BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

Friday 12 February 2016

The Air Canada Centre was quieter than I had expected when we arrived. We were sitting 9 rows from the front so we had a great view of the players warming up.    
The Rising Stars game is USA v The World. As we are in Canada, The World was effectively the home team. 

These games are exhibitions, a chance for the best rookies and sophomores to show off their skills. Defence is usually only an afterthought. For that reason a lot of people dislike All Star. I love it though, it’s a chance to see the players making the flashy moves and having a bit of fun with the game. 

The venue had a lot of empty seats. I am pretty sure the game had sold out in advance so  I’m not sure why there were so many empty seats but there were visible all around the arena. 

 The fans that were in attendance did not really seem to be enjoying the game. The people around me talked the whole time and didn’t seem to know who any of the players were. This was a shame as the game was very entertaining. There was a lot of dunks, 3 point shots, sneaky steals and passes. Sporadically a chant would start but strangely the chant was frequently for the Raptors rather than for any one of the players on the court. 

It was shame that the atmosphere was lacking as it was a really entertaining game.  I can only hope that the remainder of the All Star weekend has more atmosphere.

Clippers @ Celtics 10/02/16

The first quarter of the game seemed really quick. This was probably due to the low number of time outs and fouls. The Celtics seemed a little slow to start but they managed to keep the game close. In the last two and a half minutes of the game the teams went a little foul crazy – up to that point there had only been two fouls committed. By the end of the quarter both teams were in the bonus.
 This seemed to set a scene of sorts for the rest of the game as a lot of fouls were called. A lot of the referee decisions were questionable and at times it did seem that the three refs were not agreeing with each other.  
In the second quarter the Celtics could have had a stronger lead but for ref calls and some poor shots towards the end of the quarter.

Quarter 2 came to a dramatic end as Paul Pierce hit a half court three but it was judged to have left his hands after the buzzer.

The Celtics kept the lead during the third quarter but slowed at times allowing the Clippers to pull closer.

The forth quarter was the worst for the ref calls and the crowd let them know. The crowd got really rowdy during the quarter and some of the language used during heckles was definitely offensive. Now obviously I am only able to speak about the area I was seated in so I don’t know if that behaviour is typical.

 The NBA usually have an announcement at the start of game reminding people to behave appropriately, consume alcohol moderately and report abusive or disruptive behaviour. I didn’t see such an announcement at this game.

The final couple of minutes of regular play were slow as a a result of ref calls, ref reviews, officials time outs and time outs. Some fans were heading for the door but I think this was probably to try to catch trains.

Regular play came to an end with the teams even sending the game to overtime. (This weirdly resulted in a chant of ‘overtime’ from some of the people near me.)

Overtime really was an extension of the fourth in terms of delay to play in the first few minutes – there were so many foul calls for a five minute period of play. Thankfully in the last two minutes this eased slightly to allow for some uninterrupted basketball.

Interestingly DeAndre Jordan was on 50% free throw shooting going into the half and was on 53% free throw shooting at the end of the game.

Wizards @Knicks 09/02/16

The first game with new interim coach Kurt Rambis in charge was not what he would have wanted. It’s easy to judge him on this game but in reality the game came the day after the announcement that former coach Derek Fisher had been fired, leaving Rambis little time to make changes to practices.
MSG was oddly quiet for this game. At tip I could see many empty seats and although it did fill up a bit there were still more empty seats than I would have expected. The atmosphere was strange; there was no real air of anticipation. MSG has a reputation for loud crowds but for the entire first half and portions of the second that was not the case last night.

The Knicks got off to a slow start, in contrast to the Wizards who were strong on both offence and defence. With 7.18 left in q1 the Wizards had a 9 point lead.

The Knicks were struggling to get shots to fall, partly this was poor shot selection but the Wizards defence was forcing them to take poor shots to beat the shot clock.

Q1 ended with the Wizards up by 14 points.

The Knicks had a better start to the second, helped by some poor shots from the Wizards. Within 2 minutes the Knicks had come back to be within 7 points. However as the quarter went on the Knicks began to decline. The quarter ended with the Wizards ahead by 13 points. As this was similar to the difference at the end of the first this was actually not that bad for the Knicks. The increased performance at the start of the second definitely stopped the Wizards from running away with the game but the team needs to demonstrate more consistency.

One of the main problems in the first half was three point shots. The Knicks were bad at defending them and at making them with the 3 point percentage for the Wizards being 83% while the Knicks were on 17%. They need to stop letting teams have free reign from beyond the arc.

The third quarter was an entirely different story. The Knicks came out strong and managed to stay relatively strong through the entire quarter. They kept the pressure on the Wizards and managed to outcome them. The quarter finished with the teams level on 83 points.

The 3 point percentage for the Knicks increased to 26% while the Wizards decreased to 63%.

The final quarter was close pretty much the whole way. On a couple of occasions the Knicks were able to take small leads but they were not able to keep them.

A timeout was called with 2.09 left, and the Wizards up by 7. At this point fans were starting to head for the exit, convinced the game was over. The final minute of the game was slow to progress due to the number of timeouts and fouls, but it still managed to remain exciting.

The Knicks scored a three with 8 seconds left to bring the game within 1. A few more fouls were called, leading to free throws and there was three points in it in the last few seconds, the Knicks got the ball up the court for the three point attempt.. Which didn’t fall.

Consistency was an issue for the Knicks in this game and if they had been stronger in the first half there may have been a different outcome.

The next game will be after the All Star break, against local rivals the Brooklyn Nets. I think this will be the real test for Rambis; there will be an expectation that he will have made changes to the way the team the play and managed to put his own stamp on things. A poor performance on the 19th will leave people questioning his appointment and the team.

NBA Global Game – London 2016

Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic @ the O2 London

A NBA game in London is never quite the same as a NBA game in the States but it is still a NBA game.

The O2 was packed, despite rumours you may have heard about large numbers of empty seats. However the massive queues outside the O2 for entry were a disappointing start to the night.

I was security checked to entry the O2 and then again to enter the main arena area.I understand the need for enhanced security in the current climate however I think the O2 should have provided more security staff, and perhaps should have made people aware that two separate checks would be carried out on the night.

An additional hiccup was the incorrect seat numbers in one of the sections. This affected two young men near me. The staff spent most of the first quarter trying to figure out what was wrong with the seat numbers before finally finding a solution at the start of the second. Given that the O2 holds events most nights they really shouldn’t be experiencing these kinds of problems.

The Magic brought their cheerleaders and both teams brought the mascots. I think the mascots got some of the biggest cheers of the night. Yes that’s right, the mascots , not the cheerleaders.

The game was very entertaining, as you would expect from a NBA game. Neither team seemed to be experiencing any ill effects from travelling over. The Raptors had a good lead at the end of Q1  and it seemed that the Magic had forgotten how to play. In Q2 the Magic started to fight back and from that point on most of the game was pretty close. An overtime period was an unexpected bonus of NBA playing time.



Boston Celtics v Olympia Milano

 Both teams seemed a little sluggish to start with, displaying some sloppy fouls and poor shot selection. Milan’s free throw percentage seemed low, but to be fair I don’t think Boston’s was much higher in the first quarter. The Celtics ended the first with 14 point and looked pretty comfortable.The second quarter started slowly for both teams. In the first 3 minutes Milan scored 2 points and the Celtics did not score.

The Celtics woke up though and managed to end the quarter with a 17 point lead.

Milan had a great start to q3, they brought the difference back to 10 points within the first 3 minutes. Then they let the Celtics go on a bit of a run, while increasing their foul count. The Celtics ended q3 with an 28 point lead.

The final quarter was not the most exciting 12 minutes of basketball I have ever watched. A number of the fans seemed to agree and started to leave early. In the final two minutes of the game a significant number of the attendees had left.

It was obvious that the Celtics were going to win, and had been for a while but it struck me as odd that so many people left early, the tickets were not exactly cheap.

There was not much cheering at the game – the expected applause for a good play or dunk but no chants of defence or chants for the local team. There was a definite feeling that people were there for the show rather than to support a particular team, or maybe the Italians are just more subdued at basketball than any other nation I have been to.

The Entertainment was standard NBA fare – cheerleaders, t-shirt give aways and mascots.