Category Archives: Lion Face/Lemon Face

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.

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.

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

 

Lion Face/Lemon Face: Pushed to the Brink Edition

Last night, things fell into place for two teams to advance in these playoffs later this and for two other teams, things just got very real. This is the playoffs, where the highs feel higher and the lows are lower. As for this feature, the Lion Faces are greater and the Lemon Faces are more bitter. Let’s get to the best and worst of last night’s games!

Lion Face: Kevin Durant’s Game-Tying Finger Roll to Send the Thunder to Overtime against the Grizzlies

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=E3qt7k557Gk

There is so much to love about this play. The timing, the execution, and the fact that he was mired in a big scoring slump as he strides past three Grizzlies defenders to lay it in made this such a great play.

Lemon Face: Thunder Players Who Do Not Wear #35. 

Chart courtesy of ESPN

Chart courtesy of ESPN

 

This chart may reflect the entire series, but the lack of support Kevin Durant has been getting this series reared its ugly head for Oklahoma City at the worst possible time again last night. As Matt Moore pointed out last night, the Grizzlies were able to send two and sometimes three defenders on Durant without fear of them being able to make them pay for leaving two players open. Look at the game-tying layup above and you’ll see this happening as Durant goes one-on-three to convert a difficult play. Sure, we’ve seen Durant overcome double teams, but the Gasol-Conley-Allen triple team is tough because these are three of the best defenders in the NBA. Even for Durant, who typically thrives in the midrange game, struggled to convert over this trio as he was forced to hoist contested jumper after contested jumper.

Unlike the rest of the Thunder who tend to fall into the role of spectators late in games, Russell Westbrook would be the type of player who can keep defenses honest and would be willing to wait until the next practice to watch Durant play. Of course, this is a problem because Westbrook is not coming back. You can see the lack of movement by the other Thunder on offense; they don’t cut, set screens, or really even move when Durant has the ball. This leaves Durant to do it alone unnecessarily and there is not one player in the league that can get his team a win going one-on-five. Miss you, Russ.

Lion Face: The Grizzlies Defense and Comeback

With that being said, let’s give Memphis some credit for for their adjustments in the second half and ability to shutdown Durant to get the win. Nice comeback win at home and will now have the chance to advance in Game 5.

Lemon Face: Marquis Teague’s Tip-In…On the Wrong Basket

We’ve all had those days where nothing seems to go right for you and you’re just ready for it to end, and I’d say this day was that day for the Chicago Bulls. This was on top of a night when they shot .257/.118/.781 on the night with 17 turnovers on their way to an 88-65 drubbing at home. I mean, Teague was trying to make the right play by attempting to break up Chris Bosh’s pass to Birdman when he puts it in.

Lion Face: Heat Trap and LeBron is Not Nice

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_mCwlffgN5I

This is great all over. First the Heat do a great job of trapping Nate Robinson deep in the backcourt with Norris Cole and Shane Battier, who force the turnover before pushing the ball to LeBron streaking up the court for the breakaway jam. It was quite the beauty, might I add.

Lemon Face: You Live by the Nate Robinson, You Die by the Nate Robinson

Oh, turns out a Nate Robinson-centric offense isn’t sustainable after all. Who knew? I mean it’s not like we have years of evidence that suggests as much to back this claim up, and then last night happened. He had as many rebounds as fouls (3), as many assists as turnovers (4), and attempted as many free throws in an NBA game as I did last night (0). If you’re scoring at home– well if you’re scoring  at all you’re actually doing something Robinson couldn’t do last night since he also finished 0-12 from the floor for zero points and never got to the line once.

/end

 

Lion Face/Lemon Face: Rust-Proof Edition

Well, last night was another great night of NBA basketball, and whether or not you missed it, you came to the right place. Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Lion Face/Lemon Face, your semi-daily retrospective of the previous night’s action. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Lion Face is reserved for those who do things like sink a game-winning buzzer-beater and the Lemon Face is reserved for those who commit team-killing turnovers at the worst possible moment. Think of Lion Face like a band’s Greatest Hits and Lemon Face like a B-Sides and Rarities collection. And now, I present to you the best and worst of Bulls-Heat and Spurs-Warriors.

Lion Face: The Chicago Bulls 

This goes to the only team in the league that can seemingly stop the Heat: the Chicago Bulls. Since Februrary, the Heat are now 41-3 (!) overall with two of those losses coming at the hands of the Bulls. Are the Bulls looking around the league at this point and saying, “Really? No one else can figure out how to beat these guys?” If the season series were a playoff series the Bulls would now be leading 3-2 and the defending champs would be on the brink because of a Nate Robinson-led team. There are just some teams that always give another team a tough time and that’s the case appears to be here.

Lemon Face: The Rust Argument 

Look at a team like the Miami Heat. Now, look at their roster full of veteran players.  Finally, look back to August and remember they have gone through training camp, preseason and nearly 90 total games together. Can you really tell me that with the construct of the roster and their experience playing together that they forgot how to play together last night? No, they just had an off-night against a team that has given them fits all season long. Ray Allen, who shot 1-4 from three and 2-7 overall, and arguably the greatest shooter ever, did not just forget how to make shots after a few days. Chris Bosh, one of the game’s best big men, did not just forget how to make shots or rebound. Nor did Dwyane Wade commit five fouls because he had some rest after the Milwaukee sweep.

Had they had two weeks off without so much as looking at a basketball or practicing I might believe it, but not now considering this point of the season.

Even the league’s best shooting team is going to have an off-night, and that’s exactly what it was. They shot .392/.292/.680 on the night and got beat on the boards by a Bulls team that just wrapped up a seven game series two nights before. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the Heat to come in rested and run a tired and banged up Bulls team out of the building? I think so, but again, this Bulls team has been Miami’s Achilles Heel all season long. In short, the Heat weren’t “rusty”; they just had an off-night against the one team that made them sweat all year.

If that’s not enough to convince you, look at the Spurs who came off of a first round sweep of the Lakers to comeback from 18 to beat the Warriors in double OT.

Lion Face: LeBron James Gets the Assisted Dunk from…Maro Belinelli?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8ywvqe107E

To Belinelli’s credit, he’s really trying to make a heads-up defensive play as he makes a 180 turn to try and jump the Norris Cole pass before it bounces right to LeBron who slams it home. At least he almost got the steal…

Lemon Face: The Bulls’ Dearth of Highlights from Last Night

Seriously, a step back three from Nate Robinson is not enough to get you featured here. Step your game up, Chi-town.

Lion Face: Steph Curry’s Third Quarter

Here they are: all of Steph Curry’s 22 third quarter points. Not 22 on the game, but in the third quarter. Look at some of these shots! Contested, double-teamed, falling down– he hits them all. I’ve said too much and you should be watching that video, anyway.

Lemon Face: Warriors 18-point Collapse

Not that this really matters since the Warriors haven’t had the same team for 16 years, but after last night’s collapse the Warriors have lost 30 straight games in San Antonio. Yes, the Warriors last won in San Antonio in February of 1997 when I was eight years old, also meaning there are high school sophomores who have never seen the Warriors beat the Spurs on the road. Whatever, this looks like it will be a fun series even though the W’s are now down 0-1 when they should be up 1-0. If they can take anything away from that collapse in the short-term this could be a long series, but if not they will realistically only be able to annoy the Spurs for about five games. But as a basketball fan I’m hoping they do take something away and make this a longer series because last night was fun.

Also, Steph Curry definitely didn’t miss his last eight shots after the third and no one is bringing that up here. Ok, yes he did, and that didn’t help, and I just brought it up. Welp.

Lion Face: Manu Ginobili’s Game-Winning Three

Ah, yes. These are the moments it’s all about in the playoffs. I get doubling Tony Parker here, whom most any team would think would be the Spurs’ go-to in this situation, but leaving Manu open like that on three? That wasn’t the smartest idea of all-time. But huge ups to Manu for knocking this shot down to complete the comeback, and effectively erase all memory we have of his really awful shooting night prior.

Lemon Face: The Spurs Fan Who Screams for Forty Seconds Straight Behind the Team’s Bench

Seriously. Re-watch this clip. Could you imagine having to sit next to her as she shrieks for nearly forty full seconds? This is almost like one of those TV shows where they conduct social experiments in public to see how others react. What would you do: ignore it, tell her to be quiet, or hope there’s an open seat somewhere nearby to relocate to? Quite frankly, I don’t know how she still had a voice after this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about getting caught up in the playoff atmosphere, but this is so over-the-top.

 

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

Lion Face/Lemon Face 5/1/13: LET’S GET PHYSICAL, PHYSICAL

Lion Face

Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors

All of it. Just all of it. This series has been tremendously entertaining, from Steph Curry going supernova, Andrew Bogut’s revival, #PlayoffPierre, Roaracle, Ty Lawson being spectacular, and so much more. The first round of this year’s playoffs hasn’t had much excitement or drama, but this series has been the exceptional exception.

Lemon Face

Vinny Del Negro’s suit game

Ew

Look, Vinny, just because we make fun of you for looking like you belong on the set of Miami Vice doesn’t mean you have to dress like it. I mean, look at those shoulders. Yeesh.

Lion Face

Chris Paul vs Marc Gasol


nbaSLAPwacky

Not so much for the play, but for this GIF. I could watch it all day. Chris Paul looks like the little brother who lost his toy to his big brother, Marc. “You butthead! Give it back give it back giveitback giveitback giveitback! I HATE YOU!”

(GIF courtesy of SBNation)

Lemon Face

Andrew Bynum gets down in Madrid

I can’t even begin to comprehend how frustrating this video of Bynum, fresh off a season in which he didn’t play a single game due to chronic knee issues, is to Sixers fans. So I asked my good friend Tom Sunnergren of Hoop76 to help me out. Take it away, Tom!

Andrew Bynum, apparently, has been struck with a variety of knee injury that allows him to participate in every conceivable athletic activity but basketball. This is remarkable. While a terrible blow for his basketball career (and the emotional balance of people who care about the Philadelphia 76ers), Bynum’s malfunction could mark a seminal moment in sports science—the key that unlocks the previously unknown and unknowable, flinging open whole new vistas of knowledge and inquiry. In studying what’s absent in Bynum, we might learn, finally, what really makes a good basketball player.

What is it that separates Jordan from the rest? Or allows LeBron to be LeBron? By considering Andrew Bynum’s knees—and learning what essential thing they, and he, are missing—we might finally understand what separates the greatest players in the NBA from petulant children with stupid haircuts who can’t play a goddamned minute of NBA basketball for a franchise that mortgaged its present and future to get them but can fucking flamenco dance what the fuck. In this way, Andrew Bynum isn’t just a washout, a buffoon, a deadbeat, or a botched abortion of an offseason acquisition, but something more. A hero, maybe. Fuck.

(Video via Facebook)

Lemon Face

Blake Griffin’s ankle

Say what you will about Blake Griffin. Say he’s a flopper, a whiner, a bad defensive player, whatever. Blake Griffin, at full strength, is still damn fun to watch, and his ankle injury that took him out of last night’s action, and potentially for game 6, is a bummer.