Author Archives: Eric Maroun

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 6/21/13: GAME 7

Good things come to those who wait. From October through June we collectively watched 1,314 games of NBA basketball this year. Some were good, and some were bad. Some were awful, and some were downright legendary.  All of it culminated last night in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It’s the game that every kid in their backyard dreams of playing in growing up, and we got to witness it in all of its sweet, sweet glory last night. This is the hardest Lion Face, Lemon Face column I have ever had to write not just because it’s the last one of the year, but because if I had my pick, both teams would have won last night. The fact that there was a winner and loser, heroes and goats, lion faces and lemon faces absolutely kills me. But what has to be done has to be done, so let’s get to it.

Lion Face: LeBron James

Big time players make big time plays in big time games. In the NBA, there is no bigger game than Game 7, and in today’s NBA, there is no bigger player than LeBron James. LeBron was absolutely sensational tonight delivering a Game 7 performance that will, or at least should, put together the debate on whether or not he’s “clutch” or not. In between Games 5 and 6, parody site Sports Pickle re-ran a post that they had previously developed titled “Pocket Guide For Criticizing LeBron James in Any Situation”. It poked fun at the numerous lines that fans and media alike could use in order to create a no win scenario for LeBron that was designed to be used no matter what kind of performance he turned in during the course of a game. The second statement on that list read “If LeBron has a big 4th quarter and leads his team to victory…say ‘Big deal. It’s only the regular season. Let’s see him do it in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.’” LeBron’s line in the fourth quarter alone last night? Just your casual 9-5-2-2 line including an absolute dagger 19 footer with 27 seconds remaining to push the lead to 92-88 and finally ice the series for Miami. Mission: Accomplished. He ended the game with 37 points and 12 rebounds; the 37 points are the most points ever scored in a Game 7 Finals win tying Boston’s Tommy Heinsohn in 1957 so you can go ahead and give LeBron both a championship ring and a Tommy Point for last night’s effort.

Lemon Face: Manu Ginobili

It’s never a good sign when you get a text in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals from a friend asking you what the record is for turnovers in a seven game series. While Ginobili, 22 turnovers through the seven games, didn’t come close to matching Charles Barkley’s in the 1986 Eastern Conference Semifinals v. Milwaukee (37 turnovers!), it sure felt like the ones he did make came at the most inopportune times in the ball game. Last night, he turned the ball over four times, all of them occurring in the final period of play, including a brutal attempted jump pass on the baseline with San Antonio trailing by 4 with 23 seconds remaining which once and for all finally extinguished any hope that the Spurs had of making a miracle comeback of their own.  While it would have been a fairy tale ending for Manu’s career to go out with a title, instead he is left wondering just what went wrong in his final games.

Lion Face: Kawhi Leonard

In a game featuring at least 6 future Hall of Fame inductees, it was Kawhi Leonard (and as I am contractually obligated to mention, his catcher mitt sized hands) who stole the show for San Antonio last night. Any lesser player would have crumbled after missing a critical free throw late in the potential championship winning Game 6 but the 21 year old Leonard responded with a monster 19 points and 16 rebounds in Game 7. As Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker fade into the twilight of their careers, the future in San Antonio continues to appear bright with Leonard leading the way.

Lemon Face: Chris Bosh

I know he played solid defense. I know he came up with seven rebounds including corralling Duncan’s missed tip-in that would have tied the game, but to put up a goose egg in the points column in Game 7 of the NBA Finals? That’s true Lemon Face material. God help him if Miami would have lost that game because I don’t see any possible way he would be on the Heat roster next year if San Antonio won and shut him down like that. Miami still faces a decision this offseason on whether or not to trade Bosh, but it will be excruciatingly difficult to break up a team that has reeled off two consecutive titles.

Lion Face: Shane Battier

We may never see the adage that role players tend to play great at home and are dicey on the road more than this series. After earning a couple of DNP’s in the Indiana series, Battier turned in scoring lines of 0, 3, 0, 2, 7, and 9 points through the first six games of the series. Coming into last night, he has hardly thought of as an X Factor. But fittingly, in a series that proved to be as difficult to predict from game to game as any other we’ve ever seen, Battier responded with an NBA Jam style hot hand shooting display knocking down six threes in eight attempts on his way to the biggest 18 point game of his life. For the second straight year, the Heat rode to a title in a championship clinching game thanks to one of their shooters going unconscious from beyond the arc. Last year it was Mike Miller’s 7-8 from long distance, 23 point game that proved to be the difference in Game 5 against Oklahoma City. It one of those nights where you in the first half he was going to have a Lion Face game, and he didn’t disappoint. Between his insane three point shooting and cerebral interviews, who could have guessed that a guy from the most hated college in America playing on the most hated NBA team could be, dare I say, likeable?

Lemon Face: Danny Green

For as good as Shane Battier was as a role player, Danny Green was equally as bad for San Antonio. For a stretch during the first five games, it appeared that we were headed for one of the most unlikely Finals MVPs of all time as Green was turning three point attempts seemingly into layups by breaking the record for triples in an NBA Finals just five games into the series. At this point in the series, Cavs fans and other NBA fans alike were quick to criticize the Cleveland organization wondering how they could possibly let a player like this slip through their grasp. Well, now we know. Unfortunately for Green and the Spurs, the clock struck midnight on his Cinderella story sometime between the end of Game 5 and beginning of Game 6 as he would go on to shoot a ghastly 10.5% from the field (18% from 3) over the course of Games 6 and 7 in Miami. Even despite how cringe worthy poor he was last night, he nearly changed the complexion of the game just over midway through the fourth quarter. Following a Manu Ginobili three pointer that cut Miami’s lead to 85-82 with 4:20 to go in the game, Green stole Dwyane Wade’s entry pass and launched a 3. A make would have tied the game as part of an 8-2 run in the course of 45 seconds and conceivably could have changed the complexion of the game. Alas, it was not to be as the shot missed, and the next score came a couple of possessions later from Shane Battier who knocked down a 3 and pushed the lead to six. We’ll always have Games 1-5 Danny Green. We’ll always have Games 1-5.

Lion Face: Mario Chalmers Shot

The Spurs were set to head into the fourth quarter with the lead. They would have been 12 minutes away from only having to match the Heat point for point in order to win the title. And then Mario Chalmers happened. It gave the Heat the lead and the momentum heading into what proved to be the final period of the NBA season. In a game where we got the entire Wario AND Mario Chalmers experience, this was one of the biggest shots of Chalmers’ career.

Lemon Face: Tim Duncan’s Shot

GIF via @SBNationGIF

Tim Duncan could retire right now with four championship rings, $200+ million in salary earned throughout his career, and the title of Greatest Power Forward Ever to Play the Game, but you can bet that he is going to be rehashing that missed tip shot in his nightmares for the conceivable future. With a chance to tie the game at 90 with under one minute to go in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Duncan missed both a hook shot and the subsequent tip in. Eons from now when people are browsing Wikipedia version 1239.1 on their super computers, they are going to see on the surface that this turned out to be an eight point game and, without reading a game story, not fully recognize that we were that close to having a tie game in Game 7 with each team having only a couple of possessions remaining to decide a champion.

Lion Face: NBA Fans

If someone had told you that this Finals would produce four games decided by double digits, including a 36 point blowout in one of those games, and yet it would still prove to be one of the best and most memorable Finals we have ever seen, how confused would you be? Your allowable answers are A) Very B) Really and C) Extremely. Luckily, that’s exactly what we got over the course of the past couple of weeks:  two teams that threw absolute haymakers at one another for seven straight games. For the rest of our lives, we’ll remember these Finals for Tony Parker’s incredible shot to put away Game 1, Danny Green going absolutely bananas in San Antonio, Ray Allen’s shot from the corner and Miami incredible comeback in Game 6, and LeBron James’ ultimate Game 7, but the chess match that was engineered on a game to game basis between these two teams was just as exciting. The constant adjustments needed on both ends to even get a result where no team through six games had won consecutive contests was incredible to watch. It was an honor and a privilege to watch that basketball series for seven games, and I think we all, Miami fans excluded, wish that it could have gone at least seven more.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all NBA fans, thank you to the Heat, Spurs, and NBA for giving us this series. It was, as Zach Harper and Tim Bontemps described on their Eye on Basketball podcast earlier this week, the equivalent of basketball porn. And thank you all for your constant support of us here at Hardwood Paroxysm throughout the season. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in a Panera Bread at lunch putting the finishing touches on my 15 Footer game preview for October 30, the opening night of the year. Time flies when you’re having fun, and we had a whole lot of fun here over the past eight months. Can’t wait to do it again next year.

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 6/7/13: THIS SERIES, YOU GUYS

When the Spurs made their last appearance in the NBA Finals against LeBron James in 2007, it drew the lowest TV ratings in Finals history. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if we continue to get games like we saw last night consistently throughout this series, the executives at ABC won’t be upset with the numbers that come in from the folks at Nielsen. What. A. Game. Usually it isn’t difficult to identify an equal amount of Lion Faces and Lemon Faces over the course of the night, but last night’s contest was so well played that the Lemon Faces were more challenging than usual. Let’s hit the highlights.

Lion Face: Tony Parker

To quote John Starks, “Did this dude just did this?”

The Heat played excellent defense for approximately 23.9999 seconds on the most critical possession of the game, but Tony Parker somehow, some way found the smallest crack of daylight possible in order to make Game 1 a two possession game in the waning moments. Parker finished the game with 21 points and 6 assists, but it’s that shot that will be remembered for years to come.

Lemon Face: The Heat’s 4th Quarter

Although they entered the final period with a three point lead, the Heat went away from everything that allowed them to build that lead in the fourth quarter. Both teams did an excellent job taking care of the ball throughout the game as they combined for 12 turnovers total, but four of Miami’s eight turnovers in the game occurred in the fourth which ultimately proved to be costly. Miami also missed 13 of the 18 shots that they took in the quarter including all five three-point attempts. The Big Three contributed heavily to that as James, Wade, and Bosh combined to go 3-11 from the floor over the course of those 12 minutes. After holding the lead for the majority of a game, Miami finally surrendered the lead at the 7:00 mark of the fourth, and San Antonio never relinquished it from there.

Lion Face: LeBron James

Was that the quietest triple double we’ve seen this season? Last night from far from a game where LeBron simply imposes his will on everybody else on the floor, yet his stat line of 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists still jumps off the page at you. LeBron may not be 50 times better than he was when he faced San Antonio in 2007, as he claims, but he is certainly improved on the last Game 1 he turned in against the Spurs where he went for a 14-7-4 on 25% shooting (4-16).

Lemon Face: Chris Bosh

When Chris Bosh is hitting his threes, the Miami Heat are as unguardable as any team in the NBA. When he goes 0-4 from long range like he did last night, they are very beatable. Bosh took a contested 3 with a man in his face and 7 seconds left on the shot clock early in the first quarter, missed a wide open triple a few minutes later, missed another wide open 3 halfway through the fourth which would have given Miami the lead, and then missed yet another long range shot that would have cut the Spurs lead to one with 1:00 remaining in the game. Tack on another disappointing rebounding effort from Bosh, and it’s clear that he earned the Lemon Face. At least he scored in double digits for the first time in six games!

Lion Face: This Manu pass

GIF via @SBNationGIF

I watched this GIF over and over again, and I still for the life of me cannot comprehend the physics of this pass. I’m still not fully convinced that ABC didn’t hire a special effects crew to doctor that footage on televisions across the world. You shouldn’t be able to throw a screwball with a basketball. You just shouldn’t.

Limon Face: NBA Fans

Good news everyone! After one game, it appears that we are about to be treated to an absolutely thrilling series which is all we can ask for when it comes to The Finals. Bad news everyone! We’re only getting somewhere between three and six more games this NBA season. Enjoy it while it lasts because as a great philosopher once said, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 5/31/13: WELCOME TO MIAMI BIENVENIDO A GAME 5

With the conclusion of last night’s game, there are officially single digit games left in the 2012-13 NBA season. That’s bad. There is still at least one more game left in this Eastern Conference Finals though. That’s good. Let’s hit the Lion Faces and Lemon Faces from last night.

Lion Face: LeBron Raymone James

What else is there to say? At some point, we’re going to need to start picking random letters out of a Scrabble box and making up new words to describe what LeBron can do out on the basketball court because the current list of superlatives is running thin. Does anyone even bat an eyelash anymore at 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in 45 minutes of action anymore? His third quarter performance in particular was everything you could possibly want out of James. Not only did he single handedly outscore the entire Pacers team 16-13, but at one point either scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Miami. During this stretch, the Heat turned a 46-41 deficit into a 61-55 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way. After making the Finals just once in his first seven years in the league, James finds himself on the cusp of a third straight trip to the championship series.

Lemon Face: Chris Bosh

Bosh turned in another performance where it was hard to remember him doing anything of note while on the floor. Bosh pulled down a series high 5 rebounds tonight giving him a grand total of 18 boards in 5 games. Eighteen. One eight. There were 124 instances of a player recording 18 rebounds in a single game this year, regular season and playoffs. For the $17,545,000 that Bosh is making this season, one would hope that the near seven-footer would be able to stuff the stat sheet more than he has recently. Instead, Bosh turned in his second consecutive game of 7 points and 5 rebounds or fewer. LeBron left Cleveland to avoid having to carry the load night in and night out. Somehow, I don’t think that this is what he was envisioning.

Lion Face: Udonis Haslem

Surely I’m not the only one who would play Goldeneye 007 on the N64, set the multiplayer weapon as Remote Mines, find a random corner in the level, and throw 50 mines on top of one another to see how high or long I could stack them, right? I only ask this because I am 87% sure that Udonis Haslem was trying to replicate that strategy with his shots tonight. Haslem made his living both at the rim and along the left baseline converting 8 of his 9 shots on the night and pouring in 16 points. It was a near mirror image of Game 3 when he also went 8-9 from the field in a 17 point effort. Haslem has emerged as somewhat of a barometer for the Heat in this series. When playing like he did last night and in Game 3, the Heat have a pair of double digit victories. However, in the Heat’s two losses in the series, Haslem has just 7 points combined. As long as Bosh and Dwyane Wade continue to be virtual no shows in the series, someone on the Heat is going to need to step up in one of the next two games if Miami wants to put Indiana away for good.

Lion Face: Roy Hibbert, Paul George, David West

If you had said before the series that the Pacers would have three of the best four players in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s not so much that you would have been laughed out of the room, but surely not even you could foresee the trio of Hibbert, George, and West providing this strong of a case proving you correct. Hibbert and George opened up tonight by scoring the Pacers first 29 points of the game. Eventually, the duo would go on to finish with 49 points between them. With West chipping in 17 points of his own, the Pacers generated 83.5% of their offense from just those three players. It’s no secret that the Pacers heavily rely on their starting five man unit more than practically any team in the league. When they are clicking on all cylinders, that lineup provides a balanced scoring attack which we saw in Games 2 and 4 when all five starters scored in double figures. Without that balance, Indiana is dead to rights as they were tonight.

Lemon Face: Lance Stephenson and George Hill

It was extremely tempting to just make this “literally everyone else on the Pacers,” but Stephenson and Hill were particularly brutal as a starting backcourt combination tonight. Their numbers are only barely suitable for work: 5 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 turnovers, 10 fouls, all on a combined 2-11 shooting from the floor. The Pacers can survive a subpar performance from one of their guards provided its Big 3 of Hibbert, George, and West are sharing the load, but Indiana doesn’t stand a chance if both of them are going to play this poorly.

Lemon Face: Pacers fans convinced there is a conspiracy against them

Look, I live in Indianapolis. I am a Cavs fans still mildly bitter over LeBron James leaving Cleveland. There are few things that would make me happier than seeing the Pacers pull off the unthinkable upset and move on to The Finals. Unfortunately, a certain contingent of Pacers fans are making it extremely, frustratingly difficult to cheer for Indiana when seemingly every single whistle that goes against Indiana is part of a grand conspiracy to get Miami into the Finals. Should Chris Andersen have been ejected for this performance in the second quarter?

GIF via @SBNationGIF

Yes, and I’m willing to bet 99% of unbiased observers of the game plus a majority of even the most hardcore Heat fans would agree that Andersen should have been tossed. For some inexplicable reason, Andersen was assess a Flagrant 1 and allowed to stay in the game where he put Miami on his back and went on to dominate the rest of the game. Actually, in reality he scored 2 points, pulled down 4 rebounds, and was largely quiet for the duration of the contest. Most likely, the call will be reviewed by the league office tomorrow and Andersen will be suspended for Game 6 on Saturday in Indiana. Since Andersen wasn’t exactly a difference maker tonight and the game ended up being a double digit win, the Pacers, in the end, may actually prefer this scenario to the alternative of Andersen being ejected last night.

On a larger scale, the most controversial calls of the season have come down to a “Technically It Was A Foul But If We’re Going To Start Calling That Then NBA Games Are Going To Be 6 Hours Long” moving screen to foul out LeBron in Game 4, a traveling call on Dwyane Wade (which wasn’t actually a travel) shortly thereafter, and a blown 24 second call violation against the Pacers, also in Game 4 – a game in which Indiana won. Not that there is an easy sport to referee out there, but basketball in particular is an extremely difficult sport due to the constant nature of instantaneous calls that need to be made. Referees are going to miss calls at times; sometimes they go against your team, sometimes they are in favor of your team. As fun as a conspiracy theory is to discuss, occasionally the wrong calls are made and that’s it. Too often, fans confuse conspiracy with either incompetence or simply a mistake. And besides, when you turn the ball over 17 times, have your entire team outside of your three best players combine for a grand total of 13 points, miss 18 shots around the rim, and get outscored in the third quarter 30-13 without the refs having much of an influence, you pretty much forfeit all rights to complain about the officiating.

15 FOOTER, 5/27/13: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP

Arrested Development has just hit televisions all across America, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the #1 pick in the NBA Draft after winning the Lottery, and the San Antonio Spurs are one game away from the NBA Finals. Is that a sentence from 2003 or an entire decade later? The answer is yes.

Speaking of turning back the clock, Tim Duncan keyed the Spurs Game 3 victory on Saturday night with a vintage 24 points and 10 rebounds in the Spurs 11 point overtime win. I know there is going to come a point and time in the near future where Tim Duncan is not in our lives. I just don’t know if I am fully prepared for it. For the love of Shammgod, to even approach your career averages in your 16th season in the league is an accomplishment in and of itself. For Duncan, his per 36 minute numbers for rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, and fouls are better, albeit slightly, in his 16th season than his career numbers. This is not normal:

DuncanStats

For Memphis, all they have to do is pull off something than 107 teams in the history of the NBA have failed to do: win four straight games after falling behind in a playoff series 3-0. If the Grizzlies can take solace in anything, it’s that in the past eight regulation quarters, they have played the Spurs to a complete and utter draw with each team tallying 171 points. However, overtime has proven to be a Sisyphean task for Memphis. While doing everything in their power to push the boulder up the hill, they cannot seem to nudge it over the top despite being at the precipice. Although it is not impossible for the Grizz to run off four straight games, it certainly seems that the Spurs are headed on a collision course with Miami in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs have proven that they can win games in multiple ways this series. In Game 1, it was jumping out to a 17 point lead after the first quarter and going on, despite a small second half scare, to cruise to a 105-83 victory. In Game 3, the tables were turned as they found themselves down 16 points after one period, and yet they still found a way to win. Tonight, with their backs firmly against the wall, the Grizzlies will keep the game close for 44 minutes before the Spurs pull away and earn their fifth trip to the Finals since 1999.

Prediction: Spurs 102-93

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 5/17/13: THE BASKETBALL GODS HATE US

Three teams have punched their tickets to the Conference Finals with the Spurs and Grizzlies set in the West and the Heat waiting in the wings on the winner of the Pacers-Knicks series. But before we get that far, let’s take a look at last night’s games in today’s Lion Face, Lemon Face.

Lion Face: Chris Copeland Getting Minutes

I’m not sure if the Knicks blogosphere should be smiling today because Mike Woodson finally remembered Chris Copeland is on the team or if they should be enraged that it took him until Game 5 to realize this. 8 (loss), 10 (win), 1 (loss), 12 (loss). Those were Copeland’s minute totals and the Knicks result in Games 1-4 of this series. In Game 5, he was given a series high 19 minutes of play and made the most of it with 13 points on 4-6 shooting, 3-4 from beyond the arc.

Lemon Face: Indiana’s Free Throw Shooting

You’ve. Got. To. Make. Your. Free. Throws. Indiana went an abysmal 19-33 from the charity stripe last night in a game that they lost by 10 points, 85-75. You do the math on that one.

Lion Face: Jason Kidd Not Getting Minutes

Jason Kidd is on some sort of streak right now. It’s been well documented, but that doesn’t make the numbers any less damning. In his past nine games, Jason Kidd has played 182 minutes and scored 0 points. None. Nada. Zip. As many as my cats have. Zero. Unfortunately for Knicks fans, it took five games for Kidd to see less than 16 minutes on the floor. Last night, he played five minutes, all in the first half, and missed the only shot he took which is disappointing because he nearly posted a 5 trillion in the box score of an NBA playoff game. The good news is that he is getting closer to putting the ball in the basket, so there’s that…

GIF via @SBNationGIF

Lemon Face: The Basketball Gods           

What did we, as a basketball community, do to anger the basketball gods? We already knew we were heading into the postseason without Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and Danny Granger due to injury. Then, in the first two rounds, we witnessed Russell Westbrook go down for the first time in his career, David Lee having to leave his first ever playoff game, and George Hill suffer a concussion in Game 4 against the Knicks causing his status to be unknown for the rest of the series. Additionally, last night Harrison Barnes took a terrifying spill on the baseline in the second quarter, tried to return in the third, and was eventually forced to sit out the final period with a headache. Throw in the fact that we’ve been robbed of any more games at Oracle and seeing Steph Curry play but instead are rewarded with seven games of Bulls-Nets and at least six games of a dreadful Pacers-Knicks series, and we may seriously have to question what sacrificing we need to make to the gods in order to make things better for the next two rounds.

Lion Face: San Antonio’s Starting Lineup

The Spurs starting lineup of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Tiago Splitter accounted for 73 of the Spurs 94 points last night. Each starter played at least 31 minutes, and they outscored Golden State’s starters by 27 points during the game. Although Tony Parker struggled mightily (3-16 shooting), the unit as a whole performed admirably. San Antonio has been a well oiled machine for years, and last night was no exception as they finally put away Golden State inside an always raucous Oracle Arena.

Lemon Face: Harrison Barnes Returning In The Third Quarter

I’ll keep this short because A) I am not a doctor by any means and B) Andrew did a great job capturing how terrifying a head injury can be late last night. All I will say is the fact that Barnes returned so quickly from what looked to be one of the scariest looking falls that we have seen in quite a while was concerning at the time, and then amplified ten fold when he was removed for the fourth quarter because of a headache. Get well soon, Harrison.

Limón Face: Steph Curry

We’re giving Curry the combined Lion Face and Lemon Face accolade for last night.

Lion Face for this absurd shot:

GIF via @CJZero

Lemon Face for the fact that Steph Curry will be out of our lives until October. What a tremendous playoff run for Curry and the Warriors. As a basketball fan, I’m sad to see them go.

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 5/3/13: WHY DID THAT SERIES HAVE TO END?

Night 13 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs is officially in the books. We had one series that people can’t wait to end and one series that people wish was a best of 15. We had Lion Faces; we had Lemon Faces. Let’s get to them.

Lion Face: The Nets starting lineup

Consistency can be a beautiful thing in a starting lineup over the course of a game, and the Nets had plenty of it last night. Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson all scored 17 points while Gerald Wallace dropped in 15. While Reggie Evans only managed 2 points, he pulled down 15 rebounds. With their powers combined, the starting five helped Brooklyn to force a Game 7 in this series as they head back to New York.

Lemon Face: The Bulls health

Derrick Rose remaining on the bench despite being cleared to play limited the chances of the Bulls to make any sort of playoff run as it is, but additional injuries to Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich coupled with Luol Deng and Nate Robinson suffering flu like symptoms is just overkill of a cruel joke by the basketball gods. Deng was a late scratch, but Robinson and Noah gutted their way through 42 and 43 minutes respectively. The Warriors may have played the late game, but there were warriors in the early contest as well. While the Heat would still be overwhelming favorites in the East, it’s a shame that we never got to see Chicago at full strength this year since they could have at least made Miami work for it.

Lion Face: Nate Robinson (yes, again)

We might need to start renaming Lion Face to Nate Robinson Face if this keeps up. Robinson played through the flu and scored 18 points for the Bulls, but it was this move that he pulled on Kris Humphries that secured him a Lion Face:

GIF via @cjzero

Looks like Kris Humphries would like to have that highlight annulled/was left at the altar/[insert your own awful Kardashian joke in this space].

Lemon Face: Fans that bought tickets to the Rihanna concert at Barclays

Apparently the Nets win last night forced Rihanna to postpone her concert in Brooklyn on Saturday night to Tuesday which has left fans none too pleased. Rembert Browne of Grantland retweeted some of the folks affected by this change, and it also serves as a reminder to never read Twitter in times like this or Internet comments at any time.

Lion Face: Kosta Koufos

Sadly, I am no longer able to claim that I have made as many three pointers in the NBA as Kosta Koufos after last night. Demonstrating no regard for the shot clock in the middle of the first quarter, Koufos dribble the ball outside the arc, looked up at the shot clock on the opposing basket, and chucked up a triple that found nothing but the bottom of the net giving him his first three in his seven year career. As the saying goes, a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.

GIF via SBNation

Lemon Face: The Nuggets on the road

With the loss last night, the Nuggets fell to 1-13 in their past 14 playoff games on the road. Not that it is by any means easy to win a playoff road game, but Denver is approaching unchartered territory here. Their inability to win on the road forces them to be perfect at home if they have any chance of winning the series as a higher seed with home court advantage, and it basically seals their fate if they enter the series as the lower seeded team. Atlanta and Houston frequently get branded as the epitome of “Treadmill of Mediocrity” teams, but the Nuggets are doing their best to usurp that title. This is now the ninth time in the past ten seasons that Denver has made the playoffs and failed to advance past the first round.

Lion Face: Steph Curry’s Second Half

Image via NBA.com

Image via NBA.com

5-8 from the field, 4-6 from beyond the arc, 16 points, and the added benefit of energizing the raucous Oracle crowd. Curry’s performance in the 3rd quarter (4-6 FG, 14 points) helped the Warriors pull ahead and they never looked back in moving on to the second round for the first time since the 2007 “We Believe” team. It’s a good thing Curry stepped up in the second half because…

Lemon Face: Steph Curry’s First Half

Image via NBA.com

Image via NBA.com

1-6 from the field, 0-2 from beyond the arc, 6 points. Oof. Curry’s been sensational in this series, but he cannot afford to have too many halves like this if the Warriors want to have any chance of upsetting San Antonio. Roaracle can only do so much to impact the outcome of the game, but at the end of the day, as always, it’s going to come down to the players on the floor.

Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com

15 FOOTER, 4/29/13: Losing is not an option

Before we get to previewing tonight’s games, you really need to take a few minutes and read the incredible, powerful Sports Illustrated piece on Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay player in any of the “Big Four” men’s professional sports leagues. Today was undoubtedly a watershed moment in sports, and I would be remiss in my duty to cover the latest news going on in the NBA without linking to the article at hand. Now, on to the games tonight…

Chicago at Brooklyn (7:00 PM, TNT)

Interesting decision by the NBA as this will be the first ever day-night doubleheader in NBA history as these teams are expected to finish up Game 4 around 6:30 PM and then go right into Game 5 at 8:00 P…oh wait, I’m now being told that Saturday’s marathon actually did finish with the Bulls riding Nate Robinson to a stunning 142-134 3OT victory. It is a good thing that the Bulls were able to prevail in Game 4 because any time you have people comparing Nate Robinson’s performance to the infamous Sleepy Floyd Game in the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals, you pretty much cannot afford to waste that performance. We almost did not get to see most of the greatness, however. A blown dunk by C.J. Watson that would have put Brooklyn up 16 to play with 3:16 left in the game could have provided the dagger for Brooklyn and rendered Robinson’s performance irrelevant, but like the 3:16 verse in the Book of John states, instead it gave the Bulls everlasting life in a game that seemingly took forever. As we head into Game 5, the stakes are simple. For the Nets, it’s win or go home. For the Bulls, it’s win and head to Miami. I still think Brooklyn has one last gasp in them though.

Prediction: Brooklyn 96-91

Indiana at Atlanta (7:30 PM, NBA TV)

Surely the Law of Averages dictates that at least one of the games in this series will be relatively close, right? After the Pacers crushed the Hawks by 17 and 15 points in the confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the momentum shifted when the series headed back to Atlanta where Indiana only mustered a Celtics-esque 69 points in 21 point loss to the Hawks. George Hill and Lance Stephenson have to quickly block out and forget about whatever they were doing on Saturday night as they combined to go 2-15 from the field. Meanwhile, Al Horford was in Beast Mode as he busted out with a tidy little 26-16 performance. This is as close to a must win game as the Hawks could possibly face because there is no way they are taking three straight from Indiana if they lose tonight. Unfortunately for them, I see Hill and Stephenson’s performances as more of an aberration than a harbinger of things to come. Plus, I picked Indiana to win this series in five games, and I’m sticking by that.

Prediction: Indiana 98-88

Oklahoma City at Houston (9:30 PM, TNT)

As a basketball community, it is no secret that we are frequently driven by narratives. Whether it’s Tracy McGrady’s inability to get out of the first round, the Lakers problems that began in training camp and lasted through the end of the season, or a myriad of other talking points, we love looking at the same story through the context of different lenses and making it our own. Of course, one of the most popular narratives that we see over and over again is whether or not a team is secretly better without its best player in the lineup. Call it the Ewing Theory if you want, but just this year, we’ve seen it rear its head with Derrick Rose and the Bulls, Rajon Rondo and the Celtics, and now Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Let’s stop this right now; no, the Thunder, despite getting 41 points from Kevin Durant in Game 3, are not better off without Russell Westbrook. No, Westbrook was not holding Durant back in any way, shape, or form. Instead, what we saw in Game 3 was Durant putting a team that needed him on his shoulders and leading them to victory, even if he needed a little luck along the way. I mean, seriously, he broke eight laws of physics on this shot alone:

GIF via SBNation

So no, it’s not that Westbrook was getting in the way of KD; it’s just that the Durantula is really freaking good. And a majority of the time, the team with the best player on the floor wins the series. Houston, you have a problem, and his name is Kevin Durant.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 103-99

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 4/25/13: ONE GOOD GAME OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD

 

Lion Face. Lemon Face. Good moments. Bad moments. You guys know the drill by now. Let’s do this.

Lion Face: Roy Hibbert’s dunk

Few men have done things like this to Ivan Johnson and lived to tell about it. Hibbert managed to save his best dunk of the year for the playoffs with this one. Just to show off, Hibbert would then proceed to knock down a three pointer at the end of the first quarter that was eventually waved off as it came a split second after the clock expired. Still though, a solid two minute stretch for Hibbert.

Lemon Face: Danny Crawford

Greg Smith threw down a strong dunk over Serge Ibaka, then got T’d up by Danny Crawford because he…well you see you can’t…uhhhh…yeah…Apparently Smith looked too menacingly toward Ibaka which drew him a technical. A rare controversial call from one of the Crawford brothers. Who would have guessed?

Lion Face: The George Boys

Paul George and George Hill carried the load for Indiana last night by providing 49 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 steals between them. The G2 zone at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse was rocking as the Pacers took care of business in a series that can’t conclude quick enough.

Lemon Face: Patrick Beverley’s dirty play

GIF via SBNation

In the second quarter of the Thunder-Rockets game, Russell Westbrook was casually bringing the ball up the court to call a timeout as teams tend to do literally hundreds of time every season. Rather than allowing Westbrook to get the easy timeout, Beverley instead attempted a steal the ball. While I’m all for playing until the whistle blows, the angle Beverley took resulted in him colliding with Westbrook’s knee which initially looked like it caused damage. Westbrook would continue to play on, but the jostling between Westbrook and Beverley may be something to watch for the rest of the series as there is clearly bad blood between the two.

Lion Face: Pacers end of quarter play

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARB85gVzHpQ

Play of the night? Play of the night.

Lemon Face: Houston’s end of game possession

With 11 seconds remaining and trailing by four points, Houston had the ball following a missed Kevin Martin free throw. In this situation, you either want an extremely quick two or relative quick three point attempt. The opposite of what you want is running nearly 10 seconds off the clock and getting a seven foot floater out of it. Patrick Beverley knocked down the shot, but that effectively ended any chance that Houston had to steal a game on the road from Oklahoma City which I can only assume led to Thunder fans across the nation chanting…

Lion Face: This

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-yVV-ugC-k

No comment.

Lion Face: Kawhi Leonard

GIF via SBNation

If you tell me that you’ve never done this on an eight-foot hoop in your backyard, either you’re lying or I weep for your childhood. In addition to this alley oop, Leonard finished the first half with 14 points on 7-10 shooting in 20 minutes of play. His performance begs the question, Kawhi haven’t you been paying attention to him this series? (I’m so sorry for that.)

Lemon Face: Steve Nash v. the Spurs

 

 

While Nash and the Lakers entered the season dreaming of a championship, in reality it has been a nightmare for them. After playing in at least 85% of games every season from 2000-2012, Nash has battled injuries all year as age has finally caught up to him. He gritted his way through last night’s game but was largely overshadowed by Steve Blake’s surprisingly impressive performance.

Lion Face: Manu Ginobili

After missing nine of the Spurs last 10 games of the year with a strained hamstring, Ginobili’s health was up in the air heading into the playoffs. Well, at least that’s what Gregg Popovich and the Spurs wanted you to believe. Instead, Ginobili has looked as good as can be in Games 1 and 2. In the first half alone, Ginobili  scored 12 points on 4-5 shooting (3-4 from beyond the arc) while dishing out four assists. Can you say efficient?

Lemon Face: This Sports Illustrated Pre-Season Cover

SICover

Well, technically, it has been fun…provided you’re not a Lakers fan. Unfortunately for Lakers fans and those who enjoy schadenfreude at the expense of the Lakers dismal performance this year, their season, barring a miracle that may need to be confirmed by the Vatican, appears to be rapidly coming to an end.

BONUS Lion Face: THAT PASS

GIF via @cjzero

Usually I try to have an equal amount of Lion Faces and Lemon Faces to balance everything out, but then Manu Ginobili decided to do this at the end of the game and there’s just absolutely no way I could not include it, so I’ll leave you with this.

15 FOOTER, 4/22/2013: The Most Deranged Playoff Preview You Will Ever Read

If you just opened this like I or someone else told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this 15 Footer is going to be a fun f’ing ride.

For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks, there was an epically fantastic e-mail sent out by a Delta Gamma sorority sister at the University of Maryland last week which has made its way around the interwebs at warp speed. It really is an e-mail we have all dreamed of writing at one time or another, so I tip my cap to her for actually having the guts to actually follow through on this. Inspired by her performance, let’s take a look at the playoff games on tap tonight.

Chicago at Brooklyn (8:00 PM, TNT)

First of all, Brooklyn, you SHOULDN’T be chanting BROOOOK-LYYYYYYYN at random times. I don’t give a crap if your boyfriend is chanting it, if your brother is chanting it, or if your entire family is chanting it. YOU DON’T CHANT IT RANDOMLY. And you ESPECIALLY do f’ing NOT convince others in your section to chant it with you at inopportune times. Kudos to the Nets crowd for getting it right by busting it out when up huge in a playoff game. On the court and away from the blackout in the Barclays crowd that would make CISPA opposers proud, Deron Williams looked fantastic in Game 1 providing 22 points and dishing out seven assists. He looks like he does not give an F, and he WILL f’ing assault Chicago in this series if this keeps up.

Newsflash: Teams that give up 80% shooting in a quarter generally don’t win playoff games. Chicago allowed Brooklyn to shoot 16-20 from the field during the second quarter in building a 25 point lead heading to halftime leading people to ask, “Are the Bulls going to reach 80 points?” That wasn’t a rhetorical question. People literally wanted to know if the Bulls would crack the 80 point barrier. They eventually hit the 80 point mark with 3:17 to go in the game. Oh wait, DOUBLE F’ING NEWSFLASH: Running your starters into the ground during the year may cause those players’ bodies to break down when it matter most. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah both finished in the top 15 in minutes per game this season, and Noah was noticeably hurting during his 13 gritty minutes on Saturday. He is expected to play through his plantar fasciitis tonight, but his impact is expected to be limited.

Prediction: If you’re a Bulls fan living in New York during the day, this following message is for you: DO NOT GO TO TONIGHT’S GAME. It’s not going to be pretty. Nets 101-92.

Memphis at LA Clippers (10:30 PM, TNT)

I do not give a flying crap, and the Clippers do not give a flying crap, about how much the Grizzlies rebounded this year. They had 82 games out of the f’ing year to rebound, and this week is apparently NOT, I repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. Memphis as a team pulled down 23 rebounds in Game 1 with 7’1″ Marc Gasol pulling down 2 and Zach Randolph, who averaged 11.2 rebounds per game this year, recording 4 boards. This week is about winning games in the basketball community, and that’s not f’ing possible if the Grizzlies are going to stand around and talk to each other and not focus on their matchup.

Chris Paul is the type of person that can cause people to send texts to others and get them cheering for the opposing team. The opposing. F’ing. Team. Personally, I cheer for my own team, and I don’t give a crap about sportsmanship, but CP3 is so much fun to watch. He was a point guard savant on Saturday in carving up the Memphis defense to the tune of 23 points and 7 assists while seamlessly shifting from facilitator to scorer and back again. To those that think that there is any sort of debate as to who the best point guard in the league is, I have to ask, HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN TO A SPORTS GAME? ARE YOU F’ING BLIND?

Prediction: Clippers 115-102. And for those of you who are offended at this pick, I would apologize but I really don’t give a crap. Just kidding, you guys are great. Enjoy the games!

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 4/12/13: IT’S NATE ROBINSON’S WORLD

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, unless of course you consider the show to be the NBA regular season in which case it’s actually ending very soon. Regardless, with the regular season winding down and the playoffs getting ready to start up, we’re bringing back America’s 34th favorite semi-running column: Lion Face/Lemon Face. As a refresher for those that forgot and introduction for those who are new here, Lion Faces are given to the best players, plays, or moments of the night; Lemon Faces are for the worst. Have a suggestion in the future? Tag it on Twitter with #LionFace or #LemonFace during a weeknight game and we’ll make sure one of our 921 writers see it. Without further ado, on to the LF/LF nominees from Thursday’s TNT doubleheader…

Lion Face: Nate Robinson

GIF from Beyond the Buzzer

It’s been a while since I watched professional wrestling regularly, but I do know that Wrestlemania XXIX was this past Sunday. I was shocked to find out and completely unaware that they unified five different championship belts, and they were apparently all won by Nate Robinson. Either that, or he is the most insured man on the planet after busting out the never before seen Discount Septuple Check following a three pointer. Robinson finished with 35 points on the night, a season high and the most points he’s scored in a game since New Year’s Day 2010. He also added 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and infinite swag in helping the Bulls snap the Knicks’ 13 game winning streak.

Lemon Face: Jarrett Jack

GIF from DailyThunder.com

In the immortal words of Harry Doyle, “Juuuuuuuust a bit outside.” On the plus side, the Raiders are set to start Matt Flynn this year and Terrelle Pryor is currently Flynn’s backup, so if the whole basketball thing ends up not working out for Jack, he can still put that arm to use in Oakland.

Lion Face: Jimmy Butler

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/JeffGurt/status/322536544089042944"]

Butler has been playing extremely well lately having chipped in a double digit scoring effort in 10 of his last 12 games including his career high 22 tonight. Butler also pulled down 14 rebounds, another career high, against the Knicks. Not too shabby for the 30th pick of the 2011 Draft.

Lemon Face: This Bulls fan

GIF from @SBNationGIF

This is actually a fantastic shot, so don’t think that it got a Lemon Face because it was somehow the worst of the night. I’m giving this a Lemon Face only for the sole fact that it looks like she might be ready to actually ingest a full lemon sometime within the next four seconds. Also, what is Joakim Noah doing in the stands right behind her? Why isn’t he getting back on defense? And why is he wearing a t-shirt jersey?

Lion Face: The Durant-Westbrook Connection

Without question, Durant and Westbrook gave us the best sequence of the night. A swat by Westbrook followed up by Kevin Durant’s complete lack of regard for human life coupled with Golden State’s complete lack of regard for transition defense made this happened. Just sit back and enjoy it.

Lion Face: Golden State’s 3 Point Shooting

GoldenState3s

Typically, if you shoot 183.3% from beyond the arc, that’s a pretty solid shooting night. Unfortunately for the Warriors, this actually appears to bring down the torrid 248.8% they were apparently shooting coming into last night’s contest. If you’re the type of person that’s actually into “statistics” and “actual facts”, Golden State actually entered the game shooting 40.2% from 3, good enough for first in the NBA. They finished last night 7-16 from 3 to slightly raise their shooting percentage on the year. Consider this as more of a season long Lion Face honor because honestly, the Lion Faces are hard to come by when you get blown out by 19 points on national TV.

Lion Face: Guys named Kevin on the Thunder

Kevin Martin Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Martin Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Durant Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Durant Shot Chart via NBA.com

Kevin Martin: 8-10 from the field. 4-5 from beyond the arc. 3-3 from the line. 23 points in total. Yeah, Kevin Martin had himself a night off the bench for the Thunder. And if you ever wanted more proof that single game +/- is hilariously misleading at times, Martin finished with a +1 for the game. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant turned in a ho-hum 31-10-8 night on 10-16 field goals and shot 90% from the charity stripe. In the race for the scoring title, Durant now is averaging 28.2 points per game while Carmelo Anthony has widened his lead by averaging 28.6 points per contest. Speaking of Melo…

Limón Face: Carmelo Anthony

On one hand, Anthony became the first Knick to ever post six consecutive games of at least 35 points. In his five previous games, he shot at least 51% from the field, and shot over 60% in four of those five games. On the other hand, last night he needed 34 shots from the field to get his 36 points, and finished the game 13-34 (38%) including missing all four three-point attempts. It’s not often that a guy with a 36 point, 20 rebound effort deserves a Lemon Face, but 13-34 is far from Lionesque. Instead, he gets a hybrid of the two: the Limón Face.

Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com