Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Steve Blake's NBA Playoff Ups and Downs

The NBA season is now over for Steve Blake (1999-2003), but the playoffs had dramatic highs and lows for the former Terp. In the first round, against the Denver Nuggets, Blake was the hero, helping the Los Angeles Lakers advance to the second round with a series of clutch baskets.
Blake, who struggled mightily in his first year (and Phil Jackson’s last) in Los Angeles and seemed to be one of the scapegoats at times this season under Mike Brown, helped the Lakers avoid a first-round collapse against the Denver Nuggets.

Actually, you can make a strong case that Blake was the reason the Lakers will be opening their second-round series in Oklahoma City on Monday night. He came up big in three of the four wins against the Nuggets, none bigger than what he did Saturday night.

In helping the Lakers avoid blowing a 3-1 lead with a 96-87 win, Blake had the best playoff performance by a Los Angeles bench player in 25 years. He hit his first five 3-point shots and made a couple of huge 3s after the Nuggets erased a 13-point deficit to take a 4-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Blake’s career-playoff-high 19 points were the most by a Lakers reserve since Michael Cooper scored 21 in Game 2 of the 1987 Finals against the Boston Celtics.

ESPN LA said that Blake was a Laker Legend for one night:
He was amazingly, improbably, the Lakers' ace in the hole all series long. When L.A. won Game 1 after building a 13-point first quarter lead, it was Blake who had all nine of his points in that quarter off of three 3-pointers. When the Lakers stole Game 4 on the road to go up 3-1 in the series, it was Blake who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter including a triple that doubled his team's lead from three to six with less than a minute remaining. And when the Lakers needed to play as if their lives depended on it in Game 7, Blake jump-started them coming off the bench.

But the second round was another story. After missing a last second three-pointer in a Game 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Blake and his wife received hate-tweets from a multitude of angry Lakers fans:
Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake was the unsung hero of his team's first-round series victory over the Denver Nuggets, scoring 19 points in Game 7.

But he learned quickly how a town can turn on him after he missed a potential game-winning 3 in the Lakers' 77-75 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

After the game, both the Twitter feeds of Blake and his wife, Kristen, were inundated with criticism ranging from curse word-laden rants to threats.

"I hope your family gets murdered," read one tweet that Kristen Blake re-tweeted along with a single comment: "Wow."

In the end, Blake is still looking for a ring:
As Blake explained, two seasons in purple and gold without a ring to his name is killing him.

"It's tough," admitted Blake. "I mean, that's definitely one of the factors that came into why I came here. Because I wanted to win. I've won a championship on every level except the NBA. It's frustrating to have not gotten that in the first two years. But I still believe with this group of guys, we can still get it. That's gonna be our goal coming into next year. Proving it. And getting that championship."

Monday, May 07, 2012

Jasikevicius Preparing for Euroleague Final Four This Weekend

The Euroleague Final Four is coming up in a few days, on May 11 and 13 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Terps are represented in the Final Four again this year by Sarunas Jasikevicius (1994-98), who plays for the defending champions, Panathinaikos of Athens, Greece. Jasikevicius has already won four Euroleague crowns with three different teams, and is vying to become only the fifth player ever to win five Euroleague championships:
At 36 years old, Sarunas Jasikevicius already has a resume and a highlight reel to rank among the all-time greats, but the player known across Europe by his nickname, “Saras”, is far from finished. Already the only player ever to take the Euroleague title with three different teams, Jasikevicius is now trying to become just the fifth player ever to win five crowns.

To get yourself ready for the big games this weekend, check out BallinEurope's video preview page: about halfway down the page there are three Sarunas videos to watch. Here's their preview for Panathinaikos:
For PAO, it’s all about the tight nucleus that’s already helped the team to three EL titles in the previous five seasons. Dimitris Diamantidis and Mike Batiste have three green-colored rings – and the former enjoyed yet another MVP-level season – while Romain Sato, Nick Calathes and Aleks Maric (among others) contributed to last year’s Euroleague title. And as though Panathinaikos didn’t have enough experience heading into the 2011-12 season, the Greens went out and scored one of Europe’s greatest playoff performers of all-time in Sarunas Jasikevicius: based on clutch time, a truly key free-agent signing in the off-season.

If you want to watch, the games are usually on ESPN3.com here in the US. Panathinaikos plays CSKA Moscow at 18:00 EEST (11:00am EDT) on Friday, May 11.