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Archive for the tag “David Lee”

Dwight Howard To The Boston Celtics Makes Sense

(photo courtesy of www.sbnation.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com)

Dwight Howard had a decision to make back in the summer of 2013. He was traded that previous year to the Los Angeles Lakers from Orlando that previous year and had one year to check it out. That one year was not very good for him out in Los Angeles. He was fighting through an injury the whole time he was there and when he played, it seemed like he was not himself. Mix that with the fact that he and Kobe’s styles did not mesh and it was not a good experiment bringing him in. But yet and still, the Lakers were one of the teams Dwight was looking at going into free agency. The Lakers gave their pitch to him along with other teams like Houston and Dallas. Between those teams, Dwight turned down additional money he would have made with the Lakers to join star shooting guard James Harden in Houston. The pairing was supposed to take Houston to another level with two star players leading the way. But unfortunately, it has not worked out the way Houston has wanted. The Rockets may have gone to the Conference Finals last season, but it was not due to Dwight Howard’s effect on the team. Howard was not as effective last season because he was injured for most of it and that allowed for other guys to step in and make Houston better. And in year three with Dwight in Houston, it seems like things have gotten worse. The Rockets are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture at this point and the chemistry and play of the team just seems to be off. And right in the middle of it is Dwight Howard still speaking on wanting to be more involved in regards to more touches offensively. Well, it seems like the Rockets have had enough of Howard at this point. Houston has reportedly put Howard on the trading block and are actively looking to move him. And being that he can opt out of the four-year, $87.5 million deal he signed in 2013, it will be interesting what they try to get for him. But nonetheless, it seems like one team’s name has been mentioned more than any in acquiring Howard: the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were a surprise team to make the playoffs last year. And this season, they have made it to the third spot in the East as they are currently constructed. But even with that, Danny Ainge has his eye on Howard and what he could bring to his team. And with the assets the Celtics have, they could certainly pull this trade off. The Celtics have a glutton of big men available on their team. One player the Celtics could dangle out there to get Howard would be forward David. The Celtics traded for the veteran big man this offseason hoping that he would be able to add to their team. But unfortunately it has not worked out and he has been sitting on the bench more than actually playing. And with the pricetag he is carrying this season ($15.49 million), they can easily move him and not miss him at all. If the Celtics throw him, a first round pick and maybe another frontcourt player. By adding Howard to the Celtics, that gives them a better defender on the backline than what they currently have. And if you pair him with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, he would not really have to worry much about the offensive end of the court. But knowing Dwight, he would want to have the basketball in his hands. Even at 30 years old, he still has not got it that he is not a go-to guy offensively. In Boston, he still would not be that guy that he envisions himself being. And if he ends up not being happy, then you essentially traded for a rental player because Howard has the option to opt out of his current deal. But the potential positives in this one outweigh the negatives in this potential trade scenario. But of course that all depends on the thinking of Dwight Howard whether it works or not.

The Celtics would be getting Howard and all that goes with him, but Houston would be getting rid of a player that was doing more harm than good for them. It seemed like the chemistry in Houston just was not ever going to work out, as Howard seemed like the odd man out a lot. The biggest piece in trading Howard is not actually David Lee, but who would be traded with him. If the Houston Rockets are lucky, they get someone that has an expired contract as well. Guys like Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko would be ideal players to add in this trade just for their expiring contracts alone. If one of these two is added like Houston would want, that would allow for them to have enough salary cap room with their current situation to go after a big-name free agent. Everyone knows that Houston has had its eyes on Kevin Durant for some time now. And even as far-fetched as it seems, the Rockets would like to make a run at pairing James Harden with Kevin Durant going into next season. But even if that does not happen, the Rockets would love to change the dynamic of this team going into next season. This all falls in line with them needing a new head coach going into next year as well. If Houston loses and does not make the playoffs while making this trade, it actually will benefit them even more. That would give them two first-round picks (if they don’t make the playoffs, they get to keep their first round pick they would have had to give to Denver because of a previous trade) provided they get one from Boston and cap space. In the NBA, that is definitely a good thing to have as the cap space expands next season. Adding a piece like Atlanta’s Al Horford potentially in free agency and putting him at power forward alongside young big man Clint Capela would be something that would also help this team as well. Horford is a better fit with Harden because he is able to space the floor with his shooting and actually has solid post game. And on the defensive end, he can rebound and actually guard power forwards. That leave Capela playing center and just worrying about blocking shots and defending, which is what he needs to be doing at this point in his career. So the trade of Howard could essentially end the Rockets’ playoff push, but it will help set them up for the future with Harden as their unquestioned leader.

The Dwight Howard experiment in Houston has proven to be a failure at this point. The chemistry never was there between he and Harden and the team never really got to where Houston brass envisioned with Howard and Harden. So to rectify this one and get first round picks and create cap space would be huge for them going forward. For Dwight Howard, he has to realize that the clock is ticking and his opportunities for success are fleeting fast. But the big question will always be around Howard and his role on any team he is on. Everyone who knows anything about basketball realizes that he will not be a viable offensive threat but him. And until he realizes that and quits derailing chemistry, then he will continue to miss out on team success. Boston is taking a chance on Howard with this trade. But the good thing for them is they probably would not be trading much to get him and they also would think that he would want to opt out of his deal should it not work out. Stay tuned folks. Howard could be donning green and white soon.

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Andre Iguodala’s Unselfishness Gets Repaid In A Title

Andre Iguodala hits a big three and celebrates as the Warriors win the NBA title. (photo courtesy of www.cheatsheet.com)

Andre Iguodala hits a big three and celebrates as the Warriors win the NBA title. (photo courtesy of http://www.cheatsheet.com)

The Golden State Warriors are now NBA champions after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The feeling of winning the NBA title when many did not expect them to do so beginning the season has to be something that overcame all of them at that moment in time. All the hugs and joy that was seen between players, coaches and families on the Warriors team were priceless things to watch. Going into this series, the battle of Golden State versus Cleveland was viewed as the NBA’s best team versus the NBA’s best player in LeBron James. Cleveland got a huge series out of James, but the strength of the Golden State Warriors team proved to be too much for him to overcome. The strength in numbers was enough to overthrow the King. But more than that, there was one thing that was shown all season with this team. If you have watched the Warriors all season long, they have been an unselfish team that is all in together. In fact, you could say that they all take turns making plays to win games. Obviously players like Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson receive most of the credit, but there were other players and their sacrifices that helped make this team who they are. One player that sacrificed a lot this season is David Lee. He was the starter ever since he came to Golden State, but when he hurt his hamstring before the season, it was Draymond Green who got the call to start. And with him in the lineup, the team seemed to flow better. Green retained the starting nod while Lee retreated to a bench role for the betterment of the team. And in the end, his acceptance of his role helped bring home a title. But there was one man that made a sacrifice even bigger than Lee did. His name was Andre Iguodala.

When Andre Iguodala came to Golden State, he said he was coming there to play for then coach Mark Jackson. Iggy was a starter ever since he came into the league as a rookie back in 2004 with the Philadelphia 76ers. In his first year with the Golden State Warriors, he was thought to add a little more defense and versatility to that team. But instead of adding that, he took a little more than he added. Emerging young player Harrison Barnes, who had played well the previous season, was not the same player he was coming in off the bench. He never played to the level he did the previous season and that ended up being to the detriment of the team. The Warriors would go on not meet expectations as they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. And as far as Iggy, he would average his lowest points per game since his rookie year (9.3 points per game) while dealing with a hamstring injury that hampered him throughout the season. Going into this season, the Warriors had a new coach. After a managerial disagreement, Mark Jackson was fired and former NBA player and TNT announcer Steve Kerr took over. It was expected by many that Kerr would keep the same lineup and add in their free agent signings, Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. But Kerr had something else in mind and it involved Andre Iguodala.

One of Kerr’s first visits when he signed on as coach of the Golden State Warriors was to Andre Iguodala. He knew the veteran was a voice on the team that many would listen to because of his tenure in the league. But his reason for meeting with him was not only to get on the same page as him, but to ask him to sacrifice. When taking over the coaching job, Kerr noticed the dip in Harrison Barnes’ play as a result of going to the bench. And in an effort to maximize what he had in Barnes, he asked Iggy to come in off the bench for the first time in his career. From what is reported, it was not an easy decision for Iguodala. He was known as an NBA starter for all of his career. In his mind he had to be wondering what Kerr was thinking when he asked him to be a bench player. But reluctantly, Iggy agreed to the switch and bought what Kerr was selling to him. And during the season, it seemed like Barnes played much better. He only averaged .6 points better than the previous year, but Barnes shot 48.2% for the season (up from 39.9%) and he also posted a career-high in rebounds. And to his credit, Iggy gave the Warriors a boost off the bench all season long, averaging 8 points per game off one of the best benches in the NBA. The sacrifice of Iggy along with the great play of the Warriors helped lead Golden State to 67 wins and the number once seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. And throughout the playoffs, Iggy made timely plays and was one of the glue guys off the Warriors bench along with Shaun Livingston. But his biggest payback for his sacrifice would come in the postseason.

The Golden State Warriors were looking at a 2-1 deficit going into Cleveland for Game 4. Many wondered what adjustments that Kerr would make and how he would combat what LeBron James was putting together for the Cavaliers. Up until gametime, no one really knew what he would do. But then he shocked the world and went with Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup to replace center Andre Bogut. The shocker wasn’t so much that Iggy was in the starting lineup. After all, he was the most consistent player in the series up to that point. When he jumped into the starting lineup, it was his first time being in the starting lineup all season. And with Iggy and Draymond Green starting up front, it was assumed the Cavs would eat them up on the glass. Well, that move surely did so for the first couple of minutes of Game 4. Tristian Thompson was tearing them up on the glass to start the game. But after the Warriors settled in, the small lineup with Iggy started to work its magic. And three straight games later, the magic they found in the small lineup led them to being NBA champions. One player that made an immeasurable impact on this series from the onset is Andre Iguodala. He made LeBron work for every point he got when he guarded him, had some nice assists and hit the open shot when given to him. And because of that strong play, he won the NBA Finals MVP. Some say that Steph Curry should have won the MVP, but Iggy was consistent the entire series and when he was inserted in the starting lineup, he gave the team 20.3 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists per game. And even more than that, he helped make the Warriors defense better along with create big mismatch problems for the Cavaliers. Curry may be the Warriors best player, but Iggy was definitely the most important player and proved to be the most valuable too despite the missed free throws.

Andre Iguodala made a sacrifice that not many would have honestly said they would have made. He willingly went to the bench in an effort to do what the coach said would make the team better. And as a result of his sacrifice and unselfishness, he played a huge part in bringing a championship to Golden State. Not only did he help win the title, but he was a key cog in the turnaround of the entire series. No matter what anyone says about Iguodala after tonight, it won’t matter. Iggy can now be known as an NBA champion and one that was selfless enough to see the big picture for the Warriors. And for that he should be commended.

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The Golden State Warriors Won The NBA Title On Their Terms

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their first title in 40 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their first title in 40 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The NBA Finals are over in six games and the Golden State Warriors are now the NBA champions. They outplayed and outsmarted the Cleveland Cavaliers as they have won their first championship in 40 years. The Warriors were led by Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala, who had 50 points combined. And not to be outdone, Draymond Green rebounded from a tough stretch to start the series to post a triple-double in the finale. And just like that, they crushed all hope of the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were in total pretty much the entire game. When the Warriors won, it seemed like there was a sense of joy. No, not the joy from the people that hate LeBron James and want him to fail, but joy for a team that made it happen despite everyone counting them out. The Cavaliers were undermanned going into the Finals and had even more to overcome when Kyrie Irving was hurt in the first game of the series and did not play again. But that does not take away from the great accomplishments the Warriors had this season. And it is because of that, the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors will go down as one of the best teams in NBA history. Now some may say that it is crazy to say they are one of the best teams of all-time, but with all that they have done and the unconventional way they have done so, it is rightful to put them up there with teams like the 72 win Chicago Bulls.

Unlike the Chicago Bulls that season, the Warriors were not picked by many to win an NBA title. In fact, many thought the San Antonio Spurs would put it together again and make a run at repeating as a NBA champion for the first time. And when David Lee went down with a hamstring injury before the season and the Warriors put Draymond Green in the starting lineup, it was thought that their chances decreased even more in the eyes of some. There were many that said they were too small with Draymond at the power forward and that he would eventually get taken advantage of in the paint. Well, the opposite happened all season long. Going into a season where he could play himself into a big contract, Green became the ultimate mismatch on the offensive end of the court. He was only 6’7 (and many would argue that he isn’t even 6’7”), but he could finish inside because of his anticipation, touch and strength around the rim. But not only could he finish around the rim, but he could stretch the defense. Not many power forwards could take the rebound and dribble it up the court and hit open threes. Draymond could do that and more with his unique abilities. On the defensive end he more than held his own as well all year. He gave it his all each and every time he touched the court. And he also played bigger than many gave him credit for. He defended bigger players all year long and did not give up an inch, negating the supposed mismatch that he was put into on the defensive end. And in the NBA Finals, the lineup change the Warriors made put all those abilities on display. He was matched up against Tristian Thompson and Thompson was giving him problems on the defensive end on the boards. But as the series went on, Thompson was not as effective as he was on the glass. He still got his, but it was not at the clip it once was due to the effect of Green. And Green, to his credit, rebounded from a tough start to the series and became a huge piece to three straight wins and a title.

Another thing that made many not believe in this team is their style of play. The Warriors were criticized all year long because of the Style of the Splash Brothers (me included). There were times that many thought they took shots that were awful and depended too much on the three-pointer. They did shoot some bad shots, but they made a lot more of them than they missed. And it was because of that, their shooting opened up the paint more and more as the season went on. But the common misconception about this team is that they are just an outside shooting team. That could not be further from the truth. The Golden State Warriors were also a team that took the ball to the basket. For example, they used backcuts and dribble penetration to setup easy finishes for their big men all years. Countless times you would see Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut getting an easy dunk off of penetration from Steph Curry or Andre Iguodala. But that isn’t the only example of them attacking the rim. The growth of Klay Thompson as a playmaker and a rim attacker was something that has progressed over the years. In the beginning of his professional career, Klay was more of a shooter. He was a one-dimensional player that only played on the offensive side of the floor. But as his career as gone on, he has made more of a concerted effort to take the ball to the basket. His first progression was being able to shoot off the dribble. Once he got that down, he began to get deeper and deeper into the defense, even attacking the rim while working on using his height to his advantage defensively. Fast forward to now and Klay Thompson is considered by many the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA because of how he has completed his offensive game and picked it up tremendously over time with his defense. In the NBA Finals, the growth of the team and the style they played was shown to the entire country. They shot the three-pointer pretty well for the series. But even when they did not do so, they used backcuts and also dribble penetration to breakdown Cleveland’s defense. The constant movement and timely shooting from the Warriors eventually wore Cleveland down, as they could not keep up. And because of that, the Warriors are now celebrating the NBA Championship.

The Warriors started this season with a motto “Strength In Numbers”. As the season went on, many more people believed in them and they carried that on to the title. But what the Warriors exhibited to the world was more than about strength in numbers but mental strength in themselves. They believed in what they were doing and did not care what anyone else said about what they did. And it is because of that, they broke the mold on what exactly is needed to win a title. They did not have a guy to throw it inside to and get an easy bucket. They did not have the prototypical size, especially when they downsized their lineup. But what they did do is impose their will on any and everyone they faced on their way to the NBA title.

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Gut Check Time Brings Out The Best Of The Golden State Warriors In Game Four

Klay Thompson shushes the crowd as the Warriors dominate the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)

Klay Thompson shushes the crowd as the Warriors dominate the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)

The Golden State Warriors were in a familiar spot. They were down 2-1 like they were versus the Memphis Grizzlies. At that point and time, it was the Western Conference Semifinals and plenty though the Grizzlies had enough in the tank to beat the Warriors in a series. The questions began to rise as to if the Warriors had enough to win when the game got physical. Well, the Warriors answered that challenge emphatically when they took the rest of the series from the Grizzlies, winning in six games. The play of the inside guys was solid and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were they usual selves, hitting shot after shot and making plays happen. The Warriors entered game 4 in Cleveland with the same sort of challenge ahead of them. The Cavaliers had won two straight in the NBA Finals after losing the first game out in Oakland to the Warriors. The feeling that many had about the series is that the Cavs would take Game 4 and put the Warriors in the ultimate distress. But someone may have forgot to tell the Golden State Warriors that they were supposed to lose in Game 4. With their backs against the wall, the Warriors made a lineup change that struck most as peculiar. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr decided to take starting center Andrew Bogut out of the starting lineup and replace him with swingman Andre Iguodala. The adjustment looked to be a failing one to start the game, as the Cavs raced out to the early lead while Tristian Thompson was getting loose on the boards. But as the game went on, the change took affect and the Warriors won the game going away 103-82. Kerr won the chess match of this game and potentially could have changed the outlook of this series, but it was more than just a lineup change that made it happen.

The adjustment by Kerr was big, but he also made some subtle adjustments to go along with the lineup change. The thing the smaller lineup did to the Warriors is made the Cavs overthink offensively. The Cavs all series long have been posting LeBron James and running their offense through him. All series long he has been guarded by Harrison Barnes to start the game and then Andre Iguodala would come in and guard him. Well in this game, the Cavs decided they would go away from that when they saw the size advantage that Mozgov had in the paint. Of course Mozgov had a career night with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but he is not the straw that stirs the drink for the Cavs. By going through him and other players at the beginning of the game, the Cavs effectively through their rhythm off and played right into the hands of the Warriors. LeBron was not the same dominant guy he was for the entire game. Some of that can be attributed to just being worn out from being on the floor almost all game every game. But almost all of that can be attributed to the strategy the Warriors put out there. And to the Warriors’ credit, they played gritty defense and besides a few offensive rebounds at the start of the game, they were solid on their boxouts and actually were outrebounding the Cavaliers for much of the game. For the Warriors, the Cavaliers took the bait and played right into their hands.

The Warriors not only made a lineup change but a tempo change. The Golden State Warriors were allowing the Cavaliers to dictate the pace of this series from the beginning. The pace was slow, deliberate and had limited fast-break opportunities. And because of the big man, Andrew Bogut, it wasn’t like the Warriors could pick up the pace any. If they did, it would have be 5 on 4 because Bogut would have still been trying to catch up to the action. With him out of the lineup, the Warriors pushed the tempo more than they have the entire series. With Iggy, Green and Curry out there, there were three guys that could take the rebound and push the tempo. Add backup guard Shawn Livingston to the mix and then there is another guy that can force tempo during the game. The Warriors, who would usually walk the ball up the court on makes or misses, were pushing the basketball right at Cleveland. The result was a lot more easy setups for the Warriors for easy baskets and cross matches that the Warriors exploited in this game. The tempo for the game also lulled the Cavs into pushing the tempo as well. The Cavs were shooting some early shots and that is the one thing they did not want to do. As a result, the depth of the Warriors took effect. The Cavs have been playing shorthanded for a while now and the weariness was evident. The Warriors, meanwhile, were fresh and ready to close the game out with ease. And in the end, the fast-paced start of the Warriors had LeBron James looking gassed and ready to call it a game.

But most importantly, the biggest adjustment made this series is finally putting David Lee back in the rotation. Lee had been a star for the Warriors leading up to this season. He was a very good offensive player for him and the symmetry he had with Steph Curry was a great thing to watch in 2013-2014. But this season did not go as Lee wanted due to injuries early and the emergence of Draymond Green. Plenty were wanting Lee to start in place of Draymond Green for Game 4. But instead, he took the place of veteran center Andrew Bogut in the rotation and produced very well. He had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 18 impactful minutes on the floor. The one thing he brings that Bogut and Festus Ezeli do not is offensive skill. The Warriors get a guy that can finish at the rim with ease, has soft hands and makes their offense flow versus the Cavs in Lee and he surely picked up where he left off versus the Cavaliers in this game. He may not have played many minutes, but the combination of Green and Lee at center gave the Cavs fits on the offensive end and made the Warriors a difficult matchup offensively. And one thing that having five offensive weapons on the floor also did is make Timofey Mozgov a guy that was a fish out of water. He essentially could not guard anyone on the court, especially with Green getting his rhythm offensively this game.

The Warriors came out loose and played their best game of the series. And with the adjustments by Kerr, we now have a brand new series. The Warriors have given the Cavaliers a lot to think about as they head back West to Oakland for Game 5 Sunday. After Game 1, it seemed like Kerr was the one that needed to make adjustments to what Cavaliers coach David Blatt was doing. But now the ball is in Blatt’s court as Kerr flipped the script on him this game. It will be interesting to see what he does in Game 5. But after Game 4, Kerr made it happen and the Warriors came out to play.

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Draymond Green Is Hurting The Golden State Warriors In The NBA Finals

When will Draymond Green show up for the Golden State Warriors? (photo courtesy of www.uproxx.com)

When will Draymond Green show up for the Golden State Warriors? (photo courtesy of http://www.uproxx.com)

The Golden State Warriors were riding high after their Game 1 win. They did not play their best in Game 1, but they found a way to make it happen and survive a huge effort by LeBron James against them. But in the past two games, it seems like we have continued to see a Warriors team that has not played as well as they could. And in that time, we have seen a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has started to play better around James. Even with them losing the presence of point guard Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season, the Cavs still looked like the tougher and better team. The struggles of point guard Steph Curry have been well-documented over the last two game and he seemed to snap out of them when he caught fire in the fourth quarter versus Cleveland. But while Curry’s resurgence is catching headlines, there has been one player that has been scuffling for the entire NBA Finals. When the Warriors made the change before the season to add Draymond Green to the starting lineup, they figured it would strengthen their bench (moved David Lee to the bench) while adding some youth and better shooting to the starting lineup. They also made that move because Lee had a hamstring injury and Green was inserted into the starting lineup. The move worked well for the Warriors and they stuck with it through the regular season, as Green had his best seasons as a professional (11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game). And early in the postseason, Green was good for them. He was playing with passion and knocking down shots as well. But in the NBA Finals, it seems that he has been scuffling to gain some ground. Going into Game 4, the Warriors face a tough position. They will be in Cleveland going against the best player in the NBA while down one game. And to add to that, they will also be playing in front of a raucous crowd that will bring tons of energy to the building. They need Green to play well. But some are wondering what is going on with him in the first place.

Green has been a very versatile defender for the Warriors this season. He has guarded four positions with ease. He and Warriors center Andrew Bogut up one of the best power forward/center defensive combos in the NBA. But during this series, it seems like the versatility of Green has not shown up. Part of that reason is he has to stay with Cavaliers power forward Tristian Thompson. Coming into this series, the matchup between Green and Thompson was one to watch. Thompson is a bull on the offensive glass and Green, although undersized, is one of the tougher defenders and rebounders around. Through three games, it seems that Thompson has gotten the better of Green. Thompson may not be scoring as much as Green has, but he is giving the Cavaliers second chance opportunities with his offensive rebounding. And while Green is trying to box Thompson out, he is just not able to get the job done on a consistent level. The result is Green spending a ton of energy trying to find him on the boards. Green has not guarded LeBron James much this series. Some thought that Green against LeBron would be a good matchup. But anytime Green has guarded LeBron, he has been at a disadvantage. The Cavs have given James the ball either on the wing or in the middle when guarded by Green. And with one setup dribble or a jab step, he has gotten by Green with ease all the way to the basket. Now he has had his moments as a help defender in this series. Who can forget the block he had on LeBron James in the fourth quarter of Game 2? That was a great defensive play from him. But for most of the series, he has been struggling to keep Tristian Thompson off the glass. The fact of the matter is through three games, Green cannot hold him off the glass and Thompson’s activity and constant movement is causing him issues.

But Green is not only having issues on the defensive end, but the offensive end too. During the season, it was not uncommon to see him come down and hit the transition three-pointer as the trailer on the fast break. It was also usual to see him take a defensive rebound and push the basketball the other way each game. During the playoffs, he has done that a lot and actually hit some three’s that have been huge. But as the playoffs have gone on, the percentage that Green has shot from three-point range has gotten worse and worse. He started the playoffs shooting around 35% from three-point range. But now he has sunk all the way down to shooting around 13% from the deep. And in watching the games, it isn’t like Green is shooting these shots contested either. He has actually been wide-open on a lot of these three-point attempts and has just missed them. Green has also not been as efficient taking the basketball to the rim either. One thing that has been exposed about Green this series is his height. Green is listed at 6’7”, but he may be even shorter than that. Where his height has hurt him is when he has driven to the basket and tried to finish over Cavs center Timofey Mozgov. The 7’1” center from Russia has been a major deterrent at the rim for Green all series long. When Green has attacked him in the paint, Mozgov has gone straight up every time and not broken the plane of verticality. When he goes straight up and jumps, Green is essentially jumping into him and trying to finish. And a 6’7” man jumping into a 7’1” man with long arms has not worked out for Green. The result has been a missed finish at the rim every time for Green. And a lot of the time, Green makes it try to look like a foul, when it actually is not a foul at all. The main thing that Green may want to try is a pullup jumper because time and time again he tries to take the basketball at Mozgov and it has produced nothing for the Warriors at all.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are important because of what they bring this team, but Green has been a huge difference-maker all season long. And with their backs against the wall, he must produce for them. Green has been known more for his contesting of calls this series than he has for his actual play. In Game 4 he must show up with his play and not his talk for the Warriors to have a chance to win. If he does not show up, then the Warriors may need to make an adjustment and give some of his minutes to their former starting power forward, David Lee. We all saw what Lee brought to the team when he played in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

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The Fourth Quarter Of Game Three Was Exactly What The Golden State Warriors Needed

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

The Golden State Warriors were the team riding momentum heading into Game 2 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were up 1-0 and playing at home. They were trending in the right direction. And to add to everything, the Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving to a season and series-ending knee injury. They had the Cavs right where they wanted them. But a certain number 23 and his crew of merry men decided that they would not lose Game 2. LeBron James took over in Golden State in Game 2 and he got his teammates involved, leading to their clutch win in Oakland. The pressure had then switched from Cleveland to Golden State and it was going to be interesting to see if the Warriors could respond like they did against the Memphis Grizzlies. Well, the Warriors not only did not respond, but they actually did not show up for most of the game in Game 3 in Cleveland. The Warriors looked to be lacking energy for most of the game and the Cavaliers were making everything happen as they entered the fourth quarter with a 17 point lead. But in the fourth, it looked like the Warriors found some rhythm and made things interesting. While the Warriors were playing with confidence in the last quarter while trying to make a mad dash back in the game, the Cavs were grasping for air while trying to close out the game. The Cavs eventually did enough as a team to close out the game and win it 96-91, but it was not easy at the end. And because of that big finish by the Warriors, there are a few of glimmers of hope the Warriors can take from this one.

David Lee was a forgotten man on the Warriors bench. He has been sitting over there collecting dust on the Warriors bench for most of the playoffs and the entire NBA Finals series. And in Game 3, it seemed that Lee was going to sit the entire game as well. But with Draymond Green struggling, Bogut disappearing and Festus Ezeli struggling as well, Warriors coach Steve Kerr finally went to Lee and the results were excellent. The biggest thing that was hurting the Warriors all game long was their lack of weapons at the post position. The aforementioned Green has been struggling to shoot the basketball all series long and Bogut and Ezeli are not really offensive weapons. Lee, although he can struggle on defense, can make it happen on the offensive end. And because of his presence, he puts pressure on the Cavaliers big men. He almost scored as many points tonight as he scored in the entire playoffs with his finishes around the rim and his active body. Going into the next game, the Warriors bring in Lee ahead of Festus Ezeli off the bench. In fact, if Draymond Green is struggling again as the starting power forward, then Kerr should bring him in for Green as well. Of course the defense will suffer, but the Warriors need offense and the Cavs have been mucking it up for them for the last two games.

But Lee is not the only weapon that could make it happen off their bench. Leandro Barbosa was a forgotten man in Game 2. He played less than ten minutes and did not have the effect that was desired. In Game 3, Kerr again went to his bench and brought in Barbosa to play alongside Curry and Thompson. The result was a pickup of tempo. We all remember the Brazilian Blur and the things he did in Phoenix over his career. Well, he isn’t quite as fast as he was back then, but he still does push the tempo and his stroke is pretty good from three-point range. If Harrison Barnes is going to disappear again like he did in Game 3, then Kerr has the option of bringing in Barbosa alongside Iguodala off his bench or leaving him in with Curry and Thompson to put more pressure on the offense. And with the added shooting and ball-handling, Barbosa can free up Curry to run off screens and can also allow more pressure to be taken off Curry to be the ballhandler and scorer for the Warriors.

Another positive sign from the Warriors in the fourth quarter was the play of Steph Curry. For most of the game, Curry was getting outplayed by Matthew Dellavedova, a backup point guard that has had to step in for an injured Kyrie Irving. Delly, as they call him in Cleveland, was making it happen and had outscored Curry for most of the game. But when the fourth quarter came around and the Warriors made their changes, it seemed like Curry played with the looseness that he played with in Game 1. The results were Steph hitting those high-difficulty shots that he was hitting all season long. And with each shot he hit, you could see his confidence growing more and more. Steph ended the game with 27 points and 7 three-pointers made. Sure, the Warriors still lost the game, but Curry gained back some of that magic he had been missing since the first game of the series. Going into Game 4, look for Steph to play with the same bounce that he played with previously enroute to the MVP. And if he is hitting these types of shots with regularity, then he will have the Cavaliers on their heels and the Warriors will have taken back momentum. And grabbing back all the momentum they lost in two games in Game 4 would be huge for them. Green has not played well, but if they can get Curry going then the team could pickup behind his momentum. Like it or not, he is the MVP and the team is following his lead. Klay Thompson has been playing well, but they get nowhere without Curry being the electrifying player that he can be at all times. In fact, there should be no way Dellavedova could guard him. But the combination of hard-nosed defense and passive offense from Curry has allowed Delly to grow in confidence.

The Warriors may be down, but they are definitely not out of this series. After all, they are down only one game this series. Momentum can change addresses with lightning speed, just like it did from Game 1 to Game 2 of this series. The main thing the Warriors have to do is take what they did in the fourth quarter and duplicate it over four quarters. Pushing tempo will definitely be the key to all that happening. We shall see if they do so or if they continue to let the Cavaliers muck up the basketball game.

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Andre Iguodala Was The Unsung Hero In The Golden State Warriors’ Game One Win

Andre Iguodala flies in for an impressive dunk versus the Cavaliers in the first quarter of Game 1(photo courtesy of www.abc7news.com)

Andre Iguodala flies in for an impressive dunk versus the Cavaliers in the first quarter of Game 1(photo courtesy of http://www.abc7news.com)

The Golden State Warriors were a really deep team this year. In fact, you could say they had strength in numbers the entire year. But the thing about this team is that it never would have happened if it weren’t for the willingness of one particular vet on the Warriors team. When Steve Kerr was hired as head coach, he went and visited the veterans about some things that he wanted to change. And in those visits he made one huge stop to see Andre Iguodala. The veteran forward out of Arizona had been a starter his entire career in the NBA. But what Kerr was going to propose to him was going to test whether he wanted to be a part of something or get what he wanted. Kerr went to Iguodala and asked him about accepting a role off the bench. Kerr envisioned Iggy being his utility knife off the bench while freeing up Harrison Barnes as the starter. He was not the most receptive to the thought at first. In fact, he reluctantly accepted the proposition from his new head coach and moved to the bench for the team. And as a result, he helped the Warriors form a deep and bench with veterans Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa, David Lee and Shaun Livingston and a young big man in Festus Ezeli. And with Iguodala leading the way, all accepted their roles off the bench. The results were the Warriors wearing out teams all season long on their way to the top seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. But as the season has gone on, Iguodala has shown to be the most important member of the depth Golden State has. And in Game One of the NBA Finals, he showed his worth even more for the Warriors.

Coming into this series, Iguodala was one of the many that were going to be guarding LeBron James. Even though he is shorter than LeBron (standing at only 6’6”), he was considered one of the best matchups the Warriors had against LeBron. After all, they could not take Draymond Green off Tristian Thompson with how much damage he was doing in the paint. Harrison Barnes got his shot at LeBron first and it seemed like LeBron was catching a rhythm. And even though the shots were contested, it looked like Harrison was just overmatched the entire time he was up against LeBron. Steve Kerr and his coaches must have been watching and saw that as well. And when they did, they sent in Iggy to defend LeBron James. The result was LeBron only getting 7 points on Iggy while shooting 13 shots. Of course LeBron exploded tonight, but it was not on the watch of Iggy, who has been known as a very good defender his entire career. LeBron got the best of Iggy a few times, especially when he was in the post, but there was a number of times when LeBron had to contort himself in all types of angles to make it happen. Of all the defenders, Iggy was by far the most effective and could have potentially done even more guarding LeBron if given the opportunity. But true to his play all season for this team, he did what was asked of him. His goal is not to be the star of the team but to fulfill a role that was asked of him when he was first asked to come off the bench. And as a result of his sacrifice, he is now coming up big in the postseason.

But not only did Iguodala come up big on the defensive end of the court, he even hit some shots and made some excellent offensive plays. Iguodala was as aggressive offensively as he has been throughout the entire postseason on his way to 15 points. Two great moves he made stood out bigtime tonight in regards to the aggressive nature he possessed Thursday night. When LeBron James was guarding him to close out the 1st quarter, Iggy hit him with the crossover between his legs that left LeBron standing like he had on cement shoes. The result: a two-handed dunk at the rim. Iggy also had a steal and Eurostep for a dunk in the third quarter as well. It was the most impressive Iggy had looked the entire postseason, even hitting a three-pointer with one shoe on. He played with reckless abandon the entire night. And even though he hoisted some two bad shots, the aggressiveness was something that head coach Steve Kerr appreciated and allowed enroute to his 32 minutes of court time. If the Warriors get this type of play from Iguodala on the offensive end of the court throughout the rest of this series, then it could be huge issues for Cleveland, who struggle a lot to find offense off their bench. And it could also mean a quick NBA Finals appearance for the Cavaliers, especially if point guard Kyrie Irving’s knee injury he suffered is serious.

Iguodala did not have to sacrifice for the team this season. He could have easily asked the Warriors to trade him once the new coaching staff approached him about taking him out of the starting lineup. But instead of thinking about himself, he sacrificed himself for the betterment of the team and the chance to have something special. Well, something special is definitely brewing in Oakland and Iggy is a huge part of it. And in Game One, he had his imprints all over the game and was a huge factor in the Warriors’ comeback win.

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Golden State Versus Cleveland: Strength In Numbers Meets Believeland

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of www.cleveland.com)

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com)

The NBA Finals are finally upon us. From the Eastern Conference, we have the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by NBA superstar LeBron James. And from the Western Conference, we have the Golden State Warriors, who won 67 games this year and were the class of the NBA this season. Both teams have had some things happen to them along the way that have made them stronger teams. But only one team will be at full strength coming into the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs are playing without power forward Kevin Love and have a gimpy Kyrie Irving scheduled to play in Game 1. But with that being said, the Cavs have found a way to make it happen and persevere. The Warriors, in the meantime, had a couple bumps and bruises to their Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Both looked to have concussions but only Klay was determined to have one as a result of an inadvertent knee to the head from Rockets guard Trevor Ariza in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The series starts on Thursday and there will be plenty things to talk about, but what it may ultimately come down to is a couple different things for each team.

We all know that LeBron James is the best player on the planet right now. But we also know that it is almost impossible to stop him from get where he wants to go on the court. With that being said, the only thing the Warriors can hope to do is slow him down. In doing that, the Warriors have an advantage because of their depth. LeBron will probably get his numbers, but if the Warriors want to win, they have to take advantage of their depth and wear on LeBron. A rotation of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and possibly Andre Iguodala will more than likely be the main competition guarding James. Draymond Green has his hands full in keeping Tristian Thompson off the boards and that could limit the time he has to guard LeBron. But as for Thompson and Iguodala, they have the size to deal with LeBron along with the defensive prowess. Both of these two along with Green could make it harder on LeBron to get to the basket and put pressure on defensives. And when the defense collapses, that is when LeBron is even more dangerous. At that point, LeBron will then starting picking through the defense to make pinpoint passes to his teammates. And when the supporting cast is contributing and hitting shots that could be serious trouble. The best bet of the Warriors would be to force James to make perimeter shots and offer just a little bit of a show regarding defensive help. The more he has to score and go at it with his teammates less involved, the more he will have to feel he has got to win the game by himself.

Another big thing for the Warriors versus the Cavs is rebounding. The Cavaliers absolutely killed the Atlanta Hawks on the boards last series and this series they have potentially an advantage with Tristian Thompson on their team. With Thompson, the Cavaliers are posting the third-best offensive rebounding differential in the NBA playoffs (+2.2) along with the best rebounding differential in the playoffs with +6.5. Thompson has been a bull in a china shop with his relentless pursuit of the basketball reminds some of Dennis Rodman and his rebounding wizardry. He, along with Timofey Mozgov, can cause some problems with the Warriors inside. Golden State has depth, but they would rather stay out of foul trouble when it comes to the likes of Thompson and Mozgov. With the Warriors, they must use Draymond Green to match up with Thompson. These two are both versatile players and they are also both barometers for their team’s success beyond the usual suspects. And Green has the great ability to defend taller players no matter what size. And in the case of Mozgov, it will be interesting to see how the matchup between Mozgov and Andrew Bogut swings. Bogut was and still is a great defender after making 2nd team All-Defense, so he will more than likely hold his own down there. And the best thing about Green and Bogut is they don’t have to do it all by themselves. The Warriors also have center Festus Ezeli, power forward David Lee and others that will be there reinforcements to help.

For the Cavaliers, they have to have their team slow down the basketball game. The best way for the Cavs to do that is to slow down the basketball game just a little bit. The Cavs are more of an isolation team at times, so doing this could be a problem. But it also could be a problem if they play a little bit too fast and get hammered by the Warriors in transition. The best way to slow them down and keep them out of transition is to make baskets. Players like Kyrie Irving, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert will need to stay hot when shooting the threes and jump shots. When you shoot well against Golden State, the tempo is right there in your hands and you control the pace of the game. The more your team controls the tempo, the more Golden State has to run halfcourt offense. The Warriors are more than capable of running halfcourt offense, but they are also more prone to turning the ball over because of getting too flashy or just not valuing the basketball. And the other main thing that slowing the game down does for Cleveland is makes it easier for them to set their defense. The Cavaliers have been very good defensively in the playoffs, only giving up 92.6 points per game. The more they are able to get back and defend the Warriors, the better the Cavaliers choices are in defending the Warriors.

Another thing the Cavs must do to win is keep the Warriors out of the paint. You would not think a team that is perceived as a jump-shooting team would need to be kept out of the paint, but the Warriors do it in an unusual way. They use movement and penetration to make things easier to get to the basket. For Cleveland, the trade for Mozgov game them a rim protector and someone that could deter guards from coming inside at times. He will have to be big for the Cavs this entire series for them to win. But not only he will have to be big, but so will the rest of the Cavaliers defense. One guy that could defend Draymond Green this series could be James Jones. The veteran wing player has been playing some power forward this season and he could help deter Green from shooting that three he tends to shoot off penetration and in transition because of his length and his ability to guard on the perimeter. Now he will be at a disadvantage on the block and rebounding, but he will have help there as well in Mozgov and Thompson perhaps as well. And speaking of defending the three, the Cavaliers would like to force the Warriors to shoot them more because they are only giving up the three at a 28.1% clip. That is by far the best of the teams that were in the NBA postseason.

The Cavs and the Warriors is a battle that many wanted to see in this postseason. The case of the former MVP in LeBron James versus the reigning MVP in Steph Curry. Both will have impacts on this series along with the usual players, but in regards to how this series will go, these points along with the depth of the Warriors and lack of depth of the Cavs will have an impact. In the end, the depth of the Warriors will prove too much for the Cavs and LeBron James. The Warriors win this series in six games and will prove there truly is strength in numbers.

Memphis Versus Golden State: Grit And Grime Versus Flash And Splash

Draymond Green got the better of Jeff Green this time on a swoop to the hoop. (photo courtesy of www.chatsports.com)

Draymond Green got the better of Jeff Green this time on a swoop to the hoop. (photo courtesy of http://www.chatsports.com)

Two of the top teams in the NBA’s Western Conference are meeting up in the Conference Semifinals. The Golden State Warriors have been resting for a while since they swept the upstart New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs. Point guard Steph Curry was spectacular and so was his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson. The Pelicans stood no chance against Golden State honestly. The Memphis Grizzlies gave the basketball world a little more drama in their series against the Portland Trailblazers. Up 3-0 in the series, the Trailblazers pulled out a game to send the series back to Memphis. But that was where their playoff journey ended as Memphis rose up and finally knocked the Trailblazers out. Along the way to the Grizzlies winning the series, they unfortunately had a big injury occur. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. suffered facial fractures when he collided with Trailblazers guard CJ McCollum in the first round of the playoffs and he had to have surgery to repair the fractures. As far as his outlook for the series, he will be traveling with the team but it is uncertain whether Conley, Jr. will be playing or not. Many expect him to play this series, but there is just no assurances when it will happen. Anything can happen with these two excellent teams doing battle. However, the one thing we can be sure of is there will be a battle of styles between them.

The Golden State Warriors have been a team on the run for most of the season. They are known to pick up the speed when they run their offense and are in perpetual motion at all times. The results of that perpetual motion is usually a wide-open layup or a great play by either Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green. The biggest mismatch if Conley is able to make it on the court will be Draymond Green. The Warriors may be driven by their star guards, but the undersized power forward of the Warriors has been thriving when they have found him trailing the play for those wide-open three-pointers. The tempo allows him to get those type of looks and the more the tempo is pushed, the better he will be. The biggest thing that Memphis can do to stop him is slow the tempo as much as possible. The more they dictate the tempo, the less amount of possessions the Warriors can have to make things happen. But if the Grizzlies are not able to make that happen, then they acquired another option that could come up big in this series. Forward Jeff Green was acquired by the Grizzlies in January. Some envisioned him as the guy that could put Memphis over the top this season. But so far, he has been missing in action in the playoffs. He awakened some in the last game of the Portland series, but he just seemed to be passive and could not buy a shot. In this series, his versatility will be very much needed. Standing at 6’9”, Green can man the power forward position for the Grizzlies as well as play the small forward position. His quickness and length could be something that could both Draymond Green due to him being used to guarding perimeter players. The trade off, however, will be that Memphis will only be able to have one of their big men on the court at that time. And in this situation with their opponent, it could be Zach Randolph as the guy that loses playing time. However it pans out, the Grizzlies have to find a way to either matchup with the Warriors or assert their will on them.

The Grizzlies, unlike the Warriors, have a deliberately slow tempo. And unlike the Warriors, their system is built around inside play. For a few seasons, Memphis has been pounding their opponents into submission while winning at a high rate. And no other player has been the face of that movement other than Zach Randolph. The bruising power forward has been a revelation to Memphis ever since he landed there back in 2009. And in this series, he could be the focal point of the offense. He is undoubtedly more physical than LaMarcus Aldridge, who Golden State played against last series. And to add to it, he has the feathery touch to hit the midrange jump shot as well. His physical abilities along with his work on the offensive boards could cause a guy like Draymond Green some issues in the post. And as a result, there could be some foul trouble in his future. Because of that post mismatch, it will be important for Golden State to pick up the tempo so that Green can take advantage of Randolph at the other end of the court. But if the Warriors are not able to slow down the tempo, then there will be two reserves that could be vital. Power forward David Lee has fought injuries for much of the season. And even when he was playing, he did not get the minutes he was used to as a reserve this season. His role may not be as big as it once was, but this series he could be big in defending Zach Randolph. The bigger body could help keep him off the boards and make things a lot harder for him to score. Another reserve for the Warriors that could be off assistance more is Marreese Speights. Speights made a small albeit important impact on the last series versus the Pelicans and this series he could see more action. He, like David Lee, is a bigger body. And that bigger body could again be something that causes problems for Randolph. The Warriors have to find a way of matching up with the bruising Grizzlies lineup.

The speed of the Warriors versus the power of the Grizzlies. Which one will take over this series and assert their will? It will be fun to see what adjustments each team makes with each game that passes. And ultimately, it will be interesting to see what happens when one team gets hit with a body blow and how they responds. It should be a good series between both teams and ultimately a good test for both teams to see if they are as good as they think they are.

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