So I got hired here to blog up some NBA, and I’m sipping my Sprite and glazing over some boring Rays-Sox slapfight. Son, that just ain’t right. Flip. Let’s break these series down into some categories, for your viewing pleasure.
DOESN’T MEAN A DAMN THING, BUT IT’S FUN TO WATCH:
76ers 2, Detroit 1. Well, I’m assuming, as right now the Philly Phive are phinishing off the Phistons after a lackluster Game Phree. The key to this series is whether or not Detroit gives a shit. Since the Celtics finished them off in a March smackdown, they’ve coasted like Winston at the end of 1984: just waiting for the bullet to the head. They may end up ducking Boston by crapping out here. They’ve been pretty schizophrenic. In their one win, they had balanced scoring between Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Sheed, and Antonio McDyess. In their losses one man is carrying the load (Wallace had 24 in Game One, Rip 23 in Game Three). McDyess broke his nose at the Wachovia Center which took him out; like the Pistons, he couldn’t stop the bleeding. My guess is he’ll borrow a mask from Hamilton for Game Four and tough it out.
As far as Philly is concerned, the rebound margin is bringing them all that sweet sweet playoff nectar. They had 45 and 43 boards in their victories. Additionally, Mazel Tov to Samuel Dalembert, whose 22/16 done grew him up tonight. Against a good defensive team — which the Pistons are, despite their aging and lapses — second chance points make all the difference. If the Sixers can get a strong effort out of borderline star Andre Iguodala in Game Four, their crowd and bench could make the difference. Detroit has been getting undue respect all season; there’s no chance they’re winning three in a row with their on/off switch. At least Philly fans will have warmer weather to celebrate when they crumble in round two.
Magic 2, Toronto 1 . Dwight Howard managed a pathetic 19 and 12 last night, letting the Orlando fans remember that old Disney truism: It’s A Small World After All. In a combined 50 minutes, Jameer Nelson and Maurice Evans lit up the scoreboard for six points, six assists, and four turnovers. The frontcourt did its job, but they couldn’t match the Raptors’ balanced scoring, paced by Jose Calderon (?) and TJ Ford (!), not to mention the legitimately insane Toronto fans. See what happens when the Canadian dollar is winning? They all celebrate. They celebrate a lot.
Toronto on the whole though is a team just good enough to lose, and that’s what gonna happen every game in Orlando. It’s too bad, because their crisp-passing, in and out style is far more pleasing to the eye than watching Hedo Turkoglu launch a three only to have Dwight Howard catch it in mid-air and dunk it through the floor. They’re heading back to the drawing board, and Orlando may improbably be heading to the Conference Finals, where we thought they would be in December and then concluded they had no chance of reaching by June.
Jazz 2, Houston 1. This series is going to go seven games. Why? Many years ago David Stern’s children went to a Toronto Raptors – New York Knicks game, courtesy of Der Kommissar. The two boys, by now fully grown, were preparing for their careers in finance; the elder with Bear Stearns, the younger with Fidelity. As a thought exercise, they tried to see how much money they could set aside for the future for an athlete simply by taking no more than 8% of his annual income and investing and divesting however they may. They picked out a gangly shooting guard calmly taking warmups on the Garden floor.
“Excuse me sir, how much do you make this year?” asked the boys.
“Fuck you,” replied Tracy McGrady.
And ever since then, David Stern has brought down the hammer.
Cavaliers 2, Washington 1. I have no idea who’s going to win this series. However, I do know that LeBron James is like Bill Pullman. Remember how in Independence Day Pullman was the President who was surrounded by a weaselly Defense Secretary, a Veep who got blowed up, and the First Lady who was hurt and then I guess died of a peaceful brain cancer? Well, LeBron is Pullman here. Everyone around him is screwing it all up, and a bunch of aliens are destroying the world. Sometimes, you have to hop in a fighter jet and do it yourself. Problem is, for James that’s every time. Neither of these teams have the legs to go more than the second round. Gilbert Arenas doesn’t even have the legs to play defense anymore.
Lakers 2, Nuggets 0. I can’t believe I missed Kobe’s asplosion on Wednesday night. Quarter 4, 19 points in 4:19? Whaaaa? That’s just about a triple and a layup every minute. That’s a good half for Atlanta. I hate to use the phrase “Perfect Storm”, so I’ll make up a phrase here. Kobe Bryant’s scoring ability put up against the Denver Nuggets flailing attempts at defense is the intersection of pain and pancakes. You can guess which side gets pancakes.
Celtics 2, Hawks 0 . If Atlanta were closer to Boston, it’d sell out a playoff game for once. By the way, assuming the Celtics get past the Hawks (shock!), they will probably either decimate a one-trick Cavs team or a confused Wizards team that can’t fully integrate Agent Zero into the lineup. Basically that means it’ll be the Conference Finals before the over 30 trio actually have to break a sweat. This is very, very good news. Celtics – Lakers is going to happen, folks.
THE WEST TEAMS THAT COULD RUIN EVERYTHING
Hornets 2, Dallas 1. The AP says tonight the Mavericks “limited” Chris Paul in victory. Paul had 16 points, 10 assists, and only one turnover. They simply can’t stop him . Once they realize this, they’ll be so much better off. The key to slowing the Hornets, if you lack Deron Williams, is to focus on shutting down Peja and David West. Tonight, the Mavs did just that, holding the Serb and the Musketeer to 10-32 from the floor. Considering they combined for 43 ppg in Games One and Two, that’s a start.
As far as the Mavericks are concerned, it’s looking like a sad, sad third act to Jason Kidd’s career, a man whose history will forever be altered by his shift to the Eastern Conference just as he peaked. Now he’s in the West, he’s on the downside, and he may as well be dead. Sure Dallas won by 10, but their PG managed all of 8 points and six shots. The last thing Nowitzki needs is more offensive pressure, and Dirk Diggler will have it with collapsing defenses sagging down low. He likes to penetrate from the three point line in, and that creates a tough situation for rebounds. Of his 19 boards tonight, only one was an offensive rip. Sure he can muscle his way to the free throw line, but how often? The Mavs window is all but closed; at least Dirk will get some sweet hash from Josh Howard to ease his pain. As for the Hornets, no one would be stunned if they snuck into the Finals, but I don’t think that will happen because…
Spurs 2, Suns 0. The Spurs are playing really, really well. In a way the pristine Game One may have decided the series: Phoenix gave everything they had to steal the opener on the road, and one odd assignment leads to a fluke Duncan 3 to keep the game alive. People were talking about this being the best first round series ever, but I was pretty sure after San Antonio stole the double OT classic that Nash and Co. didn’t have the wherewithal to go for it again. This is a Suns team that was knocked out in ’05 by Popovich’s crew and were probably robbed of at least a Game Seven last year because of some o-fishy-ating. At some point a team gets in their minds that the personnel may change but the results won’t.
You want more in-depth analysis, you say? Okay. The Spurs’ Big Three is playing really, really well. (There’s that phrase again!) No matter what magical schemes Mike D’Antoni can conjure from his silky Scottsdale wizard’s bag, when the opposition has three players a) that are All Stars and b) score about 80+ points per game, all it takes is one other guy to do something and you’re screwed. In Game One it was Michael Finley’s three point shooting; in Game Two, it was defense from Bowen and Udoka combined with Kurt Thomas’s majestic ability to foul Shaquille O’Neal repeatedly. Light your lanterns (just one); the Spurs are coming, the Spurs are coming. ABC executives are peeing up a storm.