NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Eastern Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Boston Celtics (1) VS Chicago Bulls (8)

The season series was tied 2-2. Boston outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers and secured the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. This was important for Boston after getting thumped at home by the Cavs on April 5th. The Celtics will face a Bulls team that ended the season 10-6 in their final 16 games. The better performances to end the season came after a 5-game losing streak that included a 20 point defeat to the Celtics. both teams held down their home court in the regular season games. Boston’s main attack was the 3-point shot. Boston made an average of 13 3s per game versus Chicago while shooting 39.9% from long range. The Bulls played well in of the 3 of the 4 games. Dwyane Wade returned from an elbow injury and is back in the starting lineup for Chicago (the team seemed to play better without him). Isaiah Thomas 3rd in scoring and 2nd in 4th Quarter scoring at 9.8 points/4th Quarter. That was second only to Russell Westbrook. Jimmy “Buckets” Butler will help the Bulls scrap and claw their way to 6 games but it won’t be enough to win the series.  Boston in 6.

Washington Wizards (4) VS Atlanta Hawks (5)

Washington won the season series 3-1. The Wizards are back in the playoffs thanks to Coach Scott Brooks getting the most out of John Wall and Bradley Beal. All-Star John Wall had career highs in points/game, assists/game (2nd in the NBA at 10.7), steals/game, shooting % and double-doubles. Beal who was an All-Star snub – to himself and some fans – had career bests in points/game, assists/game, shooting % and free throw %. Both players also had offensive and defensive ratings that equaled or bettered previous career highs. Otto Porter Jr. faded towards the end of the season but was knock down shooter from the corner 3. The Hawks are led by Paul Millsap, Dennis Shcroder and Dwight Howard. Tim Hardaway Jr. was a pleasant surprise as he posted career highs in points, rebounding, assists, and shooting %. Washington had the 9th best offensive rating during the regular season. They were also 5th in points per game, 8th in 3 point%, 6th in assists, and tied for4th with 30 wins at home. Atlanta ranked 4th overall defensive rating. The Hawks had the best defensive rating in the league for the games that they won. Both teams ranked top 5 in deflections per game and were 10th and 11th in PACE. I expect this to be a fun series. Lots of end to end action from both teams. The Wizards takes this series in 7 games thanks to the home court advantage.

Toronto Raptors (3) VS Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Toronto won the season series 3-1. Milwaukee’s only win during the season over Toronto came at the beginning of March while Kyle Lowry was out with a wrist injury. Lowry returned to the team on April 5th and most fans hope he’s 100%. There are a bunch of intriguing matchups in this series. Demar DeRozan will have to deal with the length of the Bucks. One of those players is Giannis Antetokounmpo aka the Greek Freak. Giannis has had an All NBA caliber season for Milwaukee. Malcolm Brogdon – 2nd Round pick out of Virginia – is a Rookie of the Year candidate and has been steady for the Bucks all season. Toronto will lean on veterans Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker for some defensive toughness. Both players came to the team via trades in February. Tucker will likely spend time guarding the Greek Freak. Milwaukee must shoot better from 3 if they want to beat Toronto. The Bucks shot 30.3% from 3 in their three losses to Toronto and averaged 13.7 turnovers in those games. Toronto ranked 4th in Net Rating was top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive Ratings. Toronto depends on their starting guards a lot. This is a series where they will need Jonas Valanciunas to step up and negate the length and size of the Bucks. Toronto wins in 6 games. I wouldn’t be shocked if Milwaukee won this series in 6 games.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) VS Indiana Pacers (7)

Cleveland won the season series 3-1. The regular season couldn’t get over quick enough for the Cavs. Their regular season matchups against the Pacers highlighted some of the issues they had all season. Cleveland gave up 100-plus to Indiana in all four games. They had 22nd best Defensive Rating in the NBA. Some will argue that they can “turn it on” but that could be dangerous if they advance. The Pacers were a middle of the pack team all season and their ranking in the advanced statistics categories of Offensive/Defensive/Net Ratings showed the same. Paul George and LeBron James will definitely go at it but in the end Kyrie Irving’s ability on offense will be the deciding factor in helping Cleveland end the series in 5 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

2016…Be Great…Be Positive

We’re at day 7 of 2016 and things are “looking how they looking” as my wife would say.  We have the Presidential race to look forward to this year as well as the Summer Olympics in Brazil.  This happens to be a leap year so that means Wale will get to work an extra day this year.  I don’t know about y’all but I love off days.  Shout out to Wale tho.  All of that is fine and dandy but most importantly I’ll be celebrating something a lot more important within a few weeks.  I’ll blog about it when it happens.

Ok now on to a few sports thoughts…shout out to Ken Griffey Jr. for being 99.3% great.  He’s beloved by many that watched the game of baseball in the 90s.  “The Kid” best known for his sweet swing, home run saving catches, and wearing his hat backwards.  Thanks for the memories.  Congrats to Mike Piazza too.

In the NBA my Pelicans are still trash.  As of today they’re sitting next to last in the Western Conference at 11-23 but are only FOUR games away from the 8th seed.  This has caused a lot of confusion for fans as to whether the team should fight for that playoff spot or blow it up and acquire some assets.  I’m sure we’ll know by the end of this month.  Over in California, the Golden State Warriors (33-2) are still in striking distance of the best overall record for the regular season in NBA history.  Draymond Green has been a monster for GSW, he leads the NBA so far in triple-doubles with 7.  The 2 losses for the Warriors have been on the road and in both games the team was missing key players. With all of that GSW only has a 3 game lead on the San Antonio Spurs.  There’s space between San Antonio and Oklahoma City but the Thunder is picking up momentum and is looking solid.

In the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers are still at the top.  Kyrie Irving returned from injury in December and he hasn’t disappointed as he gets in game shape.  Right on their heels are Da Bulls.  Chicago has had a few lumps this season but look to be getting things together.  Thanks in-large to the play of Jimmy Gets Buckets.  After a few ugly losses and some comments about head coach Fred Hoiberg, Butler has upped his game.  He and Paul George went at it on New Year’s Eve in an excellent game.  Butler ended that OT thriller with the game-winning points and a blocked shot/contest against Paul George.  After that the Bulls bounced the Knicks easily by 27.  Then on Sunday night Mr. Butler went for 42 against Toronto.  After a slow first half – with only 2 points – Jimmy dropped 40 points on 14-19 shooting to help his team pull off a close victory.  The 40 points in one half broke Michael Jordan’s old Chicago Bulls record.  The Eastern Conference race promises to be exciting as only 6 games separate the top 8 teams and only 6 games separate teams 8 thru 13.

In football news, we’re at the best time of the year.  The NFL Playoffs start on Saturday and in college football we get the National Championship game on Monday night.  I don’t like making picks but I’ll do so.

NFL Picks:

Kansas City over Houston

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh

Seattle over Minnesota

Washington over Green Bay

FBS Championship:

Alabama over Clemson

If any of the teams teams I chose to win are dear to your heart then be very afraid.

I posted the words “Be Great…Be Positive” in the title of this blog for a reason.  2015 while it had its ups also had a bunch of downs.  I don’t recall a year where I saw so many people so set on being divided and tearing others down.  I can point out a lot of examples of negativity but instead I’m challenging everyone that reads this blog to not only heed my words but to also encourage others to “Be Great and Be Positive.”

2016…Be Great…Be Positive

NBA BYKE!!!

It’s not March Madness but hey it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t pay homage to the Opening Night of the 2015-2016 NBA Season. Not much in-depth stuff here. Only some quick thoughts and predictions that are sure to be wrong (WARNING: if I mention your favorite player or team be afraid). I’ll do all of the major individual league awards and give playoff teams and the Conference Champions. I’m excited to see the return of players like Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Kobe Bryant. I look forward to seeing the progression of young players like Andrew Wiggins and Rodney Hood.  I’ve been tracking Hood since he was a freshman in high school at Meridian High in Mississippi. I also want to see which rookies will stand out – both players and coaches – during this grueling 82-game season. Once again the Western Conference will be loaded but I have a feeling the East will put up more fight this season. Especially if the Miami Heat can stay healthy. Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks should put up a better showing this year…things can’t get any worse. Ty Lawson’s arrival in Houston could pay big dividends for James Harden. Harden will be able to play off of the basketball and move more freely. Paul Pierce went over to the Clippers along with Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. There will be plenty of tense moments out there for Doc and Co. LeBron and the Cavaliers finally have their roster set but they’ll be without Kyrie Irving for the start of the season. I expect Golden State to shake off the rust quickly. They will definitely have a chip on their shoulders after spending the summer hearing about “who didn’t play and who wasn’t healthy” while they made their run to the championship. Keep an eye on how the Warriors play while Steve Kerr is recovering from back surgery. The Spurs got better by bringing in – LaMarcus Aldridge and David West – two solid power forwards. This season is going to be great, talent is up and the league hasn’t had this kind of excitement in a long time. I’ll leave you all with this reminder…I told y’all

I was put on the spot last night and these are the teams I went with. Most notable in the East was that I left out Washington and Boston. Both teams made the playoffs last year. Not sure how I feel about that. I also left out the Indiana Pacers. I expect them to play at a faster pace with Monta Ellis joining that team. The defensive makeup of that team will be something to watch. I left Portland out for obvious reasons. I kept Dallas in, that’s the only pick I was unsure of. The Sacramento Kings were a consideration but there are a lot of things that need to go right for them. The main thing being a focused and healthy Rajon Rondo.

*Both groups in no order:
Eastern Conference Playoff Teams; Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons
Eastern Champ – Cleveland Cavaliers
Western Conference Playoff Teams; Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Western Champ – Houston Rockets

Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy – Detroit Pistons

Defensive Player of the Year: DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers
Most Improved Player: Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers
Rookie of the Year: Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder

 
NBA BYKE!!!

Cleveland VS Chicago: The Year of the Bulls?

I’m sure if you bump into the right Cleveland Cavalier fan they’ll cringe if you mention “Michael Jordan”. If you’ve been following basketball since the 90s there’s no way you haven’t seen highlights of Jordan and the Bulls repeatedly breaking the hearts of Cavalier fans. Move forward to 2015 and you’ll probably find Bulls fans disgusted when you mention “LeBron James”. LBJ hasn’t been quite as dramatic as MJ when beating Chicago but he’s knocked them off when it has mattered the most. A quick history lesson for those that don’t know…

While he hasn’t enjoyed his time visiting Cleveland in the past, Joakim Noah told reporters “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m very excited to go to Cleveland.” following the Chicago Bulls Game 6 win over Milwaukee. Noah’s excited because the Bulls will get another shot at finally beating a “LeBron James led” team in the NBA Playoffs. So far teams that LeBron James featured on are 3-0 VS Chicago with all ending as 4-1 series wins. We’ll get into that and more in a few. But at this present moment this could be the Bulls’ best chance to overthrow the “King of Akron”. The Bulls have some old faces such as a mostly healthy Derrick Rose, the aforementioned Noah, arguably the league’s best 2 way SG in Jimmy Butler, the various contributors from their “Bench Mob”, and fiery Coach Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls also bring a few new pieces in Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, and Aaron Brooks. Most importantly the Bulls bring a full roster to the 2nd Round matchup with the Cavs. Meanwhile Cleveland enters without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. Love is out for the remainder of the season due to an injured shoulder and J.R. is suspended for Games 1 & 2 of this series. Smith punched Jae Crowder in Game 4 of the first round series versus the Boston Celtics. The Cavs still have the duo of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to lean on but they’ll need a lot of help from an even thinner supporting cast.

The division rivals met four times this regular season with the Cavs winning 3. LeBron James’ perceived struggles versus the Bulls and Tom Thibodeau led teams seems to be over. During the season series, LBJ averaged 28.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists. Those are some gaudy numbers but the Bulls can take solace in the fact that they forced him into 5 turnovers per game. The Bulls were also without Jimmy Butler in two of the games and they didn’t have Derrick Rose in the fourth and final regular season matchup between the two teams. On the flip side Chicago will need much more from Pau Gasol who struggled in games versus Cleveland. Gasol shot a miserable 36% from the field and only averaged 14.0 in the 4 games against Cleveland. The Bulls will also need to protect the basketball and rebound better. The Bulls had 16+ turnovers and were outrebounded by double digits in 2 of the 3 losses this season. The Bulls must continue to make Kyrie work for his points during the series. He averaged 21.3 points and 6.5 assists in the matchups but also shot only 38% from the field while averaging close to 3 turnovers. In the game that the Bulls won, Derrick Rose had 30 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. The Bulls forced Cleveland into 16 turnovers (8 by LeBron) and controlled the backboards.

As I mentioned earlier the Bulls have lost 3 times to teams led by LeBron James. The first playoff matchup occurred in 2010 while LBJ was still with Cleveland. James averaged 31.8 points, 9.2 reb, and 8.2 assists. Those numbers prompted the Bulls to snatch up Tom Thibodeau who was an Assistant Coach for the Boston Celtics back then. Thibodeau was in charge of the Celtics defense and had slowed LeBron in previous matchups. James’ numbers would decrease (25.8, 7.8, 6.6 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals and 23.6, 7.0, 7.8 in the 2nd Round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs) the two series Miami won over Chicago but he had a much better supporting cast. Also in 2013, Chicago was decimated by injuries. They were able to fight of some injuries and defeat the Brooklyn Nets in the 1st Round that season. They were without Rose that entire season after he suffered an ACL injury in the First Round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The Bulls come into this series with a lot of confidence and for the first time a bit of luck. Both teams will need to establish authority in the paint. According to NBA.com Player Tracking Stats, LeBron James and Derrick Rose are both in the top five for points generated on drives to the basket. LeBron currently averages 11 points per game on drives and Rose is at 7.3 points per game on his drives.   The absence of Kevin Love and J.R. Smith in could mean that the Bulls will look to clog the paint to prevent LeBron and Kyrie from attacking the bucket. It will be important for the Cavs to maximum spacing offensively. This also means that the Bulls shouldn’t be outrebounded by double digits in any games of this series. The height advantage of Noah, Taj Gibson, Gasol, and Mirotic should lead to major advantages. The Bulls will have to keep Tristan Thompson off of the glass when a shot goes up for Cleveland. Thompson is currently third in the playoffs with 3.8 offensive rebounds per game.

I think the Bulls will finally beat a LeBron led team. There are too many things in Chicago’s favor for them to not win this series. The Cavs will be dealing with the loss of key players. The smothering individual defense – and improved offense of Jimmy “Buckets” – should have LeBron working double time. The matchup between Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving will be a wash. Which leaves the advantage of the low post players and bench production of Chicago. In the end I see Chicago taking the series 4-2.

Cleveland VS Chicago: The Year of the Bulls?