The semifinals’ matchups have actually just completed their second games save for the Warriors-Jazz series which is still in its Game 2 as of this writing.
While there are teams that may be rusty or feeling the jitters in their first game, it actually tells a lot of what is to come in their matchups. This is why X factors become even more important after a loss, and eventually for teams to turn the tide in their favor for the rest of the series. CLICK HERE for ’em semis’ X factors.
Now, let’s check out the first games of the four semifinal pairings.
EAST: WAS 111, BOS 123
In the first game between the Wizards and the Celtics, we saw the C’s sink 19 threes en route to a Game 1 thrashing of the Wizards.
EAST: TOR 105, CLE 116
The Cavaliers showed no rust in their first game back after a long lay off instead we saw a familiar, jittery Toronto Raptors team.
WEST: HOU 126, SAS 99
With 22 made threes, how could the Rockets lose? What was surprising though was the kind of effort the Spurs displayed.
WEST: UTA 94, GSW 106
This game was more than just the Warriors’ fabulous 4, we all know how explosive they could be — ey, the Jazz was simply star-struck!
Bottom line: If you can’t get back to your strengths and utilize ’em X factors, it could be time to plan your vacation and go fishing!
Well, Tim Duncan just retired — and what a way to end his career?! Low-key. Very Duncan-like. And to think that he’s probably the best power forward in NBA history!
Okay, Duncan is already 40 which is why he hung up his jerseys. Yes, even as Manu Ginobili said ‘we all knew it’s coming but still, you can’t help but get moved’. Then again, what is really behind Tim Duncan’s retirement other than age? See, this line of something like “I’m done when it’s not fun anymore” is kinda over-used by almost every player who retires or thinks of retiring; and so, we looked at what ‘could be’ behind such an ‘infamous’ line.
Simple. Not fun means ‘they can no longer do what they were used to doing’. So, understandably, ‘not fun’ is really about one’s pride — especially if you are a known player.
In Tim Duncan’s case, he was just not himself in their recent PlayOff loss to OKC. Ah, don’t count the last game. One good game is not enough to wipe or establish one’s series performance. Tim has been great in his career, no doubt, which is why he is considered as the game’s best PF. But at his age, he forgot that he needs to exert more energy (than he used to) to get the job done. That’s why he wasn’t as effective against the bigs of OKC. He just didn’t push himself.. And he didn’t know it.
Now, whether it’s Duncan or not, if you just do not put much effort especially in an advanced age then he just won’t be as effective. So, this could also be an ‘unconscious fear’ that has crept ‘unknowingly’ to the player — since he’s losing his former strength, speed, vertical leaping ability or athleticism. Seriously. That’s worrisome. That just takes out the fun inside you.
And so, when Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with the Golden State Warriors — that just about ‘unconsciously’ made up Tim Duncan’s mind to retire. Because now, it would be harder for the San Antonio Spurs to make the NBA Finals. Yes, even with the signing of Pau Gasol. And that’s not fun. So, better retire than to go through the pain of missing your coveted sixth championship. Again.
Yet for the Spurs fans, if only Green and Mills could be as deadly as they used to be — more so, if Manu Ginobili could be even half the offensive player he used to be; lest, if the Spurs could add one more deadly shooter like a Belinelli or even a Ben Gordon — then they got a chance. And who knows, if Timmy realizes this — he might just unretire and play even one more season.
So, now that Kevin Durant has agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors, so many questions abound for every team — and for every fan.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO OKC?
Honestly, with the trade of Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo and company, we felt that the Thunder could be on its way to the next step. The Finals? Safe bet. After all, they actually had the Warriors on their heels before their monumental collapse. Well, it’s just that OKC only needed a third option that the dynamic duo could entrust the ball to especially when things get tight for ’em both; and who could better fit the bill than Oladipo. So, Kevin Durant going to the Warriors was a bit of a surprise really. Besides, it would have been nicer for KDs legacy if he just stayed in one team.
Now, OKC could be in the same mold as the Blazers last season — somehow, groping — with only Damian Lillard to carry the torch. Okay, along with CJ McCollum. Then again, he’s just a new found star, so.. could this be Waiters time to shine? Ask Oladipo.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE WARRIORS?
Hmm… the team sort of cleared their roster. Trading Andrew Bogut and losing Harrison Barnes. Was it worth it? Of course, with KD on their team now, of course. The best part here is that the Warriors now have a ‘closer’ in Durant — someone to rely on in the Finals. Not that the ‘Splash Brothers’ are lacking but.. yes, they are lacking.
They couldn’t get the job done in the Finals. Even in last year’s Finals when they won the championship, the ‘Splash Brothers’ were more of just supporting players to Iguodala and Green. Curry and Thompson, good as they are — are just for the regular season, for up until the West Finals. That’s it. Come championship round, they just turn into the ‘Choke Brothers’.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE LEAGUE?
Wait. First, how many of you really thinks the Warriors would be ‘unstoppable’ this coming season? Well, that question should be first preceded on whether Curry could play with Durant and vice versa. No problem with Thompson, he’ll just slide to being the third scoring option but Curry and Durant — well, adjustments, adjustments..
Whose team is the Warriors now? Got to fix the egos first.
As we can see, the San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks are making their moves to challenge their respective conferences. The Spurs adding Pau Gasol and the Knicks adding Derrick Rose along with Brandon Jennings.
For the Spurs, is it because Tim Duncan would be retiring? Hmm… he could come off the bench this time around with Aldridge and Gasol starting to have another shot at a championship. The Spurs problem in last season’s PlayOffs was first and foremost the inability of their 3-point shooters Green and Mills to connect. Because of that, OKCs bigs were able to pound on the Spurs bigs. They could have gotten Ben Gordon instead of seldom-used Kevin Martin.
The Knicks. They might look good with the triumvirate of Anthony, Porzingis and Rose but could Rose return to form? Good backup though with Brandon Jennings. Yes, in the Knicks’ case, it’s not ego that could be the problem but form — and team identity. Maybe they should try experimenting with these 2 PGs on the starting lineup. Once they confirm these, there could be a new power in the East.
How about the Mavericks? Yeah, how about the Mavs? They lost Parsons but added 2 crucial pieces to their roster — Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. Hey, with Bogut, Nowitzki, Barnes, Matthews and Williams in the starting lineup plus Lee, Felton, Barea, Anderson and McGee — they got a chance! Though they should probably trade Harris for a good 3-point shooter to really contend.
You heard it — LeBron James and the Cavs delivers the first ever NBA Championship to Cleveland! Well, it was ‘close to a remarkable comeback’ considering that the Cavaliers were down 1-3 entering Game 5. Oh, and why just ‘close’?
Hmm… While injuries is part of the game as what happened to Bogut, a significant member of the Warriors’ starting lineup; and Iguodala, the Warriors’ elite perimeter defender — suspension is a different thing. Yes, we’re talking about Green’s Game 5 suspension.
Think the Cavs could have crawled back if Green wasn’t suspended?
While rules on technicalities were upheld to justify Green’s suspension — why didn’t the NBA suspend Stephen Curry for throwing his mouthguard to a fan anyway? See? So, this is like the league was just conniving to help the Cavs get back to its feet. Makes sense? And once the Cavs tied the series, the NBA didn’t really need to remove Curry from Game 7 anymore.
Remember the NBA objective — Blockbuster Finale! And so it goes..
Then again, injuries are different. Those are accidents. And we can’t really do anything about it. Affected teams can not really complain or make an excuse out of it. Otherwise, stop the game and let them heal first! Make sense? No. So, cut out the injury excuse unless t’was done ‘intentionally’ by the opposing team.
Bogut. Iguodala. Not an excuse. Same as last year. Love. Irving. They shouldn’t be an excuse.
Suspension is. That’s a telling blow! Like, it’s unexpected since, at least for some players, it’s hard to control emotions at the heat of the moment. Though still, in the end, it boils down to the team’s performance — particularly the stars.
While James played his usual self, Kyrie Irving had been a steadying support for the Cavs. Something we can’t say about the Warriors’ Splash Brothers. In this final game, Steph was 4-14 from deep while Klay was 2-10. Wow! And to say that they’re even known for 3s!
Now, they’ll be known as the ‘Choke Brothers’. Hey, in their 2 trips to the Finals — they’ve never been consistent! Last year, it was even Iguodala who’s MVP! And this year?! Should be Green regardless of his suspension, after all, he’s been the Warriors’ fortress!
So, enough of the talk that they’re among history’s best teams. Nope. They won’t beat the 1996 Bulls. Nor the ‘Showtime’ Lakers! The Splash, err ‘Choke Brothers’ are just not made for the Finals.
So, it’s all tied up at 3-3! What happened? Any claims, accusations or excuses? This is already a critical stage for either team not to play its best unless we do smell somethin’ fishy. Okay, it’s kinda ‘rigged’ to extend the series for a blockbuster finale. Then again..
Though there were some questionable calls particularly on Stephen Curry, fact is, Steve Kerr just executed the wrong strategy and were caught flat-footed. Just look at their starting lineup?!
It’s Iguodala in there and Green as the Warriors’ center. It’s like all of those who normally rotates on LeBron James are placed in at the same time — making the team too small and the front line, real tired. Yeah, they do play ‘small ball’ but then they should not do so from the start as it’d only use so much energy from Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala.
Why didn’t Kerr use Ezeli instead as the starting center? Use him as how he uses Bogut. Ezeli could play defense, he could rebound, and he knows the system so he should be able to pass well, too.
Small ball per se should especially be used in the second half — when it’s time to go for the kill — not the first half when things aren’t that settled yet. Yes, the Cavs got to a quick start but that’s because of the Warriors’ starting lineup — their ‘death squad’ hasn’t warmed up yet. See? It has even put too much pressure on their forwards that nobody hit their stride. Green, Barnes, Iguodala.. nobody did well.
Well, it’s all water under the bridge now.
Game 5, Green wasn’t there for Golden State and Bogut got injured. Game 6, wrong strategy by Kerr as it affected everybody especially their forwards’ effectiveness. Game 7… Momentum would be with the Cavaliers but since it’s the Warriors’ home court, Golden State would still be favored — however, just slightly.
Interesting here is what would James do if the Cavs fail, again..
With Draymond Green out and Andrew Bogut suffering a knee injury in Game 5, it was just too much to ask of the Warriors. Yes, though Golden State did keep in step with Cleveland in the first half — without Green, the Warriors’ spacing has clearly gone missing, too. Add to it the in-game injury to Andrew Bogut, suddenly, the Cavaliers had a field day in Oakland — CLE 112, GSW 97.
That’s really all there is.
Everything was actually pretty even including the assists, rebounding and even turnovers. However, the field goals and of course, the 3s — these were where the Warriors got slayed. CLE 44-83. GSW 32-88. While on threes.. CLE 10-24, GSW 14-42. Free throws? Not much difference really.
But just look at the huge disparity in the 2 areas mentioned! Okay, the Warriors had more 3-point conversions but hey, look how many attempts they took anyway?! In short, the champs just shot poorly in the second half; and this allowed the Cavs to extend the series.
You say deee-fense?? Again, it’s really about ‘spacing’.
Game 6 would be back in Ohio. What can we expect? A battle of nerves. That is, whoever could handle the pressure would win. In this case, it’s basically Draymond Green against the Quicken Loans Arena crowd. Would he be up to it? Ask the Splash Brothers.
After 3 blow out games, as expected Game 4 was gonna be a tight battle. And not until midway through the final canto that the Warriors gained firm control, leading 93-84; before finishing Cleveland at 108-97. Yeah, it wasn’t really another blow out but who expects it to be this time around?
And so, the Warriors are now up 3-1 in this year’s Finals. Thanks to the big games, this time, of Klay Thompson and reigning MVP Steph Curry. Yeah, better emphasize ‘reigning MVP’ ’cause what’s the use if you can’t show ’em what made you MVP anyways?
Aside from the Splash Brothers, other crucial stats in this telling win by the Warriors were — the assists (23-15) and the rebounding. Yes, rebounding. This time around, it was tight at 43-40 in favor of the Warriors. Also, the free throw conversions was so poor for the Cavs, missing 11 of their 26 attempts. Hmm… And don’t ask about the 3s! Smith and the rest were just awful! Well, told yah, Smith is more of a flash-in-the-pan especially when facing stronger Western teams.
With this.. It’s just about coronation come Game 5 at the Oracle. Of course, closing would be tough and the Cavaliers could still pull off a win if the Warriors don’t watch out. Thus, it would now boil down to maintaining that intensity, yep, or even increasing it — then all those confetti and streamers will come falling down for Golden State.
The question now — who’d be Finals MVP? Livingston? Barnes? Iguodala? We believe Draymond Green earned it this time. While he may not have consistently scored in double-figures — his intensity, his mere presence gave ‘that lift’ to Golden State — most every time.
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