Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: It’s All Eyes North thanks to the Minnesota Timberwolves fast start

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By Eric Nelson
November 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the capital of Timberwolves Nation…..

•All Eyes North: The Minnesota Timberwolves have played only 10 games this season, but already look like a completely different team compared to the inept squads who have struggled since 2004. Minnesota (7-3) has won five straight games for the first time in eight years and is four games north of .500 for the first time since 2007. The additions of Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague have taken the T’Wolves to another level…

•Instant Impact: With Butler in the lineup Minnesota is 7-1. Butler doesn’t have spectacular stats (15.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game), but he elevates his teammates. Butler also plays lock down defense and is a winner. Butler could become a rock star in Minnesota…

•Sports Riddle: What do the Timberwolves and LA Rams have in common? Both are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004…

•Giant Rout: The Rams crushed the NY Giants 51-17 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. According to the LA Times it is the most points the Giants have allowed at home since 1964. With QB Jared Goff getting better, RB Todd Gurley bulldozing opponents, and a solid defense, the Rams are trending up…

•No Boos Allowed: The 8-1 Eagles have the NFL’s best record and are playing so well that normally cynical Philadelphia fans have nothing to boo about. In Philly quarterback Carson Wentz is now as popular as Rocky Balboa – except that Wentz is actually a real character…

•Carson by the Numbers: In just his second season Wentz has blossomed into a top-notch gunslinger. The North Dakota State product leads the NFL with 23 touchdown passes and has thrown just five interceptions…

•Moving Up: Despite a bye last week, Minnesota has gone from number 7 to number 6 in this week’s NFL Power rankings. Philadelphia is number 1 followed by the LA Rams, Pittsburgh, New England and New Orleans…

•Husker Invasion: The Cobheads are coming. Even though Nebraska has a sub-par 4-5 record, don’t be surprised if Cornhusker fans stage a coup d’état and take over TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Minnesota is also 4-5 and a good chunk of Gopher backers have already given up on the team. Husker Nation always travels well, which means they will flock to Minneapolis for some football and partying…

•Mission Miami: Minnesota Vikings legend Chuck Foreman is going to Saturday’s game in South Florida between number 3 Notre Dame and 7th ranked Miami. Foreman played college football for the Hurricanes…

•Just Asking: Have Hawkeye fans stopped celebrating yet? Iowa’s 55-24 battering of Ohio State last week in Iowa City was clear cut Hawkeye domination and one of the most convincing wins in school history…

•Gold Rush: Congrats to Minnesota CF Byron Buxton and 2B Brian Dozier for winning their first AL gold gloves. Buxton has a knack for making highlight plays and covers more ground than a tarp. Dozier is steady and sometimes spectacular in gobbling up ground balls, and makes turning a double play look easy…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The future is now for the Minnesota Timberwolves

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By Eric Nelson
October 17, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of autumn technicolor…...

•Playoffs or Bust: The Minnesota Timberwolves begin their 29th season Wednesday night in Texas against the San Antonio Spurs. The Wolves and Spurs are polar opposite franchises. Minnesota has a track record of mistakes, bad luck and losing. San Antonio’s resume includes savvy decision making, lotto success and five NBA titles. But, the pendulum might start swinging the T’Wolves way after significant off-season upgrades. Suddenly the bar of expectation is IDS Tower-high for Minnesota. Anything short of the post-season will be considered a lost season…

•Playoff Drought: The star-crossed Wolves have not made the NBA playoffs since 2004 – the longest current drought in the Association. That should change because Jimmy Butler has been brought in to team up with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns

•Depressing Data: Once upon a time, Minnesota went to the playoffs for eight straight seasons (1997-2004). However, that run of success is a blip on the radar screen compared to the Wolves many years of ineptitude. Minnesota’s all-time regular season record is a dismal 878-1,370 (.391). The Wolves have been allergic to winning for most of their existence…

•Done Deal: Of course, it might not matter how the Wolves or any other NBA team not located in Oakland does this season. Barring injuries, or an unlikely catastrophe, the juggernaut Warriors look like a lock to win their third title in four seasons…

•Barr None: For the record, I am in the camp that believes Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers was clean. Now Green Bay has to regroup without one of the top gunslingers in the NFL. Backup Brett Hundley needs to grow into this job quickly. If Hundley and the Packers don’t overcome this huge loss, the balance of power in the NFC North could shift to Detroit and Minnesota…

•Purple Reign: Somewhere in the music heavens Prince will be smiling this Sunday. The Baltimore-Minnesota game at US Bank Stadium is a battle between the only two NFL teams with purple as a primary color…

•Sinking: PJ Fleck’s boat has sprung a leak. After a 30-27 loss to Michigan State, Minnesota is still winless in the Big Ten. The Gophers (3-3 / 0-3) mounted a second half comeback behind QB Demry Croft (who threw three touchdown passes), but came up short on a soggy Saturday night in Minneapolis…

•Weather Games: For the second straight week the Gophers had a game delayed by lightning. The Spartans-and Gophers began 44 minutes late because of lightning in the area. Lightning also delayed the Minnesota-Purdue game for 88 minutes in the fourth quarter on October 7 in West Lafayette, IN…

•Intimate Gathering: The crowd count at TCF Bank Stadium was 47,541, but there could not have been more than 15k in the house when the game finished…

•Tracy’s Take: I wonder what Tracy Claeys is thinking these days? The Gophers let him go after a 9-4 season – including a Holiday Bowl win against Washington State. Meanwhile, Fleck and the Gophers are sputtering in the Big Ten…

•Travel-Tested: The Minnesota Wild are getting used to airports and hotels early this season. The Wild play five of their first six games on the road. So far they have already skated on visiting ice in Detroit, Carolina and Chicago. On Friday Minnesota plays at Winnipeg, then travels to Calgary on Saturday. The Wild returns to St. Paul on October 24 against Vancouver, which is the first of six straight home games…

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Should Timberwolves acquire Kyrie Erving?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
August 2, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

Nobody has done more to improve their roster than the Minnesota Timberwolves since Golden State captured their second NBA title in June over Cleveland. After the team finished 31-51, missing the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden took their time, rolled up their sleeves, and worked the system. Suddenly the Timberwolves look like a playoff contender.

Trading veteran Ricky Rubio to Utah for a 2018 first-round pick, releasing forward Nickalo Pekovic, making the blockbuster deal with Chicago for All-Star Jimmy Butler in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Minnesota’s number-seven overall pick has set the tone for change.

That deal sent shock waves through the NBA community. It got players talking about Minnesota as the place to play.
All-Star guard Jeff Teague was signed as well as forward Taj Gibson; and the foundation for the future, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns, 21 and 22 years old respectively, is already in place. What Thibodeau has done is infused the organization because he has credibility as a coach around the league. Players know he’s about winning and want to play where they can see progress in the making.

Suddenly two weeks ago, after all the moves the Timberwolves have made, even signing veteran reserve guard Jamaal Crawford, All-Star Kyrie Erving, one of the NBA’s top point guards, wants out of Cleveland. After three straight years in the NBA Finals and helping Cleveland win their first championship of any kind in 54 years, he says he wants to go elsewhere. And he tells his agent and Cleveland he wants to go to Minnesota.

Does he have issues with LeBron James? Is he upset that Cleveland just fired their general manager, the guy who drafted him number-one overall out of Duke? Remember, he came into the league after a serious injury his last year at Duke. Whatever his reasons are now for wanting out of Cleveland, if I were the Timberwolves I would not make that deal.

Erving’s body has taken a beating going deep in the playoffs three straight years in a row and logging deep minutes. Cleveland would want Wiggins in exchange, who the Wolves acquired in the Kevin Love deal three years ago.

As talented as Erving is having won a title already, Wiggins I feel has not yet hit his growth ceiling. He is still evolving as a player. I like his game and his mental approach to the game. I hope the Timberwolves are patient and pass on dealing for Erving and allow this current group they have now to grow together.

Erving has a history of getting hurt. It’s part of the game, but he plays with the ball a lot in creating contact in the lane. I want to see Towns, Wiggins, Butler and Teague together. I think the Timberwolves, with Butler’s leadership and Teague’s ability to push the tempo, are ready to go.


Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on 
Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Minnesota is no longer the North Pole of the NBA

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By Eric Nelson
July 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@Ericinminny44

 

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from Timberwolves Nation...

•Trade Demand: Kyrie Irving has had enough of Cleveland. The superstar PG is tired of being solar eclipsed by LeBron James and wants to leave the King’s galaxy. Irving’s goal is to force a trade to one of four teams – Miami, Minnesota, New York or San Antonio…

•Hot Spot: By simply listing the Timberwolves as one of his fab four, Irving gives the franchise legitimacy. Apparently Minnesota is no longer the North Pole of the NBA…

•Butler Bounce: Of course, the T-Wolves can thank Jimmy Butler for this perception change. Once Minnesota acquired Butler from Chicago, the Wolves got instant street cred…

•Young Talent: In the last seven days the Minnesota Twins have gone up against two of the most prolific rookies in recent MLB history. Last week the Twins faced Aaron Judge and the NY Yankees in a three-game series in Minneapolis. This week it’s phenom Cody Bellinger as the Twins and LA Dodgers play three in So Cal…

•Dodger Dinger: On Monday night the Twins found out just how good Bellinger is. Bellinger slugged a three-run home run in the 9th inning to give LA a 6-4 win. Bellinger has 28 taters and 67 RBI this season..

•Fun is Good: The St. Paul Saints continue to be one of the best sports bargains in the Twin Cities. Scenic CHS Field is a gem, the ball club is highly successful (34-27 and 1 game behind Winnipeg in the AA North) and the goofy, in-game shtick is comical. The Saints hallmark is baseball mixed with entertainment and they pull that off that better than anyone…

•Lowertown Boom: This is year three for the Saints at CHS. They are part of the reason why Lowertown St. Paul is now a hip spot. There are cool parks and trendy restaurants near CHS and a good vibe in the area…

•Oh Maya: Not many athletes have a trophy case with more hardware than Minnesota Lynx G Maya Moore. On Saturday Moore collected another trophy after being named MVP of the WNBA All-Star game in Seattle. Moore scored 23 points to lead the West to a 130-121 win over the East. It’s the second straight season Moore has been ASG MVP…

•Vanishing Act: There are plenty of things to focus on as the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp this week in Mankato. One focal point is second year WR Laquon Treadwell – who had just one catch last season. Treadwell was persona non grata as a rookie and the Vikings need to get much more from their 2016 first round draft choice…

•Done Deal: Even though this is just the start of training camp for all 32 NFL teams, one thing is certain – New England will win the AFC East. The Patriots have won eight straight East titles and 14 since 2001…

•Name Game: Golden Valley, MN-based Allianz Insurance Company has acquired naming rights for Minnesota United’s future stadium in St. Paul. Allianz Field becomes the 1st Allianz-sponsored stadium in North America and 8th in eight countries on four continents. The soccer specific venue opens in 2019 and will cost $200 million. Capacity is 19,400…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The bar of expectation is sky high for Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves

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By Eric Nelson
June 27, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the new home of Jimmy Butler...

•The Savior: Timberwolves Nation has gigantic expectations for newly acquired superstar Jimmy Butler. Minnesota fans expect him to walk across Lake Minnetonka in July, fix the state’s crumbling roadways and lead the Wolves to the playoffs…

Jimmy Butler meets the Minnesota media at Mall of America

Jimmy Butler meets the Minnesota media at Mall of America

•Instant Impact: The Wolves loyal and patient fan base is tired of waiting for the team to become relevant. Minnesota hasn’t been to the NBA playoffs since 2004 – and has only gone eight times in the franchise’s checkered history. That is not good considering that the Wolves have been part of the Association since 1989. The future is now for Minnesota, and Butler is expected to turn this this team into a winner ASAP…

•Impressive Resume: Minnesota gave up a boatload of talent for Butler, but he is worth it. In Chicago, Butler was a three-time All-Star and made the NBA’s all-defensive team three times. He’s a no nonsense guy who can close out games and is obsessed with winning…

•Trending Up: With a new logo, a $150 million Target Center renovation and the acquisition of Butler, the T-Wolves finally appear to be on the rise…

•Tray Time: The Wolves have $19 million of cap money to spend. They should use some of that to get a legitimate three-point shooter. Free agent JJ Redick is a good option. Redick has spent the last four seasons with the LA Clippers and can sink the three-ball…

•Tidal Wave: Or, Minnesota could make another tsunami-like splash and go after free agent PG’s Chris Paul (LA Clippers) or Kyle Lowrey (Toronto). Bring one of those guys on board and Target Center would be filled to capacity every game…

•Gulp, Gulp: I’m drinking the Twins blue Kool-Aid. Minnesota is hardly a polished product but I believe the Twins can make the MLB playoffs…

•Iconic Bruin: According to the LA Times, Jackie Robinson is getting a statue at the Rose Bowl. Robinson – best known for becoming MLB’s first African-American player – was a running back at UCLA. Robinson grew up in Pasadena, CA, which is where the Rose Bowl is located…

•UCLA Trailblazers: Robinson’s teammate with the Bruins was Kenny Washington – who became the first African-American player in NFL history with the LA Rams in 1946. Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers…

•Fab Four: According to the University of Michigan, the Wolverines are the only NCAA program in the country to have athletes chosen in the 2017 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL drafts…

•Michigan Embargo: Just a hunch, but I am guessing the Wolverines draft data won’t get much attention on the Ohio State campus in Columbus…

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Timberwolves get a new beginning

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By Larry Fitzgerald
June 27, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

It finally has arrived after 13 years of absolute failure, four different head coaches in four years, and four team presidents. In 2017-18 the Timberwolves will return to the NBA living.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on renovating Target Center. The three-time WNBA champion Lynx have been sent to St. Paul this year while their Target Center home make-over and renovation continues. As the World Champion Golden State Warriors have proven, if you can win NBA titles in Oakland at Oracle Arena, you can win anywhere.

The Timberwolves again have looked to Chicago to save their lost franchise. Remember, Kevin Garnett played high school basketball on the West Side in Chicago before Timberwolves Vice President Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders drafted the high school star.

Minnesota Timberwolves recent acquisition Jimmy Butler

NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler

He helped turn the Timberwolves into winners on their first (logo) and once was an MVP. Last week on NBA Draft Day, the Timberwolves, now on their third logo, agreed to a blockbuster multi-player deal with the six-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls for three-time NBA All-Star forward Jimmy Butler.

Last year the Bulls signed Chicago native and three-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade away from Miami. His contract is for two years with $48 million guaranteed. That put the Bulls in a bind financially.

Butler is already under contract, and because Tom Thibodeau coached in Chicago for five years and Butler was his best player, he was able to dangle just enough chips at Chicago’s general manager to tease this deal.

Chicago gets two-time NBA slam dunk champion guard Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, last year’s number-four overall pick. Plus they get the 2017 number-seven overall pick of the Timberwolves, Lauri Markkanen, in exchange for Chicago’s number 16 overall pick, 6’-11” center Justin Patton from Creighton. It looks like a win-win for both teams.

Both teams get value and talent. The Bulls need cap space. The Wolves have plenty of cap room after releasing center Nickalo Peckovic and desperately need Butler, a winner, a team leader, and a great defender.

The Bulls get LaVine, who averaged 19 points a game last year before injuring his knee late in the season. His upside potential is unlimited. I saw LaVine at the NBA Finals and talked to him. He said he is 90 percent recovered from the injury. Obviously the Bulls think he’s ready or no way would they make this deal.

This is the type of deal that can make the Timberwolves a playoff contender right now. Butler loves Thibodeau and his rugged style and will run through a wall for him.

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau

Blockbuster trade brings Jimmy Butler to Minnesota!

Thibodeau needs a veteran superstar like Butler, 27 and a former All-NBA defensive second-team player, to show the young stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns that it starts on defense and to trust in Thibodeau’s system and work ethic.

I love this deal for the Timberwolves. It is exactly what they need now, and the timing is perfect. I think the Timberwolves have the foundation talent now to win 50 games a season for years to come. My question to you is this: Did the Timberwolves get better with Butler?

 

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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The Warriors — simply the best!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
June 14, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

OAKLAND —It’s no secret, start spreading the news: the Golden State Warriors are the champions of basketball. They completed the greatest playoff run to a championship in the 71 years of the NBA Finals.

The Warriors 129-120 win in game five gave them an NBA best-ever 16-1 record. Need I say this Warriors group is special? Last year’s 73-9 best-ever NBA regular season mark was somehow overshadowed by Cleveland’s stunningly dramatic NBA Finals game seven 93-89 win.

Golden State wanted their title back and signed All-Star Kevin Durant away from Oklahoma City so a team as talented and as explosive as the Warriors suddenly had two former NBA MVPs in Stephen Curry and Durant, both young, talented, hungry and in their 20s.

Let it be known whenever two former MVPs had played together previously, a championship soon followed. In history it’s happened three times: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson with the Lakers; and Julius Erving and Moses Malone with Philadelphia.

Not only did they match it, Curry and Durant swept the Western Conference playoffs, sweeping Portland, Utah, and 61 win San Antonio 4-0 4-0 4-0.

Golden State had a bullseye on Cleveland all year, matching up in the NBA Finals for a record third straight year — one at 12-0, the other at 12-1.

(MGN Online)
The Warriors enjoying their championship win, June 12.

Durant and Curry were unstoppable; Durant scored 30 points or more in all five Finals games, averaging 35 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He was unanimously selected the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP. The Warriors finished 31-2 in their last 33 games. For three years in the regular season, 67-73-67, the Warriors are the best ever.

Their speed, movement, and ability to share the ball and play together, combined with their will and ability to shoot accurately from long range has had this league and its coaches staying up late hours trying to find ways to slow them down.

LeBron James was remarkable in defeat, however. He scored 41 points in game five and averaged a triple-double for the Finals. He’s the first player ever to achieve that. James has now slipped to 3-5 in the NBA Finals. Is Durant now the game’s best player?

These are the first Finals where four players averaged scoring 25 points per game. Durant, Curry, Kyrie Erving and James. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr missed several games this year with back issues. Assistant Coach Mike Brown, who twice was fired by Cleveland, did a remarkable job in his absence. Kerr returned for game two of the Finals and wins his second title in three years. All five Warriors starters are in their 20s — get used to this Dub Nation.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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There’s no stopping Golden State!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
June 6, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors are on a mission, and that mission is to cement themselves as among the greatest teams in NBA history. They are halfway to the greatest Championship post-season run in NBA history.

After smashing the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 and 132-113 in the first two games at Oracle Arena of the 2017 NBA Finals, it’s no secret they are as good as advertised. Golden State is the 33rd team in NBA Finals history to lead 2-0 in the Finals. Twenty eight of the previous 32 times, the team up 2-0 has won the Championship.

Both wins over Cleveland were similar in the sense that the Warriors blew open the games in the third period. In game one, the Warriors had just four turnovers. Kevin Durant scored 38 points with eight rebounds and eight assists. Stephen Curry had 28 points and 10 assists.

Kevin Durant brings the basketball up the court for Golden State.

Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant

Let me remind you that the Warriors already are the greatest NBA team over three years in terms of regular-season wins. Over the last three years the Warriors have won 67, 73 and 67 games in the regular season — that’s 207 wins. In 2015 they beat Cleveland four games to two in the NBA Finals. Last year Cleveland shocked the world by rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to grab the crown in an epic 93-89 game seven.

That loss denied the Warriors’ confirmation as the greatest single-season championship team ever. You see, they had the record 73 wins but no title. The Chicago Bulls, 72-10, won the NBA Championship and is regarded as the greatest team in NBA history. You can argue and debate it, but the fact remains that to finish first you must first finish.

By not winning the title last year after winning all those games and to have had history and the championship in their grasp has tormented this team. Signing All-Star Kevin Durant virtually made this team unstoppable. And to have the opportunity to beat the same Cleveland team that took their championship away has made the Warriors focused.

This team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant is the best team I’ve seen since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen-Dennis Rodman Chicago Bulls, who won three NBA Titles in a row in the late ’90s.

Michael Jordan and Scott Pippen of the Chicago Bulls

Dynasty is a common word in NBA History…

LeBron James, as great as he is, can’t be counted out. Last year he led the Cavaliers all the way back from a 2-0 and 3-1 deficit to win Cleveland’s first championship of any kind in 54 years.

But this Warriors team is virtually unbeatable. They finished the regular season 15-1. Since the playoffs have begun, they are the first team in NBA history — that’s 71 years — to stand 14-0 and two wins shy of a 16-0 unbeaten run to the title. The Los Angeles Lakers finished 15-1 to capture the crown.

The Warriors’ system is predicated on movement spacing and sharing the basketball. When you can combine hard work, talent, and a great system, and you are well coached, you win 29 of 30 games, which is what they have done. Take it to the bank: Cleveland may get one game or two, but I don’t think they can beat this team four times in five games.

In game two, Durant scored 33 points with 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Curry had 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. LeBron James had a triple double also with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and a game-high 14 assists. Former Timberwolves star Kevin Love had 27.

James, with 18 career playoff triple doubles, eight of them in the Finals, ties Magic Johnson’s record with the Lakers also with eight in the Finals. James and Curry both had triple doubles — that’s the first time that’s happened in the Finals. Cleveland is the first team to trail 0-2 in back-to-back NBA Finals.

With Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green, stranger things have happened, and I have seen some strange things happen. After all, this is just a game of basketball. However, with Head Coach Steve Kerr back directing his team after a marvelous job by Mike Brown stepping in, it’s a matter of time and games. The Warriors will win it, because there’s no stopping the Warriors.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Golden State and Cleveland on collision course

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By Larry Fitzgerald
May 18, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

LeBron James says there is no rivalry between him and Stephen Curry of Golden State. They are not Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, Los Angeles vs. Boston. I disagree, and every playoff game played this post season by these two superstars has proven my point.

James is chasing another championship. He has three already to go with four NBA MVP trophies. Curry wants the championship back.

These two greats are different in terms of what they bring to the game. Their size and styles are miles apart, but their passion and fire and desire to win is as clear as day. And their teams win. Curry has two NBA MVP Awards back to back, including last year when he was a unanimous selection.

Curry scored 40 points in game one of the Western Conference Finals Sunday. The Warriors rallied from 25 points down and took advantage of a bad ankle sprain to San Antonio’s star Kawhi Leonard, who had 26 points when he left the game in the third quarter. The final score was 113-111 Warriors.

It was one of the mothers of all comebacks in NBA playoff history. Previously, when San Antonio led by 25 points or more in the regular season and playoffs under 20-year Head Coach Gregg Popovich, five-time NBA Championship coach of the Spurs, they were 316-0!

Golden State is now 9-0 in the playoffs; Cleveland is 8-0. Golden State and Cleveland have played the last two years in the NBA Finals. Two years ago the Warriors beat Cleveland four games to two in the NBA Finals.

LeBron James battles Draymond Green beneath the basket.

LeBron James battles Golden State’s Draymond Green

Last year, the Cavaliers rallied from down 3-1 to win a dramatic game seven at Golden State to snatch the crown, Cleveland’s first title of any kind in 54 years. Cleveland will play the game-seven winner between Boston and Washington Monday in the Eastern Conference Finals starting Wednesday.

Golden State rallied to beat the Spurs in game one. However, the Spurs were 2-1 vs. Golden State in the regular season. The Warriors are the winningest team in NBA regular season history over three years with one title to show for it so far: 67-73 and 67 wins, that’s 207 wins total.

Spurs have beaten the Warriors five times more than any other NBA team and had them down by 25 points Sunday until Leonard’s untimely injury. So it might be a bit premature to think the Spurs can’t slow down the Warriors and stop a potential Cleveland vs. Golden State three-peat in the NBA Finals.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Making the case for NBA MVP

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By Larry Fitzgerald
April 20, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

OK, by a show of hands, your choice for NBA MVP is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right? He led the NBA in scoring with 31.9 per game. He averaged a triple double for the season — 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists over 80 games.

He broke Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record of 41 triple doubles with the new high mark of 42. Oscar Robertson is a legend of an era where the big man dominated the NBA. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed all led their teams to titles.

Guards like the “Big O” Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Walt Frazier did not get the attention back then compared to what guards receive today. Back in the 1961-62 season, Robertson, while setting the NBA record of 41 triple doubles, finished third in the MVP voting to Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Russell was the MVP with 18.9 points, 23 rebounds, and averaged five blocked shots per game.

Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain that year averaged 50.4 points per game and was the runner-up to Russell for the MVP that season. That’s something for you to think about before you assume Westbrook has locked up the MVP Award. History has shown that the MVP award usually goes to the best player on one of the league’s top teams.

For example, last year Stephen Curry of Golden State led the Warriors to an NBA regular-season record 73 wins while scoring 30 points a game. He won the honor the previous season also by leading the Warriors to 67 wins; again, they had the best record in the NBA.

Westbrook, as dominating as he was, led Oklahoma City to a 47-35 record, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference. Most people think James Harden of Houston, with 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and leading the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game, could grab the MVP trophy because Houston was 55-27, third-best record in the NBA.

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook

I think the vote will be real close. Curry, the winner the last two years, averaged 25.4 points, his new teammate Kevin Durant averaged 25 points, and the Warriors had the best record again with 67 wins.

Kiwai Leonard of San Antonio averaged a career-best 25.7 points per game while leading the Spurs to 61 wins, second-best in the NBA the year legend Tim Duncan retired after 18 seasons. Boston’s Isiah Thomas led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference and tied Harden, averaging 29.1 points per game.

LeBron James and Cleveland slipped to number two in the East, but as defending NBA Champions and averaging 26.4 points per game. The King, a four-time MVP winner, will get a lot of votes also.

I tend to lean to the best player on the best team. That formula seems to be the way the voters go, and history shows that whether it’s 1961-62 or 2016-17, it’s still a team game. The best player on the best team wins MVP honors just about every year. We will soon see.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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