Making History ! or Making History ?

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By Stefan Anderson

To return from a retirement to a 4-2 defeat to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern conference semifinals in 1995, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were looking for revenge.

“I think it was without question the biggest motivation coming that following season,” former Orlando Magic head coach Brian Hill said. “Michael Jordan played the whole season with an unbelievable will to win. There were eight to 10 games where he basically willed his teammates into winning games.

The vengeance they sought was a record setting 72-10 season solidifying  the 95-96 Bulls as one of the greatest, if not the greatest team ever.

One game away from eclipsing Chicago’s record, the Golden State Warriors will have to beat the team provided their magic, the gritty Memphis Grizzlies. 

After falling down 2-1 to the Grizzlies during the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Warriors magical season appeared to coming to end and the old adage of fast, jump shooting teams could never win a NBA championship.

As told by soon to be named back to back MVP, Stephen Curry during an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe in February the losses to Memphis motivated the Warriors to get back on track to where they were.

“It wasn’t clicking. We didn’t have our usual flow, as Coach Kerr would call it. For whatever reason, Memphis found a way to muck up the game. We had to shake it out, and get back to who were. We showed our resilience rolling off three straight, and doing the same thing against Cleveland.”

“That has made us such a more mature team going into this year — having gone through that.” said Curry.

The Bulls went on to sweep the Magic in the conference finals the following year en route to their first championship of their second three-peat.

Golden State has the same opportunity to turn motivation into history with their Wednesday night win over Memphis, while continuing to defying the odds set against them on how great of a team they too are one of the best teams we’ve ever witnessed.

The Magic will forever be etched in NBA history not only for Nick Anderson’s missed FT’s in the finals and his infamous “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan,” and “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to”, but were responsible for assembling a top-five guard-big combo in Shaq and Penny.

Memphis might not be remembered in the latter years, but have been a maverick of their own, with their grit and grind style of play in today’s NBA.

But if the Grizzlies can find another way to “muck up” the game again, it will the brightest spot of their gloomy injury ridden season. Memphis will be amongst the New York Giants of 2007 and University of Wisconsin of 2015, keeping them in the history books as not only the team that helped to inspire the storming Warriors, but that stopped the possibility of 73-9.

 

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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.

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

NBA Preview: Central Division

centralBy Stefan Anderson

The Central Division brought the Eastern Conference’s best team last season and brought great competition amongst its members. With former MVP’s returning, new coaches and budding stars the Central Division should get interesting this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Return of the King, David Blatt and his new European style of coaching and Kevin Love, the Cavs look like they are built to take the Eastern Conference and potentially the NBA Championship. The Cavs still lack a rim protector but their offensive so overpowering that a true big would be overshadowed. Dion Waiters is poised to have a great season playing with great talent with James, Love and Irving.

The Cavs should be in a great position, but with injury prone players like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love who have yet to play a full 82 game season yet, could put a heavy work load on the King once again.

Chicago Bulls

Doug McDermott, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, the emergence of Taj  Gibson and Jimmy Butler, Chicago has assembled a surrounding cast to go along their premier players Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose.  The Bulls are the other favorite out of the East, and their battles with Cleveland should be legendary this season.

Those regular season and postseason battle between them Cleveland should determine who represents the Eastern Conference in the Finals.

Detroit Pistons

Under the Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons experiment should see brighter days this season.  Pending what happens with 3 big men they shuffle through (Smith, Monroe, and Drummond); the roster should be back at a normal state. Look out for Andre Drummond to become the next prominent big man in the league and either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith to be traded by the Trade Deadline. Role players like Caron Butler and Jodie Meeks will have an impact in SVG’s system.

I believe this is the year that Detroit returns to the playoffs this year and can build off of it for seasons to come.

Indiana Pacers

With their star Paul George injured for the season, the departure of Lance Stephenson, what is next for the Pacers this season? Their locker room leader David West , is on record saying that would not contend this season, what does Indiana expect to achieve this season? Look for Chris Copeland to score a lot of points as he is known to do, and can Roy Hibbert look like the player everyone expects to him to be.

I do not see the Pacers returning to the postseason this year due to their various issues personnel wise but things can turn around but I don’t see it happening.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak, prolific shot blocker Larry Sanders and the NBA’s newest star Jabari Parker, the Bucks have a great future ahead of them. Unfortunately for them ,they will have a lot of problems playing the Central Division. With new head coach Jason Kidd, it gives him a fresh start and opportunity to give guidance to the young talent in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are a season or two away from reaching the success they envision once again, but will be one of the scariest teams in the future.

Central Division Standings:

  1. Cavs (Playoff Team)
  2. Bulls (Playoff Team)
  3. Pistons (Playoff Team)
  4. Pacers
  5. Bucks