Spurs Are Champs !!!!!

Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs who got their redemption by dominating The Finals! They truly are a model organization in the NBA. Congratulations to Pop and Timmy for their fifth ring together! To Kawhi Leonard to his well-deserved Finals MVP! To Manu and Tony for their fourth ring! To the rest of the Spurs who made these Finals a memorable one for all of us. And most importantly, congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs fans -- I know you were hurting, but I am sure you never felt more relieved than now :)

Kudos goes to the Miami Heat for their fourth straight Finals. And we all can be very well sure that they will be back in the Finals again next year. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are there to stay.


In this Drive To The Finals fantasy game, I only am a tad better than last year's 98 percentile but overall missed my target of 99 percentile. Loved how 9 straight picks after LeBron James kept me in the 100 percentile, but then loathed over that last two duds that sent me crashing away from Page 1 of our league. Next year, I am not settling for anything less than Top 100.

As for this blog, we have more than quadrupled our reader participation in the comments section! Special heartful thanks goes to the likes of imawake/topknox, Tangent, Luminosity, Daytona, aceee06, Alex, thehalfcourtheave, Ali, Karol and a slew of others (regulars and new) who continue to provide invaluable insight and tips to the betterment of the improved DTTF experience of all. This blog is nothing without you guys! BIG THANK YOU!

Congratulations also to our reader Matt for winning it all! May your family enjoy your new ride ;)

That's a wrap, folks! See you again in these parts in ten months!

Smashed!

This is it, boys and girls! Elimination game next! Put your best player forward.

How about Game 4? Same banana as Game 3. Another poor showing for the Heat players. It's like the producer of this series decided to split the the third movie into two and shot them back-to-back. Game 4 was every bit as Game 3 was. Spurs built lead in first half, Heat rallies in the third, and then out of gas in the fourth.

Slow Play Is Death

NBA defenses are so sophisticated now. You don't want to give them a chance to get fully established. When we played Miami in the Finals, we knew that if we called any plays we were doomed. We had to play faster than that. Popovich really pioneered a lot of that. There is a pendulum on a lot of these things, but I really don't see faster offense going away." - Rick Carlisle

41 Spurs points in the first quarter. Boris Diaw started over Tiago Splitter for more ball movement, and that opened up the alley for the Spurs' two shooters. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green finally clicked. Spurs really wanted to break the game open early. The Heat didn't give up (much to the relief of DTTF), adjusted and made a good third quarter rally. But in the end, the lead was just too unsurmountable for the Heat to overcome. Spurs stole one in Miami and got back their home court advantage. 2-1, baby! Okay, 2-1 means nothing yet, but Game 4 is a must-win now for the Heat.

One. E-Four. C-Five.

The Spurs' first move is the most popular move in chess, and that is to do what has always worked, and that is to have the same starting lineup in Game 1.

Now, you may be thinking that it is the Heat's turn to make the next move. But, you see, the Heat had already made their move, even before Game 1. And that is to start Rashard Lewis. At first we thought that Chris Andersen may be injured, but it turns out he's not. So that means starting Lewis was a calculated move. Maybe it was due to the success they had with that lineup with the Pacers, who like the Spurs, had two legit bigs. Or maybe they borrowed from the Spurs' book when they played Diaw a lot against the Thunder's packed paint.

Sweep. Not.

I want a sweep. But there will never be a sweep in the Finals this year.

Standing at rank 56 and only Splitter, Allen, Chalmers and Green remaining in my pool, I want a sweep. With the Big Threes from the Spurs and Heat being popular picks in the next three games, I am sure to lose ground now against the people around me. Assuming a Big Three average PRA of 30 and my picks' average of 15, that is a dropoff of 45 PRA just for the next three games. That lines up with about 98 percentile, which is what I got last year (I said I wanted 99 this year). Now, if series stretches to 7 games, that's another dropoff of 40 to 50 PRA and that lines up at about 93 percentile. That is why I want a sweep.

Finals Strategy: Bottom-line PRA

Can't get too high with a win. Can't get too low with a loss.

That is how the Heat and the Spurs should approach this series. At least that's how the Spurs seem to be wired. A team will win Game 1 and that team should not celebrate, because the series is not yet over and anything can happen. They have to think straight and treat the next game as if they haven't won. The same thing with the losing team, they should take the loss and focus on the next game. Let the media and the fans take care of all that emotional stuff.

Finals Pick Plan

Nothing exciting to see here. I avoided picking fillers in the last round by using the stars in advance. So instead of gradually rising and peaking maybe at 95 percentile in the end, I chose to peak early at 100 percentile at the start of Finals and gradually come down to 95 percentile later. In general, same outcome, just different pathways. Of course, the sooner the Finals end, the better it is for me.

Just laying out my cards...

Welcome To The 2014 NBA Finals!


So here we are again at the epitome of our Drive To The Finals fantasy game, and with us are the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs meeting for the second straight time in the Finals. Each deserves to be here. On one corner stands the reigning NBA Champions the Miami Heat, who has yet to meet a worthy opponent in these playoffs. And on the other corner is that nemesis they are waiting for, the San Antonio Spurs, who are bent to finish the task they failed to do last year. No more Mr. Nice Guy, this is serious, boys and girls. Suit up!

Stumble & Fall

I watched the postgame press conference after Game 5, and I couldn't believe that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was so down, heads bowed down, and I felt as if they already lost the series. I am not an expert in reading people but it seemed to me they were hiding the true things that made them sulk like that. I have no idea... maybe the coaching?  Blaming themselves? I was watching them looking at the box score on the table trying to look for positives. "I had three steals", said Westbrook when a reported tried to put him down him even more. I felt sorry for them.

Charles Xavier: Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.

Filler Now Or Later

Game 6 is in Miami, and I can't imagine how the Heat can NOT finish this series off. I implore the Heat to win Game 6, because I am already draining my picks now in both conferences.

After my LeBron pick who got me to 99 percentile, I thought that was it for me as I was ready to face falling off slowly as the Conference Finals push through. Luckily after him, four straight picks of about 21 PRA each had me floating around the 185 rank for the past 4 days, still at 99p.

Switch Or Stay?

Thunder gave the Spurs another beating, and the series is now tied 2-2. By what you have seen, should people switch now saving Thunder players for the Finals? Or hold on?

Let me take a look at my options (Strong, Normal, Weak) based on playoffs average:
Spurs: Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Danny Green, Patty Mills
Thunder: Caron Butler, Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams, Derek Fisher

Pacers Down

The Heat has now downed the Pacers and pushed them into the brink of elimination. Now, it's time for the Heat to finish this series off and rid us all of the misery that the Pacers have given us all throughout  this DTTF.

Thunder UP!

Wow! That was a complete reversal! That was the Thunder we saw in the regular season going 4-0 against the Spurs. The return of Serge Ibaka and the insertion of Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup changed the dynamics of the Thunder rotation. Did anybody notice amidst the win frenzy that Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison didn't even get off the bench? This is more than the Thunder going back to its roots, but also Coach Brooks adapting to the Spurs type of play. Congratulations to Thunder fans for this big win!

Starters In Flux

Is Ibaka playing Game 3? Is Caron Butler going to get a starter nod? Will Coach Brooks stick to his starting lineup?

Serge Ibaka is now upgraded to game-time decision. He did running and shootaround earlier without limping. If he plays Game 3, he will still play hurt. DTTF-wise, his re-introduction puts a lot of uncertainty on all our picks. If you want to be safe, pick Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook if you still have them; they will play their hearts out regardless of how the roster looks.

Strategy: Free Agents

This is something I have not used in the first two rounds. Timing of pick for free-agents-to-be. I have used this a lot in the past few years and I plan to use it in the Conference Finals. Soon-to-be free agents will not readily admit it, but they are extra-motivated to perform beyond expectation so as to showcase themselves to their current team and potential suitors in the summer. They show up hot either on elimination games, or on their last potential game at home.

What Should The Thunder Do?

We have two days off from the NBA Playoffs and I am sure Coach Brooks and his staff are cooking up a NEW strategy because what they did in Games 1 and 2 in lieu of Serge Ibaka's absence has NOT worked. Starting Nick Collison has not worked. Thabo Sefolosha has not worked. That starting five has not worked. Trying to match Spur's size has not worked. Where was the small ball that worked some in Game 1? I didn't see a lot of that in Game 2. And the Thunder was practically in half-court game most of the time, giving too much time for the Spurs to set up their defense.

Paint Wide Open

So as expected, the Spurs carved out the Thunder's interior defense (if there was). Tony Parker relentlessly attacked the paint, and dished the ball to Tim Duncan for Mr. Fundamental's most imposing performance of the playoffs. So what happened to the Thunder's lineup?

Out Of Options

Several are running out of options in DTTF. Across the board on polls, they have the San Antonio Spurs winning the series especially now that Serge Ibaka is out of the playoffs. One would think people will pick Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook in Game 1 if they still have them, or at least another Thunder. But if you look at Monday's picks, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan are the hottest ones. Game 2 is no different; people are turning to the Spurs roster for picks early, and that will certainly have a major impact on the Finals for DTTF.

Strategy: Best Player In Losing Team

As you can see here in that 3-year old poll (see bottom of right pane), the most popular strategy (nothing else comes close) is to pick the best player on the team you think will lose the series. Now that we are in our 4th playoffs here in this blog, that strategy seem so common sense now. Unconsciously, that is what most of us are doing already.

Round 3, Fight!


Congratulations to the Indiana Pacers (for earning a rematch with the Heat), and to the Oklahoma City Thunder (for their third West Finals appearance in the last four years)!!!

And I am giving kudos to the Washington Wizards (for their deepest run in years) and the Los Angeles Clippers (for their resilience). Watch out for John Wall next year. And watch out for a much improved Clippers organisation, too!

Strategy: Sticking To Your Guns

The Heat and the Spurs finished off their respective opponents at home in Game 5, and they are just waiting for the winners of the Wizards-Pacers and Clippers-Thunder series. My pick for Game 6 remains to be Chris Paul and I am hoping for a strong showing in a loss -- that would be a nice farewell gift for me from the Conference Semifinals.

As we near the Conference Finals, let me touch upon the subject of "sticking to your guns" and "chickening out".

Lobbed City

Boy, if you are a Thunder fan, you should be ecstatic by now. That. Was. Close!

And if you are a Clipper fan, you should be angry.

Never mind the discrepancy in referee calls, this series is 'da bomb! Honestly, five minutes left in the game, I was preparing to write my blog post to talk about road wins and how the Thunder are again in that 2-3 hole coming into Game 6. But alas, that ESPN Gamecast kept me fixed-in even before I finished a paragraph. Once KD hit a three and a layup, I hit the Delete button. This was going to be a whole different blog entry!

Saving For The Finals

It will be the end of the road for either the Nets or the Blazers on Wednesday. Or both. It is highly unlikely that both will win Game 5 on the road. That will be difficult as the Heat, the Spurs, and the home crowd will be looking to finish their series off. So, sort your remaining Nets and Blazers according to average PRA, and pick the top guy. For me, that would be Deron Williams.

Put Your Wands Up In The Air

The Clippers were able to eke out a win earlier to even the series at 2-2. I am loving this series! The Thunder are still favoured to win a best-of-three series versus the Clippers, and I don't mind this one going seven games.

The Wizards were not fortunate however, as they lost earlier and are facing elimination in Indiana in Game 5. So our Tuesday pick must be a Wizard. Here are your options:

Happy Mothers Day

Hey Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers playing here in Drive To The Finals, and to all the mothers in your life as well. May their day be free of headache from us hehe! Behave, kids!

So what happened earlier? The Nets won Game 3 and are now 1-2. The Blazers meanwhile lost theirs and thus are now in the brink of elimination. There is no question that our Monday's pick should be a Blazer. Whether it is a hot pick or not, it doesn't matter on Monday. You have to pick your best remaining Blazer from (in order of average PRA) LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum. If you still have someone from that trio, make the pick. It doesn't matter who will perform better or not, there will be none of those tricks and manoeuvring. Pick that Blazer!

Back To Normal

Alrighty! The Pacers and Thunder are now back on track, stealing their respective Game 3s on the road, and now leading 2-1. Even if the Wizards and Clippers win Game 4, they will not be favoured to win a best-of-3 series later. So for me it's clear that the next pick should be from them.

Ripped City

I know some of you were ripped too. The last three days of DTTF have not been kind to us. We've been spoiled with 30+ PRAs in the previous round and here we are getting peanuts of 15, 20, 25 PRA. Low-scoring games, slowed-down pace, defense-oriented basketball and blown-up games have all contributed to our perceived falldown.

One One [Updated]

Although unlikely, I was wishing for at least either the Pacers or Thunder to fall down 0-2, and that would have been easier for us to make the pick for Friday. Alas that was not the case. With both matches tied 1-1, it's a gamble now for everyone in Drive To The Finals. With the Wizards and Clippers still owning home court advantage, some will still pick them to win with a chance to go up 3-1 if they win both home games 3 and 4. But, it is not difficult to imagine the Pacers and the Thunder to steal one game on the road, and gaining their home court advantage back.

Blowout Games

As if the playoffs are not yet weird enough for Drive To The Finals, now we have two blowout games in Day Two of the Conference Semis. Nobody likes blowout games -- the players in the losing team we picked have low PRAs, and the players get benched early. The Spurs schooled the newcomers Blazers on how it should be done in the playoffs, and LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard were shooting poorly early on -- much to the dismay of those who picked them and hoping for a better showing. The Heat put some stomping on the Nets, and the Nets continue to force us into a guessing game with their PRAs.

Hello Round 2

You know that Round 2 is no different than Round 1 when in the first day both road teams win. Sorry folks! Definitely no cruising for Drive To The Finals this year. This is the year when winning your league is much more meaningful... because the 2014 Playoffs is so darn hard!

Goodbye Round 1

To all whose teams got out of the first round, big congratulations to you. Especially if your team just came from a Game 7. Like the teams that don't have time to breathe, we also have none as we dive straight to the next round. I, for one, am glad that we can move forward. Now, let's see who we have used already...

Game Seven Craze

Two more Game 7s! Why not? Isn't this the best weekend of basketball? Add in the Nets@Raptors and Mavs@Spurs. I love this game!

Among all four teams, my best available player is DeMar DeRozan. And he gets my pick.

Extend or End

Three Game 7s on Saturday! It's the Hawks@Pacers, Grizzlies@Thunder and Warriors@Clippers. For a change, the pick this date is easier than the last few days. Decide which teams lose, then pick your best remaining player from that lot.

Six Game Sixes

I had to review my Thursday's pick. I tried game theory by expanding on my case scenarios given my available players and probabilities of each team winning Game 6 and 7. To make the matrix simple, I eliminated the Warriors and the Clippers, because (1) I strongly believe the Clippers of all twelve teams will advance at this point, and (2) I already picked Stephen Curry. Here is how it looks...

Three-Sided Coin Anyone?

Hear ye! Hear ye! We have here an invention from the City of Melbourne! Coins that have, wait for it... THREE SIDES! Get your three-sided coin.. Yes! You heard that right!  THREE-SIDED COIN! It will get you out of situations where old boring traditional coins can't help! Torn between three lovers? Flip a THREE-SIDED COIN! Torn between three picks??? THREE-SIDED COIN! Get them while they're hot... What?... There is already a three-sided DICE in America?... Frakkin' A!

The Tuesday Thursday Dilemma

Here are Tuesday's games:
  • Wizards(3) @ Bulls(1) Game 5
  • Grizzlies(2) @ Thunder(2) Game 5
  • Warriors(2) @ Clippers(2) Game 5
While that at first glance looks like a surefire Bulls pick for us, it is not as easy as it looks.

Elimination Games

The Bulls and the Rockets lost their respective Game 4s and are now 1-3 facing elimination at home. For those who believe strongly that a team here is going to win Game 5 then spend your pick elsewhere. Otherwise, pick them. And luckily, Bulls play on Tuesday, and Rockets on Wednesday.

Round One: More Like Eight Rounds Of Boxing

We are now in the midst of Round 1, and soon the schedule will change with each date featuring 1 or 2 matches instead of the usual 3 or 4. It is important to look ahead and make sure that on average case scenarios, you still have someone to pick on a future date. Also, make sure you will not be forced to pick between two or more good players and possibly lose the chance to pick one of them.

Over-Analyzing

I think I was over-analyzing Saturday's pick. I was weighing so many factors (don't let me start where), but I decided -- when faced with a predicament, I can only do two things:

1. Take the low risk with high reward.
2. If the result is undesirable, minimize damage.

In short, take your pick already, and if it fails, suck it up Princess!

It's A Mess [Updated]

Why oh why? Last year was so much better! Teams won when they were expected to. Pick plans were so stable! No, not this year, no. I think I've changed picks more times this round already than I did the last two playoffs combined. Seriously!

Houston, We Have A Problem

Only three teams in the history of the NBA have come back from down 0-2 after losing both games at home. And the Rockets have seen it happen upfront twice. In 1994, Hakeem Olajuwon's Rockets lost two then rallied to win a Round 2 series against Charles Barkley's Suns. In 2005, it happened on the other end with Yao Ming's Rockets, when Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs overcame that 0-2 deficit in Round 1.

Toss A Coin

Three games all tied 1-1. Pacers got back on track against the Hawks. Grizzlies stole a road win from Thunder. Clippers retaliated on the Warriors... big-time! It's very rare that we are faced with all games in a day with a level of uncertainty. One wrong pick on a winner will send ripples (the bad kind) to our pick plan, not only for Round 1, but also throughout the rest of the playoffs.

Spread The Wealth?

For Day 5's games, the best bet will be to take a Bobcat. Usually I avoid picking from the same team in consecutive games early in Round 1 to avoid running out of picks from a series (or piling up too much on the others). Looking on future Bobcats game dates, they seem to be packed with other options. Maybe a Hawk on Saturday and a Mav on Monday. Okay, a Bobcat again then.

Lesser Of Three Evils

All the games on this date have road teams up 1-0: the Hawks, Nets and Wizards. That would have been a conundrum if not for the Nets already favored to win their series. So for today, pick a Raptor. It's a safer bet than picking a Pacer or a Bull.

Pick A Grizzly

Three road wins already in Day 1 had us watching our steps with care too early in the playoffs. The Nets win was not too surprising as most of us planned for an upset anyway. The Hawks win was a surprise but I think most are convinced this is still Pacers'. Noone is just going to pick a Hawk in Game 2. The Warriors win however was a stinger, not only for those who already picked Stephen Curry, but also to most of us who have to change our plans and adapt to it.

Strategy: Hottest Pick

Let's start off this post with my Day 2 pick.


Al Jefferson. What is not to like about this pick? He will give you the 30+ PRA you seek, plus you know the Heat will eventually win this series. I know I will never be more comfortable with a pick this round than this one. Al carved up the Heat defense this season, and that can be attributed to the Heat's relative lack of size in the paint. It is rare that a team adjusts early in a series, so I expect Al to be his usual banger against the Heat.

Day 1 Pick: Not Kevin Durant

It's a newbie mistake, folks. Yep, I'm pointing to a sixth of you who are picking Kevin Durant on the very first day. Don't do it! Just imagine yourself in the future to the Conference Finals picking some lowly player while the rest of us picking Durant. Save him for later.

How To Pick

For all new to this fantasy game, this post is for you. Note that screenshots are from the mobile site (mobile age, baby!), but the desktop version is quite close. Let's get to it...

First off, log in to nba.com/drive and you will see something like this...

Playoffs Preview: Round Up

And we are set! We have the matches and player selection should commence anytime today (they said April 17!). So stick with me as my next post will be how to do picks, for the sake of our new players.

In the meantime, here are the rest of my playoffs preview... turbo style!

Playoffs Preview: Bobcats @ Heat

The Bobcats can still grab the 6th seed if they win their last game against the visiting Bulls AND if the Wizards lose theirs against the Celtics. While that is probable, nothing have stopped me yet from prematurely previewing a matchup ;) Bobcats do not want the Heat.

Playoffs Preview: Hawks @ Pacers

I can never understand why the Heat would rest LeBron and Bosh against the Wizards with the East top seed at stake. They lost, doh! Now, the Pacers clinched it, and will be facing the Hawks.

Playoffs Preview: Nets @ Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are back in the playoffs, although I'm not sure if Canada is excited by that. Yet. The billion-dollar team (Brooklyn Nets who else?) owns New York basketball this year, and it's their last chance before Phil Jackson starts operating.

Playoffs Preview: Warriors @ Clippers

The Warriors have just clinched their spot in the playoffs, and have left the Mavericks, Suns and Grizzlies to scramble for themselves. Waiting for them in Hollywood are the Clippers.

Playoffs Preview: Blazers @ Rockets

If I were to look at the current standings and choose which matchup is most probable, I'd say that would be Houston and Portland at seeds 4 and 5. The LA Clippers are beyond reach, and Golden State is having a few problems nowadays to even pose any threat.

We're Baaaaaack!

First off, join our league "NBA Planet 123" at http://fantasy.nba.com/drive/leagues/5

Now, welcome back guys and gals to our Drive to the Finals blog -- 2014 Edition!