WHO WILL IT BE?

Get off the fence: A guide to picking a side to root for in the 2019 NBA Finals

It's been over two weeks since the Rockets were ripped from the playoffs at the hands of the fearsome Golden State Warriors, and the overall level of basketball interest has waned noticeably across the city. But if you love pro hoops that's all about to change as the league prepares for its first new Finals matchup in four years (Well, 50% new). And while the conference championships have been plenty of fun with some remarkable moments mixed in, theres just nothing like the NBA Finals.

With that being said, unless you have some money on the line it can be a little difficult to get invested in the outcome when you don't have a rooting interest in either team. Well, we here at SportsMap have done the work for you and are proud to present the definitive guide to picking a side as a neutral fan.

The case for Toronto

Gamblers Delight - Whether you have money on the series or not, if you're a fan of the degenerate arts might I point your attention to one of the highest rollers in professional basketball, Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

Having already established his reputation as a shark around the card table (especially around the likes of James Dolan), Masai traded one of the cornerstones of his franchise for a one year rental of then injured superstar Kawhi Leonard. This move is the equivalent of putting your wife's engagement ring on the table at the end of a long night of almost winning, and when the series is over we'll find out if Masai blew it all for nothing or if he gets to slip the ring back into his pocket as if he knew it was going there all along.

From Canada with Love - While it may be exciting that the Raptors are the first team to push the Finals to the international stage, thats hardly a compelling reason to root them on in a best-of-seven series. But considering how diverse of a population we have here in Houston, it wouldn't be surprising if you find yourself having some overlap in background with one of the seven nationalities that spans Toronto's roster (none of which are actually Canadian, but Drake is like six feet away from the bench at all times so you guys are represented).

Perhaps you have an affinity for African phenom's Pascal Siakam or Serge Ibaka, or maybe you would like rooting for the fiery Spanish passion of Marc Gasol and, ugh… also Serge Ibaka? International basketball is confusing. Between Caribbean representation from Chris Boucher and the waning force that is Linsantiy, theres plenty of room to engage in the kind of sports fueled nationalism usually reserved only for the FIFA world cup. One thing is for sure, this teams only in favor of building a wall if it keeps Greek Freaks out of the paint!

The Case for Golden State

Evil Corp - This postseason Kawhi Leonard is averaging 31.2 points on 62% true shooting, a feat accomplished only by the likes of Lebron, Jordan, Kareem, and Shaq. And yet it still feels like it could barely be enough to even keep things competitive against the team that "ruined basketball". If you like cheering on the bad guy, the Darth Vader or Dick Cheney of the story, the Warriors are your team.

I'm not saying the team or their fans are evil (although it is difficult to make a case that the people of Oakland are "Good"…), but if you are just starting to root for Golden State in 2019, you are the embodiment of evil and sunlight is probably not your friend. And thats ok! Rooting on the Warriors is the perfect fit for you, (also have you heard of the Yankees or Patriots) and you wont be disappointed how deep their bag of tricks runs. The Warriors can do anything from setting unlimited moving screens, injuring Kawhi in the playoffs, or even worse they could…

Play the Best Basketball, Probably of all time - It's the most unfair thing they do actually. The Warriors combine one of the most complex and intricate offensive schemes with a penchant for high caliber defending, and guess what they actually do it better without 2x Finals MVP Kevin Durant playing. They've broken countless records and are probably gunning for the Harlem Globetrotters winning percentage at this point in their dynasty. So if you like blowouts and hate the teetering, lead switching nature of competitive basketball, its time to say hello to the best drug the Bay Area has to offer, winning.


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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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