Czar’s Playoff Preview


Copyright 2014 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesBrooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat

The Heat, led by the All-Universe LeBron James, hold a solid 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series over the veteran-heavy Nets squad.

Even as Brooklyn swept the regular season series 4-0 against Miami, most hoops-heads predicted the Heat in 5 or 6 games. Miami took Game 1 by 21 points and a closer Game 2 by 12 points. In the opening 48, Kevin Garnett failed to score a single point, while in Game 2 heavily-scrutinized PG Deron Williams put up a glaring goose egg.

For Game 3 back in Brooklyn, the Nets splashed 15 three-bombs to hand Miami its first postseason L this year.

And then came LeBron in Game 4. Hard. Assassin-style. He poured in 49 points and essentially willed his side to a tough, 6-point victory. The Heatles could very well finish this series tonight in the Sunshine State.


Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers

If ever a team in the 2014 postseason needed a psychiatrist or a detective, it is this Indiana roster. After securing the East’s number 1 seed, the up-and-down Pacers were forced to a Game 7 by the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks in Round 1. And now they find themselves in a battle with the hungry and young Wizards. Although they lead the series 3-2, they were embarrassed last night at home by 23 points, and it wasn’t even that close. As the Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat dominated inside with 31 points and 16 boards, Indiana grabbed a meager 23 rebounds, a playoff franchise low. After the Wiz took Game 1 in Indy, the Pacers rallied behind a rejuvenated Roy Hibbert (28 points, 9 rebounds) and won a close Game 2 to knot the series. In Game 3 Indiana crushed the Wizards 85-63 on their home court. And in a backbreaking loss, the Pacers came back from a 19-point deficit to take Game 4. Paul George exploded for 39 points and 12 boards in the demoralizing defeat. Indiana has two games to win one, but with a collective fragile psyche, who knows how this series plays out.



Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE - Photo by Richard Rowe/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

In what is undecidedly the most exciting series this round, the Thunder hold a 3-2 lead by the slimmest of margins over the Lob City Clips. After both teams were taken to the 7th game in the first round, few prognosticators knew what to expect from these superstar-laden sides. In Game 1, LA routed OKC 122-105, largely fueled by CP3’s 32 points and 8 three-pointers. Coach Doc Rivers’ guys led by 14 after one quarter and 26 at the end of three. In Game 2, on the night KD accepted his first NBA MVP award, the league’s top scorer went for 32, 12 boards and 9 dimes and the Thunder prevailed. Assisting the Slim Reaper was Russell Westbrook, who tallied a triple double with 31, 10 & 10. Back in SoCal for Game 3, OKC’s dynamic duo did it again in a 118-112 victory. Between the two of them they combined for 59 points, 16 rebounds and 19 dimes.

In Game 4, the Clippers rallied from a 15-point, 4th quarter hole and came out on top 101-99 to even the series. Reserve guard Darren Collison led LA’s improbable comeback, adding 8 points in the final 3 minutes. OKC was outscored 38-24 in the final frame. Which brings us to last evening’s Game 5 back in Oklahoma. In an even more outrageous finish than Game 4, the Thunder erased a 7-point deficit in the final 50 seconds to snatch a controversial 105-104 victory. Russell Westbrook scored a career playoff-high 38 points and hit 3 crucial free throws with just seconds remaining to eke out the W. After the game Doc Rivers and his players were furious over a late out-of-bounds call that gave possession to OKC. They believed the ball went out off of the Thunder. Either way, Game 5 will go down as a playoff classic. The Thunder can close out this grueling series on Thursday night in LA, but look for the Clippers to defend home court and send it to 7.


Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs

In Game 1 the NBA’s number one overall seed won by 24 points. In Game 2, the Spurs defeated the Blazers by 17. Back in Rip City for Game 3, the machine-like San Antonio team scored a 15-point W. Up an insurmountable 3-0 in this Western Conference semifinals, NBA Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s guys were denied the sweep in Game 4, 102-93. As a team San Antonio shot 3-18 from deep ,and Manu Ginobili had just 2 points. Neither side performed particularly well. However, the proud Blazer squad played hard with the backing of one of the league’s most loyal fan bases. After a tough seven-game opening round against Dallas, look for the Spurs to end this series tonight at home where they were 32-9 in the regular 82.


Around the League

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Around the League

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Around the League


Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 18-9 Los Angeles Clippers are enjoying a 3-game winning streak after beating the Pelicans at home on Wednesday 95 – 108. A big part of the Clippers’  success this season, as well as the past few years, is 25-year-old, 6’11” center DeAndre Jordan, who had 14 points and 20 rebounds against New Orleans.

Now in his sixth professional season, the Houston native was selected in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Clips. Jordan came into the league possessing great athleticism, but needed to refine his game. To his credit, the young man has shown steady improvement each year at both ends of the floor. As a result of all his hard work, Jordan has turned himself into one of the upper-tier centers in the NBA.

Jordan is second on the team in minutes with 35 mpg, behind only Blake Griffin’s 36.4 mpg, and he’s played in and started all 27 Clipper contests so far this year.  In fact, over the past two seasons LAC’s high-energy spark plug hasn’t missed a single game, including the regular season and playoffs.

The one-time Texas A&M Aggie is averaging 9.9 ppg, 13 rpg, 1 spg and 2.2 bpg while shooting 65% from the field, a significant improvement over his career averages of 6.9 ppg, 7 rpg and 1.5 bpg. Jordan has season highs of 17 points (2X), 21 boards, 9 blocks and 3 steals (2X). In addition, for a player so focused on defense, it’s impressive that #6 has yet to foul out of a game this year.

Jordan would be a great holiday pickup for any fantasy GM. Throw in the fact that the Clippers play six games over the next ten days, and a DeAndre addition looks to be even more impactful than a team of amateur reindeer on a rickety rooftop. Even if your Fantasy team is loaded with bigs, Jordan is a player in the midst of a statistical breakthrough. So grab this holiday bargain before his price tag blows up!