Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals Preview

So the NBA Finals kick off tonight, finally.

Unless you live under a rock you know that its the Oklahoma City Thunder going up against the Miami Heat and LeBron v. Durant. It's going to be a very interesting and entertaining series. The battles of two prolific big 3s. The young, full of energy Thunder are high octane. The Heat, with LeBron and Wade can be equally as exciting. LeBron v Durant matchup will be epic.

For the Heat to Win:

It will mostly come down to how much the big three will do. I think LeBron will bounce back after a horrible finals last year. He is on a roll right now and I don't see that stopping. I can see him averaging 30-11-7 for the series and playing strong defense on Durant at times throughout the series. He must play well in the 4th though for them to win. Wade will play well offensively as he typically does in Finals. Defensively, he will draw Westbrook at times and Harden in the closing minutes of the 4th. He will have to play strong defense against those two when he gets matched up with them. Bosh was the difference in the series against Boston. He may not be fully healthy and whether he is or not he will be facing a tougher defensive matchup then he did against Boston: Serge Ibaka and/or Nick Collison. He will have to play as well as he can for Mia to be succesful.

The big three alone won't be able to beat OKC, someone from the rest of the roster will have to step up. For me this really means Chalmers, Battier or Haslem. I don't see any of them performing well for the duration of the series, but if each of them can have a good to great game at any point during the series they could be the difference in a few games. Mike Miller and James Jones may see some action this series and they have to hit the threes they will get. The Heat "big" men: Bosh, Haslem, and Anthony must do a good job rebounding. The Thunder are a jump shooting team. They can't make all your jumps shots. If the Heat can pull down some of those rebounds and turn them to points on the other end they can win.

As a team the Heat must capitalize on turnovers, which they do pretty well. OKC isn't the strongest defensive team and are prone to lapses, especially on the perimeter. Miami needs to be ready to take advantage of those lapses and knock down open jumpers. I'd like to see Miami run some pick and roll, which San Antonio used effectively at times. Miami needs to play with some fire in their eyes. After reaching the Finals and not playing well last year, this shouldn't be a problem. They must stay focused and hungry throughout the series. Obviously for Miami to win the series they will have to win at least one game on the road. The best chance might be in game 1 if the catch the Thunder overly excited. If they win one of those 1st two game on the road they have a great chance to win the series.

For the Thunder to Win:

They have to do what they've been doing which is getting great production from their big three and steady production from their role players. Durant has to be ready to put in work this series, some of which will match him against the best defender he will face this playoffs: LeBron. He can't be timid, as he sometimes is, this series. When the game is in the balance he needs to step up and demand the ball and rise to the occasion. Westbrook has to make good decisions and limit his turnovers. Plain and simple. Harden must do what he has been doing, coming off the bench playing solid on both ends. He may have to play more minutes this series so he needs to play at the same high level throughout.

Serge Ibaka has to play big this series, all series. On the defensive end he will have to guard Bosh but also have a presence in the paint when Wade and LeBron drive. Offensively, he has to be ready to knock down some jumpers and/or get some easy buckets in the paint. Not really sure we will be seeing a great deal of Kendrick Perkins because of the Heat's lack of big men but when he plays he needs to patrol the paint as he does, and pick up a few of his patented "Who me fouls" to put some fear in Heat players. Former Bulls great Sefolosha must play great defense throughout the series, mostly on Wade but at times on LeBron. He also has to be ready to knock down a few threes when his number is called. Collison and Fisher will be the main people coming off the bench with Harden. Fisher must play decent defense when he is in the game. While with the Lakers he was weak against younger, quicker PGs so he can't let Chalmers get going.

As a team, the Thunder have to remain poised. This is their first finals appearance since relocating. The crowd will be super hype. The players must stay calm and under control especially early. Avoid poor decisions and bad shots which Miami can flip into easy buckets and get going. They also have to remain confident. They have played so well throughout the playoffs mainly because they haven't been scared of anything, knocking off the Mavs, Lakers and Spurs. Finally, the Thunder must continue to play well at home (8-0). Obviously, if they win out at home they will be champions, but if they can have a strong first 2 games and win convincingly they will will put all the pressure on Mia, which they don't typically play well under.


My head is telling me that the Thunder will win, almost rather easily. They are a better team and have depth. They have home court advantage and they are playing with such confidence. Mia doesn't have much depth and hasn't played typically well under pressure. LeBron will be great but he will be tired, especially mentally, when it may count. My heart also leans with the Thunder simply because I like them more than I like the Heat. They have 4 of my favorite players and one of my favorite beards: Westbrook, Durant, Perk and Harden and his beard. I'm getting a gut feeling that the Heat can pull this thing out. They are in their second consecutive Finals. Do we really expect them to lose two in a row? They might be a little more hungrier than the Thunder because of all the pressure that is on them. On top of that I really think the Heat can get one of the 1st two games in OKC. I wouldn't be surprised if they won game 1. If that's the case, they can go home and win 2 of 3 and come back for games 6 and 7 up 3-2.

All that being said, I'm going Thunder in 6. I'm going with my head and heart. Going to be a great series though.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No Hitter

After 50 seasons and 8,019 games my New York Mets finally had their first no hitter. The man who pitched it? Johan, or as everyone is saying "No-Han," Santana.

My ESPN Scorecenter app sent the buzz to my phone around 7:06pm letting me know that the Mets game had just began. It was another fairly regular Friday night at Citi. The drama around this game was Carlos Beltran's return to NY after his 7 up and (mostly) down years. He would actually be involved in something more dramatic as the night became historic.

I get updates after the 3rd and 6th inning as well as the end of the game. After 3, Mets were up. After 6, Mets were up. I thought:"Cool, were doing out thing. Bout to get this win." Then I got another buzz. "Johan Santana has not allowed a hit after 7 innings." Then another "Johan Santana has not allowed a hit after 8 innings." Then another "Johan Santana enters the 9th inning with a chance to throw a no hitter."

Can't tell you how excited I was, but also nervous. I would have jumped to the closest TV if I could but I was at a play with Grandma so I just had to hoped for the best. Finally, I found out what happened as I got 3 more buzzes from my phone. Scorecenter let me know twice via the end of the game update and the baseball headlines update. New York Times let me know too: "Johan Santana throws the first No-Hitter in Mets history."

We finally did it. Johan "You know who big" Santana did it.

It's so awesome! I'm happy that it was Johan. He has been a beast the whole time he has been a Met. We could never give him enough run support in his first few years, years where he could have won Cy Youngs. Nonetheless he always pitched well. Unfortunately, he was shutdown in September of 2010 and had shoulder surgery. He missed all of last year due to rehab and returned this year. He is no longer the dominant (pitch speed wise) pitcher that he used to be, but he has been very good this year and now has the 1st no hitter in our history.

The no-no didn't come without controversy though. Beltran hit a sharp liner down the 3rd base line in the 6th the was ruled foul. It actually was fair, as it hit the chalk. It would have broken up the no-no and prevented history. But it was ruled foul and no-no attempt went on. It's kind of sweet that Beltran didn't break it up, payback for him not coming through when we needed him the most: final at bat of game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Johan didn't do it by himself. Queens native, and life long Mets fan turned Mets player Mike Baxter gave up his body to help preserve the no-no in the 7th.

Thank you Mike. Thank you Johan. Thank you Mets. History. Proud to be a Mets fan!