Jazz-Spurs Game 3 Preview: Can home save the Jazz?

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Utah doesn’t need to just win against the Spurs in Game 3 in Utah Saturday. They need to outright dominate in order to make a statement that they aren’t going to be pushed over. Because at this rate, they’re headed for a sweep in short order.

The Jazz had some positive things going in Game 1. They got some production, did some things well, showed that they might be able to make some adjustments. It wasn’t necessarily an encouraging game, but it wasn’t the worst possible thing that could have happened.

That was Game 2.

The Spurs were better in every conceivable area in Game 2, and made adjustments to shut down what had worked to limited success in Game 1. The Spurs came in with huge advantages and have carried them to their furthest extent. From Tim Duncan defending Al Jefferson to Manu Ginobili taking Gordon Hayward off the dribble to help defense to transition buckets… you get the idea.

So what does Utah have to do in Game 3 to try and gain some sort of respect in the series and avoid going down the inescapable 0-3 hole? Three things.

 

1. Get out and run. They pushed the pace more in Game 2 and Ty Corbin has said they want to try and slow the Spurs down. But the Jazz have athletes in front of a homecrowd and the best way to rattle a team with homecourt momentum is to get big plays like dunks on athleticism. Derrick Favors can help in this situation, but the Utah Jazz guards are going to have to push with abandon, and in general, they’ve been gunshy against the pressure.

2. Trap Tony Parker and live with the results. At some point you have to say that anything else is better. The Spurs are going to destroy the Jazz from the outside if they trap Parker, most likely. But guess what? They’re getting destroyed by Parker. At some point the devil you don’t know is better than the one you do.

3. Drive and kick. The Spurs have good defenders but not fast ones. The Jazz guards are going to have to create penetration and then kick to either outside shooters like Gordon Hayward or Paul Millsap spot-up from midrange.

The series isn’t out of hand yet. But another game like this series has gone, and Utah can start making vacation plans.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.

LeBron James beautifully pass-fakes, makes layup in transition (video)

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LeBron James is a treasure.

Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe is seriously jacked up (PHOTO)

shaq o'neal
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Remember how we we all freaked out when we saw pictures of LeBron James‘ feet back in 2013?

You probably didn’t want to be reminded that it existed, but it does. Still. And apparently jacked up feet is the consequence of a lifetime of playing professional basketball. Once can only assume it has something to do with tight shoes and constant, hard changes of direction in said tight shoes.

We got yet another vision of what basketball shoes can do to feet on Thursday when TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal showed off his, er, little piggies.

Much to the horror of the Internet in general, it was Shaq’s right big toe that took social media by storm. Mostly because it’s not even close to pointing in the right direction.

I’m going to show you what it looks like. Be forewarned, it might just be NSFL.

Via Twitter:

Oh. Oh … why?

Social media reacted appropriately and proportionately:

Shaq did have issues with that toe during the course of his career, and at one point it was so bad that he had to have surgery to remove bone spurs from the toe in 2002.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s all over your TV and the Internet, but here we are. I am sorry.