by Julian Spivey
My NBA Finals prediction before the start of game one was that the Golden State Warriors would defeat the Toronto Raptors in a full seven game series and threepeat as NBA Champions. In all honesty I would’ve predicted Warriors in five games with a healthy Kevin Durant.
After the first game of the Finals I’m already second guessing myself.
The Raptors controlled most of the game of Thursday night (May 30) playing stellar defense and receiving a huge game from Pascal Siakam, who scored a career playoff high 32 points while adding eight rebounds and five assists.
The biggest reason why I thought going into the series that it would be a full seven-game series was the veteran leadership of Kawhi Leonard, who’s been here before and won it all with the San Antonio Spurs. He had a less than stellar game, but still managed to drop 23 points on the Warriors while matching Siakam’s eight rebounds and five assists.
Siakam and Leonard weren’t the only Raptors to reach the 20-point mark in game one with veteran center Marc Gasol adding 20 on 60 percent shooting, despite fouling out.
It’s the defense in game one that should scare the Warriors the most and there’s no reason to believe the Raptors intensity is going to back off – the team does have two former Defensive Player of the Year winners in Leonard (who’s won the honor twice) and Gasol and other players known for great defense like Serge Ibaka coming off the bench. Fred VanFleet had a good game off the bench controlling Steph Curry better than other defenders have and adding 15 points to go along with it. VanFleet was the highest scoring bench player for either team.
The Warriors got good games from their original big three with Curry leading all scorers in game one with 34 points, despite seemingly having more trouble than usual getting good shots off against the Raptors D. Draymond Green had his third consecutive triple-double, but for the second time in these playoffs on a losing end (something that had previously never happened for the Warriors). Klay Thompson added 21 points, which is his season average, but without Kevin Durant (who could return in game three, but just as likely may not return at all) he’s going to likely have to add more production. The Warriors didn’t have any other players in double figures.
The biggest weak point for the Warriors in game one was arguably Andre Iguodala’s offense as he missed multiple good looks from three and only added six points. He also appeared to re-injure himself late in the game. They’re going to need him, especially on the defensive end. DeMarcus Cousins did return for the Warriors for the first in almost a month and a half since being injured in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. He only played eight minutes off the bench and missed both shots he took and was mostly a non-factor. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to play more minutes the remainder of the series. Even him being a small factor could really help this team and their lack of depth without Durant.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Warriors react to losing game one of the Finals, something they’re certainly unaccustomed to. If they drop both games to the Raptors in Toronto, they may be digging themselves a hole that’s too deep to climb out of before even going back home.
by Eric Fulton & Julian Spivey
The 40th Sports Emmy Awards will be held on Monday, May 20 in New York, N.Y. honoring the best in sports broadcasting of the last year.
Julian: Weekly studio shows, which come either pre-game or post-game, are often tedious. In my opinion, many are annoying and time wasters. Most of the time I completely ignore these shows. Most of the shows in this category are very ignorable. TNT’s “Inside the NBA” is the most watchable sports program on television. There are times where I’ll watch “Inside the NBA” when I didn’t even pay attention to that night’s slate of games. That alone makes it the obvious pick for this category. “Inside the NBA” and “College GameDay” are tied for the most wins all-time in this category with eight apiece.
Eric: I love "Inside the NBA" because of the chemistry of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. They are very funny, but they also keep me informed about the games I watched on TNT and everything that is going on in the NBA. It is a basketball, but also one of the funniest shows on TV period.
Julian: I don’t watch “The Dan Patrick Show,” despite being a fan of Patrick. I just haven’t had the time. I enjoy every one of the other nominated daily studio shows. What these four other shows do is widely different – you have work hardboiled journalism with “Outside the Lines,” great debate with ‘PTI,” and great daily coverage of the NBA with “The Jump” and baseball with “MLB Tonight.” “MLB Tonight” has won this award six times and MLB Network has only been around a decade – that’s highly impressive. I’d give my vote to ESPN’s “The Jump” this year for some new blood because I really like what Rachel Nichols is doing with that show.
Eric: I’m going with ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon have hosted this really good long-running ESPN show and it’s still one of the best around. What I love about the show is the back and forth the guys usually have when it comes to talking about sports. Who says a guy from New York and a guy from Chicago couldn't get along?
Julian: People absolutely rave about Mike Emrick’s play-by-play calling for professional hockey, but as someone who isn’t a hockey follower I have the least amount of knowledge about Emrick. I do know that Emrick has won this honor the last five consecutive years and I feel it’s time to share. Jim Nantz might be my favorite all-around play-by-play announcer of all-time and I truly love that he’s multi-talented – I enjoy him whether he’s covering the NFL, PGA Tour or the college basketball March Madness tournament. Nantz has won this award twice and I’d be happy to see him win again, however if I had a vote I’d go with ESPN/ABC’s Mike Breen who’s never won the award before. Breen is essentially the Nantz of the NBA and makes the call of the games enjoyable without being over-the-top, which is essential for me in a great play-by-play man.
Side Note: Joe Buck has won this award more than anybody else and I find him to be the most annoying of any nominated.
Eric: Jim Nantz's smooth voice delivers every time he calls the big game. Plus, he is a versatile announcer going from NFL to college basketball to golf. Nantz is a natural when it comes to doing play-by-play sports broadcasting.
Julian: I fully expect for Tony Romo to win this award for his work with the NFL on CBS, but of all of the nominees in the category he’s, by far, my least favorite. His over-exuberance really excites many who watch his NFL announcing, but it’s far too much for me.
I was a huge fan of John Smoltz the baseball player and now I’m a huge fan of John Smoltz the baseball announcer. Smoltz has an effortless likability about him and announces the game in a manner that’s exciting, but now overdoing it (as Romo does). With Smoltz you’re entertained and learning about the game at the same time, which is the mark of a terrific event analyst.
Eric: Did you know that Jay Bilas is an attorney? His passion for college basketball is great, but the difference is that he does not go over the top like other analysts. I can watch a game with Bilas on the call with no problem.
Eric: Ernie Johnson is the perfect host for "Inside the NBA" because he can take and dish out all his co-host can handle. I think he brings the peacemaker type and it is a great match with Shaq, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.
Julian: Eric is 100 percent correct when he says Ernie Johnson is the perfect host for TNT’s “Inside the NBA." And, he'd probably be the perfect host for any sports studio show. There’s nobody in the sports business like Johnson, but Johnson has won this award three times before (honestly it should’ve been more). ESPN’s Bob Ley is one of the all-time greatest sports studio hosts and the reigning winner of this honor. I’d like to see some new blood in the category this year and that’s why I’d like to see Scott Van Pelt win. ESPN’s Van Pelt has one of the most infectious personalities of anybody in sports broadcasting and is currently the host of the best iteration of ESPN’s long-running “SportsCenter.”
Eric: Personally, I respect Charles Barkley more as a broadcaster/analyst than I did as a player. Barkley can be funny and serious at the same time. He is the biggest reason why "Inside the NBA" is as popular as it’s ever been.
Julian: Alex Rodriguez is one of the biggest villains in the history of sports and for some reason Fox and ESPN both couldn’t wait to have their hands on him for their broadcasts. That pisses me off more than anything else currently in sports broadcasting. A-Rod shouldn’t be anywhere near a baseball field.
Charles Barkley is a no-brainer for me because he’s easily the most interesting and entertaining broadcaster in sports and much of that is because he will say whatever and anything he believes and doesn’t give a damn what you or even his bosses think. The fact that TNT basically lets him do whatever he wants has worked wonders for “Inside the NBA” and has set it apart from everything else in sports broadcasting. I wish every sport had a Charles Barkley, but I haven’t found another yet and it’s not even close. Barkley has previously won this honor three times.
Eric: Holly Rowe is a great sports reporter who covers almost everything on ESPN, but mostly college sports. She is great to watch when it comes to reporting and she handles herself like a professional without being extremely serious.
Julian: Everybody in this category is worthy of this award. I do have a bit of a baseball bias, though, and of the two baseball reporters in this category my favorite is MLB Network/Fox’s Tom Verducci. Part of the reason I’m big on Verducci is he’s also a print media guy and I’ll always be a journalism nerd. Verducci is also one of the smartest baseball minds when it comes to reporting. He’s won this award twice before, including last year.
Let us know in the comments who your winners would be!