Lebron Gets By With A Little Help From His Friends

May 29, 2009

Lebron James showed exactly why he was voted this year’s MVP. Cleveland’s 112-102 triumph over the Magic last night meant that Lebron and Cavs would live to see another day in the NBA playoffs.

James had his fourth career playoff triple double with 37 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists, as he pushed the series to 3-2 with the Magic having another chance to close it out when they return to Orlando to play Saturday.

Lebron and Mo Williams paced the Cavs to a game 5 win against Orlando.

Lebron and Mo Williams paced the Cavs to a game 5 win against Orlando.

I said a few days ago that Lebron’s kingdom was crumbling and it most certainly was. However, look what happens when he gets help from his teammates. The Cavs came out strong and scored a 2009 playoff high 35 points in the first quarter, setting the pace for the game, letting the Magic know they were not going to roll over and die. As most people could have guessed, the Magic came storming back to cut the lead to one and head into halftime with a score of 56-55 favoring Cleveland.

Lebron put his stamp on the second half as he either assisted or scored in 31 consecutive points stretching from the end of the 3rd quarter and deep into the 4th. It was great to see Lebron get his teammates involved as they rose to the occasion to contribute half of Cleveland’s 34 points in the 4th quarter.

Statistic of the night: In the entire game, Lebron alone had as many assits as the entire Magic team, 12.

4 of the 5 Cleveland starters scored in double figures, which is the first time that’s happend in the series. Mo Williams finally broke out of his slump as he scored a series high 24 points and went 6-9 from the land of 3. Finally, the supporting cast for Cleveland showed up to play.

If you were watching game, what really propelled James and the Cavs was his teammates ability to knock down open looks, which forced Orlando to spead its defense. This allowed Lebron to go one on one with Orlando’s Michael Pietrus, making him look helpless as Lebron torched him several times with an array of jump shots and strong drives and dishes.

Game 6 is on Saturday in Orlando. With their backs still up against the wall, will Lebron’s gang show up to bring the series back to Cleveland for a game 7 showdown?

Advertisements

A 7 Foot Tall Man Can Do That??

May 28, 2009

I have seen many basketball videos in my day. Mostly ones with incredible shots, buzzer beaters, and ridiculous blocked shots. One video that was brought to my attention yesterday by my good friend Dom Abramo (Viva!) that I had never seen was this one. Pau Gasol, all 7 feet and 250 pounds of him, running the fast break like he should be on the AND 1 team. Maybe he should start his own Spanish AND 1 team and travel the globe. Now that would be something to watch.


Note that the defender does a complete 360 as he is trying to defend the play. Pau makes him look ridiculous. Also, Pau not only adds his behind the back and no-look flair to the play, he also makes the pass and just starts heading down the other end of the court to play D, knowing that Ariza is going to throw it down.

When I saw this video, I laughed so hard and was incredibly amazed. I know Pau is a very skilled player and a great pass, mostly in the post. However, his ability to run the break from time to time is such a great rarity that never fails to catch my attention.

If you happened to catch last night’s pivotal game 5 between the Lakers and Nuggets, Pau left his mark on one of, if not the biggest play of the game when he came up with a steal and lead the break for a ridiculous dunk by Shannon Brown over Chris “Birdman” Anderson, who had been swatting shots away all game prior to Brown’s dunk. Watch Pau in action once more…

The great play by Gasol and Brown changed the momentum of the entire game and led to a Lakers victory.

If you could have any 7 footer running the break on your team, who would it be and why? Pau is included.


King James And His Crumbling Kingdom

May 27, 2009
This is what this year's playoffs have looked like for Lebron James, his teammates seemingly non-existent.

This is what this year's playoffs have looked like for Lebron James, his teammates seemingly non-existent.

Jordan and Pippen

Duncan and Parker

Shaq and Kobe

Garnett, Pierce, and Allen

Lebron and…James?

It might be as simple as that. Even Michael Jordan needed a sidekick, a Robin to his Batman like heroics. Lebron James, MVP trophy and all, can’t do it alone. Let’s look at the supporting casts (the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th top point scorers) of teams in this year’s Conference Finals.

 

Denver Nuggets: Chauncy Billups, J.R. Smith, and Nene Hilario
49.2 points per game

Orlando Magic: Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Rafer Alston
47.6 points per game

Los Angeles Lakers: Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Trevor Ariza
40.4 points per game

Cleveland Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas
39.6 points per game

The Cavs are 0-3 when James scores 40 points or more. All three losses have come against the Magic.

You know what, let’s go back 2 years ago when the Cavs made it to Finals, but lost to the Spurs. The Conference Finals featured these teams and their supporting casts.

San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Michael Finley
48.8 points per game

Detroit Pistons: Chauncy Billups, Rasheed Wallace, & Tayshaun Prince
47 points per game

Utah Jazz: Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, and Andrei Kirilenko
40.6 points per game

Cleveland Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, and Larry Hughes
35.3 points per game

Starting to see the trend?

During the regular season, the Cavs averaged 100.3 points a game and James averaged 28.4 points, which means James was responsible for 28.3% of the team’s points. In this year’s playoffs, the Cavs have averaged 98.9 points per game, and James has averaged 36 points, meaning he scores 36.4% of his team’s points. This means from the regular season to the playoffs, James has become accountable for 8.1% more of his team’s points.

To make matters even worse, Lebron has scored 41.7% of the Cavs points in the current series against the Magic. Can Lebron get any help!?!

Two years ago, Lebron scored 28.3% of his team’s points in the regular season, but only 27.4% during the playoffs. Where did the team end up that year?… In the NBA finals.

Kobe Bryant is also struggling to get support from his teammates.

During the regular season, the Lakers averaged 106.9 points per game and Bryant averaged 26.8, making him responsible for 25% of his team’s points. In this year’s playoffs, the Lakers have averaged 104.8 points per game, and Bryant has averaged 29.8 points, which is 28.4% of the team’s points. From the regular season to the playoffs, Bryant has become accountable for 3.4% more of his team’s points.

One year ago when the Lakers made the Finals, Bryant scored 26% of his team’s points in the regular season and 28.4% during the playoffs, 1% less than he has had to score in this year’s playoffs. 1% does not seem like a huge difference at all, but it is when almost every game in this year’s Conference Finals has been decided in last possession of the game.

The moral of these numbers? No one player can win a championship on his own.

If Lebron still thinks his team (or lack there of) can make it to the Finals and win a championship, he can only hope that help is on the way.


A Steal For The Win

May 21, 2009
Anyone who has ever dreamed of playing in the NBA has probably spent hours in their driveway or at the park, pretending their team is down by one point with 10 seconds left and the ball in their hands to hit the game winning shot in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Of course, the dream is hitting the shot, being the hero, and the moment going down in infamy. Has anyone ever dreamed of getting the game winning steal? Probably not, considering it’s not as glamorous as hitting the game winner. However, with the Lakers up 101-99, Trevor Ariza’s steal in the final seconds against the Denver Nuggets to seal Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was almost just as important as hitting a game winner. With the Nuggets tearing apart the Lakers seemingly porous defense for most of the game, point guard Anthony Carter let his team’s offensive performance go to waste when he attempted to make an inbounds pass at half court which was stoLos Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza (C) makes a steal in the final seconds on an inbound pass by Denver Nuggets guard Anthony Carter (L) with intended receiver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups (R) struggling to get the ball back during Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference final basketball playoff game in Los Angeles, May 19, 2009.len by Ariza and then was followed by two free throws from Kobe Bryant to put the Lakers up by four and seal the win for Los Angeles. Ariza’s steal may get overshadowed by dazzling plays by Bryant and slam-dunk put backs by Center Pau Gasol, but the fact of the matter is that defensive stops are right up there with game winning shots when it comes to winning highly competitive games in the NBA Playoffs and Finals. Watching Ariza’s steal jogged my memory of other important thefts that went down in history.


John Havlicek: Game 7 of the 1965 NBA Division Finals- Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics.

            With the series tied at 3 games apiece and his team clinging to a one point lead, John Havlicek came up with a game sealing steal for the Boston Celtics which propelled them to the NBA Finals for the 9th straight time where they defeated the Lakers in 5 games. How could anyone forget the call by Celtics announcer Johnny Most, “Greer is putting the ball in play. He gets it out deep and Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones… Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over… It’s all-l-l-l over!” Some could argue that it was the greatest steal in Celtics history, however, 22 years later Larry Bird challenged Havlicek’s legacy with a steal of his own. (note the guy absolutely booking it with the ball after Havlicek throws up a shot at the end)



Larry Bird: Game 5 of the 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Finals- Detroit Pistons vs. Boston Celtics.

  If there was one pass Isiah Thomas could ever take back in his entire NBA career, I would make a strong case for his inbounds pass with five seconds remaining in this Game 5 contest. After a failed attempt to take the lead, the Celtics faced a side inbounds pass from Detriot’s Thomas. Enter the great Larry Bird. No timeout was called and Thomas’s thought process seemed to be to get the ball in quickly and catch the Celtics off guard without giving their defense a chance to set up. The plan backfired as Bird swooped right in front of Bill Laimbeer to steal the ball then had the presence of mind to find a cutting Dennis Johnson for the game winning layup with just one second left. Boston went on to win Game 7 and faced the Lakers in the finals, but lost in 6 games. “And there’s a steal by Bird…”



Scottie Pippen: Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals- Utah Jazz vs. Chicago Bulls

  Two plays made by other than Michael Jordan sealed the NBA championship for the Bulls in ’97 when Steve Kerr hit the game winning shot (Jordan assist) and Scottie Pippen intercepted Bryon Russell’s half-court inbounds pass with seconds remaining to give Chicago the series win. Pippen showed great instinct with the steal and then a heads up play to shovel it in front of him to a streaking Toni Kukoc for the “icing on the cake” dunk to start the celebration in Chicago. The win made it Jordan and Pippen’s 5th championship as teammates.


 

Michael Jordan: Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals- Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz

  Of course a topic like this could not go without a Michael Jordan sighting. With his team down three with just a minute remaining, Jordan “rallied the troops”, or basically just himself, to carry his team past the Utah Jazz for a second straight year. After a scoring drive to cut the Jazz lead to one, Jordan made yet another play, this time without putting the ball in the basket. Karl Malone, better known as “The Mailman” failed to deliver for the Jazz when Jordan left his defensive assignment to come behind Malone and slap the ball out of his hands. Jordan scooped up the loose ball and the rest was history. Everyone in the building knew that the ball would be in #23 hands for the last play and Jordan made sure he had the opportunity to win the game by coming with a monumental steal of the future Hall of Famer Malone. Jordan hit his final shot as a Chicago Bull to give him 6 NBA titles for his career to go along with 6 NBA Finals MVP awards.

 So next time you’re dreaming about making that game winning shot in the NBA Finals, maybe first start with the clutch steal that propels your team to victory.