Why question “When did basketball get so bad?” misses mark

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NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that.

Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw in a “get off my lawn.”

“Dan, it’s frustrating for me — and I get paid to watch these teams, so I have to scout these teams — I have to watch all these teams, and I’m sitting here saying I have to go over the schedule with a fine toothed comb to find even one good team playing,” Barkley told Patrick. “When are they playing Indiana? When are they playing Miami? When are they playing Portland or Oklahoma City or the Spurs? Like, I don’t want to watch the Lakers against Toronto. I don’t want to watch the Sixers against Orlando?”

I think they miss the point.

Are there some bad teams now, which leads to some bad games? Yes. Got news for you Charles and Dan — there were terrible teams and games in the NBA when Barkley played. A lot of them. Take Barkley’s arguably best season 1990-91 — his Sixers barely broke .500 with 44 wins and they were the five seed in the East. Not exactly a stacked East, was it? Yes, it was great that year when Michael Jordan and the Bulls took on Detroit or Portland or the Lakers. But you know what, there were games between the 31-win Clippers and the 25-win Kings. Between the 24-win Heat and the 33-win Cavaliers. There was a lot of bad basketball that was not easy to watch. There were a lot of bad owners then just trying to make a profit (see the Clippers and Warriors).

It’s just that 20 plus years later you choose not to remember that part of the league.

The difference is now with League Pass, plus NBA TV and more than just a game a week on national television, we get to see a lot more of the league. Plus when Barkley played there was no Internet in the way we know it now — there were no NBA blogs and passionate bloggers breaking down every game in some detail (which started to force newspapers to cover the teams better rather than ignore them in some markets). The saturation of information was far less intense. Maybe you liked it that way, but that really speaks to you not the league.

What makes this season look so bad is some of the worst teams are in major markets — the Knicks and Nets are terrible right now, the Celtics are rebuilding and miss Rajon Rondo, the Lakers and Bulls are down and dealing with stars who have (or have had) major injuries. So now the star power shifts to smaller markets like Indiana and San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Even Miami, it’s middle of the pack in terms of NBA market size.

Outside of maybe Memphis and Brooklyn, is how much some of these name teams are struggling really a surprise? Not if you were paying attention.

If you are really a fan of the game there is great basketball to enjoy right now, and because of the level of coverage we get to see more of it. Savor how fun Portland is to watch on offense. We get to see Indiana evolve into a contender and Paul George emerge as an elite player. Kevin Durant is just a joy to watch play the game.

And those are just the big names. Today with all this coverage we get to see the little things we would have missed before — Andre Drummond’s emergence in Detroit, Ricky Rubio’s passes in Minnesota, DeMarcus Cousins (on his good nights) in Sacramento, and Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Just to name a few. Even in Philly, Michael Carter-Williams is a revelation and the Sixers are playing fast and fun basketball.

All that is just the tip of the iceberg. We are entering a golden age of basketball. Savor it. Don’t miss out on it because it doesn’t live up to your rose-colored glasses view of the past.

Dan and Charles, you don’t have to get off my lawn. Just grab a lemonade, sit down and try to enjoy the show.

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.