The NBA semifinals are underway, and, so far have been nothing short of sensational. But, of all the great players, teams, and coaches still fighting this post-season one stands out as, clearly thus far, the best player in the NBA.
He is none other than LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs.
The newest free agent signee of the San Antonio Spurs has been on a tear against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the first game of the series he scored 38 points on 18/23 shooting only to follow it with a 41 points on 15/21 shooting performance. He is the first Spur to have back-to-back 35 + points performances in the playoffs since Tim Duncan in 2003.
At the beginning of the season, Aldridge struggled mightily to find his groove in the Spurs’ system with the nadir coming on January 25th, in the form of a 30-point beat down to the Golden State Warriors. In that nightmarish game, Aldridge scored five points on 2/9 shooting.
Due to the hellish start of his season some people thought his signee was a bit of overrated; however, in a true Spurs fashion he aged well.
From October until mid-January, Aldridge averaged 15.9 points per game on 48.7 per cent from the floor. While this may be a career year for most players, it was well below his anticipated production. And, on top of his lack-of-production – by his standards – the Spurs were about to be dealt a new blow. Tim Duncan would miss some time with right knee soreness. But, Duncan’s soreness turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the new Spur as he found himself.
Between January 23rd and February 18th, Aldridge’s scoring average increased from 15.9 to 20.8 points per game on 54.7 shooting from the floor. And, from February 18th to March 17th, he average 20.2 points per game on 52.6 per cent from the floor.
Since then LaMarcus Aldridge has been firing on all cylinders for the Spurs, and helped them to the greatest regular season in team history. In any year, the 67-15 Spurs would have been, against their will, the talk of the media, but the 73-9 Golden State Warriors and the drama surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers overshadowed them.
Now, as they prepare for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against their newly archrival Thunder, the most dominant franchise of the past decade has gotten even better.
The former “Big Three”, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, is still intact but a new “Big Three” is emerging with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge as the catalysts, and either Patty Mills or Danny Green as the third member.
One of the big reasons behind Aldridge’s early season struggles is because he plays a very similar style of basketball to Tim Duncan; therefore they were stepping on each other’s toes on offense, and in a way neutralized each other.
Since coming back from injury, Duncan has gladly accepted his role as a mentor, and passenger on the Spurs bus driven by number two and 12. He has become a secondary scorer on the team, to his and the team’s benefit, and moves to help free-up Aldridge as oppose to score.
Although Aldridge can muscle his way in the restricted area against anybody in the league, his strength lies in his mid-range jump shot. Coincidentally this is Duncan’s strength although Aldridge has much more range than Duncan.
In the first two games of the series against the Thunder, Aldridge has ran a number on Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams with his devastating jumper. The Spurs use pick and roll and screens to free him from his defender.
What makes the Spurs’ signing of LaMarcus Aldridge so deadly is that both the Spurs and Aldridge have become famous over the years for pick and rolls, screens, double-screens, and mid-range jump shots.
LaMarcus Aldridge was destined to be a Spur, and his signature could not have come at a better time.
Thus far in the series, Aldridge has connected on all 11 free throws he attempted, including the three free throws with 13.5 seconds left in the game and his Spurs down by four. The former Trail Blazers scored .783 per cent in game 1 and .714 in game 2.
Billy Donovan, the rookie head coach of the Thunder, has, so far, refused to double-team the Texas alumni or try defending him with Kevin Durant. The main reason that has Billy Donovan reluctant to switch Ibaka and Adams with Durant is Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard is the best player in San Antonio. The Spurs will go as far as he takes them. For all of LaMarcus Aldridge’s greatness, he takes a back seat to Kawhi Leonard.
This season, and most likely for the near future, the Golden State Warriors will hold headlines, breaking news, and magazine covers, but the San Antonio Spurs will respond, in a homegrown fashion, with their play on the court as oppose to the cameras.
Who knows what the future will hold for the franchise based in the Alamo City, but if the present is any sign of things to come Spurs fans are in for a treat, and another 15 years of championship aspirations, and greatness.
Despite the headline-grabbing Warriors (rightfully so!), I believe that the San Antonio Spurs will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and be crowned World Champions in 2016, and LaMarcus Aldridge will be Finals MVP (if he keeps playing at this level).
The Warriors Came Out To Play This Series
Even without the fantasy Basketball of Kevin Durant in this series, the Golden State Warriors still brought out the brooms like ‘Fantasia’.
And swept out of Game 4 like Thanos click finger dust, the Portland Trailblazers may have only lost by a bucket (119-117)…and in overtime at that. But with all the Splash they had to contend with this series from brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they were left dealing with more leaks and holes in all of their own ones like Mickey Mouse in said Disney epic.
This was meant to be the showdown between Dell Curry’s boys Steph and Seth which divided a household. And although the youngest gun stepped up to the plate, swung big in this carnival and knocked them down, big brother was always watching.
Steph Curry averaged over 36 points a game this series. Just read that again. 36 points. Right now we don’t need to talk about Kevin.
The Warriors are a dynasty for the ages even without their best player (although this writer thinks he wasn’t missing this entire series). The first team to make it to five straight finals since the Boston Celtics. The 1960’s Bill Russell Celtics. That’s King James crowning legendary. And Steph Curry with the shot and that facet of the game is just as iconic and dominant as a Bill block.
Give some credit to a blazing Portland side who never gave up despite the box score. They can hold their heads in the PDX. Even in their Moda Center home-stand City Of Roses end in RIP City. Their season eulogy should read as a celebration and commiseration, not a trolling condescension from critically entitled fans who have done nothing to determine the outcome of these games and could never make it this far in their wildest memes. They call themselves “influencers”? Well no one’s going to remember them in 50 years.
The NBA will remember one of their Top 100 greatest of all-time in a half century though. As after hitting the biggest buzzer beater in playoff history against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Damian Lillard played through the pain of separated ribs this series and still made the Basketball God’s look down from the hoop heavens with praise. Like New York singer St. Vincent tweeted, “Damian Lillard is my hero”. Even his backcourt brother of splash CJ McCollum in the only small man set up to rival Curry and Klay came out to play against the Warriors after midrange mining the Nuggets into submission in Denver just over a week ago.
But Curry’s red hot triple double, starter, mains and dessert dish of 37, 13 and 11, to go along with a playing not crying, Draymond Green’s day of 18, 14 and 11 assists also was just too much in the clutch. As Stephen and Dray became the first teammates in NBA history to have a triple double in the same playoff game. Forget how much this team can unbelievably keep winning, how does this ball manage to get shared this much?
Well that just may be the secret of success?
The real test is dubbed next however in the Warriors last season in Golden State before they move across that Golden bridge to the Silicon Valley of a digital age in San Francisco. They will play the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks (probably…Giannis…MVP. Sorry Toronto but come on!) and Raptors series. But by then they should have some guy called Kevin back.
I mean come on. This has been getting crazy. This is just out of hand like said ball in Splash City.
Now Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics’ record of eight straight finals and wins doesn’t look far out of reach for Steph Curry and the player and team with the biggest range in the association over the gate of the Pacific.
Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park
“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”
Fans find a way.
An ace serve or two away from being as legendary as Wimbledon’s ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ outside the Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Raptors Maple Leaf Square’s “Jurassic Park” may just be the ticket for this sold out crowd.
Raptor Klaw, Kawhi Leonard ruled the earth last night. He and the T-Dot at the final tick beat the Sixers in The Six, as his shot bobbled like a beach ball on the surface of a swimming pool before making the biggest splash of these postseason playoffs. Taking longer to fall than Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top in ‘Inception’. But this was no dream.
And if you thought the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto erupted last night, then outside in Maple Leaf Square it was like the volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs after that big ball dropped. An Armageddon even Bruce Willis couldn’t save like he wish he could his career.
Welcome to Jurassic World.
With all due respect to the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin, or pick your poison whoever is your flash card pick of the bench mob pack, but the Jurassic Park crowd fenced in outside of Scotia is the teams spiritual sixth man, spark plug. As electric as the paddock like perimeter fence surrounding them feels with this buzz over basketball (and national sport hockey come Leaf picking season), this crowd can’t be contained.
Forget rain or shine. You see the slickers. These faithful fans will pitch a spot waiting for game time like the ball to drop in Times Square for New Year in New York, sleeping bag lining up all day in their hordes huddled for warmth. These beautiful fans will brave the harshest, most frigid temperatures to be the coldest fans in the game in more ways than one. Part of the ‘We The North’ community in the 6 that the Basketball God’s look down on with pride, whilst other armchair fans watch this game for the throne from home. Or leave early like those suit and tie corporate seats trying to catch that last red eye Matt Bonner home.
Can you imagine of they called game early before Kawhi last night?
I could imagine Drake taking in the CN Tower looking up views of the Jurassic though, like it was all the basketball God’s plan.
Well those in the park for recreation stayed until the beautiful end to a game Butler almost delivered bitter. And you could could phantom cam see every emotion in slow motion last night as Leonard’s buzzer beating ball toyed with the rim like three dots on messenger, or Damien Lillard even further downtown in Oklahoma City.
This is the spirit of the stadium and the soul of the squad, expanding the capacity arena and the Canadian ballclubs worldwide fanbase watching on their own Jumbotrons.
And the Toronto Raptors are going to need all the north they can get if they’re going to stop the Bucks in Milwaukee.
But this club has the claws to do it. And if you don’t think they can win in Wisconsin on their own road to being the first franchise outside of the United States to be NBA finalists and who knows what next against the Warriors(?), then just watch this Canadian cornerstone from the Jurassic era.
Extinct in six? Nah! Get ready to hear the North roar.