As the Klaw was falling out of bounds as the buzzer blared and blazed red, the Spalding hit the rim and bounced back up. Kawhi Leonard, crouched at the baseline like Tiger Woods mastering Augusta, with his M.J. clutch tongue out and that thousand yard stare for a picture that was about to say that many words just watched. The ball hit the rim again as super sub Jordan Lloyd in street clothes with his arm around Kawhi excitedly watched in anticipation at all this air time that seemed to last longer than Winters in The Six. It looked like Summer in this city would drop before this simmering ball. It hit the rim again. To Leonard’s left Philly Sixer, Joel Embiid, almost smiling watched all this process with Game 7 and the Eastern Conference semi-finalists and who will play the Bucks in the final on the line like this ball in the seconds after time expired. It hit the rim again.
And again and again…
…and then it dropped.
Sunday was such a fun day for sports fans. In the same 24 hours where the Premiership came down to the last game as the valiant reds of Liverpool lost the race to the champion Manchester City by two points (sound familiar?) in the afternoon, the NBA had one hell of a double header to close out God’s day which is usually a lazy one with a blessed gift from the hoop heavens.
Two game sevens in one night? This must be fantasy Basketball.
But it all came down to this.
First up the Pepsi Center in Nevada cracked open the last game between the two wild cards come good of the host Denver Nuggets looking to stone-cut their way to success and the visiting Portland looking to blaze a trail out of Rip City, following their first round downpour from way downtown against the OKC Thunder. But in the first half it looked like the Dame Time watch of Lillard had stopped as this team down by as many as 17 looked as cold as that teenage age. It looked like The Joker Jokic with 29 and 13 and his golden Nuggets held all the cards.
That was until the second half turned into C.J. time.
That’s when the other half of the best backcourt in the league (sorry Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. Get well soon John Wall. Show us what you still got next season) came alive in the crunch time like snap, crackle and pop. CJ McCollum definitely finished his breakfast on Sunday morning as he had an extra bowl this afternoon and finished with 37 points. Stopping on a dime and turning into a mid-range killer as his previously burnt our Blazers got that fire back and a 100-96 close victory in a to the wire and free throw line conclusion like chess tense. All checked for their first trip to the Wild West finals since the year 2000. The time Bonzi and the boys met Shaq and Kobe and that infamous, iconic alley-oop with arms up and mouths open.
But this time they will meet another dynasty champion…the Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green and Steph Curry with the shot. One more before the Silicon Valley of San Francisco.
“Kick them off he court again boy”!
But that wasn’t the only thriller this night as we in the north were treated to more hardwood
In the end after two tales of epic four quarters there was no time for overtimes. As this 92-90 game came down to the closing clutch and two free agents to be who didn’t know whether they would be playing on Wednesday in Milwaukee, or fishing back home. Let alone what jerseys they’d be wearing next season, come Summer. Jimmy Butler thought he had it with a hard fought lay-up as did a jumping and clapping Embiid in premature celebration. But then the usual calm and composed assassin of Kawhi Leonard with 41 looked to claw away at all that, as he emphatically ran to the corner of downtown like your first night out of youth and launched what would have been a Hail Mary prayer if you didn’t believe just how brilliant this guy is. Craning the gooseneck and then watched as another Toronto Star took that renaissance painting iconic photo.
And judging from the usual calm and composed Kawhi’s screaming reaction as what looked like the whole of Toronto hug mobbed him you can guess the outcome with an electric Jurassic Park as wild as real raptors alive outside that no perimeter fence could contain. Forget the next few months and whether he will trade this cold front and touch of frost for a sunny day in L.A., right now Leonard has a real chance of making hoops history as Canada could well become the first franchise outside of the United States to become National Basketball Association champions. And those ready for that laughing GIF in response that was a lifetime ago. Look at his face last night. Whose laughing now? They said he’d never leave San Antonio and looked what happened there. The opposite could here.
But with both games done and dusted, taking it to the brackets the most impressive thing on both fronts yesterday was the professionalism. Whether it be the respect and heart emoji exchange between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers on Twitter. Or Marc Gasol consoling and embracing an emotional and tearful Joel Embiid (absolutely heartbreaking and healing to watch) postgame in Toronto and undoubtedly telling him how much of a warrior he is. In a time where fans troll, reduce and erase superstars and teams into memes as soon as they are eliminated (James Harden? The MVP? Really? Like we could do better against the Dubs…or anyone) it’s real and refreshing.
And that is why we play…and watch.
Big Trouble For Lakers Against Nets In China
Making ’em move and shake like the guitar he strums, former Laker meme team reserve Lance Stephenson is making his name and game proud in China. Lifting trophies just weeks after taking off for the Far East. But as for his former team, they had nothing to dance about when they left China after their Shanghai/Shenzhen double-header with the Brooklyn Nets.
There was no Kevin Durant. In the end with a facial fracture no Kyrie Irving and no Anthony Davis for most of Game 2 with a sore thumb. It sucked. But there was almost no game for all the King’s men and the Brooklyn boys as China went dark on the NBA following the events of last week.
Billboards of LeBron and co came down like witnessing the first time he left Cleveland for the talents of South Beach following some comments from the Rockets G.M., James Harden and Russell Westbrook in support of the Hong Kong protesters. And they weren’t even in China. Playing big in Japan with the champion Toronto Raptors. Splitting their two game series in Tokyo a year before the 2020 Olympics, one game apiece. Commissioner Adam Silver back them up saying they, the protestors and everyone has a “right to free speech”…and then everything came down.
First China cut ties with the NBA like your exes friends on Facebook. Then all posters, media and the like were removed like any chance of these games being televised. It looked like they wouldn’t even tip off as the Lakers and Net teams were stuck in their hotel rooms wondering if they could even go outside to Instagram those iconic skyline sights. The Lakers-getting there first-didn’t even have WIFi to check what was going on or scroll through their Twitter timelines and take on the trolls. But in the end from Shanghai to Shenzhen there was LeBron bringing back the iconic chalk-toss pregame like he has the headband Heat days.
But if the King thought that was the end of his troubles in China then he was thumb sorely mistaken as the Nets bucketed the Lakers on the four frames of both trips. And if you want to talk about trolling Brooklyn also had the best bite back GIF reply to the Lakers “consider this a warning” tweet last week after beating the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco for their preseason opener.
Spencer Dinwiddie’s expression said it all.
Watch what you tweet.
Despite dropping two like Alka Seltzer tablets the Lake’s put on a show as ‘Bron bulldozed the lane like John Deere and the Ghidora three-headed big-man monster of the Lakers showed they could even take on Godzilla if they were ever to cross the continent to the city of Tokyo. A.D. again coming up big before injuries got in his way, even from downtown Shanghai on that night, showed how much he’s been working on his three-ball. But wolf McGee huffing, puffing and blowing the Nets painted post house down and Howard finishing off alley-oops with that old Orlando magic (looking more and more like a solid pick-up to round out the bolstered bench on his reunion redemption move) turned the lay-up line into a dunk contest. With both former participants liking it from their alternate takes on the bench and vice versa. Getting up and off it like it was their time to play.
McGee is one of this writers fan favourite Laker players…of any era. But if you bleed purple and gold you have to love the Bruce Bowen like Avery Bradley right now and all he’s doing for the team not only the defence end he dominates like the people’s court, but the shots he selects and creates for himself on the business end. From reigning champ Danny Green, to little Greek brother Kostas Antetokounmpo who also showed out, A.B. in the offseason of A.D. may be one of LeBron’s Lakers best pick-ups. Especially in this pick-up game like preseason exhibition. Hopes for this purple season are higher than Meth and Red right now.
But in the end in China it was nothing but the Nets.
Spreading love the BKLYN way with some crazy, rich wins, the Nets tore down the Lakers 114-111 in Shanghai, thanks to a former Laker of all people. As former (former) D-League to big league sensation David Nwaba iced the game off the turnover with a huge, signature slam with 13.9 to go before KCP (he’s still here… that’s how abyss deep the Lakers are this year) couldn’t convert a clutch three. This after both Irving and Caris LaVert went down (the latter joining Kyrie’s facial fractures with being poked in the eye). Spencer ‘The GIF’ Dinwiddie with 20 et al picked up the slack however to show the Nets are just as deep. Especially upfront, even rivalling the Lakers big, big-three as Jarrett Allen and new free agent pick-up DeAndre Jordan combined for seven big blocks.
Not treading shallow water either the following game on the H.K. border of Shenzhen closed it all out for an eventful and stressful half week. With many fans wearing hearts on their jerseys and other on their sleeves as the former New Jersey Nets took on the former Minneapolis Lakers in the second Chinese city. LeVert returned and scored 22 in that many minutes of play to lead his team to a 3-zip postseason record ensuring the Lakers would get no sleep on their return flight ’till Los Angeles. And this was without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Even the locked down dreads of rookie Nicolas Claxton got in on the action with 8 points in nine minutes. If the Nets can beat the Lakers now just imagine what it will be like when their one, two punch hits. It looks like they have a dynamic duo to best not only ‘Bron and the ‘Brow, but the Shaq and Kobe greatest of all time too.
But if you thought that was how you send a message then just look at the Chinese fans who came to the game in their teams jerseys, but with a Chinese flag covering the Jerry West silhouette of the NBA logo.
Now that’s how you make a statement.
Rockets and Raptors Win Big in NBA Japan 2019
Big NBA exhibitions in Japan. Who says a pack of Raptors can’t take down Tokyo’s very own monster Kaiju, Godzilla? Even without the LeBron or Kobe first named basis Kawhi anymore, the Toronto Raptors proved they were still reigning champions as they beat the Harden (despite 21 first half points) and Westbrook reunited (and it feels so good), soaring Houston Rockets 134-129 in the first of their Japan Games twofor series in Tokyo’s Saitama Super Area, Tuesday.
But Canada’s very own BasketballBuzz was in the house for the Thursday rematch, for our We The North vs Houston home-stand. Although the red lined court design looked so 6 you almost expected to see Drake courtside picking lint out of James Harden’s beard. You could really see real Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia though (I mean he never misses a game and yep he was really here. Did you really think he was going to let something as little as a continent stand in his way?). NBA big-man Raptor and Rocket legends, Chris Bosh and Dikembe Mutombo (wagging his iconic digit like “Batsu”, with the fans McDonald’s loving it), Japanese tennis ace Naomi Osaka and sumo wrestling legend Konishiki were in attendance however. In the Far East on the 55th anniversary of Tokyo’s 1964 Olympic Games.
On this day Yoshinori Sakai, born on the day of the Hiroshima bombing 19 years previous carried the torch we know as the Olympic Flame. This epic, exhibition event the perfect precursor to next year’s 2020 Games and the race for hoops five ring gold in this land of the rising sun, host nation, capital city. With this writer supporting the Toronto team he once lived in tonight, trying to make a teaching (and who knows maybe one day coaching) dream come true in this big city of bright neon lights holding on to his ticket on the subway like a Willy Wonka golden one Charlie.
As after losing to the dinosaurs in the first roaring round, the beard of Houston’s James Harden caused unintended problems as he made some comments in support of Hong Kong protesters in the Far East, that lead to Commissioner Adam Silver backing him and the right for free speech up and then China itself going dark on the NBA across the continent. Clawing down billboards of the forthcoming Lakers and Nets games in Shanghai and Shenzhen (good job this purple and gold bleeder didn’t book that extra flight) with LeBron and A.D. company having no WiFi and no clue what was going on. Just like most of us refreshing our timelines. The game went ahead in the end with Brooklyn netting the Lake Show, 114-111 in their first of two round.
But as Harden stirred the pot like his classic celebration and professed his love for China, not even a typhoon on the way this weekend for their whirlwind week was going to stop Tokyo’s Basketball banner moment. It has been a fast moving seven days for the most innovative city on the planet. First rock God Lenny Kravitz assembled his Hollywood rich and famous, Dom Pérignon bottle popping, black and white photo gallery Assemblage exhibition in the fashionable district of Harajuku in Shibuya and now crossing over this game has gone global. With games of the NBA’s best also being exhibited in places like India, Mexico…and hopefully China too.
Tokyo’s massive population came out in their sold out droves for this one. As they proved they were as excited about these two teams (Houston’s rise in the Far East goes as far back as Yao…so you can imagine the fallout. Time for the Ming dynasty to step in) as they are for Japan’s very own top ten pick, the Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura or last year’s hustling Memphis Grizzlies big man of the future, Yuta Watanabe. With Harden, 13 and Siakam, 43 jerseys lining the bleachers. Although both teams missed a trick playing in their respective reds and whites for the flag like Canada.
Now that would have been a statement.
They were made in the game however after the “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of the lay-up line putting on a show for Tokyo came the running and screaming for the Jurassic Park vs Apollo 13 franchises. What more could you expect for the first NBA game in Japan since 1991? Although this city and country has been immersed in Americana culture of that decade since years before then. With a 7Eleven and Starbucks on every corner like Eric Gordon going for back-to-back threes downtown here.
The hoops hoopla didn’t disappoint either as the 2K new to the NBA live generation were kept entertained in this gladiator arena by Clutch and Raptor mascots, fan events and that old timeless t-shirt tossing…no matter what size you are, you’re grabbing for those sleeves like it was the New Year sales. Despite Raptor Kyle Lowry being milk carton just days after announcing he was re-upping for a year next season and not pulling a Kawhi via The Players Tribune. And NBA and FIBA world champion in the same Summer (that’s a record right?) Marc Gasol coming off the bench for some brief burn like touching a plate you had warming up in the oven for too long whilst you were waiting for an overdue pizza delivery. Albeit to cheers like he was a Hall of Famer. Come to think of it little brother and this generations Vlade Divac is one. Especially when you take into the account older Pau is the second best European player of all-time and only a fraction better than his sibling.
Or the Harden/Westbrook tandem-both scoring 22-being in foul or slumping trouble when they weren’t jack knifing their way through the paint butter for some geometry defying lay-ups. Cutting a hardwood path to a 118-112 Rockets over Raptors victory bite back. Seeing James do that dribble, step-back, rug and court cutting shuffle-especially in a pink P.J. Tucker sneaker king approved pair of kicks that he threw into the crowd like a rock star does drumsticks post set-is one of this age games eight wonders like Russell’s athletic enthusiasm as he runs to his corner like Ali or A.I. Screaming for the fans to get pumped.
It was Clint Capela (10 powerful points to go with 7 rebounds and 2 big blocks) and even his veteran back-up, big Tyson Chandler who came up big off the block or oop before the reserves cleared up the garbage like Japanese soccer fans the World Cup stands. Making sure those in court regalia passing the salary men on the escalators to the last train left satisfied and with both teams taking a game, content in the Yin and Yang feeling that this was just one half of a whole lot of world wide spanning and spinning basketball that Tokyo is about to see in 2020.
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