Archive | May, 2011

How the Mavs can beat the Heat

31 May

There were some interesting trends in LeBron James’ offensive strategy during the recent Eastern Conference Finals, some of which may provide opportunities for the Mavs these NBA Finals.

Firstly, consider that James likes to shoot from the left side of the floor, and in that mid-range area between about 15 and 21 feet. He’s prone to pulling up here but with far less poise than Michael Jordan, though his 46% field goal percentage these playoffs indicates otherwise. It’s misleading because James pulls up his average by bulldozing into the paint from time to time. The truth is, he likes the pocket on either side of the foul stripe perhaps more than he should because he often misses from there, especially at key moments in a game.

In Game 4 against the Bulls, for example, “The King” missed a number of mid-rangers in the third and fourth quarters and in overtime. Yes, he also made some, but not enough that Dallas should fear it. If the Mavs can utilize their zone defense by sitting back on perimeter ball handlers – and therefore James – they should be able to tempt the big fella into popping it from those  spots, preferably foul line extended.

This will have a secondary benefit for Dallas, playing to one of its major advantages – height. With Tyson Chandler anchoring the baseline defense, together with Nowitzki and Marion on the edges, Miami won’t have it so easy driving inside. So in protecting the key and asking the Heat to shoot 15-footers, Dallas plays a low risk brand of defense that should also better position them for rebounds. And defensive rebounding is certainly a task they’ll hope to execute well to have any chance of winning. Chicago, of course, struggled offensively against Miami, but Boozer, Deng and Noah owned the defensive glass, stifling second chance shots for the Heat’s Big Three.

James made a few more left side midrange jumpers in Game 5 of the Conference Finals, with more misses coming from the right. Ideally you’d like to see a greater number of clankers from the left if you’re Dallas because that means he’s preferring to drive that way. For what it’s worth, it’ll be easier to stop those dribble drives toward the hoop against his off hand.

Some questions have been raised about Jason Kidd’s ability to stay with Dwayne Wade, and those doubts may be fair given that Kidd’s motor has slowed. But realistically, who can defend Dwayne Wade one on one? As long as Kidd directs Wade around the key instead of allowing him through it, the Mavs should be able to rotate and help their point guard. Wade will both get his shots off and draw fouls, so it’s just not worth worrying about that. Both he and James each shot 11 free-throws in Game 5 against Chicago, and 17 charity shots between them in Game 4. The chief issue is containing them – being fleet-footed enough to push them into those mid-rangers and tough enough to bang them when they come inside. And don’t discount Kidd’s quick hands. He can still rattle ball handlers, especially ones like James who tend to fumble around the three-point line in the final minutes.

Offensively, Dallas need to simply hold the pedal down. Nowitzki has been on an attacking tear recently, not only shooting sharply but opening the floor for teammates like Kidd, Barea and Stojakovic to knock down threes. He went 10 of 17 for 29 points in Game 2 against the Thunder, 12 of 20 for 40 points in Game 4, then 8 of 15 for 26 points in Game 5. That’s Bird-like and we all know what Bird did supposedly great defenders during his Finals appearances.

look, this will be a tough out for Dallas, there’s no question of that. They’ll need to move the ball faster than the Miami defense’s feet and make the best of their superior shooting skills. Their size should also provide them a distinct advantage on the boards, especially at the defensive end.

Lastly, they have the smarter, more experienced Big Two in Nowitzki and Kidd. Sure their knees are creaking and at times they’ll need oxygen to keep up with their energetic opponents. But these guys have superb basketball IQs, won’t be overwhelmed by the occasion, and are quite possibly looking at their last hurrah. These three factors could go a long way to determining who’s still standing at series end.

How the Grizzlies made the NBA fun again

16 May

The Grizz’s stunning playoff run that ended Sunday against the slightly more experienced Oklahoma Thunder, threw us back to the basketball of our youth the way the DeLorean provided Marty a cooler version of his parents.

So here’s how the Grizzlies have made the NBA fun again:

They share the ball

It’s a novel idea, I know. On the break, the rock travels from sideline to sideline, or down the middle with a single bounce, or over the defense with a lob. Bottom line, it changes hands, and it’s so very refreshing.

They defend as a team

It’s not about attention-seeking spikes into the front row or two-armed roughhousing across the body of the scorer. They step into charges, scrap for loose balls and flush dribblers into turn overs. They crowd the key, disrupt the flow of perimeter attackers and jab their paws into the flight of passes. And it works because everyone buys in.

Their guards play guard, not hybrid ball

Mike Conley likes to shoot, sure. But he balances it by looking for open teammates, hitting the entry pass into the post if it’s there, or if not, bouncing it to the wing. He’s getting better at these decisions. Meanwhile, Vasquez is an effective slasher and Tony Allen’s size rattles opponents into submission. He also charges the floor and finishes with flair. Then there’s OJ Mayo who leaps into a fray and somehow leaves with points.

Z-bo is playing like Bird

Zach Randolph has, after years of frustration and futility, turned into a guy you can root for. He catches everything in the post. He spins by, steps past, and head fakes defenders with McHale-like pedigree. He drops in short corner fades, usually, when they’re most needed. And he forces the defender into committing and fouling when nothing else is working. His offensive onslaught these playoffs has been nothing short of Larry-esque and you can’t help but cheer.

The Memphis crowd love their guys

It’s a passionate and raucous clientele at Fed Ex Forum, even when the scoreline looks bleak. They wave towels, wear playoff white and yell their lungs out to a Memphis Beat. Who said this would be an unsuccessful NBA market?

They have energy

The Grizz never settle. They anticipate steals and visualize fast breaks. They scurry and scuttle plays, sapping the clock and the strength of their opponents. Perimeter defenders shift with urgency. Forwards throw themselves into the key, eager to collect a pass or find a rebound. It’s high energy, Red Bull-infused sort of stuff.

This team is likable

These big Bears play more like bats out of hell. They’re fast and furious, without Diesel’s extra bulk and Walker’s distracting looks. They have fun, and it all starts with Randolph being at ease and loving his job again.

Grizzlies logo in honor of Game 7

15 May

 

 

The current Grizzlies logo is reminiscent of the Chicago Bears, which is why it’s so cool. Now the older logo from the Vancouver era isn’t altogether bad, but would be better suited to a minor league baseball club. Certainly in the battle of logos, Memphis sweeps OKC 4-0.

The captain is back!

9 May

Derek Jeter went 4 for 6 on Sunday with two homers, signifying a possible return to form for Mr. Minka Kelly (not that someone dating Minka could ever be considered “out of form”). The Captain improved his batting average to .276 as a result of this recent outing.  So, well, what’s the issue Yankee fans?

Friday logos…oh, and games

6 May

Baseball logos are often similar, it’s true. But they seem especially similar when, seemingly all at once, clubs with like logos go head to head on the same day. It’s like the big baseball in the sky suddenly aligns with the sun or something, and just like that and a few beers later, you can’t tell who has more runs, them or the home team.

Case in point, some of Friday’s fixtures:

Cincinnati Reds Cap Insignia.svg vsChicago Cubs Cap Insignia.svg

Colorado Rockies Cap Insignia.svgvsSan Francisco Giants Cap Insignia.svg

Seattle Mariners Insignia.svg

 

It’s not easy being green

5 May

Despite ridiculous debate about their wall climbing antics, Vancouver’s Green Men will be back in full force for Game 4 of the Canucks – Predators series. And their glass work will likely arouse more fanfare than usual seeing as they’ve become media sensations.

The Province reported yesterday that the pair had this week done CBC, ESPN, local Nashville print and radio, and even the Jim Rome Show and Pardon the Interruption. All that’s left for the boys is a spot on The View. Now that’d be a show!

Erin Andrews ZigTech deal zagged

4 May

Erin Andrews’ Reebok ZigTech deal has certainly raised a clamoring around the web. If you missed it, Andrews’ employer, ESPN, recently requested that the reporter conclude her Reebok endorsement at the end of 2011 due to conflict of interest.

As The New York Times reported, ESPN’s concern here is a loss of credibility when its talent is seen to be endorsing products associated with the sports they report on. It’s a valid concern, but is Erin Andrews wearing ZigTechs in her own time truly a conflict of interest when she roams the sidelines of a basketball court?

Certainly her deliberate comments about Nike cleats at the Rose Bowl didn’t help matters but if ESPN’s policy simply vetoed on-air comments about brands then there wouldn’t be a need to ban such endorsement deals. Right?