spurs ball movement highlight:

Leonard was the best player on the court until he tweaked his knee early in the 4th quarter. Not even The Claw, who had 21 points, six rebounds and four steals, could stop Durant’s 4th quarter barrage.

The Thunder’s Steven Adams had 16 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes, too strong as a roll man with Russ. His replacement, Enes Kanter, had 11 and 8, and played alongside Adams, so this 3 man rotation is a good option for the Thunder moving forward.

Thunder bench guard Dion Waiters chipped in 17 points on just 11 shots, playing solid defense and being nearly unstoppable in transaition, as well as spotting up for jumpers (2 from 2 from three).

The Spurs’ 40 year old center Tim Duncan went scoreless in first postseason game ever, after 4 early fouls. Furthermore, the Spurs hit just two of there three pointers from 12 attempts.

Tony Parker played well, making 10 of 16 from the field, including this crazy layup:

The Thunder’s Cameron Payne had a shocker with two early turnovers, clealry not ready for playoff action, so Thunder went with Randy Foye as backup PG.

At one stage Durant fired up against his coach Billy Donovan:

While their relationship seemed far from amicable in that clip, it appears Durant is not ready to give up on Oklahoma City yet (he is a free agent at season’s, and the Spurs are a potential suitor).

Durant and his team play Game 5 of the series in San Antonio on Tuesday, which will be a true test of the Thunder’s ability to play cohesively, while still getting the ball to the Humble One.