Let’s get it cracking! Smashmauf! 2015
This season is off to a decent start but so far it is lagging behind the excitement of the previous one. Last season was one of the best NBA season I have ever followed as a sports fans. There was sufficient drama and excitement throughout the league but mostly it was a feel good year. The players were all dialed in and the good teams were quickly separated from the awful ones. There were new stars and talents that emerged before our eyes; like Stephen Curry, Antony Davis, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. There were the veterans who solidified their status as part of basketball’s elite. Players like Kyle Korver, Joachim Noah, John Wall, Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc & Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson and occasionally, Blake Griffin. There are way too many players to name so I apologize to anyone that I have left off the previous list.
Then we have the elite amongst the elites. Players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Carmelo Anthony, Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins, Tony Parker and even Mike Conley. The guys who brought it consistently and demolished the competition on a nightly basis. Much respect. Thank you all for making it one of my favorite seasons. I’m glad that the change in commissioner has driven the league to move in a different direction; at least when it comes to messaging. David Stern, towards the end of his tenure, didn’t seem to be as concerned with the quality of the game but more with selling the game to owners and sponsors. Marketing is something that always has to be done, yes, but it didn’t have to be at the cost of good competiton. He had also allowed owners like Donald Sterling to get aware with racism and discrimination while severely fining players for comparatively minor offenses. Also, the officiating of games improved significantly over the past year and a half and that has made the game much more enjoyable to watch. There are still problems with superstars getting more calls than the less established players but there seems to be a growing consistentency in the interpretation of the in-game rules.
To the NBA and its players, I salute you.
Now to pivot back to this year. I am mostly impressed with 2 teams in particular. My hometown Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. I don’t think it’s a coincidence why both teams have some of the most active fans. They are real good and really fun teams to watch. There seems to be a synergy amongst the ranks within both organizations and it’s helping both ball clubs win games. The players just seem very dialed in and focused on winning the season. No doubt when this season is done there will be a plethora of highlight reels from both teams; like the insane posterization of Andre Drummond by James Johnson. That might have been the dunk of the year. I hope there is plenty more to come.
Feeling good considered. Being off to another wonderful season in 2015, considered. I still think the teams to beat are the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Portland Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks. Even then, I feel like the best team is the Chicago Bulls, especially if Nikola Mirotic can handle playing at the small forward position as the season wears on. The sheer length, speed and experience on that Bulls team is scary. The only team with a chance, in my opinion, are the Cleveland Cavaliers if someone can wake Kevin Love from his slumber. Where is he? That’s going to be the story as we progress through the second quarter or second third of this season. All I know is, I expect more drama over the next two months as the competition ramps up.
The game was marred by poor shooting performances by players on both teams. The Raptors shot just 39% for the game; while the Nets shot just 42.5%. In most games, shooting 42.5% in a game would signal a loss but somehow the Nets were able to pull out the win despite their sub-par performance. In the end, the game went the way of the dinosaurs. Not the Toronto Raptors but the other dinosaurs on the Brooklyn Nets. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett dug deep into their deep bag of old tricks to pull out an old-school win.
Despite going to a bigger line-up for longer stretches in the game, the Raptors didn’t seem to have a plan for capitalizing on their true advantage versus the Nets. Deron Williams was able to establish early, the (otherwise shaky) Nets’ backcourt, as a force to be reckoned with in the game by using a series of crafty drives for easy buckets. On the other end, despite a decent scoring performance, Kyle Lowry ended up coughing up the ball 5 times (offsetting most of his 5 assists) while forcing the issue a few too many times down the stretch. Williams’ resolve in trusting the Nets’ other veteran players to execute during a critical stretch in the 4th quarter versus Lowry’s (and to some respect Vasquez’s) rushed and forced shots proved to be the deciding factor down the stretch.
The Raptors in totally tallied a solid 22 assists in the game but committed an atrocious 17 turnovers to offset much of the benefits gained from passing the ball. Demar DeRozan was a ghost in this game as he not only shot a meager 23% from the field (3/13) but much of his 14 points came at the very end when the game had already been decided. His 3 made field goals came in “garbage time” while the Nets’ were trying to run off the clock by possessing the ball. Demar also committed 3 turnovers to go with his singular assist. Terrence Ross played 16 minutes, shooting 25% (all on 3 point attempts), committing 4 fouls and scoring only 3 points. Amir Johnson had 2 points and 3 rebounds in 21 minutes of play and; John Salmons laid a goose egg to go with 1 rebound in 13 minutes of play. By any and all accounts, this is the epitome of a forgettable performance by the young upstart Raptors. A sad performance as the team could not take advantage of the massive out pour of support and encouragement from the sell out crowd that showed up at the ACC.
The Nets stuck to their identity throughout the game by running the game through their 2 man tandem of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. Joe Johnson, in typical fashion, had a deathly efficient game using his size advantage to milk 24 points out of the makeshift Raptor defense. Deron Williams played with the patience, trust and resolve that the Nets require from him in order to be competitive for the rest of the playoffs. The rejuvenated Shaun Livingston was the X-factor in the game as he provided great size, length and experience to round off the solid Nets’ back court. The 3-man back court combined for just 3 turnovers, 20/39 (51%), and a whooping 62% of the Nets’ offense in the game. While most people will remember the heroics of the old guys, the game was really won by the solid performance of the Nets’ backcourt.
All is not lost however for the Raptors. They do not have to disappear like the creature which shares their team name. There were some positives they can definitely build upon. Jonas Valanciunas, despite his team leading 6 turnovers, stepped up big in the game to the tune of 17 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists out of the center position. Greivis Vasquez poured in a valiant 18 points on 5/11 shooting in mop up duty for the ailing Raptors backcourt. Patrick Patterson also came off the bench to provide a solid 9 points to the campaign. There is nothing in these 3 players’ performances that indicates that they can not keep up the production for the duration of this series. The Raptors can rest assured that the bench will step up in game 2 of the series but they need to figure out how to properly utilize their front court players to create mismatches and advantages for their guards. The beauty of the game of basketball is that it is a team sport and it still requires production from all five positions to create an advantage in performance. For the Raptors to get the production they need out of Demar, Terrence and Lowry, they will need to find a way to get the other players involved in creating easy scoring opportunites on offense. They also need to clamp down on defense and understand how the Nets are attacking their back court defense. Kevin Garnett is notorious for being able to find ways to get his guys open using deft screens and communicating on offense. The Raptors have to force Garnett and Pierce to shoulder the bulk of the scoring load for the Nets.
With the home court advantage evaporated, the team of the North has no time to sleep in Toronto. If the Raptors want to ensure a game 5 in Toronto, they will need to win game 2 or risk allowing the Dinosaurs of the Nets to keep roaming free in the North.
Literally world, yours truly, Mr. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods:
I have been gone for a long minute so first I would like to thank all the Smashmauf! fans for remaining loyal and keeping tabs on the site. Smashmauf! is not going anywhere, I’m pleased to announce that.
While I was away, it seems Tiger got himself entangled in some juicy business – literally. Alright. Now I was not going to comment on his skewed publicity but for those who still do not know, Smashmauf is here to clarify one important thing. Tiger is one Rich Mother-Shut-Your-Mouth. The guy can probably make more money by burning money in public; he is that Rich. Why the hell do you care who he is sleeping with?? No way you are going to be on that kind of game if your status is not on the level. Just let the thing go. We all know how it is. The guy is an Athlete. The guy is “Cau-Bla-N-Asian”; yeah, though we all just see that he’s part Asian and Black. The guy is the BEST IN HIS PROFESSION. The guy makes more money for others and yet he is still a Billionaire. The guy is popular. The guy is confident. The guy has handlers to handle his handlers. He married a SWEDISH BABYSITTER. He guy is a marketing ICON. Everyone on the planet with access to a Radio or Television knows or has heard of Tiger Woods. And then, to top it off, his nickname is Tiger – as in, “He must be a TIGER in bed”. Lots of women with any kind of access will throw themselves at him. Even now. That will not change. Quite frankly, as long as he keeps Golfing, he will always be in the public limelight. You can read between the lines on all of that but it will not change any of it. All Smashmauf! wants to report is Tiger Woods, the Golfer. I hope he comes back better than ever and breaks every damn Golfing record he can possibly break. Leave the bed talk to the “Ladies” who kiss and tell.
The Orlando Magic are in trouble! Period.
Game 2 played out exactly the way Game 1 should have played out if the NBA Goons Referees had not completely skewed the series in favor of the Lakers. The Orlando Magic battled valiantly, despite the Goons Referees showing up again in the 4th quarter, only to have their efforts and hopes dashed by a missed Layup by Courtney Lee. I hate to put the loss squarely on his shoulders because basketball is a team sport BUT the truth is that the loss falls squarely on his shoulders; he missed a Layup at the end of regulation that would have won a game in which they had been completely discriminated against – in a series that they are being completely discriminated against. I know there pundits and fans like myself who would argue against this fact but the truth is that it was a LAYUP! No matter how hard the LAYUP was, it was nowhere as hard as taking a half-court, off-balance, defender-in-your-face, hailmary, buzzerbeating 3point shot. All Lee had to do was hit a LAYUP from about 2-3feet away. All I have to say is, “Courtney, where is your heart?”.
Am I being hard on Lee? YES! Am I being malicious or unfair? NO! It is no secret, the NBA is against the Orlando Magic. They want the Lakers to win and they tolerate awful officiating much to the detriment of the Magic. In this series, Orlando Magic are facing the most daunting task and the NBA hype machine so they have almost no chance. They are the true underdogs in every way possible. After going through a horrible shame of a game that was Game 1, you would think that Courtney Lee would want to stick it to the Lakers and the powers that be, David Stern & His Stoogies, but he was not in the moment. Everything that makes a guy like Kenny Smith, Robert Horry or, Joe Dumars great was missing in that moment from Courtney Lee. It is in the same category as the John Starks NBA Finals performance when the game mattered and is very demoralizing no matter how you look at it. My prediction is that the Magic will not be able to overcome this game over the next 2 games, that is how big those moments were.
As for the Lakers, they played well but not enough to win. They did not deserve to win either Game 1 or Game 2 (something that should be a rallying point for the Magic) but it does not matter now, a win is a win. Lamar Odom is proving what we have all known all along, he is a truly remarkable and gifted basketball player. If the hype-machine NBA would get off Kobe’s nether regions for a second the whole world might be able to appreciate all the great players, talent and, hardwork that actually goes into creating a Championship calibre team. The Lakeshow are a really good team (not the best team this decade in the Finals – I doubt they could beat last year’s Celtics or this year’s version if KG had not gotten injured – still…); they deserve all the credit for playing to win and making the most of every chance or opportunity to win the Title. They should be able to close out the Magic in 4 and finally lay claim to the 2009 Championship. Kobe David Stern and the Lakers can finally bring another title to Tinsel Town.
**Gag** I think I am going to be sick. Prepare to be bombarded with Kobe merchandise and the NBA hype machine.
There have not been a lot of postings recently and for that I apologize but trust there will be more articles coming (lots of topics and happenings in sports that I want to touch on or discuss). Stay tuned and make sure to keep checking the blog for updates.
Feel free to share your sports related opinions or discussions with me and I will get back to you in due time. You can also keep up with me via Twitter or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ps: Magic vs. Lakers?! Who-woulda-thunk-it? Definitely have to give it up to the Magic for fighting and plugging away. Like the man, Rudy T once said, “Never underestimate the heart of a ….”, y’all know the rest. Much respect to Superman Dwight Howard for coming through on his promises and to Rashad Lewis for living up to his massive contract. It must seriously hurt Seattle citizens to watch Ray Allen and Rashad Lewis make it to the promised land in back-to-back years (SNAP!). Sometimes a little bit of faith, a little bit of cooperation and a little bit of heart is all that it takes to get over the hump. I love the underdogs, I’m all for the Magic!
With the Los Angeles Lakers closing out the Rockets series on Sunday they are now poised for an immensely dynamic series with the Denver Nuggets. Both teams are extremely heavy on athleticism and offensive firepower. Both teams enjoy to completely beat down the competition and both teams are very fun to watch. For anyone who enjoys watching chalkboard, fundamental, basketball this is the wrong series for you because there are bound to be plays that can invoke heart-attacks. This is going to be like watching 2 sluggers duke it out for bragging rights; it sure will not be anything like a Lennox Lewis fight – more like a George Foreman slugfest. Not lacking in star power, this series has the following players, Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Nene Hilario, Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen, Jordan Farmar, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Paul Gasol, Andrew Bynum and, Trevor Ariza; I mean, “Wow!” This is going to be fun. I could not wait to evaluate the matchup.
As far as the Nuggets are concerned, they need to continue playing that physical, top-flight and above-the-rim style of basketball. George Karl has the lucky task of managing this super lineup. He has to make sure that the big men handle all of their assignments because that will put some serious damper on the Lakers attack. Andersen and Martin have to continue to be physical with Gasol and Bynum on the defensive end because the Lakers frontcourt has not done a good job responding to physical play. On the other end, Chauncey Billups has to run the offense to its maximum potential. Billups will have to make sure that J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Linas Kleiza and, Nene get good touches on a consistent basis. By holding their ground on defense and getting out on the break, Denver might have a chance to break the will of the Lakers at the end of each game. The big issues as far as the Nuggets are concerned are that the Nuggets do not have a lot of ballhandlers (they really have to watch out for turnovers) and they also do not have anyone on their team that can cover Kobe Bryant (J.R. Smith is athletic enough but it is doubtful that he has the stamina to harrass Kobe for the span of a ball game). Both issues will be the achilles heel for the Denver Nuggets in their battle against the Lakers.
With respect to the Lakers, they really have nothing to lose in this matchup. Lakers beatup on the Nuggets pretty well during the regularly season and they have been beating up on the Nuggets on a consistent basis in recent years. They have the home advantage and are extremely tough to beat when they play at the Staples Centre; also, the Nuggets are not very good on the road (despite their relative success so far in these playoffs). Kobe has to continue to be aggressive early on in the ball games and he has to make sure to get his teammates involved on the offensive end. The Lakers have a serious advantage if they decide to push the pace of the game because Jordan Farmar is proving to be a solid player on the break; he makes good decisions, shoots high percentage shots and is a tremendous ball handler (his only knock is that he plays some shotty defence at times). Phil Jackson has the luck of making sure he gets Farmar some solid playing time and playing in situations where he can be very effective. The biggest advantage the Lakers have though has to be Lamar Odom. Odom has been the enigma on this Lakers team for too long but now it all makes perfect sense – this series is taylor-made for his skills. His size, mobility and plethra of skills will definitely create problems for the Nuggets on both ends of the court. His resourcefulness and depth makes him the biggest asset for this Laker team because he allows them to be continuous when they go to the bench or have to change pace and he can play 3 (maybe 4) spots on the floor. He does a great job of staying out of foul trouble and is able to cover his assignments on Defense. On the offensive end, he can really wreck havoc on the Nuggets when they decide to go small. If he can get up to 20 and 10 in any of the games, Lakers should win easily. He is the X-factor. Phil Jackson needs to get him in the game plan ASAP.
Overall, I cannot wait to get this game on the road. The battle begins at 9pm E.T. tomorrow. If Odom shows up, Lakers win big.