With The Title on The Line

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By Stefan Anderson

Injuries, crowd silencing performances, legendary stat lines, and breakout games have all been a part of the rollercoaster of we call the 2015 NBA Finals and in a crucial game 5 the outcome will make the series even more remarkable.

Some question that reign over the heads as prepare for Game 5:

First will be whether MVP Stephen Curry searches for a way out of his shooting slump.  Curry shot well under his postseason average from the field as well as from behind the arc. Curry is shooting 39 percent from three and 42 percent from the field but he has yet to have a breakout game that we have the MVP provided previously. With the title on the line in Game 5, is the moment too big for Curry or will he rise to the occasion?

Who is going to be the supporting role for Lebron James? “The Chosen One” as we know him has been an unbelievable series posting 35 ppg, 8 apg, and 12 rpg throughout the 2015 NBA Finals. James has logged a staggering 183 minutes in the four games while performing while performing on such a high level is impressive but will become strenuous to sustain if he cannot receive support from other Cavaliers.  We seen the impact the front court players like Mozgov and Thompson but what happened to the backcourt players like J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and James Jones, we seen how impactful the 20 point performance was from Matthew Dellavedova.  Who will help shoulder the load on James and make the Cavs propel themselves to a championship ?

How will David Blatt respond to Steve Kerr’s small lineup? Will we see Blatt downsize or depend on his veteran’s similar to Kerr?  I do believe that Blatt will find a way to downsize but for not for long because they cannot go without the size of Mozgov and Thompson unlike Bogut who took the Warriors away from their style of high pace, motion offense which the 7-footer made stagnant.  The Cavs have players like Miller, Perkins and Shawn Marion who all have championship experience. If Blatt were to use any of his veteran role players, I would like to see Shawn Marion, because Marion could bring the perfect size and speed for Cleveland if they do choose to downsize and play small ball with the Warriors. Marion may not possess the same offensive skill he once showcased in Dallas or in Phoenix but can definitely give positive minutes similar to his Suns teammate Leandro Barbosa who has been +18 in his brief appearances this series.

Since 1985, 11 NBA Finals have been tied up at 2-2. The winner of Game 5 went on to win the series in seven of those 11 games. With those stats I will give the edge to the Warriors in tonight’s game which will force a wild game 6 back in the Q, where James and Co. will prevail and force a wild game 7 in which he will be awarded an legendary 3rd championship in an impressive 5 years.

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Wild Wild West

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By Stefan Anderson

The Playoffs are here and the Western Conference is an all-around juggernaut with great games in each matchup. Let’s take a look and make predictions on the Wild Wild West.

(1)    Warriors vs. (8) Pelicans : Many might highlight the huge game winner over the Thunder, but the April 7thwin over the Warriors is what helped New Orleans reach that 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis stated “We look at ourselves as an elite team. We feel like we can play with anybody and we can beat anybody on any given night”. New Orleans will have that same character to complete a first round upset over the Warriors. But Golden State has the best team in and has an abundance of styles they can play with.

The fear of the Warriors high pace game to slow down with the playoffs is their biggest worry but their depth can solve that solution easily. The Pelicans bring a physical style but can move with small ball as well, and can compete with Golden State  most nights if they can contain them under 100 points.

Overall, it’s going to be a tough feat for the Pelicans therefore, I am going with Golden State in 6.

(2)    Rockets vs. (7) Mavericks: After surviving the toughest division in the NBA on top, the Southwest, and The Houston Rockets have to face their first test, the battle tested Mavericks in a Texas showdown.

The Rockets have been impressive all season without their defensive anchor in all-star Dwight Howard, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the former DPOY’s return.

With the loss of Patrick Beverly, this could be the perfect opportunity for the underachieving Rajon Rondo to have his redemption against the aging Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry.

I look for the Rockets to feature Harden at the 1 in a lineup alongside Brewer, Ariza, Smith and Howard that could present problems on both ends of the floor for the Mavs.

Overall, I think Houston has more firepower than Dallas and scrapes away this series in a 7th game win.

(3)    Clippers vs. (6) Spurs: For the LA Clippers their window of the opportunity is closing in on them and have put the pressure on themselves but one thing is the way, The Spurs. San Antonio who has been on cruise control the entire season and fret about the window of opportunity closing .

To fear the Spurs is understatement, because you can never expect less than a hard fought series out of the defending champs. The Clippers on the other hand have yet find playoff success since the resurgence of the franchise a few season ago. LA will have to find offensive output from their role players like Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick which is asking a lot.

With the health of Tiago Splitter in question, DJ and Blake Griffin can take the battle down low that will extend the series a game or two, or possibly taking the series.

Overall, I would be crazy to bet against San Antonio, which is the reason why I am taking them in 6.

(4) Blazers vs. (5) Grizzlies: The heart of the West always collides in the 4-5 series and this year is no different. The Grizzlies grinded their way into another playoff spot and will have to face the great play of Portland. This matchup is going to heavyweight bout between the two, with the battle of the bigs Gasol/Randolph versus Aldrige/Lopez and not to mention guards Lillard and Conley fighting to make their conversation amongst the elite point guards in the league.

But the key to the series is the wings for each team, Portland has Affalo, Batum and off the bench McCollum and Blake, while Memphis features Allen and Green with Vince Carter and Courtney Lee off the bench. The key each to team to gain the edge amongst each other it will come from these players.

Overall, this is going to be a hard fought battle that goes to the Grizzlies in Game 7. I think Memphis grinds their way past Rip City.

The Playoffs Are Upon Us: The Eastern Conference

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By Jazmine August

     On the Eve of the kickoff to the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the media outlets are buzzing with match-up predictions, potential upsets and possible title contenders. It is that special time of the year again and it sure feels like we are in for a special couple weeks. With the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on a quest for a three-peat, the aging but stacked San Antonio Spurs team seeking revenge after a devastating Game 6 loss and the runaway leader for the 2013-2014 NBA MVP award  Kevin Durant in search of his first title the excitement for this year’s tip-off is unparallel.

    So let’s take a brief look at our first round match-ups in. The number one seeded Indiana Pacers will face the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks which has the potential to destroy some brackets. Since March 1, the Indiana Pacers have only won 12 of their last 25 games and in the month of April their All Star center Roy Hibbert has struggled; averaging 6 points 3 rebounds and 1 assist. It has been the total opposite with the Atlanta Hawks who turned it on late in the season to crush the playoffs hopes of the dismal New York Knicks. But I believe even with the Pacers limping into the playoffs mentally they will still come out the first round victorious but not without a good fight put up by the Hawks. Pacers in 6.

      The two/seven match-up between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Bobcats will not end in any surprise. Although Al Jefferson has had an All Star caliber season, the suffocating defense of The Miami Heat paired with the strength and greatness of the reigning league MVP Lebron James will prove to be too much for the young Bobcats team and they will fall at the champion’s feet. Heat in 4.

The young and slightly underrated Toronto Raptors may just shock the veteran Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Experts may be under estimating the squad led by first time All Star Demar DeRozan; ability to get up and down the floor which can tire out the older Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Raptors will pull off the upset of the East. Raptors in 7.

The mighty Bulls, led by the man with a heart of lion, Joakim Noah will face one of the best backcourts in the East with the Wizards John Wall and Bradley Beal. This match-up may be the most intriguing of the first round in the East. The Bulls at times struggle offensively and on conversely the Wizards excel in this area; this will prove to be a true war between offense and defense. Not to be cheesy and quote one of the best movies of all time, Love & Basketball; “offense sells tickets, defense wins games”. Nonetheless Bulls in 6.

2014 NBA Playoffs: 1st Round Predictions

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By Stefan Anderson

Now that the 82 games have been played and teams had made the last minutes adjustments it time to bring home what you play every season for, A NBA Championship.  Although, the Eastern Conference packs a great value of entertainment, the best games throughout the playoffs are on the Western Conference playoffs. The first could knock off a potential powerhouse or help a good excel for a final push after competing with a team with the same potential.

Here are my first round predictions for the Western Conference.

  •          1. Spurs vs.  8. Mavericks: The Texas showdown has brought some of the greatest battles throughout the past decades and will provide some exciting games this year as well. I have the Spurs winning in 6 games, I believe that Spurs will ultimately win the series but I believe Dirk has a few more magical games left in him. Dallas doesn’t possess enough talent and star power to compete with the perennial winners in San Antonio.
  •          2. Thunder vs. 7. Grizzlies: This has been a great battle between the two teams in the past 3 years and can alter the outcome of this year’s playoffs as well. As the majority of NBA fans believed the Thunder will reach their redemption after being the defeated by the Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals, the Grizzlies were there to kill their championship dreams. The tough paint play with Gasol and Z-Bo versus Ibaka and Perkins should, 1990’s style of banging down low. The Grizzlies do have two defenders in Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen who can help to slow down to be named MVP Kevin Durant, but have no answer for the X-Factor Russell Westbrook. OKC in 6 tough, brutal games.
  •          3. Clippers vs. 6. Warriors: High scoring, highlights, high flying, intensity on the highest points, this should be the most interesting series out of all the playoff series. The matchup between CP3 and Steph Curry should be a lot of ankle breaking, high floaters and 3 pointers that you wouldn’t hit in a game of H-O-R-S-E.  This series will include some of the best games seen throughout this year’s playoffs but will end in game 7 loss for the Warriors as they will have a tough time containing Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan without their big man Andrew Bogut.
  •          4. Rockets vs. 5. Blazers: Two of the NBA’s quietest teams this season and I believe this series will be overlooked as well. While the two teams mirror each other, this series should be another one that goes down to the wire as well. With the matchup of Patrick Beverly guarding Damian Lillard and Howard versus Aldridge, this should be a good matchup on both sides.  The X- Factor will be how Rip City contains James Harden, and I don’t believe they will be able to, so I have the Rockets in 6.

With so much excitement and buildup, the 2014 playoffs will be a beauty to watch. I can’t wait to tune in and watch “Where Amazing Happens”.