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Evan and Jim’s Shoot Around: Game 5 Preview

– By Evan Sally and Jim Bearor

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Photo: Associated Press/Tony Dejak

The first three games of Warriors vs. Cavs have ranged from unexpected to downright bizarre. We saw back-to-back overtime games for the first time in Finals history. We saw Golden State, the best team in the league statistically, never lead at the end of any quarter except for the end of overtime of Game 1. We saw Matthew Dellavedova become a household name because of his inexplicable ability to frustrate the MVP Steph Curry, and more bizarrely, score a career high 20 points in Game 3. We saw Golden State miss a ton of open shots. We saw the league’s best shooter shoot a career worst 2 for 15 from 3 in Game 2. We saw LeBron James torch the league’s best defense for 41 points per game. And as great as LeBron James is, no one saw that coming.

Then the Warriors woke up.

Game 4 represented a return to normalcy. Finally, we saw the series we expected to see. Role players like Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala finally hit some open shots. Especially in the case of Barnes and Green, who had looked rattled previously, this is a huge development. LeBron finally had an off game, and the rest of the Cavs weren’t able to keep up the scoring slack. Add it all up, and it’s the recipe for a Golden State blowout victory. With the series tied at 2-2 headed back to the Bay Area to start a best of 3 for the championship, Jim Bearor and I try to figure out how we got to this point and examine where the series is going from here. Continue reading

Oh Warriors, come out and play!

LeBron James and Steph Curry fight for a loose ball. Photo Credit: Ibtimes.com

LeBron James and Steph Curry fight for a loose ball. Photo Credit: Ibtimes.com

– Jim Bearor

The Cavaliers have taken control of the NBA Finals, and it goes deeper than the 2-1 lead they have over the Warriors.

Matthew Dellavedova has won over fans everywhere by filling Kyrie Irving’s shoes and putting the clamps on Curry, the regular season MVP. The Cavaliers that remain aren’t “The Big Three” or “The Splash Bros”, they’re six pretty average or mediocre guys led by LeBron James, who is on pace to break every NBA Finals record there is. James is two wins away from Akron, Ohio building a statue of him, and he knows it.

As he confirmed in his interview with Dwyane Wade following Game 3, his concentration and determination to win are at an all-time high. This mindset has spread through the locker room, and it’s evident in the play of guys like Mozgov, Thompson, and Dellavedova. The team embodies the blue collar culture of Cleveland, and with LeBron’s “homecoming” narrative coming to a head, this is the perfect storm to make America fall in love with them.

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The Wrench in the Well-Oiled Machine: LeBron and the Cavs Steal a Win in Golden State

– Evan Sally

Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals are over, and there’s a lot to digest. What just happened? Both games have been overtime thrillers. If you’re a neutral viewer, you have to be enjoying the hell out of the Finals so far. If you’re a fan of either team, which I am, Games 1 and 2 have been about as nerve wracking and heart pounding as it gets.

In Game 1 as a Cavs fan, it was a pleasant surprise to see Cleveland be able to keep up with Golden State. You never want to your team to lose, but I was pleased to see Cleveland be able to compete with Golden State, not only because I obviously would love to see LeBron win another title, but purely as a basketball

LeBron James driving to the hoop against Harrison Barnes (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Lebron James driving to the hoop against Harrison Barnes (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

fan, I want to see a good, long series. Win or lose, I was happy with their performance. That is until we saw Kyrie Irving go hobbling off the court in overtime. The news of him being out for 3 to 4 months with a broken kneecap, compounded with a disaster of an overtime, turned an encouraging game into a gut punch. How does Cleveland recover from something like that? With Love and Irving gone, I was dreading the rest of the series. Counting the LeBron factor or not, beating a team like the Warriors with the skeleton crew Cleveland would be forced to put on the court would be a near impossibility. The Warriors were in the driver’s seat, with nothing but smooth road to the championship.

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Evan and Jim’s Shootaround: NBA Finals Preview Edition

By Evan Sally and Jim Bearor

This NBA Finals match up is a weird one. This series is highly anticipated. More people that aren’t big NBA fans are into this series than any Finals series in recent memory. Conventional wisdom says the series that would excite fans the most is the one that features the competitive match up. People hate blowouts. And yet, when you look at the details of this series, the Warriors seem to have a pretty big advantage over the Cavaliers.

The Warriors are the 14th team to reach the Finals with 65 wins or more. The previous 13 teams have all won the title. The Cavaliers are the sixth team since 1978 to reach the NBA Finals with a below-average defense. Four out of the other five all lost in the finals. And that fifth team was the 2001 Lakers that featured Kobe, Shaq and the league’s best offense. Even putting the stats aside for a moment, the Warriors have clearly had the tougher test getting to this point. In beating Houston and Memphis, the Warriors have already beat two teams with better records than Cleveland. In comparison, the Cavaliers have had a relatively easy road to the Finals beating a sub .500 Celtics team, an inconsistent and disappointing Bulls team, and a Hawks team that was battered by injuries. On top of all that, their third best player, Kevin Love, is out for the Finals, and their second best player, Kyrie Irving, is dealing with several injuries. The stage seems to be set for the Warriors to roll to a championship.

So what are we talking about then? If this should be a blowout as all the stats and the eye tests show, then why the hype? Why the excitement? Well, in the NBA, star power reigns over everything else, and the chance to watch the world’s greatest player face off against the league’s MVP with everything on the line is about as tantalizing as it gets. As it’s safe to say the fate of the Cavs and the Warriors rest on the backs of LeBron James and Steph Curry respectively, the most important question for each team is: how the hell do we stop these guys? One of Hardfoulsports.com’s great writers Jim Bearor joins me to discuss this question and many more about the NBA Finals. Continue reading

NHL and NBA Staff Pick ‘Em

– The Hard Foul Sports Team

NHL Picks
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Mike Tolsma

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This has the potential to steal the show of the two final series in the NHL and NBA. That’s right, the NHL actually may be able to steal the show. Now, granted there won’t be any dueling television nights, but the bottom line is this series will have sports fans buzzing. The Hawks have the star power. We all know what Toews and Kane brings on the front end and what Keith and Seabrook will provide the back end. Look for Patrick Sharp to try and continue to raise his trade stock (the Hawks are in serious cap trouble come this offseason) and Marian Hossa to show he still has gas left in the tank. Tampa is extremely skilled, but if Steven Stamkos doesn’t show up for a game or two, you are now relying on too much youth and inexperience to lead this team.

Who wins: Chicago in 6 Continue reading

Western Conference Finals Preview

– Jim Bearor

The number two seeded Rockets won Game 7 against the Clippers on Sunday afternoon, and they only have Monday to rest before kicking off the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday at Golden State, the number one seed.

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