Playoffs Start Today! Its the most wonderful time of the Year!

4 games today.

4 games tomorrow on Sunday.

8 playoff matchups in 48 hours. It’s like Christmas at HoopsReportCard!
This is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Presents1

Time to open the best present of all, the most exciting first round matchup this postseason – the battle between the #3 seed in the West and the #6 seed in the West. The LA Clippers vs the Golden State Warriors!

You can get playoff previews from any and every site out there, so lets not breakdown matchups and coaching strategies and bench production and 3 point shooting.
LET’s enjoy TOGETHER the greatness of Chris Paul.
The sharp shooting of Steph Curry (and Klay Thompson).
The emergence of Blake Griffin.
The absence of Andre Bogut.
The insertion of Jermaine O’Neal.
The defense of De’Andre Jordan.
Let’s.
Starting today at 12:30pm PST!

News and Notes:

BROOKLYN: the Nets started the season 10-31 and many called for first year coach Jason Kidd’s head. What say they now that the Nets will be the first time since The Kings in 1986 to make the playoffs after being over 10 games below .500 at December 31st.

FIRST YEAR COACHES:
Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns
Steve Clifford, Bobcats
Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets
Dave Joerger, Memphis
All 4 with winning records in their first year. Can we hear a Round of Applause cough cough — Waka Flocka Flame

San Antonio: another 60 win season. that’s 4 (four) for Gregg Popovich. They have the number one overall seed. 15 straight seasons with 50+ wins. From the days of the Admiral to today with Tim Duncan, the Spurs have enjoyed the consistent on court and front office leadership in the NBA in this era.

WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE:
Dallas & Memphis get the last 2 seeds in the West at the expense of Phoenix who had an awesome season.

Who are you watching?

Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors

Washington Wizards vs Chicago Bulls

Memphis Grizzles vs Oklahoma City!

Miami Heat vs ANYBODY/NOBODY?

 

 

enjoy them all!

Hoops

The Youngest Team in the Playoffs: The Houston Rockets

youngRockets

A week ago, I began writing a piece on the Houston Rockets entitled “The team no one wants to see in the playoffs”.  This was on the strength of the young Rockets clinching their first playoff berth since 2009 on 4/9/2013.

Since then the Rockets have lost 3 of their final 4 games and dropped from the 6th seed to the 8th and final seed in the Western conference playoffs. Rest assured: the NBA gets what they want.  Dream matchups and high ratings: 1) James  Harden against his former team with an abundance of story lines 2) The Lakers get the best chance to stay in the playoffs longer against the Spurs.  Okay! Enough with conspiracy theories 🙂

What is the Rockets ceiling?

I recall the ESPN analysts and so-called NBA experts making their preseason picks. Not one picked the Rockets to make the playoffs. Surprisingly, the Rockets were battling for the 6 seed just 2 days. They just finished the 2012-2013 the regular season with 45 wins. To think that this young team which actually endured a 7 game losing streak earlier in the season and still finish just short of 50 total wins is unfathomable but should be delightful to Rockets fans.

How did they do it?

Time to give credit to the coaching staff and the GM. We live in a world where no one gets enough credit when a job is “well-done” yet receive extra helpings of blame when things turn south. (As a reminder this was partially written on April 9th, much of this was not evident during the Rockets meltdown against the Lakers last night in Los Angeles).

Kevin McHale has instilled a unique offense that has the youngest team in the league lead the league in scoring. The Houston Rockets will make history this season. They will as a team be the team that has 1) taken the most 3 point attempts in a season on NBA history and 2) the team that has made the most 3 point field goals in NBA history.  This team does not have a Ray Allen nor Reggie Miller nor Tim Legler nor Ryan Anderson for that matter. What they do have is 2 guards that push the pace and create open looks for 5 or 6 very capable shooters.

GM, Darryl Morey pulled a major deal by signing James Harden from the OKC Thunder giving the Rockets a bonafide star and surrounding him with talent that has promising potential.

To say that Harden has surpassed expectations is an understatement. It would be a good investment for a team to see positive rewards in 2 or 3 seasons in seeing a star player blossom into an ALLSTAR “eventually”. But what did Harden do IMMEDIATELY:

– started the first two games of the season by scoring 37 and 45 respectively.

– becoming an unquestionable Allstar at his first shot as a starter in a conference loaded with high caliber guard talent

– breaking a few Rockets records in his first season including consecutive games scoring 20+ points, consecutive games scoring 25+, most free throws made and attempted in a single season and more

– leading the league in free throws attempted. The only player this season averaging over 10+ free throw attempts

– Should I continue?!

Chandler Parsons – Chandler is the best monetary value in NBA basketball.  Do you remember a nice young player named Chase Budinger?!  Yeah, I almost didn’t either.  Chandler has made us all forget him.  And with Budinger being out most of this season with injuries, Parsons is the undeniable choice between the two.  He has improved his shooting, really good at cuts to the basket and if he gets his defense back to its previous 1st year prowess, will be on his way. And that shot to send that game into overtime! Chandler might be the only “untouchable” (untradeable) player on the Rockets besides Harden.

Jeremy Lin – has improved in every month this season.  I think his improved play especially in the past 3 months has brought him into his own. I think Lin is the X-factor in the Rockets making any noise in the playoffs.   When he limits his turnovers and plays with the aggressive motivation like he showed against his former teams (NY Knicks and Golden State), the sky is the limit for the Rockets.  He doesn’t have to be CP3 nor does he even have to be LINSANITY. But if he limits his mistakes and fearlessly runs the offense, then the Rockets can make some noise.

What makes the Rockets unique? The following players were virtual unknowns from last year but have really impressed this year.

Omer Asik – Omer has been in the top 3 league leaders in rebounding all season. He is another player that has met and exceeded all expectations for him.  He would be a perfect candidate for Hakeem Olajuwon’s “big-man-camp” this offseason.  The development of a post game and ability to hit a 12 to 15 footer would end talks/speculation/dreams/lusts of Dwight Howard in Houston (unless Dwight says he wants to leaves LA).

Patrick Beverly –  Patrick is the prototype of a backup point guard. Tenacious on defense, decent spot up shooter, reliable rebounder, limits turnovers. And McHale has gone to him increasingly in the 4th quarter to close out games.  I have seen about 3 instances that Rockets would probably have lost games offensively and defensively without him on the floor.  The most compelling in San Antonio when he was subbed in for Lin because Tony Parker went basket, basket, free throws, basket on Lin consecutively.  Beverly comes in and gets a huge block (like a center!), which the for-sure basket would have resulted in a 6 point deficit instead of the resulting 1 point deficit (5 point switch! with Chandler knocking down a 3).

Greg Smith – Greg spent a lot of time in the D league. Has a back to the basket game. He is a 2nd year, 6′ 11″ big man out of Fresno State. And gives huge contributions for an undrafted center in my opinion.

Terrence Jones – He had the most DNPCD of any Rocket this season.  Also spent a lot of time in the D-league.  Now making solid contributions in more minutes played of late especially with Chandler and Delfino out in the past 10 games. He might be the wild card.   He appears to have a more polished offensive game then both Donatus Motiejunas and Thomas Robinson (in limited sample size).

And there are more: James Anderson, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Donatus Motiejunas & Thomas Robinson.

Bottom line, Houston is good enough offensively to win a road game. When you can win a road game, then you can win a series — against the Memphis Grizzles or against the San Antonio Spurs!  Since the Rockets “shot-themselves-in-the-foot” and did not take care of Phoenix on the road or LA, they get a gift of a postseason matchup with the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder.

How will the Rockets fair? Will they win a playoff game?  Will they force 7 games? I won’t attempt to predict the outcome.  You can find such predictions on every website out there.

Consider this the quiet before the storm.  The time for reflection before the battle. The team with average experience under 2 years finishes at 8 games above .500.  The same record as a Lakers team that has been on fire lately and has 4 “superstars”.

Turnovers and defense will be the big questions surrounding the Rockets. Can the young Rockets limit their turnovers? Can they hold their own defensively? Will their high octane offense still operate at a high level in the postseason?

We will begin to find out on Sunday.

@HoopsReportCard

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Battle for the Playoffs: In the West – March 9, 2013

wildwildWest

 

After a Friday night of 12 NBA games, let’s reflect — the Miami heat (after 17 straight wins) clinches a playoff birth in the East. But let’s focus on the Western conference, where things are far from settled.

Welcome to the wild wild West.  Yes, this is the west. A place that the best team record-wise San Antonio has NOT clinched the playoffs yet. And the worst team record-wise (a tie between Phoenix and New Orleans) has not been eliminated from playoff contention YET.

San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers hold the top 3 spots. Memphis and Denver hold spots 4 and 5 respectively. The tightest race is for the final 3 spots in the Western conference playoff race currently held by Golden State, Houston and Utah for the 6th, 7th and 8th spots respectively.

The LA Lakers are in the 9th slot only half a game (0.5) behind Utah for the 8th and final spot. The door appears to be wide open for the Lakers to snatch the 8th slot from Utah. Utah has lost 3 straight games and 7 of their last 10 as they struggle on the road.
Kobe Bryant aka Black Mamba led the Lakers to a thrilling come-from-behind win against the visiting Toronto Raptors last night with 41 points and an array of impressive 3 point shots and dunks. That’s 3 wins in 4 games for the Lake Show. All 3 come back wins. And the only loss coming against the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s clear that LA is playing its best basketball of the season. The final 5 weeks to the season will be exciting to say the least as we see who gets in and who goes home.
 Utah loses a heart breaker in Chicago when Marco Belinelli sank a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left to send Utah to its 3rd straight loss.
The Houston Rockets win a crucial Western Conference matchup against Golden State to  win their 3rd straight against the Warriors and move within 1 game of them for the 6th seed in the West. Houston hosts Golden State on March 17 for the final meeting between these two teams this season.
In other relevant news, Memphis beats Cleveland for their 11th win in 12 games.  Dallas squeezed by Detroit. And Darren Williams sets an NBA record with nine 3-pointers in the first half and a franchise record with eleven (11) 3-pointers in the game!
The West is heating up.  Stay Tuned
Signing off,
– King of Hoops