What to Watch For in the NBA Finals

For all the talk this season about conference imbalance in the NBA and the inequity of its playoff structure, things seemed to have worked out just fine. Measured by point differential, we’ve ended up with the best teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences in the finals, and fans everywhere get the chance to watch a rarity in pro basketball: an NBA Finals rematch.Who’s going to win? The old adage is that defense wins championships, but this matchup is all about the offenses.The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat have had the two best offenses in these playoffs and, surprisingly, both have been more efficient than they were in the regular season. Their offensive systems are different, but they have the same basic goal: Create good shots. With that in mind, here are some things to watch for:Spurs movementIn April, a study by two members of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective found that, after controlling for time of possession, the Spurs’ offense had more movement and more passing than any other offense in the league, and by a wide margin. Indeed, according to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking Statistics, the Spurs’ offense has featured more movement during the playoffs than the other three conference finalists.Movement Per Minute of PossessionPassing and ball movement are not perfect proxies for offensive effectiveness, but in the Spurs’ case, they are symptomatic of an offense that is working well. San Antonio doesn’t have any player as individually brilliant as Miami’s LeBron James to consistently pull good shots out of thin air, so the Spurs rely on their collaborative system. The distance traveled is of particular importance. On average, the five players on the floor for the Spurs cumulatively travel nearly 500 feet farther per minute of possession than the players for the Heat. That’s 500 extra feet of screening, rolling and cutting, searching for seams in the defense and open space on the perimeter.The Heat’s defense plays at a frenetic pace, aggressively trapping pick-and-roll ball-handlers and flying around the perimeter in a series of rotations to cover shooters. It can be devastating when done well, but the Spurs are uniquely suited to turn this aggression against the Heat.Shot selectionWhile a key indicator of the Spurs’ offensive health is the movement and passing they use to create shots, the key for the Heat is simply the location of their shots.The Heat spent most of the past two weeks burying the Pacers with 3-pointers. These outside shots buoy Miami’s offensive efficiency, but the Heat’s 3-point shooting is also a reflection of how easily James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat’s other ball-handlers get into the lane and collapse the opponent’s defense.In his NBA Finals’ preview at Grantland, Zach Lowe pointed out some of the methods the Spurs used to defend the Heat in last year’s playoffs, and how they resulted in a slew of mid-range jump shots. If we look at the breakdown of the Heat’s true shot attempts (which includes field goal attempts and trips to the free-throw line) we can see just how far last year’s pattern was from what the Heat have just done.Miami Heat Shot SelectionFor the Heat, 3-point attempts are tied to their ability to get inside the defense. James, Wade, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers were able to get into the lane with ease against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, and the result was that nearly 30 percent of Miami’s true shot attempts in that series were 3-pointers (which they made at an obscene 40.8 percent clip).In last year’s finals, however, by walling off the paint and offering up mid-range jump shots to the Heat, the Spurs were able to keep them away from the rim, off the free-throw line and inside the 3-point line. The Heat will surely have some adjustments ready this year, and we should be able to tell a lot about how they are working just by looking at the locations of their shots.LineupsThe offensive systems each team employs to create good shots revolve around lineups. The Heat would prefer to play small, arraying three and sometimes four shooters around James. The Pacers were loathe to change gears and try to match up with them, but the Spurs may be more willing. They have more depth than any of the teams the Heat have played in these playoffs, and San Antonio is much more comfortable using that depth in a variety of arrangements.A big issue in last season’s finals’ matchup was the way the Heat’s small lineups forced the Spurs to separate Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan. The Spurs used that pairing for about 20 percent of their regular-season minutes, then just over 11 percent in the finals. But Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich has been more aggressive this season about experimenting with different lineups.It is tricky to parse statistics for the Spurs between big and small lineups because of the big and small skill set of Boris Diaw. When he’s playing power forward for the Spurs, the “big” or “small” nature of the lineup depends on the matchups and what he’s being asked to do. But having him on the floor allows the Spurs to have their cake and eat it, too.Back to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking Statistics: Diaw was third on the team in touches per game, at 49.2, during the regular season. While Diaw is capable of scoring in a variety of ways, he averaged just 9.1 points per game because his role in the Spurs’ offense often called for him to be a facilitator. He averaged 38.9 passes per game; about 79 percent of his touches involved moving the ball to another player. This usually worked out well for the Spurs, as Diaw is among the best big man passers in the game. His assists created an additional 6.7 points per game for the Spurs during the regular season.In the Spurs’ Game 6 victory to close out the Oklahoma City Thunder, Diaw saw a lot of extra touches by virtue of playing some extra minutes, but it was what he did with those touches that made the difference.The Boris Diaw StoryIn Game 6, Diaw’s touches accumulated nearly 50 percent more points for the Spurs than they did during the regular season or in the series to this point. This increased output from Diaw was needed, with the Spurs struggling to hit 3-pointers and Tony Parker sitting out the second half with an ankle injury.Diaw’s ability to shift between big and small defensive assignments, and scoring and facilitating roles on offense, may allow the Spurs to sidestep a lot of the matchup land mines the Heat have waiting for them.MarginsThese teams are incredibly talented, well-coached and, ultimately, evenly matched. Each has a series of counters available for every obvious advantage the other will try to exploit. That’s why this series will be won at the margins and in the minutiae. Little things — the Spurs forcing the Heat to make one extra defensive rotation, the Heat getting the ball to a 3-point shooter instead of settling for a seemingly open jump shot around the free-throw line, and the tiny in-game matchups that shift the rotations — will be the deciding battles. read more

Reds infield could be major strength

It’s difficult for the fans of a tradition-rich franchise like the Cincinnati Reds to accept their role as a little fish in the big sea of Major League Baseball.Due to the financial limitations of small-market teams under the current MLB system, which does not feature a salary cap, Reds fans enter each season knowing that they’ve started at a disadvantage.When competing with deep-pocket teams like the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox each year, Reds management has to be creative to be successful under the constraints placed upon them by their economic reality.However, the average Reds fan doesn’t want to hear that. In a city that hasn’t seen a World Series title since 1990, they just want results.Walt Jocketty, Reds general manager and president of baseball operations, has taken a big step towards assuaging those concerns with the signing of shortstop Orlando Cabrera to shore up the middle of the infield.“We are very excited. We talked about trying to improve at shortstop but didn’t think we’d be able to do it,” Jocketty said. “Acquiring a player of his ability and stature, that when you look at his career and the winning clubs he’s been on, he’s a winner.”The Reds freed up the money for Cabrera by trading center fielder Willy Taveras and infielder Adam Rosales to the Oakland Athletics for utility-infielder Aaron Miles. He is slated to make $2.02 million this season with a $4 million mutual option for 2011.Cabrera spoke about being the newest addition to an already solid infield.“Defensively, I think we have a great infield,” Cabrera said. “We know we’ve got guys who can catch the ball.”That’s an understatement.The addition of Cabrera brings the total of Gold Glove awards for the Reds’ infield to 10 – seven for third baseman Scott Rolen, two for Cabrera and one for second baseman Brandon Phillips.Cabrera also brings a more than capable bat. Last season, he hit .284 with nine home runs and 77 RBI for Oakland and the Minnesota Twins. He is a career .275 hitter.He will add to the nexus of veteran players like Rolen and Phillips to complement younger, budding stars like first baseman Joey Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce.“They have a great group of guys,” Cabrera said of his new teammates. “With Rolen, Phillips and the pitching staff, I think we’ve got a great chance this year if we stay healthy.”Initial reports indicate he will hit from the No. 2 spot in the batting order, an area of need in seasons past.Along with his glove and stick, Cabrera also appears to bring a sense of humor and knowledge of other Cincinnati sports figures to town with him.When discussing his willingness to do whatever it takes to win, Cabrera alluded to the city’s highest profile athlete and wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chad Ochocinco.“I’m going to do everything I can,” Cabrera said. “Even if I have to change my name to Uno Ocho.” read more

Ohio State womens soccer back from 02 start to season

A slow start might have been disastrous for the Ohio State women’s soccer team. But senior forward Tiffany Cameron said the team’s early morning wake-up calls helped the Buckeyes recover from losses in each of their first two games. “We started off the season pretty slow, and then we got punished for that and we had to wake up at 6 a.m. for practice, it was crazy,” Cameron said. “Coach wanted to show us the will to win and what it takes to win and we just snapped out of it.” OSU has won the last seven of eight games and coach Lori Walker is pleased with the team’s growth and thinks they are improving a little more every day. “Our goal is to get a little bit better every single day and so I would say we have made a lot of progress,” Walker said. “The challenges we are presented with game to game are different because the opponents present different challenges, and we’ve finally gotten to a place where we are reading problems as they are thrown to us on the field and doing a much better job of solving them.” Similarly, junior midfielder Danica Wu said she thinks they are doing a great job connecting as a team. “We are getting better every game and we are connecting much better,” Wu said. “We give it our all and learn from our games and hopefully we keep doing that.” Cameron said the team’s biggest strength has been its will to win. “We have came out to every game ready to play and work our hardest,” Cameron said. “We are at a really good place right now.” Cameron, a Mississauga, Ontario, product, has scored nine of the team’s 14 goals this season. The hot start puts her at 28 goals and 68 points in her career, which stand seventh and tied for 6th, respectively, in OSU history. “I set a goal for myself to score at least 20 goals this season,” Cameron said. “I want to break the record and I can’t do that without our team and coming out hard everyday and practice.” As the Buckeyes prepare for their 8 p.m. game Thursday against Penn State, Cameron said the strategy against the Nittany Lions is to keep the team connected. “This practice we worked on being on the same page and finding open space because they play with three back,” Cameron said. “We need to have a lot of wide space to expose them.” Walker said the game will be a back-and-forth battle. “You need to contain your opponents’ top personalities and certainly Penn State has many and we need to make sure we have our attack as well,” Walker said. “The piece about Penn State is that they are scoring a lot of goals but they are also vulnerable and giving up some goals.” Cameron, a senior, said she’s especially ready for this year’s contest. “It’s my senior year, we always come out to battle and they are the best in our conference besides us,” Cameron said. “We always give them a run for their money.” The Buckeyes’ matchup against the Nittany Lions at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium will be televised live on Big Ten Network. read more

Ohio State earns bid to Orange Bowl set to play Clemson

Coach Urban Meyer and the football team wait to enter the stadium. OSU lost to Michigan State, 34-24, at the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Dec. 7. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editorThe Ohio State Buckeyes are headed to the Sunshine State.One day after getting their dreams of playing for a BCS National Championship dashed by No. 4 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game, OSU is set to travel to Miami, Fla., to take on the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1) in the Discover Orange Bowl Jan. 3, 2014 after earning an at-large bid.“On behalf of our players, staff and The Ohio State University, we are honored to accept the invitation to play in the Discover Orange Bowl,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said Sunday evening on the Orange Bowl teleconference. “We look forward to representing Ohio State down in south Florida.”The Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) dropped to No. 7 in the BCS Standings after falling to the Spartans, 34-24, Saturday. With a win, OSU likely would have had a chance to face off against No. 1 Florida State in Pasadena, Calif., but instead are scheduled to play in another BCS bowl against an ACC opponent.Meyer said he did not meet with the team Sunday, and that he does not think the team will have any problems getting up to play Clemson after missing out on a chance to play for the national title.“We had a good conversation after the game last night,” Meyer said. “They’re heartbroken, but they’re also competitors and I think the fact that they’re playing in a BCS Bowl against Clemson, that’s going to wake you up real fast … There’s not doubt in my mind that we’ll be excited to go play in this bowl game.”It is the ninth time OSU has been selected to play in a BCS bowl, tied for the all-time ever with Oklahoma, according to a press release.The Tigers and Buckeyes have only met one other time, in the 1978 Gator Bowl, a memorable affair that cost former OSU coach Woody Hayes his job.Trailing 17-15 with just over two minutes remaining, OSU quarterback Art Schlichter was intercepted by Clemson’s Charlie Bauman to all but end the game. Following the play, Hayes punched Bauman through the face mask after he got up on the OSU sideline.Hayes was fired by OSU the next day.The 2013 version of the Tigers, who lost in their regular season finale Nov. 30 to then-No. 10 South Carolina 31-17, sport a high-powered offense, ranked 12th in the country with 502.9 yards per game. Led by senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, the Tigers are tied for 11th in the country in scoring at 40.2 points per game.OSU junior linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is from Pompano Beach, Fla., said it will be nice to play the final game of the season in his home state.“It will be really cool to be able to play Clemson in Florida in the Orange Bowl game … in front of my family and friends,” Shazier said in an OSU press release. “It will be nice to be able to play the last game of the season in my home state. It will mean a lot.”Buckeye senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said he has not yet turned his thoughts to the bowl game, but said he is going to enjoy getting the opportunity to play in a BCS bowl in his final game at OSU.“I think it means a lot for us to go back and play in a BCS bowl game,” Mewhort said in the release. “To get a win in a big time bowl and at the same time show some resiliency would be a great way to go out. I couldn’t ask at this point for anything more than to play in a BCS bowl game, and getting to go to battle with these guys I’ve been fortunate to play with for the last four or five years will be great.”Kickoff between the Buckeyes and Tigers is set for 8:30 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium. read more

Batshuayi confirms his season is over

first_imgBorussia Dortmund loan star Michy Batshuayi has admitted that his season is now “probably over” after sustaining an ankle injury during their defeat to rivals Schalke 04 over the weekendThe Belgium international had to be taken off on a stretcher after a challenge by Schalke’s Benjamin Stambouli.Batshuayi later took to Twitter to inform fans that his season is now most likely over with his prospects of making the World Cup for Belgium currently uncertain.“Well its not good news for now, my season is probably over, and i wont be able to pay @BVB back for their confidence … Thank you all the amazing amount of love I received since yesterday. Wishing my teammates the best for the final days. See you soon” wrote the 24 year-old.borussia dortmund, marco reus, jadon sancho, paco alcacerReport: Dortmund hammer four past Leverkusen George Patchias – September 14, 2019 Borussia Dortmund put four past Bayer Leverkusen.Borussia Dortmund leapfrogged Bayern Munich to claim second place in the Bundesliga. After handing out a 4-0 thrashing of…Well its not good news for now, my season is probably over, and i wont be able to pay @BVB back for their confidence … ?? Thank you all the amazing amount of love I received since yesterday. Wishing my teammates the best for the final days. See you soon ?? pic.twitter.com/GORkrFz9kk— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) 16 April 2018The forward had enjoyed a superb start at Dortmund, since arriving on the final day of the January transfer window on a loan deal from Chelsea, and had scored seven goals in his 10 appearances in the Bundesliga.last_img read more

Loris Karius I was never told to leave by Liverpool

first_imgLoris Karius has denied he was ever told by Liverpool to leave this summerThe German goalkeeper ended a two-year stay at Anfield this summer for a move to Turkish giants Besiktas on loan after Liverpool signed Alisson Becker from AS Roma.The decision to sign the Brazil international came after Karius’ mistakes in Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in May’s Champions League final.“It was a super season with a very unfortunate end, but you must get over it,” Karius told Bild.“I knew that I must get up again and not hide and only concern myself with the past. It was a super team performance to just reach the final. Nobody can take that away from me. Not many German keepers can say they’ve played in a Champions League final.“A lot of things came together that day, and even though nobody wants to hear about it, you will never know how much my mistakes were connected to the injury which was diagnosed later. That’s no excuse — just an explanation.”Roberto Firmino, LiverpoolVirgil van Dijk praises Roberto Firmino after Liverpool’s win Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Virgil van Dijk hailed team-mate Roberto Firmino after coming off the bench to inspire Liverpool to a 3-1 comeback win against Newcastle United.A possible explanation for Karius’ mistakes at Kiev could come through a concussion he suffered after Sergio Ramos’ elbow hit him.The Real Madrid captain never apologised to Karius afterwards and the German admitted he watched the footage several times for the next two weeks.“For one [or] two weeks, it was on my mind every day,” he said.“You sometimes don’t understand how a situation like that can happen,” he said. “I wanted to understand it better and that’s why I watched everything again that night and the following day.”Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp explained his reasons for parting with Karius were nothing personal.last_img read more

Steven Gerrard delighted with Allan McGregors second spell at Rangers

first_imgRangers manager might not have personally identified McGregor prior to his emergence as manager but he is happy to have endorsed the deal as McGregor has saved the club severally over the past five months.The Rangers shot-stopper was brilliant on Thursday in the Club’s Europa League tie against Villarreal on a night when his defence was shaky. McGregor twice denied Villareal’s Karl Toko Ekambi in one-to-one situations to secure a vital point for Rangers.Gerrard was quoted on Daily Mail: ”I can’t believe we got Allan for free. I think it was a stroke of genius from Mark Allen,”‘You need to take age and everything into consideration now but if you could knock a decade off Allan, he would be worth a hell of a lot of money.”Steven Gerrard, Michael OwenOwen reveals why Liverpool didn’t offer Gerrard a new contract Manuel R. Medina – September 6, 2019 According to Owen, the Reds wanted to sell Gerrard two years before he left the club and that’s why they didn’t offer him a contract renewal.“He could comfortably be part of most teams. To achieve in the biggest games in any league, you need a top goalie. That is the foundation you build on.””When I decided to take over, that’s an area I was keen to add to. Speaking to our recruitment team, when I knew McGregor was available and keen to come back – desperate to come back – it was a no-brainer for me.”On their upcoming fixtures, Gerrard continued:“When we came back from the international break, we saw this period right up to the Celtic game as a really tough period. But it is full of exciting games, games the players should enjoy and look forward to playing in.”‘The next two fixtures are big for us, six important points, but we need to focus on Hearts first. It would be nice to sit top after the weekend but we have to earn the right. You get nothing this early for it.”last_img read more

Kenai Man Seriously Injured In Crash Off Parks Highway

first_imgFacebook0TwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享A Kenai man was seriously injured when his vehicle rolled outside Palmer. Troopers are investigating the crash for possible involvement of drugs or alcohol. Thompson attempted to exit the Parks Highway at high speed at Hyer Road, failed to negotiate a sharp curve at the end of the off-ramp and rolled. The Alaska State Troopers say the rollover crash late Sunday night injured James Thompson, 39, of Kenai. Emergency responders transported Thompson to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center.last_img read more

Former Seward Correctional Officer Sentenced For Possession Of Child Pornography

first_imgStewart Blakeslee, 34, of Kasilof, was sentenced on Wednesday on a consolidated count of possession of child pornography. Facebook0TwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享A former correctional officer from Seward’s Spring Creek Correctional Facility was sentenced for charges of possessing child pornography. On July 8, 2017, a warrant was issued by Palmer Court for Blakeslee, he was arrested and arraigned at the Kenai Courthouse and remanded to Wildwood Correctional Center. Blakeslee was employed as a correctional officer at Spring Creek at the time of his arrest. According to Megan Peters, spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, they received allegations of distribution out of a hotel in the Wasilla area and then issued a search warrant for Blakeslee. He was there attending a DOC Prisoner Transport Officer School.center_img A subsequent search of his home computer in Kasilof found dozens of images and videos depicting child sexual exploitation, according to court documents. Blakeslee was sentenced to eight years with four suspended, seven years of supervised felony probation and registration as a sex offender for 15 years.last_img read more