The 2018 NBA Finals: Leftovers Warmed Over

LebronCurry

We’ve seen this movie before, right? I mean, remakes are great, but by the time they got to Rocky XV, I fell asleep during the credits– the PRE credits.  I love watching a favorite movie again and again, don’t you? (Matrix fans unite!) But some people want something different all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, because the Warriors and the Cavs absolutely deserve to be in the NBA Finals.  Correction — LeBron, a.k.a. King James and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and all of the rest of the Warriors deserve to be in the NBA Finals, with an honorable mention to Jeff Green of the Cavs for the way he played and helped LeBron in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

If the 2018 NBA Finals are must see TV,  why are some people tired of eating Cavs/Warriors leftovers? Becasue they want something different. Their tired of eating manna every morining (or every year).  Get it?  The spiritual tie in is so surreal. We get to watch high level, high caliber basketball, yet we’re tired of the same ole, same ole. But it’s still good. It’s absolutely still good.

Oh well. You can’t please everybody. So the Warriors and the Cavs will play and we’ll watch the Warriors win another Larry O’Brien Trophy.  Right? 

So who ya got?

Advertisements

Chris Paul: Always A Bridesmaid and Never A Bride

Chris Paul on Bench
Chris Paul  is forced to watch from the bench as his Houston Rockets lose the lead and Game 7 and another Playoff Series, this time to the Golden State Warriors

Here’s why I feel sorry for Chris Paul and why I don’t feel sorry for the Houston Rockets.

I feel for Chris Paul. I do. He deserves bettter. An injury kept him from Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors. He sat there on the bench forlorn and forbidden to play, as he longed to get some action on the court. Instead, his teammates were blown out of Game 6 and were left with defending their home court in a Game 7 that they let slip through their fingers.

Chris Paul has never been to the NBA Finals, but he’s always been a fan favorite. And he is one player that every fan wants to root for and cheer on. There isn’t a single NBA junkie that wouln’t stuff the ballot box full with absentee votes in order to elect Paul to the Finals — if we could.  He’s a great player that’s played on some not-so-great teams, and this was his golden chance to beat Golden State.  His team was up 3-2 in the series, and the Finals were finally in view, if not within reach.

But then, tragedy struck. His dream of at least playing in the NBA Finals and winning an NBA title crashed and were dashed. He pulled his hamstring and was sentnenced to the sidelines for the final two games of the series.  The Houston Rockets had a 14 point lead in the second quarter of Game 7. And for all those who understand basketball, especially NBA basketball, a lead in the second quarter means absolutely nothing, especially when you’re playing the Golden State Warriors.

Yes the Rockets where without Chris Paul, but they also missed a league record 27 three pointers in a row. That’s 27 in a row. So even without Chris Paul,  if they hit or even attempted a few more half-decent shots, they had a chance to upend the Warriors. But they didn’t.

And so CPIII enters yet another off-season with more questions than answeres, wondering what could have been. He’s now an unrestricted free agent, so Houston is certainly going to work to resign him, right?  I mean, the James Harden/Chris Paul experiment was a huge success, right?

Unfortuanelty for the Houston Rockets, the measure of success in the minds of many was a defeat of Golden State in the Western Conference Finals and the destruction of the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. What’s that? Boston lost a Game 7 AT HOME too?  Oh well. Both teams had their chances but both teams just couldn’t finish.

The moral of the story is this: take advantage of every minute and every moment.  Savor every second and don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Yes we live in hope, but we also live by faith.  And faith is now. So enjoy now. Don’t forget to live in the moment. Absoltuely enjoy the journey. Don’t forget to watch the sunset. And absoltuely stop and smell the roses along the way. 

Because your journey is just as important as your destination. 

The King Still Reigns

LeBron-James-cov_0

LeBron James is still the reigning king of the NBA. Period. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, LeBron is getting better with age.  If you love sports, like I do, and you practically loathed LeBron, like I did, after seeing yet another virtuoso performance from LeBron James, you have to at least consider changing your vote for the G.O.A.T.  

Some said that he was the best ever at 20. Now he’s 33 and he’s arguably better than ever. Some say that James has been equally mystical and egotistical, and shall we say downright cavalier?  But he has also earned the right to brag and to boast, especially after his performance in the playoffs this year with multiple 40 point performances. But for now we’ll focus on yet another Game 7 masterpiece.

LeBron single handedly willed his team to a 87-79 Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics ON THE ROAD in front of a harsh and hostile Boston Garden crowd (ok TD Garden, but for us old heads, it’s still Boston Garden).  James played in his 100th game of the season and logged a full 48 minutes. He finished with 35 points on 12-of-24 shooting with 15 rebounds and 9 assists, another near triple double. And it seemed like an “off” night because of tiredness that certainly led to uncharacteristic turnovers and missed free frows. But James also had timely blocks that help bolster the Cavs “D” which stifled the Celtics down the stretch.

LeBron James snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the “C”s showed that they just didn’t have quite enough to dethrone a destined and determined James who finally got some help from his supporting cast.  Jeff Green, a Cleveland reserve, nearly stole the show from LeBron by scoring 19 points and grabbing 9 rebounds to give the Cavaliers a stunning Game 7 win when Boston had gone undefeated at home in the playoffs. This is the same Jeff Green that had open heart surgery a few years ago. Open Heart Surgery!  And the win was even the more memorable and remarkable because James did it by winning twice after Kevin Love — maybe the most capable of his otherwise underwhelming supporting cast — was lost to a concussion early in Game 6.

Do I still love Michael? Of course. And Kobe won five championships. Five.  Magic and Bird were phenomes, but what we are seeing from the reigning king is nothing short of legendary. He’s going to the NBA Finals for the eighth season in a row. Eight in a row? Who’s done that before? Nobody. Yes I keep going back to Michael’s six-for-six Finals victories, accomplished via two three-peats, but eight Finals appearances in a row? Even his harshest critics, myself included, can’t argue with that.

AND . . . the Cavs went down 3-2 in the series, with Boston playing great ball and their rookie sensation Jayson Tatum having the best playoff’s by a rookie since Magic 38 years ago. But LeBron found a way to win, again. It remains to be seen what will happen in the Finals, but we may well  see the Warriors and the Cavaliers competing for the crown one more time.

And so the lesson is crystal clear. Once again, LeBron James proved the doubters wrong and proved that patience works experience, and experience breads hope. Because of our experience, we know what God can do.  We know that our Lord is still the King. He still rules and reigns. And because our Lord is still the King, you may not be favored, and you may not have the best team, and you may not play pretty, but you can still find a way to win.

You absolutely can.  

Cinderella vs. Cinderella!

I called it! I’m not bragging or anything but I absolutely called it. The Washington Capitals just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Game 7 ON THE ROAD, and for the first time in franchise history, mind you, they’ve reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now it’s the Las Vegas Golden Knights versus the Washington Capitals for the championship – Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s a unique matchup. It’s unprecedented and almost unheard of.

These two teams were not picked to go this far or to fair this well. But they have overcome the odds and come over the obstacles laid out against them. The Caps and Golden Knights have recovered their own fumbles and debunked the doubters and jeared the court jesters to reach the threshold of the summit of their sport. These two teams now make it almost impossible for the casual observer to choose a fair-haired favorite or pick the one most popular.

Sports fans now have a “Sophia’s Choice.” In other words, the NHL now has a peculiar problem. We now have two Cinderella teams going head – to – head, playing for all the marbles. But only one team can win. Because no participation trophies will be given out here. The lone winner takes home the Stanley Cup Trophy!

So who ya got?

The Las Vegas Golden Knights!

Who would have thunk it? Few would have thought it. And fewer still would have dreamed it. The expansion team in Vegas, the Golden Knights, the dark horse in the race to win the Stanley Cup, are one step away from winning it all. What a story.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights became the second expansion team in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB history since 1960 to reach a championship series in their first season. The other team was the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues. It’s an incredible success for a team that had no expectations. The Golden Knights’ management publicly declared a goal of making the playoffs in three years and competing for a Stanley Cup in six.

But in their maiden voyage year, this upstart is about to pull off the unthinkable; an unprecedented triumph of epic proportions. The odds makers had Vegas at 500-1 to win the Stanley Cup Finals! Not 10-1, or even 100-1; 500 -1! Incredible! In theological language, that translates to “they didn’t have a prayer.”

But they must have prayed, because the Hockey gods or the God of Heaven has heard and headed their humble cry.

Who said miracles are a thing of the past?  I’ll be rooting for Vegas!

The Boston Celtics: “Control the Controllable”

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics

Is this the end of an era? It just well may be.

LeBron James had a 21 point first quarter and a 42 point, 10 rebound, 12 assist virtuoso, triple double performance in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics; but it wasn’t enough.  LeBron made an incredible, instant classic, step-back three-pointer in that same, ridiculous first quarter, but it wasn’t enough.  The miracle, circus shot was absurd, even by LeBron James’ standards, but it wasn’t enough.

Here’s how Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer put it:

“A step-back, fadeaway, late-clock 3-pointer with one of the league’s best defenders draped all over him. And video of the first-quarter spread like wild-fire on social media as sort of a “Look at what LeBron is doing!” snapshot of his 21-point first-quarter barrage in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s the thing: The Boston Celtics liked that possession an awful lot, too. They liked how Marcus Morris made James work just to navigate from the blocks to the 3-point arc in order to set an initial screen. Or how Marcus Smart, who switched onto James, prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers star first from rolling to the basket, then denied James’ initial attempt to back Smart down.

Yes, James eventually got the ball back and made a ridiculous shot, but the Celtics made him work hard for a low-percentage look. And therein lies one of the secrets to Boston’s success through the first two games of the series: making everything hard for James.

‘If you can, watch every possession. We have a bunch of guys coming out that give everything we got every possession,’ Morris told ESPN. ‘LeBron is great, we all know that. That’s something that everyone knows. So, at the end of the day, we can’t hang our heads on shots that he makes. We know he’s going to take those shots, we know he’s going to make some shots. ‘t the end of the day, we control the controllable.’”

We control the controllable.

That’s the quote, and that’s the lesson. We must control the controllable. There’s so much in this life that we can’t and don’t control. We can’t control what others say or do. We can’t control other’s actions or emotions or responses, but we can control what comes out of our mouths and what goes on in our hearts and heads. And we can absolutely control how we treat people. You may not feel like being kind or caring or forgiving or forbearing, but you can control how you act and you react.

So control the controllable. Control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t.

Now, back to the presumptive Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics:

“What the Celtics have controlled is their turnovers, which has eliminated easy transition opportunities. They’ve controlled access to the paint, limiting the chances for James to drive and create for either himself or his teammates. And the Celtics have controlled the intensity, dispatching a never-ending stream of versatile defenders, essentially tasking every player in their rotation with defending James at some point.

The other thing the Celtics control: the series (2-0). Yes, Boston knows it cannot relent in its defensive tenacity as the series shifts to Cleveland for Saturday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But an already irrationally confident group took a James haymaker in Game 2 (42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) and still won by technical knockout”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23541621/boston-celtics-defending-lebron-james-east-finals

And so the moral of the story is this: Exit, LeBron, enter Boston.

Can Houston and Harden Whip the Warriors? . . . Hardly

USP NBA: HOUSTON ROCKETS AT PHOENIX SUNS S BKN USA AZ
James Harden Is Looking Up (becasue he needs all of the help he can get against the Warriors) 

The Houston Rockets lost Game One AT HOME to the defending NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors.  Now, Game Two is a must win for Harden and the Rockets. James Harden and the Houston Rockets have just one shot at dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. 

Houston can’t lose Game 2 and head to Oakland and expect to win the Western Conference Finals.  They just can’t.  It’s is possible? Anything is possible to those who believe. But this one I gotta see. Judging by the way the Warriors played in Game One Monday night, it just aint gonna happen.

So all of the chips are down and all of the money is on Harden coming through in a clutch, do or die situation, one which the Rockets have been waiting for since Harden jumped ship and left OKC for Texas. And since they acquired Chris Paul after he jumped ship from the NBA’s graveyard, I mean the LA Clippers last summer, they’re supposed to be built to win now. Well, now has come.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni never had any doubt that the Harden-Paul duo would work, having been on the Team USA staff when they played together in the 2012 London Olympics. “I say sometimes flippantly that there isn’t really a superstar store in the NBA where you get to go and pick out which one you want,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said.

Making it fit and making something happen works only when you have chemistry. And this year, the Rockets certainly had chemistry and “fit”.  The Rockets rolled to the NBA’s best record (65-17) and earned their chance to meet the defending champions in the Western Conference finals in large part because of a series of summer moves Morey executed with beating the Warriors in mind.

I love what Morley said about taking advantage of opportunities: “You have to jump on the opportunities as they come and sometimes make them fit.  But in this case, we didn’t really have to [make them fit]. The fit was really incredible from day one.” Morey acknowledged that he particularly wondered how the “alpha dogs” would coexist in crunch time. The answer: even better than the Rockets could have reasonably hoped.

But it will all be for naught if they lose tonight.