Category Archives: Game Takes

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, 5/30/13: Let Them Play

If you’re here looking for complaints about the officials, congratulations! You fell for my illusion. TO THE AZTEC TOMB!

Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat (8:30 PM, TNT)

The Pacers and Heat are playing one of the most evenly matched, competitive series of the postseason, and I’m not entirely sure it’s been noticed. While these two teams scheme, adjust and execute their way to offensive production unexpected against such stellar defenses, the focus since Game 1’s postgame strategy gab session lies elsewhere. Between poor officiating and plenty of flopping, there’s been every excuse to talk about everything but the game. If you’re upset about the way things have gone so far, I don’t blame you. No one likes to see a free throw contest. No one likes to see a 50/50 call called improperly. No one wants to think they’re being deprived of a better product.

I urge you, however, to consider a different perspective. You have every ability to choose what things are important to you. On any given play between the Heat and Pacers, one might see a half-dozen feats of athletic marvel and mental processing rivaled by few, if any, competitors. Choose to celebrate those moments and let the bad calls and flailing bodies roll off your back, not the other way around.

Yes, there will be bad calls and felonious flops. The act of two evenly matched teams playing at such an elite level, vying for every inch of real estate and every window of opportunity, practically begs for missed whistles and gale force near-elbows. Every advantage must be seized — or created. Any edge must be exploited — or maintained. If there’s a way to conquer one more neuron’s worth of sympathy in the minds of the officials, then damn the means and justify the end. It is the job of the referees to suss out what’s real and what’s not, and sometimes they’re going to blow it. They’re human. It’s not right; it’s inevitable. It’s reality.

The rest of reality is the splendor that awaits us tonight. With so much on the line, each play will make your heart race and your blood boil, let alone what it will do to the teams. Bad calls and unfairly rewarded flops will happen. Question them. Analyze them. Learn from them. Make jokes about them. Laugh about them. But let them live in the moment and wither as the ball changes hands. Trust that things will even out in the end (and no, I don’t mean root for a makeup call). Appreciate the game as it happens, rather than dwelling. You can’t control the way the whistles will go, but you can control whether they affect you. Just like David West and Dwyane Wade!

Image by ctsnow via Flickr

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 5/23/13: That Was Surprisingly Fun

Lion Face: Paul George

Paul George showed some serious metaphorical testicular fortitude last night, first hitting the game-tying three to send the game into overtime, then sinking three free throws that nearly won it for the Pacers. Paul George has arrived, y’all.

 

Lion Face: The Pacers’ groins

David West and Roy Hibbert, meanwhile, showed some literal testicular fortitude.

Lemon Face: The Pacers’ groins

Because ouch.

Lemon Face: Norris Cole

Norris, of all the people to piss off, David West was absolutely the worst choice.

Lion Face: LeBron James

He’s good.

Lemon Face: Frank Vogel

First, let’s put this stupid argument to rest: Frank Vogel is a damn fine coach, and to say otherwise is simply laughable. That being said, his decision to leave Hibbert on the bench for both the final possession in regulation and overtime was pretty bad. For a coach who likes to play percentages on defense—giving up a long two instead of a corner three, for example—one would think he’d be fine giving up a Chris Bosh mid-range jumper instead of a LeBron James lay up.

 

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.

15 Footer, 5/16/13: Elimination Breakdown

For the sake of NBA aficionados everywhere, may at least one of the teams behind in their respective series emerge victorious tonight. A four day stretch without basketball seems a plight unbecoming the current level of play. The landscape is not ready to be barren so soon, to lie fallow for any longer than is necessary. Let the fields be sown with all the niceties of Stephen Curry silver platters and Prigioni peppers. Bring us your finest Tim Duncan aged wines and Tony Parker founts of water droplets pure, the spoils of Roy Hibbert’s hunt for anything airborne, too, NBA playoffs!

But not too much of the latter, because the Warriors and Knicks really need a win tonight.

Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks (8:00 PM, TNT)

What is there to do when you’ve trusted the process and not received any positive results?

By all accounts, the Knicks abandoned much of the stagnant heroball that rendered their first round meeting with the Boston Celtics unpalatable. The fear was the Melo and Felton isolations would continue unabated, forced down our collective gullet like a set piece in the movie Se7en. Instead, the Knicks turned to the pick and roll and fostered a decent amount of ball movement in the halfcourt.

For their efforts, they have a 3-1 series deficit and an elimination game at home. They seem at their wits’ end, forced into unsuccessful gambits such as a big lineup that every Knicks observer in the tri-state area knew was doomed from the start. The Knicks are that kid on Legends of the Hidden Temple who couldn’t figure out how to put together the damned Silver Monkey statue and had you screaming at your television in anticipation of years of sports fanaticism. And the Pacers are that statue. They’re also Olmec, host Kirk Fogg, the Temple guardians and probably the production crew.

They’ve played the Knicks to near perfection, accepting the rolling evolution from New York and refusing any progress from the primordial ooze made by the stack of amino acids that is Mike Woodson. Both Paul George and Roy Hibbert now find themselves at least in the conversation of NBA stars, and Lance Stephenson certainly seems born ready for the role of Indiana’s more productive version of J.R. Smith.

The Knicks aren’t to be counted out — not yet, and not at home. They’ll try everything they can to move on to the next chamber in their journey, but a half a medallion and 36 points from Carmelo Anthony might not save them.

San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors (10:30 PM, ESPN)

The Spurs are on the flipside of the process/results coin. They trusted that their process, with enough small modifications to adjust for the opponent, would win out over the long run — that if they could weather the Golden State storm long enough to not be eliminated in a variance-induced tsunami, the Warriors would cool off and enough of San Antonio’s own shots would finally find their way in the basket.

In essence, the Spurs are Danny Green. Green has ample opportunities for open 3s and drives to the rim after closeouts in this series, yet he’s been his typical IcyHot self on most nights. When he and the other floor spacers for San Antonio knock down shots, the Warriors struggle to keep up, often resulting in forced shots on the other end by Jarrett Jack, who somehow continues to make them and earn a payday that stands to infuriate whatever future fanbase has the pleasure of his presence. When Green takes those same shots with the same amount of space and misses, though, Golden State more readily works for decent looks at the other end, especially as the long Green misses often lead to runouts on the other end by the Warriors and easy transition opportunities at the rim and behind the 3-point line.

That variance is more or less out of the Spurs’ hands, especially with the choices the Warriors make on defense. What San Antonio can control is how they matchup on the other end. Coach Gregg Popovich made the tactical decision to switch Kawhi Leonard onto Klay Thompson, giving Green free reign to harass Stephen Curry. San Antonio has conceded looks to Harrison Barnes, guarded by Tony Parker, in so doing, but Green is more than up for the task of limiting Curry. He’s been particularly adept at fighting through off-ball actions designed to free Curry and get him the ball in space and while in motion. As with so many other elite offensive players, much of defense on Curry is prevention of the catch where and when he most prefers.

Yet for all the regression and adaptation, the Warriors have played the Spurs to a near deadlock. San Antonio leads the series 3-2, but with the home crowd rocking at Roaracle tonight, there’s every chance Golden State will give us a Game 7.

Lion Face/Lemon Face 5/16/13: Don’t Forget Your Towel

Grit! Grind! Dunks! Classic Dwyane Wade! LeBron flopping! Towels! Let’s take a look at the best and worst from last night.

 

Lion Face: Memphis Grizzlies

It wasn’t easy, and it was rarely pretty, but the Grizzlies move on to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.  Zach Randolph (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Mike Conley (13 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds) were terrific in the series-clincher, attacking the Thunder at perhaps their two weakest positions. Congratulations, Memphis.

Lemon Face: Tony Allen

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

Tony, didn’t you learn anything from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? Never forget your towel! Seriously, this is what sparked Oklahoma City’s insane near-comeback. (And yes, I realize it was a shirt, but the title of this post and the Hitchhiker reference don’t exactly work with a shirt, so back off).

Lion Face: Tayshaun Prince

Raise your hand if you thought Prince still had this kind of dunk in him. Put your hand down, liar.

Lemon Face: Kendrick Perkins

One look at Perkins’ numbers in the semifinals forces the face to scrunch and sour in such an extreme manner that it resembles, well, Kendrick Perkins. The sultan of scowl shot 17.6% for the entire series, notching a PER of -.72. What’s that? You want visuals? Trust me, you don’t. No, seriously, you don’t. Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

Courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

 

Have you finished wiping up the blood that seeped from every orifice? Good. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me.

Lion Face: Dwyane Wade

Wade, knee troubles and all, put on a vintage Wade performance in the fourth quarter, shooting a perfect 3-of-3, including two eurostep-powered floaters that registered high on the nostalgia meter.

 

Lion Face: Chicago Bulls

Hats off to this team. Battling through injuries, fatigue and overblown, undeserved criticism, they beat the Nets in seven games, gave the Heat a hell of a fight, and gave us a few Nate Robinson moments we’re unlikely to forget any time soon.

 

Lemon Face: LeBron James

All NBA players flop. The one who say they don’t flop? Guess what, they flop. So while LeBron James’ flop shouldn’t really be anything noteworthy, I’m still putting it here because it was pretty ridiculous.

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

 

15 Footer, 5/14/13: The Knicks Are That Restaurant Everyone Hates But Won’t Stop Patronizing

Day 25 of the NBA Playoffs is upon us. Or Day 24, if you don’t include the one off day we had so far. I prefer to go by the calendar, though, semantics aside.

And Day 25 makes me think it’s Playoff Christmas. To the presents!

New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers (7:00 PM, TNT)

According to the general manager of the restaurant, everything Chez Woodson is excellent. All the chefs, sous-chefs and line workers are on the same page, even if the “baby-faced” dishwasher looks suspiciously like one of the oldest guys in the kitchen. There is no discord in the back of the house.

Which makes the disarray at the front of the house all the more strange. Sure, the Pacers aren’t the most polite guests. They’re more likely to overturn the tables and use them to set screens on the waiters than they are to wait in line patiently for the food to be brought to them. And Shammgod help you if two bussers form what even remotely resembles a double team in the eyes of Paul George; they will be split with indiscriminate fury and a taste for Bananas Foster. For all the chaos created by the customers, though, the Knicks do themselves no favors when their offense devolves into an incessant smorgasbord of isolation and frustration. This franchise should thrive on efficiency and movement, the ability to satisfy large swaths of the clientele with spectacular flambé and an occasional off-the-rack dash of J.R. Smith.

Instead, three customers sit at the lone remaining upright table. They meticulously pore over the menu, often oblivious to the pandemonium that surrounds them. One wants filet mignon. The second eyes the dessert section. And the last simply wonders why the restaurant isn’t a club.Yet there’s only the one menu; they have to share it, begrudgingly as they might. And in those moments of clarity, when their hands are free and their eyes wander, they see the 7-foot chef screaming for them to put on their work uniforms and help put out the fire in the kitchen. All the while, that same chef burns the entrée as he tries to fight off an 86-inch tall intruder who barged in through the back door and flexed his culinary supremacy.

The restaurant isn’t lost yet, but the people outside have noticed the smoke billowing from the back. Oh, and their favorite waiter? His leg is falling off.

It might be time to double check the insurance on the place. You know, just to be safe.

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs (9:30 PM, TNT)

Speaking of limb limitations, the Golden State Warriors are back in action! Somehow, with David Lee’s hip technically its own person right now and Stephen Curry’s ankle decision to call in sick and leave a papier-mâché replica in its place, the Warriors are tied 2-2 with the Spurs. They might even be the favorites to win the series, or at least even money. The huge swings and wild variance of this series dissuade me from predictions or even trying to view the game through any one prism before it starts; this series deserves more than that. It’s best enjoyed in the moment, lived from possession to possession, Kawhi Leonard corner 3 to Jarrett jack pull up jumper from the free throw line.

With that said, I would like to go on the record at this time with an official declaration of how horribly wrong I was about coach Mark Jackson. I thought his hire was peculiar at best, but he’s done a fantastic job, in my eyes. There’s so much about coaching that we don’t see, of course, so it’s always difficult to infer process from results. But Jackson’s players certainly seem to buy into what he’s selling on the bench; hell, I do through the uncanny valley of my television. His trust in his players this postseason, manifested in his willingness to stick with players in foul trouble, is commendable. Too often coaches effectively foul out their own players by sending them to the bench. It backfired on some level in Game 4, but I trust the process, and it’s paid dividends so far.

Well done, coach Jackson. And on the behalf of the basketball viewing public, thank you for unleashing the Splash Bros.