Florida Panthers Advance to Stanley Cup Finals

No NBA games last night and I was in a great mood already as Skip Johnson’s Sooners beat O-State in the Big 12 baseball tournament. Nice win for the defending national runnerup Sooners who have been in rebuild mode this season after having eleven or so players drafted last summer.

It was Stanley Cup Playoff night at the ranch out here in Deer Creek and I was totally focused on the Florida vs. Carolina-Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

What a great hockey game!!!!

The Panthers with 4.3 seconds left in regulation advanced to the Finals on a Matthew Tkachuk powerplay goal for a 4-3 win. I have no idea how to spell Matthew’s last name even though I watched his father play countless times. Hence…it will be Matthew K in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This was one was one of the best hockey games I’ve seen to date in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. It had everything. Great pace both ways. Both teams skated their asses off. Good goaltending in both nets. Some pretty nice tic-tac-toe goals. Carolina coming back from a two goal deficit to tie the game. A five star check by Sam Bennett to set the tone early. And then of course…the game winner by Matthew K to send the Florida Panthers to their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1996.

What a great game!

When I saw the Sam Bennett check I lost it right there and then as I’m certain Brooks Koepka did as well. If I had Draymond Green’s cell phone number….. I would have sent him this video immediately with the caption, “This is what you should have done to Jordan Poole in training camp. This is why basketball players wouldn’t last a week in the NHL, buddy.” Mikey J

This is what needs to occur to help Jordan Poole become an honest two way NBA player. Not a punch. Just a textbook check when Jordan has his head down. In all seriouslness…I hope Jaccob Slavin is okay. But man, what a check by Sammy Bennett to set the tone. This is what Jamie Benn should have done the night before in Dallas.

I love seeing Brooks Koepka hopping around in his jersey like a little girl at these Florida Panther games. I never knew he had this side to him. I love it. He’s so deathly serious on the golf course. I’ll be pulling for the Panthers when they play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Finals.

Vegas will be favored in the Finals, but there’s just something about these gritty Florida Panthers you fall in love with as a hockey fan. They stunned the President Cup winning Boston Bruins in a Game 7 road thriller, easily dispatched the pathetic Toronto Maple Leaves in five games, and just swept a very solid Carolina hockey club.

I’ll call it destiny. The Panthers finally got healthy late in the season and slid into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the West. This kind of has that St. Louis Blues feel from several seasons ago when they beat the Boston Bruins and that pathetic Tuuka Rask in a road Game 7 to win the Cup.

Hopefully…the Celtics and Heat give us a game tonight as good as the hockey game was last night.

Winning is fun.

I think it was Jim Nance on the CBS broadcast of the PGA Tournament who said the PGA Cup could hold forty-three 12 ounce beers. Most people don’t know this about Jimmy, but Jim was the alternate player on those great Houston Cougar golf teams back in the Freddie Couples era.

  • Note to Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, “This is how you give your team an emotional charge and a powerplay at the same time.”

Boston Celtics Punch Back in Game 4 Survival Win

This was a very interesting NBA elimination game in Miami. For those of us who are sports addicts this gives us a series going to a Game 5 in either the NBA Playoffs and/or Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The best team on paper in these NBA Playoffs minus perhaps the first round eliminated Milwaukee Bucks– these Boston Celtics found their inner collective competitive souls and won Game 5 going away after trailing by nine points in the third period.

Boston clearly has more talent on paper than the Miami Heat, yet this was the first time in this series we witnessed a sense of urgency from the first or second best team on paper left in these playoffs. I think most passionate NBA fans who follow all 82 games probably had it like this going into post season….1 Milwaukee, 2 Boston, and 3 Denver. Maybe some had Denver at No. 2, but there were serious Denver Nugget doubters from coast to coast before the NBA Playoffs got started.

I mean, these Celtics had the Warriors down 2-0 in last year’s finals and added Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogden to their mix. There was a coaching change just prior to the season with the uncomfortable departure of Ime Udoka, but for the most part the Celtics did enough with 34 year-old Joe Mazzulla to go 57-25.

That’s .695 per cent winning basketball. Just out of curiosity I googled the winning percentage of all sixteen coaches in the history of the iconic Boston Celtics. Here’s what I discovered…. (1) in sixteen glorious seasons Red Auerbach had a winning percentage of .669, (2) in four seasons as player/coach Bill Russell’s winning percentage was .661, (3) Brad Stevens in seven seasons went .557, and (4) just last season Ime Udoka went 51-31 to win at a .622 clip.

And let’s keep this in mind… just the round before in these very same NBA Playoffs the Celtics found themselves in a 3-2 hole going to Philadelphia to play Joel Embiid and the Sixers. Of course…the Sixers choked and subsequently fired the vastly overrated Doc Rivers.

So here we are one Boston Celtic win away in a Game 5 at home from possibly having the very same scenario in place for a Game 6 back in Miami. We as passionate NBA fans know coming back from a 3-0 deficit has never been done before. But at least this gives us as fans the hope we’ve got at least one series in the NBA and NHL conference finals with some competitive drama.

Can Boston possibly pull off the reverse of a four game sweep against the Heat since we know Doc Rivers isn’t the head coach of the Miami Heat?

We’ll see on Thursday night in Boston where the Celtics have struggled this post season to date.

So what did the Celtics do better in Game 4? They shot the three ball better making 19 threes opposed to Miami making but 8 threes of their own. That’s net +33 or 57-24 depending on how how you want to look at it. Keep this in mind…. in the horrific Game 3 loss—the Celtics actually outrebounded the Heat by 22 boards.

So…in essence like most basketball teams, these Celtics play better defense when their three balls are falling. It’s an energy thing that’s very contagious throughout the team. Like a hockey team which plays harder when their goalie is standing on his head in net. You play harder when there’s that belief. That belief has to be there that Jayson Tatum is going to lead the team scoring the basketball.

This is not nuclear fusion. Play hard, make shots, and maybe the coach makes a couple of nuanced changes. I thought Coach Mazzulla was smart in using Grant Williams and Derek White in more prominent roles in Game 4. Plus, I wouldn’t be averse to Robert Williams taking more of Big Al Horford’s minutes because of the defensive physicality aspect of his game.

But in the end it’s about making shots and scoring points. And that/’s what the Celtics finally did in this Game 4 survival win in Miami.

I can’t wait to see how Jimmy Butler and Bam react in Game 5. Watching this Game 5 will certainly be more entertaining than watching the braindead Dallas Stars try to avoid being swept by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Yeah, sure, you want your captain to be physical, but this play was so stupid it defies explanation. Smart physicality…yes. Overt stupidity, no. And smart physicality is what Grant Williams, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart need to bring to the arena along with Jayson Tatum’s scoring the rest of this series for the Boston Celtics to somehow pull off an inverted sweep.


Jamal Murray Leads Denver Nuggets to NBA Finals

LeBron played for 48 minutes, had a great first half, but wore down in the second half as fittingly Jokic and Jamal Murray doubled LBJ for a blocked shot on the game’s final deciding play at the buzzer.

It was the appropriate ending. Denver is clearly the better team and their two stars in Jokic and Jamal look to be the best one-two star combo in the NBA at this juncture if they can both stay healthy. I mean…Denver occupied first place in the West in December and has stayed there. I’ve always been a fan of Jamal’s because he has that same type of silent no nonsense toughness which has been the trademark of Klay Thompson’s career.

It doesn’t surprise me a bit Klay and Jamal are friends and that Klay played a mentoring role in Jamal’s ACL rehab. When Klay retires I’d say it would be be reasonable for me to take Jamal Murray as my then new favorite NBA player what with my son’s family living in Denver. It would be an all-Denver thing with me… Nate McKinnon/Cale Makar in the NHL and Jamal in the NBA.

This in fact is an approriate analogy of sorts to the Jokic/Jamal tandem. As we saw with the first round exit of the Avalanche…. a GM has to surround his two stars with enough talent to win a championship. And in this case the Nuggets have enough talent currently with Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter, Bruce Brown, KCP, and Jeff Green to beat the Miami Heat in five or six games.

I love what Eric Spoelstra has done with this Heat team, but Denver has home court, plus a better top seven players. Coaching wise, Spoelstra is probably right there with Steve Kerr, but Michael Malone isn’t an idiot and it’s clear he’s going all in with his top seven players to win a championship for the city of Denver.

Either way the NBA Finals go, I’ll be fine. Steph and Klay needed a break. Austin Reaves proved he can be a solid NBA role player and as a restricted free agent will make some nice coin based on what he did this basketball season. I’m happy for Austin. It’s all about playing hard.

I’m good. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals. Saw PGA champ Brooks Koepka wearing his Florida Panthers jersey at the Panther’s Game 3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s all good for Brooks Koepka as well.

I would guess it will be the Las Vegas Golden Knights playing his Panthers for the Cup. Still can’t believe Viktor left his second shot in the side of that sand trap just like Cory Connors in Round 3. Shit happens on a golf course. Viktor will eventually win a major though.

I love this time of year. So much great sports to watch and occasionally muse about on the underground blog.

Peace and have a wonderful Memorial Day with your famliy.

Eric Spoelstra Schools Boston Celtics in Game 3

Game 3 was stunning.

In my lifetime as an NBA purist/fan that beatdown was like no other in a conference final in a Game 3. Teams still have a pulse in a Game 3, but in this one the Miami Heat ripped the heart out of the overhyped Boston Celtics in front of the entire basketball universe.

This was a beatdown and a Roberto Duran ‘No Mas’ for the NBA history books. This was supposed to be the Celtics’ time after blowing a 2-0 NBA Finals lead to the Warriors last June.

Call it what you want. Coach it a massive coaching mismatch. Call it a laydown by Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown who combined were outscored by undrafted Gabe Vincent.

This was an indictment against the Boston Celtics’ gloryfied legacy of 17 NBA championships. Even Magic Johnson went on Twitter voicing his shock at how meek these Celtics were in a must win Game 3 on the road. This was a Miami team using four undrafted players to expose the Celtics in a game in which one would think ended this series last night in South Beach.

Austin Reaves should be on this Heat team. Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and Caleb Martin are all like Austin Reaves. That being, they play with a chip on their shoulder proving to the rest of the league they belong and have a place in the NBA.

It truly amazes me that the purported Mr. Rodgers GM in Oklahoma City didn’t use one of his many stockpiled second round draft picks to add one these five players into the soft Thunder culture. Nary a one of these magnificent role players who understand the game was drafted by Presti though…and for crying out loud Austin Reaves was making First Team All Big 12 just a few minutes down the road in Norman.

I’ll write more about Austin after the Lakers are finished off by Denver. But like I wrote earlier on my obscure underground blog….. I had serious misgivings about how much juice LeBron still has in his tank when he’s playing against good teams this late in the season.

The Celtics foolishly doubled Jimmy Butler and basically left Spoelstra’s Fab Four with space and time all over the floor. I seriously didn’t even know Duncan Robinson had all of this in him. The Celtics were so bad out there defensively they made Duncan look like Jimmy Chitwood.

Tyler Herro is sitting over on the bench injured while Duncan and these other three guys are basically one home game win away making their second NBA Finals in three seasons.

In my NBA fandom lifetime I do not remember a single time when both conference finals were 4-0 sweeps, yet here we are on the cusp of such with the favored Nuggets and the Cinderella Miami Heat each one win away from the NBA Finals.

With all due respect to Sacramento’s Mike Brown who was awarded the NBA Coach of the Year….. the actual Coach of the Year is Eric Spoelstra who BTW in his entire Hall of Fame NBA coaching career has never won the award.

I guess this shows how meaningless the award is in reality.

Austin Reaves….Can He Carry LeBron Past the Nuggets in Conference Finals?

Obviously…I’ve been a little down since Austin’s Lakers bounced the Warriors in Game 6. It hurt watching as Klay and Steph both struggled mightily, but we as adults in Warrior Nation tip our hats and say job well done to the Lakers.

For me this is easy though because I pretty much watched every game Austin played at OU for his Hall of Fame coach Lon Kruger. Austin was a baller at OU and made first team All Big 12 his senior season during that season in which Baylor won the national championship behind the Triplet Guard Tandem headed by NBA first rounders Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler.

Austin went undrafted for some odd reason, but Laker GM Rob Pelinka wisely brought Austin on board as an undrafted free agent…and lo and behold…Austin in my mind is the Lakers third best player behind LeBron and Anthony Davis.

Austin is a role player no doubt, but his presence on the floor brings that needed balance to bring the best out of LeBron and AD. He reminds me of Jeff Hornacek with those great Utah Jazz teams which featured Karl Malone and John Stockton. Same thing…two Hall of Fame super stars and then a role player from Iowa State. BTW….I loved Jeff Hornacek back in the day during his glory days in the Big 8.

Anyway…huge Game 2 tonight in Denver, hopefully LeBron has acclimated himself to the altitude and comes out ready to play in the first period. This is very simple for the Lakers, you have to play 48 minutes and make the Nuggets pay when Christian Braun and Jeff Green are on the floor.

Denver in reality only plays eight guys and Braun and Green in my mind are one of the real keys in this series. That being, the Lakers need to punish Denver when Nugget coach Mike Malone goes to his seventh and eighth guys in his razor thin rotation.

Chris Jackson my son from Denver in town tonight to watch Game 2. Chris knows how I feel about Austin… in that I love what Austin stands for as a role player who’s basically making the league minimum. Hopefully, me rooting for the Lakers won’t be a problem for Chris.

That’s the amazing thing about basketball chemistry in that Russell Westrook (also referred to as the (Basketball Greek Tragedy on this blog) with his $43 million plus salary could never figure out how to bring the best out in LeBron and AD. Whereas. Austin gets it.

I’m pretty amped for the Game 2 tonight. Hideaway pizza and maybe one or two Pacificos. Lakers have to win at least one road game in this series…tonight would be a good place to start.

Klay Leads Warriors Past Lakers in Game 2 Rout

I am at peace within myself. The Warriors played selfless, almost perfect ball in routing the the LA Lakers by thirty points in Game 2.

At my age, with my health issues….nothing makes me feel closer to the next life other than Pauli, maybe the wife, or a Klay Thompson night like the one witnessed last night on ESPN with Mike Breen, JVG, and Mark Jackson on the call.

The Moral Compass, Kevon Looney, was ill and had to play limited minutes off the bench. No problem….JaMychal Green came off the bench and played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play.

Steph only scored 20 points, but was basketball pure with 12 assists as the ball flowed like only it can flow when Steve Kerr’s disciples move the ball seamlessly. I think the Warriors had around thirty assists against the fluxmoxed Lakers.

Simply put, both Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves sucked in Game 2 after stellar performances in the Lakers Game 1 three point win. Without those two playing high level ball…LeBron will not advance to the Western Conference Finals versus the sneaky good Denver Nuggets.

Game 3 on Saturday night hopefully with Mike Breen, JVG, and Mark Jackson on the call again. Surely… ABC won’t trash this game with the lame musings of Doris Burke. I used to love Doris, but something has happened to her…. or either it’s just me in my season of reckoning.

Klay playing like this makes me feel basketball heaven isn’t far away. When Klay hit those 11 threes against the hapless Thunder in Game 6 it changed me forever.

I should have dumped the feeble Thunder format the next morning and turned this into a Warrior underground blog.

Like a liberated slave who has escaped from the South to the more liberal North….I feel free at last.

Let’s go, Warriors!!!

What would my vision of heaven be? Klay draining threes in the clutchest moments, maybe the wife, Pauli, and the best Seinfeld episodes. I’m really a very simple guy.

Kevon Looney—Steve Kerr’s Moral Compass Leads the Warriors Past the Sac Kings in Game 7 Rout

Yes…it appeared to be a little sketchy for the Warriors after a bad Game 6 home loss to the puppy dog Kings. The doubters and the haters probably thought the iconic Warriors would just roll over and call it a decade long dynasty with four rings.

But here’s the thing… Lombardi said it best during the Packers’ iconic long decade of NFL rule….’the more you win and the harder you work—you find it extremely difficult to surrender’. I grew up as a Lombardi-Jerry Kramer kid and I NEVER forgot when Coach Lomardi made that quote. As in never.

Lombardi > Churchill….just saying.

The Warriors could very well get beat in the next round by Austin Reaves’ surging LA Lakers, but there won’t be any surrender attached.

This was was just four wins for the Warriors. It takes 16 wins in the real NBA season of the playoffs to claim a ‘ship. These Warriors still need 12 more wins against the likes of the Lakers, the Nuggets, and the Celtics. That’s a gauntlet is what that is…pure and simple.

But I I know this…as do Steph, Klay, and Draymond…if you’re going down you go down with your guns blazing to the very last breath.

What we saw on Sunday was Kevon Looney the moral compass of the iconic Warriors remind his teammates what it means to be the defending champion of the NBA. Loon put the Warriors on his back along with Steph Curry and said this to his struggling mates…”We’re not losing to the Sacramento Kings, or the Minnesota TWolves or the Oklahoma City Thunder or the New Orleans Pelicans or some other sketchy outfit in the Western Conference”.

Loon and Steph basically said with their play …”We might not get past Austin Reaves and LeBron in the conference semifinals, but we’re going out with our competitive dignity intact to the end.”

Klay, Wig, Draymond, Dante, Moses, Jordan ‘f—king Poole, Johnny K, and godfordsaken Gary Payton Jr….step up. Kevon and Steph could use some help.

To win twelve games against this potential gauntlet to win twelve more games…it can’t be two on five basketball any longer.

If you doubt the veracity of my statements…that’s on you because the fact of the matter is the coverage of the NBA is so weak in the OKC market it is almost laughable.

Here’s where two on five will get you. It will get you to the same place the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche find themselves this morning… that being, they were eliminated last night by the lowly expansion Seattle Kracken ot whatever they’re called because Nate McKinnon and Cale Makar couldn’t do it by themselves.

No Boston, no Colorado, and no Tampa Bay Lightning….the Stanley Cup Playoffs needs a storyline.

So I’ll be lasor focused on the Warriors and Lakers in Round 2.

Steve Kerr on Draymond Punching Jordan Poole in the Chops Incident

Two big, big NBA Playoff games in California tonight. I’m jacked for certain.

For those of us in godforsaken Oklahoma who have been passionate NBA long before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans….this is a night we could cherish depending on the results of both games.

If the NBA gods play this one right both Golden State and the LA Lakers will emerge as second round survivors in the very balanced Western Conference. What a dream matchup that could be for NBA purists like myself who been bored to death with the Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood approach Sam Presti has traversed in culturally godforsaken Oklahoma.

In real life here in Oklahoma….I try to keep these thoughts to myself about what I think about Oklahoma in general, but here on the Thunder Underground I think it should be okay to state things such as they are in reality.

I love this interview from Coach Steve Kerr. If only Sam Presti had the hubris or gravitas to ever hire an up front head coach like Coach Kerr you would have to think the Thunder would have at the minimum won two NBA championships with Kevin, Russell, James, Serge,:Perk, and NIck. But alas….I fear Sam Presti only hires head coaches who are subservient to his more anal retentive concepts of how grown men in the NBA should be coached.

This is why I had to turn okcthunderground.com into a Warriors blog instead of another run of the mill Thunder blog which goes down on everything Sam Presti says or does. Sigh.

This in fact is probably the most I’ve written on the Thunder during the entire NBA season to date. The Thunder…aren’t they adorable? They go 41-43 and get blown out in the NBA Play In Participation Tournament by a marginal Minnesota team which was missing two key rotational players.

And until Sam Presti’s Little Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood approach to the NBA in Oklahoma City ever changes….41-43 type of seasons will continue to be the norm in godforsaken Oklahoma.

Please watch the video, Sam Presti. This is what a coach looks like who has some hubris, gravitas, and the respect of his ball players.

Warriors Clutch in Game 5 Road Win

I am at peace in my basketball world of Golden State nirvana. Finally… a clutch road win by this bunch who ‘maybe’ have found themselves after this grueling roller coaster season of road futility as defending NBA champs.

This was basketball nirvana. Draymond came off the bench and excelled. Kevon Looney, the Moral Compass of the Warriors, played what I thought was the best game of his NBA Playoff career. Jordan Poole inserted as the starter in place of bad boy Draymond responded with some toughness and clutchness of his own. Maybe that punch in the face from Draymond in training camp served a purpose after all.

All above in the preceding paragraph are role players. This is what role players have to do for their team to win clutch road games. Gary Payton Jr. had a couple of great plays as did Donte. I would have liked to have seen some more minutes from Moses Moody, but I can’t bitch after a win like this one. Moses is going to be a baller…trust me on this. His time is coming.

Johnny Kuminga … you were sent a message last night from Coach Kerr with the DNP…here’s the message stud hoss—‘You may have more natural ability than any player in the league, but you need to mentally bear down when you’re given minutes by Coach Kerr.”

Of course…Steph, Klay, and Andrew were all clutch in the final minutes as well, but those guys are stars and that’s what stars are supposed to do in clutch time. Namely…play like stars. This is not complex. Ask Jimmy Butler and his clutch blue collar buds on the Miami Heat who just slayed the Milwaukee Bucks in their clutch Game 5 road win as well.

You have your star or two, and then you have your role player grinders. This was an NBA night I just loved because as I’ve written on my casual Thunder blog this season…Klay is my favorite player in the league and this post injury version of Klay is basically a role player. Klay is a role player and Steph and Wig are the two best players on the team.

But winning is the thing. Klay knows this more than any other player in the league. It’s about what you have to do to win games when they matter most.

If only we had a team like this is Oklahoma City who embraced this type of mantra perhaps next NBA basketball season … I could write a few things Thunder related on my casual Thunder blog.

What I may do tomorrow is give Sam Presti my take on here as to who are the nine players I’d build my team around next season so as to start playing genuinely competitive NBA seasons again in god forsaken Oklahoma.

Sam Presti…it’s about winning, buddy. Pure and simple. Winning is fun.

Golden State vs. Sacramento Gets the NBA Playoffs First Round Nod

Well, U Conn is our national champion and now we get down to the serious business of the NBA Playoffs. I didn’t play One Shining Moment this year because I’m genuinely bummed on what the transfer portal has done to college hoops. I love parity, but the Portal in both football and basketball needs to be tweaked.

The OKC Thunder were eliminated from the Round Robin Play-In Tournament last night on the road by the T-Wolves in Minnesota. A horrible lopsided loss in which Karl Anthony Townes and Rudy Gobert dominated inside the paint area from start to finish.

But for the Thunder at least they gave their fanbase some real basketball games versus the tanking mode employed the previous two seasons.

Sam Presti needs to get his team a couple of bigs who can play NBA level basketball with the league’s better teams. Both Poku and Chet in street clothes to close out this season…sigh. OKC has to hope Poku and Chet aren’t busts like Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons were in Philly during Sam Hinkie’s Process with the Sixers.

You can’t bust on the second pick in the draft and next season Chet needs to show his fragile body can adapt to the NBA level of play. I mean…if not Chet then Sam Presti will have to bring some degree of interior physicality to his team or they’ll get put out of the first round or the round robin next season as well.

But the Thunder as a whole have some real positives to build on and if nothing else they seem to have gotten the Oklahoma City fanbase watching the team again.

Golden State gets started tonight as the sicth seed in the West. Given how bad the Wrriors were on the road this season…the fact the draw turned out this way is an absolute blessing four the four-time NBA champs.

I see the West as wide open.

Steve Kerr finally has some semblance of a bench in place and Andrew Wiggins is once finally healthy. Wiggins in my view was the Warriors’ second best player last season behind Steph.

Wiggins gave the Warriors everything they needed defensively and rebounding wise to go along with Draymond and Looney. Wig filled a team role seamlessly in that regard and compensated for Klay’s diminshed role defensively. Wiggins is a big deal for the Warriors. We’ll see how how out of game shape he is later tonight in Game 1.

To me…this is the first round matchup the NBA Universe is most excited to see right now.