To be honest, as a Raptors fan I’ve struggled to watch much regarding the NBA playoffs since Kyle Lowry got his shot blocked (or fouled depending on your rooting interest). The Nets have no real chance against the Heat. Ditto for the inexperienced Blazers against the battle tested Spurs. And the Wizards and Pacers are basically playing to become the next guest stars on LeBron James’ career highlight tape. So that leaves me with the Clippers and Thunder. In reality it’s almost a shame that these two teams had to meet in the second round as opposed to the conference or better yet in the NBA finals (if there was such thing as league wide re-seeding in the playoffs). So despite swearing off the post season for a while, the basketball fan in me had no choice but to jump right into this series. What more could you ask for in terms of drama. Star power with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (and Little Chris) against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Big market LA vs small market OKC. Doc Rivers trying to bring his championship experience to the Clippers versus Scott Brooks trying to prove that the Thunder do actually have set plays that they practice on a regular basis despite what Russell Westbrook tries to show otherwise.
You get the point, this series has been basketball’s equivalent to must see TV. Both games 4 and 5 came right down to the wire with both teams having a chance to win at the buzzer. The Clippers came back from 14 points down to win game 4 at home, then proceeded to choke down the stretch in game 5 to return the favour to OKC. Heading into game 6 this series is by far the best of the second round and before its all said and done, it could be the best of the entire playoffs. Seeing two of the best point guards in the league going head to head has been nothing short of epic (CP3: 22 ppg, 12.2 apg, 51.2 FG%. Russ: 29.6 ppg,8.2 apg, 6.6 rpg, 52.6 FG%…WTF!!!). Blake Griffin has taken his game to the next level. Kendrick Perkins and Matt Barnes have yet to throw a punch at each other, although its still early. And watching Kevin Durant having to battle Clipper double teams and Russell Westbrook’s shot selection has been an MVP type performance all on its own. This series has been so good that it almost makes you forget about the Clippers racist piece of crap owner, his wife and his side chick that somehow manages to give side chicks even more of a bad name (#TheseHoesAintLoyal).
But along with the Clippers front office turning into a scene from the Young and the Restless, another terrible distraction from this series is the officiating…but don’t fall for this storyline. Doc Rivers’ rant at the end of game 5 would lead to you to believe that the refs played a major role in the Clippers collapse. But let’s be serious for a second, your team is up 7 points with 49.2 seconds left on the clock. OKC came back to win WITHOUT FOULING to extend the game!?!? How is that even possible? Well, I’ll tell you how, you let the MVP/scoring champ shoot a 3 pointer out of a timeout in which the game plan was to foul him and not let him shoot a three. You run a terrible set at the other end, give up a long rebound and outlet pass to the same MVP/scoring champ who walks down rodeo drive for a lay up (yes a lay up with the game on the line, to quote Chuck “That’s Turrble Kenny”). Now, you’re still up 2 points, BUT THEN your all-star point guard anticipates getting fouled and so he tries to shoot the ball from three quarter court distance, only to turn over the ball leading to what Doc calls the play or call that changed the game.
But to me here’s the thing, we all rag on officiating but at the end of the day, don’t we all just want the right call to be made. I mean, isn’t that the whole purpose of bringing in replay, to get the call right. I get that you can’t review a foul call. But to me it was pretty obvious what happened. The refs called it out of bounds. They then look at the replay and see that obviously Reggie Jackson got fouled and so they give the ball to OKC. They called it Thunder possession in the first place, which means the replay would have to prove that undoubtedly the ball went off of Jackson. But what the replay did show, was that undoubtedly Matt Barnes fouled him. I just don’t understand the Clippers beef at all. If we all know that you fouled him, then why even argue the play and then spend the entire post game blaming the refs. Especially when what followed was the worst play in basketball, which is fouling a 3 point shooter in the act (cue Chuck shaking his head again). Then, even with all of that chaos going on, the game still came down to a situation that most coaches would love to be in at the end of a playoff game. The clock winding down with the game in the hands of their best player. The problem for the Clippers though, was that Chris Paul couldn’t even get a shot off. As disappointing as that was, I’ll give CP3 a lot of credit for putting this loss on his own shoulders. I mean as a player, how could you not want to follow the lead of a guy like that right?
But lets go back to Doc for a minute. He will get fined and maybe he’s thinking ahead and trying to buy a call or two in game 6. Or maybe he was just trying to take some of the pressure off of his team and his best player Chris Paul. But he also has to realize that when his team goes 1-for-6 from the floor with 4 turnovers in the last 4 minutes of the game, you can try and blame the refs/replay all you want…but you’re better off looking in the mirror. Again, thank you internet for this gem….
All I know is that I can’t wait for game 6 and if we’re lucky a game 7. How can I not want to see 2 more games of what I like to call “The Russell Westbrook Roller Coaster of Love”. There’s nothing in sports like the Russell Westbrook experience, I mean absolutely nothing. He might be the second most over analyzed player in the league behind LeBron James. His numbers are godly, his speed and athleticism are unmatched, but unfortunately for Scott Brooks’ health, sometimes so is his basketball IQ. I’ve taken a few subtle jabs at Russ in this post, but I like many have developed a love hate relationship with his game. I for one, don’t think that any point guard at any level should ever dribble the ball over half court, not pass the ball ONCE, but yet proceed to jack up a shot; and yet that play is in Mr. Westbrook’s regular rotation. Its just bad basketball and its being a bad teammate, especially when one of your teammates is the MVP/scoring champ (have I mentioned that already?)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player at any level make so many mind blowing plays both good and bad, with consistency, in such short periods of time. His shot selection is always questionable at best, as he is the definition of what Stephen A. Smith used to famously call a “shooting guard masquerading as a point guard” (a sentiment echoed by Kenny the Jet on TNT’s post game show). The tricky part for OKC is that, this is how they play. They’ve gotten this far with Russ playing exactly like this and the only question now is can they actually win a championship this way. Because if I’m the Spurs or the Heat (or yes the Clippers), my game plan is to double KD and let Russ continue to think he’s the man and hopefully his hero ball will become villain-esque for Thunder fans. Just look at the end of game 5. Chris Paul fouls and bails him out on a TERRIBLE game winning three point attempt and what’s even worse, is that it was the same exact same shot that Russ took a few possessions prior for an AIR BALL. Look I’m by no means a basketball expert, but somethings just don’t pass the eye test. I just think that sometimes Russ needs to make the basic play within the team concept. Then again, word on the street is that Greivis Vasquez was on Toronto radio talking about how his high school teammate Kevin Durant will be a Toronto Raptor come 2016. So maybe this whole Russell Westbrook poor shot selection thing is something that all Raptor fans should be cheering for…along with two more games from these two great teams. Enjoy the playoffs my friends…
As always, just my thoughts. Right or wrong, just how I’m feeling at the time.