Game 1 is Done: On to the Next One

Game 1 caught everyone watching off guard; and, I think it caught the players off guard too.  Bucks played a tentative game for the most part and the Raptors were too comfortable or over-confident, or both.  As the fourth got underway, reality began to set in for both teams but on opposite ends of flow and joy.  The Bucks went from seeing a way that they could win the game to being confident that the game is theirs to lose.  The Raptors went from knowing that the game was well within their reach to suddenly feeling panic that the game was slipping away; and unfortunately, it did.

It’s the classic story.  It always happens in basketball, and at all levels.  It happens in all competitive sport too but what happened to the Raptors is a typical problem.  They rested too heavily on their laurels.  It’s easy to plan and to look back on the past, feeling confident about your ability in the future.  It’s easy to count your eggs before they hatch.  That’s the easy part.  It’s not easy to predict what the conditions will be in life.  Nothing ever goes exactly as planned.  You never know how many fans will show up.  You never know how people will react to adversity.  You never know what changes will happen in your environment.  You never exactly know the threats you may face on the court.  Technical problems.  Equipment problems.  Who knows?  The main point is, you can’t live in the future.  You definitively can’t plan for and live in the future at the same time.  The Raptors rushed in.  They were able to feel that they needed to be patient and not panic, but that late in a game, it was more about execution.  Executing in the moment.  You can’t cheat the process.

So, Game 1 is done.  Game 2 is on the horizon. If the Raptors are going to win this series, they’re going to have to live in the moment.  They’re going to have to do it as a team.  In all truth, the Raptors have the better team and that’s their advantage.  It’s going to have to be a team effort.  Everyone has to be locked-in and everyone has to be given a chance to contribute.  Instead of focusing on Giannis, they need to look at the Bucks as a team and break them apart.  It has to be methodical and it has to involve elite execution.  Everyone needs to be ready to step up and they need to have counters to everything and everyone on the Bucks.  The game has to be won in every possession.  That’s what the Playoffs are; who can play as a team, who can execute in each possession, who is ready and, which team will win.

Let the dance begin.

Raptors Meet the Celtics’ Challenge

This was as close to a must-win game as the Raptors have gotten so far this year and the timing was just as critical.  Going into the All-Star break, the Toronto Raptors had been on a slide; accumulating a string of losses and dropping from 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, down to the 5th spot.  It looked like the team was wearing down at a rapid pace but the one thing that was still elite was the competitiveness and feisty disposition of the team; they all wanted to win and were frustrated with the losses.  Needing a change and battling with trade rumors, Masai pulled off two great deals that calmed the nerves on the ship, reinforced the goal (going for the title), and strengthened the hands on deck, by bringing in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

With the new players coming in, suddenly the Raptors represent a formidable foe to any Eastern Conference team looking to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this summer.  In fact, the possibility of the Raptors advancing to the Finals has improved significantly; and potentially for the next season or more as well.  The time to go get it is now.

The first challengers on deck happen to be the (current) in-2nd-place Celtics; same ones who relegated the Raptors to a lower ranking.  Remarkably, both Ibaka and Tucker were available to play in the game against the Celtics but Lowry was unable to play due to injury.  Luckily, the Raptors still had DeRozan, Joseph, JV, Patterson, Carroll, Powell and, Noguiera.  That made the Raptors at least 10 deep on paper with the availability of Wright.  Game on.  After a slow start to the game, the Raptors were able to pull off a 107-97 victory on a strong defensive effort and a career-high effort from DeRozan (43 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds).

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And for Raptors fans everywhere, validation that the team is going to compete and represent the city very well, playing the great Canadian game of basketball, at its highest level.  It’s the first game but it still was one full of promise.  #WeTheNorth

NBA All-Star Saturday: Dunk Contest

This was one of the most talented field of dunkers the competition has had in a while; and, I’m strictly speaking in terms of dunkers.

The field included DeAndre Jordan (this season’s leading in-game dunker), Aaron Gordon (last year Dunk Contest winner runner-up), Derrick Jones Jr. (the viral and sensational dunker that’s been blowing up the internet) and, Glenn Robinson III (the defacto underdog and after-thought in most conversations leading up to the competition).  So you can guess what happened right?

For anybody that might have been buried under a rock, or maybe didn’t have access to a viewing outlet, the underdog won the day.  Glenn Robinson came out swinging right from the start.  He had a massive chip on his shoulder and it showed in every facet of his performance   Apart from his showmanship, his dunks were spectacular.

Here are the best dunks from the 2017 NBA Slam Dunk Contest:

 

Feinting Hurt

Couldn’t help but post about this.  It seems like Russell Westbook is getting as much press from this “Durant flight” as he can handle.  Jalen & Jacoby dropped hints centuries ago that Westbrook might be considering leaving to the L.A. Lakers, so it wasn’t that big of a surprise when Durant left OKC.  The surprise, if there is any, is that Westbrook signed again…but then for $85 Mil.  What?!  It’s hard to write this but, that’s a trade friendly contract considering the increased cap space in the NBA.  This leads me to think that this “drama” is just that; drama.  Durant was always going to leave, Westbrook most likely was too – and most likely won’t retire in OKC.  These guys are all friends and this is all just entertainment.   Well played.  Even Harden got some burn.  My only criticism is for Kanter…he could have made the Jordan crying face a bit smaller on that meme.  Ha!

Derrick Rose’s Fractured Orbital Bone

The report is everywhere on the wire about Derrick Rose suffering a fracture of the orbital bone around his left eye during a practice session.  The word is that he received an elbow to the face inadvertently in the heat of battle (at least, that is how we are led to believe it went down).  As someone who has suffered an pretty devasting eye injury and is still able to participate in active sports, I can attest that this injury (as bad as it may seem, or as much as it might sting Rose and the rest of the Bulls family) is not a real threat to Rose’s career or performance.  I think he’ll be back soon, and he might even be better off not playing during the pre-season.

There are a lot of eyes of Rose lately and justifiably so, since he has been expected to play at an MVP level.  He his expected to lead the Bulls to the promised landscape of the NBA Finals.  Even now, at 27 years of age, so many years removed from his MVP season.  Personally, I think he’s been able to build a great reputation for himself, and he is well respected as an NBA player but I don’t think he’s earned the level of praise and accolades that have been gifted to him.  When I start to consider his place in the history of basket, his highest ceiling seems to be as a possible Grant Hill-type role player in the future – or if he’s lucky, as a big short maker in the same vain as Big Shot Rob (Horry) was.  I can’t imagine the Bulls winning a championship.  Their best chance was available last season and they blew it.  I’m also skeptical about their expectations that Hoiberg will be a good coach for the Bulls.  I don’t think he’s going to be as good, or as successful, as Thibodeau.

I think everybody missed the real story.  Why has Rose styled his hair in the same way as Jimmy Butler?  Is this a solidarity thing, competition, an identity crisis, just pure laziness, etc?  I find it to be a bad look for the former MVP.  That hair isn’t going to the Hall of Fame.  I think the reason Rose is still widely covered is the expectation that he will make us all believe again (in him).  This hairstyle says, we can forget about those expectations.  We need to set the standard much lower.  If Rose can score over 20 points a game, make the All-star team, have efficient shooting percentages, be a top 10 defender at his position, average over 5 assists a game, grab more rebounds than Damian Lillard or Tony Parker, and play over 70 games; then and only then should anyone even consider expecting Rose to become an MVP type player.  For now, he seems like perhaps the fourth best player on the Bulls’ roster.  Let’s all calm down.  His injury is not going to affect that team as much as anyone thinks.

The Rose Effect

It was a memorable performance by Derrick Rose last night.  The game will live on in the annals of the NBA’s greatest performances and, if the Bulls are able to win these series of games, will propel Derrick Rose into the conversations mainly reserved for legends of the game.  I’m proud to be able to have watched the game and to be able to share the performance with you.  As always, enjoy.