What We’re Reading: Conference Finals Time

From Flickr via NSNewsflash

From Flickr via NSNewsflash


We at Bulls by the Horns realize that you’re busy and don’t have the time to go searching through website after website for some interesting, NBA related reads. So, every Saturday, we’ll gather the articles we’ve found interesting and put them together for you in one place.

Before previewing the Conference Finals starting on Sunday, let’s take a look back at the conference semifinals.  With a 3-1 lead in their series, it looked like the Heat would coast to the Eastern Conference Finals in Game 5, but then Joe Johnson caught fire.  Even with the best basketball player on the planet covering him, Joe Johnson was hitting jumper after contested jumper in the fourth quarter and Couper Morehead took a look at the Heat’s analytical approach to shutting Johnson down.  Morehead did an incredible job breaking down what the numbers suggested the Heat should do and finally Shane Battier’s advice to James that eventually shut Johnson down and closed out the series.

Speaking of James, Jack Maloney at Hardwood Paroxsym wrote about finally being able to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James.  This was something that was difficult for Maloney as he has been a lifelong Celtics fan.  He reminisced about the difficulty he had with LeBron’s monster 2012 performance against the Celtics and how he was unable to truly appreciate that performance, but with no rooting interest during the series against the Nets, Maloney was finally able to comprehend and enjoy James’ mastery of the game of basketball.  He ended with a hope that everyone else, no matter how much hatred they hold, can enjoy James like he did this past week.

(We’ll move on to the Western Conference because the other Eastern Conference semifinal was dreadful and it’s just best to remove it from our minds.)

In one of the most interesting comparisons of the season, Evans Clinchy compared Chris Paul to a world-champion Scrabble player.  Though the comparison may sound far-fetched, Clinchy used the comparison to show the foolishness of Paul’s decision making down the stretch in Game 5 against the Thunder.  Though a lot of commentary focused on the botched call controversy and Durant meme creation, Clinchy argues that the turning point of the game was Paul’s irrational decision to attempt to turn the Thunder’s impending foul into a shooting foul.  Rather than make the simple play, Paul opted for a play that might have looked cooler and earned an extra free throw and it back fired badly.

In the other Western Conference semifinal, the Spurs were able to finish off the Trail Blazers in five games with Kawhi Leonard stepping up in their Game 5 victory with Tony Parker injured.  Though Leonard played great in last year’s NBA Finals, he disappeared a bit during regular season and somehow remains a mysterious player on one of the league’s best teams.  Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes attempted to unravel the mystery surrounding Leonard and explain what makes Leonard so special.  Hughes did a fantastic job covering Leonard’s well-known defensive prowess, but also explained how Leonard has managed to become an offensive weapon as well.

While the Spurs have an unknown offensive weapon in Leonard, the Thunder may have also unknowingly discovered a weapon as well in their Game 6 victory over the Clippers.  The injury of Serge Ibaka will loom large in the Western Conference Finals, but his Game 6 injury forced Scotty Brooks to go to a lineup he hadn’t used before and Ian Levy at FiveThirtyEight believes that the new lineup may be a key to the Thunder advancing to the NBA Finals.  Levy explained that the Thunder’s starting lineup has regularly started out slow and finding other combinations that may work off the bench is huge for the Thunder in the next round against the Spurs.

On the other side, Zach Lowe of Grantland has the all-encompassing preview of the Heat-Pacers series.  Though the Pacers have been a mess for the last couple months, Lowe argues that the matchup problems the Pacers present for the Heat may make the series more challenging than many may think.  In this sprawling preview, Lowe covers how the Pacers can cause some problems for the Heat by just playing their brand of basketball.  Some of his most interesting points revolved around the possible lineup and scheme changes that the Heat may make to match up better with the Pacers, which will be something to keep an eye on all series long.

From the playoffs, we move to the NBA Draft as the NBA combine took place during the week and brought about some interesting news about perspective prospects.  Though Andrew Wiggins’ vertical made a lot of headlines, the most intriguing player of this year’s draft may be Dante Exum.  Exum, the 19-year-old Australian, is the draft’s biggest mystery and Paul Flannery at SB Nation decided to take a closer look.  Flannery covered his tall frame, his projected position and his NBA blood lines, yet even after all of that it’s difficult to project Exum’s possible impact in the league.  Throughout the process, Exum has said all of the right things, but no one truly knows what to expect until he actually hits an NBA floor next season.

Though Exum is probably looking to make a much bigger splash in the NBA than Andre Miller, maybe Exum should look to Miller’s career as a model to follow.  This week, Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams wrote a fantastic profile of Miller and his long NBA career.  Throughout the piece, Abrams made it obvious that Miller was never looking to make highlight reels or top play lists, but rather he was looking to play great basketball and do all he could to help his team win.  Reading about the incredible struggles of Miller’s childhood made it clear why he had developed such a workmanlike approach to his career in the NBA and how he had managed to survive so long.

That’s all for this week.  And as always…Reading is FUNdamental.

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