Category Archives: 2013 NBA Playoffs

Life when the Spurs last made the NBA Finals

4471477257_3f861c2c64_o

Geoff Livingston | Flickr

Before finishing the sweep of Memphis last night, 2007 was the last time the San Antonio Spurs made an NBA Finals appearance. That feels like yesterday and forever ago at the same time. For someone now approaching their mid-20s (really depressing admitting that), 2007 to 2013 were times of major change that happened way too quick. Most of my best friends back in 2007, both in high school and college, are ones I haven’t spoken to in years.

But there’s more to 2007 than just depressing memories, and that’s what the NBA is for! Here’s how I looked at the NBA and other aspects of life back then:

NBA

If I have a soft spot for anything in 2007, it’s that Kevin Garnett was traded that off-season to a contending team. Trading Garnett is all I ever wanted after Minnesota imploded in 2005 followed by the likes of Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, and Marko Jaric playing at the Target Center the next two years. I don’t know how Garnett put up with it, but I’m glad 2008 happened. That’s all at another post for another time, specifically when Garnett retires.

Back to 2007.

Dirk Nowitzki being awarded as the 2007 MVP got awkward really fast, right? I remember the feeling of doom for the Mavs as they were being overtaken by Baron Davis and the Warriors. It was like they would never be the same and Dirk was going to be the next Karl Malone. That’s before he was even named MVP. It was similar with the Miami Heat last year after losing Game 5 versus Boston, but both the Mavericks and Heat bounced back. It took Dirk and Dallas four years while LeBron and Miami only needed two days.

But back in 2007, both Dirk and LeBron were at a weird stage in their careers. Dirk had an unfair Karl Malone tag on him while LeBron put in one of the greatest playoff performances ever in Game 5 at Detroit. The expectations of LeBron being the next Michael Jordan went from ridiculous to still ridiculous to believable, but still a bit ridiculous for many reasons. Now both players have their own places among the NBA’s best ever. Six years ago, there was a chance they would’ve been remembered differently.

Also having its place in history is this highlight from the 2007 playoffs:

What else was the NBA like in 2007?

  • Brandon Roy was Rookie of the Year. Sigh.
  • Caron Butler made the All Star Game along with Josh Howard, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Only the last two were injury replacements. Really.
  • Walter Herrmann made the All-Rookie 2nd Team. So did Adam Morrison.
  • The Hornets/Pelicans played their final season in Oklahoma City.
  • Did I mention Kevin Garnett was still a Minnesota Timberwolf? Pau Gasol was also a Grizzly.
  • The Toronto Raptors won more games than the Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics combined.

Actually, look at the records of the top eight Eastern Conference teams that year. Only three were in the playoffs this season:

1. Detroit Pistons 59-23
2. Cleveland Cavaliers 50-32
3. Toronto Raptors 47-35
4. Miami Heat 44-38
5. Chicago Bulls 49-33
6. New Jersey Nets 41-41
7. Washington Wizards 41-41
8. Orlando Magic 40-42

The West wasn’t as different as it is now. Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk remain on the same teams though Phoenix was still chasing a title at 61-21, Utah won 51 games, and the Lakers were just 42-40. Wait, that’s like this year’s Lakers. The Spurs were just being the Spurs: winning in not-so flashy ways all the way up to their championship. Like ESPN, I kind of buried them in this post even though they were the champs of 2007. I’ll never understand why ESPN treats the Spurs like they’re in the NHL.

Also, Miami’s title defense in 2007 was a joke. They suffered a sweep to Chicago and started their season with a 42-point loss against them. Dallas performed a similar crappy title defense five years later, though their roster went through major changes. 2007 Miami was probably what a few people continue to expect from San Antonio each year: For age to kick in.

Last but not least, here are some notable players who retired following the 2007 season:

It was also Chris Webber’s last relevant year. He only played nine games in 2008 for Golden State.

Overall, 2007 was the last of what felt like a three-year NBA grace period, in my casual-fan opinion. The end of the Lakers’ Kobe-Shaq era in 2004 started it and the Celtics’ Big Three era ended it. Just look at the Finals matchups from 2005 to 2007. Three of the possible six teams were the ’05 and ’07 Spurs and the ’05 Pistons. They weren’t exactly must-see TV for the casual fan. The other three: the ’06 Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks and the ’07 Cavaliers, and it was inevitable that the Spurs would sweep Cleveland in 2007. But that summer was David Stern’s wet dream. Basketball in Boston came back. Eventually, the Lakers would turn into a contender too.

Freaking Kwame Brown.

Other notable sporting events in 2007

  • Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and the rest of the Florida Gators repeated as NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball champions. Kevin Durant and Greg Oden were freshmen in college.
  • Candice Parker was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2007 NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
  • The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
  • Track and field star Marion Jones surrenders the five Olympic medals she won in the 2000 Sydney Games after admitting to doping.

Notable video games

  • Guitar Hero II
  • Mario Party 8
  • Halo 3
  • Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground
  • Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
  • Need for Speed: ProStreet
  • Rock Band

Notable albums

  • Graduation, by Kanye West
  • Taylor Swift, by Taylor Swift
  • Minutes to Midnight, by Linkin Park
  • Konvicted, by Akon

Notable hits that radio may or may not have killed

  • “Ayo Technology” – 50 Cent featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland
  • “A Bay Bay” – Hurricane Chris
  • “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” – Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em
  • “This Is Why I’m Hot” – Mims

Notable films

  • Spider-Man 3
  • Transformers: the very first one!
  • 300
  • Freedom Writers
  • Blades of Glory
  • Knocked Up
  • SuperBad
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Saw 97 Saw IV
  • Juno
  • Charlie Wilson’s War

2007 in television

  • Bob Barker hosted The Price is Right for the final time in June. Drew Carey announced as the new host in July.
  • The Big Ten Network launches, with the first game featuring Appalachian State upsetting Michigan 34-32 at Ann Arbor.
  • The Writers Guild of America commences a strike against production studios.
  • Poker After Dark debuts on NBC.
  • Mad Men debuts on AMC.
  • The Big Bang Theory debuts on CBS. Bazinga is born.

Notable shows and their awesome titles that either ended or were cancelled in 2007

  • Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks
  • Catscratch
  • The (White) Rapper Show

    • Um…
  • Acceptable TV

    • How ironic.
  • Anchorwoman

    • Hey, real original.
  • Slacker Cats

    • How could this not be exciting?

It’s astounding how many shows are cancelled in their first season. They’re like newly hatched turtles trying to make it out to the ocean. Only a few will survive, even fewer will survive predators such as big-ass birds (or in this case, studio execs?), but after that it’s totally tubular and whatever else the turtles on Finding Nemo said.

Myspace

Can you put me in your Top 8?

Put me in your Top 8!

Myspace in 2007 was today’s Twitter and Facebook in terms of popularity. You could customize your profile, take quizzes that show what kind of person you are, choose your own theme music, and a couple other cool things I’ll go into detail. Basically, Myspace was a dream for a high school student, which was perfect since that’s who I was until graduating in 2007.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s profile was always #1 on my Top 8. It was likely one of the reasons why my girlfriends during the Myspace years dumped me. Well, that and “Hypnotize” by Young Jeezy was my profile music through most of 2007. What in the world…

You know how unfriending someone on Facebook can legitimately destroy friendships? The same could’ve been said when ranking someone too low on one’s Myspace Top Friends list, better known as the Top 8. Ranking them too high quite possibly could’ve had a similar effect, like whoever did that would come off as clingy instead of nice.

Along with the Top 8, everyone–yes, everyone–posted self-fulfilling surveys on the bulletin board, and Myspace’s versions of subtweets. (This happened on Facebook too.) I took way too many hours out of each day to read surveys from girls I liked, hoping when they answered a question that involved naming their crush that it would be me. It never happened, at least until I was in a relationship. Then it had the opposite feeling I hoped for when I was single. Typical high school dramas.

Coincidentally, the site declined as soon as I went off to college. Since then, a sense of creepiness became associated with Myspace. I can’t explain this any better way than a brief conversation a year ago with a blonde lady similar to my age at a college bar called The Press. She was tall, sounded intelligent, and best of all I didn’t have to do anything to get her attention. She just walked right up to me. We talked about photography, which was cool since I had to take a photojournalism class in the fall and it gets tiring always talking about the shitty music played at the bar. I kept thinking to myself why she even came up to me until she asked if I had a Myspace, because that’s where her modeling pictures were. It explained everything, I thought. She had nowhere else to go but to me. It happened more often than I’d like.

Nobody I knew went on Myspace past 2009. Since then, all the news I heard associated with the site had to do with sex offenders. (Seriously, check out that link.) The fact that this girl I met at the bar was on Myspace in 2012 gave me the feeling she was bad news. I was probably going to be abducted that night, either by her or some middle-aged creep she probably knew, who knows.

I left and went to Jimmy John’s.

slocum ap

Yeah, I compared Gilbert Arenas’ career to Myspace. I went there and I’m never coming back. (Slocum/AP)

Myspace had an arc similar to the career of Gilbert Arenas. When Arenas was on his game he was one of the most prolific scorers in the mid-2000s, just like how Myspace was one of my favorite websites during the same time frame. Arenas became more of a problem though after 2007, only instead of a Myspace-like creepiness he was involved in a gun-related incident with teammate Javaris Crittenton.

Orlando traded for him later the same year. Why they would want anything to do with him? It was just like when I asked myself why Myspace Girl, as I now call her, ever talked to me.

YouTube

Like Facebook, YouTube was just starting to catch on in 2007. My friends and I spent way too much time in our college dorms talking about all the cool videos we watched. Basically, it was our alternative to talking about the best porn videos. I soon became an aspiring vlogger, only I didn’t have a camera of my own. When I came home on the weekends I took my dad’s video camera and recorded my acne-ridden face over films my dad taped from the 80s. This really happened. I vented about my roommate and the shitty job I worked at over the past summer, but nothing ever happened with those videos. Five years later, I’m very thankful for that.

Instead, I have this: A blog where I try to write about what life was like back when the Spurs last made it to the NBA Finals. The core of their team back then is the same as it is now, making their last title feel like it was only yesterday. When they meet LeBron James with the Heat or Paul George and the Pacers, it will feel like forever ago.

Also, I’ve gained like 30 pounds since then.

For a shorter, similar post related to 1997, check this out.

Thoughts on OKC-Memphis, Indiana-New York, NBA names, and more

There’s no smooth way to introduce this, so I’ll resort to issuing a warning: it’ll become evident by the very end how bored I was while writing some of this up. Just trust me on that. Here’s what I came up with anyway:

Last thoughts on the first round

For Chicago, Jimmy Butler played every second of Game 6 and 7 versus Brooklyn. He wasn’t subbed out, ever. Kobe’s jealous.

Here’s a video of the 19-0 run Boston pulled versus New York:

In my post reflecting on the first round, I wrote this year might be the one where Kevin Harlan’s hair lights on fire. Had he called that Knicks-Celtics game, it surely would’ve happened.

Moving on

As unfortunate as the Russell Westbrook knee injury has been, it’s been fun to see what Kevin Durant is capable of when he’s the first and second option on offense. Since Westbrook’s injury, he’s averaged 35.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. 2006 Kobe is jealous.

Durant’s shooting percentages vary, with making 29 percent from the arc but 50.9 percent overall. He’s 85.7 from the line, which is below his 90.5 percentage from the regular season, but he’s getting to the line 10.2 times per game. That’s about an extra attempt than his regular season average. It’s a decent tradeoff.

Derek Fisher has to make just about every three he takes to justify playing his flop-heavy defense. Well, he’s made 58 percent so far. Good enough.

One of Memphis’ weaknesses on offense is making threes. They’re 24th in that area when it comes to shooting percentage, but the results have been pretty good when they make as many or more than their opponent, at least in the regular season. They were 9-1 when they made as many threes as their opponent, with the loss coming to the Clips. When they made more threes than their opponent, they were 19-6. Three losses came to Denver, one to the Clips, one to Oklahoma City, and one to, um, Washington? Huh?

It’s been a little different in the playoffs. Memphis is 1-1 (won Game 4 vs LAC, lost Game 2 vs LAC) when they’ve tied their opponent in threes made. Durant’s go-ahead bucket in Game 1 also put Memphis at 1-1 when they’ve made more threes than their opponent. Their win came in Game 6 versus the Clippers. We’ll see if that statistic changes throughout the series.

One last Memphis stat: in the Western Conference semifinals, Marc Gasol is knocking down one referee per game:

+1 for Bill Kennedy doing a reverse somersault.

Moving on to Indiana and New York. There was some talk, at least on Twitterslovakia, that the Knicks have nowhere to go but up as far as their shooting is concerned. In Game 1, Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, and J.R. Smith combined to shoot 39.3 percent (26-66) from the field, 33 percent from 3 (5-15), and 16-19 from the line.

Smith’s shooting numbers since coming back from his suspension: 12-42 from the field, 6-17 from 3 and 14-18 from the line. He did have a huge layup + foul in Game 6 at Boston, but other than that he’s been forgettable. Also, Jason Kidd has been ghastly, going 3-12 from the arc and 3-18 total.

So the talk of Melo and the Knicks backcourt struggling is true, but Indiana didn’t exactly light it up either. In Game 1, the trio of David West, Paul George, and George Hill combined for 39.1 percent (18-46), 4-16 from 3, and 13-15 from the line. The contributions from the rest of the Pacers set them apart in the first game. D.J. Augustin, for heaven’s sake, came into Game 1 shooting below 30 percent in the first round against the Hawks and 35 percent for the whole season. He was 5-6 with four threes yesterday. During the season, Augustin took more than five shots 19 times. He only shot 50 percent or better in four of them.

Lance Stephenson has been a beast on the boards, logging more rebounds (61) than points (58). His defensive rebounding percentage versus the Hawks was 24.7, higher than the regular season percentages of Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bogut, and David Lee. Surely, that percentage went up after yesterday’s 11-point, 13-rebound (11 defensive) performance. Still waiting for it to update on basketball-reference.com. Hurry up.

Update: that number jumped to 26.1 percent. When comparing defensive rebounding percentages in the playoffs, his rate surpasses the likes of Omer Asik, Andrew Bogut, and Larry Sanders.

And then there’s Roy Hibbert. Yesterday was proof that +/- differentials have their flaws. Hibbert was -1 in that area, but his defense was brilliant while chipping in on offense at just the right times. He logged 39 minutes. It was the second-highest total all year and second-highest of his postseason career, behind 39 minutes and 53 seconds against Miami in game 6 last postseason.

As Indiana has their hands full trying to defend Melo, so too will New York when trying to defend David West and Roy Hibbert. I predicted them to either lose to New York in five or beat them in six. It’s basically the difference between the unselfish, quick-ball-movement Knicks and the iso-heavy, this-is-why- I-don’t-like-you Knicks. It’s not like Indiana lit it up against Atlanta either, needing six games to finish them off.

If I had to pick between Melo and Paul George, I’d take George. Besides being six years younger, he’s more of a complete player. I know it’s crazy when thinking about defense, but it’s half the game and George has been terrific on that end. As a team, Indiana leads the league in defensive rating by nearly three points, 95.4 to Memphis’ second-place 98.1. When George is on the court, it drops to 94.9 but rises to 97.9 when he’s on the bench. A three-point swing on a team like Indiana’s has a little bit more weight.

But Melo attracts more attention. When he creates for others, the team is fun to watch and a little more likeable. Will we see that Knicks team this series or will they flame out versus Indiana?

This makes me feel a little better about my playoff predictions:

And last and definitely least, in one of the more degenerate statistics I’ve discovered, eight out of the top 30 players, according to ESPN’s #NBARank from April, have two first names. The list: Zach Randolph, Paul George, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. What it all means: I need to get out more.

It’s pretty embarrassing to take a whole five minutes to research that, so I’ll deflect the attention back to Charles Barkley, who nearly broke a couch while trying to tackle Shaq Saturday night.

NBA Playoffs: Lasting memories from the first round, predicting the second

Sometimes it feels like the first round of the NBA playoffs is longer than the actual season.

It didn’t help that most teams were marred by injuries. Oklahoma City lost Russell Westrook in the middle of their series versus Houston, star point guards were already missing from Boston and Chicago, Kobe might not be in the postseason until 2015, Stephen Curry’s ankle scared the daylights out of every NBA fan; the list feels endless and is the most injury-riddled season in years.

But the first round didn’t end without speculation. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, two all-stars for their respective teams in Los Angeles, both enter free agency after hitting the showers early in their elimination games; Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce head into the summer with a Celtic team about to enter a new and youthful era; and Brooklyn, despite having worse spending habits than Latrell Sprewell, came up empty in the first round.

Where do the teams previously mentioned go from here? What about the players? What about Latrell Sprewell? Will we find out anything soon? Probably not.

Until then, we get to watch the elite like LeBron James try to make it the year Kevin Harlan’s hair literally lights on fire. We also get to watch up-and-coming players bloom into stars, like Stephen Curry did against Denver.

Both James and Curry have put on clinics all season, but Curry’s now driving a national audience bonkers with his shooting (and passing) performances. It was my favorite memory from the first round. Here are the rest of my takes from each series, including more of Curry and a look into the second round matchups:

Miami (1) – Milwaukee (8)

The series kind of really looked a lot like this:

In case you were confused, the Heat were the cheetahs and the Bucks were the gazelle.

If only it was narrated by Kevin Harlan, who we know at least likes watching birds, you know, the ones that look like Chris Anderson.

Brooklyn (4) – Chicago (5)

It’s too bad Kahn got fired from the Timberwolves, otherwise the notion that Brooklyn is “one player away” would be curable.

Anyway, it’s really tough to make a highlight reel of the Nets and Bulls series. One team is about as emotional as a refrigerator, the other on their last leg heading into Miami.

There was nothing new from this series, though. Joe Johnson turned in a typical Joe Johnson performance, nobody on Brooklyn wanted to take the final shots, and the Bulls proved their doubters wrong by turning in one of the best performances ever under Tom Thibodeau. Somehow, none of that was surprising.

Here were my favorite highlights of the series. The series was so pedestrian I had to start looking for these before the series even started.

And then what summarized game 7:

Round 2: Miami-Chicago

Captain Obvious says it’s going to be a physical series. The Bulls will have a couple games where they stay within striking distance but won’t get over the hump without Rose.

How far Chicago pushes Miami really depends on Luol Deng’s status throughout the series. They can push it to as much as six games with him and most of the Bulls squad ready to go.

But Miami doesn’t have a second gear. They have NOS, and I expect them to use it in four out of five games.

Miami in five, but it will be closer than some may think.

Indiana (3) – Atlanta (6)

The NBA TV special!

This series was a lot like the Miami-Milwaukee series, with one slight difference:

New York (2) – Boston (7)

I know objectivity is awesome and all, but the New York Knicks are approaching 2011 Miami Heat territory on teams I don’t want to see win it all. Five reasons:

  1. The Knicks signed Quentin Richardson for what reason? He hasn’t been relevant for nine seasons.
  2. The team as a whole wore black before game 5, which backfired. Didn’t Jason Kidd have something to say about that? Wasn’t he brought in for leadership? What about Marcus Camby? Kurt Thomas? Hello? No, go away Rasheed Wallace.
  3. It’s also too bad Kenyon Martin refused to address the black outfits after the game:
  4. Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton’s body language never fall short of hilarious. By hilarious I mean an annoyance similar to that of washed up, overweight basketball players that consistently ruin the fun of noonball on my college campus.
  5. Then there’s Spike Lee, who turned what should’ve been one of the great sports films of all time in He Got Game into just good, thanks to a plot involving Denzel Washington and a hooker. It’s been 15 years and that still drives me through the wall.

I have to give it up to the Knicks though. They’ve needed Martin to take on a huge role with Chandler banged up this postseason and he’s put in 8.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 6.3 (!!!) fouls per 36 minutes. Chandler’s per-36-minute numbers: 6.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, 0.8 blocks.

Felton and Shumpert have had their ups and downs, but they hassled Paul Pierce into his worst playoff performance since 2004. Shumpert’s made J.R. Smith expendable with both his offense and defense, but especially his defense that threw Pierce out of whack.

As for Boston, the KG era really does feel final. There’s a lengthy blog post about that for another time. Until then, I’ll be distracting myself from what looks like the end to the careers of two of my childhood heroes.

The way they went out was valiant though. I knew when I flipped the channel from their game to Pacers-Hawks that it was too awful to be true, and it was. Their 19-0 run in the fourth quarter might not have been enough to keep Garnett and Pierce around for one more season, but it was enough to make me look forward to the future of the Celtics.

I constantly find myself scared of their rebuilding phase, but then I remind myself that Rick Pitino isn’t around like he was in the late ’90s. Everything’s going to be all right this time around. Hopefully.

Round 2: Indiana-New York

Whatever happens, I’ll be enjoying the ‘90s flashbacks of Pacers-Knicks series and not-so-secretly hoping Kenyon Martin fouls David West one time just a little too hard.

It will be interesting though to see how the Pacers defend Melo and Shumpert. Will David West, of all Pacers, see limited minutes if the Knicks continue to go small? Where do they hide West now with Shumpert’s ability to score off the bounce and from 3?

I have the Knicks in 5. I can’t see them winning game 6 in Indiana and I find it hard to believe the Pacers win three games against New York.

But then again, Amare Stoudemire is rumored to come back by Game 3. Uh-oh.

If that happens, Pacers in 6!

Onto the West:

Oklahoma City (1) – Houston (8)

This series resembled a blogger taking potshots at a nationally-known journalist.

First, there was the Patrick Beverley-Russell Westbrook feud that really wasn’t anything until Westbrook needed knee surgery after game 2. I have yet to know where Beverley even went to college, as was the case for (hopefully, just so I don’t feel bad) several NBA fans until the series shifted to Houston.

It still feels like bad blood remains, as I wrote in my previous post regarding the two.

And then Royce White chimed in after Houston won game 5 at Oklahoma City.

roycewhite1

roycewhite2

Durant fired back, with a metaphorical rifle of some sort.

From the AP, which ESPN posted on their Web site:

Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant isn’t worried about tweets from Houston rookie Royce White that say the Thunder are looking shaky.

“Who’s he?” Durant asked Friday at practice.

Good question!

“I haven’t seen him on the bench,” Durant told reporters. “He hasn’t played against us, so I’m not worried about guys that’s not even in our series. Ain’t that the guy that can’t, that’s afraid to fly? I wish him the best. If I see him next year, I’ll let him know who we are.”

Asked if comments such as White’s raise his ire, Durant brushed them off.

“I don’t get fired up off stuff,” Durant said. “I get fired up just playing this game, enjoying the game. Like I said, I wish him the best. I wish he could have played and really felt this intensity for a playoff game, but I guess watching on TV is better.”

Boom. Durant did everything but threaten to throw a paper plane at him.

Clippers (4) – Memphis (5)

Watching Marc Gasol was/still is like watching Adam Sandler act, but the opposite. Each year, Gasol’s game grows. He knows where to be on each side of the court, he knows the passing lanes to clog and the cutters to bump on defense, his jumpshot (like Randolph’s) defies the definition of a jumpshot, and he makes free throws. (!!!)

Both Gasols, really, are a reminder it doesn’t take a big man who catches insane lobs (DeAndre Jordan), swats shots into the third row (McGee, Ibaka), or runs the floor like a deer (basically every center under 30 except Gasol and maybe Nikola Pekovic) to make an effective center.

Meanwhile, to complete the reference to the opposite of watching Adam Sandler, Sandler hasn’t starred in or written anything worth watching (I haven’t watched Punch-Drunk Love) in almost 15 years. Even then, the humor in The Waterboy continues to turn more annoying as the years go by. I’m not bitter, I just can’t stand worse acting than Derek Fisher and worse writing than my own. If only I noticed that during my childhood.

For the sake of my blood pressure and overall well-being, I’ll stick to watching Marc Gasol who stays within himself each game. Without his consistent excellence, Memphis isn’t the painful out they’ve been for the last three years.

This was also the series that put the Rudy Gay talk away for good. As Toronto sets themselves up for mediocrity for the next couple of years, Memphis remains a dark horse contender even with Jerryd “The Other” Bayless as their sixth man. Amazing.

As for the Clippers, it looks like the end of their run with Chris Paul.

And if he left, I wouldn’t blame him.

Vinny Del Negro played 12 guys in his final game as the Clippers head coach. Lamar Odom played 23 minutes and his plus-minus differential was -22, Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford played a COMBINED 21 minutes, Willie Green logged 14 minutes in his first game in a week, and Grant Hill played 20 in his first playoff game this postseason.

I don’t know what to say. I’ve seen worse recipes for disaster, but only from my own cooking.

My final thought on the Clippers season: I feel bad Grant Hill won’t win a ring.

Round 2: Oklahoma City-Memphis

Separately, Kendrick Perkins and Zach Randolph might not make for good TV. Together, they make enough drama to rival any MTV reality show (except THIS drama is actually real and not fabricated).

I also not-so-secretly hope Durant gets into it with Randolph at some time or another.

The matchup between Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will also be intriguing, as each relies on an opposite skill than the other.

Bayless should have a good series if Scott Brooks sticks Derek Fisher on him. I’m not looking forward to that or any other situation where Brooks out-thinks himself.

Actually, both head coaches in this series are weirdos, but Vinny Del Negro is eliminated. At least there’s that.

Prediction: unless Reggie Jackson or Serge Ibaka play a couple levels up, I got Memphis in six games and Russell Westbrook having the most unhappy off-season ever.

Denver (3) – Golden State (6)

Here’s one of several videos summarizing how awesome Stephen Curry was versus Denver:

I actually really like these videos, as jiggly as the camera phones may be. They give more of a sense of how nuts it really was at Oracle Arena, which sounds more like a dental center than a basketball arena, but whatever.

The reactions of the fans at Oracle have become priceless when comparing the same ones in Atlanta when Josh Smith shoots. Here’s a typical reaction from Warriors fans when Curry lines up his first 3 of the night:

“Yes! For the love of God, shoot it!” the fans scream.

(Simple enough, right?)

The ball sails through the net. The crowd goes bonkers, praying for 20 more shots from beyond the arc. Win or lose, they know how awesome it is to have Stephen Curry on their team. They have him at a bargain, for $44 million over 4 years. They can’t help but think this is going to be something special after going through one of the most embarrassing seasons ever last year just to get here.

I don’t blame them. I hope they’re right.

At the end of the night, they line up near the tunnel, praying Curry throws them his mouthguard.

Now, here’s a typical Hawks fan in Philips Arena when Josh Smith lines up a similar 3:

The ball sails through the net. Everyone from the crowd, including fans for the other team, takes an Aspirin knowing Josh Smith now has the confidence to take five more threes. The Hawks fans can’t wait for Josh Smith to hit free agency. In the meantime, they come together to launch an investigation to hunt down whoever told Smith he could make a jumpshot.

Spurs(2) – Lakers(7)

I don’t know what to think of this alley-oop:

Or Phil Jackson’s response:

phil1

As it turned out, there really was an earthquake felt over Los Angeles, but the metaphorical one was one of the final nails in the Lakers’ coffin.

But I’m left asking myself if the Spurs are really back. Are they dangerous again, or did they feed off the poor version of the 2004 Lakers? I like to think they are if Tiago Splitter is back. Memphis and them pose the toughest out for Miami.

And really, that’s all I want at this point. This reeks of 2001 where the Lakers bulldozed everything in their path. If the Spurs can stay healthy, they match up very well with the Heat (or at least better than Oklahoma City and even Memphis).

The Dwight Howard ejection was anything but a highlight, but it was certainly the most talked about part of the series. There’s nothing else to add to it that I didn’t already explain in a previous post.

As for the Lakers’ season, it was a lot like a disc golf session I had a week ago. The beginning sucked. My discs were deflecting off tree limbs, skipping off the grass unintentionally at times and in another instance I nearly landed one in a garbage can. I kept saying after every hole that the next one would be when the game REALLY starts.

It only kept getting worse. By the time I reached the end, I accepted that I indeed suck at disc golf.

I had a few good throws though, which was enough to keep me coming back. The weather was beautiful, too.

Does Dwight Howard feel the same way about his time in Los Angeles? We’ll see.

Round 2: San Antonio-Golden State

Tim Duncan finished off the JaVale McGee-Dikembe Mutombo hybrid named Dwight Howard. Now, he’s matched up with the Australian behemoth in Andrew Bogut and a top five name in Festus Ezeli.

Meanwhile, Curry just might be the one guy who forces the NBA to create a four-pointer from half court and beyond. When’s the last time someone brought the ball up the court and kept fans on their toes, waiting for him to shoot it from any spot on the floor?

The Spurs are a very different (and surprisingly healthy) beast than Denver, but I’m sure Spurs fans fear a 10-for-12 night from three by Curry that costs them their home court advantage.

But this series feels more like a lesson of growing up, much like the Thunder-Lakers series of 2010. A team that consistently stays calm under pressure in the Spurs will take on another that literally tried to give game 6 away versus Denver.

Spurs in five, though I’m not necessarily rooting for this outcome.

Push it to seven, Golden State.

%d bloggers like this: