Thursday, April 30, 2009

NBA Playoffs '09: Bulls and Celts Set for Game 7

The Bulls vs. Celtics first round match up has been the most exciting by a considerable margin. It took the Bulls three overtimes to defeat the Celtics in Chicago, thus forcing game 7 in Boston this Saturday. The Bulls won the battle of endurance and made two huge plays in the waning moments of the third overtime to win at home.

The first play, which swung momentum back in favor of the Bulls, came in OT3 with the game tied and Celtics (Boston Celtics Schedule) with possession of the ball. Paul Pierce tried to make a pass as Joakim Noah jumped the passing lane, stole the ball, and took it back for a dunk. On the breakaway dunk, Noah was fouled by Pierce, his sixth foul. Noah completed the three point play to give his team the lead and got Pierce out of the game.

The second play was the defensive effort by Derick Rose that sealed the win for the Bulls (Chicago Bulls Schedule). After Kirk Heinrich botched a lay-in, (that may have been goal tending by Rondo) Rose had the opportunity to put his team up by three points by nailing two clutch free throws. He rimmed out on both and it was the only moment he actually looked like a rookie this series. Rondo led the Celts down the floor with chance to win the game. With the shot clock turned off, Rondo tried to take Rose one on one for the final shot. He drove in, leaned, stopped, pivoted back on a Steve Nash type move only to have Rose patiently anticipate the fade away and cleanly block the shot, atoning for the free throws and delivering for Chicago. Da Bulls!!!

While the overtime excitement dominated TNT's attention, there was another game happening down in Houston, where the Rockets were looking to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997. TNT really messed up in covering this game. By the time they got to coverage, there were nine minutes left in the third quarter. The game was close before halftime, with the Blazers (Portland Trail Blazers Schedule) leading by twelve at one point. TNT showed one little highlight of Yao Ming falling on his hip, providing no other highlights, yet had plenty of time to air commercial garbage.

The NBA is a corporate, money first business that doesn't put the game first. March Madness still has to please sponsors, but at least they put basketball above all else and show the fans what the hell is happening in each game...

The Nuggets swept the Mavs in the regular season. Will the results be similar or are the Mavs playing their best ball all year? The Lakers swept the Rockets 4-0 all season, will Yao be able to handle two seven footers? The answers next time, on the Rundown...

Monday, April 27, 2009

NBA Playoffs '09: Two Teams Advance

Monday night's playoff games were boring. The Nuggets drubbed the Hornets (New Orleans Hornets Schedule) like North Carolina on a number sixteen seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They made the Hornets look like the depleted Washinton Wizards (Washington Wizards Schedule). Its amazing the Hornets pulled out a win last Saturday only to lose by 58 points tonight. Finally Carmello erupted, going for 26 to lead 7 Nuggets finishing in double figures. You gotta feel bad for Chris Paul. He and Posey were the only players that competed with any heart and they don't deserve to be a part of this infamous and historical playoff game. Shame on David West and the neck-bearded Stojakovic.

The Lakers join the Cavs as the only two teams to advance into the second round to no one's surprise. I would say the Nuggets are the third, as Monday night's game should have counted as two wins.

The Rockets (Houston Rockets Schedule) execution and depth are too much for the young Blazers team. The Blazers could have won game four Sunday night, but made critical errors throughout the game that added up to a loss in the end. Steve Blake got his pocket picked from behind by Artest with 1:20 and Pryzbila threw a saved ball back court for a turnover with :40 left down two. I hate to agree with Network blowhard Charles Barkley, but the Blazers settled for too many outside jumpers, particularly Aldridge and Outlaw.

Is it just me or does the Hawks vs. Heat series suck? This series is full of bad basketball. The Hawks have good athletes and poor basketball IQ and execution while the Heat are impotent without D-Wade healthy. This series couldn't be more irrelevant, as the winner is going to get swept by the Cavs.

The Magic vs. 76ers match-up has been on my DVR list every time. I chose Phily to win this series because they are the faster team and can break off big runs. For the Orlando Magic (Orlando Magic Schedule), Turkaglu is hurt, Rashard Lewis is lazy and soft...They best player outside of Dwight Howard is Courtney Lee, a rookie with a girl's name. Seriously, Lee reminds me of Monta Ellis without the knack to get to the rim, yet money on the pull up J.

Another good series is Boston and Chicago, two of the NBA's most successful franchises going down to the wire every night. Derick Rose and Rajon Rondo are enough to get you to flip over to the game. They are the new super breed of point guard that can run, facilitate, score when needed, and grab rebounds on the defensive end then go coast to coast. (See: Magic and JKidd) Bulls win, but lose to Philly in second round.

The most boring and irrelevant series is the Mavs and Spurs. The Mavs are up 3-1 and will surely win, but everyone knows that San Antone would be killing the Mavs if Ginobilli were healthy. Manu opens is the all-in-one that opens up everything for the Spurs. The Mavs will Quickly be sent golfing by the unstoppable Nuggets, who are destined to meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (if Houston doesn't pull off the upset)....

Friday, April 24, 2009

NBA Playoffs '09: Will It Be Lakers v. Cavs In The Finals?

As the Warriors get ready for the golf course, the NBA's elite are battling in the playoffs. The LA Lakers (Los Angeles Lakers Schedule) and Cleveland Cavaliers (Cleveland Cavs Schedule) seem destined to meet in the Finals, but there are a some teams that could sneak in through the back door. In the Western Conference, the Nuggets and the Rockets are the biggest threats right now. These two teams are the only squads that pose a threat to the defending Conference champs. Chauncy Billups has looks to be a mismatch for any team the Nuggets play. Let's say the Nuggets and Lakers meet in the Conference Finals, who's going to guard Billups, Fisher? I like Denver's bench better than the Lakers, mostly JR Swish (Smith). It seems like every game he erupts for 20 plus points on four or more three's.

The Rockets are the only other team that would not get swept by LA, aside from the Nuggets. Aaron Brooks, Von Wafer, Ron Artest, and of Yao Ming are all capable of going off, but for some reason the Lakers just dominate this match up. The Rockets are one of the only teams in the league that are capable of matching up with the Lakers' length in the front court. If Luis Scola is hitting the free throw jumper and Wafer gets 15 or more, this team is tough to beat.

If the Lakers have a weakness, its the drop off in talent of their bench. Farmar, Brown, Vujacic, Walton, and Powell. Odem is the only player that gives the Lakers a boost off the bench and I'm not convinced Bynum is effective enough to help the Lake show win in the Finals, let alone get there. Every national sideline commentator raves about the depth of the Lakers, but I'm not sold. As this team gets deeper in the playoffs, Phil Jackson's rotation will shrink. Kobe will always be dominant, Pau will be a factor, and Odem always compliments Kobe and Pau when they are on a roll. With the leadership of Billups, a multitude of scoring options, and physical touhgness, the Denver Nuggets (Denver Nuggets Schedule) have the best chance to challenge the Lakers in representing the Western Conference in the Finals.

Will the Cavs represent the Eastern Conference against the Lakers or Nuggets in the Finals? If I shook the 8 ball, it would say 'no doubt'. There isn't a team in the Eastern Conference that can match up with the Cavs. Boston is at a huge loss without their leader Garnett, and will be hard pressed to get past the fast breaking Bulls in the first round. The Hawks will get past the Heat, despite having poor half court offense, and the 76ers will out-work the Magic. I expect the 76ers to meet the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, and get their jocks handed to them by a determined LeBron James and supporting cast.

In the finals, the Cavs will beat the Nuggets in 7 games. Billups will execute down the stretch as he did with the Pistons and Carmello is due for a breakout series. More 2009 Playoff coverage to come...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Warriors Look to Make this Off-Season Count

After last year's off season, the Warriors can only do better. Being the first game of the season, team captain Baron Davis slipped away, leaving a huge void in at the point guard position along with questions. Who will be the leader of the team? Stephen Jackson? More important, who will run the point? Monta Ellis? That question was quickly answered. Moped. That's all I need to say. With only Jackson left as a proven scorer, Chris Mullen went to the free agent market and picked up Corey Maggette from the Clippers. Maggette missed a large part of the first half of the season, but found his role as a sixth man. He was productive, but not for the $50 million the Warriors dished out.

Injuries hit this team hard in 2008-09'. There wasn't a player on this roster that didn't experience an injury of some kind. The late season injuries to Ellis, Jackson, Maggette, and Biedrins were disappointing, but helped the young guys get minutes coach Nelson may not have allowed if he had his able bodied starters he holds so close, like a baby's security blanket. It's not like the W's were playoff bound, it was more important to develop the rookies for future seasons.

The Warriors have a shot to get back into the Playoffs next season, but not with the players on the roster right now. The Warriors have more wings than Popeye's, shooting guards and small forwards galore: Ellis, Jackson, Crawford, Maggette, Belinelli and Morrow. There are simply not enough minutes for all these players to be productive, some will have to be dealt. There are only three players I am unwilling to part with if I am Warriors management. Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, and Anthony Randolph; otherwise, I support giving up anyone else for young players to fill needed positions.

Thanks to their poor record this season, the Warriors should get the 7th pick in the first round of the NBA draft. There are several intriguing players that might be available. Brandon Jennings is an 18 year old 6-1, lefty, super athletic point guard who played a professional season in Italy instead of college. He is lightning quick and able to get up the rim to jam, as well as pass. He'd be a great add to the gold and blue, but many experts have him going to the T-Wolves (Minnesotta T-Wolves Schedule) at pick 6. The next player could be Earl Clark from Louisville. At 6-10, he could play power forward or small forward. He is a skilled scorer and showed good range beyond the college three point arc. Clark has plenty of big game experience playing in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament. Gerald Henderson, the 6-4 shooting guard from Duke would be a solid pick and maybe trade bate for a position they need more. Henderson's game has been compared to Latrell Spreewell on NBAdraft.net. Not in the sense that he chokes, but his athleticism makes him a versatile offensive threat. Out of these three, I like what Clark can bring to this team. I think one of the best players in the upcoming draft is under the radar and I would be quite pleased if the Warriors picked him up. That player is Johnny Flynn from Syracuse. He's a bit undersized at 5'11", but he is a true point guard that has proven he can be a leader when the game is on the line. If I could chose, I pick Flynn with the first round pick, then use the abundance of wings and maybe Brandon Wright to get a physical power forward like the Maverics' (Dallas Mavericks Schedule) Brandon Bass.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Warriors Go Out With A Loss

The Warriors ended their season with the same result they've had 53 other times this year; with a loss. However this team wasn't at full strength for most of the second half of the season and played the year out with reserves getting starters minutes.

Instead of Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Stephen Jackson, fans were relegated to watching C.J. Watson, Kellena Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf run the Warriors' show. It wasn't such a bad thing though. This team wasn't going to the playoffs and they got a chance to asses some of the talent on the roster. These young players like Anthony Randolph, C.J. Watson and Anthony Morrow really showed that they need to have steady roles on this team going forward. Morrow really shined in the season finale vs. the Suns (Phoenix Suns Schedule), leading the Warriors with 33 points, 12 boards and a couple assists. I don't think Morrow, Watson and Azubuike are ever going to be full-time starters on a good basketball team, but I do they've shown what they're capable of and certainly should be included in the rotation next season, even with everyone at full-strength.

Stay tuned for our full Warriors season review post coming in a few days, but I could basically sum the Warriors season up in one word: Injuries. Monta Ellis missed half the year with that freak moped accident over the summer, and the teams veterans, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette couldn't stay healthy and on the court together at the same time. Even Andris Biedrins, who'd been a staple of consistent health throughout his first few years in the league, missed a bunch of games due to injuries. The Warriors won't be this bad next year, believe me, and now that they're going into their first off-season, knowingly, without Baron Davis (who spurned them for his hometown Clippers (LA Clippers Schedule) in the middle of last-summer), it should be interesting to see how Mullin goes about business.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Randolph Posts Career Night vs. Spurs

I just wanted to get in a short post today about Anthony Randolph's explosion last night vs. the Spurs at the Oracle. The Warriors 19 year-old, top pick from the 2008 NBA draft has been a favorite of ours here at the Warriors Rundown and if you've followed us, you know how fond we are of the lanky, 6'10" forward. On Monday night, he showed just why.

Randolph turned in his best performance as a pro vs the Spurs (San Antonio Spurs Schedule) on Monday, setting career highs in points with 24, rebounds with 16, assists with 4 and most importantly minutes with 45. Randolph committed only 3 fouls, enabling him to stay on the floor and contribute in a big way. His foul trouble has been what has kept him from playing 35+ minutes per night over the last few weeks, but he's looked a lot more under control over the last few games. We've keep mentioning it every time we talk about the young kid here, and I have to say it again, the more he plays, the better he's looked. The only question that we have about Randolph is whether he'll end up as a above sized (height wise) small forward or little bit undersized of a power forward. I'd love to see him add another 15 pounds over the summer and come into camp next year to battle for the starting spot at the 4 slot next to Andris Biedrins. That could be a dynamic-duo for years to come in the bay area.

The Warriors play their final game of the 2008/09 season on Wednesday, so stay tuned for our upcoming Warriors Season in Review post which will be composed in 2 parts coming this weekend...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Warriors Season Winding Down

With the major league baseball season underway and the Warriors just trying to finish out their schedule, it's safe to say that the focus around the bay area has shifted off of basketball!

But we're not going anywhere. The Warriors are still playing and they've actually been playing pretty good basketball of late, and it's no secret that they've done it with the return of Andris Biedrins. The W's have gone 4-2 in the month of April and a lot of that has to do with the play of the guards. Jamal Crawford has had a lot written about him since he's dawned the Blue and Gold, some bad, some good. The talk lately has been all good as the 29 year-old guard has averaged over 26 points and nearly 5 rebounds and assists per game in April. C.J. Watson has also gotten into the mix with Monta Ellis shelved with an injury and Watson put up a career night on Sunday vs. the Jazz. Watson finished with 38 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.

As I said earlier in the post, Biedrins has returned to the lineup over the past few nights, and although he hasn't looked particularly comfortably yet, his return makes a ton of difference to this team. In the final 2 games on the schedule, I would love to see Biedrins and Randolph playing the front-court together full-time. The Warriors need to see if this combo is big and strong enough to match-up with the better front-courts in the game and now is a good time to do so. Randolph has finally seen his playing time spike since the end of March as he's really become a full-time starter over these last 3 weeks. The Warriors 19 year-old has averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds in his 9 starts since March 24th and he's been a huge reason why the Warriors are rebounding the basketball, and ultimately winning games. Randoph is the future, along with Biedrins and Ellis and it's good to see Nelly treating him as such...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

W's Take Third Straight

The Warriors snapped their 5-game losing streak that ended March with a 143-141 OT victory vs. Sacramento on Wednesday. Subsequently, the Warriors have went on to win 3 games in a row and what do you know, they're being forced to play the young guys. The bright spots vs. Sac on Wednesday were Monta Ellis, Anthony Randolph and Kellena Azubuike. Monta went off for 42 points with 9 boards and 9 assists, missing a triple double by just a hair. It was by far Ellis' best performance of his injury shortened season. Prior to Wednesday's breakout, Ellis hadn't scored more than 29 points in a single game this year, but he has certainly started to look like the Ellis of '07-'08 over the last couple of weeks. Ellis averaged 23.5 points along with 4.5 assists in the month of March, after averaging just 13 points and a little over 3 assists in January and February. Azubuike has been one of the more consistent Warriors this season and put up another solid effort with 27 points and 13 boards in the win. Randolph is now starting to get playing time that Warriors fans have been pleading for, and he is looking like a potential starter for next season. The 19 year-old forward scored 17 points with 10 rebounds in under 20 minutes of play. The only issue with Randolph right now is cutting down on his foul problems. If he can start learning to stay on the floor for 35 minutes a night, he's got the potential to be a 20-10 guy every time, but he has to stay on the floor as he showed on Friday's game vs. the Hornets by providing 20 points and 15 boards and a block in a solid 38+ minutes of play. He's proving what he can do when he's on the court, keep him there Nelly.

The Warriors aren't going anywhere this year, so they need to use these remaining games wisely as they try and figure out the route they'll want to go this summer. They need to figure out if Randolph is going to be their starting power forward next season, or if they need to find someone else to fill that role. They also need to figure out what they are going to do at the guard position. It looks like they want to keep Ellis at the point, but they have Jamal Crawford, Stephen Jackson and Correy Maggette all vying for time at the 2 guard and small forward and I think one of those guys will have to go this summer. So yeah, the Warriors aren't playing for a playoff birth right now, but if they use this time wisely and build off of it this summer, they'll be right back in the mix next season.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Warriors Beat Kings in OT

Somehow the Warriors pulled out a win against the Western Conference's worst team, the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors were without Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, Marco Belinelli, Brandon Wright, and Correy Maggette left the game early with post concussion symptoms. Monta Ellis scored early and often, swooping to the rim and pulling up and nailing mid range jumpers. He finished with 42, a new career high.

The Warriors played no perimeter defense, made stupid choices with the ball on offense, and committed several foolish fouls. The Kings did the same, only with more frequency. Kevin Martin went to the free throw line 26 times and made 23. The youthful inexperience of the Warriors was apparent in the amount of technicals called, simply by arguing calls not worth arguing. Chants of "ref you suck" echoed to the roof of Oracle Arena for the second consecutive game. It's not the ref that has a problem, it's the young Warriors team that still must earn the respect of the NBA and it's officials. Teams are packing the lane, forcing the Warriors to settle for outside jump shots, which the W's often fall into. These opponents then rebound the missed attempts, walk the ball up the court, and proceed to put together big runs. The Warriors still try to drive into the lane and force contact. Maybe there's a little contact, maybe not; but you still have to get up and get back on defense.

The Warriors got lucky in beating the Kings, surviving a 50 point night by Kevin Martin. It was the King's turnover problems that gave the Warriors a chance to eek past an equally struggling opponent. These to teams meet again Sunday at Arco. The W's will have to play smarter and play with intensity for more than just the fourth quarter if they expect to beat a hungry Kings team on their home floor.