Let’s Talk NBA Conference Finals

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The NBA Conference Finals are here!! Get excited, get pumped up!! Yayyy!! Hopefully Donald Sterling hasn’t directly offended you recently and you have been fully enjoying the first 4 games played in the West and the East.  In the West we have the Spurs who are currently up 2-0 on the Ibaka-less Thunder. In the East the Pacers and Heat are tied 1-1 with game 3 in Miami.  For the rest of the playoffs Wade and I are going to be exchanging emails discussing the teams, games, and whatever the hell we want and we’ll post the result here.  So here we go!

So Wade, what do you think of the final four teams in the playoffs right now?

WADE: Let’s begin with the WEST SIIIIIDE!!! I’d like to start by saying that I picked the Spurs to win it all this year before the playoffs even started. How can you bet against them? The team is stacked with savvy vets, led by future hall of famer Tim Duncan, who play their roles to perfection. Greg Popovich will undoubtedly retire as one of the top 5 head coaches of all time. This is a very capable team.

Then there’s the electrifying Oklahoma City Thunder. This young squad features a Batman-Robin duo in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. These guys can flat out score. Unfortunately though, the Spurs are having their way with these young studs and the one guy who can do something about it (Mr. Sergio Ibaka) is sidelined due to a bum calf. I just wish this series was more competitive. No one wants to see such domination this deep into the playoffs.

Let’s fly to the opposite coast now. This Indiana-Miami rematch is what fans have been craving for all year. Will the fast rising superstar Paul George dethrone King James and help his team advance to the Finals? Or will Lebron and Wade prove once again that the young Pacers have to wait their turn? As expected, this series has been thrilling to watch so far. It would surprise no one if this series is decided in 7 games. However, Paul George’s concussion probably could not have come at a worse time. I’m hoping he can return promptly in order to give his team the necessary lift to keep Miami at bay. (Get it? At bay? Like a beach? As in South Beach? I’m hilarious, I know)

ROBERT: Full disclosure Wade, I’m pretty sure you hate the Spurs like with a passion, so this sudden change of heart is weird, concerning and quite frankly I’m super disappointed in you.  I totally agree with you on the Ibaka point though.  Last year Westbrook got hurt, and in the process proved to the world that KD can’t do it alone and now this year Ibaka goes down against the one team where you absolutely NEED someone who can protect the rim.  I’m pretty sure I could have gotten in on that layup line against the Thunder the other night and I haven’t played competitive sports since grade school.

This Pacers-Miami series hasn’t been as compelling thus far but with the series tied 1-1 who knows what could happen?  The fact is that the Pacers have played their best on the road this postseason and it’s not like Miami is going to have a huge home court advantage or something.  Everyone knows that Heat fans are some of the absolute worst people on planet Earth today.  But this Paul George concussion thing is pretty concerning, especially in today’s sports world where concussions are taken super seriously and if PG can’t pass the league tests he is not going to be playing any basketball.  Also that was a terrible pun Wade I’m double disappointed in you

What do you make of the Pacers playoff struggles?  Do you think they finally found their mojo again?

WADE: Let’s get something straight Mr. Lensherr, I always have and still do dislike the Spurs. As much as I’m bored by their unexciting and fundamentally sound basketball, I can’t deny that they’re still a great team. I don’t like them but I respect them. Now to the matter at hand.

I do believe the Pacers have found their mojo. After a season ending slump, a thriller with the Atlanta Hawks, and too many close games for comfort against the Wizards, it seems the Pacers have their heads on straight. As one of the lowest scoring teams in the playoffs, the Pacers have edged by thanks to the help of their defense.

In my opinion, the Pacers’ turnaround should be credited to their desire to topple the reigning champs. This can clearly be seen in Lance Stephenson’s aggressive play and tweets against old man Dwyane Wade. I don’t believe they were motivated in the beginning of the playoffs and it showed. The fact that they are now playing the best in the world is bringing out the best in the Pacers. They aren’t exactly playing for W’s per se, I think they’re playing for pride now and it’s making for a very entertaining series.

 ROBERT: There isn’t anything unexciting about a Tony Parker-Boris Diaw pick and roll Wade, get it together.  The Lance Stephenson-Dwyane Wade battle is pretty exciting though.  Over the past few years D-Wade has kind of been exposed as a guy who will try to break your arm, kick you in the nuts, drop kick your face, elbow you, and generally a lot of borderline to downright dirty plays, on the other hand Stephenson is a crazy person who probably thinks he is the best player on the Pacers every night.  I think their slump has less to do with a lack of motivation and more to do with them buying into their own hype.

Let’s go back to last year’s Eastern conference Game 7 when they lost to Miami.  They were immediately crowned as the team that would beat the Heat next season, Paul George was in everyone’s top 5, Roy Hibbert was the best center in the game etc.  And up until the All-Star break they looked like it.  But after that it looked like it was a combination of guys wanting to do too much, the bench never really developed (last offseason they gave up Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and DJ Augustin.  All guys who had great years with their new teams.  In exchange they picked up Luis Scola) and Roy Hibbert went into that slump.  More than anything it took a good matchup that the Heat give them to wake them up.

If anyone is equipped to slow down LeBron James it’s Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West play well against Miami (they’re both averaging double digit points and rebounds through two games), the Miami offseason signings (Michael Beasley and Greg Oden were brought in primarily to help against Indiana) have failed, as you mentioned Sir Parker, Dwyane Wade isn’t the same guy who can light it up every single night, and Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers have been literally THE WORST.  All this equals up to a serious possibility of Miami losing…But oh yea they do have LeBron James who can pretty much cancel all of that out by hiself.

Speaking of LeBron…Do you think he leaves Miami if the Heat lose this series?  And if so where does he go?

WADE: I love how the most exciting play you can come up with when thinking about the Spurs is a well executed pick and roll play. I literally clinch my cheeks as I sit on the edge of my Tuscan leather sofa whenever I see Boris Diaw setting a pick for T.P (note sarcasm). By pointing out their pick and rolls, you only reiterated the point I made about their technically sound fundamental basketball…so yeah… thanks for that.

As far as my good friend Bron Bron, he hasn’t told me what he plans to do after the season.I honestly have no good input as to where he may end up. To be honest, I really don’t think he will leave. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to Cleveland to finish his career in his hometown. Say what you will about him betraying his city a few years ago, but Cleveland fans would be fools not to embrace the King. I could see him in Chicago, seeing that they don’t have a scorer ever since Derrick Rose’s knees betrayed him. But let’s be real. If he went there, he would never escape Michael Jordan’s shadow. I think that would be a terrible move for his legacy. I would like to see Lebron stay in Miami. Here’s why: With the aging Heat players and lack of cap room, it would be the ultimate test for LBJ to claim championships on his own. I think it would allow James to have full control of the offense and put on his best Kevin Durant impression and score 30-40 points per game. Per. Game. Wouldn’t that be exciting? To see Lebron James fully unleashed in Miami?! But only time will tell Robert, where do you think he’ll go?

 ROBERT: Who care where he goes? Is he as good as Kobe Bryant…Uh…NO!! Does he have 5 rings?? UHHHHHH NOOOO…And next time you speak to your ‘personal friend’ LeBron make sure you tell him that his sneakers are completely mediocre and hurt my feet…Ok now that I have gotten my unabashed Kobe Bean Bryant love out of the way let’s get serious.  He still could opt in to one more year in Miami before making a final decision as to where he’ll finish his career, but with the recent news that Kevin Love has no intention of resigning in Minnesota everything is up in the air.

Bill Simmons from NBA countdown and Grantland.com came up with nightmare scenario where Cleveland trades the #1 pick and Anthony Bennett to Minnesota for Kevin Love, and then Lebron opts out of Miami and returns to Cleveland.  So the 2014 roster for the Cavs could feature Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and 3 veterans chasing a ring.  Maybe Johnny Manziel getting drafted by the Browns was the sign of things actually changing for Cleveland!!!  But before we get ahead of ourselves who do you have winning the Eastern Conference finals? Miami or Indiana? O, and tell us more about your Tuscan Leather sofa!!!

WADE: You’re clearly gay for the Mamba. Your love for Kobe is unhealthy and it’s tearing this friendship apart. We used to kick it and talk about girls. We used to get drunk and have pissing contests in hobo alleys. Now all you do is glorify that man and praise his existence. You never make time for me anymore Robert. You’ve changed bro. You’re not the same guy I used to know.

Now that I got that off my chest I can answer your dumb question. Miami will walk away from this series as the Eastern conference champs for the fourth straight year. Unlike you, I believe home court advantage does actually matter in this series, and Indiana lost that privilege by taking an L in game 2. The Paul George-less Pacers will not be able to contend with the reigning champs. Sorry, Indy, but your championship hopes were decimated as soon as Dwyane Wade decided to punt Paul George’s skull. Just as I’ve told my Wizards all my life, better luck next year! By the way, ask your boo Kobe how often he sees people wearing his kicks on a regular basis. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

ROBERT: Look Wade let’s try and keep your personal views out of this post… Keep it strictly to basketball.  Also literally everyone wears Kobe’s shoes because they’re the best out.  Kobe and a bunch of highly trained sneaker scientists make them.  As far as the ECF goes as of right now all signs are pointing to Paul George being ready to go for Game 3 this weekend.  I’m still not totally sold on Miami being able to rely on D. Wade as a go to guy every night anymore so I’m predicting that they’ll split the 2 in Miami and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Pacers pull it out in 7 games.

Switching to the Western conference, the Spurs have looked super dominant through 2 games but the good news for OKC is apparently Serge Ibaka might be able to play through his calf injury. If the Thunder get him back will it make a difference?

WADE: Hey Robert, don’t tell me what to do on MY blog, you pretentious jerk!

IF Oklahoma City’s defensive anchor, Serge Ibaka returns to play through his injury it would be a good look for OKC. The Thunder can’t win unless they have a dominating presence to protect the rim against Tony Parker’s aforementioned pick and roll cheese and Timmy D’s sweet baby hook. Scott Brooks has been forced to turn to the young and scrappy Steven Adams to try and fill the void. As tough as the kid is, he simply does not bring the same presence Mr. Ibaka brings.

The Spurs have scored a combined 120 points in the paint against the Serge-less Thunder in this series. That is unacceptable. I like that coach Scott Brooks is fixated on expecting Ibaka to remain sidelined for the remainder of the series. He shares my sentiment that it would be futile to hope and pray that their big man will return to save the day. Even if he did return (and that’s a big “if”), I just do not see them knocking off the Spurs. Despite the fact that OKC swept the Spurs 4 games to none in their regular season matchup, I just can’t bet against those Spurs.

 ROBERT: Well you shouldn’t really like ANYTHING Scott Brooks does as a coach.  You have two of the most gifted players in the league and they don’t really have any kind of offense other than “Give Russell the ball and get out of the way” or the patented “Give Kevin the ball and get out of the way” with a few pick-and-rolls involving the two (usually late in the game).  The lineups he threw out in Game 2 consisted of A. Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Caron Butler, KD, and Nick Collison/Steven Adams (this one couldn’t stop the Spurs…LIKE AT ALL) or B. Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, KD, Nick Collison/Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins (this one allowed the Spurs to only guard 2 players while Thabo shot bricks, Perkins scowled at everyone and Adams/Collison got punked on the inside).

Even if Ibaka comes back I do agree that OKC is probably going to lose this series.  The look they had against the Clippers, where KD and Westbrook looked unbeatable, is nowhere to be found against this Spurs team.  Without Ibaka they don’t really have the athletic advantage anymore.  Kawhi Leonard is every bit as lengthy and explosive and the combined efforts of Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Splitter, Ginobili and Duncan are putting up walls in the paint for Westbrook and forcing KD into every tough shot.

BUT SPEAKING OF LINEUPS WADE…WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE WHOLE WESTBROOK-DURANT DYNAMIC?  IS WESTBROOK DOING TOO MUCH?  SHOULD ALL HIS CRITICS JUST SHUT UP?  WHAT’S UP WITH HIS OUTFITS?

WADE: I like the Westbrook-Durant dynamic for one reason: they are fun to watch. As fun and electrifying as it is to see these two light up the scoreboard, I can’t see them winning a championship right now. By “right now”, I mean without Ibaka. Westbrook and Durant provide the offense with their superior athleticism and scoring ability. Ibaka provides an inside presence, while Westbrook and Sefolosha provide pretty decent perimeter defense. I do believe they have the pieces in place to win a championship in the next couple years. It just appears that 2014 is not their year. I agree somewhat with the point you made about OKC’s signature two-play offense. Yes it is amateurish and shows a little ineptitude on Brooks’ part, but the fact is that this style of offense won The Thunder 59 games in the regular season and the #2 seed in the Western Conference. I do not think this team is broken, and I do not exactly think they are doing anything wrong per se. It just appears that they’ve run into 2 instances of bad luck:

1) Ibaka’s untimely calf injury

2) The San Antonio Spurs

As far as Westbrook’s critics go, they have the right to criticize him as often as they like unless his kamikaze style of play wins a championship.

As far as Westbrook’s wardrobe goes, the guy knows what he’s doing. His unorthodox wardrobe raises a lot of eyebrows and I simply cannot understand why anyone gives a damn. I mean really, why does ANYONE care about what this man wears?! Personally, I only want to see him ball, I could really care less about what he decides to wear. He’s a professional athlete who gets paid millions to PLAY BASKETBALL. He can wear whatever the hell he wants. I’m actually getting upset right now as I type this. Why would you ask me that?!!

ROBERT: Uhh why did I ask you about Westbrook’s style? Wade I’ve seen you wear Capri pants like MULTIPLE TIMES…..IN PUBLIC….Don’t question what I do sir, like ever again.  As far as the Thunder go, I don’t know if there is any other player in the NBA other than LeBron that gets as much shit as Russell Westbrook.  If he was on almost any other team he would be the best player without a doubt.  It’s a minor miracle that he and KD have managed to coexist this long and if last year’s playoffs proved anything it is that Durant cannot succeed without Westbrook.  I’m firmly in the camp of letting Westbrook be Westbrook.  Telling that man to turn down is only going to hurt this team.

I do have to say… People seem to just assume that this OKC team is going to be around for a long time.  But really who knows?  They traded Harden a few years ago which broke up a team that could have had 3 of the best 15 players in the league playing together.  It’s not just guaranteed that they’ll just keep going far in the playoffs.  The Western conference isn’t going to stop being loaded anytime soon.  The Clippers, Warriors, Rockets, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Spurs, and Suns are all still here.  Plus the Lakers probably aren’t going to suck (fingers crossed) for that long.  Second, part of the reasons why teams win championships is extreme luck.

Think of the Heat team last year.  They played an extremely crappy Bucks team in the first round, a Bulls team with no Derrick Rose and a hobbled Joakim Noah, and a Pacers team who was probably too inexperienced, and in the Finals against the Spurs they were one defensive rebound and an amazing Ray Allen 3 from losing the championship.  Luck matters just as much as players and matchups.  The Thunder have just had extremely bad luck mixed with running into better teams.  That plus Westbrook and Durant will be free agents in the next few years so before you know it, a team that probably should’ve won 2 titles might not get any.

I think we both agree that the Spurs are going to win this series Wade so I let the final thoughts for this email chain go to you…

WADE: The NBA playoffs have been particularly entertaining this year. Basketball fans sort of knew that the Spurs, Thunder, Heat, and Pacers would advance into the deeper rounds regardless of who they matched up against. Fortunately for us, the early rounds provided plenty of thrills and kept us guessing all the way.

 

Will we see Lebron James and the Miami Heat bring a 3rd consecutive championship back to Miami? Could we see Tim Duncan and his Spurs avenge their loss from a year ago? Or will a different team rise out of the shadows and claim the title of NBA champions? Either way, it shall be a thrilling ride into

 

 

 

 

 

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