Surprise, Surprise — Knicks Lose Again On The Road

Lauri Markkanen

Last time I checked, 87 is not a lot of points. Not in the NBA at least. Despite the New York Knicks’ struggles away from Madison Square Garden, Wednesday brought a solid matchup. The Chicago Bulls, in the 2nd of a back-to-back, expended a boat load of energy in their 115-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks — and it showed. The Bulls, from the jump, looked sluggish. They scored just 17 points in the 1st quarter, falling behind 11 in a hurry. After finding themselves down by as many as 15 in the 1st half, the Bulls flipped a switch. Maybe they were sleepwalking through the 1st half. But when they woke up, they realized they were playing the Knicks.

Good defense?? Bad offense?? What did we watch last night?? It was a healthy combination. Listen, the Knicks aren’t offensive juggernauts. They average just 103.5 points per game (11th out of 15 in the Eastern Conference). But the Bulls clamped down on everyone not named Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis was the only player to score over 20 points (23), and 1 of 3 Knicks to finish in double figures. Courtney Lee had 17, and Jarrett Jack had 11. Frank Ntilikina, as much as I like his defense, simply isn’t ready for the NBA. 3 for 10 from the field, including 0 for 3 from 3-point range, isn’t ideal. Neither is fouling out of the game….

The Knicks are funny. Historically known for surging late in games, Wednesday was, uhh, not that. Check out the Knicks’ scoring decline by quarter: 28, 24, 21, 14. Also, not ideal. Also comical, the fact that the Knicks had a chance to tie the game with 7.8 seconds left. Down 90-87, the ball inexplicably wound up in Enes Kanter’s hands. Kanter jacked up an ill-advised 3-pointer, that missed horribly, and that was all she wrote. 92-87. The Knicks now stand at a putrid 2-11 on the road. Don’t worry, they won’t be 2-11 for long. They’re on their way to San Antonio as we speak to catch their 12th road loss.

Catch another Knicks’ beat down tonight @ 8:30 P.M. EST on MSG.

**Let’s hope Frank Ntilikina stays grounded after he meets his fellow countrymen, Tony Parker. The Knicks don’t need Ntilikina dribbling the ball off his leg as he gazes into Parker’s eyes.

The Bulls will look to continue their winning ways (winners of 9 of their last 11) when they host the Indiana Pacers on Friday @ 8:00 P.M. EST.

 

How many road games will the Knicks win this season?? Don’t hold back now, tell me what you really think in the comment section below.  

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The Knicks’ International Affairs Are In Order

NBA: Draft

Bonjour! Comment-vas tu? Bon.

“Oh, this isn’t France. Is this France? This isn’t France, is it? I didn’t think so.”

The New York Knicks selected 18 year old Frank Ntilikina of France with the 8th overall selection in last night’s NBA Draft. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve watched his whole career and can fairly predict his future, but I AM going to tell you about the last time the Knicks selected a player from France. Anyone older than 25 should remember this one. Ah yesssss, the 15th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, Frederic Weis. Let’s just say that one didn’t work out so well.

I know, I know. It’s unfair to compare this kid to a player who was drafted 18 years ago just because they’re from the same country. It is fair, however, to point out that France hasn’t exactly produced a plethora of NBA talent. Tony Parker is the best French player of all-time, but he’s technically not even French. He grew up in France, so apparently that counts. It is also fair to be skeptical of any draft pick the Knicks make. I mean, they are ALL-TIME BAD at drafting. Don’t believe me?? Click here to see this list of mediocrity. But they drafted Kristaps Porzingis, and he’s a good international player. Yes, they did, but 1 pick doesn’t change 69 years of poor drafting.

Everyone who has seen this kid play has said he’s the real deal. He’s 18. He’s 6’5″. And he actually likes playing defense. Did you hear that Derrick Rose?? We found a player who likes playing defense. The ‘machine’ is also telling us he’s been playing professionally since the age of 15, so he’s an experienced 18 year old. Well, someone is going to have to define playing for me. At the age of 16, he played in 3 games (8 mpg). At 17, he played in 26 games, but only averaged 9.2 mpg. And at 18, he has finally received regular playing time of 18.2 mpg. The only problem is he’s averaging just 5.2 points and 1.4 assists per game. While he’s 18, with room to grow, and scouts universally projected him as a top-10 draft pick, it concerns me that this is the sample size they are using. 5.2 points and 1.4 assists????

I really hope I’m wrong about this kid.

If I were running the Knicks (a man can dream), I would have gone with Malik Monk out of Kentucky. Today’s NBA is filled with long-range shooters, and Monk was, without question, the best shooter in this year’s draft.

The Knicks also had 2 picks in the 2nd round. They selected Damyean Dotson (44th), a 6’6″ shooting guard out of the University of Houston. Dotson is an athletic guard who can shoot baby shoot. He averaged 44.3% shooting from 3-point range last season. And with the 58th pick, they selected Ognjen Jaramaz out of Serbia. At 21 years old, Jaramaz is a 6’4″ point guard.

Back to Ntilikina. Did you know his team is in the midst of a playoff run in Europe?? Immediately following the draft, he had to fly back to France to reunite with his team. ESPN reported he was scheduled to arrive at the game just in time for warm-ups. That’s nuts, but good for him! My only concern is, what if Ntilikina gets hurt playing overseas?? I know anyone can get hurt walking down the stairs, but the majority of last night’s draft picks are currently nursing hangovers in a New York City hotel room, not traveling halfway across the world to play for someone else.

Let’s collectively knock on wood.

Are you happy with the Knicks draft?? Give them a grade in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like my page on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading!! Now go tell all your friends about me!!

 

 

The English Language Doesn’t Have A Word For What The Spurs Did To The Rockets Thursday Night

spurs

WOW!! Let me say that again. WOW!!!! Was that awesome or what?? I’ve never enjoyed watching an absolute blowout so much in my life. In case you turned the game off at halftime, it only got worse (for the Rockets). The San Antonio Spurs crushed, destroyed, demolished, routed, embarrassed, beat down, annihilated, obliterated, and most importantly eliminated the Houston Rockets on Thursday night (114-75). Yes, you read that score right. 114-75.

Game 6 started with the Spurs winning the tip-off. Lamarcus Aldridge received the ball in the low post, made a quick spin move toward the left baseline, and scored an easy basket. Just 23 seconds into the game, the tenor was set for the rest of the evening. Aldridge channeled his days as a Portland Trailblazer (where he averaged nearly 20 points and 9 rebounds per game), finishing with 34 points and 12 rebounds. He was unstoppable, and the rest of the spurs, sans Kawhi Leonard, followed suit. Before we get to the Spurs’ impressive performance, let us attempt to understand what happened to James Harden and the Rockets….

I’ve never seen such a pathetic performance from an MVP candidate, on his home floor, in an elimination game in my life. James Harden looked about as interested in last night’s game as this kid from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

ferris

Harden attempted just 2 shots in the 1st half. 2 shots!! Momentum is often thought of in a positive light, but I guess the awful momentum of Harden’s disastrous play at the end of Game 5 spilled over to Game 6. Harden finished with a season low 10 points on 2-11 shooting, and added a stellar 6 turnovers. His performance was inexplicable, but if Harden wasn’t making such a ridiculous salary, I’d be calling for a point-shaving investigation. It was that bad! But anyway, back to the Spurs….

Six Spurs scored in double figures. Jonathan Simmons, who started in place of Leonard, contributed 18 points on 8-12 shooting and played the best defense I’ve seen since the ’85 Bears (“Da Bears“). Rookie point guard, Dejounte Murray, played a fantastic game posting a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block). Someone tell me how this kid fell to 29th in the draft?! This kid is going to be a very good point guard for a very long time. Pau Gasol, Danny Green, and Patty Mills had solid games, all scoring in double figures as well.

The Spurs have been typecast with playing a “boring” brand of basketball. I am sick of hearing that. If putting the ball in the basket efficiently, playing relentless defense, and winning is “boring”, then sign me up for some boring. And I’ll take a side of fundamentals with my boring please. In the age of hey everybody look at me, it is refreshing to see a franchise run like the Spurs. Sure, they have a superstar in Kawhi Leonard, but do you see him showboating? Complaining? Flailing his arms about looking for an imaginary foul? Flopping around like a fish out of water? The answer, to all, is an emphatic NO!

The Spurs, once again, proved why they are the cream of the crop in the NBA. They are heading to their 10th Western Conference Finals under Gregg Popovich (the coach since ’96-’97). I know, I know, this sounds a lot like the New England Patriots. Well, it’s because they are run very similarly. They don’t hand out contracts based on what you’ve done, rather for what you are going to do. They turn late round draft picks into stars. They don’t tolerate individual egos. And they are run with only one thing in mind; WINNING.

The question is, will they win against the contrasting style of the Golden State Warriors? Assuming Kawhi Leonard’s health, and as much as I don’t want to eat my words for doubting the Spurs, I still can’t envision the Spurs beating the Warriors 4 times in 7 tries. Can you?

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. You can also follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Spurs Win Overtime Thriller!!

manu

Whoever said ‘Father Time’ is unbeaten clearly hasn’t met Manu Ginobili. Or Tom Brady I’m assuming. Or Roy Jones Jr. for that matter. Did you know Jones Jr. is still fighting professionally at the age of 48?! That’s awesome!! Man, how did I get off topic already?! Anyway….Ginobili, the former 6th Man of the Year, turned back the clock Tuesday night, leading his San Antonio Spurs to victory (110 – 107 F/OT). They became his Spurs when Kawhi Leonard tweaked his ankle in the 3rd quarter after stepping on James Harden’s foot. Leonard would return to the game, but the injury forced him to watch the final 5:34 from the sidelines. With the series tied at 2-2, the atmosphere was tense inside AT&T Center. The fans, who seemingly stood the entire game, were rewarded with the best game of the 2017 playoffs. Exciting games have been few and far between in these playoffs, but Game 5 did not disappoint.

James Harden’s stat-line looks fantastic. He posted a triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, numbers only tell part of the story. Harden was BRUTAL when it mattered most. Don’t believe me?? That’s okay, just check out James Harden’s final 5:54 of the game:

  • He went scoreless on 0-2 shooting
  • He had 4 turnovers (9 total for the game)
  • He committed a silly foul on Danny Green on a made basket with :30 left in overtime
  • And last but certainly not least, his 3-point attempt at the buzzer was blocked from behind by Manu Ginobili

Game 5 was not about Harden’s ugly beard, however, it was about the Spurs resilient performance. While their best player was resigned to the bench, the Spurs embodied the motto ‘Next Man Up’. Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Jonathan Simmons put forth memorable performances. Mills played a team high 43 minutes, contributed 20 points, and hit a game high five 3-pointers (none bigger than the one that brought them within 2 with 2:12 left in regulation). Simmons brought the energy. After every big play, Simmons could be seen screaming and pumping his fists passionately. Simmons was also the culprit in 3 out of Harden’s 4 turnovers down the stretch. Danny Green singlehandedly outscored the Houston Rockets in overtime (7-6). He actually scored all 7 of those points in the final :56 of overtime (impressive right?). And then there’s soon-to-be 40, Manu Ginobili. Ginobili posted 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and most importantly 1 MONSTER BLOCK (as pictured above)!!

Manu Ginobili has been an essential part of the Spurs last 4 championships. And with Tony Parker already out for the remainder of the playoffs, and Kawhi Leonard now hobbled, Ginobili will need to channel the 2006-2007 version himself if he wants to wear ring number 5. Assuming the Spurs do outlast the Rockets, I can’t see them stealing more than 2 games from the Golden State Warriors. I’ll be rooting for Ginobili and the Spurs (even though I’m a loyal Knicks fan), but I think Curry and company will be too much to handle for old man river.

How far do you think the Spurs will go in the playoffs?? Let me know in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. You can also follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

 

 

So Many Sports, So Little Time

gausman

Wednesday was a busy day in the sports world. Too much for one person to handle some might say. But I’m here, so I may as well give it a shot….

NBA

Wednesday night showcased two NBA playoff matchups. Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled the Toronto Raptors (125-103), taking a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Lebron did what he does, scoring 39 points while adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Just another day at the office huh?? Lebron’s 39 points were special because he passed Kareem-Abdul Jabbar for 2nd all-time on the playoff scoring list. Bad became worse for the Raptors as Kyle Lowry went down in the 3rd quarter with a left ankle injury. Lowry would return to the game, but with a noticeable limp, so I’d call Lowry questionable at best for Game 3.

The late game Wednesday night was Game 2 of the Houston Rockets vs. the San Antonio Spurs. The storyline here was simple: after a lopsided Game 1 win by the Rockets, how would the Spurs respond? And they responded exactly as I expected, with a 121-96 victory. Kawhi Leonard showed the world why he is an MVP candidate. Leonard dominated the offensive side of things with 34 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. Tony Parker also had a good game, however, he had to be carried off the court during the 4th quarter when his left knee buckled. The real story of Game 2 was Leonard’s defense, as he showed why he is the 2-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He locked up James Harden for the majority of the game, holding Harden to 13 points on 3 of 17 shooting. I guess Leonard doesn’t fear the beard.

NHL

The NHL also put forth two playoff games on Wednesday night. The Anaheim Ducks won an overtime thriller over the Edmonton Oilers (5-4). After an awful giveaway in his own zone by Adam Larsson of the Oilers, Ryan Getzlaf fed a wide-open Jakob Silfverberg right in front of the net.  Silfverberg drove home the one-time winner just 45 seconds into overtime, and this series is now tied at two games a piece.

Earlier in the evening, the Sydney Crosbyless Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Washington Capitals in Game 4. Crosby is still out after leaving Game 3 with a concussion. I guess the Capitals felt bad for the Penguins, so they decided to score for them. Oh yeah, you heard that right. In the 2nd period, Pittsburghs’ Jake Guentzel sent the puck in front of Washington’s net and defenseman Dmitry Orlov thought it would be a good idea to kick that puck into his own net. Nice work! The Penguins went on to win 3-2, and now hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

MLB

There was a full slate of MLB games on Wednesday night, but there was one game that dominated the headlines. The Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles have an on going feud that began on April 11th. It all started with a hard slide from Manny Machado into 2nd base that took out Dustin Pedroia’s legs. Since then, the Red Sox threw at Machado’s head, the Orioles plunked Mookie Betts, and Machado was thrown at again (this time going behind him). These actions resulted in a conference call between the Red Sox and Orioles organizations, the MLB Commisioner, and the MLB Players Association calling for the feud to be put to rest. Well you guessed it, the feud was not put to rest. Wednesday night, Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts, albeit with a curveball, as some form of sneaky retribution. Gausman was immediately ejected. I view Gausman and the Orioles as the immature person who must get the last word in no matter how wrong they know they are. But at the same time, can we not throw baseballs at people’s heads at 100 miles per hour? Okay cool, thanks. Good Talk.

In New York baseball news, the New York Mets continued their roller coaster season, beating the Atlanta Braves 16-5. As for the Yankees, they continued their winning ways, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 8-6. Aaron Judge smashed his MLB leading 13th home run of the season, and I’m quite certain he grew a foot taller last night as well.

BOXING

I’m assuming you haven’t watched a boxing match since Evander Holyfield was in the ring, but let’s talk about it anyway. This Saturday, May 6th, Canelo Alzarez (48-1-1, 34 KO’s) will take on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KO’s) in an All-Mexican Showdown in Las Vegas. Coincidentally, this match will take place just one day after Cinco de Mayo. Canelo, the Junior Middleweight Title Holder, will move up a weight class to fight Chavez Jr. at a catch weight of 164.5 pounds. Canelo’s only loss to date remains a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. Canelo is the odds on favorite to win this match and for good reason. I see Canelo winning fairly easily in a unanimous decision.

SOCCER

Juventus is very good.

 

What did you watch on Wednesday night? Let me know all about it in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. You can also follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

Heat Steal Overtime Thriller

If you fell asleep before the end of this game last night, I feel bad for you. It was one of the best basketball games that has ever been played. The San Antonio Spurs came into Miami with the momentum from a solid victory in game 5 and they looked like they were well on their way to another championship. They outplayed the Heat for the first 3 quarters and all they had to do was play 12 more solid minutes of basketball and the championship was theirs. And then, seemingly in a blink of an eye, someone knocked off Lebron James’ headband and knocked some sense into his head. He flipped that switch that everyone in the world (other than himself apparently) knows he can. He physically took over the game at both ends of the floor and singlehandedly brought his team back from the brink of elimination. I don’t care what Lebron’s final stat line turned out to be though, he did not play well until the 4th quarter. Now, despite his dominating play in the 4th quarter, the Heat still found themselves down 5 points with under 30 seconds to play. While the 2nd to last minute of the game was filled with Heat mistakes, the last minute (and overtime) was filled with Spurs mistakes. And Gregg Popovich deserves the majority of the blame for these blunders. Yes, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard both missed free throws down the stretch, but it was the benching of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker at the most inopportune times that will stick in my mind. For those of you who missed the end of the game let me give you a quick rundown of what I’m talking about. The Spurs were up 4 points with 28 seconds left in regulation and Manu Ginobili was heading to the free throw line. He had the opportunity to put the game nearly out of reach. Instead, he misses the first free throw and makes the second. Then after a Heat timeout, Tim Duncan was left on the bench for Boris Diaw. On the ensuing possession Lebron misses a 3-pointer but Mike Miller grabs the offensive rebound, swings it back out to James, and bang he nails the shot. Would Duncan have gotten that defensive rebound if he was in the game? There is no guarantee, but I would have bet money on it. Now, down 2, the Heat send Kawhi Leonard to the free throw line on a phantom foul by Mike Miller. He follows in Ginobili’s footsteps and proceeds to miss the first and make the second free throw. Inexplicably, Popovich decides to take Duncan out of the game AGAIN. This obviously leads to yet another offensive rebound by the Heat, which in turn leads to the game tying 3-pointer by Ray Allen. Popovich may be one of the greatest coaches of all time, but how do you explain these tactical errors?

Now what occurred immediately following Allen’s monumental 3-pointer is the fact that the game was stopped to review whether the shot was in fact a 3-pointer. No one is talking about this today, and this angers me to a level that I don’t have a word for, and Popovich was pretty livid with the referees as well. As seen in overtime, Popovich likes to take the ball and push it (off makes or misses) in hopes to catch the defense off guard for an easy basket. He will do this no matter the situation, and if the Spurs were able to inbound the ball and push it right away no one knows what could have happened. The game was stopped and while the Spurs did get time to set up a play, so did the Heat’s defense. In turn, the final possession in regulation failed miserably and it was off to overtime we went. I’ll fast forward to the last 31 seconds because that’s where it gets interesting. The Spurs were down by one and Gregg Popovich, for no sane reason, decides to take Tony Parker out of the game. Common sense would dictate, and even the commentators mentioned that Popovich would most likely be bringing Parker back into the game on the next timeout. So, the Heat miss their shot attempt and the Spurs grab the rebound with just under 10 seconds to play. Instead of calling a timeout to bring Parker back in and set up a play, the Spurs decide to push the ball up the floor. Manu Ginobili (who played one of the worst games you’ll ever see) tries to drive the lane against 3 Heat players and gets stripped/fouled and the ball lands in Ray Allen’s hands. Allen is fouled with 1.9 seconds left on the clock and knocks down both free throws (of course). The Spurs then call a timeout to push the ball past half court. With one final effort, Tim Duncan inbounds the ball across the court to Danny Green who is blocked/fouled by Chris Bosh as time expires. The Heat force a game 7 in dramatic fashion, and if it is anything like game 6 it will not disappoint.

The big question at this moment is: how can the Spurs possibly bounce back from a crushing defeat to win game 7 on the road? It is a tough question to answer, but I believe if any team can do it, it would be this years Spurs. They have shown their resiliency in this series, always bouncing right back immediately following a defeat. Tim Duncan will need to use his two greatest inventions to do it though; his time machine and his cloning machine. In order for the Spurs to win game 7, Tim Duncan needs to play like he did back in 2003, and he needs to clone himself from the first half of game 6. Duncan was masterful in the first half, scoring at will and putting on a rebounding clinic. Duncan took Chris Bosh to school last night, dominating him in every aspect of the game. It is so impressive to watch Duncan play at such a high level after so many years, and Chris Bosh is no match for Duncan’s greatness in the low post. The Spurs could also use a slightly better effort from Manu Ginobili if they plan on celebrating on Miami’s home court Thursday night. But the most important task for the Spurs in game 7, is to contain Lebron James. Lebron continues to move from the most important game of his career to the most important game of his career. He should look to take control early as he did in last night’s 4th quarter. However, I’m sure the Spurs would love to see him come out flat again with 9 points in the first half. Think about that, Lebron scored 9 points on 3-12 shooting in the first half. That’s horrible! And while Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard deserve all the credit in the world for their defensive job on Lebron, no one should hold him to those kind of numbers, ever.

Game 7 should be another epic chapter in the history of the NBA. Take a nap Thursday afternoon, throw water on your face at halftime, or drink 3 coffees and red bull because you won’t want to miss this game. Tune into game 7 on ABC at 9:00 p.m. to catch all the action. Oh, you want a prediction? How could I forget? I would love for the Spurs to win, but I see the Heat winning a tight one; 99-96. I have my fingers crossed right now (yes I’m typing) and I’ll be on the edge of my seat rooting for the Spurs Thursday night, but that’s how I see it going down. Enjoy! Leave your predictions below in the comment section.

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Complete And Utter Domination

Have you ever seen a game where the score didn’t fully reflect how the game went? Well, that was what happened last night. The crazy thing about that is the 36-point whooping (113-77) the Spurs laid on the Heat didn’t do the Spurs performance justice. The only reason the Spurs didn’t win by 50 was because of Mike Miller and his 5 3-pointers. Miller is now 8-8 in the last 2 games and hasn’t missed a 3-point attempt since Game 1. There wasn’t one aspect of this game that the Spurs didn’t dominate. Their swarming defense created 16 turnovers while holding the almighty Lebron James to a measly 16 points on 7-21 shooting. The most amazing statistic from this game was that Lebron did not make 1 trip to the free throw line the entire game. The Spurs dared James as well as his buddies Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to shoot the ball. They backed off the ball and crowded the paint. This forced James to shoot outside shots all night. So much for an improved jump shot, huh?

While the Spurs obviously benefited from Danny Green and Gary Neal’s performances, Gregg Popovich should receive most of the credit for this victory. He implemented a game plan that he knew would work. He figured the Heat can not beat them if they keep their entire roster at least 15 feet from the basket at all times. It was almost like their was an invisible barricade keeping the Heat from getting to the basket. This is a recipe for success against the Heat. Kawhi Leonard also deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done defensively against James. James has been bad in this series, and a lot of it has to do with Leonard’s defense. Side note: don’t sleep on Kawhi Leonard. He is going to be one of the best two way players in the NBA in 2 years if he continues to improve his offensive repertoire. Anyway, everyone else can feel bad for the over analyzation of Lebron James, but not me. When you are supposed to be the second coming of Michael Jordan and you are now being mentioned in the same breath as MJ, you deserve all the scrutiny that is thrown your way. Fans, analysts, and people alike can talk about James’ supporting cast and their struggles, but at the end of the day it comes down to Lebron James and what he needs to do to win. If you want to be the best ever, you better show up and get it done when the lights are at their brightest. Everyone else can also stay on that Lebron James is clutch bandwagon, but not me. What, because he hit a layup in the regular season against the Orlando Magic to extend their winning streak and a wide open layup against the Pacers in the playoffs he’s all of a sudden clutch? Nope. What Lebron needs to do is physically impose his will and takeover these games. I just don’t think the combination of Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, and Popovich are going to allow that to happen.

What most people are forgetting is that Tony Parker only contributed 6 points in this contest. Parker got banged up during the game and actually had to go back to the locker room for treatment on his hamstring at one point. He would return to the game but was a
non-factor for the rest of the contest. With Parker virtually non existent, Danny Green and Gary Neal more than picked up the slack. Green finished with 27 points on 9-15 shooting from the field including 7-9 from 3-point range!! Neal also added 24 points on 9-17 shooting from the field including 6-10 from 3-point range!! If 2 players from any team are going to combine for 13-19 from downtown, I don’t care who you are playing, you are going to win that game. And that’s what happened. The Spurs won in more than convincing fashion, and they will without a doubt try to carry this momentum into Game 4 on Thursday night. I believe the Spurs will play an efficient Game 4, but the 3’s wont drop at the rate they did in Game 3. The Heat will bounce back and Lebron will play much better as well, which should lead to an epic Game 4. This game becomes incredibly important for the Miami Heat, for if they lose they will find themselves on the brink of elimination and still on the road. At the same time, if Parker can’t play to at least 75% of his potential than the Spurs will lose Game 4. You can catch all the action in Game 4 on ABC @ 9:00 p.m. Enjoy!

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served, uhhh, Hot?

The marathon that is the NBA Playoffs has finally reached its apex; the NBA Finals. There are many gripping story lines attached to these Finals, all of which will contribute to an epic showdown. Lebron James, as a 22 year old, led his Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. This was Lebron’s first taste of the Finals, but it was the taste of defeat that has stayed with him. See, it is Lebron’s desire to win that separates him from the rest of the league (that and his freak of nature physique), and he would love to beat the team that sent him packing (broom in hand), back in 2007. Lebron James is obviously a million times the player he was in ’07, and I think this series will go a little bit differently than the last time they met. On the other hand, you have the most soft spoken all-time great in the history of the league playing for his 5th Championship. At the ripe young age of 37, Tim Duncan is playing like the Tim Duncan of old. He has transformed his body and his mind in order to continue to succeed at the highest level. It also doesn’t hurt that he has some guy by the name of Tony Parker on his team. As with any series there are many questions that need to be answered: Will Lebron James exact his revenge on the Spurs? Will Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade show up for the entire series? Will Tim Duncan continue his stellar play? Will the 187 days of rest help or hurt the Spurs? And last but not least, who will hoist the trophy over their head at the end of this series?

I believe this will be a long hard fought series. On one side you have the best player in the world looking to establish his rightful place among the games all-time greats. On the other side you have the closest thing we’ve seen to a dynasty since the Lakers of the Shaq and Kobe era. The longevity of the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich is impressive and Duncan is looking to win titles over a 14 year span (unprecedented span). The Heat are looking to win consecutive Championships and build a little dynasty of their own. However, with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh’s games both rapidly declining this postseason, many have wondered if this will be their last run at a title as presently constructed. The future for the Heat and Spurs is yet to be seen, but the present is upon us. Tony Parker will play a phenomenal series and people will continue to see why he is one of the best basketball players in the world. Tim Duncan will show case exactly why he has been so great for so long in this series. Many Ginobili will add some timely big shots and flops when necessary as well. However, Lebron James and the Miami Heat will prove to be too much for Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. The Miami Heat will win their 2nd consecutive championship. The Heat certainly have their work cut out for them though. Popovich is too good of a coach to get run off the floor. This will be a grueling back and forth series that spans 14 weeks and 7 games. You can watch Game 1 tonight @ 9:00 p.m. on ABC. Enjoy the action!!

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Mid-Season NBA Awards

It’s that time of year again. We’ve played about 50 games so far, and it’s time to gear up for the All-Star Game. It is also time to dish out some mid-season awards. The awards to be given out are MVP, Sixth man of the Year, Defensive Player of the year, Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. Some of these races have clear cut winners at this point in the season, and some are so difficult to differentiate a front-runner that we need to delve further into each category. I am here to clear up any confusion as to what you’ve seen thus far in the 2012-2013 NBA season.

Let’s start with the easiest debate, Rookie of the Year. If the season were to end today, the obvious winner for this award would be Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. There are some other nice rookies this year(Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, and Dion Waiters come to mind), but Damian is head and shoulders above everyone else right now. He has started every game this season for the Trailblazers. In those games he is averaging 18.2 points on 42% from the field in 38.5 minutes per game(not to mention he’s shooting an impressive 85% from the charity stripe). That is the easiest award to give out, but the rest are a little tougher. Don’t be scared. Just close your eyes, count to three, and rip off that band-aid.

Let’s move on to Sixth Man of the Year. For me this is a two man race between Jamal Crawford and JR Smith. Both have been instant offense off their teams bench. They have both been an integral part of their teams success this season. As much as I love the Knicks, this award has to go to Jamal Crawford. Not only did he outplay JR this past Sunday in a head to head match up, but he has been the better player all season, barely.

Next let’s talk about Coach of the Year. This is a tough one, so let’s throw all the potential candidates out there and then break them down until this makes sense. The candidates are Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson, Frank Vogel, and Tom Thibodeau. If you read my blog you know I am a die hard Knicks fan, and while Woodson has done a phenomenal job with the team so far, their most recent struggles against good teams might hurt him for now.  He did, however, do a great job right from the start of the season.  He was motivating Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, Jason Kidd, and even Rasheed Wallace to maximize their potential out on the floor.  He had everyone buying into his concept of team defense and an uptempo offense.  It was working perfectly until Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert came back from injuries.  I believe it will work out in the end for the Knicks, but there is definitely a growing period that the Knicks and Woodson are going through right now.  The final chapter for the Knicks will determine whether Woodson is the Coach of the year or not.  As of now, I say he is not.  As for Tom Thibodeau, he has impressed by continuing to succeed without his superstar.  For the second straight season Derrick Rose has missed a significant amount of time, yet the Bulls continue to put up winning records. His team plays a defense first, physical brand of basketball that creates nightmare match-ups for smaller teams and turnover prone teams.  It is also extremely impressive to win with Luol Deng as your best player(no offense to Luol he is a nice little player, but let’s be real, he is NOT a #1 guy). With all that being said Tom is still not the coach of the year. Who is? I’m getting there just calm down! The popular pick right now is Mark Jackson.  I like what Mark Jackson is doing with Stephen Curry and the rest of those boys, but his team is not good enough to push him to the top of this debate. While I always liked him as a player, and I personally always thought he would make a good coach some day(ahem, Jason Kidd, ahem), he is not the coach of the year at this point of the season.  My pick for coach of the year right now is Frank Vogel.  I bet most of you don’t even know what team he coaches. That is part of the reason why he is coach of the year right now.  He is a nobody to most people, and he is succeeding with nobodies.  Even his best player who is not playing right now due to injury is a nobody amongst the ranks of superstars. I like Danny Granger’s game, but he like Luol Deng is not a #1 guy. The only problem for the Indiana Pacers(ohhh that’s who Vogel coaches) is that Granger IS their #1 guy. Frank Vogel is my pick for Coach of the Year.
There could have been a nice segue into this next category, seeing as The Pacers have two candidates for Most Improved Player, George hill and Paul George. They have both vastly improved their games, but I think this award is a two man race. Greivis Vasquez and Jrue Holiday have both taken their game to the next level. They have both increased their points and assist totals tremendously from a year ago, and they both have bright futures ahead of them. No disrespect to Greivis, but Jrue Holiday has taken his game into another stratosphere. He has quickly become one of the premier point guards in the NBA, and the league recognized this by selecting him to his first all-star appearance. My award for most improved player goes to Jrue Holiday.
This next category is the toughest for me to choose. It is difficult to find a clear cut winner for Defensive Player of the Year. There are many worthy candidates so far this year that include: Tyson Chandler, Serge Ibaka, Larry Sanders, Lebron James, and Joakim Noah. Larry Sanders and Serge Ibaka will most likely be battling each other for this award for years to come. They are both physical presences underneath the hoop and both block approximately 3 shots a game. It is not due to their lack of defensive effort that they aren’t going to win this award, it’s because someone else on this list has managed to stand out above all the rest. This is me building suspense. Next, what else can you say about Lebron James? The guy is as physically gifted an athlete as anyone who has ever stepped foot on the hard wood. He can guard 4 positions at anytime while still managing to dominate on the offensive end. He is not going to win this award though(at least not this year), but don’t feel too bad for him I’m sure he’ll win another award real soon(hint hint). The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler, has yet again found his way into contention for this award, however when he played the Bulls earlier this season he learned why he isn’t going to repeat as DPOY(he would get my vote for the most intimidating man on the planet though if that was a real award). Joakim Noah has placed himself at the forefront of defensive forces in the NBA. Man is he ugly!! Anyway, as much as I dislike Noah, he does anchor the best defense in the NBA. When he’s on the bench they give up 10 more points then when he’s on the floor.  Joakim Noah gets my vote for Defensive Player of the Year.
Finally, last but not least, the MVP award. This is always a fun debate because people think it’s strictly about offense. It mostly is, but you really need to look at the overall skill-set of a player plus his impact on his team to measure the MVP. The candidates this year are: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. There are two honorable mentions for this category, Chris Paul and Tony Parker. Parker is doing spectacular things that go mostly unnoticed, especially with a banged up Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli on his team. Chris Paul will be in this conversation at the end of the year because he is clearly the best point guard in the NBA. For right now though he has missed too many games to be considered for this award. I love what Carmelo Anthony is doing this season, and I hope he can sustain his outstanding play throughout the whole season, but he doesn’t do enough of the little things to make his teammates better. Let me see if I can use an analogy that makes sense for this argument. Kevin Durant is like The Utah Jazz in the 90’s. If it wasn’t for that Jordan guy and the Chicago Bulls, they might have a couple of rings right now(sorry John, sorry Karl). Get it? Not yet? See, Kevin Durant has improved every facet of his game this year. The problem is that there is this guy named Lebron James in the NBA. As good as Durant is(28.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 51% from the floor, 43% from three point range, and 90% from the free throw line), Lebron is better. Sorry Kevin, I know I’m pulling for you because I certainly don’t like Lebron “I can’t win a title without an all-star roster” James, but Lebron is on his way to another MVP.  As much as I don’t like Lebron, I must give credit where credit is due.  My vote for MVP and best player on the face of the earth is Lebron James.