Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Tunnel & The Light



My stomach’s queasy.

My head hurts.

I need a drink…..

These are the things that were rattling through my mind after watching the epic Game 6 nail biter between the Miami Heat & the San Antonio Spurs, the first truly great game of a weirdly played series. This is probably the weirdest NBA Finals that I can remember watching.  This NBA Finals resembles one of the Rocky boxing scenes where Rocky throws continuous flurries of jabs, and haymakers that all land because the boxer during the exchange forgets to try to defend any of the punches coming his way.  Only to then have it happen to him minutes later in the scene when it’s his turn to drop the gloves, and his opponent starts wailing on him.  The only thing that’s missing right now is Adrianne crying uncontrollably on Miami’s courtside seats beside the white haired woman.  The repeated blowouts, the lapses of concentration from both teams, the flurries of runs from both teams from game to game, if you didn’t know any better, you would think this pattern of win one-lose one is as choreographed and staged as those Rocky scenes before the director says cut.  Outside of Game 1, this has been an odd series to follow and watch… until Tuesday night.  With the stakes being high and everything on the line for both teams: from the way San Antonio controlled the game for three quarters, to the frantic Miami comeback and finish, it will go down as the best game of the year as well as one of the best NBA Finals game ever, as it’s destined to be replayed over and over again on NBA TV.  As we go into Game 7, here are a few things to recap:

THE SPURS BLEW A WASTED OPPORTUNITY.   More importantly, they wasted an absolute throwback game from Tim Duncan.  Back in his prime, around the time when he was collecting back to back MVPs & winning titles every other year, he would drop the hammer down during elimination games when his team needed it most.  As he gets older, there are only so many games like this that this 37-year old great has left in the reserves.  Sensing that he was so close to winning his 5th ring in his career, he came out and put on a clinic on the Heat as if he were going after his 1st, scoring 25 points in the first half alone.  The most he has scored in any half in his whole playoff career.  He raised the energy of his teammates, while killing the spirit of the Heat players and sucking the life out of the arena.  By the end of the 3rd quarter, it looked as if Miami was dazed and defeated.  Then in the 4th, Miami turned up the defence, and the Spurs were giving them back the ball like an undercooked Rib Eye to a waiter at a steakhouse. Before you knew it, the game was tied and it became a dogfight until the final buzzer of OT.  This was the time where the Spurs players were supposed to help Duncan out.  If they even took care of the ball half as bad as they did and made their free throws, we would be talking about how incredible Timmy’s Game 6 performance was, and trying to figure out where to rank it in historical context of the NBA Finals history.  If San Antonio loses this game tonight, this throwback game gets tossed on the closet floor like an old T-shirt & no one will remember it, which is a damn shame.  Duncan was supposed to leave American Airlines Arena early Wednesday morning with the Larry O’Brien trophy and possibly his 4th NBA Finals MVP.  Instead, they face the task of being the first team since the 1978 Washington Bullets to win a Game 7 NBA Finals on the road.  I’m still shaking my head here….

LEBRON’S BAD/GREAT GAME.   Years from now we’ll look at the stats of the game & say, “Wow, LeBron really came through with that triple double”, or “King James really owned that game”, but anyone watching that game was wondering if he was slowly becoming undone by the pressure of having their backs against the wall.  Taking bad shots and still looking to distribute the ball even when the Spurs had their foot on his team’s throat, it took his headband getting knocked off for him to unleash all of his athletic talents on the floor.  Taking over the 4th quarter with 18 points and imposing his effort and will on the game, the Heat completed their maniacal comeback and had a 3 point lead with less than 90 seconds to play……then Tony Parker drained that 3 in his face to tie the game.  All of a sudden, LeBron made two critical mistakes, Parker capitalized, & the Spurs were up by five.  Had it not been for Ray Allen’s beautiful 3 of his own to tie the game at 95, this would have haunted LeBron’s offseason as much as when he lost to the Mavericks two years ago.  If you compared him to Duncan through three quarters, Duncan was leaving everything on the floor while LeBron looked like he was coasting through a game vs. the Bobcats in January.  When someone is as good as he is, shouldn’t we know it at all times?  This is the 3rd time in 4 years that he looked as if his brain was subconsciously checking out during an elimination game where his team was down in the series.  Call me spoiled by the Bird/Magic/Jordan era that I grew up in, but I’d like to never question the mindset of the best player in the league during one of his biggest moments.  Once you enter those prime years as the best player in the league, those moments cannot be wasted by these things.  Not when you’re staking your claim alongside the all-time greats.  Even if he’s missing shots, we should be leaving the game saying, “Man, he was really off tonight”, instead of thinking, “Is he checking out again”???  Having a conversation with my friend Les last night, he said it best:  “It’s almost as if LeBron needs the perfect circumstances around him to get the optimal performance out of himself”.  Right opponent, right situation depending on where they are in the series, he will dominate & almost eclipse that game itself like the sun.  If his team is down in an elimination game and the supreme pressure is on him, you can see that weary signature look on his face. When the pressure hits like it did late in Game 6, you can almost see the wires frying in his head.   It’s a harsh reality for him (almost unfair), but when you win 4 MVP’s and you’re in the prime of your career surrounded by two All Stars in Wade & Bosh, that expectation comes with the territory.

WHY CRAWFORD?  The NBA for years have been fighting the image of them fixing games or having conspiracy-like overtones surrounding their playoff games, with everything coming to an apex when the Tim Donahy scandal happened.  So why would the NBA assign Joey Crawford, the NBA referee with the most negative personal history against the Spurs to ref such a pivotal game?  Why even entertain the thought of putting him out there?  I mean, it’s not exactly a secret that the Spurs have past issues with Crawford.  I don’t care if he’s in the Finals rotation, I’m almost positive they could have gotten another competent referee to ref Game 6.  I’m not saying he affected the outcome of the game & I don’t blame him for the Spurs giving up the victory Tuesday night, but by doing this, you understand why the conspiracy theorists continue to come out the woodworks.  Anyhow he refs Game 7…..


The funny thing about this series is that after the excitement of Game 6, and the generating buzz of a Finals Game 7, it might not even match the buzz created by Jay-Z & Samsung during Game 5, taking over the whole commercial block between the end of the 2nd Quarter and the Halftime show.  The announcement of his new LP, Magna Carta Holy Grailwas in short, an incredible marketing ploy for both parties.  Samsung found an innovative way to promote their phones, tablets, and apps, while Hov started an innovative buzz on his new LP, while at the same time going platinum before his LP touched a shelf or an online store.  Between this & his simmering takeover of the Sports Agency world, he is redefining the game on how to do business in music and sports.  You can read about the Samsung deal here…..  8 game winning streak huh?  Can the Blue Jays come back to take one of the wild card spots?  It’s June, it’s not too late, but they have to continue to play as well on the field as they apparently did in the offseason…..  I like the move of Jason Kidd becoming a head coach.  I think he has a great basketball mind as one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA.  As long as he has the right assistant coaches surrounding him, he can definitely make this work to his favor…. if he was coaching The Raptors.  For a playoff team with title aspirations in the next two to three years in Brooklyn, this was the wrong move.  Lionel Hollins or George Karl gets hired to coach this team?  I’m fine with this. I feel like this was a splashy move to appease the owner as well as the media, but they should only be worried about getting wins, not making publicity wins in the New York market…..

My Game 7 prediction I’ll stick with my original prediction & say the Heat win tonight, and by 10+ points.  I don’t see how the Spurs come back & take Game 7 after what happened on Tuesday, no matter how much it bucks the trend that no team has won 2 straight games. It’s extremely hard to win a Finals Game 7 on the road. IF by miracle or prayer Tim Duncan repeats his Game 6 performance, then it will be a much closer game. The crowd’s energy & the calls will be on the Heat’s side, & by midnight, they should be popping bottles. Hopefully, we don’t get another version of this.


Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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NBA Finals Breakdown (Part 2)


In Part 2 of today’s post, I’m going to give a quick breakdown of the positional matchups in the NBA Finals series between the San Antonio Spurs and The Miami Heat with a boxing-style score count. Yes, inventive I know!


Mario Chalmers vs. Tony Parker

2013 Playoff Stats: 

Chalmers: 8.9 PPG // 2.1 RPG // 3.5 APG // 77.5% FT // 30% 3P // 9.62 EFF Rating

Parker     : 23 PPG // 3.9 RPG // 7.2 ASG // 86.7% FT // 37.5% 3P // 21.8 EFF

Doesn’t seem fair does it?

Chalmers is going up against a point guard that Charles Barkley refers to as the best PG in the NBA.  I’m not 100% sure I agree with it, but by far he is the most underappreciated.  Most people don’t have him ranked in their top 5 PG list much less the top 3 (where he should be ranked). He’s the best player on the best team in the West and has been for at least the last two seasons, officially taking the reins from Tim Duncan & Manu Ginobili.  Chalmers & Norris Cole will take turns (as well as LeBron for small stretches) trying to corral Parker, as well as trying to make open jumpers & threes to offset the damage Parker will do to them on the other end of the floor.  This matchup can really hurt the Heat here, they might need to throw constant double teams (& possibly holy water) & hope he turns the ball over.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 8 


Dwyane Wade vs. Danny Green 

Wade: 14.1 PPG // 4.9 RPG // 4.9 APG // 44% FG // 74% FT // 25% 3P

Green:  9.6 PPG // 4.1 RPG // 1.9 APG // 45% FG // 71% FT // 43% 3P

** Disclaimer – This comparison is about Wade, the player in this playoffs, not the normal, healthier version. **

In most cases, Wade would dominate this matchup on a “Hakeem on Robinson” type level, but with his knees betraying him, playoff inconsistency, & struggling to fully embrace the Robin costume (let’s face it, they don’t even talk about Wade anymore when the Heat’s name comes up, & he ran Miami for years.  He’s only 31, but he’s slowly coming out of his prime.  It’s a hard adjustment).  This matchup is a little closer than you think.  Green’s not going to match up with him scoring wise, but defensively he’s going to pester Wade for stretches at a time.  The key to this matchup is for Wade to keep moving without the ball, make quick decisions, and be aggressively smart to get Green & his teammates in foul trouble. But will we even see the old Wade this series?  If so, then this series might be done a lot faster than most imagined.  The SG spot may be the most important matchup in the next two weeks to be honest, especially when a well-rested Manu Ginobili enters the game.  I actually can’t wait for him to go against Wade for seven games, in all their elite level, Euro-stepping glory.  I’m going to lean towards Wade here, “barely”, but I think he might have just enough impactful moments to win this matchup here…Just enough.

Score: Heat 10, Spurs 9


LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard 

James: 26.2 PPG // 7.3 RPG // 6.4 ASG // 51.4% FG // 77.2% FT // 38.7% 3P

Leonard: 13 PPG // 8 RPG // 1.1 ASG // 56.5% FG // 59.4% FT // 41.7% 3P

Nothing to see here, keep it moving and please use the side exits…..

……..I like Leonard,  I think he is a really solid player with a bright future.  However, asking someone to guard a 4-time MVP in the prime of his career, carving out his legacy along the very best players in NBA history, while also giving up 30+ pounds to the most physically imposing, small forward the game has ever seen, is too much to ask of anyone much less a second year player. NEXT! 

Score: Heat 10, Miami 7


Chris Bosh vs Tim Duncan 

Bosh: 12.3 PPG // 6.6 RPG // 1.2 APG // 45.7% FG // 73.3% FT // 48.4% 3P

Duncan: 17.8 PPG // 9.2 RPG // 2.1 APG // 46% FG // 79.7% FT // 1.7 BPG

As much as people like to kill Bosh for his photo-bombing awareness, his ability to get clowned relentlessly for being himself, and everything else in between, he’s still an 8-time All Star who is very likely on the path to the Hall of Fame (sorry, it’s true), especially if he can add two more rings &/or 2-3 more All Star bids to his resume.  However, he is entering the series in a slump, averaging less than 10 points in the last 4 straight games. What’s the worst way to try to break a slump?  Facing off against Tim Duncan in a seven game series.  His focus on taking away the things that you love to do – like he did against Zach Randolph in the Western Conference Finals – is almost unprecedented.  We know the old story: he’s boring to watch, his game puts people to sleep, but the consistency of his greatness is almost unmatched.  I can throw all the stats out at you, but this may be my favorite one yet:  in his rookie year at age 21, he made the All-NBA First Team.  Sixteen years later at age 37, he made the All-NBA First Team.  Has that even happened before???? He sees the end coming soon, but with the way Roy Hibbert look like Mikan, Wilt, & Bill Russell all rolled into one against Miami, I can’t see how he doesn’t do similar damage to them.  He’s as smart mentally as Hibbert is physically imposing. I expect to see him at the line a lot, getting the Heat’s big men to use up most of their 6 fouls each.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9


Udonis Haslem vs. Tiago Splitter 

Haslem: 6.3 PPG // 3.9 RPG // 0.9 SPG // 61% FG // 53.8% FT

Splitter: 6.8 PPG // 3.7 RPG // 1.8BPG // 68.2% FG // 78.3% FT

Both Haslem and Splitter are role playing big men, who make their bones playing off of their superstar teammates by collecting garbage points, finishing dump off passes, setting solid screens off the pick and roll, and playing tough defense.  They do it with slightly different styles, but both get the job done.  It’s an even matchup but I give the slight edge to Haslem.  Playing in his 4th Finals will make him more well-adjusted to the whole experience then a young player like Splitter, I’m expecting him to make less mistakes as the series prolongs.

Score: Heat 10, Spurs 9


Both teams have a pretty solid bench, Miami: Allen, Birdman, Battier, Miller, Cole, Anthony; Spurs: Ginobilli, Diaw, Bonner, Neal, Cory Joseph. For Miami, Allen, Battier, & Miller MUST make their open shots here.  They struggled the whole Pacer series, and versus a team who averaged the 5th most bench points in the league, they will quickly fall behind if this happens again.  The Spurs have been more consistent out of the two teams throughout the playoffs, so the needle tilts to their side on this one.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9


Both coaching staff in my opinion are the best in the game today.  Eric Spoelstra doesn’t get enough credit for coaching the team this season.  27–game winning streaks doesn’t just happen because you roll out the balls to your great players, then sit back, & enjoy the show.  A lot of it involves having your players dedicated to the system, while keeping them motivated for perfection in every game.  He built the system around the unique talents of his best player while making sure Wade & Bosh were having a major impact.  He brought a guy off the street (Birdman) and blended him in almost seamlessly. But this will be his biggest test, matching Xs & Os with Gregg Popovich, a legendary coach who’s 4-0 in the NBA Finals…… who has now had 10 days to plan for this series.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9


Game 1 is probably the most critical; a team that rests this long against the Spurs usually comes out rusty.  While a team like the Heat coming off of a grueling series, will still be in game-time rhythm.  If the Spurs can shake off the rust & steal this game, it can potentially be a big blow to the Heat, as the Spurs will only get sharper as the series progresses.  Ultimately, I’m going with the Heat in 7 because they have the trump card in James, who as I mentioned before, is by far the best player in the NBA playing at his absolute peak, and in basketball, that counts for a lot. His game almost has no flaws right now, and having that specimen on your team is like having a universal key that can open any door in the building.  As long as he’s constantly attacking this defense and causing problems in the paint with his scoring and playmaking, it will eventually wear the Spurs down…. even if they only wear down in Game 7.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Game 7 & Finals Breakdown

After a long, grueling, NBA playoff season that had all the impact-changing injuries (ie. Patrick Beverley on Russell Westbrook), heroic moments, choke jobs, reputations elevated (ie. Steph Curry, Paul George) and devalued (Hello Dwight & Blake!), we finally come down to the NBA Finals starting tonight between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, where as much as seven potential Hall of Famers will battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Before I give out the breakdown of the Finals boxing-match style, I feel like we have to address what happened earlier this week first. Mainly…..

……what the hell happened to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7?! First, let’s give credit to the Heat for the phenomenal defense they played, specifically in the second quarter, when they went on a 33 – 16 run to change the course of the game and choke the life out of the Pacers at that point. Now, I understand that Miami, when their “Big 3” are playing aggressively, are the best team rolling in the NBA, so the viewpoint of the Pacers losing to a better team isn’t lost on me. To add to that, Indiana doesn’t have that player right now that can put a team on his back & rally from a 15-point deficit. But Game 7 isn’t just about talent alone. More than anything, it’s about imposing your will on another team, giving your best effort & leaving your heart & soul in between the lines. The Pacers showed these traits in the first six games of this series, basically battling Miami to a standstill. When Game 7 came around however, they left all of those on the team plane. After dominating the boards the entire series, they were out-rebounded by Miami 43-36 (15-8 on the offensive boards), who made more free throws (33) than Indiana attempted (20), while turning over the ball 21 times before losing 99 – 76. The way they ended off the series left you strangely bitter, almost like the first time you watched The Departed. Great movie, kept you riveted the entire time before they mailed in the last 20 minutes & you ended up leaving the theater wanting to punch something.

As far the Pacers future is concerned, their future seems pretty bright. As long as they can resign David West (which by all accounts, wants to come back), George & Roy Hibbert can keep developing & improving on their talents, either sign a legitimate point guard or send George Hill & D.J. Augustin to a Five-Star like summer camp to learn how to handle the ball in tight situations, they should be able to contend again. Here’s the thing though: the future isn’t guaranteed. Everyone feels like Miami is going to break up the team in 2014, and they might. But what if they find a loophole that keeps them contending for the rest of LeBron’s prime years? Don’t forget, Derrick Rose is coming back and adding him alone makes Chicago 15 wins better at least. Depending on the coach they hire (especially with George Karl now on the market), Brooklyn might find that edge to compete with the contenders and start to mirror the city’s swagger. If Atlanta does the unthinkable, and lands Chris Paul and Dwight Howard with their cap space to put alongside Al Horford, that will change the landscape of the Eastern conference. We just don’t know what the future holds. Everyone thought Shaq & Penny would control the rest of the 90’s in the East; they also thought the same thing about Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp in Seattle. We also thought once that Vince & TMac would rule the NBA from Toronto together, or Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson’s futures would be bright in Milwaukee; or Jermaine O’Neal/Ron Artest-led Pacers, or 50 Cent, the Game & the rest of G-Unit (just making sure you’re paying attention), and every other young squad with a ton of potential who we thought would eventually win for years and win a title. We just don’t know for sure, & that’s why when Game 7’s comes along, you have to leave everything on the floor. Because when you do & the game happens to be close, you just never know. Let’s hope Indiana doesn’t look back at this game in a few years and wonder what might have been, and hopefully they’ll use this last series as motivation to get over the hump.


Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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