NBA Finals Game 1 Coverage & What Miami Needs to do Recover

Colby Smithwick
Twitter: @Cas_NBA

Those Spurs cut deep

Let me start this thing off with a few things. 1, I am a Phoenix Suns fan. I hate both of these teams. 2, the following are playoff stats that all consist of the Top 5 players for each of the categories.

1:
The Offensive Win Shares per game leader is LeBron James. No other Miami player, or San Antonio player, is in the top 5 for that stat. San Antonio, though, has gone 7-0 for their last games after dropping their last win in Golden State. Miami is just 4-4 in the last 8 games. San Antonio is also 13-2 in the playoffs, while Miami’s 12-5…. And they also had a hell of a lot easier schedule than San Antonio.

2:
The Defensive Win Shares per game leader is LeBron, but Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard are only a .1 away from being tied with LeBron. Again, no other Miami member is in this category, but Father-time Duncan and the Sophomore Leonard are right there behind LeBron. I get that Duncan is the greatest Power Forward of all time… but come on, Miami, you’re really gonna let that old man and young blood Leonard outplay potential hall of famers? (LBJ, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh). I mean you guys have been here before, Leonard is just a sophomore yet he’s playing like he’s been in Popovich’s system since their first 4 championships.

3:
The OVERALL Win Shares per game leader is LeBron with 4,1, 2nd is Roy Hibbert, 3rd and 4th are Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard with both having a 2.2. Once again we see the lack of Miami players (Bosh and Wade both being all stars, Leonard and Hibbert weren’t) on this list, and this just shows how valuable LeBron is to Miami.

4:
The OVERALL Offensive Rating category shows us that LeBron and Kawhi Leonard are 4th and 5th on that list respectively, but are separated by a .2 difference only. Hmm…. 4 time MVP and a championship ring vs. a sophomore who was drafted 17th overall…. Remember when I said Leonard looks like he’s been with the Spurs for years? Yeah… that sounds about right.

5:
The OVERALL Defensive Rating category shows no Miami players on that list. San Antonio players on that list, though? Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. With Duncan guarding Bosh, that really shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, as smart of a ball player Duncan is, it doesn’t take much to realize that leaving Bosh wide open for an elbow 3. Not to mention, Duncan’s the only player in NBA history to be selected to both All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams during each of his first 13 seasons…. Which is why Bosh played pretty terribly in the first game (6-16 on FG’s and 0-4 on 3’s, and only 5 rebounds). Duncan, on the other hand, dominated Bosh and Haslem on the other end, going for 20 and 14.

6:
The Assist Rating stat shows no Miami player, but Tony Parker is only 2nd to Ty Lawson on that list by a .2. Parker’s ability to drive and demand so much attention in the paint causes the perfect rotation for the rest of SA’s offense, which often leads to wide open shots. Green hit 4 3’s, Garry Neal hit 1 and Manu put in 2 for himself. Leonard missed all 4 of his, but they were wide open as well.

So what do all these stats show us? They show us that LeBron is doing every damn thing possible to keep this Miami team going because there’s hardly any other player from Miami with a positive stat. Miami outshot and outrebounded San Antonio in the first half. Their lead, though, was only 52-49. MIA stayed ahead until Parker’s free throws gave SA a 77-76 edge with 7:47 left in the 4th quarter. James dished to Bosh for a jumper on the next possession for his 10th assist, but Leonard countered on the next possession. The Spur’s ability to linger made LeBron play 43 minutes and sit down at the beginning of the 4th, Wade play 36 minutes on his bum knee and he also joined LBJ on the bench to start the 4th, and Bosh just got destroyed by that Splitter-Duncan-Leonard combination

Tony Parker then capitalized on James’ 2nd turnover (by the way James is 2nd in the playoffs in turnovers, with D-Wade right behind him… oh and SA only had 4 turnovers in Game 1, by the way… and Tony Parker had 0) by executing that swift signature spinning layup. Oh how quickly the tides would turn. San Antonio was up 81-78 exactly halfway through the fourth at this point.

Remember that great 1st half Bosh and Wade had? Yeah, they pulled a Houdini on us in the 2nd half. Wade and Bosh combined for two points on 1-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter. Wade In the first half had a PER of a staggering 34.8, but in the second half it was a horrendous 0.6.
Bosh missed an open 3-pointer (his 4th and final miss from the arch) with 1:02 left that would have cut the deficit to one point, and Wade missed a layup in the final seconds as Miami trailed by four (Wade opened Game 1 against the Spurs with a dunk, scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half, then came that second-half which he only scored 4 points in the 3rd and went scoreless in the fourth quarter.)

The only shots Bosh hit were 5 free-throw-line elbow shots. He missed all 4 shots he took in the paint, and Udonis Haslem only had 1 point and it was an elbow jumper as well. NORRIS FREAKING COLE HAD MORE POINTS IN THE PAINT THAN THE 2 STARTING BIG MEN COMBINED FOR MIAMI.

LeBron had 6 of his 7 shots go in all from the pain area, while that 7th shot was a 3 pointer. The 6 shots he missed were sporadic jump shots, 4 of which were 3-pointers. I mean, what the hell LeBron? You post up Paul George and dominate him in 1 game, then never do it again. You DESTROY the paint area every time you’ve been in it, BUT YOU DON’T GO THERE ENOUGH. The day Hell freezes over is the day Tim Duncan should make more free throws than you, oh wait that’s what happened in game 1. Duncan and Leonard both went 8-8 from the line while Ginobili and Parker went 6-8. That’s 4 players who are not nearly as athletic, strong, or have the ability to draw fouls like James and D-Wade do. Yet they’re dominating in that category. They’re getting Bosh in foul trouble, and this makes life so much harder for Birdman and Haslem because then they have to, uh, guard the greatest Power Forward of all time (who by the way, finishes the game with 20 points, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 14 rebounds).

Now, it’s time for the Finale. How often would you say a triple double hurts a team? Hardly ever, right? WELP…. LeBron had a triple double in game 1…. But it resulted in a -3 when it came to the plus/minus stat. Wade posted an -11, and Bosh posted a -9. The only players who had a positive plus/minus stat for MIA were Mike Miller, Ray Allen, and BIRDMAN Andersen. Those 3 combined for 25 points and an overall plus/minus of +20… and played more minutes than starters Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem (who combined for 4/11 shooting for 12 points).

There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re gonna see a comeback performance from Miami in Game 2. What they NEED to do, though, is do what the Spurs are doing. Move the ball, drive to the lane, and either dish out to a rotated 3-point shooter for the look or be the LeBron we all are waiting to see, and DUNK THE HELL OUT OF THE BALL. The more free throws LeBron and Wade take, the better Miami’s chances are of winning. Go back and look at the shot charts and box scores from the previous series. LeBron hits a few shots in the paint, the defense starts sliding in on him every time he drives, and then he either dishes it out for a rotated 3 or dumps it off to Wade for a (what should be if he wasn’t laboring on that knee) slam dunk, or vice versa. Get Duncan and Spliter in foul trouble. Make Popovich play the 6’9 DeJuan Blaire and the former Hawks-point-guard-turned-power-forward Borris Diaw.

One more thing before I get off. You can tell Bosh’s confidence is just not there anymore. Him spacing the floor is only effective if he’s hitting his long-range shots, but he isn’t. We either need to see a vintage Big 3 performance from LBJ, Bosh and Wade (like Wades season up to the All-Star break, Bosh in last years semi-finals against Boston OR his 20 and 10 days in Toronto, and LeBron should just go hard in the paint like Flocka Flame, or Gucci mane (rap reference, sorry about that…)). If the Wade and Bosh don’t perform like we’re used to seeing, it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY that the role players step up. Chalmers, Cole, Battier and Ray Allen MUST hit the open 3’s they’ve been getting. Birdman, you keep doing what you’re doing. You get the whole “cut to the lane for easy buckets” thing. Also I’d be terrified to say anything bad about you.

PREDICTION FOR GAME 2: LeBron’s passive at first, tries to get teammates involved. They start going off, Miami gets pumped. Wade and Bosh’s confidence grows and they start going. LeBron will go to the FT line more than the last game, but the Spurs are gonna keep it close… until LeBron takes over. I’m expecting this to be a double-digit win for Miami. It’s either gonna be the role players hitting 3’s or it’s Bosh and Wade being aggressive, we will not see the same lackadaisical performance from Game 1. My guts telling me LeBron’s dropping at least 30 and could possibly go for 40, and Miami will pull away in the 4th to cruise. After all, Miami is 10-0 coming off of their last 10 losses…. so I just hope the Spurs are ready for a very angry, vengeful Miami Heat team.

All stats provided by: http://www.basket-ballreference.com

Newsflash: The NBA is not the NFL

David Stern recently told reporters that his gut feeling is that there will be no Christmas Day games in the NBA this season. That is bad news for NBA fans and also the NBA. If this lockout continues then there will be huge short-term repercussions for the NBA. The NBA owners would be fools to look at the success of the NFL, despite a lockout, and hope that their sport can recover just as quickly. The NBA is not the NFL. While it is currently the second most watched sport in the U.S., it is a distant 2nd to the NFL. NFL fans clamor for football and the anticipation and worry of this off-season may have actually increased interest. This will not be the case for the NBA.

The result of this lockout could be David Stern's legacy

One glaring difference is that the NFL only had to cancel one game; the annual Hall of Fame preseason game. The NBA has already canceled the first two weeks of the season and have said that if there is not a deal by next week then there will probably be no basketball games in this calendar year. Even if the season does start at the beginning of the 2012, there will be a 50 games season that is surely to be filled with sloppy play and empty arenas. Most of the teams in the lower echelon of the NBA struggle to draw fans when they have 2-3 games every week or so. Just imagine when there are 4-5 games packed in one week during a homestretch for the 76ers or the Bobcats. The arenas will be like ghost-towns.

Due to the resolution in the NFL labor dispute coming only shortly after the preseason was scheduled to begin, most NFL teams were able to pay all their employees for the time that was missed. If the NBA misses 3 or more months you can bet that will not be the case in the NBA, where owners are already complaining about financial losses even during the successful recent surge in the NBA. If the NBA does in fact miss an entire season, you can bet that the arenas will be mostly empty across the country for probably 2 seasons. The NBA will recover, but it will take time.

The real shame in this matter is all of the people caught in the crossfire of the dispute; trainers, hot dog vendors, local bar owners close to arenas, and ticket brokers (especially ticket brokers! lol). These people have no control or say so in the matter and yet many of these people will suffer pay cuts, missed hours, lay-offs, and diminished business.

The clock is ticking NBA. Please make the right move.

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Baseball Playoffs: Who are you picking?

For me, I am going to stay with my original picks on our Opening Day Blog … The Red Sox over the Phillies in the World Series … wait, what is that you said? ….. WWWWWWHHHHHHHAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTT???????? The Red Sox did not make the playoffs??????? How??? I thought they had the best record in the American League like a month ago. Oh, they did.

Boston’s monumental collapse has completely altered things in the American League. Just over a month ago, many thought that the Yankees could not beat the Red Sox in the playoffs, but none of that matters now. The real question is going to be can the Yankees overcome Justin Verlander and the Tigers. The winner of this series will represent the American League in the World Series. The Tigers have been very hot since they acquired Doug Fister so look for them to beat the Yankees. I believe Verlander and Fister will be too much for the Yankees, especially because C.C. Sabathia has not been pitching very well lately.

Will Justin Verlander and the Tigers be celebrating after this series?

In the National League, it is very hard to pick against the Phillies. They tailed off the last month of the season slightly, but only because they had nothing to play for. With the combination of Halladay, Lee, Hammels, and Oswalt, the Phillies look unbeatable in a 5 or 7 game series. The Cardinals are playing really well right now, but I just do not think anyone can match up with the Phillies’ pitching … in the National League or American League. That is why I am picking the Phillies over the Tigers in the World Series.

Of course, anything can happen. Just look at last season. The Rangers vs the Giants was the last match-up anyone expected. I do not think anyone saw that one coming. That is why they play the games.

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Giants vs Eagles Rematch

How big was Desean Jackson’s punt return for the game winning touchdown against the Giants last year?

It was so big that it actually determined the Super Bowl Champion. That’s right. Let’s play out what happens if the Giants win that game. The Giants end up in the playoffs as the 6 seed. The Packers miss the playoffs. The Eagles play the Giants again at home in the first round of the playoffs. The Eagles probably win that game at home. The Seahawks go to Atlanta and the Eagles go to Chicago. There is a very good chance Mike Vick’s homecoming could have occurred in the NFC Championship game last year instead of the second game of the season.

The most exciting play of the season, but it also had the most impact.

It sounds like a lot of what-ifs, but the Giants missed the playoffs by one game and the Packers got in by one game. It is really amazing to think about how one play could change the entire complexion of an NFL season, but that is exactly what happened in New York last year. The Giants had the game and they threw it away.

Of course, Tom Coughlin told the Punter to kick it out of bounds, but he kicked it right down the middle of the field where Desean Jackson was waiting. And running. And juking. And swerving. And sprinting toward the endzone. And celebrating. Up to the middle of the 4th quarter Mike Vick had a terrible game, but all anyone remembers is the comeback.

This weekend we get to do it all over again as the Giants and the Eagles face off for the first time since the infamous punt return. The Eagles and Giants are both 1-1 and are both plagued with injuries.Watch for a very physical game that will include high emotions for both sides. A lot is on the line as one of these two teams is going to be 1-2 on the year. The Eagles are currently favored by 7 1/2 points. They should win, But not every game a team is supposed to win goes on to win. Just ask the Giants.

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Peyton Manning Out: How Will It Affect The Colts Season?

This may be the last time Peyton Manning is calling Audibles for a while

For the first time in 13 seasons, Peyton Manning will not be starting under center for the Indianapolis Colts. This will end his streak of 208 consecutive starts for the Colts, the most among active players. The last quarterback to start a game for the Colts was Jim Harbaugh … that should tell you how long it has been. Harbaugh is now the coach of the SF 49ers. During Peyton’s tenure as QB in Indy, the Bears have had 17 different starting quarterbacks and every single team in the league has had at least 3 starting quarterbacks.

This leaves the Colts with a lot of questions for the 2011 season. Will Peyton Manning miss the entire season? Will the Colts’ receivers be less than mediocre with only a mediocre quarterback? Will the Colts be able to make the playoffs?

Kerry Collins is the Colts best answer for who will replace Manning. This seasoned veteran has proven he can make plays, but will it be enough?

One thing is for sure, the Colts need Peyton Manning to be able to contend. The Houston Texans are chomping at the bit to take over as the head of the AFC South. Without Manning, the Colts are going to face a tough road and it begins on Sunday in Houston at Reliant Stadium as the Colts take on the Texans.

Do you think the Colts have a chance without Manning?

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NFL Preview: Top 5 Power Rankings

From time to time this season, Front Page Tickets will be giving you the Top 5 Power Rankings. After three weeks of the preseason is almost finished, now is a great time for the first installment.So without further ado, here is your NFL Top 5.

5. Philadelphia Eagles: There is definitely no flying under the radar for these birds. The self-proclaimed “Dream Team” (thanks Vince Young!    From: Andy Reid) is definitely going to be under a lot of scrutiny this season. With Mike Vick coming off his best season in the NFL statistically and a slew of free-agent signings, the Eagles are poised to make a Super Bowl run… or at least that is what many believe. This team looks great on paper, but let’s see how they look during the regular season. Chemistry is very under-rated in the NFL (Remember the Bengals in 2010?).

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: The returning AFC Champs could be ranked higher, but they have had a lot of off-the-field drama this season. From Hines Ward’s DUI to James Harrison’s article berating Roger Goodell, the Steelers have been making the headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Harrison made a lot of disparaging remarks about his quarterback and running back so this may create some locker room issues. Only time will tell if the experienced Steelers can overcome all of these issues.

3. Atlanta Falcons: No one is talking about the Falcons and that is exactly how Head Coach Mike Smith likes it. The team with the best record in the NFC last year got thumped by the Green Bay Packers at home in the playoffs. The Falcons took that beating very seriously and went to the draft and free agency to fill some of their weaknesses. With rookie Wide Receiver Julio Jones and the addition of Defensive End Ray Edwards, the Falcons should be dangerous this year.

2. New England Patriots: It seems like the Patriots are always in the mix for a Super Bowl title and 2011 should be no different. Tom Brady now has a new toy in Chad Ochocinco (can we seriously go back to Johnson? For real) that should give the Patriots a deep threat with sure hands across from Deion Branch. The defense has added Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth to the line to give the Patriots size to rush the quarterback and stop the run game. Watch out for the Patriots!

1. Green Bay Packers: It is ridiculous to take any other team at this point. Aaron Rogers proved during the Packers Super Bowl run last year that he belongs in the quarterback elite of the NFL. With Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson leading the defense, the Packers will be fortified all the way around. Oh yeah, and they have two huge factors coming back from injury, running back Ryan Grant and Tight End Jermichael Finley.

Honorable Mention: Do not forget about the New Orleans Saints. After winning it all in 2009, they have added Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram to the backfield. They had a lot of issues in the run game last year, so they should definitely be better this year. If the defense can get back to play-making and getting turnovers, they will be a tough out and can compete with the top of the NFC.

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Phillies: Juggernaut of the National League

Over the winter, the Philadelphia Phillies put together the most feared pitching staff in the National League. When Cliff Lee miffed the Rangers and the Yankees and opted for the Phillies, he bolstered an already dominant pitching staff. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels were already possibly the best pitching staff in the National League, but with Cliff Lee, it became the best pitching staff in either league.

While some were ready to crown the Phillies the World Series Champion before the season started, others wanted to see the Phillies pitching machine in action before rushing to judgment. Now that the season is drawing quickly to a close, it is obvious that the Phillies are the favorite to win the World Series. They seem to be unbeatable. After taking 3 out of 4 to the San Francisco Giants over the weekend, it seems like these Phillies are poised to make a run to the World Series.

Hunter Pence has made the Phillies seemingly invincible

Of course, Major League Baseball is one sport where the rich get richer. As if the Phillies were not stacked enough, they went out before the trade deadline and got former Astros right fielder Hunter Pence. Since joining the Phillies he has been on a tear and have made the Phillies bats come alive. With the addition of Pence, the Phillies have solidified themselves as the class of the National League.

Can anyone knock off the Phillies? Who do you think will win the World Series this year?

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NFL is Back! Let the Madness Begin!

Everyone breathe a sigh of relief. One of the most tumultuous off seasons in NFL history took place this summer, and there was only one deal signed. It wasn’t free agent signing or a huge rookie contract; it was a collective bargaining agreement. After months of fighting between themselves, the players and owners now have an agreement.

What does this mean? Basically, it means football “is back” as Roger Goodell put it yesterday. It also means fans need to buckle up and get ready for the craziest free agent frenzy in sports history. An entire off season in just a matter of days.

Some of the most interesting names in free agency are Plaxico Burress, Ray Edwards, Donovan McNabb, Randy Moss, and Nnamdi Asomugha. The cards will be falling into place and deals will begin getting signed on Friday.

Training Camps begin for some teams on Thursday. The rest of the teams will quickly follow. The great news is that only one pre-season game will be missed. Unfortunately, it was the annual Hall of Fame Game. One casualty though is not too bad considering how nasty the lockout was becoming.

One major problem with the Lockout was that many of the employees of the NFL teams were basically temporarily laid off and lost pay. Many of the NFL teams have informed their employees that they will be reimbursed for their lost wages. This is great news and will help repair the image of the NFL owners.

Do not miss the NFL action!

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US Soccer: Will it ever thrive?

Japan delivered the Women’s World Cup to Japan in a hard fought contest with the United States on Sunday. The World Cup may be over, but the hype over Hope Solo will more than likely not be. Soccer enthusiasts in America will no doubt attempt to parlay the women’s success into a larger influence. The question is can soccer ever really thrive in this country?

I would definitely say no for three reasons.

  • Soccer is just too slow. America is all about a fast pace. We want to see scoring. This is why the NHL and MLB are now struggling to find support and fans to fill the seats. The more developed technology becomes, the more fast-paced society becomes.  It is difficult for a sport like soccer, which sometimes ends in a 0-0 draw, to keep our attention. The NHL and MLB have a large fan base, but even they need to do a better job speeding their games up.
  • America likes to be different. Since the days of the American Revolution, Americans seem to have an inherent feeling of defiance towards the rest of the world. If soccer is the most popular sport in the world, then we do not want to play it. We are rebellious like that.
  • Our men’s team just can’t compete with the rest of the world. How many World Cups in a row have we heard the soccer enthusiasts saying, “we are so close this time…” It never ends. At least our ladies can represent us to the fullest. Soccer does not have a chance of lasting in America until the men win a World Cup and are no longer the laughing stock of the international sports world.

Good job ladies! Second place isn’t too bad. And besides, after all Japan has gone through with the earthquake and tsunami, they deserved it.  They played with a lot of heart and passion. Hats off to them.

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Derek Jeter Gets 3,000th Hit!

Baseball is a game of legends. Some of these legends loom larger than life over the national pastime. The likes of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle are all synonymous with baseball lore. The most legendary and storied team in the history of Major League Baseball is the New York Yankees. The Yankees were lucky enough to have several of these legends of the game, including Ruth, Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, such to name a few. Out of all of the Yankee legends and greats, none have achieved what was done on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Derek Jeter's 3000th Hit

Derek Jeter became the first Yankee in history to record his 3,000th hit. There have only been 28 men in the all of baseball who have ever achieved this feat. This brings up a very interesting discussion. Is Derek Jeter the greatest Yankee of them all? Where does he rank compared to Ruth, Mantle, and Jackson? He has won championships. He has made big plays when his team needed him. He has been a role model. What more could a team ask for out of a player?

Dererk Jeter has been the model of consistency for his whole career. This 3,000th hit has hushed the whispers in New York of whether or not they should sit him. The Yankees actually had a better record without him this season than they did without him. Regardless of the down season he is having at the plate, his defense is still impeccable. His intangibles alone are enough to keep him in the line-up. Besides, you can’t sit the captain.

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