Monday, May 29, 2017

NBA Finals 2017: Warriors vs. Cavs, Irresistible Force Vs. Immovable Presence

For the first time in basketball history, the same two teams will meet in the NBA Finals for three consecutive years. This trend may not cease anytime soon – both squads appear to have the personnel needed to face each other in the championships for another couple of years.
Over the past three seasons, the Warriors have morphed into an irresistible force, growing deadlier with Kevin Durant in the fold. Golden State became the first team to win 65-plus games three years in a row, outperforming peak regular season Jordan, and nearly winning their second straight ring last year.

Their only rival dominates the Eastern Conference. LeBron James has been an immovable presence, representing the Eastern Conference in the finals for his seventh straight year, earning three rings in the process. Despite his fourteen years in the association, LeBron has been playing his finest ball of his career.




With a combined playoff record of 24-1 during the first three rounds of the playoffs, even the best NBA odds gurus will have a difficult time anticipating the lines, spreads and over/unders for the 2017 NBA Finals. When an immovable presence like LeBron meets the irresistible force of the Warriors, the only certainty is that one of these teams will win another ring.

Elder LeBron Shouldn't Be This Good

After the ridiculous number of hard minutes LeBron has logged over the years, King James has somehow managed to play his best basketball over the past few years with Cleveland, peaking with his current playoff performance.

The lack of respect that he's displayed against the Eastern Conference isn't personal, it's business. He knows that nobody can guard him and doesn't waste time pretending otherwise. Feigning beer consumption on court while clowning bigs like Serge Ibaka and Kelly Olynyk happens to be part of the strategy.

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Cleveland has spent the past couple of years surrounding James with experienced shooters to maximize the threat of LeBron’s incredible passing, most recently adding Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to the bench. Tristan Thompson is the only player who doesn't have the ability to hit shots from deep – his role’s the rim. Over three years, LeBron and Kyrie have grown their chemistry on the pick and roll to psychic levels.

This often forces defenders to scramble when the King and Uncle Drew gain a half step of separation, with at least two shooters on the perimeter and a crashing Thompson ready to dunk anything tossed at the rim. Cleveland's offense can be next to impossible to stop when James and Kyrie orchestrate like a pair of maestros. During the playoffs, the Cavs start playing defense too, which makes them unbeatable in the east.

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Curry and Durant: Deadliest Shooting Force In History

Steph Curry has averaged 28.6 points during the 2017 playoffs at a 50-40-90 clip - the best in his career. Kevin Durant has dropped 25.2 PPG during the Warriors perfect run to the finals, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 41.7% from deep. KD’s free throw rate of 87.1% leaves this duo only a few percentage points of being the only 50-40-90 combo in NBA playoff history.
The fact that they combine for 53.8 PPG so efficiently glosses over the rest of the lineup. Draymond Green has made himself into a triple-double threat while maintaining cred as an annual defensive player of the year candidate. Klay Thompson might freak out and drop a 20-point quarter at any moment, and the bench has sneaky depth, including Andre Igoudala as one of the best sixth men in the league.

A Historic Rivalry

Durant joining the Warriors cemented Golden State as the superpower of the era, while King James has already carved himself into basketball’s Mount Rushmore. The Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors could soon be crowned the best rivalry the NBA has ever witnessed. Enjoy it while it lasts.

(Golden State in six)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Eastern Conference Finals: Does Isaiah Thomas’ Absence Improve the Celtics’ Chances Against the Cavaliers?


Many things became clear after the Celtics’ Game 3 victory of 111 – 108 against the Cavaliers, a game which has lessened Cleveland’s domination of a 2 – 0 lead to 2 – 1 in the finals for the Eastern Conference.  
Firstly, without LeBron James playing his best game, the Cavaliers really struggle. Second, Marcus Smart can be relied on to provide a hefty contribution to the points total. Thirdly, Jonas Jerebko should have played more minutes for the Celtics, as the team was in desperate need for his ability to rebound, and make shots. And, last but not least, the Celtics are a different team without Isaiah Thomas.

A Complicated Answer

Are the Celtics a better team when playing without Isaiah Thomas, who is said to be badly missing his team? He has been a sensational player over the course of this season, and will finish with at least a 5th position on voters’ ballots for Most Valuable Player. He has proven without a doubt that he is one of the league’s best scorers over a phenomenal series of plays, but the game changes when one takes into account the matchups, the roster, and the playoffs.
His absence has definitely changed things, but not necessarily for either better or worse. In fact, this occurrence may well end up benefitting his team.

The Celtics are Playing Differently
In this game, the Celtics pushed the pace, managed to get into their sets more quickly, and did not get bogged down with their superstar player’s constant dribbles of the ball. They were forced to move the ball more quickly, because no one was going to be able to make an isolation play. Punters who enjoy online betting NZ basketball options certainly sat up and took notice of this difference in play, as changes like this can mean the difference between a winning and losing wager.

On the side of defensive playing, the difference in the Celtics’ game was even more pronounced. While Cleveland played exceptionally well in the game’s first half, it was unsustainable, and the Celtics changed their game. They were not faced with massive mismatches, nor were they required to over-help, and they stepped up with a defensive rating of 93.6 during the 2nd half. This is even more exceptional when one compares this to the rating of 132 in Game 2.

The Changes are as Clear as Night and Day
The ball moved far more often, and it was the Celtics accomplishing this, as they managed time and time again to get ahead of Cleveland’s rotations. While these outlier performances will likely not hold, this does show that the team from Boston managed to play in a manner that called for far more interesting setups. However they perform in the 4th and 5th games, it won’t change the way they played this one.

This is also what happens when a star player is no longer available, and has been shown before with Kawhi Leonard and the Western Conference semi-finals against the Rockets. Having to deal with a team that no longer has a star player present demands a change in approach, and the Warriors’ win in the 2nd Game of the Western Conference Finals should actually be held as more impressive than it was. It is much more difficult to get up for games like this, and this fact has been proven time and time again.