Live Blog: Ohio State – Kansas

This afternoon I’ll be covering the Ohio State – Kansas game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 3:00 PM EST this evening.

Live Blog: Arizona – Florida

Tonight I’ll be covering the Arizona – Florida game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 7:00 PM EST this evening.

Live Blog: North Carolina – Kentucky

This weekend I’ll be covering the North Carolina – Kentucky game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television Saturday afternoon – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 12:00 AM EST on Saturday.

Live Blog: North Carolina – Wisconsin

This evening I’ll be covering the North Carolina – Wisconsin game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 9:30 EST.

Canada Wins A Nail-Biter Over Belgium

A packed house at Ryerson University went home happy after Canada hung on to beat a feisty Belgium squad 79-74.

A huge block by Joel Anthony on Belgium’s first field goal attempt of the game set the tone for how Canada’s interior defence would play the rest of the game. Canada’s weak side defenders managed to frustrate Belgium early and often and it resulted in Belgium not scoring until the 5:31 mark when they connected on a corner three.

Canada held a 16-11 advantage at the end of first quarter thanks to their stifling defence.

Things fell apart briefly with Canada’s second unit on the court as Belgium went on a 5-0 run to start the second quarter. Canada didn’t score until the 6:10 mark of the second quarter which prompted the return of three of their starters.

Belgium continued to play the role of pesky guest as they cut Canada’s lead to 21-20.

“If we’re going to win games we need to be better on the defensive end,” a visually agitated Leo Rautins vented to the media after the win. “I thought for the first part of this game we were solid on the defensive end and then we just relaxed. We can’t relax; we need to play at a high level of intensity all of the time.”

Levon Kendall got tired of being a polite host in the second quarter and stole the ball at mid-court and raced down the court for a thunderous dunk that had the fans and his teammates on their feet.

The dunk cued a 14-2 run which helped Canada open up a 34-22 advantage.

Belgium threatened again to start the second half and cut their deficit to 36-32.

Once again, Kendall woke up the crowd and his teammates with a nasty dunk while getting fouled.

“Man, those dunks fired everybody up,” Andy Rautins told me after the game while grinning. “I think myself and the entire bench lost it there for a second. That’s the kind of stuff we need because we feed off of his energy.”

Despite Belgium threatening a couple of times in the third quarter, Canada was able to begin the fourth quarter with a 55-42 advantage.

Belgium threatened in the fourth quarter and cut Canada’s lead to six at 63-57 with 3:31 left but Andy Rautins had a big steal with 2:10 left in the game and Canada clinging to a 66-61 lead. Even though Canada wasn’t able to score on the subsequent break it helped breathe some life into what had become a tense gym and a tight team.

Less than a minute later Anderson followed up a trip to the free throw line with a steal. Anderson dished to Rautins on the break for a bucket which pushed Canada’s lead to 69-61 with just over a minute left in regulation.

On Canada’s following possession, Anderson made two free throws on Canada’s next possession to essentially ice the win with Canada up 73-66.

Photo Courtesy: Ryan McNeill

Game Coverage: Dallas vs. Miami

This evening I’ll be covering the Dallas Mavericks – Miami Heat game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 8:00 EST.

Fisher’s Game Notes: NBA Finals – Game 5

Sorry for my LeBron-esque Game 4 no-show. I had to cover Rihanna’s ACC concert, complete with all those chains and whips that apparently excite her.

* With an entire season having been spent psychoanalyzing the Miami Heat, it now comes down to this: do-or-die games on home court to truly test the mettle of the team. I can safely claim to have no clue as to how this will play out – and I’m not alone.

* No question that Dirk Nowitzki is the Finals MVP if Dallas wins the title (and possibly even if they don’t), but it was Jason Terry’s performance that might have shifted the ever-changing series for good. Terry’s game-tying and game-clinching three’s had to be disheartening for a Miami team that defended both plays as well as anyone could have hoped.

* That might have been the most underappreciated triple-double in NBA history. I know the Heat lost and that James managed a measly two fourth quarter points (and believe me, I love the fourth quarter scoring stats on Nowitzki and James’ respective outputs in the final frame), but … it was a Finals triple-double! It was the NBA’s transcendent star showing off all the facets of his game on the league’s biggest stage, the first such Finals feat since Jason Kidd turned the trick in 2002. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?

* Speaking of transcendent stars, a quick word about ranking Nowitzki among the game’s greats. I’m not here to engage in the same “where does he fit on the all-time list” discussion that has permeated these Finals, but rather to look at where he ranks within the game currently. After all, the big German is on the verge of outplaying Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and James and Dwyane Wade in consecutive postseason series. Doesn’t that at least put him in top three discussion?

* If Wade had done further damage to his body beyond a left hip contusion in the first quarter and hadn’t been able to return, then Brian Cardinal, the Mav who collided with Wade – would have had far too significant a role in determining the NBA champ.

* What do Peja Stojakovic and Boston Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle have in common? They were both acquired by their team from Toronto during the season, find themselves closing in on a championship and will have done nothing to help their team attain said championship. Stojakovic was a healthy scratch on Thursday and played a whopping two seconds in Game 4, down dramatically from his 14+ minutes in Game 1.

Fisher’s Game Notes: NBA Finals – Game 3

* Go figure: a one-eyed Chris Bosh nails a clutch, 15-foot game-winner after being ice cold throughout the first three games of the series, while Dirk Nowitzki can’t put home the type of off-balanced jumper from the free-throw line that he’s made his bones off of all Finals long. As they say, that’s why you play the games.

* Bosh coming through in the clutch in his hometown makes for a nice, little narrative angle on Game 3, but let’s not over-state his impact. He remains, after all, just 16-52 (30.7%) shooting for the Finals and was switched off of Nowitzki coming into the game after getting blown by on a lay-up in the dying seconds of Game 2.

* Have to wonder how LeBron James is going to feel when Dwyane Wade is named Finals MVP. James has hardly played poorly and remains an emotional and defensive leader on the team, but Wade has simply done it all, as evidenced by his 29-11 effort on Sunday night.

* Give credit to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra for singling out Udonis Haslem for what would otherwise be a largely thankless effort. Haslem’s primary Game 3 role was to guard Nowitzki, who just happened to put up a game-high 34 points. Hardly an impressive defensive effort, right? Well, the stat line doesn’t show how many of those shots were contested and off-balance (much like the missed buzzer-beater attempt), nor does it show how many times Nowitzki was forced to pass the ball off to decidedly less clutch teammates.

* Nine years to the day of becoming the 13th player in NBA history to record a triple-double in the NBA Finals, Jason Kidd came awfully close to doing it again. The Mavs’ point guard finished with nine points, 10 assists and six rebounds while still defending at a surprisingly high level at 38 years of age. More remarkable, still, is that with one more point and four more rebounds, he would have been the first player since himself to record one in the Finals.

* How about the unlikely contributions of Miami’s Mario Chalmers, who has made the most of some wide open looks and is averaging 11.0 points through three Finals games. He already has more points in this series than in either of the Conference Finals against Chicago or Conference Semis vs. Boston.

* How improbable is it that two consecutive Finals games have now come down to two point differentials? The last time any Finals game was decided by two or fewer points was back in 2007, when San Antonio completed their sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers (and James, of course) with an 83-82 win. For back-to-back such games, you have to go back to the 1998 Finals, when Utah stayed alive with an 83-81 Game 5 win, only to be bested 87-86 in Game 6 on Michael Jordan’s famous push-off jumper on Bryon Russell.

Fisher’s Game Notes: NBA Finals – Game 2

A few scattered thoughts as I sat on my couch taking in what was an epic Game 2 of the NBA Finals, which the Mavs stole 95-93:

* Not sure if it’s Rick Carlisle’s inspiration or Dirk Nowitzki and/or Jason Kidd’s leadership, but holy crap do these Mavs have heart!
* Shawn Marion was Dallas’ second-leading scorer once again, with 20 points in the game, but Jason Terry filled a desperately needed role by coming to life in the game’s late stages. Having gone just 2-8 for eight points over the first 41+ minutes of Game 2, Terry reeled off six consecutive points in under a minute and hit on all three of his shots in crunch time to help spark the Mavs’ comeback.
* It hasn’t been a great postseason thus far for Miami critics who have argued that an NBA team can’t succeed with two alpha dogs who both demand the ball, but Game 2 certainly provided a nice piece of evidence to support their case. A three-pointer with 7:14 remaining in the fourth gave Wade 36 points on the night, but instead of taking over the game, the home grown star still spent most plays deferring to LeBron James and took just three shots the rest of the way (all misses). It’s no coincidence, then, that Miami held a 15-point lead at the time of the trey, only to Dallas go on a 22-5 run the rest of the way.
* Chris Bosh, who had really been coming through for the Heat since his 34-point explosion during Game 3 of the Bulls’ series, was back to being a liability on Thursday night. He was held to just 12 points on 4-16 shooting and was caught flat-footed on Nowitzki’s game-winning lay-up. Yes, you have to step out on the Mavs’ star and challenge his shot, but you also shouldn’t be getting beat off the dribble by a guy five years your senior who can hardly be described as fleet of foot.
* After being so critical to Miami’s Game 1 win, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony provided precious little on Thursday. While their combined two points was hardly surprising, they were non-factors on the boards (four rebounds between the two of them) and directly contributed to the Mavs’ 41-30 rebounding edge. Both men were solid defensively, but it’s hard to justify such one-dimensional contributions coming out of players that are each on court for nearly 30 minutes.
* Mike Miller’s continual defense of his health despite all appearances to the contrary is starting to bring to mind the “Dead Parrot” sketch from Monty Python (which can be found here for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about). Mike, either your arm – which you’ve been spotted wearing in a sling – is damaged, or we might as well just believe that your zero-point, 0-3 stat line is all we can expect from you.
* Carlisle may want to consider employing more of a ‘hands off’ approach as the series shifts to Dallas, particularly in regards to his team’s offensive attack. It was only when the Mavs stopped running set plays down the stretch in the fourth that they played a relax, free-flowing game and got open looks for Nowitzki, Terry and Marion.

Game Coverage: Dallas vs. Miami

This evening I’ll be covering the Dallas Mavericks – Miami Heat game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 9:00 EST.

Fisher’s Game Notes: NBA Finals – Game 1

A few scattered thoughts as I sat on my couch taking in what was a slow, ugly, defense-oriented Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which the Heat took 92-84:

* Has Dwyane Wade always taken over as the central focus during the Heat’s player introductions like that? I get that the homegrown star gets announced last, but it was surprising to see  No. 3 take charge in the middle of the huddle as he shouted out what I assume to be words of motivational encouragement. Interesting to see LeBron James take a backseat as Wade emerges as the vocal leader.

* Joel Anthony’s in-your-face defense on Dirk Nowitzki may result in him spending much of the series on the bench in foul trouble, but it certainly seems to be working in keeping the big German out of rhythm.

* Don’t you find it ironic that in what it supposed to be the “Era of the Dynamic Point Guard”, the Finals’ two starting floor generals combined for nine points on 3-12 shooting and were, generally, non-factors? Not that either of Jason Kidd or Mike Bibby were being looked upon to produce much more scoring, but it goes to show that you still don’t need a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook to win in the NBA.

* Miami’s 46-36 edge on the boards? Blame it on Tyson Chandler, who was on his game defensively but struggled in the low post against Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and the physical Heat, and Jason Terry, who too-frequently lost track of where Wade was once the ball was in the air.

* Speaking of physicality on the part of the Heat, it looks like James spent the past few days attending the Dwyane Wade School of Putting Your Body on the Line. The difference: James is 6’8″, 250 pounds and basically tore through much of the Mavericks’ front line, particularly late in the fourth quarter.

* One of the main tenets upon which critics of the Heat’s ‘Big Three’ rested their belief that the team would fail was a lack of depth, reasoning that pouring that kind of money into three players wouldn’t allow for Miami to establish a full-fledged squad of complementary players. Well, last night saw the Heat’s bench outscore the supposedly superior Mavs’ reserves 27-17, led by Mario Chalmers surprisingly outplaying perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate Terry. Even worse for Heat haters, their bench advantage came with Eddie House, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, James Jones, Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magloire all sitting out.

* Sure, the torn tendon on the middle finger of Nowitzki’s left hand may be an inconvenience for both he and the team moving forward, but it’s no bigger an obstacle than the complete lack of offensive support by his Mavs’ teammates. In order to keep Miami’s ‘D’ honest, Dallas will have to do better than the 4-21 shooting it got from Terry, JJ Barea and Peja Stojakovic. Shawn Marion’s 16 points helped, but it’s an issue when three of the game’s top four scorers are wearing Heat jerseys.

* Attention: Miami fans, “Fanning Up” does not mean throwing items onto the court during the late stages of a win!

Game Coverage: Oklahoma City vs Dallas

This evening I’ll be covering the Dallas Mavericks – Oklahoma City Thunder game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 9:00 EST.

Game Coverage: Dallas vs Oklahoma City

This evening I’ll be covering the Dallas Mavericks – Oklahoma City Thunder game for Score Mobile.

If you’re stuck somewhere without a television this evening – or if you’re watching the game on television but just want more stats and a chance to add your own thoughts on the game – you can join me as I provide play-by-play coverage of the game.

You can follow my game coverage on your cell phone via Score Mobile or on your computer by using the application at the bottom of this post.

My coverage of the game will begin at 9:00 EST.

Thunder Execute Down The Stretch

As anyone who follows the NBA closely can attest, there are a fair number of close games every season in which the victorious team did not ‘win’ the game per say as much as the beaten team ‘lost’ it. The distinction is subtle, but meaningful – through poor execution, lack of discipline, or overall lowly performance, one team sabotages themselves and snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

As much as Lakers fans’ own self-importance might drive them to say that the Lakers lost on Thursday night in game three of their opening round series, they would be mistaken. It does a disservice to the tremendous determination, and execution, of the Thunder to say that the Lakers beat themselves.

Make no mistake Laker fans, the youngsters from Oklahoma City won this game. The Thunder’s success is owed to themselves alone and as a result they are now squarely back in this series.

That is not to say that Los Angeles performed flawlessly. The truth is far from it, actually. The laundry list of what the Lakers could have done better is a long one, and it reads the same as it often does after a loss.

A sample of that list would read as follows: they did not go inside to Pau Gasol enough on offense; their transition defense was awful (the Thunder were +16 in fast break points); they did not prevent second-chance opportunities; Derrick Fisher was a pylon on defense; they did not get to the line enough (Oklahoma was +17 from the charity stripe); and Kobe’s hero complex got the better of him for the first part of the fourth quarter.

Yet, none of those reasons is truly why Los Angeles lost on Thursday night. They actually did a remarkable job of weathering the Thunder’s incredible rally in the third and fourth, and put themselves squarely in a position to steal the game back for themselves.

Once it was clear Bryant could not get quality looks against Kevin Durant, the Lakers’ captain finally became a facilitator and was willing to trust his teammates, who delivered a number of timely shots in kind (though it would be nice if Ron Artest would have a look at his feet when shooting threes now and then…). With Fisher and Lamar Odom hitting big shot after big shot, it appeared as those Los Angeles’ veteran savvy might just push them over the top.

This is where the Thunder rose the challenge though, and in effect where they grew up as a team before our eyes. Every time a Laker hit a crowd-quieting three down the stretch, Russell Westbrook would answer with a sensational play at the other end. Every time the defending champs looked poised to lock down defensively, Durant would attack the lane and get to the line.

The Thunder might have started the game off uptight and a little anxious, but their remarkable home crowd carried them until they got their legs. And from there they did the rest.

Jeff Green showed himself to be the complete player we all know him to be. Moreover, James Harden finally got the lid off the basket and reminded us all the offensive threat he poses. These two, along with the stingy defensive presence that is continually provided by the Oklahoma pivots, gave Westbrook and Durant the help they did not have in Los Angeles, and as a result they were victorious.

A 8-1 run to close the third quarter capped off what was the Thunder’s first 30 points quarter of the series. During that stretch the Laker did not just miss shots – the Thunder made them miss. There is a difference.

Laker supporters no doubt should still feel confident. Los Angeles needs only to win on Saturday to take an insurmountable three-to-one lead in the series. They certainly have every reason to expect that Bryant will not shoot so poorly down the stretch again, and should feel good that Gasol continues to have his offense rolling.

But they must also not fall into the trap in thinking that their squad handed the Thunder this win. There was no quarter asked for, and none given. Durant and his team earned this victory. They did it through having defense create early offense, a commitment to getting to the line, and a belief in themselves that they would hit big shots when necessary.

That is a blueprint the Lakers might want to have a look at themselves if they plan on going back to Los Angeles still leading this series.

Kobe Bryant Rescues Lakers In Game 2

Los Angeles won Game 2 in their first-round series against Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. On the surface, Lakers fans should be thrilled: Kobe Bryant gave a dominant performance, Pau Gasol played like a superstar, they held back a valiant opponent, and they now hold what traditionally has been an insurmountable lead in a series.

But that is not how anyone really paying attention should see things.

If the Lakers hope to win this series, they had best take care of the Thunder quickly, and as decisively as possible. If this series returns to Los Angeles next Tuesday tied at two games a piece, the Lakers will be in a world of trouble. The longer the Lakers let Oklahoma City stay alive, the comfortable the Thunder will be on the playoff stage, and the more dangerous they will be.

This Oklahoma City team is on the verge of something great, and all they need is one false step by the defending champs to get the momentum going. I have little doubt the Thunder will be better at home. If Los Angeles wants us to take seriously their plans to repeat as champion, they had better show their mettle by stealing one of the next two games on the road – if they give the Thunder an inch, the youngster will take a mile.

They work much harder than the Lakers, their competitive fire burns brighter, and they have fresher legs. The longer this series goes, the harder Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company will be to put away.

Perhaps Kobe Bryant knows this. Perhaps that is why he was able to centre himself and find more balance in his jump shot in the second half Tuesday night. Perhaps that is why he reached back to give us a vintage performance in the fourth quarter that rivaled the display LeBron James gave the NBA world on Monday.

He knows that the Thunder are not a team to play around with. As does Pau Gasol, whose dominant post performance and tremendously efficient offense was a thing of beauty in game two. Whether or not the rest of their team understands all this though is debatable.

The Lakers seem to be extending just enough energy and mental focus to win, and not an ounce more. If they think they can ‘save themselves’ for a later round, they had better wake up to the reality that is before them – the one in which Westbrook can get to the rim at will, the one where Durant’s confidence and shooting touch continues to improve with every passing quarter, and the one where Scott Brooks has willed his team to overachieve and outwork their more talented opponent. In that reality, the Lakers are vulnerable, even up two games to none.

As for the game itself, we saw Bryant have much better elevation on his shot, leading to better looks early on. Even if he failed to convert everything, he was able to create a better rhythm than in game one, and that showed late in the game.

We also saw Bryant get back to the grimace and gritting of his teeth he was so fond of last spring, as well as the respect he has for the Thunder’s defenders, even patting Thabo Sefolosha on the back in the third quarter after a good defensive play. He still forced the issue too much early on, but at least he had fresh enough legs let him get into the lane late in the game instead of settling for deep, contested threes.

Meanwhile, Gasol played like a star for much of the game. The Spaniard made a number of big baskets and hauled in important rebounds when it mattered most, with none more important than his defensive rebound with seven seconds to go after a missed go-ahead three by Durant.

Speaking of that shot, it proved that the Thunder are not afraid, and serves as a great example of precisely why this core group of players could relatively soon compete for a title. Down two, with the shot clock turned off, on the road, Durant went for a three to win. He wanted to steal this game outright from the Lakers, not send it to overtime and leave it to chance. That in itself is the hallmark of a competitor of the highest order.

Durant certainly had help. The series has turned into Russell Westbrook’s official Coming Out Party, and one wonders if the Thunder would have rolled to an easy victory had he not gotten into early foul trouble.

He and Durant, and the shot-blocking wonder that is Serge Ibaka, have the Lakers attention. At the start of the third quarter, after two bad shots by an increasing useless Derrick Fisher, Los Angeles went inside to Bynum off a flash-cut to the mid-post, where he performed beautiful high-low action to Gasol for an easy dunk. It was a sign that the team recognizes that they need to be more focused and run their offense better to beat the Thunder. Why they aren’t able to do execute like that more often is anyone’s guess.

So now the series shifts to Oklahoma, where the Thunder’s considerable home fanbase will surely be chomping at the bit to experience a home playoff victory. They have a team that can give that to them, and maybe more.

The Lakers might be up two games and in a good position, but you are crazy if you think they should feel comfortable.