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.

 

 

 

1 year plan: Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns are rebuilding. They’re six  years from reaching the Western Conference Finals, led by Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. They let the latter leave for the Knicks, in what proved to be a mistake – the club has been on the decline ever since. They finished with a 23-59 record last season, despite having experienced players such as Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler, and a disruptive Markieff Morris after the Suns traded his brother.

With little chance of truly competing with the current roster, and due to a mediocre #4 pick on a draft weak on All-Star talent and little growth from the season before, I think it’s time for Phoenix to trade away the assets that will let them win games, and look to the future.

They have young guard in Brandon Knight, age 24, and Devin Booker, age just 20 by the time the new season starts. The former averaged almost 20 points with 2.3 three pointers, and five assists despite sharing the ball with Bledsoe in the backcourt. Booker averaged almost 14 points and two and a half rebounds and steals per game, as the youngest player in the league, and has sky-high potential. They also have 2013 #5 pick Alex Len, a mobile 7’1″ center whose minutes have been stolen away once veteran center Chandler was signed last offseason.

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Franchise cornerstones Booker and Len high-five, with point guard Knight in the background. Photo: gettyimages

Bledsoe and Chandler started in front of these aforementioned players last season, and that is unacceptable from a long-term point of view.

What can the Suns get for Bledsoe?

Most teams have their starting point guard in place – however, there is a suitor that can offer young assets to join Phoenix’s core. Sacramento has the #8 pick in the draft, and since they have the best center in the competiton in Demarcus Cousins reaching his prime, they should think win-now. therefore, trading the pick for Eric Bledsoe reunites Cousins with his old Kentucky teammate, and finally gives them a long-term option at guard. The Suns would also trade PJ Tucker, to shed salary and to give more minutes to 22 year old forward TJ Warren and their new draft picks.

With the #4 pick, forward Jaylen Brown is the best option (assuming that Simmons, Ingram and Bender are gone as I predict). He is difficult to stay in front of when he has the ball and has great defensive potential, at 6’7″, 220 pounds and a 7 foot wingspan at age 19. He can’t shoot consistently yet, but he can come in and defend the opponent’s top player from day one.

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Potential #4 pick Jaylen Brown soars for the dunk. Photo: bleacherreport.com

With the #8 pick, the Suns should go with a  power forward to complete the young starting lineup. Since Len is a finesse big that can defend the rim and block shots without pushing anyone around, Phoenix needs a bruiser. Domantas Sabonis fits the bill – a 6’10” post player who averaged almost 18 points, 12 rebounds and over 2 assists per game last season for Gonzaga. If given proper minutes, he could average a double double in his first season in the NBA.

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#11 Domantas Sabonis battles for a rebound, which he reigned in at an 11.8 clip last season for Gonzaga. Photo: gettyimages

At #13, the Suns should go with a backup point guard to replace Bledsoe. Demetrius Jackson, who averaged almost 16 points and five assists for Notre Dame last season, had an insane 43.5 vertical at the recent draft combine. He reminds me of Kemba Walker – shifty with the ball, and super fast. He can play alongside Booker or Knight, as the latter has seen minutes off the ball in the past, so he can get over 20 minutes a game from day one.

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#11 point guard Demetrius Jackson shows off his insanely low centre of gravity on the pump fake. Photo: thepitse.com

To get rid of Chandler and free up minutes for Len, they need to find a team looking for a veteran rim protector and rebounder that can start. That team is Minnesota – with a young core in place, Chandler could start alongside reigning Rookie of the Year Karl Anthony Towns, doing the dirty work while Towns develops. The Suns would get Nikola Pekovic, who has a large contract but one less year than Chandler, and would provide strong minutes and mentor fellow Euro Len, and Adreian Payne, an athletic stretch four who could back up Sabonis.

To fill out the roster the 28th pick can be used on another foreign big man like center Ante Zizic, and the 34th pick on tough rebounding power forward Guerschon Yabusele. Veteran point guard Ronnie Price can be retained to help teach the young point guards, the team option on shooting guard John Jenkins can be picked up, while champion Tayshaun Prince can play 10 minutes a game while providing further veteran leadership (assuming he doesn’t retire).

Thus, the depth chart would look like this:

PG: B.Knight, D.Jackson, R.Price

SG: D.Booker, A.Goodwin, J.Jenkins

SF: J.Brown, T.Warren, T.Prince

PF: D.Sabonis, A.Payne, Yabusele.

C: A.Len, N.Pekovic, A.Zizic

This team is in tank mode, but with the starting lineup at an average age around 22, they have high upside, and will likely be bolstered by a high pick in the stacked 2017 draft.

Prediction: 21-61.

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