“Signed a concerned but confident Cavs fan”

kyrie

By Jazmine August

With about 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 in the 2015 NBA Finals, Lebron had the ball in his hand and a chance to win Game 1 on the road. Instead, James misses a fade away 3 and everything else went downhill from there. In overtime, Kyrie Irving fractures his knee cap and is out for the rest of the Finals. Easily, the most devastating news I heard all week. The idea of Lebron losing his fourth Finals was a pill I just couldn’t imagine stomaching.

After the news broke Friday evening that Kyrie would miss the rest of the Finals, I found myself stressed and depressed. Sitting at the dining room table with my two girlfriends who don’t even know who Kyrie Irving is, I knew I needed to speak with someone just as knowledgable if not more knowledgable than myself. So I called my “LB” Stef, (whom I affectionately call Kips) looking for some sort of silver lining. With fear and anguish in my heart I asked “Do you think it’s really over?”. He replied “Nah, It’s not over”. I was overcome with joy, I found someone who belonged to the 10% of the nation who believes King James can actually pull this off. We ended up speaking for nearly an hour, as we went over stats, matchups, upsides and downsides and our ultimate prediction. After many minutes of deliberation, Stef says (while laughing might I add) “The Warriors really might win in like 6 or 7 but its 50/50”. So much for consultation.

After we got off the phone, I was able to analyze the chances and the odds of the Cleveland Cavaliers really pulling this one out. I started to think there are actually a couple advantages the entire sports world is seeming to overlook. For one, we have the BEST player on the planet. Secondly we have the most experienced Finals participant in our generation. Lebron has lost enough ways on this stage to know how to win against a team who has never played in the Finals. Thirdly, the Cavs aren’t the only ones with a “not as difficult as it could have been “road to the Finals. As good as the Western Conference is the Warriors got a break when OKC lost KD and didn’t make the Finals as they could have easily been out in the first round. Golden State also got a break when the Grizzlies had a less than healthy Mike Conley and lost Tony Allen in a pivotal Game 4. The biggest break of them all might’ve been not having to face a Clippers team whom they lost to in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

Not to take anything away from an amazing season by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors but they are beatable. Their biggest advantage over Cleveland is undoubtedly their depth and ability to score fast. After days of pyscho-analysis(emphasis on Psycho), I’ve come to the conclusion that the odds of winning are definitely not in Cleveland’s favor but the experience, savvy and sheer talent of Lebron James will catapult this team to victory. It may take an extra game but we WILL defeat the Warriors. A text from Stef, with stats of Lebron with and without Kyrie on the floor helped soothe my worry but the best message I received from a fellow sports analyst in the most confident whisper was “It’s still Cavs in 6”. Let the games begin.

-Signed
Concerned but Confident Cavs fan

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2015 NBA Finals Preview

finals preview

By Jazmine August and Stefan Anderson

After weeks of exciting playoff basketball and a disappointing conference finals (one sweep and a gentleman’s sweep) The Finals have finally arrived.Four time league MVP and two time NBA champion Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against this year’s league MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Lets play another game of 5 on 5 as we go full court for the 2015 NBA Finals.

1. Who will get the bulk of the time guarding LBJ? Barnes or Green? How effective can it be?

JA: In a recent interview Lebron James said that he was unguardable and so was his opponent Stephen Curry. I have to agree with the King, it doesn’t really matter what defender you put on him he will still get his points especially in the paint. However, I believe that the Warriors will put Draymond Green, who was arguably the best defender in the league this year on Lebron for the bulk of these Finals. In spite of his great defense, Draymond Green like any other defender in league cannot stop King James.

SA: Draymond Green makes more sense logically, because of his size, Green lacks the size to contest James but possesses size to bang with Lebron. I do not believe that Green will be able to contain Lebron James for many games but cause some havoc until he gets into the inevitable foul trouble you face guarding Lebron. I anticipate Steve Kerr to throw many looks at LBJ, that includes some of Igoudala, Green, Barnes and possibly some Livingston.
2. Who will be the X-Factor for each team?

JA:The X-Factor for the Cleveland Cavaliers will certainly be Kyrie Irving. When healthy, Kyrie can arguably be the best player on the floor with his quickness, agility, and ability to finish at the rim. Not to mention Kyrie is pretty efficient from 3 point land and 20 to 25 feet from the rim. If Kyrie can be at 80% health and produce at almost near his regular season level he; along with Lebron James and role players Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith can propel Cleveland to victory.

On the other side of the ball, Klay Thompson will be the Warriors X-Factor. His numbers have been down this post-season even prior to the concussion he endured in Game 5 of the Rockets series. Although, he has been cleared to play in Game 1 of the Finals, its still uncertain of how he will produce. If Klay gets going along with the MVP, the Warriors are pretty hard to beat.
SA: For the Cavs I believe J.R. Smith, his ability to get hot will give Cleveland the chance it needs to succeed to its first final win. Whether Irving or other supporting cast shows up will not be highlighted if Smith can overshadow that averaging 13.5 and shooting nearly 40 percent from 3.  If the Warriors want to need to win they will have to get an consistent offensive effort from Harrison Barnes, if Barnes can give enough of an output to make Lebron step out and guard instead hawking the passing lanes, will ease up driving lanes and keep their free flowing efficient motion offensive going. Both players have undeniable talent but fail to be consistent I believe who ever scores more for their respective teams will help put together the W’s needed.
3.Can the Warriors win if Klay Thompson continues to struggle?
JA: Yes they can. The Warriors team goes 8 to 9 players deep. Even if Klay struggles the Warriors still have an All-Star player in Andre Igoudala and skilled bench players in Livingston and Barbosa. This is the Warriors biggest advantage in this series, I don’t believe Klay’s play will break the Warriors.

SA: No, I believe if Klay does not show up during the Finals that GS will have long series, that will end quicker than they expect. A no-show for Klay helps to keep Iman Shumpert on Curry all night and the helps Kyrie Irving to conserve more energy to wear Curry out on the defensive end. Thompson has to return a splash brother and not just the guy who play with the MVP.

4. Key matchup you’re looking forward too?
JA: A key matchups that I’m looking forward to is at the four/five position with Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov. Although, I predict Green will guard Lebron James for the majority of the NBA Finals, the times when Barnes guards Lebron Green will battle Thompson for those rebounds in the post. I’m also excited to see Mozgov get the best of Andre Bogus(Stephen A. Voice), I mean Bogut.

SA: The matchups will be even across the board including Curry versus Irving, will be tantalizing. But as seen in the past when a star play begins to take off against Cleveland, Lebron James then guards their best player. We have seen James clamp down on guards like Derrick Rose and Tony Parker during crucial minutes but I would like to James guard the MVP Curry to see how effective Chef Curry can be with the NBA’s best two player guard him.

5. How effective is GS “small ball” going to be against the Cavs ?

JA: I don’t believe it will be very effective against this Cavs team as they can play small ball as well. If anything, this will play to Cleveland’s advantage.

SA: Yes but no, if GS plans to go small against Cleveland it could take away the rebounding prowess of Thompson and Mozgov, but it will expose a clear advantage for Cleveland, the driving ability of Lebron James. With no true rim protector against King James is a recipe for disaster.

Predictions:

JA: It’s hard to call this series prior to Game 1 because there are so many unknowns on both sides. Will Klay Thompson produce? What will the Cavs get from Kyrie Irving? But what we do know is that the Cavaliers have a 2x Finals MVP who’s playing in his 5th consecutive Finals and has seen just about everything when it comes to this stage and I think he will be the reason the Cavs win a hard fought series against the Warriors. Cavs in 6. Let the coronation begin.

SA: The depth of Golden State could be huge for them including the return of Marreesse Speights who bring a physical aspect to the Warriors that can help against Cleveland’s silent weapon Tristan Thompson. But ultimately, the Warriors still hold no clear cut answer for the league’s best talent, Lebron James who will propel to his third championship in a stunning five years. Cleveland in 6 or 7.

Race To The Finals: NBA Conference Finals Preview

conference finals

By Jazmine August

The 2015 NBA Playoffs have been filled with buzzer beaters, epic collapses and superstars rising to the moment. It has now come down to the “Final Four”, consisting of the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.  Might I add,  these are the four teams I picked to be in the Conference Finals. Let’s get into these predictions:

Western Conference Finals

(1)Golden State Warriors vs. (2) Houston Rockets

The NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the NBA MVP runner-up James Harden will face off in a best of seven series where Harden has everything to prove. Criticized for not showing up in the post-season; James Harden will not only get a chance to exercise those demons but also prove why he deserved to be the league MVP. Don’t get your hopes up so fast Rockets fan. The Rockets comeback from a 3-1 deficit was more of a collapse by the Los Angeles Clippers than the shear talent and ability of the Houston Rockets. I’m still not convinced that Dwight Howard can dominate the post over Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut. Not only has the Warriors offense been exceptional but so has it’s defense. If a combination of Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala’s defense can slow James Harden, the Rockets will be dependent on an aging veteran Jason Terry and streaky at best Josh Smith. The exceptional shooting abilities of Stephen Curry will be too much for the Rockets to bear.

Golden State in 5.

Eastern Conference Finals

(1)Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Overcoming the depth, defensive abilities and the health of the Chicago Bulls has made the Cleveland Cavaliers my favorite to win it all (not that they weren’t already). Lebron proved that his bench is deeper than most thought and his role players have stepped up tremendously. For the better part of these playoffs Lebron has not been his usual efficient self with the exception of Game 5 of the Chicago series. But even without Lebron being efficient, the loss of Kevin Love and the diminishing health of Kyrie Irving; the Cleveland Cavaliers have proven to the league they can beat you in multiple ways. Now they are set to match-up against the Atlanta Hawks who barely beat a Washington Wizards team who was without their star player, John Wall, for the better part of the series. The Atlanta Hawks are an offensive threat to any team when they are clicking and their ability to score can be problematic for a Cavs team whose offense can be stagnant at times. But when Atlanta’s shot isn’t falling, they have no “go to guy” to win the game for them. This will be the edge that the Cavs need and send Lebron to his fifth straight Finals appearance.

Cavs in 6.

Keys to Game 5

game 5 nba

By Stefan Anderson

After a lackluster first round, the NBA has kicked into another gear during the Conference Semifinals showcasing the best action thus far. Although it has only been 4 games for each matchup, every game has been thrilling, providing fans with true playoff basketball. With each series heading into a pivotal game, let’s highlight some keys for each series.

  1. Warriors vs. 5. Grizzlies: The series is now tied at 2 a piece after it appeared that the grind-out style of Memphis highlight what could be Golden State weakness, the Warriors then responded with blowout game 4 which they controlled the Grizzlies from the tip. Golden State ability to take away the energy of defensive nightmare ,Tony Allen, force him to become an offensive threat in which he struggles in. With the series heading back to the Bay Area, the Dubs can take control of the series and put Memphis in an uncompromising position.

Keys for GS: Continue to double on the front court of Memphis and make the perimeter players beat you. The biggest key is to have Draymond Green pull Zach Randolph away from the basket and make him work defensively.

Keys for Memphis: It is going to be hard for Memphis 4 on 5 with the inconsistency of Tony Allen on the offensive end. There Memphis can go on some spurts where they showcase Jeff Green at the small power forward to stretch and prevent double teams for their Gasol or Randolph, while allowing driving gaps for players like Conley, Lee and even Vince Carter to take advantage of.

  1. Houston vs. Los Angeles: After defeating the defending champions, the Spurs, the Clippers have found the wind beneath their wings, by jumping out to a 3-1 lead over the Rockets and looking like a superior team to the Southwest division champs. Houston has looked lethargic and over matched against and has gotten a taste of what the Clips have experienced over the past few seasons after being heartbroken by the Spurs, Thunder and the Grizzlies. The Rockets will have to grow and learn from the adversity and come back geared up the next season.

Keys for LA: Continue to apply pressure on the floor with dribble hand offs and pick and roll offensive which has left the Rockets defense in shambles. Try to close it in 5.

Keys for Houston: The Rockets look like an entirely new team then in the first round, James Harden has explode for a big game and Game 5 could be his last chance, I would expect him to shoot his life away tomorrow. Try to limit the 3 point shooting of Rivers, Reddick and Crawford.

  1. Cleveland vs. 3. Chicago: This a true dog fight and a match up I would rather see in the Conference Finals, but overall is what you expect when you put together the East’s powerhouses. The stingy defense played by both teams allowed 3 out of 4 games to go down the wire. This game 5 in Cleveland will most likely determine the winner, as this series will go to a game 7.

Keys for Chicago: The health of Pau Gasol, can he return to create a matchup problem versus Cavs frontline, as well as the bench for the Bulls. Would like to see Snell, Mirotic,Gibson and Brooks all have a great role in en route to a possible game 5 win.

Keys for Cleveland: With Kyrie Irving’s health in question, who steps up and becomes the next guy for LeBron James and the Cavs? I believe J.R. Smith will the key and a double digit game from Iman Shumpert will propel Cleveland in game 5.

  1.  Atlanta vs. 5. Washington: Without John Wall for the last three games, the Wizards have found a way to keep the Hawks on their heels on each game of the series. But the Hawks returned and attacked the PG position with Jeff Teague penetrating and dishing to his open teammates and showing that team ball can really win in this league still.

Keys for Atlanta: Atlanta has find a way to contribute to spread the ball and make sure that everyone adds to their win and continue to play their style of basketball.  Also, I would like to see Carroll or Teague guard Bradley Beal more to help control his offensive onslaught.

Keys for Washington: If John Wall returns their offense returns to its normal state and make life a lot easier for Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. Without Wall, I think that some small ball or another big that comes off the bench that replaces Drew Gooden inefficiency on the offensive end.

Whats Next In OKC ?

okc

By Stefan Anderson

After helping the Thunder to 338 wins that included a trip to the NBA Finals, 3 conferences championship appearances and winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year honor, Scott Brooks was dismissed as the Oklahoma City play caller this afternoon.

The Thunder are now faced with a dilemma on many ends including seeking their head coach. With Russell Westbrook showing that he can be a superstar, does OKC take their chance to fight with other teams for the services of the reigning MVP Kevin Durant. More importantly, “Loud City” has to figure who is going to make their team gel and help propel that talented roster to the next level.

Here are some coach choices Oklahoma City could choose from:

The first two choices put out there is Kevin Ollie of the University of Connecticut, who played for OKC in his final years in the NBA and built a great relationship with Kevin Durant and could relate well to the roster. Also, Billy Donavan of the University of Florida, who has shown his coaching ability with his back-to-back National Championship and has flirted with the thought of the NBA for the past seasons. Donavan could be a great fit but will be a hard transition to coaching a great amount of talent those OKC possesses in a tough Western Conference.

But there are some other coaches that could make things interesting for the Thunder:

Mark Jackson: The former Golden State Warrior coach, who has now reverted back into the broadcasting, would be a great leader for OKC. Jackson instilled that culture of Golden State and brought that roster together that has now transformed into the league’s best team. The ESPN analyst could help bring the Thunder to that next level similar to what Steve Kerr did with his Warriors roster.

Stan Van Gundy:  Another coach turned broadcaster, Stan Van Gundy would be ideal for OKC as he has the tough mindset that his teams have already displayed with his teams in prior years (New York Knicks and Houston Rockets).  SVG could help with the progression of big men like Ibaka, Adams and Kanter, while handling a proflic scorer like Durant or Westbrook and combine the talents to make the Thunder reign supreme again.

Mike” D’Antoni: The high pace scoring and offensive guru could really fit the Thunder’s needs to offensively, imagine Russell Westbrook having the keys to D’Antoni offense, scary if you ask me.  It gives Durant the space needed to score from wherever he wants offensively and helps guys like Anthony Morrow become a standout shooter and Serge Ibaka to become a ferocious finisher. OKC already plays great defense but if he had an offensive assault that D’Antoni’s offense provides that could be a hand and glove fit for them.

Other coaches that could fall in the job search would be Brian Shaw, Mike Woodson, P.J Carlesimo, Doug Collins and with the questioning of Tom Thibodeau in Chicago he could also end up in the search for OKC’s vacant spot. Regardless of who takes the position, they will inherit a team with two of the top ten players and an plenty of talent that could end up as a championship team.

Beasts of The East

easternBy Jazmine August

The time has finally come. From Derrick Rose playing in his first playoff game since 2011 to Lebron James attempting to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy home to Ohio for the first time in NBA history; the 2015 NBA Playoffs kick off this Saturday at noon and this year’s post-season surely won’t disappoint. Before anyone can hoist the trophy they have to make it out the first round, so let’s get into Eastern Conference matchups and predictions.

(1)Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

Despite popular belief this won’t be an easy matchup for the Atlanta Hawks. We may see the emergence of the old Joe Johnson in front of his former home crown in the Phillips Arena. Despite the Hawks having the second best record in the league and finishing the season with a franchise record 60 wins, they have trended down since the All Star break. With the loss of Thabo Sepholosha (out for the season with a broken leg), there defensive strength has dropped considerably. On the contrary, Brooklyn has finished the season strong with Brook Lopez being named Eastern Conference Player of the week two weeks in a row and Deron Williams appearing to have turned back the hands of time to his Utah days. I believe this matchup will be more exciting than we anticipate but in the end the Hawks will pull it off and advance to the second round.

Prediction: Hawks in 6

(2)Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

Just when you thought Lebron James made the wrong decision in returning back home, the Cavaliers acquire Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith and go 34-9 to finish the season. By securing the second seed in East, the Cavs will have home-court advantage over the young Boston Celtics. This Celtics team has had an amazing end to their season and after acquiring Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns has put together a successful playoff push. Unfortunately, for the Celtics they will have to face The King in the first round, who will finish this battle victorious and continue his quest for a third ring.

Prediction: Cavs in 5

(3)Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

For the first time since the start of the season, the Chicago Bulls starting five will all be healthy and eligible to play after a season riddled with injury. With the return of Derrick Rose and swingman Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have made themselves an honorable mention in the race to the Finals but let’s not completely count out Jason Kidd’s Bucks. The Bucks have held the 6th spot pretty much all season and Kidd has done an amazing job with a young and inexperienced team; it is possible for this team to win two games in this series. However, Chicago is too big, too strong and too hungry; they will advance to the second round.

Prediction: Bulls in 6

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Easily the most enticing matchup in the Eastern Conference first round; the Toronto Raptors will face the Washington Wizards. Both teams have not been very impressive down the stretch, with Wizards posting a below .500 record since the All Star Break. However, the Wizards have significant advantage when it comes to size with Gortat, Nene and Gooden all having the ability to get offensive and defensive rebounds. The Raptors have the advantage when it comes to depth, with the potential 6th man of the year Lou Williams coming off the bench. These two teams are pretty evenly matched with great qualities and weakening flaws. The outcome of this series will really come down to the X-Factors, Kyle Lowry for the Raptors and Paul Pierce for the Wizards. This matchup is really a toss-up for me but I’m going to ride with the higher seeded Raptors to pull off the win.

Prediction: Toronto in 7

Wild Wild West

western

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.