Neal before the King? Fight for Finals MVP

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Prior to the 2013 NBA Finals, many were predicting a second consecutive Championship for Miami with LeBron James again claiming MVP honours. However, the series has not gone accordingly so far with San Antonio opening up a 2-1 advantage with the next two games on their home floor and ‘King James’ is being outshone.

Ultimately, you would imagine that the Finals MVP award will go to a player on the Championship winning side (Jerry West 1969 being the only exception) and were Miami able to turn the series around, LeBron seems to be the only viable contender from the Heat given the little support he has received so far.

There are several contenders for the Spurs with the creator in Parker, the shooter in Green, the defensive stalwart in Leonard and the solid veteran in Duncan, who does everything for Gregg Popovich. He might not be making a lot of shots but his defensive presence is huge for San Antonio especially when Thiago Splitter is not on the floor. Continue reading

Owumi reflects on first season with Worcester

Alex Owumi has agreed to extend his spell in the BBL after his return to Worcester Wolves was announced for the 2013-14 season.

The news will provide an early boost for Paul James and Wolves fans alike after seeing Owumi light up the league in his first season in the BBL. The 29 year-old finished the season as the 2nd highest points scorer in the league with 688 at an average of 19.7 points per game. Continue reading

Will it be an unwelcome déjà vu for San Antonio?

Spurs 2-0 Grizzlies tbc..

Spurs 2-0 Grizzlies tbc.. Pic: NBA.com

San Antonio took care of home court in contrasting fashion to take a 2-0 series lead over Memphis and will now look to avoid repeating their collapse of 12 months ago.

The 2012 Western Conference Final started with the Spurs taking a 2-0 lead against Oklahoma before suffering defeat in the next four games and crashing out of the Playoffs.

Tony Parker eluded to their ‘nightmare’ before the series insisting that making the most of their home court advantage was vital and that last year’s defeat has been a motivation since training camp.

The Grizzlies are certainly capable of forcing San Antonio to re-live their collapse having already reeled off four straight victories in BOTH rounds so far, beating the Clippers 4-2 before a 4-1 win over last year’s Western victors OKC.

However, things haven’t quite clicked for Memphis just yet and their opponents have taken full advantage. Their head-coach, Lionel Hollins can at least take heart from the way his side battled back in Game 2 to force overtime but will be looking for All-Star Zach Randolph to have more of an impact on the series.

The opening game saw the Spurs get HOT from downtown in a dominant franchise record breaking performance (see tweet below) while the second was the ‘Tony Parker Show’ before holding their nerve in OT to go two up in the series. And this time it was the turn of Conley to pay tribute to TP9:

“Tony’s great, one of the best in the league! The draw and kick was effective and when you have a player creating a lot of plays it just puts pressure on the defence,” the Memphis guard added after going 0-2 down.

A 23-8 start to the series laid the foundation for an impressive beginning for Gregg Popovich‘s side as their lead grew to as many as 28 POINTS. San Antonio only needed six points from Tim Duncan in the 105-83 rout while the Grizzlies needed a lot more than the two points provided by Randolph.

His fortunes changed in Game 2, and in turn they changed for Memphis. However, not drastically as Randolph started the game going 1-10 before improving to 6-18 from the field for 15 points along with 18 rebounds while his front-court partner (and DPOY) Marc Gasol added 12p/14r.

San Antonio were out-rebounded 60-46 and gave up an 18 point lead which resulted in an extra period but they had all five starters in double-figures while Parker dished out a career-Playoff high 18 assists. The hosts enjoyed more minutes from Tiago Splitter and 14 more points this time around following the Brazilian‘s scoreless effort in the series opener.

Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are proving deadly 3-point shooters for the Spurs which makes them an effective team from outside considering the strengths of Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner coming off the bench. Memphis on the other hand, are not prolific shooters from beyond the arc and would much rather work the ball inside to either one of Z-Bo or Gasol and happily play out an old fashioned three point play.

The series is far from over and Memphis will be encouraged by their battling display to force OT in Game 2 while San Antonio will look to steal a game on the road to cast aside any lingering comparisons to their 2012 WC Finals.

Both sides will now get a few days extra rest as Miami and Indiana play their opening two games of the series and Duncan believes this period will benefit the Spurs.

Speaking about the break, the 3x NBA Finals MVP added: “It’s huge! Coming off the last game and now this physical series, we will be refreshed going into hostile territory. It will be a tough game in Memphis but we will use this time to be re-energised.”

Game 3 in Memphis takes place on Saturday @ 9pm Eastern Time which will equate to the early hours of Sunday morning in the UK.

NBA Playoffs: New York Knicks 2-4 Indiana Pacers

Down and out: The Knicks fall to Indiana

Down and out: The Knicks fall to Indiana in 6

The Knicks‘ long wait for an NBA Championship continued as the Indiana Pacers set up a Conference Final showdown with the reigning champions. New York almost threw away a 3-0 advantage in the first round against the Celtics before winning in Boston in Game 6 to clinch the series while the Pacers defeated Atlanta by the same 4-2 scoreline.

GAME 1: Indiana 102-95 New York @ Madison Square Garden

Indiana made a great start to their series with the Knicks by stealing the opening game on the road. Carmelo Anthony had a game high 27 points for the hosts while the Pacers had six players in double figures with David West leading the way with 20 points. The home side ended the opening quarter with the final nine points as Ray Felton and JR Smith netted triples to give New York a 27-18 lead. A run of six unanswered points gave the visitors the lead in the second and Paul George‘s 3-pointer made it 52-46 at half-time. In the third, the Pacers opened up a double-digit lead and finished the quarter in the ascendency to move 16 points clear at 81-65. ‘Melo‘ opened the fourth with the first six points and then added another basket soon after to take his tally to 20 points and reduce the Knicks‘ deficit to nine points. They closed to within six in the final minute but the game was beyond them as Indiana took a 1-0 lead.

Indiana lead the best-of-7-series 1-0.

GAME 2: Indiana 79-105 New York @ Madison Square Garden

New York bounced back from a disappointing defeat in Game 1 with a blowout in front of their home fans to tie the series. Anthony again top scored whilst adding 9 rebounds to his 32 point haul and the regular season scoring leader received support in the form of Iman Shumpert’s 15 points and 14 more from Felton. The Knicks made an 8-2 start and carried their early momentum throughout the opening quarter and Melo‘s basket made it 29-20 at the end of the first. The visitors managed to close within five points before the Knicks responded with the next 8 to see their lead peak at 47-34. However, New York then went scoreless for the final 3:46 of the half and the Pacers compiled a duplicate 8-0 run to again trail by five at the end of the second. Indiana kept up the pressure when play resumed and finally took the lead at 61-60 on a Lance Stephenson three. Anthony responded with five quick points and the Knicks finished the third well to lead 72-66 with the fourth to go. They then opened the final quarter with an incredible 20-0 run spanning over seven minutes to lead 92-66 with Anthony contributing 11 of those points. Quentin Richardson came off the bench to net consecutive 3-pointers to make it a 26-2 start to the 4th as the Knicks went on to seal an emphatic victory.

Series tied at 1-1.

GAME 3: New York 71-82 Indiana @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indiana edged a low scoring game at home to take a 2-1 series lead after a double-double from Roy Hibbert led the way. George Hill opened the game with two 3-pointers before George followed with one of his own as the Pacers set a deceiving tone. Anthony‘s successful jumpshot meant that the Knicks trailed 18-15 at the end of the first. Indiana built a ten point lead in the second with an 8-0 run but the gap was back down to three by half-time as the Knicks were down 36-33. Hill and George started the second as they did the first as Indiana enjoyed the better of the play in the third, using a 9-0 run to establish a 58-44 run midway through the quarter. Amar’e Stoudemire was making his return from injury for New York and the NBA veteran netted a triple on the buzzer as the visitors now trailed 62-53. The fourth quarter was relatively comfortable for the Pacers as they maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the final period to take care of home court. Hibbert‘s 24-12 was supported by George‘s 14-8-8 while the Knicks were led by Anthony‘s 21 points.

Indiana lead the best-of-7-series 2-1.

GAME 4: New York 82-93 Indiana @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indiana took care of home court to move within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals after a strong first half was enough to carry them to victory. George inspired an 11-3 start for the Pacers with six points before the Knicks responded with a similar run to tie the game. Indiana closed the first with a 9-2 run and led 23-16 after the opening quarter. The Pacers took control in the second with a strong start before with-holding a New York fightback to add an 13-2 run before Anthony ended the half with a jumpshot before the buzzer with the Knicks down 48-34. The lead peaked at 18 points in the third before the visitors managed to narrowly reduce their arrears by the end of the quarter, where they trailed 67-56. Chris Copeland and Smith combined to make it a single figure deficit but an 11-2 run from Indiana put the game beyond doubt. Smith netted a couple of late 3-pointers while Steve Novak also connected from downtown but the Pacers held the Knicks at bay from the free throw line.

Indiana lead the best-of-7-series 3-1.

GAME 5: Indiana 75-85 New York @ Madison Square Garden

New York extended the series in a must-win game at home to force Indiana to close out the series in Game 6. Anthony led the way with a 28 point haul and helped the Knicks into a fast start as they led 11-4 early on. The home side’s lead was cut to four by the end of the first where they led 19-15. Copeland netted a three in the second to make it a nine point lead but Indiana again narrowed the gap to six to trail 40-34 at half-time. The Pacers cut to within two points before the Knicks regained control and soon opened up a double digit advantage to take into the fourth. George made it a four point game with a 3-pointer but Anthony helped keep Indiana at bay and force another game with a ten point margin of victory. The Pacers were without Hill as George starred with a 23-6-6 display while Copeland helped the Knicks to an important win with 13 points off the bench in his first major contribution of the series.

Indiana lead the best-of-7-series 3-2.

GAME 6: NewYork 99-106 Indiana @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indiana closed out the series at the second attempt to set up a clash with the reigning NBA Champions in the Conference Final. Stephenson had a career-Playoff high 25 points complimented by 10 rebounds while Hibbert had a 21-12 double-double as the Pacers defied the Knicks and Anthony‘s 39 point haul. After falling down 15-9 early on, New York recovered through Melo‘s 12 opening quarter points and a couple of triples from Pablo Prigioni although they still trailed 29-27 after one. The Knicks kept in touch until an 8-2 run gave the home side some breathing space and were still in control at the half, leading 55-47. Anthony then added 11 points to his growing tally at the start of the third before Shumpert caught fire with a trio of scores from beyond the arc in 12-2 run capped by a Smith 3-pointer that tied the game at 72. Shumpert then added another from downtown while ‘Melo’ went to 35 points with the game all-square at 81 heading into a crucial fourth. The visitors led at the halfway mark following a ‘JR’ triple but Stephenson stepped up with seven points in a pivotal 9-2 run which effectively sealed the game and the series.

Indiana win the best-of-7-series 4-2.

                                     Top 5 Players

  1. Paul George 19.5 ppg; 7.0 rpg; 5.0 apg
  2. Carmelo Anthony 28.5 ppg; 7.8 rpg
  3. David West 14.7 ppg; 7.8 rpg
  4. Roy Hibbert 13.3 ppg; 10.3 rpg; 3.2 bpg
  5. George Hill 16.2 ppg; 4.8 rpg; 4.4 apg

Paul George confident ahead of clash with LeBron

Guard of honour: The MVP v the MIP

Guard of honour: The MVP v the MIP

Paul George is full of confidence regarding the Eastern Conference Final showdown with Miami Heat as well as his personal duel with LeBron James.

The Indiana Pacers’ forward will most likely match-up with the recently crowned League MVP but is not concerned about the daunting prospect.

George said after practice: “It will be fun! I always embrace challenges and I’m looking forward to it. It should be a good series and I’m more prepared this year.”

“I feel like I’m in the best of shape, my confidence is feeling great!” the 23 year-old added.

The 2012-13 season has already proved successful for George personally as he followed up a first All-Star appearance with the Most Improved Player award. The 6’8″ forward improved in scoring, rebounding and assists to propel the Pacers into the play-offs as the third seeds. His regular season improvements are as follows:

2011-12: 12.1 ppg; 5.6 rpg; 2.4 apg in 66 games (all starts)
2012-13: 17.4 ppg; 7.6 rpg; 4.1 apg in 79 games (all starts)

From Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James, it doesn’t get easier for George and his coach Frank Vogel is hoping his forward can do his best and contain the Heat star.

“(LeBron) is the best player in the world and Paul (George) just has to do the best he can, like he did on Carmelo. LeBron (James) will have some moments and go off but Paul just has to compete and not foul.”

Vogel emphasised: “We do not want to put these guys at the free throw line.”

George is averaging 19.1 points per game along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Play-offs so far after victories over Atlanta and the Knicks in Indiana‘s first two games. The All-Star produced a 29 point haul in a 10 point win over Miami in January and the Pacers claimed the season series 2-1.

In last season’s post-season meeting, Miami defeated Indiana 4-2 on their way to their second NBA Championship but Indiana, like George, have improved this season and the Pacers star is hoping his team use their size to their advantage against the champions.

“We’re a big team, we can rebound and we can play physical basketball- it’s our bread and butter.”

The opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals is live on Sky Sports from 1:30 am tonight.