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NBA East 2nd Round Picks

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm

1) Chicago vs. 5) Atlanta

While watching the first round of the playoffs, my feeling all along was the Hawks were a tougher match-up for the Bulls than the Magic.  Atlanta is deeper, more athletic as a whole, and has more players capable of going off for 25 on a given night.  That being said, outside of center and shooting guard, Chicago has a decided advantage at every other position on the floor (including a major bench advantage). While Atlanta has enough athletic defenders to make life tough on the Bulls wings and forwards, nobody has the make-up to contain Derrick Rose.  Kirk Hinrich was supposed to be the guy assigned to Rose, but a major hamstring pull has his playing time in doubt, and even if he plays he won’t be 100 percent.  Rose should shred the Hawks even more-so than he did the Indiana Pacers in the first round.  The biggest question mark for the Bulls is the health of Carlos Boozer who was most recently listed as day-to-day with a minor turf toe injury.  If Boozer is limited, or doesn’t produce more than he did in the first round, then Taj Gibson has to step up.  Honestly, at times I think Gibson is the better option anyway.  He is a better defender, more athletic, and seems to play harder.  Jamal Crawford was the x-factor against Orlando for the Hawks, but the Magic didn’t have a guy like Deng at 6 foot 9 to chase him around.  Which brings me to my biggest selling point for the Bulls: defensive match-ups.  Along with Deng who can match-up with almost anyone 6’9 and under, Keith Bogans was born to guard players like Joe Johnson, and I think he will keep him in check.  Al Horford has played well at times against the Bulls this year, but Chicago has enough front line defenders to wear him out over the course of a series.  Defensively, I don’t think there’s a better team in these playoffs that Chicago matches up better with than the Hawks…

Pick:  Bulls in 5

Rajon Rondo LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat battles Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics for control of the ball at TD Garden on February 13, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

2) Miami vs. 3) Boston

This match-up intrigues me more than any potential series we could see in the playoffs.  On one hand you have the ultimate definition of “team basketball” in Boston, and on the other the ultimate “isolation athletic machine” in Miami.  Watching Miami struggle at times against Philly in the first round really made it hard for me to believe that they are ready to take out a killer like Boston.  For my money, Philly was the worst team in the playoffs, even a step below Indiana who was deeper, longer, and better defensively (not to mention a star wing in Danny Granger).  For Boston its about team defense, and exploiting the vacancy in the point guard position that the Heat have.  Do you move Wade or James over to guard Rondo and let either Allen or Pierce reign free?  Do you trust Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers to keep Rondo in check?  Either way I feel like Boston has a decided advantage with Rondo orchestrating the offense, and finding ways to exploit mismatches.   You can argue that the 5th or 6th best player in this series (Rondo) is by far the most important.  On the other side, Miami has the big three.  You can tell me that Chris Bosh will be the X-factor, but I don’t buy it.  You can tell me that D-Wade has to be the closer, and thats true to a degree.  The most important player for Miami is LeBron James.  He is the best player on the court in this series.  He is the best all around player in the NBA.  He will be the one who decides this series.  People have talked about this being the most important series in his career to date, and I would agree.  Will he dominate like he is capable on both ends of the floor?  Will he put on the cape, drop triple-doubles, and lock down a much less explosive Paul Pierce?  There is no doubt in my mind that he can, but that doesn’t mean he will.  I still don’t know if he is a killer.  I don’t know if he is ready to take the next step in his legacy.  But the great thing about this series is that now Lebron has no excuses, regardless of the outcome.  He has the running mates, the home court advantage, and along with it he also has the expectations.  Sure, its the first year of the Heat experiment if you want to call it that, but didn’t they win more games than Boston?  Shouldn’t they be favored in the series at the higher seed, playing at home?  Should there be any excuse for them not to win this series?  My answer is a resounding no.  Rise to the occasion now, or end another season with more questions than answers, heading into a lockout and possibly being in the dark for a year, with more mounting pressure than ever.  Miami needs to win this series for more reasons than they probably realize.  They have the pressure, and America wants to see them fail.  Physically everything is in place, but in looking at the past this is a mentally weak team playing against their polar opposite.

Pick: Celtics in 7


Countdown: NBA’s Five Best Clutch Snipers

In NBA on April 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Last possession of a big playoff game, your team is down by 3.  Who do you want taking the last shot?  Well it obviously isn’t King James (I think we are all witnesses to that).  So lets countdown the five players I would want spotting up with the game on the line:

Honorable Mentions:  Dirk, Matt Bonner, Steve Nash, D-Wade, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Carmelo, Peja, D-Rose

5.  Kevin Durant

KD is 6’10 with a quick release, and ups his three point percentage from 35% during the regular season to 46% in the playoffs.  In Game 1 against Denver he went 3 for 6, and in Game 2 he was 3 for 7.  I’m not going to pretend that Durant has accomplished very much in his young career (no playoff series wins) but if I’m playing OKC and Durant gets a good look at the game winning/tying 3 against my team….I’m looking away from the TV because its probably going to splash.

4.  Kyle Korver

Kyle Korver wouldn’t have been on this list last year, and maybe not until this week.  Korver has always been deadly from downtown, but this year he has taken two big steps to land him at number 4.  KK has been building and showing flashes of clutch all year.  He led the NBA in 4th quarter 3’s during regular season this year.  Impressive.  What has he done since?  In Game 1 tied with under a minute to go, Kyle drains a spot up drive and kick 3 from the left wing to give the Bulls their first lead of the game.  Game 2?  Korver drops another game sealing dagger, this time from the right corner after a great pass from Noah.  Game 3 on the road?  Korver paces the Bulls struggling offense in the second half, with 12 points, 10 of them coming in the 4th quarter, both 3’s coming in the 4th, finishing 2×3 from downtown.  Korver rarely takes bad shots, can spot up or curl off screens, and he makes you pay for helping.  Why was Derrick Rose able to drive into the paint last night for the game winning lay-up?  Because the Pacers wouldn’t help off Korver who was ready to spot up on the left wing.  He kills you if you guard him, and he kills you if you don’t.

3.  Ray Allen

Do I need to get into stats with Jesus Shuttlesworth?  I didn’t think so.  Ray Allen is the all-time leader from deep for a reason, and if you need a refresher go look at what he did to the Knicks in Game 1.  Talk about ripping the heart out of your opponent.  Ballgame.

2.  Jason Kidd

J-Kidd isn’t a traditional three point shooter, and isn’t the first person you would have thought of on a list this short.  But this isn’t about a 3 point shootout, this is about having balls when the game is on the line, and Kidd has shown he can get it done.  Kidds regular season three point percentage?  34%.  His playoff three point percentage?  46%.  Have you ever seen a guy create space the way Kidd can without using the dribble?  Game 1 against Portland Jason Kidd comes out and knocks down 6 three pointers, including a dagger with 25 seconds left in the game.  Game 2?  Kidd goes 3-6 from downtown, 50% for you math majors at home.  In the only Dallas loss so far, playing catch-up Kidd hit the biggest shot of the 4th quarter last night that would have made it a one possession game, but it was ruled a 2.  Upon further review, they still ruled it a 2.  Upon further review, they got it wrong.  Jason Kidd is clutch from deep and as mentally tough as it gets, other than…..

1.  Kobe Bryant

Love him, hate him..whatever.  Kobe is an assassin.  I don’t need stats, a spreadsheet, or expert analysis to explain why Kobe tops this list.  Kobe has done it time and time again, most recently in game 82 to clinch the 2nd seed in the West, and once again rip the soul out of Sacramento.  All I’ve got to say is this:  Ask yourself – You have to pick one player to hit a shot with your life on the line that currently plays in the NBA.  You really going to go any other direction?  Its Kobe, and no one else is close.  (All-time life on the line?  1. MJ  2.Larry Bird  3.Kobe  357. LeBron)

(And with this article, LeBron will now sink 3 game winners in the Eastern Conference Finals against my Bulls, including Game 7.)

Bulls/Pacers Game 3 Update

In NBA on April 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

The Chicago Bulls take a 2-0 series lead on the road tonight to the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.  Even though 94% of home teams who go up 2-0 win the series, the Bulls can’t be happy with their first two games.  I’ll take a couple 5-6 point wins on the road, but at the United Center?  The Bulls had the best home record in the NBA this year and should be better against the 8th seed, although before the series started I said Indiana was going to be much tougher than people think. A scrappy, young division opponent is not something you want to see in the first round of any sport.

As of right now (1:30 pm) Darren Collison has been ruled a gametime decision according to K.C Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.  If Collison can’t go, AJ Price will get the start, and expect TJ Ford to see a lot of minutes.  In their final meeting of the regular season the Pacers beat the Bulls at Conseco Fieldhouse 115-108 in overtime.   Behind 42 points from Derrick Rose the Bulls were able to overcome a 20 point second half deficit, but the Pacers didn’t blink in overtime taking the lead for good.  Tyler Hansbrough, who has been impressive on the road in these Playoffs, had 29 points and 12 rebounds the last time these teams met in Indiana, while Danny Granger had 19.

Chicago has struggled to take control of either of the first two games from the get go.  It took 4th quarter surges, led by Rose and capped by Kyle Korver for Chicago to seal both games 1 and 2.  Korver, (the leader in 4th quarter 3 pointers) has been huge down the stretch for Chicago, and I would expect him to be out there late in close games from here on.  Though his defense is suspect at best, Korver hasn’t blinked in the clutch this season.  Carols Boozer bounced from a bad Game 1 with a strong performance in Game 2 dropping 17 points and 16 rebounds.  The Bulls will need Boozer to continue chipping in, especially on the road where Rose has had to carry much of the scoring load at crucial times this year.

My gut feeling is that the Pacers might win this game tonight.  I said before it started that this series wouldn’t be a sweep, and Game 3 is usually the best chance for the lower seed to win..(although as of yesterday there were still 2,000 seats open at Conseco Fieldhouse).  If Derrick Rose scores more than 32 points tonight, I think Indiana wins because it means the MVP isn’t getting help…again.  At 4.5 point favorites Vegas is thinking that on the road the Bulls will play better than they did at home, and the Pacers will play worse.  I don’t see it happening.

-Author: Dylan Austin