Blog Posts by Eric Freeman

  • Last summer, Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was the subject of trade rumors that would have moved him from the only NBA team he's ever known. Nearly a year later, he's clearly been the best player of the first few days of the 2014 postseason.

    For the second consecutive game, Aldridge terrorized the Houston Rockets' defense. Coming three days after his 46-point, 18-rebound performance in Portland's Game 1 win, Aldridge scored 43 points on 18-of-28 shooting to lead his team to a 112-105 win and a 2-0 series lead, giving Portland a huge advantage as the series heads to their home court for Games 3 and 4.

    Aldridge's performance places him in impressive historic company. He is the first player in Blazers history to score 40 or more points in two playoff games over his entire tenure with the team, the first player to score 40 points in consecutive playoff games since LeBron James in 2009, and the third player in NBA history to score 40-plus points in both Games 1 and

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  • In Game 1 of the first-round series between the Dallas Mavericks and heavily favored San Antonio Spurs, the No. 8-seed Mavs held a surprising 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for them, that advantage didn't last — the Spurs held them to one field goal in the final seven minutes of regulation to grab a 90-85 win and 1-0 series advantage. Given the circumstances, the Mavericks could be forgiven for thinking they had squandered their best chance at stealing a road victory.

    They would not let go of the same opportunity in Wednesday night's Game 2. On the strength of their typical offensive prowess and impressive defensive thievery, the Mavericks cruised to a 113-92 win to break a 10-game losing streak against San Antonio, even the series at 1-1, and gain homecourt advantage as the series heads to Dallas for Games 3 and 4.

    The Mavericks' strong play started early, in large part due to some unfamiliar carelessness from the Spurs. While the Spurs managed to shoot 57.6

    Read More »from Mavericks force 22 Spurs turnovers to even series, win for first time in 10 matchups
  • Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris calls 63-loss season a 'huge success'

    A decent number of NBA teams enter the regular season with little expectation of winning enough games to qualify for the postseason, but few have ever done so quite as brazenly as the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers came into this season with a roster that many thought could challenge for the worst record of all-time, cast away several veterans before the trade deadline, engaged in a record-tying 26-game losing streak, and generally looked like a squad with no designs on a winning season. If a basketball fan or analyst took issue with teams tanking over the past few months, it's a safe bet that the Sixers were mentioned.

    With a 19-63 record, Philly finished with the NBA's second-worst record — ahead of only the tanking-averse Milwaukee Bucks — and have a 19.9 percent chance of winning the draft lottery. By most metrics, that's a terrible season. So it's a little weird to hear franchise owner Josh Harris call it the exact opposite. From Dei Lynam for CSNPhilly.com (via PBT):

    "I

    Read More »from Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris calls 63-loss season a 'huge success'
  • Grizzlies rebound from furious Thunder comeback, even up series with OT win

    The Memphis Grizzlies are known for their toughness, a quality that's given birth to a franchise motto (Grit and Grind) and the sort of ever-present identity that makes them a fearsome opponent in any circumstance. In Monday night Game 2 of their first-round series against the No. 2-seed Oklahoma City Thunder, that resilience helped them withstand what could have gone down as a legendary comeback.

    Let's start with the Thunder's massive plays late in regulation, because they spoke to the overall quality of this game and the general desperation of playoff basketball. With 18 seconds remaining in regulation and Memphis up 98-93 after having bounced back from a lead-stealing dunk from OKC star Kevin Durant, the game appeared to be near its end. The Grizzlies had controlled tempo for the vast majority, imposed their style at both ends and appeared heading to a series-tying victory.

    Unfortunately for them, the Thunder had other ideas. Durant, the NBA's presumptive MVP this season, came

    Read More »from Grizzlies rebound from furious Thunder comeback, even up series with OT win
  • Raptors GM Masai Ujiri fined $25,000 for 'F--- Brooklyn" comment at Game 1 rally

    The NBA playoffs mark a period of intense competitiveness throughout the league, but there is still a baseline for respecting peers. On Monday, we learned that cursing a first-round opponent in a public forum is not within the NBA's definition of acceptable behavior.

    At a fan rally before Saturday's Game 1 of the series between the Brooklyn Nets and host Toronto Raptors, general manager Masai Ujiri said 'F--- Brooklyn" over a microphone to the assembled crowd, with a fan video quickly gaining attention on social media and in various reports. On Monday, Ujiri was fined $25,000 for his comment, as announced in an NBA press release.

    Earlier reports had suggested that Ujiri would merely be warned, apparently due to the Ujiri's lack of a previous offense and the comment's having taken place at a fan rally, not a press conference. Yet it's fairly easy to understand why this fine went through. Ujiri apologized for his choice of words, but the NBA typically doesn't put up with such comments

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  • Josh McRoberts dunks on Chris 'Birdman' Andersen in Heat-Bobcats Game 1 (Video)

    The Charlotte Bobcats entered the NBA playoffs without a single national TV appearance during the 2013-14 season. In their first game in front of that wide audience, one player produced arguably the single most impressive play of the postseason so far.

    Less than a minute into the fourth quarter of Sunday's series-opening game against the defending champion Miami Heat, forward Josh McRoberts slipped past LeBron James, took a pass from teammate Luke Ridnour, and unloaded on Heat big man Chris "Birdman" Andersen for the emphatic posterization. (All Josh McRoberts posters are on perpetual discount, by the way.) Check out the video below:

    Unfortunately for the Bobcats, this play was not representative of the rest of the game. Although Charlotte held a third-quarter lead, Miami took control with an 18-4 fourth-quarter run to grab a 99-88 win and a 1-0 series advantage. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 50 points on 18-of-32 shooting, while Al Jefferson was the Bobcats' top performer

    Read More »from Josh McRoberts dunks on Chris 'Birdman' Andersen in Heat-Bobcats Game 1 (Video)
  • Craig Sager's son interviews Gregg Popovich during Spurs-Mavericks Game 1

    The beginning of the NBA postseason is typically a joyous time around the sport, but this year's festivities have been marked by some uncharacteristic sadness. On Tuesday night, Craig Sager Jr. announced his father, TNT reporter Craig Sager, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Sager, a fixture on broadcasts for decades and known around the culture for his colorful wardrobe, will miss the entire postseason while undergoing treatment.

    For Sunday's opening broadcast of TNT's postseason coverage, the entire crew decided to pay tribute to their absent colleague. That included a special interview with Sager's greatest antagonist, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. For the on-court interview between the third and fourth quarters of Game 1 between the top-seeded Spurs and their in-state rival Dallas Mavericks, Craig Sager II took the microphone to speak to Popovich. Take a look (via The Point Forward):

    Popovich and the elder Sager are well-known for their testy interviews, although

    Read More »from Craig Sager's son interviews Gregg Popovich during Spurs-Mavericks Game 1
  • Shot clock problem forces PA countdowns and air horn at Raptors-Nets Game 1

    The opening game of the NBA playoffs was meant to display the best the league has to offer. Instead, it ended up with a goofy technical malfunction that turned the end of Saturday's Game 1 between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets into a goofy scene.

    Approximately halfway through the third quarter at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, both shot clocks malfunctioned and turned off, forcing a stoppage in play. Arena workers and technicians attempted to install portable clocks at the corners of the court, but those didn't work either.

    So, with the break in play stretching on, they decided to resort to a decidedly more analog solution. Public address announcer Herbie Kuhn informed the players and crowd when the shot clock had reached 10 seconds, then five seconds, and then counted down to zero from there. Except, when the shot clock expired, there was no horn — he just said "horn."

    Yes, it was all very bizarre.

    In the fourth quarter, one of Kuhn's scoring table compatriots got control

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  • Kevin Durant's game-winning dunk finishes off a likely MVP season (Video)

    Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is the NBA's likely MVP for the 2013-14 season. While LeBron James might still be the league's best player, depending on how you rate such things, there's little question that Durant has put forth the best campaign of any player. Apart from winning his fourth scoring title in five years, Durant has improved in virtually every aspect of the sport and carried OKC through several lengthy periods of absence for co-star Russell Westbrook. It's hard to imagine him having done more to help his team.

    In Wednesday night's regular season finale against the Detroit Pistons, Durant put an exclamation mark on his already amazing year. With the Thunder needing a win to lock down the West's No. 2 seed for the playoffs, the lackluster Pistons held a meaningful lead for much of the contest. Then, in the fourth quarter, Durant took over. With OKC down 111-110 and under 20 seconds on the clock, Durant took an inbounds pass, went to his left, and dunked on both

    Read More »from Kevin Durant's game-winning dunk finishes off a likely MVP season (Video)
  • Check out the first-round matchups for the 2014 NBA Playoffs

    After nearly six full months and 82 games for each of the NBA's 30 teams, the regular season now gives way to the postseason. With no clear favorite, a massively competitive Western Conference, and two big rivals atop the Eastern Conference, this year's playoffs figure to be worth the wait.

    Without further ado, let's take a quick look at the first-round matchups, along with full schedules (all times Eastern and some quick analysis. (We'll publish in-depth previews for every series later this week.)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE

    No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (62-20) vs. No. 8 Dallas Mavericks (49-33)

    Game 1: Sunday, April 20, at San Antonio, 1:00PM on TNT

    Game 2: Wednesday, April 23, at San Antonio, 8:00PM on NBA TV

    Game 3: Saturday, April 26, at Dallas, 4:30PM on TNT

    Game 4: Monday, April 28, at Dallas, 9:30PM on TNT

    Game 5*: Wednesday, April 30, at San Antonio, TBD

    Game 6*: Friday, May 2, at Dallas, TBD

    Game 7*: Sunday, May 4, at San Antonio, TBD

    The eternally effective Spurs bounced back from last

    Read More »from Check out the first-round matchups for the 2014 NBA Playoffs

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