All posts by Jake Weiner

Jake is one of the founders of DRosesandThorns.com and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He loves the NBA and MLB and is an avid Bulls, Cubs, and Bears fan. In his non-hoops obsessing time, he listens to hip-hop and watches high quality TV shows. You can also find his writing at TodaysFastbreak.com and BBALLBREAKDOWN.com

NBA Finals Predictions

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The crew here at @DRosesandThorns makes our NBA Finals predictions ahead of tonight’s Game 1:
 
 
Jacob Bikshorn (@OldManBikshorn): San Antonio Spurs in 7, Tim Duncan MVP
Steven Kerstein (@Stavster91): San Antonio Spurs in 6, Tony Parker MVP
Tyler “Geo” Geocaris (@Gbaby1513): San Antonio Spurs in 7, Tony Parker MVP
Jake Weiner (@jakezner): Miami Heat in 6, LeBron James MVP
 
 
Who do you guys think will take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!
 
 

Game 7 Recap: If You Can’t Take the Heat…

HEAT 99, PACERS 76
Dead even after six games, last night the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers geared up for a deciding Game 7 to decide who would face the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Just like last season against Boston, LeBron James and the Heat pulled away at home to clinch their 3rd straight berth to the Finals.
-The big debate going into the game was whether James would/should “go back to his Cleveland days” and dominate the ball to ensure a victory, or trust the Big 3 that has had so much success by continuing to try to find the right looks for the struggling Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It was clear what King James had decided as soon as the game started–Wade and Bosh combined for eight shots before James took even one. While Wade looked to have a spring in his step once again and got off to a quick 3/5 start, Bosh missed seven of his first eight shots in the first quarter. Nonetheless, James stuck to his gameplan of trusting his teammates–although he did score 18 points in 17 minutes to end the half. James, who averaged 4.9 three point attempts per game against Indiana, only attempted two three pointers in Game 7 while systematically pounding the ball inside and challenging Roy Hibbert. Hibbert, the breakout defensive star of this series, did a solid job inside with an efficient 18 points and eight rebounds but found himself in foul trouble with the Heat team crashing the glass hard. Furthermore, James clearly intended to and succeeded in shutting down Paul George on both ends. George had no answer for James’ drives and ultimately fouled out midway through the 4th quarter. On defense, LeBron held George, who averaged 19.4 PPG on 43% shooting in his own breakout playoffs, to seven points and seven rebounds on 2-9 shooting. After a massive Game 6 performance, George never got in any kind of a groove and James is undoubtedly the reason why.
-While James dominance was clearly the difference in the game, the most important development for Miami was the reemergence of Dwyane Wade. Wade finally notched his second 20 point game of the playoffs (first since 4/23), which is kind of insane when you consider his 21.2 PPG this season and 24.7 PPG career scoring average! What stood out about Wade’s game was his energy on the offensive glass (six OREB!) and his lift when attacking the basket. Wade made plenty of his signature bank shots and got to the line more times (still only seven attempts to James’ 16) than he had since Game 1 against Milwaukee, six weeks ago. However, Wade still missed nearly all of his long jumpers and looked creaky at times. Perhaps this was the signal of a breakout for the struggling star, but it might’ve just been one night where pride overtook pain.
-Chris Bosh continued struggling but at least showed up for this game, unlike the last three. After seeing his rebounding decline to 6.8 RPG (career 8.9), Bosh only notched 3.7 RPG in this series coming into Game 7. While the flurry of early shots wouldn’t fall for the escaped dinosaur, he made up for it with great energy by grabbing seven first half rebounds. He only finished with eight, but Miami dominated the 2nd half to an extent that overshadowed this completely. Bosh, who before the game asserted that he would “play without thinking”, still only finished with nine points. Perhaps he was intimidated by Roy Hibbert, but Bosh’s offensive struggles this series kicked into gear when he sprained his ankle in a Game 4 loss (16.3 PPG Games 1-3, seven PPG Games 4-7). If Bosh is hurting this badly against San Antonio, expect Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to make him pay. Of course, we have plenty of time to discuss that team from Texas that just won’t go away–for real though, five finals (4-0 in first four) in 14 years is pretty damn impressive for Coach Popovich and Timmy D.
-Meaningless Statistic: James started the game 13-13 from the FT line, which would have tied his own record for most FT without a miss in a playoff game (May 2011 against the Bulls–ugh). However, Bron missed his 14th FTA, missing his shot at breaking his own record. He finished 15/16. (Does it feel like LBJ kills the Bulls at the FT line in the playoffs? Quick research shows that he shot 81% against Chicago this year (77% overall) and 86% in 2011 (76% overall). So yeah, he does kill us.)

Coming up Rose(s)

Bicky (@OldManBikshorn, you really should read his thoughts/rants) did a great job of explaining Roses and Thorns in his Thorns post, but to recap quickly: Roses and Thorns is an activity we used to do as campers where you chose a highlight and lowlight of the day. And we like puns. Now that we got that out of the way, I’m going to handle the “rosier” aspects of the Bulls offseason and 2013-14 prospects. DISCLAIMER: I can be a very pessimistic person! This article will not reflect a balanced, level view of how I’m looking at the Bulls future (although I am, relatively, rosy about it). Instead, I’ll just be highlighting the more exciting developments to keep an eye on. If you need your fix of pessimism, I can guarantee you Bick’s got your back with the Thorns post. On to the delightful Roses…

Rose #1: This one’s pretty obvious isn’t it? DERRICK FUCKING ROSE! Excuse my screaming, but god damn it who isn’t excited for that first dribble drive of the preseason? To state the utterly obvious, the Bulls missed Rose’s presence badly this season. While the defense was largly unaffected (by Rose’s absence; the absences of wing-stopper Ronnie Brewer and Turkish hammer Omer Asik were glaring occasionally), the Bulls offense struggled mightily without any true shot-creators besides Good Nate. Jump shooters like Marco Belinelli and Luol Deng were forced to take more difficult shots without Rose slicing through the paint and dishing the ball out. If Rose can even return to 75-80% of his MVP form, the Bulls are almost instantly the 2nd or 3rd best team in the conference, depending on how good you think the Pacers are (they’re very good). With well over a year to recover, it’s reasonable to assume Rose will be back with a vengeance. Yay!!!

Rose #2: Good Nate. It seems pretty unlikely that the Bulls resign Nate Robinson, as he’s rightfully earned a bigger payday than the front office would prefer to dish out. So I think it’s only right that we take a moment to enjoy the run Nate gave us. His 34 point performance in only 29 (!) minutes of the Bulls Game 4 triple OT win over the Nets will not be forgotten any time soon. The 29 minutes blow my mind because Kirk Hinrich played 60 (out of 63!) minutes in that game and hasn’t played since. But we’ll save that for the Thorns.

Rose #3: Another year closer to getting rid of Carlos Boozer. Look, the guy’s come up big a few times and when you squint a little bit his stats look pretty good…but let’s not forget he was our consolation prize after losing the Big 3 Sweepstakes. It’s not impossible for the Bulls to trade Boozer, or perhaps make another move that would open up an amnesty on him this summer. However, I think Bulls fans should prepare for one more year of Boozer. Why is this a Rose? Because Boozer is fucking entertaining! AND ONE! GIMME DAT SHIT! AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Boozer Flow Chart

Rose #4: The continued emergence of Jimmy Butler. Can’t say enough about this dude. He played just over 8 minutes per game as a 22 year old rookie, and was afraid to take most open 3s, let alone make them. Flash forward one year later, and Jimmy B is playing entire games without breaks while pacing the Bulls in 3 point shooting. Not to mention playing All-NBA level defense on scrubs like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (wait). As important as Luol Deng has been to the Bulls the last few seasons, Jimmy has quickly and surprisingly made Deng expendable—and everyone in Chicago, Deng included, knows it. That’s a pretty impressive feat for the 30th pick of the 2011 draft.

Rose #5: Joakim fuckin’ Noah. Bulls fans have known for a long time that Noah’s energy and annoyingness are unmatched among NBA brethren (http://www.theonion.com/articles/bitter-feud-developing-between-joakim-noah-rest-of,32444/). However, this season he blossomed into a true All-Star and a legitimate Defensive POY candidate. Noah set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and FT% this season while also playing the most minutes of his career. When plantar fasciitis took its toll late in the season, Noah struggled. Yet somehow, he shook off the pain midway through the first round and led Chicago to an upset of Brooklyn and a dogfight against Miami. Going into this season, Bulls fans were willing to throw Noah’s name around recklessly in Dwight Howard trade fantasies and whatnot. Now? I’m not so sure.

Rose #6: Offseason improvements. Not so fast—let’s just say I’ll let @OldManBikshorn (FOLLOW HIM!!!!) handle our outlook on this summer’s free agency and trade prospects. However, the offseason is a great time for young players to work on their game. I’m most looking forward to seeing how Derrick Rose has evolved his game in the wake of his major injury. With so much time off, I’m expecting to see a few more tricks up his sleeve. Jimmy Butler, who improved so much in his first offseason, will have plenty more time to get back at it this summer. Continued work on his solid 3-point shot will do wonders for a Bulls team that desperately craves floor spacing. And for some guys, the rest of the offseason will do wonders. Joakim would never admit it but he can surely use some time to smoke pot rest his foot. Luol Deng, fresh off a near death experience, could certainly use a real offseason after LEADING THE OLYMPICS IN MINUTES last summer. Seriously. I didn’t realize Thibs moonlighted as Great Britain’s coach too.

Rose #7: Tom Thibodeau is such a huge part of the Bulls’ past and future success. So much so, that I think he deserves a whole post in the future.

Rose #8: No more Rip Hamilton. Rip’s a Hall of Famer (DISCLAIMER: BIKSHORN DOES NOT AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT), and I won’t soon forget the effort he gave in games 4 and 5 against Miami when nothing was expected of him. However, he was signed to be the answer at shooting guard and couldn’t stay on the court consistently at all the past two seasons. For $5 million a year, that was an air ball. Opening up the rotation next year will be exciting with Jimmy Butler slated in as the opening day starter at the 2.

Well, this ran a little long, but like I said—I’m pretty rosy on the Bulls’ future. They have an MVP, All-Star talent to surround him, and a recent Coach of the Year. What’s not to like? (If you do not believe that ignorance is bliss, please check out Bicky’s “Thorns” post  here: https://drosesandthorns.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/bulls-off-season-preview-its-looking-a-bit-thorny-by-jacob-bikshorn/ . There is, unfortunately, also stuff not to like).