Tag Archives: playoffs

The Bow, The Ow and The Wow: LeBron’s Finals Journey

The 2015 NBA Finals for LeBron James was a microcosm of a career and a tribute to a once in a lifetime athlete

– Kevin Donnan


Some of you are preparing to *click* out of this article, and I understand.

Because outside of Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez, there is no more polarizing athlete on the planet than LeBron James.

You don’t need to be a NBA expert to know of LeBron James‘ career. Generational talent right out of high school, playing in Cleveland, “The Decision,” the flops, the money, the MVPs, the politics, “The Heatles,” the titles, the commercials, and of course “The Return.”

Through it all, whether you’re the obsessed or the casual observer, you typically reside in one of two camps:

1. LeBron James is an overrated, cramping, preening, flopper. Or,

2. You’ve named your children in tribute to the names of James‘ fictional Nike family, The LeBrons.

Nike
Nike

(Which means that those children, if not blessed with intestinal fortitude, will most certainly learn to acquire some as you try walking around with the names: Wise, Business, Athlete and Kid.)

Of course, James recently completed his sixth NBA Finals in 12 seasons. No matter on which side of the fence you reside, and in spite of his record falling to an overall 2-4 in the title series, this edition of The Finals, which was his fifth in a row, truly cemented his legacy as the greatest player of his generation, perhaps all time, and one of the most divisive players who has ever set foot in the sports arena in the eyes of fans.


The Bow

After earning a split on the road in the first two games, clearly James was confident. As a road team, a split is the ultimate goal, and has set the stage for innumerable upsets and “can-you-believe-its.”

In Game 3, though, LeBron pulled out one of those rare moments in sports. Say what you want about The King, but very few have had the keen sense of the moment as he has over the course of his career, and Game 3 was another demonstration.

A minute or two before tip-off, James strode towards his place at the circle, stopped, and made eye contact with a legend. That glance has become a now legendary moment. James‘ simple bow of acknowledgment to Cleveland legend Jim Brown was one of the most beautiful gestures of respect, admiration and love that has ever been seen in sports, and one that will not fade from memory anytime soon.

Later, in an article on clevelandbrowns.com, Brown called the move “one of his greatest sports moments.” There is no way anyone can underscore the power of that statement when you take into account the legacy of Jim Brown, the athlete and the man.

The demonstration of respect to one of the most legendary athletes in the city and the country elevated James‘ status as a true sportsman, and a young man who is respectful and reverential of the past and those who helped blaze the trail without fear, and with nothing but courage and character.


The Ow

USATSI
USATSI

With Cleveland entering Game 4 owning the only lead they would ever have, the Cavs mirrored their unabashed leader’s awkward fall under the backboard in the 2nd quarter. Detractors called it an embellishment that, might even make, yes, LeBron James blush, but his tumble into the camera lens rattled the Cavs. Once James emerged from the floor, this tumble was no joke, he was cut, required stitches, and was down for a few minutes.

(The sad fact, is that LeBron‘s skull was not the only, ahem, body part that was shown to the world in Game 4, but I really want this to be about basketball.)

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was the defensive plan of the Warriors where the pain really emerged for the Cavaliers. In his first start of the series, the Warriors started defending James with eventual series MVP Andre Iguodala. James shot a miserable 7-for-22, and had his lowest point total of the series with 20. Two games later, Iguodala was named MVP specifically for his defensive play against James.

The 103-81 blowout elevated the Warriors back into the confident and mentally unflappable crew that had dominated the league all season. With home court re-established, and Steph Curry finding his touch again, the clock was striking midnight on the supporting cast. A bench that likely didn’t realize just how they had caught lightning in a bottle began falling to earth in spite of the heroics of James.


The Wow

For nearly all teams, losing two all-stars (Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving) in one season, let alone in one playoff tournament, typically spells complete and utter doom. But the sheer will of James, in spite of those losses, is what truly brought it all home.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports/REUTERS
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports/REUTERS

LeBron was the first player in Finals history to lead both teams in points-rebounds-assists (38-PPG, 13-RPG, 8APG), and captured that amazing designation by literally playing all five positions at any given time. When he wasn’t posting up, he was bringing the ball up the floor as the point guard.

He also was responsible for more than 38 percent of his team’s points. Only Michael Jordan ever posted a higher share, and the difference is within one-tenth of a point.

After Game 5, he said that any team he played on could never be considered a true underdog, and that he was the best player in the world. While these remarks only stoked the fires of his critics further, it’s hard to argue with the inherent facts.

LeBron James is many, many, many things to many different people, and in so many ways this series represented the odyssey that began when he left St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Brilliance, drama, passion, and of course, a little showmanship for good measure.

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his ability and his desire to win, with all of the flops, cramps, televised “Decisions,” and everything else that goes with LeBron being LeBron.

I don’t understand why this superstar isn’t more embraced. From one end of the spectrum to the other, you simply can’t ignore or take your eyes away anytime he’s on the court.


Kevin Donnan is a regular contributor to The Scoop and is a sports obsessed and self-confessed Pop Culture idiot savant trapped in a frozen, northern wasteland, yet, loves all things Texas and is the most “American” Canadian who has ever lived above the 49th parallel.

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NHL Western Conference Finals Preview

NHL_Western_Conference.svg

Anaheim Ducks vs Chicago Blackhawks

Game 1: @ Anaheim May 17 (Ducks 4-Blackhawks 1)
Game 2: @Anaheim May 19
Game 3: @Chicago May 21
Game 4: @Chicago May 23
Game 5: @Anaheim May 25*
Game 6: @Chicago May 27*
Game 7: @Anaheim May 30*
*if necessary

Season series: Chicago won two of the three games this season, outscoring Anaheim by a total of 8-3.


Chicago Forwards

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune

One word comes to mind when I think of the Chicago Blackhawks forwards: Deep. They can roll four lines and use their forecheck to wear down the opposing defense. It all starts with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They are easily a top five offensive duo in the league today. Marian Hossa seems to have the puck find him in the playoffs, and Patrick Sharp is one of those players who can turn it up a notch when May rolls around. Add in rookie Teuvo Teravainen with his high skill set, and these forwards will give the Anaheim defense all they can handle.

Anaheim Forwards

NHL.com
NHL.com

They are large and very talented. Corey Perry, highly skilled and who some may call the best agitator in the game, will be a focal point for the Chicago defense. Ryan Getzlaf is a pure playmaker; his vision and ability to hold the puck and draw defenders to him are amazing. By garnering the attention of defenders, it opens up his line mates. Bringing Ryan Kesler into their forward group was a wonderful addition. Kesler gives Anaheim depth at center and makes the opposing defense have to worry about a second scoring line.

Advantage: Chicago


Chicago Defense

NHL.com
NHL.com

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are perhaps the most dependable blue line pair in the league. The loss of injured Michal Rozsival will be an obstacle to overcome, but they have eager players who are ready to step up to fill the void. David Rundblad and Niklas Hjalmarsson will be relied upon heavily to move the puck out of the defensive zone and start the rush on transition.

Anaheim Defense

NHL.com
NHL.com

To say the Ducks defense is stingy would be underselling them. They aren’t fancy by any means, but they get the job done. They aren’t considered a shot-blocking squad, but they find a way to keep teams from even thinking about taking shots. They exit the defensive zone quickly due to their mobile defenders: Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm. The way they carry the puck and can be thought of as extra forwards reminds me of how Paul Coffey and Sergei Zubov would command attention.

Advantage: Anaheim


Chicago Goalie

USATSI
USATSI

Corey Crawford finally regained the starting spot, and he was superb against Minnesota with a .947 save percentage. Crawford won the Stanley Cup in 2013, and it appears that he is back in that form. Good for Chicago, not so much for Anaheim.

Anaheim Goalie

USATSI
USATSI

This is Frederik Andersen’s playoffs. After going back and forth last postseason, he has made a statement this year, going 8-1 with a goals against average of 1.96. He rarely falls victim of the soft goal, and directs rebounds away from the middle of the ice.

Advantage: Chicago


Chicago_Blackhawks_LogoThe experience of Crawford and the core of Chicago‘s roster should give them an edge in what shapes up as a fantastic Western Conference Finals. Andersen will end up with a Cup or two, but not this season. He will use this series to build on what should be a stellar career. The Blackhawks win a thriller in seven games…and Game 7 might just creep into double overtime.


Matt Molina is a Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @MattMMolina.

 

NHL Eastern Conference Finals Preview

NHL Eastern Conf LogoNew York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lighting

Game 1: @New York      May 16
Game 2: @New York      May 18
Game 3: @Tampa Bay   May 20
Game 4: @Tampa Bay   May 22
Game 5: @New York      May 24*
Game 6: @Tampa Bay   May 26*
Game 7: @New York      May 29*
*if necessary
Season series: Tampa Bay won all three games by a total score of 15-7


Lightning Forwards

sportsnet.ca
sportsnet.ca

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and koNikita Kucherov are a ridiculously good line, and will be tough for the opposing defense to handle. They are highly skilled and very fast. They have to be great in order to push Steven Stamkos to the back burner. Stamkos has struggled to score goals in these playoffs (3 goals in 13 games), but he can still be a force if he gets hot. As for Ryan Callahan, it will be interesting to see how he plays coming off of appendectomy surgery. I’m sure he will be full of adrenaline facing his former team.

Rangers Forwards
Paul J. Bereswill
Paul J. Bereswill

I’m not a big fan of the New York forwards. There isn’t any one player to dial in on for a big goal, but they somehow seem to get the goal when it’s needed. Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard lead New York with five goals apiece. Rick Nash is once again missing in the playoffs; he has two goals during this playoff run. After a 42 goal regular season, it seemed he was poised for a breakout postseason.

Advantage: Tampa Bay


Tampa Bay Defense

USA Today
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Hedman is the puck-moving defenseman that every coach wants. He is fast and has wonderful skill with the puck, the proverbial quarterback on the blueline. Anton Stralman is a defenseman’s defenseman. He may only be 5’11”, but he plays bigger than that.

New York Defense
NHL.com
NHL.com

I’m sure the Rangers wish this series could be played in three weeks. They are in a physical disarray with Dan Boyle getting demolished by Brooks Orpik in game 7 and the beating Ryan McDonagh was issued. They will have to rely on the 6 defenders to play as a unit, and use the home games to match up against the Lightning forwards. New York was third in the league with giving up only 2.34 goals per game during the regular season while having the best goal differential at +60.

Advantage: Tampa Bay


Tampa Bay Goalie

Dirk Shadd - Tampa Bay Times
Dirk Shadd – Tampa Bay Times

Ben Bishop has done well in his first playoff run. He hasn’t been stellar, but good enough to win. He is 6’7″, so he takes up a large amount of the net. When he is focused, his angles are covered and doesn’t let in the team-deflating soft goal. If he can be solid in the pipes and give Tampa Bay a chance to win, then he will have done his job.

New York Goalie
USA Today
USA Today

Henrik Lundqvist. Enough said. He has been superb in these playoffs. He boasts a 1.60 goals against average and a save percentage of .944. He allowed only five goals on 110 shots in the last three games, all wins in elimination games, against Washington. With the game 7 win against the Capitals, he tied Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur with six career game 7 wins. Given the fact that New York has played in 14 straight one-goal playoff games, there isn’t anyone better that New York could chose to be minding their net.

Advantage: New York


Prediction

Tampa_Bay_Lightning_Logo_2011.svgI feel that Tampa Bay wins the series in six games. The Lightning offense should be able to overpower a beleaguered Rangers defensive group.

Matt Molina is a Sports Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @MattMMolina.

Super Bowl Sanctions Make No Sense

zimbio.com

The game of “How Outraged Can I Be At The NFL?” has reached an all-time high. It’s traveled so high into the stratosphere that a founding member of ESPN The Magazine suggested on Friday that “the Patriots should be benched for Super Bowl XLIX.”

The absurdity of any moment in today’s “react first then reflect later” environment is only topped by the absurd reactions of the paid experts who report on them.

Roxanne Jones, the author of this insane suggestion, is not alone in her blood thirst. NFL Hall of Famer and Cowboys Ring Of Honor inductee Troy Aikman publicly condemned Tom Brady the morning after a Chris Mortensen report revealed that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game were under-inflated by 2 pounds per square inch.

Such a tremendous reduction in air pressure should be noticeable to anyone who has handled a football in the NFL, so Aikman, Mark Brunell, and several other experts believe to be true.

Then there’s Amani Toomer, who when holding a 10 PSI football compared to a 13 PSI football said, “It’s (the difference in air pressure) not noticeable.” Dan Marino proclaimed belief in Brady’s innocence, and a doubt that he would have paid any attention to the firmness of a pigskin, or lack there of.

So which pro player is more believable than the other? That’s all that this outrage comes down to.

It’s not about what is known, but what is believed.

It is known that the New England Patriots played the 1st half of the AFC Championship Game with footballs that were under-inflated. No ifs, ands, or buts.

However Miss Jones, Mr. Aikman, and a host of other indignant folks believe that it is enough evidence to alter the legitimacy of the NFL’s crown jewel. The bath water is so sour, that the baby that is the 20 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl must be tossed out.

Let’s dance then.

Indy please board your plane to Arizona.

The Colts lost by 38 points, though, so wouldn’t it make more sense to advance the team that played the Pats to the closest finish in the playoffs?

Baltimore, you are the logical choice to represent the AFC next Sunday. Or are you?

Indianapolis believed that New England used sub-inflated footballs back in week 11. Wouldn’t that suggest that every Pats game from that moment on should be forfeited?

At 7-9, the Patriots wouldn’t even be eligible for the playoffs. The Dolphins would win the East, so reseed the whole damn thing. That includes the NFC playoffs, because the Lions would be NFC North champs with a bye week and hosting a home game instead of traveling to Dallas in the Wild Card Round.

The sanctity of sport requires us to take every precaution necessary.

Hogwash.

Even with the simplest proposal of suspending Belichick, Brady, or both for the Super Bowl, how could anyone sanely suggest that a Seattle victory would be seen as free from bias?

That’s assuming that proof surfaces that either of those gentlemen had a hand in Deflate-Gate.

Imagine the genuine outrage that would come if a 6-month investigation proved that the missing PSI was an accident. An act of God that no one could account for. How cheap would Super Bowl XLIX be then?

The proper play for Roger Goodell and the NFL is to allow the investigation to play out. If it is found that the Patriots organization intentionally broke the rules, then punish them in due time and with a penalty that is appropriate according to the known facts. (As of this afternoon, the Patriots have now set their cross-hairs on a member of their locker room staff as the guilty party.)

Sadly for some, that means that we will see a fully intact Pats roster and coaching staff on the field of University Of Phoenix Stadium a week from now.

That’s okay though.

At least it gives you someone to root against, but be honest. You hated the Patriots long before nearly a dozen footballs lost some air.


Dustin Copening is a Sports Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @SNUtilityMan.

 

Is every baseball fan happy now? You got everything you wanted!

Yankees-Red Sox Brawl
Associated Press

Based upon what people have been complaining about in baseball for the last few years, this should be considered a golden age for the sport. So many elements of the game that were considered problematic have been addressed. Some of the greatest drawbacks reversed.

With that in mind, I can only assume every single fan is thrilled with the product and can not wait to tell people that baseball is at its best.

Let’s look at what has been fixed.

 

I’m sick of the Northeast dominating baseball. It’s the Yankees or Red Sox every year. Borrrring!

Perk up little campers! We are about to have our first Northeast-free October since the advent of the Wild Card!

And while the Red Sox are technically the defending World Champions, they have as good a chance of defending that title as the Montreal Expos have of winning the World Series. Sick of Red Sox Nation? Well take solace in knowing that they are about to miss the post season for the 4th time in 5 years. Lots of time to cry in Chowder and wear down the ’04, ’07 and ’13 DVDs.

Meanwhile the Yankees are barely above .500, fading as contenders and have gigantic holes that even their deep pockets can’t fill in 2015. Unless they have a blistering September, the Yankees will not be a playoff team in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the Wild Card was created. This will be their third dark October in seven years.

As for the other Northeast teams, the Mets and Phillies, the less said about them the better.

So Northeast haters rejoice! You will have the October of your dreams.

 

Stars Always Leave Small Market Teams! It Isn’t Fair!

Well, talk to the Phillies and Yankees about how great signing stars to long-term deals can be!

That being said, more and more teams are locking up their key players to long-term deals. Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, Salvador Perez, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Jonathan LuCroy won’t be hitting the open market anytime soon for a bidding war. Fans can actually get attached to these players.

Now sometimes that can backfire. Everyone thought it was great when Troy Tulowitzki stayed long term with the Rockies. Joey Votto and Joe Mauer signing long-term contracts warmed the cockles of everyone’s hearts. Will they regret it? They can’t all dump bad contracts to the Dodgers.

But hey! At least they aren’t all going to New York or Boston!

 

My Team Doesn’t Have A Chance! The Economics of Baseball Prevent Us From Making A Winner!

At one point this was a true statement. But if your team can’t put together a winner NOW, then blame your team’s management! As of now, both the Mariners and the Royals would make the post-season. If they do, it would mean every single baseball team would have made the post-season since 2005 with two exceptions: the Blue Jays and the Marlins.

And there are many ways to reverse your team’s fortune. The Rays, Pirates and Nationals built through smart drafts. The Athletics added through shrewd trades. The 2013 Red Sox slapped together a squad of bearded mercenaries. The Cardinals constructed a near-dynasty through the farm and letting players walk at the right time.

The Marlins and Blue Jays are building a solid foundation, and even the lowly Astros have hope for the future. So cheer up and be patient! Your team will give you an October before you know it.

 

Steroids Have Made A Mockery Of The Game

Have you noticed players look a little thinner these days? Have you noticed that testing has caught more players?

How about the 50-homer season? It hasn’t gone the way of the Dodo, but they are the outliers. Forty-some-odd homers will give you the league lead these days. The slug fests and toppling of records is all but over.

Scoring is down, and pitching duels are up, just like everyone wanted.

Plus the users are not getting into the Hall of Fame, so you can rest easy knowing that the great ballplayers, drunks, racists and bigots of the past won’t have their reputations sullied.

 

We Need Instant Replay!

Boom! You’ve got it! If we had this a few years ago, Armando Gallaraga would have a perfect game, Jorge Orta would have been out and we’d never had heard of Jeffrey Maier!

 

I Hate A-Rod!

Well then this year must have been heaven for you. Be prepared that he will be back next year.

 

Paul Sullivan is a Sports Contributor for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @SullyBaseball. Be sure to check out all of our great content at TheScoopZone.com!