Fratello Telestrator


Ukraine and The Czar

Tony Parker led Group A top seed France to a 77-71 victory over Ukraine in Game 4 of the Qualifying Round with 28 points. Ukraine must bounce back and beat Great Britain in Game 5 to guarantee that we advance to Round 2 of the EuroBasket. GBR vs. UKR tips off  Monday at 8:30 AM ET.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos courtesy of FIBA Europe’s official EuroBasket 2013 website.

Czar’s Finals Preview

Copyright NBAE 2012 - Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 2013 NBA Finals kick off in Miami tonight, and as is the case in most championship rounds there are plots on top of subplots and buried storylines soon to be unearthed in the hot glow of the Ring Round.

The Heat and Spurs are worthy adversaries. Both are veteran teams that have been infused with a little bit of youth in key positions. Both have deep rosters with several stars and experienced guys coming off the bench. Both possess players who have competed in a number of important playoff games during their careers. Both boast excellent 3-point shooting capabilities. And both teams are led by outstanding coaches.

The Heat beat the Spurs twice this season, but how these teams performed in their two regular season meetings doesn’t carry much weight. Pop sent his core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back home to rest after a rough six-game road trip prior to the first game in Miami. And Spoelstra sat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers in their second matchup.

A concern for the Spurs is that their almost 10-day layoff after sweeping Memphis in the WCF could hinder their performance in the finals – rest vs. rust.  It also remains to be seen how the Heat will hold up physically after a grueling 7-gamer against Indiana in the ECF.

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photos by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesWill these Finals be remembered as one of the best? After all, many hoops heads have both Tim Duncan and LeBron James on their all-time NBA starting five. One would have to go back to Magic vs. Larry and Michael vs. Magic to equal the historical mano-a-mano accomplishments of Duncan and James.

Wade and Bosh, Parker and Ginobili – which duo will come through when it really counts? We know that Wade has a bum knee and that Bosh twisted his ankle in the ECF. Can both or either of them produce at their career averages, or will they continue to struggle? Has Tony Parker elevated his game and gone from star to superstar this postpeason? Is Parker the second best player in this series?

Will second-year wingman Kawhi Leonard be able to slow LeBron down even a little? Which supporting cast will rise to the occasion? Will the inside presence of 6’11” Tiago Splitter and Duncan give the Heat the same kind of headaches that Indy’s bigs did in the last round?

A fifth ring could cement Coach Gregg Popovich’s (the longest tenured coach in both the NBA and all four big sports leagues) status as one of the all-time top 5 coaches in the league? How impressive would it be if San Antonio were to win the 2013 title 14 years after winning their first one with Pop?!

How will the fact that Miami has played so much heavily scrutinized basketball the past 30 months (3 straight Finals) affect them mentally and physically? And finally, is the world about to bear witness to the best basketball that 28-year-old, 10th-year 4X MVP LeBron James has ever played?

All the answers will be revealed over the next two weeks in what has the makings of a historic NBA Finals. San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat Game 1 will get underway at 9:00 PM ET on ABC.

Gameday Dish: Mavericks vs. Spurs

Chicago Bulls v San Antonio SpursThe Dallas Mavericks have made the NBA playoffs 12 straight seasons, but they will need to give a Herculean effort over their last 19 regular season games if they want to make it a baker’s dozen. At 30-33 they sit in 10th place in the competitive Western Conference.

To that cause, coach Rick Carlisle’s guys have won their past four games and head into San Antonio tonight hoping to extend their winning ways to a season-high 5 consecutive victories.

Standing in the way will be their instate nemesis, the West-leading 49-16 Spurs. However, when 5X NBA All-Star PG Tony Parker went down with a sprained ankle on March 1st it made San Antonio eminently more beatable.

In two of the last three contests, coach Gregg Popovich’s squad has fallen to the 29-34 Trail Blazers and the 22-40 Timberwolves.

The 107-83 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday was played without starting forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, who are both battling sore knees.

Dallas Mavericks v Orlando MagicBut the 136-106 shellacking by Portland at home on March 8th with the Spurs’ full compliment of players minus Parker was a true shock.

It’s hard to paint a bleak picture in Silver & Black when the Spurs also went to OKC this past Monday and emerged victorious 105-93. However, Tuesday’s loss to the Wolves allowed the Thunder to get within just one game of  their best-in-the-West record.

Dallas last played on Tuesday night at Milwaukee. Behind balanced scoring and Vince Carter’s 23 points off the bench, including 3 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the Mavs came out on top 115-108.

Tonight’s 48 will be the fourth game between these two sides. The Spurs have won all three previous matchups by an average of 23 points, including a 129-91 dismantling on December 23rd at the AT&T Center. In addition, the Alamo City ballers are an impressive 26-4 at home this season.

Both Duncan and Leonard are expected to be back in the Spurs’ starting lineup, while Dallas’s veteran forward Shawn ‘The Matrix’ Marion will miss his fourth game with a left calf contusion.

Tune in to TNT at 8:00 PM ET to see if San Antonio can sweep the season series from Big D for the first time in 15 years.

Czar’s Playoff Preview: Clippers vs. Spurs Game 1

The Los Angeles Clippers come to the Alamo City tonight to take on the #1-seeded Spurs. The Spurs finished the lockout-shortened season at 50-16, tied with the Bulls for best record in the NBA. 2012 Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s squad is on a 14-game winning streak, and they’ve had plenty of time to rest up since sweeping the Utah Jazz in the first round on May 7th.

On the other bench, the Clippers are tired and dinged-up thanks to a knock-em-down, seven-game first round series with the physical, bruising Grizzlies. The West’s 5th seed won on Sunday 82-72 in Memphis and advanced to the second round for only the third time in franchise history.

2nd-year All-Star Blake Griffin played only two minutes in the 4th quarter in the Game 7 victory, partly because he’s been hobbled with a sprained left knee. If tonight’s 48 were a regular season game Griffin would definitely be sitting out, but it’s the do-or-die postseason and LA will need his 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg and athletic energy to compete against the disciplined depth of the Spurs.

5X All-Star PG Chris Paul, who finished third in the MVP balloting this year, is also less than 100% as he’s nursing a strained right hip flexor. 1st-year Clip Paul went for 19 and 9 on Sunday and was the key to the success of the Clips this season. He can dominate both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor and has the best handle in the league. The Wake Forest product has led the league in steals four times including this season. Paul’s matchup with 4X All-Star PG Tony Parker (who finished 5th in MVP voting this year) and his ability to slow down the zooming Frenchman will be critical for LA to have a chance in this series.

LA’s Vinny Del Negro had his best W-L % this year as a head coach, .606, and is in the second round for the first time. Del Negro endured loads of criticism, second-guessing and negative rumors during the year, but toughed it out and has ClipperLand giddy with their first round success. Interestingly, the pride of Springfield, MA once suited up as a Spur for Gregg Popovich in Pop’s first two years in San Antonio.

These two sides played three times this regular season, twice in Texas and once at Staples. The Spurs came out on top on December 28th at home 115-90 and on February 18th in SoCal 103-100 in OT. Their final meeting was on March 9th in San Antonio, and the Clippers prevailed 120-108. Paul had 36 points, 11 dimes and 4 steals in that win, although his lead-guard rival Parker was out with a sore thigh. Regardless, that victory should give the long-suffering Clipper fan base some hope when the Game 1 tips off.

Tune in tonight at 9:30 PM ET to watch the 4-banner Spurs take on the upstart Clippers on TNT.