NBA: Celtics and Cavaliers battle for East's top seed

Jay Asser 5/04/2017
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Will the Cavs win?

As far as regular season games go, tonight’s meeting between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers holds more weight than usual.

Both teams are tied atop the Eastern Conference with a 50-27 record and with four games left after this one, it’s obvious this encounter could potentially determine the top seed.

Cleveland enter with the season series in their favour, having won two of the previous three clashes. If they can assert their will at TD Garden and come away with another win, they’ll have the luxury of the tiebreaker if both squads finish with the same record. Boston, meanwhile, can even the series and force conference record to come into play if neither team finishes ahead of the other.

But aside from the tangible, there is reason for both teams to play well and come out on top.

It’s not a bold statement to say the Celtics need this one more. A victory now may not mean anything come May, but Boston, who are never short on self-confidence, would at least prove to themselves they can hang with their biggest nemesis in a playoff series. Punching the bully in the mouth could be beneficial if these teams see each other again in the Eastern Conference Finals.

That’s not to say Cleveland couldn’t use a win. LeBron James may not believe so, as he said leading up to the game: “I’m not one to get caught up in regular season big games. I’ve been to six straight Finals; I’m the last person to ask.” But as much reason as James has to focus on the bigger picture, the Cavaliers are in a fragile position. They suffered double-digit losses last month and their defence didn’t just look leaky, it looked completely broken.

If Cleveland are planning to flip the switch, they might as well make sure the light still works in Boston.

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Will Kevin Durant's return effect the surging Warriors?

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Whether Kevin Durant returns for the end of the regular season or the beginning of the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors will have some adjusting to do.

That’s not to say the team will not be more dominant when Durant returns, but Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will have to sacrifice some shots which might interfere with their rhythm on offence once again.

If Durant returns on schedule, he will have three regular season games to adjust to his normal workload and prepare for the playoffs. During his 17-game absence due to an injury to his left knee, the Warriors have weathered the storm and performed well once Curry assumed his position being the first option on offence.

The Warriors have been on a 12-game winning streak, with Curry averaging 26.3 points, 8.0 assists and 49.1 per cent shooting from the field. The team has been 4.4 points better defensively since Durant’s injury and have beaten quality teams on the road.

Golden State is primed for a return to the NBA Finals and with Durant back, the team will be favored to come out of the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs seem to be the only team that will be able to offer some resistance on the road to the finals.

The empirical evidence suggests that Durant will affect the team’s flow on offense, but that will not keep the Warriors from dominating the West in the playoffs, as their talent and star power will eventually prevail over ball-sharing and offensive schemes.

The Warriors seem to be on a collision course with the Cleveland Cavaliers and are eager to rectify last year’s collapse in the NBA finals.

Which team is the biggest threat to Golden State in the Western Conference? share your thoughts using #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook.

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COMMENT: Romo was and still could be a worthy gunslinger

Jay Asser 5/04/2017
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(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Tony Romo isn’t exactly riding off into the sunset, but history will smile more on the perpetually underrated quarterback than the narrative ever did.

The long-time face of the Dallas Cowboys franchise is stepping away from football and going into broadcasting, reports revealed on Tuesday.

Romo’s decision has less to do with his effectiveness at the age of 37 – which he’ll turn on April 21 – and everything to do, it seems, with health. His season this past year was all but ended by a fractured back in August, while a collarbone injury limited him to four games in 2015.

When Romo was ‘healthy’ enough to be under centre, it always felt as if he was dealing with something painful and gutting through it. He wasn’t as fragile as many remember him to be throughout his career, but towards the tail end it’s hard to argue there weren’t constant fears he couldn’t stay on the field.

So no one can blame Romo for calling it quits now. He won’t have to worry about avoiding a pass rush from monster defensive lineman in the TV booth – unless Michael Strahan inexplicably loses his mind – and can spend as much time as he wants with his family.

And yet, the door is very much ajar for Romo to make a return and for him to come out of retirement as soon as this season.

This isn’t a case of a player being forced out of the league for being over the hill. He was forced out by Dallas, yes, but there are plenty of teams that could use his services. Houston and Denver immediately come to mind. Hell, it seemed as if the Texans were positioning themselves to hand Romo the reins at the start of free agency.

Neither team were willing to trade any assets of value for him and his exorbitant cap hit of $24,700,000 in 2017, while the Cowboys didn’t want to waive him and be left with $19.6 million in dead cap money. So if Romo was already considering retirement, teams playing possum over him might have helped him reach his decision.

Now, with Dallas expected to release him after June 1 to soften the cap hit and have him count for $10.7m this season, teams won’t be constrained from pursuing Romo.

If he truly still has the itch to play, a change of heart in the summer makes the most sense. As a quarterback who’d likely be on a new team, training camp reps to get familiar with the offence and receivers would be beneficial. Considering that winning would be at the top of the list for getting back on the field, it’s only logical for Romo to give himself and his team the best chance for success by getting the offseason under his belt.

That said, a return in the middle of the season is also plausible. Maybe Romo wants to wait and see how the landscape shifts before committing. Whatever the case, the ball would be in his court for what he wants to do.
If this actually is the end of Romo the quarterback, it’s about time we give him his due.

We’ll never consider him in the same tier as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers as of the best of his generation, but he was one tier below and much better than many believed him to be.

Let’s pick apart the perceived flaws in Romo’s career. Chief among them was his lack of clutch play, mostly stemming from his infamous botched hold on the potential game-winning field goal over Seattle in the 2007 playoffs. Yet Romo ranks 14th all-time with 25 fourth-quarter comebacks and 17th with 30 game-winning drives.

Was he brittle towards the end? Yes, but he also played at least 15 games in seven of his 11 seasons as a starter and as previously mentioned, played hurt quite often. You can’t question his toughness.

The only knock on him is his 2-4 record in the playoffs and not winning a ring. It’s a team sport, however, and even if you want to blame Romo for the Cowboys’ shortcomings when it mattered, he undoubtedly exceeded expectations as an undrafted player.

The Hall of Fame likely won’t come calling, but it shouldn’t need to for us, as a collective, to finally ditch the Romo stigma and appreciate him for the efficient quarterback he was or perhaps still is.

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