Pindowns: Of Harden, Draymond, LBJ, MJ, The Doctor, Wilt and more

This James Harden posterization of Draymond Green during Game 4 on Tuesday night was the highlight of the night.

Twenty-five –in honor of Cavaliers legend Mark Price — random pindowns after watching the first competitive game in the two conference finals, the Rockets’ improbable 95-92 win over the Warriors on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena…

1. It’s been all but a given Golden State will be cruising to a second consecutive NBA title and third in four years, especially after the Warriors stomped a muddle in the Rockets with a 41-point win in Game 3.

2. However, with the conference finals now having been whittled to a pair of best-two-of-three series, how would a Cleveland-Houston NBA Finals matchup grab you?

3. It would, after all, give Houston’s James Harden at least four games to do this:

4. Improbable, yes, but at least it’s a possibility. Houston’s unspoken goal since trading for Chris Paul last summer has been to get Golden State to a best-of-three series, with two of the games being played in Houston. The Rockets have achieved that goal with the upset win Tuesday night. What will they do with it, though?

5. Houston’s win at Oracle Arena was Golden State’s first loss on its home hardwood since the Cavaliers won Games 5 and 7 the 2016 NBA Finals there, snapping the Warriors’ NBA record for consecutive home playoff wins at 16.

6. Quick thought — if Houston finds a way to pull off the upset and dispose of defending champion Golden State, does that mean Mr. If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em signs with the Rockets this summer? We’ll let you fill in the name of the guy in question.

7. The without-a-doubt play of the game in the Rockets’ win at Oracle was Harden’s dignity-taking posterization of former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green of Golden State. In case you missed it, and even if you didn’t, we present for your viewing pleasure, our favorite version of the play, courtesy of Titanic Hoops, with Celine Dion providing the soundtrack:

8. Our honcho here at Amico Hoops, the esteemed Sam Amico, described Harden’s facial of Green this way:

9. We all know Sam isn’t 117. He’s probably closer to 80. Regardless, with all due respect, he’s probably too young to remember what Hall of Famer Julius Erving did to fellow Hall of Famer Bill Walton in the 1977 NBA Finals. So, without further ado:

10. Walton wasn’t the only Trail Blazer to be embarrassed by The Doctor in that series, however. Dr. J was dunking on everyone, including poor Bob Gross:

11. It should be noted, Walton, Gross and the rest of the Trail Blazers rallied from losing Games 1 and 2 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia to The Doctor & Co., then won the next four games to win the 1977 NBA title.

12. Looking at tonight’s Game 5 between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, LeBron James — and Brad Stevens — will get most of the attention. However, if you want to get a read on which team will prevail in what many are calling a pivotal game in the Eastern Conference Finals, keep an eye on George Hill. When Cleveland’s starting point guard is on the floor during the playoffs this spring, the Cavaliers have a tremendous offensive rating of 113.5… the highest figure of all players in Cleveland’s roster. Cleveland’s offensive rating when Hill is not on the floor in the playoffs plummets to 103.4. King of the Hill, indeed.

13. Kyle Korver and Carmelo Anthony were both part of the NBA’s draft class of 2003. Is it a stretch to say at this point in their careers, all these years later, that Korver is a better player than Anthony?

14. Saw an interesting quote from Scottie Pippen in regards to The Great Debate of today’s NBA — who is the G.O.A.T., MJ or LBJ? Here’s what Pippen had to say: “The comparison is unfair. They play different positions. I know a lot of times we love asking that question because we like hearing the storylines behind that. But the truth of the matter is it’s not a fair comparison to LeBron or Michael. One guy is considered a two guard and another is considered a small forward. They definitely great in their era, they’re both the greatest in their era. But to say who is the greatest, we’ll never know that.”

15. Pippen followed that up with this: “In my mind, Wilt Chamberlain is the best basketball player. But Michael and LeBron should never be really compared because it’s almost like comparing Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) to me, so it wouldn’t be fair.”

16. Speaking of Wilt, his numbers decades after he last played, remain staggering. He still holds boatloads of records, including single-game scoring (100), single-season scoring average (50.4), single-season rebound average (27.2) and career rebounding total (23,924). In 1968, he decided he should lead the league in assists.  So he did, dropping 702 dimes, along with 1,992 points and 1,952 rebounds.

17. On Feb. 2 of that 1968 season in a game against visiting Detroit, Wilt made history, with 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists in a 131-121 victory. It was the first — and to this date, only — double-triple-double in the history of the league.

18. On Nov. 24, 1960, Chamberlain set the NBA single-game rebound record with 55. Whom did Wilt set that record — which still stands — against? None other than Celtics legend Bill Russell. Along the lines of MJ vs. LBJ, Russell’s teams were better than Chamberlain’s, without question, as his 11 NBA championship rings attest. No one, though, will convince me Chamberlain was not the better player.

19. Only a couple more on Wilt (for now, anyway). His career averages are an incredible 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds. Blocked shots were not officially recorded in that era. However, there is data on blocked shots for 112 games in which Wilt played, thanks to newspapers and film. In those 112 games, most coming late in his career, Chamberlain averaged 8.8 blocks per game. He rejected 10 or more shots in 44 of those contests and had one 23-block game.

20. Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting Wilt at the incredible 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland, where the NBA honored the 50 greatest players in the history of the game. The media availability with those living legends remains the single greatest memory I have. Anyway, during my conversation with Wilt (is it weird I still get goosebumps typing that sentence, 21 years later?), I asked him if it was true that he could palm a 16-pound bowling ball in each hand with his arms outstretched. He smiled, grabbed my hand, which disappeared, and said, “What do you think?” It was like shaking hands with a catcher’s mitt. I have a ton of stories from that weekend. Perhaps I’ll share more of them going forward, if anyone is interested, that is.

21. If you have a few minutes, give a look to the Wilt Chamberlain Archive on YouTube. Wow. Just. Wow.

22. Speaking of great players, it’s funny to follow the dynamic of fans of LeBron James. Depending on the outcome and how he plays in every single game, the narrative is either: A) “LeBron is the greatest player of all time!” Or, B) “These dudes LeBron is playing with suck. He has no help!” It’s rarely, if ever, anything else. Which will it be after Game 5 tonight?

23. Along those lines, for all his greatness, Jordan was 1-10 in playoff games before Pippen joined him on the Bulls. Just sayin’.

24. Again on James, according to ESPN Stats & Info, his teams are now a perfect 8-0 in Games 3 and 4 in playoff series in which they’ve lost the first two games.

25. Speaking of great stories, here’s one involving two great former point guards, courtesy of Tom Moore, sports columnist for the Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer and Burlington County Times: During his days as an assistant coach with the 76ers during the Allen Iverson era in Philly, former Sixers great Maurice Cheeks easily beat Iverson in a game of “Around the World.” Cheeks then rolled his basketball across the court to Iverson and told him, “Use this one. It goes in.” With that, according to Moore, everyone in the arena — including Iverson — burst into laughter. Cheeks will join Iverson in the Hall of Fame this year.