By Kyle Means, Regal Radio
In the wake of another exciting night of playoff basketball action last night, we saw two home teams, the Chicago Bulls and the Golden State Warriors, who were both up 3-2, trying to clinch berths in the second round of the postseason and trying to avoid rugged game 7s on the road, only one of the teams got the job done.
Unfortunately for the more devoted readers of this website it wasn’t the team we were rooting for. I can’t lie, I psychically wanted the Warriors to fall last night even though they deserve all the success and love they have received so far. I saw promise in this team as constructed when they first brought in Mark Jackson to coach– after a trade with Milwaukee that is looking slicker and slicker by the game, a solid 2012 draft pick up in Harrison Barnes and great free agent and trade acquisitions (Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry), the Warriors look as dangerous as they’ve looked in a long time, more dangerous than 2007 and bordering on the entertainment quotient of Run-TMC.
Who really expected Stephen Curry to be this complete of a basketball talent on the NBA level? When packaged with Monta Ellis in the beginning of his career, Curry got the shoot-first guard label lumped in on him too (also, the fragile ankles didn’t help). But without the urge to forage for shots with Monta next to him, Curry is now running the GS offense in his own image– he makes the passes (highlight-level passes at that) when they need to be made and when there’s space, any space in the defense, he can pull up from anywhere in the gym and hit.
We all have found out through the course of this series that we are looking at something special in Curry, a true playoff revelation — moreso like LeBron in ’07 than Dirk Nowitzki’s “this is my year” run in ’11. Now with Stephen, like then with Bron, we’re seeing a guy who’s confidence with playing in the bright lights is reaching new heights, as if they weren’t already high enough. We’ve seen Curry take a team on his back and play impeccable ball in the process in the ’08 NCAA tournament, but for him to do so in the NBA playoffs… man, this isn’t a one-time thing.
But yeah, I wanted the Warriors to lose, I wanted to see them play Saturday. Why should the Bulls be the only team to face the pressure of losing a completely winnable series tomorrow? And why should we have to go more than two days without seeing Curry play at this point? And why should Golden State have to lose that game 7 in Denver if that happened? We all now now, after this week and after Curry’s 2nd half rally last night, that we shouldn’t rush to bet against him anymore.
Now with that said….
There’s no way you can bet on the Warriors for their upcoming series with San Antonio. The jaw-dropping stat that “Inside the NBA” let out last night, that the Warriors haven’t won a game in SA since 1997, is reason enough. That’s the kind of streak that ends in a nondescript fashion in late January with the Spurs coming off a back-to-back or in their first game back home from an East Coast swing, that stuff doesn’t end in the playoffs, especially with this Spurs team looking younger than they should and as spirited as they have in a long while.
You saw the way San Antonio put its neck on the Lakers to finish that series, that can’t be expected against the Warriors, who have their shit together (even the David Lee ploy worked last night) in so many more ways than the Purple and Gold. I could even see Golden State taking maybe one road game in this series but they’re really going to have to play and roll with the punches (and elbows and whatever else). San Antonio is an unflappable playoff-experienced team that has seen everything that can happen at this time of the year– playing to the refs in press conferences and bringing out hobbled big men for a minute at a time can’t be the only tricks in the bag this time around. Spurs in 6.
Lets play four
ESPN seems willing to let TNT do the heavy lifting during the early part of the playoffs (and we’re the better for it, I’m sure most basketball fans would love “Inside the NBA” to be a daily late-night show year round), but the four letters is certainly doing it big tonight with four games on ESPN and ESPN 2 tonight (although the early SportsCenter coverage seems to only have the Celtics and Knicks playing– someone has to hip those guys to the other three games).
Quick predictions: there won’t be a clean sweep either way. Looking at the teams ahead in each series, I’ll go with a even split so we can all see an interesting game 7 double header Sunday: Knicks-Celtics will be a NBA conspiracist “Tamper Special,” setting up a delicious afternoon showcase for ABC and the Hawks and Pacers will get their lone showcase game later that night on TNT and absolutely no one will care (Indiana will win that game 7 running away anyway).
The West series will end in dramatic fashion tonight. It seems that most people are looking at Memphis to handle their business against the Clips when its all said and done, given the Blake Griffin injury it is seeming more and more like a foregone conclusion, also this whole Chris Paul having to score 35 thing really isn’t a recipe for success. In the other game, I like OKC’s front line to step up just enough and bring just enough production to allow Kevin Durant to work unobstructed from the perimeter. Another shootout likely, James Harden will come to play, but the killer will come out in Durant again when he fully realizes that the series is his.
The Buck just stopped
I’ll make this short (maybe), cause no one, least of all me, wants to talk about teams that came and went in the playoffs like Richard Pryor’s dad.
The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t even get any of the pleasure that Richard’s pops got in his transition though, they just got bumped out by King James, BIRDMAN! BIRDMAN! and the prohibitive favorites. Nothing surprising of course (personally, I thought they could get one game, the Bucks have played the Big Three well since they joined forces), but I can’t help thinking about how bad a week this franchise has had since their game 4 loss Sunday.
First off, the studio shows all clowned Milwaukee — TNT clowned, as they are wont to do, and on the slightly more sober ESPN/ABC set Bill Simmons brought up the potentiality of the franchise being next in line to possibly move to Seattle since Sacramento has kept their Kings from the Starbucks City’s grasp for another year.
Later that day, Scoop Jackson wrote on ESPN about Brandon Jennings impending escape from Milwaukee, which as a story has come to a point where no one, not even the Bucks fans care. All you need to know about Bucks fans feelings on Jennings leaving can be seen in this tweet from ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh:
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings missed 1,589 shots this season, more than any duo in the NBA. End of an era. (Please?)
Still later, the team let go of its coach, Jim Boylan and saw the once broken down Andrew Bogut play a decisive role in Golden State eliminating Denver (14 pts, 21 rbs, 4 blocks Thursday night). The Bucks are as clear an example of how much better it is to miss the playoffs entirely than to make it and get eliminated quickly. Not making the playoffs means you’ll be forgotten about by the last week of April, making it and playing like Milwaukee did means you get clowned into May and you don’t even get a lottery pick for your suffering. (Denver is another good example — nine of 10 years without seeing the 2nd round? Damn! Guess it wasn’t all Melo).
Milwaukee’s got no coach, they can’t draw a marquee replacement for him nor can they draw a marquee free agent into town. The team is up for sale with no clear takers, they got an old stadium that they probably get 3/4ths full in maybe a 1/3 of the games in any given season. And the best all-around player they’ve had since Ray Allen is playing for another team still alive in the playoffs — a healthy Bogut next to Larry Sanders would be fantastic building blocks in the East, but they are trying to build on two small guards, something Golden State was smart enough to get away from.
I lived and wrote in Wisconsin for several years, the Bucks are the only NBA team who I’ve seen live more than once since the 90s. That would be fine to say in 2010 but its nothing to be proud of now. There may not be an NBA franchise in worst shape and the basketball lovers up there deserve so much better. Fear the Deer no more. Unless you’re talking about lyme disease.