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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Pacers 98 @ Cleveland 123 (Game 2, East semis, 05/04/16)

Well, it looked OK for the Hawks for about 5 minutes. The rest is history.

25 three pointers, the all-time record for one NBA game, were made by the Cavs, spearheaded by the streakiest shooter alive in JR Smith, who made seven, after nailing six in the first half.

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The Cavs’ JR Smith, with seven three pointers made, had a good workout of his picturesque jump shot. Photo courtesy of cavs.com

The Cavs’ Lebron James and Kyrie Irving had four apiece, Kevin Love had 3, Richard Jefferson had two, and five other players had one. The team shot 25-45, a 55% clip.

While I hate blow-outs, the game was a spectacle – the Hawks were playing respectable defense, especially on Smith, but there was no stopping JR, who has been in the starting lineup to stretch the floor, a good coaching ploy by rookie coach Tyronn Lue.

The score was 38-74 at half time – on eighteen threes.

Paul Millsap was the only impressive Hawk, scoring 16 and getting 11 rebounds by game’s end. He hit a buzzer-beating half court three at quarter time, but it left his fingers a fraction of a second after the siren went off.

The Hawks made some solid plays early on – Teague exploited Irving’s questionable defense, while the Hawks’ other point guard Dennis Schroder lobbed it to Al Horford for a nice alley-oop dunk.

But the Cavs ran away with the game after that, passing the ball beautifully, as seen when the Big 3 linked up off of an insane left handed pass to Irving in the middle.

Schroder had just 13 minutes, a puzzling choice by coach Mike Budenholzer as Schroder had 27 points in the game prior.

James passed Tim Duncan for fifth place in postseason scoring, finishing with 27 points, five assist and four rebounds, in another breezy performance.

The Hawks would be at a loss as to how they can improve for Game 3 in Atlanta – rushing the Cavs three point shooters would take away the outside shots, but the Cavs are too good in the paint to let them in there also. My sympathies are with coach Mike Budenholzer.

Highlights

Box score

 

 

Hawks 93 @ Cavaliers 104 (Gm1, East semis, 05/02/15)

 

The Atlanta Hawks’ key players came up short on Sunday night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised through the game to lead 1-0 in the Eastern Conference semis.

While the Hawks made an admirable effort coming from 18 points down to lead in the 4th quarter with eight minutes remaining, the Cavaliers were seemingly on cruise control throughout the game.

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The Cavs’ Lebron James blocks the Hawks’ struggling Horford

LeBron James had 25 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds, yet was content with distributing from the perimeter until the final stages. He rarely drove unless on fast breaks,and didn’t bully the 200 pound Kent Bazemore in the post regularlyas he did on one occasion (see the 50 second mark ). I’m a huge Lebron fan, but I can’t help but think he could play from the post just as Jordan did in his later years (except the former is 250 plus pounds!).

Bazemore had 15 points and 8 rebounds, but missed all 4 threes that he took in the final quarter as well as turning it over twice in that period. I think he’d be more valuable as a 2 guard, who can defend, shoot threes sparingly and have less responsibility.

The Hawks’ All-Star frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Al Horford combined for just 27 points on 32 shots, while Kyle Korver couldn’t get the ball, with just 3 points and only one field goal attempt.

The lone bright spot for Atlanta was their backup point guard Dennis Schroder, who had 27 points, 15 of which came in the second half which contributed to the Hawk’s late run. He sped past most defenders on drives, and finished at the rim with his long arms (6’7″wingspan) although Kyrie had a nice block on him. Schroder also hit 5/10 three pointers, and had six assists.

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The Cavs’ James battles with the Hawks’ young gun Dennis Schroder.

For the Cavaliers, Kevin Love hit big 3’s but shot inefficently overall. I miss the tubby Love that dominated on the interior and in the post for the Timberwolves early in his career, instead of the modern skinny Love that is primarily a shooter and defensive rebounder.

Kyrie Irving had a solid day for the Cavs, scoring 21 points, including 9 in the 4th quarter, while his understudy Matthew Dellavedova had a few beautiful assists (being an Aussie, I have some Delly bias, as I think he deserves a big payday this summer as a defensive playmaker who can shoot).

Tristan Thompson was a beast, pulling in 14 rebounds, with 7 on the offensive end, an impressive feat considering he was going against premier rebounders in Millsap and Horford. The Hawks could really do with the big body of Tiago Splitter, who is out injured after hip surgery, to keep guys like Thompson and Love off the boards.

The Hawks made a late run based on Schroder’s play, but in the end the Cavs barely broke a sweat. The series remains in Cleveland for Game 2, and unless the Hawks’ All-Stars are more assertive and feed off of Schroder’s success, Celeveland are in for another breezy evening.

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Irving (21 pts, 8 asts), JR Smith (12 pts, 5 rbnds) and Love (17 pts, 11 rbnds) help James up.

Highlights

Box score

 

 

Pacers frontcourt intimidates as Raptors remain unaggressive – Gm6: Raptors 83 @ Pacers 101, Rd 1 2016 Playoffs (29/04/16)

The Indiana Pacers thumped the Toronto Raptors by 18 points to force Game 7 on Friday night, evidence of the vast gap between coaching abilities in the series.

The Raptors coach Dwayne Casey let his All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan continue to shoot horribly, having scored 10 and 8 respectively on 27 total shots.

They were evidently intimidated by the rim protection of Myles Turner and Ian Mahinmi. The impressive 20 year old Turner had 4 blocks and altered many more, proving to be the steal of last years draft at pick 11. (1)

Pacers coach Frank Vogel effectively used Turner (15 pts, 9 rbnds)and Mahinmi (12 pts, 2 blks) to control the boards , keeping the two on the court even when the Raptors played a small lineup.

Vogel’s job was made easier as Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors centre averaging almost 12 rebounds per game, was given little opportunity to continue his bullying play.

The Raptors continue to go to DeRozan, who is uber athletic and usually aggressive (averaging 8.4 free throws in the regular season, but just 5.6 this series), tends to holds the ball too long on the perimeter and cannot distribute effectively.

If the Raptors choose to re-sign the soon-to-be free agent this summer, they should have a free-throw attempts incentive in the contract. Otherwise, acquiring a better shooting and more ball-distributing player would be wise, as the Raptors lineup of is statistically more effective with the efficient and defensive point guard Cory Joseph on the floor. (2)

In the postgame press conference, Lowry said that the Pacers were “doing a great job” on him on defense, an admittance that the Pacers are seriously affecting his confidence. He has shot just 31% since his elbow injury against Orlando in late March.

For the Raptors, Demarre Carroll (15pts, 2 stls) proved to be a good free-agent pick up, hitting threes and stifling Paul George. For Indiana, Monta Ellis (15pts, 4 to) seems an unusual fit, scoring well only on fast breaks or spot up threes. George Hill (12 pts, 5 rbnds, 4 asts) continued to play stifling defense on Lowry , while Rodney Stuckey bounced back from a 1-10 shooting night in Game 5 to score an efficient 8 points in Game 6.

The series will end in Toronto, where home court advantage will prove vital. The Raptors are 4-1 at home against the Pacers this season, however with Lowry and DeRozan seemingly unwilling to be aggressive and Dwayne Casey ignoring his asset in Valanciunas, Frank Vogels’ talented Pacers have a fair chance to advance.

(1): http://www.nba.com/video/channels/playoffs/eastseries2/2016/04/30/0041500116-tor-ind-gm6-play16.nba/

(2): http://stats.nba.com/league/lineups/#!/