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2017 NBA Finals – No Surprises Here 9

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Dean Hybl
LeBron James and Steph Curry will be meeting in the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

LeBron James and Steph Curry will be meeting in the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

Finally. After a month and a half of preliminaries, the main event that every basketball fan has been waiting to see is finally upon us. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be meeting in the NBA Finals for a third straight year.

After splitting the first two meetings, this one promises to provide more excitement and at least for now some clarity on which team can claim the title of being the NBA’s most dominant.

While this marks the first time that two franchises have met in the finals for three straight years, the fact that neither the Cavaliers or Warriors are among the big-market marquee franchises of the NBA has made it a bit harder to garner the type of excitement past NBA rivalries have enjoyed.

However, what the cities may not be prime time, both have marquee superstars.

Leading the way is LeBron James, who is without question the best player of this generation and is now in the conversation when discussing the best players in NBA history. Counting his four-straight appearances (and two titles) with the Miami Heat, James is making his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance.

Last year James finally accomplished his longtime mission of bringing an NBA Champions to Cleveland. While there isn’t the same sense of urgency as a year ago, winning another title would be another high mark on James’ career resume. Read the rest of this entry →

10 Most Memorable Championship Breakthroughs in NBA History 6

Posted on June 14, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Dirk Nowitzki can now add the words "NBA champion" to his resume.

After 13 years in the NBA, Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is finally a NBA champion.

But he is not the only great player to win a NBA title after years of heartbreak.

Here are the 10 greatest championship breakthroughs in NBA history.

This list is not solely based on the greatness of the player, but how many disappointments that player or players had to go through before getting that elusive championship.

With that said, here is the list:

10. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, 2008 Boston Celtics
In the summer of 2007, the Boston Celtics traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join mainstay Paul Pierce to lead the Boston Celtics back from the doldrums of the NBA.

“The Big Three” lead the Celtics on the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history, as the Celtics won 66 games during the regular season after winning 24 games the previous season, and then advanced to the NBA Finals, where they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in six games for the franchise’s first NBA championship in 22 years and the first NBA title for Allen, Garnett, and Pierce.

9. Hakeem Olajuwon, 1994 Houston Rockets
“Hakeem the Dream” took his place among the great centers to play the game as he led the Houston Rockets to the NBA championship in 1994.

In a match-up of All-Star centers who had never won a NBA title, Olajuwon dominated Knicks center Patrick Ewing to win his first NBA title in his tenth NBA season.

“Hakeem the Dream” averaged 26.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks per game in the seven games and made the game-saving play at the end of Game 6 in which he blocked John Starks’ potential game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds, to preserve a Houston victory and force a Game 7, where he scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to clinch the title for the Rockets.

One year later, Olajuwon and the Rockets won the title again, this time giving Clyde Drexler his first NBA title after 12 NBA seasons. Read the rest of this entry →

Big Three is Not Enough as the Dallas Mavericks Rule the NBA 16

Posted on June 12, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks claimed their first NBA title.

Though most of the attention and focus was given to the Miami Heat and their “big three”, the Dallas Mavericks and their superstar Dirk Nowitzki stole the show and the Larry O’Brien Trophy as the NBA Champions for the 2010-2011 season.

After losing two of the first three games of the series, the Mavericks won the last three games, including a 105-95 victory in game six on the Heat’s home floor, to win the first title in team history.

Much will be written about the “collapse” of the Heat and disappointing fourth quarter performances of LeBron James in the final three games of the series. However, what is truly deserving of ink is the grit and determination of Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and the Mavericks.

For the last decade the Mavericks have made a habit of posting a great regular season, only to fold in the playoffs. Over a 10 year span, they lost in the first round of the playoffs four times, the Western Conference semifinals four times, the Western Conference finals once and the NBA finals once. Read the rest of this entry →

Heat is Really On LeBron and Miami 12

Posted on June 10, 2011 by Dean Hybl

It isn't yet clear how the 2011 Finals will impact LeBron's legacy.

From the day he announced that he was leaving Cleveland and taking his talents to South Beach, LeBron James has been under a media microscope that judges his legacy from game to game. Now after consecutive sub-par performances and with the Miami Heat trailing the Dallas Mavericks three games to two, it really is time for James to determine how people will look at him for years to come.

When James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade teamed up to form the “Big Three”, they talked about winning multiple championships and many across the league predicted a dynasty in the making.

However, many, including myself, also thought it would take the Heat a couple years to get comfortable playing together and finding the right supporting cast and that Boston and the Lakers would have one more championship battle before the dawning of the Heat Era.

That Miami dispatched of both the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls so easily in the Eastern Conference playoffs made us forget just how hard it is to get over the hump and win that first NBA Championship. Read the rest of this entry →

35 Years Ago: Celtics and Suns Play the Greatest NBA Finals Game Ever 4

Posted on June 03, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Celtics center Dave Cowens and Suns center Alvan Adams were the central figures as the 1976 NBA Finals began.

When the Phoenix Suns met up with the Boston Celtics in the 1976 NBA Finals, most observers expected a short series.

The Celtics were the dominant franchise in the NBA with their dynasty in the late 1950s and 1960s with 11 championships in 13 years.

After a brief down period following the retirement of Bill Russell, the Celtics once again rose to the top of the league when they won the 1974 NBA title.

Former Celtics great Tom Heinsohn was the coach of this new generation of Celtics that featured center Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, and Jo Jo White, but included former sixth man and Celtic hero, John Havlicek.

In 1976, the Celtics won 54 games during the regular season and advance to the NBA Finals after a pair of six-game playoff series victories over the Buffalo Braves and Cleveland Cavaliers.

On the other end of the spectrum were the Phoenix Suns, an expansion team who had not done much in their first seven years of existence.

The 1976 season seemed to be another lost effort as the Suns lost 18 of 24 games during the middle of the season.

But lead by head coach John MacLeod, the Suns caught fire in the last part of the regular season, winning 10 of their last 13 games, to finish with a 42-40 record, but good enough for the team’s first playoff berth since 1970

With a core of players that included rookie of the year Alvin Adams and Paul Westphal who Phoenix acquired in a trade from Boston during the offseason, the Suns knocked off the Seattle Supersonics in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals, where they shocked the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in seven games, to advance to their first NBA Finals.

The veteran Celtics won the first two games easily in Boston Garden, but the “Sunderllas” as they become to known as for their remarkable run, won the next two games in Phoenix, to force a pivotal Game 5 in Boston Garden.

What appeared to be a rout in the beginning of the game, turned into the wildest game in NBA Finals history. Read the rest of this entry →

Heat Overcome Turbulent Season to Compete in NBA Finals 2

Posted on June 01, 2011 by Chris Kent

For all their struggles in meeting the national hype this season, the Miami Heat are right where they were expected to be. Playing in the NBA Finals as the Eastern Conference Champions. The Heat are gunning for their second championship in six seasons as they take to the court against the Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks as the finals open this week.

Yet it has been anything but easy for Miami in getting to the finals. While the story of last summer, “The Decision”, brought superstar LeBron James to the Heat to join forces with Dwyane Wade, that hasn’t resulted in an easy path to the top. Former Toronto Raptor star Chris Bosh, a talented 6-11 power forward, also joined Miami this year. James, Wade, and Bosh were looked upon as basketball’s version of the triplets, what Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith were to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s in the National Football League. Yet, at times, the Heat’s triplets were mere mortals.

Miami's LeBron James elevates for a jump shot over Corey Brewer of the Bulls during the Heat's game five win in Chicago on May 26 (Nathaniel S. Butler)

Despite being touted as the dominant favorite to make the NBA Finals and even win it, that threesome and Miami had more than one challenge, obstacle, and drought this season. After signing James and Bosh, the Heat’s season opened with huge expectations. However a season-opening 88-80 loss at Boston raised some questions. The Celtics were the defending conference champions and had won the 2008 NBA title. Many predicted that it would come down to Boston and Miami for the title in the east. With that on the minds of the players, fans, coaches, and media, the Heat were facing national scrutiny right from the very start of the season.

James led Miami with 31 points in the opening loss while Wade scored 13 with Bosh adding just eight points. The Heat never lead in the game and Boston showed why the experience of their key trio – Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett – made a difference.

The aftermath of that opening loss had the talking heads raising questions. Could Wade, James, and Bosh exist together and function? Was there enough points and plays to go around the three of them? What about the rest of the team? Every team, no matter how talented their top players are, needs supporting players to provide a cohesive nucleus. Forward Joel Anthony and guard Mike Bibby, the team’s other two starters in the opener against Boston, needed to mesh well with the trio. These were only some of the questions.

Additionally, there was the all-important issue of how the reserves would fit around Wade, James, and Bosh. Veteran centers Udonis Haslem and Zydrunas Ilgauskas each provided quality experience in the pivot. How would they adjust to the trio? Youngsters like Mario Chalmers and James Jones would have to find their niche as well. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Joe Cronin: Player-Manager
      October 1, 2017 | 8:21 am
      Joe Cronin

      Joe Cronin

      In recognition of the start of the baseball playoffs, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a man who managed pennant winning teams in Washington and Boston and spent more than decade as a player-manager.

      When the Boston Red Sox acquired Joe Cronin following the 1934 season they didn’t just get an All-Star player, they also got a new manager.

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