NBA Finals: Heat vs. Thunder

As heartbroken as I am to write this after C’s loss it must be done. But I will say, the Celtics fought hard and I truly hope last night wasn’t the last time us C’s fans see the original “Big 3” play together. I guess that is neither here nor there so let’s move on to what may be one of the best finals match ups in years. Finally, we have the two best players in the world going head to head in a battle to be the World Champions. You may say, “Well every year the best players match up”, wrong! If you look at the past few years in the NBA Finals, usually one of the best players makes it, sometimes neither of them. Last year it was LeBron and Dirk. Dirk was not one of the top two players in the league last year, he dominated the playoffs, but was certainly not top 2. The year before we had Kobe against the Celtics. No one on the Celtics was a top 2 player. And even the year before that, it was the same matchup. This year we get to see THE 2 best players in the world go neck and neck for the final prize.

Kevin Durant vs. LeBron james, arguably one of the best head to head match ups we have seen in a long time. Both teams come out of their respective leagues as the champs, and have been the favorites since the beginning of the season. The Thunder rolled through the West with relative ease. Sweeping the defending champion Mavericks in 4 games, beating Kobe and co. in 5 games, and won the Western Conference in 6 games, coming back from 2 down to take the series. The Heat have had a little tougher road getting through the East. In the first round the beat the utterly pitiful NY Knicks in 5 games (how that wasn’t a sweep is beyond me), they beat Larry Bird’s Pacers in 6 games, and finally beat the C’s in 7. The Thunder haven’t really been scared throughout these playoffs, whereas the Heat had a little scare put into them by the Celtics, having to go into the Garden in Game 6.

OKC has the ability to become a dynasty for years to come. They have all the pieces to help them dominate the NBA for quite a few years. When your best players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, are only 23 years old, the future looks extremely bright. Arguably the MVP of the playoffs, Kevin Durant, has been spectacular. Durantula has averaged 28 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists throughout the playoffs, but don’t think he has been doing it by himself. The Thunder’s biggest threat is their depth. They have a loaded bench highlighted by 6th man of the Year, James Harden. It also helps when you have one of the best PG’s in the league as well in Westbrook. At 22 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds a game, Westbrook is always a threat to do anything on the court. He has scary athleticism when he drives to the bucket and can dunk on anyone. The most important players on the Thunder are neither of those two though, they are Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Harden, who comes off the bench, would start on any other team in the NBA, but because of the lineup the Thunder he has to be the 6th man. He comes in and is an immediate spark. Harden is a matchup problem for most role/bench players that he is usually matched up against. One thing about Harden is that he always goes left. It doesn’t matter if everyone is in his way going left, he is shooting a left handed layup. It’s almost like Rondo never using his left, it’s that constant not using the other hand. Harden helps Durant and Westbrook by spreading out the floor. He has a solid 3-point shot, shooting 45% in the postseason. Ibaka is a whole ‘nother story. Ibaka is going to cause some problems for the Heat because as we all know the Heat can’t shoot the outside shot very well. They rely heavily on attacking the rim and finishing above the rim. Ibaka will make that a tough task, he averages 4 blocks a game and countless changed shots. He will be able to disrupt D-Wade’s drives as well as LeBron’s. Which is something that the Thunder will need to do consistently to help them gain an advantage.

Is it finally time for LBJ to get a ring? Will he finally get that monkey off of his back? I don’t know but I sure know he is going to come in prepared and won’t let what happened last year happen again. LeBron has come into these playoffs with a vengeance. It is crazy to me that people think that he hasn’t been playing well, what are you on meth? LeBron has been averaging 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game! Those are absurd numbers, yet people are doubting him. In Game 6 against the Celtics, possibly his biggest/most important playoff game he has ever played in, he was Superman like. He had 45, 15, and 5 and shot 73%. Incredible. I am ready to see a LeBron I haven’t seen yet. One that has a little chip on his shoulder, one that truly wants the ring. He won’t do it alone though. With the likes of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, LBJ will have help. In Game 7 against the C’s, Bosh was spectacular. Single handily broke the Celtics spirits with his shooting. And Dwayne Wade has been no bum, although he has gotten off to slow starts, Wade has been a force to be reckon with. Countless drives and acrobatic finishes have been in his highlight reel throughout the playoffs. I believe the two biggest keys for the Heat will be two players that are not in the Big 3. Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. Two outside shooters, who if they are knocking down shots, can kill teams and help lift the Heat. Battier is also one of the best on-ball defenders in the Association, I don’t know if Spoelstra will place him on KD, but Battier will be able to defend James Harden. The Heat matchup well everywhere except for in the paint, hopefully they will be able to make up for that with their on-ball defense.

This series has dramatics written all over it. I envision big shot after big shot, and big play after big play. There are too many stars in this series for it not to happen. The key to the entire series will be the defense of both teams. We all know that both teams can score and score at will. It will be the first team that can buckle down and get stops that will win this series. I love the Thunder in this one and I’d love to see a dynasty in the making. I’m taking the Thunder and LBJ will have to hear it from fans for another year.

  • Thunder in 6

Who would you take: Kevin Durant or LeBron James?

These 2012 playoffs have been begging NBA fans everywhere to debate this topic, who would you take: KD35 or King James? Both players are currently at the top of the basketball world. But you need to look at what these two players have been able to do this year, it is mind blowing. Every night you know you are going to get some sort of show. Whether it is KD’s scoring ability or the athletic freakiness of LBJ. They both bring different things to the table and both of them have different abilities that they can unleash on anyone at anytime. But, what makes one of them better than the other? Wins? Points? How clutch they may be? (which may take LeBron right out of it) or any other statistical category? I believe it comes down to who you would want on draft day if you were able to start a fantasy franchise.

Picture this: You have just purchased a team that will be located in Boise, Idaho, pretty much the middle of nowhere, where they might not even have basketball courts, but that’s besides the point. You now have control of an NBA franchise in Boise and you have been allowed to take any player you want from any team to become your franchise cornerstone. As you look throughout the entire league you know it boils down to two players, LeBron James or Kevin Durant. As the owner of the Cosmo Kramers (a little Seinfeld reference) you have the ability to take anyone. As LBJ and KD await to see who is picked in the infamous “Green Room”, you sit in your nice comfy chair and take a look at the reasons why you should take either one of these two.

Kevin Durant has been excellent this year. At age 23, he has been able to raise his game to an extremely high level and has not yet reached his potential ceiling. With as young as Durant is, he has all the intangibles that make him a leader. His calm and cool personality make him come off as less competitive, which couldn’t be any farther from the truth. This man is a cold-blooded killer, who can score 10 points on you at any second (Ask the Spurs after he scored 18 straight points in Game 4). What truly makes Durant special are not his numbers on the court but just how much he cares about winning. When your best player cares the most, plays the hardest, works the hardest, pulls for everyone else and doesn’t care about his own numbers, you’re always going to be in good shape. Durant has become the youngest scoring title winner, the next youngest was guess who, Kevin Durant. He has the ability to lead your team in so many ways. He can score, defend, rebound and be unselfish with the ball. I’m not the only one who is saying these things either, the NBA Coach of the Year, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, volunteered the following about Durant: “He’s arguably the greatest player in the world.” He’s pure on a Larry Bird level, just ridiculous. Durant is. LeBron’s not. Durant has averaged 28 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists a game this year, shooting the peach at a 50% clip.

LeBron James gives you something that not many players can, and that’s an all-around game. LeBron has the abilities to score, rebound, pass and defend the opposing teams best player. He gives coaches the ability to place him anywhere on the floor and give him any assignment. LeBron has done just about everything you can do in an NBA career and he is only 27 years of age. He has won 3 MVP’s, Rookie of the Year, and has been an All-NBA and All-Star selection every year since 2005. Those accolades are not what makes him great though, it is the way he plays the game. Like Jordan, LeBron has the ability to affect the game on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he can guard any position, we have been able to see this in the series he is currently in with the Celtics. He has guarded Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and even Kevin Garnett, and he was successful guarding all three. He rebounds the ball extremely well, using his athleticism and size to go up and grab boards at their highest point. LeBron is a physical marvel when you look at him. He is a human freight train when he drives to the bucket, no one is going to step in front of the Hulk. LeBron has averaged 27.1 points per a game, just a smidgen under Durant’s 28, with 7.9 boards and 6 assists.

Factually speaking, Durant is a better shooter than LeBron, and statistically speaking he’s a better scorer. He’s a similar rebounder. He doesn’t defend or create at LeBron’s level, but Durant is gaining ground in both spots. Given all that, LeBron’s better, right? It’s close, but he’s better. LeBron’s not just the MVP, though he is, but he’s also the guy you’d take if you were asked, “Who would you build a team around, LeBron or Durant?” I just don’t know if it is that easy of an answer. Durant is more clutch than LeBron. Durant’s a closer, a finisher. While the world was waiting for LeBron to inherit from Kobe Bryant the title of Game’s Best Closer, Durant snuck up and took it. The title’s gone. It doesn’t belong to Kobe anymore, and it might never belong to LeBron. Not while Durant’s around, closing out games and getting better at it. Durant also takes the cake when we move to the mind’s of both players. Mentally Durant is more tough and has the ability to stay composed under pressure. James looks like a 6 year old girl who doesn’t know where her doll is at the end of games. And that makes up a huge difference. That can make you a winner or a loser. We have all watched both of these players play and we know what each of them is.

So you give me the pick of the entire league and you want me to start a team from scratch, I know who I’m taking. As I walk my white envelope up to NBA Commissioner David Stern, I know I have made the right choice. Give me Kevin Durant with my first pick. I’d like to have LeBron, sure. I’d like to have the most talented all-around player in the game.

But I’d rather win.

So with the 1st pick in the new NBA Expansion Draft, the Cosmo Kramers select… Kevin Durant, Small Forward from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Celtics vs. Heat

Now as we all know I am a big Celtics fan and chose the Celtics in 7 in my last Eastern Conference Final article. I look at this game and what the Celtics were able to do in Boston, and I truly believe the C’s can win not only tonight but this series. I could care less if Bosh is back, I could care less if it’s in Miami, I could care less about what Rondo said (which is supposed to fire up the Heat). All I know is the Celts are going to come ready to play and take this Game 5.

NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals

This has been what every Celtics fan has waited for, a chance to beat the Heat. Neither of these teams are going to need a pep talk or any of that, every single player knows how important this series is. For the Celtics, it may be their last real shot at a title. And as for the Heat, it is time for LeBron to prove that he can win a championship and finally live up to what the Heat’s “Big 3” said. God only knows that LeBron needs this more than anyone. D-Wade has won a title and he was able to do it by himself. Don’t give me the, “He had Shaq” ordeal. We all know Shaq was on his way out during his Heat days, so let’s not get out of hand. This series will be a true test on how the Celtics can do without their best on ball defender, Avery Bradley. Bradley would have more than likely guarded Dwayne Wade, who has been on fire after what had been the worst game of his career. Ever since his 5 point, 2-13 shooting performance in Game 2, Wade has been a man amongst boys. He finished the last 3 games of the Pacers series averaging 33 points, 7 boards and 4 assists. Now I can only hope that Head Coach Doc Rivers does not assign Ray Allen to guard Wade, and let me tell you why. Allen has been absolutely brutal on defense ever since his multiple injuries. He looks like he should be using a walker out on the floor, and that won’t be acceptable guarding one of the elite scorers in the Association. The Heat come into this series without lead big-man, Chris Bosh, whichI didn’t believe would a big loss, but ended up being a real large one for the Heat. The Pacers were able to control the boards and the paint without Bosh being there, they just didn’t have the talent to keep up with the Heat.

Injuries have been big for both teams but don’t tell any of the players playing in this series. “I don’t believe none of that. No feet hurting, no (one being) tired, nothing. This is the Boston Celtics. They’re all 100 percent to me. When they play the Miami Heat, it’s a different ball game. And vice versa. No storylines. No excuses”, said Wade after being asked about the many injury issues. Both teams vow to focus on what they have working for them entering the series. But regardless of which team wins and advances to the NBA Finals, it will be one that had to survive significant adversity to get there. This short rest for the Celtics has almost been a blessing in the skies for them. When looking at it, it may seem as a bad thing, but if you look at it from a Celtics players perspective, it could be good. As we all know the Celtics are not a young team, heck they are ancient, let’s not beat around the bush, so rest could be the worst thing for them. As an old team rest may make the players stiff, and force players such as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to have to re-motivate their body and warm all the way back up. “I kind of like it for us,” Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. “It keeps us in rhythm. It keeps us playing. We’re an older team so we get kind of stiff when we sit around for too long. We like the fact that we’re going to go right into it.” Pierce knows how much energy this series is going to take, the question is, will the Celtics have enough in the tank to play a long series? And I just don’t know the answer to that. Ray Allen looks like he needs a wheelchair on the floor, and Pierce and KG have been logging some serious minutes in these playoffs. Pierce is averaging about 38 minutes a game, 2 more than his career average. KG is averaging just above 37 minutes a game, just a minute above his career average.

Many NBA fans are counting the Celtics out, to which I say, balderdash. The Celtics may not look like a good matchup for the Heat, but in reality the Heat are a better matchup for the Celtics than the Pacers are. The Heat have the dynamic duo, but other than that, it looks like the Celtics have a few advantages. The 2 biggest advantages are PG Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. Who is going to guard KG? Udonis Haslem? Joel Anthony? I mean no offense to those guys, but the way KG has been playing, he is going to embarrass them. Haslem and Anthony just don’t have the intangibles to guard KG. Defensively, KG is going to be able to park it down low and help out anyone and everyone on dribble drives, we all know offensively, Joel Anthony is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Another thing that helps the C’s in this series is that this is the kind of series that Rondo actually shows up to. He is one of those players, like one of my favorites, Antoine Walker, who show up “when the lights are on”. This series also should have enough “juice” for Rondo to be at his triple-double best, which is something the Celtics truly need. Paul Pierce may be a little taken out of his game with LeBron guarding him, if Rondo and KG can carry their load of the offense, Pierce will be able to get to his spots and hit is step-back jumper. I’m absolutely not counting the Celtics out that’s for damn sure, I just want them to keep it competitive, and give themselves a chance.

Miami comes in as the odds-on-favorites to take not only this series but the entire thing. The Heat have two of the best players to ever play basketball, the question is, will LeBron finally get his ring and silence the haters? The toughest thing for the C’s in this series, and the Heat’s biggest advantage, is how the Celtics defend James and Wade. So who is going to guard Dwayne Wade and LeBron? The short answer is anyone and everyone. You have to think Doc Rivers finally is going to utilize both Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic in this series. He has to, unfortunately, if for no other reason than to give Wade and James a different look. Don’t forget Mickael Pietrus, either. While he continues to struggle offensively, which he picked it up a bit in Game 7, he can defend. Throwing these guys in to defend LeBron and Wade is like throwing me out there, that may be a little drastic, but in all seriousness, the Celtics may be in some real trouble in this area. Don’t be surprised to see the Celtics go to a zone defense. It has worked before against Miami. Miami has other players who may be able to step up such as, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller (who looks like he is going to keel over tomorrow), and Shane Battier. If these guys are able to help out the Big 2, the Heat have a great chance to win the series.

No one, and I mean no one, is giving the Celtics a chance in Game 1 on Monday night. Why? Because it’s in Miami and the Celtics played on Saturday and had to travel on Sunday? That’s just ridiculous. Yes, the Celtics probably should have won the Philly series in5 games, but hey, who wants to make things easy I guess, right? Back in 1984, the Lakers were extended to six games in the Western Conference finals before finally eliminating Phoenix on a Friday night. They flew to Boston on Saturday to open the NBA Finals on Sunday afternoon — and beat the rested Celtics 115-109. Few expected the 2010 Celtics to beat the Magic in the conference finals, but with only two days’ rest, they flew to Orlando and beat the well-rested Magic in Game 1. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. And who knows what may happen. Maybe Lady Luck will be on the Celtics side within this week. LeBron could get food poisoning from the local restaurant and Wade could get hit by a car, I mean you never know. There is the great unknown in any series. Someone unexpected could make a difference in a big game. Someone (Insert Celtic Player Here) could find the Fountain of Youth (hey, they’re playing in Florida, which is where Ponce de Leon thought it was located). One minor adjustment could have major consequences.

I am just going to sit back and watch this series like I do every other one. This series is close to call but I’m a Boston guy, how could I go against the hometown team. We are the City of Champions, so what the hell, I’ll take the Celtics.

  • Celtics in 7
Dates/Locations/Times of Games
Game 1
Mon 5/28
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 2
Wed 5/30
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 3
Fri 6/1
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 4
Sun 6/3
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 5
Tue 6/5
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 6
Thu 6/7
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 7
Sat 6/9
8:30 PM ET on ESPN

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals

And here we are! It is now time that we crown a Western Conference champion. The Western Conference has been much more exciting than the Eastern Conference this entire year. One reason is that it was a toss up for who could win it. In the East most people, if not everyone, had the Heat winning it with ease and that was the consensus. In the West there were many teams that could have made a run at it. You had the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers, CP#, Blake Griffin and the Clippers, and you could have even thrown the tough, athletic Grizzlies in there. But there were always two favorites that stood out among the West, and they are both meeting in the Western Conference Finals. The #1 seed San Antonio Spurs bring experience and teamwork to the battle, as the #2 seed OKC Thunder bring youth, athleticism and 2 superstars to the battle, but this series won’t be a battle, it will be a war.

The San Antonio Spurs road a long winning streak at the end of the regular season into the #1 slot, and that streak continues today. The Spurs have won 18 of their last 21 games, which is extremely impressive for a team of their age. The Spurs may not be the youngest team (average age: 30 years old), but they bring an experience and team oriented style that has succeeded throughout the year for them. The Spurs roster has 6 players that have played in a conference championship/NBA Finals series (Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, Diaw, S. Jackson, Bonner). The Thunder have 1 (Derek Fisher). The Spurs continue to be lead by PG Tony Parker who is averaging (18, 7, 3), but he is not the only player playing well. Future HOF Tim Duncan has been holding his side of the deal as well, averaging (17,9,3). Stud 6th man, Manu Ginobli, has been bringing energy as well as scoring off of the bench for the Spurs. A big advantage that the Spurs may have in this series is sitting or standing at the top of the bench. His name is Gregg Popovich. The NBA’s Coach of the Year this year, has been leading this Spurs team throughout the playoffs and has led them to this great record in the last 20 games. Known for his short responses and stonewall demeanor, Popovich now needs to get ready to face the best duo in basketball this Sunday.

Durant and Westbrook, Westbrook and Durant, whichever way you put it, it works. The OKC Thunder have been on a roll throughout the playoffs, defeating two former champions, easily. The Thunder were able to sweep the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, and rollover the LA Lakers, 4-1. The Thunder now need to get ready for their best opponent throughout the playoffs and possibly throughout the season, the San Antonio Spurs. The key for the Thunder will be to keep feeding their two thoroughbreds, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both have been fantastic throughout the playoffs, and they will look to continue what they have already ben doing. Durant has been the star, averaging (28,8,4), and hitting big shot after big shot. Whether it was the game winning shot in Game 1 over the Mavericks, or the go ahead 3-pointer over the out reached hand of Metta World Peace in Game 4 versus the Lakers. Not to be overshadowed, Russell Westbrook has also been fantastic. Westbrook is the man who gets the Thunder going, physically and emotionally. He has averaged (24,5,4) through this postseason and looks to continue his success against the Spurs. Although those two have been the leaders for the Thunder we can’t leave out a few players that have helped the Thunder dominate this years playoffs. James Harden, the 6th Man of the Year, brings just about everything you can bring off the bench. Not only does he score, he is able to distribute the ball and guard just about anyone defensively. And if we are talking defense we are talking both Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. These two were able to shut down the top front court in the entire league in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Their length and size help them rebound the ball, block shots and disrupt shots all over the defensive end. Ibaka is averaging 6 rebounds and 5 blocks in the postseason and Perkins is averaging 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, but stats don’t show just how important these two are to the teams success.

We have some great match ups in this series. We have arguably the 2 best PG’s in the NBA going at it in Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. The key to this match up will be who will be the better defender between the two. If one or the other isn’t all there defensively, they will get torched. Parker and Westbrook are the two players that get their respective teams going. If either one of them can get going, the opposing team may be in trouble. Another great matchup will be how both front courts handle each other. It seems that Ibaka will more than likely be guarding Tim Duncan, and I’m interested to see how Duncan handles Ibaka’s length and quickness. The most intriguing and important match up of the entire series will be the two 6th men, Manu Ginobli and James Harden. These two players are the keys and X-Factors for their teams and who ever can play better will be able to help their team get important victories.

I am very excited to watch this series because we are bringing together two different styles of basketball. The Spurs are a slow it down, team-oriented, move the ball around offense, whereas the Thunder like to get the ball to their scorers and see what they can do. As always this game will be one on the defensive side of the ball. Both teams are able to score, but the winner will be the team that is able to defend. The Spurs have experience and excellent basketball I.Q., but I believe that the youth and athleticism of the Thunder will wear down the Spurs later in the series. But don’t get me wrong, this series won’t be a short one.

  • Thunder in 7

Dates/Times/Locations of Games

Game 1

Sun 5/27
8:30 PM ET on TNT @ Spurs

Game 2

Tue 5/29
9:00 PM ET on TNT @ Spurs

Game 3

Thu 5/31
9:00 PM ET on TNT @ Thunder

Game 4

Sat 6/2
8:30 PM ET on TNT @ Thunder

Game 5

Mon 6/4
9:00 PM ET on TNT @ Spurs

Game 6

Wed 6/6
9:00 PM ET on TNT @ Thunder

Game 7

Fri 6/8
9:00 PM ET on TNT @ Spurs

Top 5 NBA Playoff Performances of All Time

There have been many unbelievable playoff performances by individuals throughout the NBA’s existence. Basketball is one of the only team sports that can be taken over by an individual. One player can have the ability to take over a game and change its outcome. That is what makes basketball great. When you see great performances, you remember them for as long as you can. The only thing that makes them better is when they are done during the playoffs. Since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been putting up unbelievable numbers this postseason, I thought I’d put together the top 5 playoff performances of all time.

5) Miller Time: Reggie’s 25 fourth quarter game vs. Knicks

Madison Square Garden was Reggie Miller’s sanctuary. He thrived in big time situations, on big time stages. The regular season was always a warm-up for Reggie Miller. The 6-7 guard saved his best performances on basketball’s biggest stage: The NBA Playoffs and specifically, Madison Square Garden. And for a player who earned the reputation as one of the greatest clutch players in playoff history, Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Knicks in the most memorable “Reggie” game of them all. Knicks fans, especially Spike Lee, will always remember what Reggie did to them, but this game was a dagger for all those fans. For Miller, he relished being the greatest one-man show on earth, especially at the Garden. “You’ve got to be a bad guy,” said Miller. “Good guys finish last, I really do believe that. But I’m two different people. When I’m on the stage I’m into all of that. Away from it I have to ground myself. I’d drive myself crazy if I lived like that.”

4) Isiah Motors to 43 Points on a Bum Ankle

When did Isiah Thomas officially become a legend in the making? Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals — the third quarter to be precise. The Detroit Pistons were down to the Los Angeles Lakers, 56-48 early in the third, Thomas was in the zone, scoring 14 straight points. Then tragedy struck, Thomas went down. Thomas stepped on Michael Coopers foot on a fastbreak that he had led, and had to be assisted from the floor only to return 35 seconds later to continue his scoring spree, only this time on a sprained right ankle. Thomas scored a Finals record for most points in a quarter with 25, having hit 11 of 13 shots while giving the Pistons a 81-79 lead heading into the fourth. “What Isiah Thomas did in the second half was just incredible,” marveled Lakers head coach Pat Riley after the game.

3) Dominique Wilkins vs. Larry Bird 4th Quarter Duel

The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics were in a classic Eastern Conference Finals showdown. Dominique Wilkins scored 47 but Larry Bird scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics win, 118-116. Bird guaranteed that the Celtics were going to win Game 7, “They might as well forget it. They’ve got no chance… They had a chance to beat us and we all knew if we lost, it meant vacation tomorrow.” Bird and Wilkins went at it throughout the 4th quarter, one of those duels that basketball players dream about. The Celtics did not lose at the Garden very often and Bird was not going to let it happen, especially in a Game 7.

2) Magic does it all on 1 Night

He calls it his greatest NBA game ever. And when we are talking about one of the greatest players to ever play, he might have a lot of those. But, Magic did this as a rookie in the NBA. When 20-year-old rookie Magic Johnson received the news from Lakers head coach Paul Westhead that he was the Game 6 starting center replacing injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who was home in L.A. nursing an ankle sprain, he thought he was kidding. Magic, having the personality he had, took a seat at the front of the plane that was taking the team to Philadelphia and said, “Never fear, E.J. is here.” His Lakers teammates did not take him seriously, but they should have. For the game, Johnson recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals to clinch the Lakers first of five titles of the ’80s and was named Finals MVP for his performance.

1) MJ’s Flu Game

For a player who made a career out of heroic playoff performances, nothing topped Michael Jordan’s inspired play in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals. The Bulls had taken Games 1 and 2, but had fallen and found themselves tied in a series with the Utah Jazz, 2-2. What made matters even worse for the Bulls, Michael Jordan was suffering from food poisoning or an intestinal stomach virus and looked doubtful for Game 5. Even the Bulls’ team doctors thought that there was no way he could play. After remaining in bed for 24 hours, Jordan showed up at the Delta Center three hours before tip off, ready to give it a shot. And boy, did he give it a shot. Not only did MJ play a great game, but he played one of his greatest games ever, all while playing with the flu. Even Scottie Pippen didn’t think his teammate could play after seeing him inside the Delta Center before the game. “The way he looked, there’s no way I thought he could even put on his uniform. “I’d never seen him like that. He looked bad — I mean really bad.” Jordan finished with 38 points on 13 of 27 shooting in 44 minutes of action and left his coach and teammates in awe. “That was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Jordan said after the game. “I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game. If we had lost, I would have been devastated.”

Larry Bird: A True NBA Legend

The guy has done it all and it has seem to come so easily and naturally to him. God placed Larry Bird on this earth for one thing: basketball. Whether it was playing or just being a part of the game, Larry Bird has succeeded in all aspects of the game. The way the ball appeared almost destined to swish through the net every time he finished his lightning-quick release with a flick of his right wrist. The way he could suck a defender in while running the break, only to zip a no-look pass to a cutting Boston Celtics teammate for an easy bucket. The way he was able to relate to his Indiana Pacers players when he was a coach, pushing the correct buttons and placing them in winning positions, to the point where they reached the NBA Finals. The complexity of the executive’s chair proved far more difficult for Larry Legend to master, which may make his latest award in a career full of them that much more fulfilling. Bird was just named the NBA Exec. of the Year, making him the first and only person to be voted the NBA’s top Exec., Coach, and MVP.

“It was a long journey; it was a painful journey,” Bird told reporters in Indianapolis. “But now we think it’s going to pay dividends.” Bird was able to pick up an Indiana Pacers organization that had been a little down since the departure of legend Reggie Miller, and form them to what they are today, a contender. The three-time MVP and Hall of Famer received 12 first-place votes and 88 total points from a panel of team executives throughout the NBA. San Antonio’s R.C. Buford (56 points) finished a distant second, followed by Los Angeles Clippers GM Neil Olshey (55). In Bird’s first year as team President, he put together a 61-win team that look destined to be a power in the East you years to come. But then trouble struck.

The franchise-changing brawl at the Palace in Detroit in 2004 that interrupted and gutted a championship contender; a series of arrests and public embarrassments from his players in the following seasons that alienated a hoops-crazy fan base; and three coaching changes as he looked to change the culture of a free-falling franchise. A four-year playoff drought had many in his home state calling for Bird’s head, a startling fall for someone who once could do no wrong in Indiana. Bird fought through it all, he kept faith in the organization, and thankfully so did the people of Indiana. In 2006, he cleaned house. He was fed-up with what was going on.”We had to change the culture,” Bird said. “I thought Jimmy O’Brien really helped us in that aspect. He came in here and knew exactly what we had to do. We had to not only change the culture, but we had to take it slow and get some players we thought we could build around.”

The Pacers now find themselves in a 1-1 tie against the Miami Hat in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Bird has a lot to do with that. He was able to add some players, Bird added Granger, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough in the draft, George Hill, Lou Amundson and Leandro Barbosa through trades and David West in free agency. The astounding thing through all of this is that Bird hasn’t been able to just whip open his checkbook and sign these guys. Indiana is a small market team, which has put restrictions on money spent, and hasn’t allowed Bird to chase after max salary players. He had to worry more about team chemistry and who would fit into the Pacers system. “Small market teams have got to be careful with how they spend their money,” Carlisle said. “Larry has created the perfect scenario of great young talent and flexibility. That franchise is in a phenomenal position.”

Larry Bird has been able to do it all in the sport of basketball. He has been able to play at the highest level, coach at the highest level, and become an executive at the highest level. This shows just how great of a basketball mind and person Larry Bird is. And I would say he has done a little bit of a better job as an executive than another NBA legend, cough, cough, Michael Jordan.

Celtics Throttle Sixers In Philly

The Celtics played the best basketball they have played all playoffs last night in their win over the Sixers, 107-91. The Celtics top 3 players at the moment, KG, Pierce, and Rondo, all played incredible in the win. The best out of the 3 was Kevin Garnett. He posted 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting with 13 rebounds and four assists over 30 minutes in an absolutely dominating performance. Garnett was plus-27 during his time on the court, helping Boston open a double-digit lead at halftime and blowing the game open soon after. Rondo got the team going in the first quarter and in the first half. He chipped in 23 points, 17 of those coming in the first half, on 9-of-16 shooting, then settled into distributor mode, finishing with 16 assists over 40:44. Pierce looked ready from the get go. I saw many tweets that were stating, “Look at Pierce’s eyes, he is ready to go.” And those statements were true. You could just tell that Pierce wanted this game and wanted to make up for how poorly he had played in Game 2. He came back, still hobbling on that bad knee and played with a vengeance. After looking a step slow due to the sprained MCL in his left knee in Game 2, Paul Pierce came out with sleeves over his knees, but seemed to have a fire about him, grunting and screaming with boundless energy every time he went to the rim. Despite playing all of the first quarter, he still had enough energy and bounce in his legs in the final two minutes to produce a pair of dunks in a 25-second span, driving straight at the Philadelphia defense. It only lit the fuse for Pierce, who finished with 24 points on 6-of-17 shooting but got to the line often while connecting on 11 of 14 freebies. He added 12 rebounds and four assists over 37 minutes.

The 76ers were no slouches themselves, as they were able to gain a lead at many points throughout the game. The Sixers continue to be a scary team in my eyes because of their youth and athleticism. The way they can get up and down the court is scary, and can continue to cause problems for the aging Celtics. The one key to keep a team like Philly out of their transition play is taking care of the ball, one thing the Celtics did really well last night. Rondo gave the ball away less than a minute in, leading to an Andre Iguodala dunk in transition. From then on, Boston took care of the basketball, turning it over just one other time in the first half (it did lead to an Iguodala 3-pointer). As those two giveaways showed, the 76ers can do a lot of damage off turnovers, but the Celtics did a phenomenal job taking care of the ball and giving themselves a chance to put points on the board. Boston finished with a mere seven turnovers for seven points. If Boston can continue to take care of the ball like this, I believe they will be able to take this series handily. But turnovers can happen at anytime, and they can happen in bunches, which scares me a little bit.

I love knowing that the C’s stole home-court advantage back their way. When the Celtics play at home it seems that they play with a different tenacity and a different swagger. They play so well in front of the home fans, which makes the Garden that much better of a place to be in. When the Celtics come back to Boston, I believe that they will close out this series and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. But just how can the Celtics look so poorly offensively one night, then two days later go out and put up triple digits on the road? That’s the 2012 season in a nutshell. This team is frustratingly inconsistent on a night-to-night/game-to-game basis, but when the Celtics are on, they are on. Boston’s offense was locked in all night Wednesday and, once the defense tightened up after the first quarter, the game was rarely close again. If the Celtics came here to steal back home-court advantage, then they are already playing with house money in Friday’s Game 4. The Celtics stole that and momentum back by absolutely throttling the Sixers on their home turf. Of course, the question is whether they can carry it over to the next meeting. If they do, they could be headed back to Boston looking to close this series out. And who would of thought, looking at this team and this season, that the Celtics could be playing for a slot in the NBA Finals at some point? How sweet it is.

Boston Sports Review

I thought I’d go and talk about what has been going on within the past few days in the Boston sports hemisphere. The Red Sox are starting to finally gel and the pitching staff is finally starting to get their stuff together. The Celtics are battling through the playoffs, and I really mean battling. They are fighting through injuries, fatigue and a tough 76ers team. All in all, things are looking good if you’re a Boston sports fan, because as we all know, things can change in an instant.

After seeing one of most beloved teams in Boston sports fall, the Boston Bruins, a lot of people needed someone else to root for. The Bruins series was a heart breaking one, they had so many chances to take the series and especially take Game 7. I think that all Bruins fans will join me in saying that Bruins goalie, Tim Thomas, was not as great as he has once been. He gave up too many easy, should be save goals that ended up costing the Bruins. As the 2 seed, us Boston fans expected a lot more out of the club, but what are you going to do, just need to move onto the next team.

Which leads me to talking about the Boston Celtics. We are a lucky bunch of fans in Boston. We are able to move from season to season, team to team, and continually watch winning teams, usually. The C’s have been battling throughout the season and are now in the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs. They were able to fight off a feisty, young, and athletic Atlanta Hawks in 6 games, 4-2. With great performances by “The Truth”, KG and Rondo (Except for chest bumping ref Marc Davis), helped the C’s pull through yet another series as a team. In this 2nd round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics were able to steal Game 1 at home. Although they did not play well, Rajon Rondo’s triple double helped power the Celtics past the 76ers, 92-91. Rondo had 17 assists, 13 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth career playoff triple-double. He had six points, five assists and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics went on a 23-7 run to turn a double-digit deficit into a six-point lead with 78 seconds to play. KG, who was no slouch himself, had 29 points, his most in the regular or postseason this year — and added 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have really been non existent throughout this series due to injuries and that is what hurt them in Game 2. Pierce, who has been trying to nurse an MCL sprain, has been hobbling and gimping up and down the floor. Allen, who has been nursing a foot and ankle injury just about all year, has not been himself. He does not have the ability to fly off screens for jump shots like he usually does. In Game 2, the Celtics did not play their best game and it ultimately hurt them. They again were able to steal a lead away from the 76ers in the 4th quarter, but Philly took it right back and held on to win 82-81. Every time the Celtics appeared to have regained the momentum, the Sixers came up with an answer. The Sixers kept hitting timely shot after timely shot, and as a Celts fan you were just thinking, when will it end? And unfortunately it never did. Boston went without a point for 4:40, finally scoring when Pierce made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left in the period. The biggest moment of the game came when Kevin Garnett was setting a screen for Ray Allen in the final moments of the game. It may have been the right call, but as a referee do you make that call that late in the game? I believe as a basketball player myself, you need to let the players decide the outcome of the game rather than the refs. I do believe it was a moving screen, the video shows it. But was it the right call at that time in the game, I don’t think so. So I look forward to the Celtics going to Philly, where they absolutely need to steal one.

The Boston Red Sox, as we know, have been somewhat of a disappointment this year. With new manager Bobby Valentine at the helm, the Sox have gotten off to a rough start. They began the first 10 games of the season, 4-6. But went on to lose 5 in a row, then win 6 in a row, then lose another 5 in a row. If you are talking inconsistency, you are talking Red Sox baseball this year. And unfortunately you can’t place the blame on the hitting. The pitching staff has been anything less than brutal this year and it is the Sox’ number one problem. The Red Sox top 3 pitchers, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, have combined to win 9 games in 22 starts. Miraculously, I don’t know how, but Clay Buchholz is 4-1 with an 8.31 ERA. The hitters are getting the job done but the pitchers have not been. Which leads me to my next point, these past 5 games the Red Sox starters have all looked like Cy Young out there. There combined ERA over the last 5 starts is 1.57. That is incredible. The Sox have gotten great starts out of Daniel Bard, Felix Doubront, and their big 3. They have let up 8 runs in the past 5, with 5 of them coming in one game (Buchholz pitched, I guess that’s where the ERA comes from). But the last three starts may have been the best they have gotten all year. Daniel Bard threw a 7 hit, one run gem against the Indians. Jon Lester may have thrown one of his best games ever, in a complete game, 8 hit, 1 run win against the Mariners. And today, Josh Beckett, who has not been on the top of everyone’s happy list as of late, threw a 1 run, 9 K game today on his birthday. And let’s not forget about the offense i these past 5 games either. The offense has produced 34 runs in the past 5 games, with every player stepping up to the plate and bringing great confidence. The Sox are starting to put it together and I like what I am seeing. I know that many people are going to say, “Well all these games are against pretty poor teams…” Well I don’t really care and I will tell you why. Yes, I know you’re supposed to beat the bad teams, but I also know that sports is just as much mental as it is physical, and that’s why these games are important. They are giving the Red Sox a confidence that they have needed, and I hope they can ride it out.

NBA Playoffs Round 2: Western Conference

I already wrote what I think about the Eastern Conference playoffs, now it is time to write about the Western Conference. Possibly two of the best series we will see all year took place in the West. The Lakers-Nuggets series was fantastic and the Lakers big men ended up being the key to their game 7 victory. We saw the Thunder sweep the Mavs, don’t let the score fool you, the Mavs fought and battled, but the Thunder were just too strong. The number one seed also did not disappoint, as the San Antonio Spurs swept the Jazz with ease. They got great play out of their stars, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker. Possibly the best series that has happened so far in these playoffs, Clippers-Grizzlies, was a physical, grind it out type of series. Players were flying up and down the floor and getting fast break dunks and three’s, and that is what made this series great. The Clippers were able to hang on and take the series in game 7.

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (5)

The Spurs-Clippers series is going to be one to watch for one reason, the two styles of play. The Spurs are a grind it out, defensive minded, fundamental basketball team. Whereas the Clippers are an up and down, fastbreak basketball team. They match up well with each other, but can also exploit the other teams weaknesses. The Clippers will be able to take advantage using their athleticism to get up and down on the Spurs, whose best players are all above the age of 30. Don’t count the Spurs out though, they were the number one seed for a reason. They have been able to play “team” basketball. They share the ball with each other very well. The Spurs have 3 players above 5 assists per game. One big advantage they will help the Spurs out in this series is their coach, Gregg Popovich. The NBA Coach of the Year is no slouch when it comes to coaching his team. He was able to lead this old, no-superstar laden team to the number one seed in the Western Conference, which may have 3 of the top 5 teams in the NBA. Because of him I have to take the Spurs in this series, but that doesn’t mean the Clippers won’t give them a fight.

  • Spurs in 6

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (3)

The Lakers may be the toughest matchup for the favorite in these playoffs, the OKC Thunder. The Lakers matchup very well with the Thunder and have all the pieces to force an upset in the 2nd round. The Lakers have the big men to matchup with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will be able to match what those two bring in the paint, and will be able to have control on the boards for the Lake Show. Also, one great thing that will help the Lakers will be a man by the name of, Metta World Peace. World Peace is known as one of the great defenders in the game of basketball and he will be able to matchup with NBA Scoring Title Champion, Kevin Durant. But I still believe the Thunder will be able to pull through. Russell Westbrook and James Harden will be the X-Factors throughout the series. One, because I don’t know who is going to match up with those two. Two, they can both break out at any time. Kobe will not allow the Lakers to get blown out of the water or get swept. Kobe is the one thing that could truly get the Lakers past the Thunder. This may be Kobe’s real last chance to get back to the NBA Finals and he is going to give his all throughout the series.

  • Thunder in 7