NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Boston Celtics

Of all the playoff teams’ I’ve previewed up to this point, the Boston Celtics are by far the one playoff squad that is surrounded by a myriad of questions. Can Pierce and Garnett pull it together for one more championship run? Will they survive a playoff series without the playoff- walking triple-double- Rondo? Are Avery Bradley’s shoulder seperations a thing of the past? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are, and I may never know if the Celtics get handed a first-round exit ticket by the Knicks, but I do know one thing: no matter who’s name is on the back of the jersey at the time, putting on that Celtics uniform has enabled all those who wear it to perform. How else would you explain 17 championships?

Doc Rivers is second only to Greg Popovich when it comes to being a complete coach. As has been mentioned before with the likes of Jerry Sloan, both Pop and Rivers were former players who’s teams’ seem to have taken on the identity of each. Despite the rash of injuries that have befallen the Celtics this season, Doc has managed to keep his troops moving forward towards another possible championship run that many think the Celtics are too old to pull off. Never underestimate the heart of a champion; did not the tortise beat the hare? This team’s horses may have lost some it’s Kentucky Derby speed, but their high playoff basketball I.Q. more than makes up for that.

The Celtics stack up pretty modestly against the rest of the league from a statistical standpoint, but we all know know numbers never tell the whole story when it comes to the tenants at T.D. Bank North. They rank 11th in points allowed (96.5), and 18th in points scored (96.6). I’d be worried if these numbers were attached to the Atlanta Hawks because of their style of play. In the case of the Celtics these are grind it out numbers, and grind it out is what Boston does best; slow you down and be physical in the process. Because of this fact, I believe the first-round matchup against the Knicks is a toss up.

Yes, Melo and J.R. Smith are two of the game’s hottest shooters who have an uncanny ability to shoot the three. However, without an inside presence to compliment what the Knicks can do from the perimeter, the Celtics win this series. We all saw what happend to the Thunder in last last year’s Finals. Tyson Chandler is the key element for both teams in this series. The Knicks need him to balance out their half court offense, and the Celtics need his absence in order for their 29th league rank rebounding position to not rear it’s ugly head. Last but not least, the Celtics do a much better job of moving the ball in the halfcourt offense than do the Knicks.

With the playoffs set to start about a week from now, this is the only Eastern conf. matchup I look forward to seeing. The Celtics D vs. the Knicks love for the 3… Win or go home!

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Milwaukee Bucks

At 37 wins and 43 losses, the Milwaukee Bucks having the 8th seed in this year’s playoffs is more formality than deservingly. NBA rules say that there must be 8 teams’ in both conferences to make the season ending tournament. Because the Sixers, Cavs, Pistons, Raptors, Wizards, Magic, and Bobcats are all so bad, the Bucks get a free pass. How does a team with a losing record make the playoffs at all? Even from a statistical standpoint I can’t figure out how to make a case for the Bucks that would give them any chance against the Heat in a first round matchup. This team is 20th in points allowed (100.4/per) and 12th in points for (98.8/per); what chance do the Bucks have realistically against any team if they can’t score enough, and can’t stop the other team from scoring too many? Not to mention a league rank 10th in the turnover dept. The Heat should be allowed a first round by instead of having to play the Bucks; the Bucks are not worthy of being called a basketball team let alone a playoff team.

The Bucks do have 5 players’ who average double digits in points per; Monta Ellis (19.2), Brandon Jennings (17.6), Ersan Ilyasova (13.2), J.J. Redick (12.0), and Mike Dunleavy (10.4) can all put the ball in the basket, but it all seems to be perimeter oriented. At times Jennings and Ellis will put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, but of the five aforementioned, Jennings, Ilyasova, and Dunleavy shoot better than 36% from the three. Can’t win in the playoffs being to jumpshot heavy; especially when those shots are long three’s. Long jumpshots lead to long misses and fastbreak oppportunities for the opposition. The Heat will feast on any and all runouts going the other way.

Despite the no chance at all proclamation I put forth when the Bucks play the Heat, there is one area for this Buck team that is worthy of mention and is a mandatory criterion for playoff basketball- offensive rebounding. It makes no sense to me how this team is ranked number 2 in both offensive (1033) and defensive (2475) rebounds with 43 losses on the season. Whether you agree with me or not, there is a direct correlation between the two. Teams’ who rebound the ball well -especially offensive- usually have a winning record.

Stern should insitute an NBA rule that disallows a team to make the playoffs if said team has a below .500 overall record. If only for this season, Stern should allow the loser of the 8th spot in the Western conference to take the place of the winner of the 8th spot in the East. I guarantee the Lakers’ or Jazz would make for a better series against the Heat than Milwaukee. Instead of playing to their strength that is rebounding and punishing the Heat on the inside, the Bucks will settle for jumpshots on the outside. Playing harder and not smarter is a recipe for disaster; a disaster that is the Milwaukee Bucks.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls 101-97 victory over the Miami Heat to break the 27-game win streak was no accident, nor was it just a bad night at the office. Players’ have bad games no doubt; however, the Bulls (without Noah) outscored the Heat 22-8 in second chance points. Am I to believe the entire Heat team had a bad night at the same time? No, the Bulls just flat out played an agressive style defense against the Heat that most teams’ are afraid to play, and came away with a victory. Thibodeau learned from an earlier matchup against the Heat where the Bulls lost 86-67, that it doesn’t make sense to double LeBron, Wade, or Bosh and let them pass to wide open shooters who have spotted up in the corners. TT also realized that “sagging off” the 3-Olympians’ allowing them to basically walk right into open shots was an advantage for the Heat and a disadvantage for his Bulls. His strategy in this most recent game was to contest- and it worked.

Was Thibodeau’s strategy a blue print to beat the Heat? No; the Bulls’ didn’t reinvent the wheel, they just decided not to be intimidated. Where’s the rocket science in that? If anything, teams’ now know that they don’t have to be intimidated by the Heat because the folks at ESPN say so.

The key to victory for Chicago was not just on the defensive side of the ball; it also took balanced scoring and timely shots to complete the abrupt dismantaling of the streak. Going into game against Miami, Chicago was dead last in the league in scoring at 92.9 per/gm. With Rose out, that kind of offensive production- or lack thereof- will not only hurt in terms of winning a playoff series, but it will also over stress a defense that currently ranks 3rd in the league allowing 92.4 per/gm.

The one player who is a surprise to Bulls’ fans’ and myself is Jimmy Butler. If Butler can continue to bring to the lineup from a point standpoint what he did against Miami (17), the Bulls’ may have very well found themselves a much needed scoring option heading into this year’s playoffs and making their bench stronger in the process.

Off the bench: With Nate Robinson, Taj Gibson, and Nazr Mohammed, the Bulls’ second unit should be able to at least match the level of play provided by the starting unit. Maintaining or increasing the team’s lead can be crucial to playoff success. In some cases being able to outscore the opposition’s bench can make the difference in winning or losing a series.

The Bulls’ have a puncher’s chance aginst the Heat should the two meet in the Eastern conf. Finals’ if the offensive production on display in ending the streak can somehow be duplicated come playoff time.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: New York Knicks

After the first third of the 2013 NBA campaign was complete, the New York Knicks were blazing a trail that not only put the entire NBA on notice, there was serious talk about maybe this being Melo’s shot at winning his first ever MVP trophy. My oh my how quickly thing’s change. If nothing else, watching this season is a constant reminder that an NBA season is not a sprint, but indeed a marathon. I know the Knicks are second in the East behind Miami with a 42-26 overall record, but as the season winds down and the playoff contenders continue to jockey for position, the brand of basketball on display at the Garden from the beginning of this season to now is like night and day.

Melo being the leader on this team was giving effort on the defensive end of the floor never before seen his entire career up til now, and in turn, his teammates were following his lead until -it seems- Amare came back. Once Amare got back in the lineup it was back to the free for all on offense and to hell with it all on defense. Everything just vanished; no more ball movement, no more unselfishness, and no more listening to Mike Woodson.

The Knicks went from being a viable threat for winning it all, to a sure enough first round fall. As much as I like Melo’s tenacity and flat out scorer’s mentality, taking 65 shots to get 42 points is absurd!!! I don’t care who you are. Whatever offensive efficency the Knicks were utilizing at the beginning of this season is now gone and as a result (in my opinion), so to is Tyson Chandler and Amare. Playing out of sync has lead to unecessary injuries and Amare and Chandler get in each other’s way; when both are on the floor at the same time, Chandler is no more than a garbage man asked to pick up everbody else’s trash. The Knicks are most effective when Chandler is involved with the offense as a pick-n-roll player if nothing else. Right now the Knicks are 11th in total offense at 98.8 per/gm. If the season ended today, the Knicks would face off against the Celtics; do you think the Knicks win a series against Doc & co. playing free for all ball? I don’t either. The Knicks may be a number 2 seed, but they sure ain’t playin’ like one.

In order for the Knicks to avoid an early exit from this year’s playoffs, Amare must come off the bench, J.R. Smith needs to have a “governor” put on his v-8 type jump shot, and Melo needs to get back to his early season understanding of being a “table setter” first, and a scorer when the time calls for him to do so. It’s not how many shots you take that make the difference between winning and losing, it’s when you take em’. Another first round exit on his resume and Melo will be another forgotten scoring statistic.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Indiana Pacers

You would think by now most teams’ should realize that committing careless turnovers against the Heat not only makes what is a strength for them stronger, but also derails any chance for a victory. Especially if that team is the Indiana Pacers. The one team whose roster is compatible or comparable to the Heat. I know games are not won by who’s on the roster, but it’s not as if Indiana doesn’t have the talent to make a game of this magnitude formidable, they just don’t seem to have the mentality or want, to go toe-to-toe. If your goal as an NBA player is to win a championship, how in the world do you get off to such a slow start against the defending world champs? This was a game Indiana should have had circled on the calender six months ago. Where was the Pacer team that came to play in last season’s Eastern Conference semi’s? The Heat had 27 points off Indiana turnovers in a game that was essentially over in the first quarter.

I don’t know if the Pacers thought because they’ve beaten the Heat twice already this year just “showing up” was going to be good enough, I do know that any chance for beating Miami in the playoffs this go round centers around Roy Hibbert and no one else. Yes, Paul George must have much more of a contribution than the 10 insignificant points he scored in this woeful contest- at least from Indiana’s standpoint- but no contribution is more important than that of Hibbert’s.

Everyone that is anyone in the NBA knows the Heat are susceptible on the inside; why a 7-footer like Hibbert doesn’t demand of himself or from his coach the opportunity to exploit what is a glaring weakness for Miami makes no sense at all. It shows how poor the overall coaching is in the NBA and how undedicated to his craft Hibbert is. If Orlando Magic’s center Nikola Vucevic can pull down 20 rebounds against the Heat’s porous interior, surely a former Hoya-who’s been in the league longer- should be able to do better than 4; 1 offensive and 3 defensive in 32 minutes played!! Far too often Hibbert plays small instead of tall, like the 7-footer he is. To drive home my point even more, first year player Orlando Johnson had just as many (4) in a little over 14 minutes played. What a disgrace- for Hibbert and the Pacers. Free-throw attempts have to increase as well; 2-2 just won’t do. Hibbert would average 20+ pts/g and open the floor up for shooters Granger, Hill, and George if he were to get aggressive around the basket. Until he gets it in his mind to own the paint, we may never get to see how the Pacers’ roster really stacks up against the Heat.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Miami Heat

It has become increasingly apparent that the Miami Heat will once again win the Eastern Conference on their way to a second straight NBA Finals appearance. A 14 game win streak, LeBron, and Wade surely don’t hurt the cause, but the Heat’s return to the pinnacle has less to do with the King and Queen, and more to do with the Eastern Conference being – as a whole – downright abysmal this year. Save for the Indiana Pacers, there are no serious threats for the Heat to have to contend with until they reach the Finals. Here’s why:

New York: With the return of Amare the Knicks seem to be going backwards. He and Chandler get in each other’s way clogging up the middle and making difficult for either to function with any efficiency. Taking Amare out late in the game for defensive purposes spells doom; and Melo taking 30 shots to get 40 points is a recipe for disaster.

Chicago: The Bulls would join the Pacers as a serious contender if they didn’t treat scoring like a trip to the dentist. One of the best defensive teams’ in the league, not scoring causes the defnse to breakdown after awhile. Making a play for Rudy Gay or Josh Smith would have given Chicago some real bite; Rose needed that kind of help.

Nets: Brook Lopez is tall, but slow. Joe Johnson’s would be exposed for his iso style of play and Deron Williams would twist, or tweak something before the series even got fully underway. Bench play is terrible.

Hawks: Al Horford needs to be playing for a real contender and Teague is nice; outside of that Atlanta is soft.

Celtics: Former champs took Heat to seventh game last season without defensive mosquito Avery Bradley, but now are without floor general “Tom Rondo”, or “Rajon Brady” if you’d like. Jeff Green has been playing well as of late, but father time may be knocking on the Celtics’ door. I won’t count out a Doc Rivers coached team though.

Bucks: Milwaukee’s guards are too small for Heat to take them serious. Heat are at times vulnerable on the interior; I couldn’t even tell who the Bucks’ frontline players are.

Pacers: Indiana was more concerned about winning the fight instead of playing as a team when these two met last year. Hibbert playing big on the inside and George finally showing signs of confidence could serve them well should the two meet again.

Alas, all will fall if Stern makes the final call… for LeBron is the “Chose One!”

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Houston Rockets

Houston, we have a problem… the Rockets’ delegitimize themselves by not being able to keep opponents from scoring at a torrid pace, giving up an average 103.4 per/g; which explains why they’re next to last (29th of 30) in points allowed. Because they score just as many as they give up (106.4 per/g), and are 2nd best in the league in doing so, the Rockets’ are able to maintain a decent 31-26 won-loss record. To bad the playoffs are not a halfcourt game; the Rockets’ would run everybody right out of the gym!!! More so than the Spurs’, watching Harden & co. run their offense is a thing of beauty. I’d rather shave hair off the backside of an angry lion than watch them play defense. It’s that bad.

Adding Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia should help. How soon that help arrives is the question Rocket fans can’t wait to get an answer to. Robinson is the main piece in GM Daryl Morey’s latest deadline deal that should prove to be his biggest yet. Robinson looked at times out of place in Sacramento because of all the nonsense surrounding the “ALOOF” brothers and the logjam at forward. Being drafted by the Kings was a waste of his time. How can a player even scratch the surface of his potential when thrown into chaos and confusion right from the start? Kevin McHale will no doubt find a much more determined role for Robinson who should benefit immensely.

Harden has proved that being a starter is not at all a burden, and there is still time for OKC to regret ever having let him go. His ability to put the ball in the basket with little or no effort is equal to only Tony Parker of the Spurs’. However, defense is a big problem. Harden clearly sets the tone on offense, he also should set the tone on defense as well if the Rockets’ are to have any chance of avoiding a first round exit come playoff time.

Jeremy Lin is an “up and down” type of player who doesn’t seem to play without the ball as well as he does with the ball. The Rockets’ run pick & roll with Lin and Harden pretty effectively, but it’s not a recipe you can rely on in the playoffs. Once again, the theme here is that interior play determines if and how far you advance in the playoffs. Especially with the Rockets’ not being a very good rebounding team. How long can shooting 49% from 3 help you maintain sustainability? Chandler Parson’s injury only makes the situation worse.

The Rockets’ are a perimeter oriented team that can score in bunches with the best of em’, but their losses will start to mount if the interior play is not addressed immediately. I think McHale knows the Lakers’ smell blood in the water; they better hope Robinson is the lifeboat.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Utah Jazz

Of all the potential playoff contenders in the Western conference, the Utah Jazz baffle me the most. Come to think of it, they baffle me more than any playoff team this year!

Going into the All-Star break this weekend, the Jazz are sittin’ pretty decent with a 30-24 record overall and a 7th seed if the playoffs sarted today. The numbers aren’t too shabby until you see the Jazz play. Their play -at times- is reminiscent of the stock market and they still somehow managed to pull off being 11th in the league in points scored at 98.3 per. What’s even more crazy is they allow per game (98.6), darn near just as many as they put up!! That’s adds up to a whole bunch of close games and a nice playoff seed, but a “don’t take your shoes off, cause you’re not stayin”- come tourney time.make no mistake, the Jazz will be first round casualties.

Al Jefferson (6-10/265), and Derrick Favors (6-10/246), bolster an interior that would serve the Jazz well during the playoffs, it’s the perimeter play that would eventually lead to their early first round exit. Favors will have to give better production; averaging 9 pts a game won’t cut it.

Mo Williams is the only viable threat fom the perimeter because of his ability to score in bunches, but he’s a sixth man off the bench who’s only appeared in 24 games this season. His 12.9 are sorely missed.

Randy Foye’s 11.8 don’t cause the opposition much fear, but shooting 80% fom the line will keep a defense honest; 42% from three means not enough mid-range to me.

Alec Burks is another case for the argument, “should college players stay an extra year?” He looks like a strong candidate for the promise outweighs the production award. An award the NBA should consider adding to all the other “dust collectors” they hand out.

Gordon Heyward seems to always be “questionable” since his arrival. Not to bash the whole group, I thought Butler players’ were supposed to be tough? He’s more bust than baller at this point. Can you say, Adam Morrison? I digress.

Enes Kanter’s jersey number is 0, and so too is his value and production. Jamaal Tinsley looks too old, and Earl Watson couldn’t hit a bull in the backside with a shovel if it were standin’ right in front of him!!!

Milsap has a nice game, but he’d be far more dangerous if he added a mid-range.

In the end, the Jazz just don’t have enough of everything to make a serious run in the playoffs this go round. Maybe next year will be different when Heyward (9th pick overall-2010), Kanter (3rd pick overall-2011), and Burks (12th pick overall-2011) figure it’s time to get down to the business of perfectin’ the craft of basketball.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Golden State Warriors

Don’t look now, but the Golden State Warriors’ are comin; exactly where and how far once they get there is the question that remains. Whatever the case may be, it has become abundantly clear the decision to make former NBA great Mark Jackson head coach was not only a great move on the part of ownership and management, but also serves notice to the basketball world that these Warrriors’ are no longer brandishing “toy swords.”

For instance, coach Jackson played in the NBA at time when- as i’ve mentioned before- what’s considered a flagrant 2 in today’s NBA would have been a put a band aid on it and get back out there moment during his day. The toughness and attention to defense that he’s brought to this current group of Warriors’ is somewhat similar to what you see in Chicago with Tommy T and the Bulls. The idea is that all 5 guys must play on a string defensively if there is no one player on the team who can do so individually. On offense the shot selections will be done selective and strategically, not helter skelter; with an emphasis on the overall offensive approach being “inside-out”, and not “outside-in.” This is the approach used by teams’ like the Spurs’, Lakers (before D’Antoni), and Celtics. All of which have won numerous titles throughout their existence. It’s not about building for the all important and ever so elusive one, but instead creating a system and mentality that will produce many. Here today, and still here tomorrow is the mindset Jackson is trying to establish. Who else deserves 75% of the credit for David Lee being an All-Star this season? Lee has been a decent statistical player (for the most part) since his arrival to the NBA, but it’s the attention to defense implored by Jackson that has put Lee in his first All-Star uniform.

Because the NBA over saturates the viewing public with only a select few, most people don’t get a chance to see the Warriors’ and the up and coming formidable roster they have put together.

Stephen Curry has become one the league’s most dangerous shooter’s, who at times looks as though he can shoot from anywhere on the floor now that it seems his ankle issues are (for now) a distant memory. Richard Jefferson apparently took a drink from the fountain of youth, because his play in the Bay area has been far better this season than at any time during his stint with the Spurs. Jarret Jack is a throwback; every NBA team should have one. The Dallas Mavericks’ had one in Deshawn Stevenson. The difference being Jack can score- averages a soild 12.4!! His understanding of game tempo is not on the level of CP3, or Rondo, but the fact he has an idea of what it means is invaluable to the Warriors’ come playoff time. Throw in the high basketball I.Q. and dead-eye shooting Klay Thompson with the better than I expected Harrison Barnes, and the rejuvenated Carl Landry to go with the Tom Izzo coached Draymond Green and thorn in your side Brandon Rush, the Warriors’ will be a playoff problem in the West. In a recent matchup against mainstream favorite OKC, the Warriors’ made Durant and Westbrook look like jackers of all shots and makers of none in a 104-99 victory 1/23/12. A game the Thunder led for 3 1/2 quarters with a double digit lead more than once. A healthy Bogut makes for an interesting out come if these 2 meet in the playoffs.

I’m not saying the Warriors’ will win an NBA title this year because playoff experience is a key ingrediant to winning it all. I am saying any team that faces them better not make the same mistake the 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics did losing to the Denver Nuggets in the first round, or the more recent Denver Broncos to the Baltimore Ravens after being heavy favorites.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Los Angeles Clippers

If you’re a fan of basketball the way it was intended to be played, the L.A.Clippers’ are the team you must absolutely root for. Not because they just recently completed a league best 17-game win streak, or because they are affectionately referred to as “Lob City”, nor the fact that they are 4th in pts allowed (93.1) and 7th in pts scored (101.9); You must root for this team simply because of Chris Paul.

I have always said that no matter how much scoring is increased and dunks are lauded, in order to win an NBA Title a team must have a facilitator, and Paul fits the description to a tee. For all you stat geeks, Paul is 48%fg, 89%ft, 91stl(thru 35 gms), 104 d-reb — yeah, defensive reb!!–, 326ast, and 199 3-pt att; which tells me he’s selective and not just jackin’ em up.

The question remains, can the Clippers win come playoff time? Yes. As long as Paul stays healthy. More important to me than numbers is Paul’s ability to control tempo on both ends of the floor and keeping everyone else in their natural order. While most NBA fans were marveling at the 17- game win streak, I was more impressed with how Paul was determined to let the Warriors’ know that there would be no ” 3rd time’s a charm” after losing twice to Golden State this season before putting on a clinic in a 115-89 victory this past Saturday. Avenging the losses to the Warriors’ mattered more to Paul than the fantastic win streak; that’s the mindset mandatory for the playoffs.

The Clippers’ will go as far as Paul takes them; hopefully to a new building next year if nothing else. They’ve clearly outgrown the Staples Center.