Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ranting on hoops

NBA fans might want to circle April 20 on their calendars. On that day a game will happen which could have huge implications. The Golden State Warriors, in their second to last regular season game, will visit the San Antonio Spurs.

As we know, both teams remain undefeated at home so far this year, and no team ever has run the table with their regular season home schedule. Of course that assumes both teams will remain "clean" until then.

Not long ago, San Antonio visited Golden State and got drilled. In the rematch in Alamoland, the Spurs returned the favor. It has become apparent SA head coach Gregg Popovich has conceded his squad won't catch the high-flying Warriors for the best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Coach Pop is resting his aging starters and is willing to sacrifice a "road" game here and there to have them fresher when the playoffs roll around. But it's a safe bet they also want to remain undefeated at home.

The Warriors are chasing history. They need to go 8-2 in their final 10 games to eclipse the all-time best regular season mark of 72-10 set by the 1995-96 Bulls. They have a home friendly remaining schedule and, needless to say, want to stay perfect there as well.

However, one of those games is against the very same Spurs. You just know the Spurs would like nothing better than to knock off Steph and Co. in their own back yard to make a statement. It's hard to imagine Coach Pop resting his A-Team for THAT game. All hands will be on deck.

After a few intervening games, which both teams may very well cruise through against lesser competition, will come the rematch mentioned above on April 20. And you just know as well, with the playoffs on the horizon, the Warriors would like nothing better themselves than to spoil SA's perfect home record.

Barring a complete collapse or a rash of key injuries, it's pretty much a lock GS and SA will be seeded #1 and 2 in the western conference playoffs. It's highly unlikely any other team can knock either off in a 7 game series leading up to the showdown. The high probability is somewhere along the line SA will have to steal a game at GS to advance to the NBA Finals against whoever comes out of the East. Can they do it? Maybe. Bet against Coach Pop and his bag of tricks at your own peril.

Speaking of "locks", enter the UConn Lady Huskies. It's almost hard to imagine them NOT winning another championship. Good grief, they've only lost one (regular season) game in TWO YEARS while rattling off three straight titles. The only semi-decent competition they seemed to have this year -- see Notre Dame and South Carolina -- didn't even make it out of the regionals. And the only losses ND and SC had incurred prior to bowing out of the tournament came at the hands of -- you guessed it -- Geno's Bambinos. Neither was particularly even close. UConn is just on a different level than anybody else -- as in vastly superior. In three tournament games so far they have outscored their opponents by 52, 46, and a whopping 60 points. Up next is Texas. Good luck with that Longhornettes. Welcome to the meat grinder that awaits you. Try to stay within 30.

UConn getting beaten by anybody this year would be akin to the Miracle Mets, the Miracle on Ice, Joe Willy and his upstart Jets knocking off the mighty Colts, or the late Jimmy V's NC State squad improbably capturing a national title back in the 80s. Anything's possible, even Chris Christie losing 150 pounds, being named the sexiest man alive, and storming back to win the Presidency in November. Even the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. But I wouldn't bet on it.

But the last 10 games of this regular NBA season offer up some compelling scenarios, particularly with the Warriors and Spurs. On the other side, some guy named Lebron thinks (again) this just might finally be the magical year for the Cleveland Cavs. We'll see about that. Even if they emerge as champions of a rather weak East, they'll be going up against either SA or GS in the Finals and ceding home court as well.

Two words.

Good luck.

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