Category Archives: NBA

boston

greatest day in Northeast sports history?

(April 20)

For a mid-April Saturday with no rings or trophies being awarded, it has been one of the most incredible sports days in the Northeast I can ever remember. In Boston, the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics were all in action, and after yesterday’s heroic triumph over evil, what a day for celebration! For New York, the Yankees, Knicks, Nets, Mets and Devils were all playing and gave fans a great show.

Here’s the rundown:

Boston Red Sox triumphantly return to Fenway with a great ceremony, dramatic three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to win it; Ortiz returns and contributes, Buchholz goes to 4-0

New York Yankees win in 11 innings; Kuroda pitches a gem and Rivera saves the game

New York Knicks matched up with the Boston Celtics in playoff action

Brooklyn Nets trampled the Bulls in a dominant playoff debut

New York Rangers win in a shootout

New Jersey Devils win big

Boston Bruins returned to home-ice action with an emotional ceremony and played a great game

New York Mets played a great game with the Nationals and at least got to see Bryce Harper show some magic

Traveling a little farther south but still in the region…

Baltimore Orioles swept a double header on the memorial day for the late Earl Weaver

Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the first-place Braves

Pittsburgh Penguins won their hockey game in dramatic fashion

Philadelphia Flyers took care of business

- Afore-mentioned Washington Nationals won in dramatic fashion

Washington Capitals won big over division-leading Canadiens

What more could you ask for?

tim duncan

Miller’s NBA Playoff Predictions

(April 20)

In my first year trying I dominated my fantasy basketball league, finishing 9 (Roto) points ahead of the next guy, grabbing the most assists, steals, blocks, and three pointers. Now that that is done, the next obstacle is the real NBA Playoffs.

Generally, the playoffs go to the teams that play better defense, shoot better free throws and stay healthy, and that is where I trend.  Here are my picks for the first round (in order of comment length). There are traditionally few upsets in the NBA, but I pick some.

Nets vs. Bulls: When the Nets fired Avery Johnson back in the day when they were 14-14 I said it was a good thing for the team and that Brooklyn will improve and not only make the playoffs but they would win a series. Joachim Noah has a bad foot that makes him doubtful for Game 1 and compromised in the series. Derrick Rose could surprise everyone and decide to play, and that could change things as the Nets have struggled against quick and offense-minded point guards. But Rose hasn’t faced NBA competition in twelve months, so even if he did play he wouldn’t be effective. Meanwhile, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are playing their best ball of the year right now, and a few extra days off should help Joe Johnson be in prime condition. Reggie Evans has emerged as the best rebounder in the NBA. Historically, D-Will performs at the highest level in the playoffs. Bulls are a trendy pick; in fact, it seems like the Nets are the underdogs. Nets advance in their first year in Brooklyn. Nets in 5

Knicks vs. Celtics. Knicks set the record for most threes in a season. Historically, teams reliant on the three-ball have not done as well in the playoffs. Also, the Knicks haven’t won a playoff series in thirteen years. They are facing a Celtics team that is missing Rajon Rondo but still has KG, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers, along with Jason Terry off the bench who has hit big playoff shots in his career. Celtics have been waiting for the playoffs for a month now. They don’t have much depth, especially in the middle, and that could cause concern, especially if Garnett gets in foul trouble. Carmelo Anthony is the best player in the series, but if he and J.R. Smith fall in love with the mid-range and shots from downtown, Boston will come away on top. And how nice that would be for a city coming off such a terrible tragedy. Celtics in 7

Nuggets and Warriors. I like the Warriors’ team and I want to pick them here, but for a lot of the same reason as the Knicks, I’ve gotta go with Denver. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are great shooters but in the playoffs the better defensive team usually controls the game. Even in Curry’s best games when he takes over the Warriors still typically don’t win. And the Nuggets are really solid perimeter defenders. One concern for Denver is health; they are losing players (Gallinari, Faried, etc.) at the wrong time of the year. If Golden State can get the ball inside to David Lee and Andrew Bogut regularly rather than I like their chances but I’m afraid they won’t do that. Nuggets in 7

- Clippers vs. Grizzlies. These are two great teams in one of the best matchups of the first round and a rematch of last year. Lob City won in seven games last year, but I’ve gotta go with my gut and my heart and pick the Grizzlies; I like their defense and inside game with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. And to pick another stat I like, Memphis is a Top Ten free throw team while the Clippers are a bottom five, and free throws could make the difference in a long tight series. Grizzlies in 7

- Thunder and Rockets. An intriguing matchup as James Harden faces his former team. There was a lot of talk at the beginning of the season as to whether the Thunder made a big mistake “breaking up the band” so early but they still managed to finish on top in the West and are the favorites to represent in the Finals again. Rockets are exciting with Harden, James Lin, Chandler Parsons and Thomas Robinson but they just don’t play much defense and OKC is simply a much better team. Thunder in 6

Spurs vs. Lakers. Lakers aren’t very good with or without Kobe. Tim Duncan is having one of his best ever seasons and now is where his focus has been. There is no focus in LA and Dwight Howard is going to be shooting about 18 free throws a game. How many can he make? Not enough. I like San Antonio big in this series. Spurs in 4

Heat vs. Bucks.  LeBron and Bosh are playing their best ball of their careers and while Wade has played in just 3 of the last 10 games, he played 23 effective minutes in their last contest. Heat haven’t even been trying and they’ve still won 8 in a row. Won’t be a sweep, but the Bucks won’t challenge the Heat too much. Heat in 5

Pacers vs. Hawks. Atlanta has been falling apart lately and they just aren’t that good! They haven’t beaten anybody good in over a month. Indiana’s defense will wear out the Hawks and end the series quickly. Pacers in 5

EAST
Heat in 5
Celtics in 7
Pacers in 5
Nets in 5
WEST
Spurs in 4
Thunder in 6
Nuggets in 7
Grizzlies in 7
FINALS
Heat over Spurs in 6
derek rose

Derek Rose and the pathetic Derek-Rose-less Bulls

(March 14)

There were two pieces of news from Bulls camp today.

1): Derek Rose has been cleared to play. But he doesn’t feel confident dunking off his left foot so he is not comfortable about returning. Seriously.

2): Sacramento Kings blew out the Bulls by 42 on Wednesday. The Kings and their dead-last-ranked defense held Chicago to 79 points, including 38.6% shooting, 2-21 from three (they made their last shot in the final minute; were 1-20 before), and 17 turnovers. On the other side, the 23-43 Kings against the #3 ranked Bulls defense dropped 121 points, 54% shooting and just 5 turnovers. By the way, the Bulls had two days off, last playing Sunday.

That may be the ugliest and biggest upset of the NBA season.

The Bulls are free-falling in the East, going 7-12 since the end of January. After contending for the 2 seed (perhaps holding it for a short time?) they are now tied for the 7 spot with games @Golden State, against Denver, Portland and Indiana upcoming. Yikes.

And their superstar guard, who they desperately need back in a wide open Eastern Conference where they would have a legit shot for the Conference Finals, “doesn’t feel confident dunking off his left foot” so he is holding out.

Who cares? Aren’t you a former MVP? You are a point guard! Can’t you do anything else?

Deron Williams has had ankle pains (both) all season and hasn’t dunked in 11 months. But he has played nearly every game despite being less effective than he usually is, faced a lot of criticism, yet his Nets are right in the thick of it just two games behind the Knicks. Where would they be without D-Will? Probably not in the playoffs. That’s what a leader does.

Derek Rose has had nearly a full year to get ready. It is a cryin’ shame that the only thing holding him back is his head and his pride. Suck it up and do your best; your team needs you, and they are paying you a helluva lot of money ($16.4M) to at least be mentally ready. Quit making excuses and figure out how to play.

Until then, the Bulls are likely to continue to get pounded and blow a good shot at a playoff run.

deron williams

a good week for the Brooklyn Nets

March 10

After a crummy stretch it has been a good week in Brooklyn. Not only have the Nets won three in a row (pretty convincingly, I might add; average margin of 17 points) and D-Will had a historic game, but the Pacer, Bulls and Celtics lost Sunday, Hawks have lost two in a row, and the Knicks are hurting (lost Amar’e for the remainder of the regular season while Melo is also dealing with an injury).

The defense has been good all year, but has really stepped up recently, holding opponents to an average of 86 points over the last seven games. And for the offense where turnovers have been one of the biggest issues, after averaging 21 turnovers in four games, the Nets have had just 9 and 11 in their last two contests (and 4 of those in the last game were committed by the backup center). The third quarter has been Brooklyn’s bugaboo, but they have dominated it in their three recent wins. Those three games last week were to the Bobcats, Wizards and at the Hawks, not exactly Murderer’s Row; but a road win over a playoff team and another win against a Wizards’ team that stuck it to the Nets a couple weeks ago are still good wins.

After a poor first half, Deron Williams has been a renewed player since sitting out a couple games around the All-Star break. He is scoring 23.1 points a game (6.4 more than before) and is shooting 47% from the floor (up from 41%). He had one of the best games of his career this week, shooting the lights out against the Wizards (nine of his eleven three pointers in the first half, including nailing his first eight) and looks much more comfortable around the court.

Kris Humphries signed a $24M/2 year deal in the offseason. He is now not only out of the starting lineup but out of the bench rotation as well. Even though he is totally healthy he has not even been on the court the last three games, which have all been blowouts. (Even Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike Shengelia are getting minutes.) That makes Hump, unquestionably, the most overpaid player in the NBA. And to think Brooklyn had a chance to trade him before the deadline and didn’t…

The other player struggling mightily this season is Gerald Wallace. Offensively there are few players that have been more… offensive. On the season Crash is making just 30.1% of his jump shots, 48.6% of his layups (layups!) and 63.9% of his free throws. And in the second half he is a dismal 37.8% from the field.

There are still issues at power forward. Humphries is not playing and Gerald Wallace doesn’t help much. Reggie Evans is among the best rebounders in the NBA but also a liability on offense (missed 11 free throws on Friday). P.J. Carlesimo is giving Mirza Teletovic an opportunity to play more (58 minutes the last three games) but scored just 11 points last week. If he doesn’t pick it up then we may be seeing more Humphries back on the court.

With 19 games left the Nets are in good shape. Their next four are very winnable: @Sixers, Hornets, Hawks, @Pistons, and if they are able to win those they will be 41-26. But that is followed by their toughest stretch of the season, seven straight on the road (eight counting the Pistons) including games against the Mavs, Clippers, Blazers, Nuggets and Jazz. The Nets are taking advantage of this soft spot late in the season and should use it to get them ready for the playoffs, with those challenging games out West as primers.

I want to see more continued control of the basketball and some improvement by either Mirza or Humphries. But I like what I’m seeing out of Deron Williams. Considering their .333 winning percentage a year ago, a #3 playoff seed would be quite an improvement and a good spring into next season.

pj carlesimo

what’s wrong with the Nets?

March 4

The Nets are in another one of their slumps, the third of the season (the other two both in December). Since winning four in a row around the All-Star Break they have lost four out of five and done so in spectacular fashion.

Four main issues have killed the Nets this year.

1) Turnovers. Nets throw the ball all over the court. D-Will is doing it a lot, but he’s the point guard who has the ball all the time anyway, so I can excuse it some (your NBA turnover leaders are Holiday, Rondo, Wall, Harden, Kobe, Westbrook, Durant and Irving; what does that say?). Especially lately he has been incredibly sloppy. With a chance to tie against the Grizzlies last week he threw the ball away with 10 seconds left. But as for the others, what excuse do Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace have? It is maddening to watch the games because those two in particular are notorious at dumb turnovers. Nets had 18 turnovers against the Grizzlies, 20 against the Mavericks, and 21 against the Bulls. In fact, the Nets have had 20+ turnovers six times this season. There’s no excuse for that.

2) Cold streaks. Brooklyn has had about three games this year where they played well for 48 minutes. Most often they will do well for about 38 and then completely shut down for the better part of a quarter (usually the third). Against the Rockets, a two-point deficit grew to 17. Nets led the Grizzlies by five two minutes left and the Grizzlies scored the games’ last nine points. The Mavericks outscored them by 15 in the third quarter. Nets were leading Chicago in the second quarter until the Bulls went on a 19-0 run into the third where the Nets remained scoreless for seven minutes.

This season the Nets have been outscored by ten or more in 30 different quarters (13 of which were the third). Think about that; in a 12-minute period they’ve completely gone in the tank 30 times. The reasons, besides Turnover City, are…

- Terrible shot selection. When things start going wrong, D-Will, JJ, Bogans, Watson, Stackhouse and Teletovic start chucking up three-pointers every possession instead of moving the ball around to get good high percentage shots.

- No offensive movement. One of the biggest gripes with Avery Johnson’s coaching was the isolation-heavy offense that led to a last-second contested heave as the shot clock expired. That has been creeping back. Consider this: the Nets are tied for 28th in the number of shots per game. The other two at the bottom are the Thunder and Heat. But those two teams are in the top three in field goal percentage and three-point shot percentage. So in reality, the Nets take the fewest shots and don’t get good looks when they do.

- They don’t use free throws to get out of droughts. One of the things I admire most about Dirk Nowitzki is how, even when he is ice-cold shooting, he still demands the ball, gets into the paint, draws fouls and hits the freebies. The Nets don’t do that. Gerald Wallace is shooting 63% from the free throw line, 17 points lower than a season ago. Reggie Evans is making exactly half of his (45% in Nets losses).

3) Powerless forwards. Kris Humphries got a new $24M/2 year contract last offseason and he’s now third on the depth chart at power forward. Hump is averaging just 5.5 points a game this season, including seven total in his last six games (62 minutes). Reggie Evans is a rebound machine but is a complete nonfactor on offense. Over the last three games (61 minutes) Evans has not registered a single point, shooting 0-8 (yet he has had six turnovers). For some reason GM Billy King opted not to go after an offensive power forward before the trade deadline (Josh Smith, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap) and that decision (or indecision) will likely cost the Nets.

4) Coaching. When P.J. took over the Nets got on a nice winning streak. People asked him what he’s doing different and he always answered “Not much, we’re basically doing the same things.” Like earlier in the season, “the same things” isn’t good enough. Besides the litany of turnovers and poor shooting, Carlesimo has no clue what he’s doing with the lineup. His All-Star center Brook Lopez, the MVP of the Nets season, did not play at all in the fourth quarter three times recently. Defense, in general, has not been the problem, yet he sticks with Evans, Wallace and Bogans so much (instead of Lopez + Blatche, Mirza and Brooks) and the Nets then struggle to score. Like early in the season with Avery, the Nets are blowing great first halves by completely falling apart at halftime.

I’m sorry, I know everyone smirks when you blame the coach but there is no question that Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo are not getting the most out of the talent on the team, or using them effectively.

There is still time to turn things around, and especially in the weak Eastern Conference the Nets still have a good chance to advance in the playoffs. Overall, they have a good makeup: one of the league’s best backcourts (despite their struggles this season) in Deron and Joe, the highest-scoring center in the league (Lopez), lots of bigs (Blatche, Evans, Humphries) and a good bench (Teletovic, Brooks, Watson and Bogans).  They are virtually in a three-way tie for the four seed and just four games behind the Pacers for #2. But as a team they are wildly inconsistent, especially on offense, and P.J. Carlesimo has got to figure out how to turn things around and get them back on track. He gets four days to think about it and fortunately that starts with a trip to Charlotte on Wednesday.

james harden

Hey, I thought it was supposed to be like…

Sometimes things don’t happen exactly like you expect, especially in the NBA.

1. Nets can’t beat good teams. (Four straight wins over teams at or above .500)

2. Pacers are a poor offensive team. (Drop 125 on New York Knicks)

3. Warriors are one of the more dangerous teams in the West. (Six straight blowout losses)

4. On the Rockets instead of the Thunder, James Harden will struggle in the second half as defenses gang up on him. (Scores 46 in a win over his old team, the Thunder)

5. Kobe is the only player on the Lakers doing any good. (Bryant is just 1 for his last 35 three point tries, dating back to January 20)

6. Lakers, Nets, Knicks, Hawks, Bucks, Celtics, Clippers and Jazz all want to make some moves. (All staying put hours from the trade deadline)

7. Grizzlies are mailing in the season by trading Rudy Gay. (Grizz win their 6th in a row)

8. Utah will slide out of the playoff picture as the Lakers catch up. (Jazz have won three straight and have a five game lead over the Lakers)

9. Knicks are a premier team in the East and are the Heat’s primary competition. (14-14 in their last 28 games, haven’t beat a .500+ team on the road since December 11)

10. Spurs are old and won’t be able to keep it up. (Won 15 of their last 16 games and hold best record in the NBA)

Just some observations. I guess it’s just one more reason why the NBA is such a great game.