We wanted to be able to bring something about the NBA Playoffs to the site, however, there’s only one of us who regularly gets to (chooses to) watch most games. That’s why I enlisted my good friend Jason Brubaker. He’s a really good writer and you should check him out over at CHN. We’ve been debating sports for over a decade, and now we’re taking our arguments public for you to enjoy. We really hope you enjoy our banter about guys who are bigger, stronger, faster, richer and better at basketball than us. If not, Brubaker made me do it.
Smoothron: Let’s start with the first game of the night: Detroit @ Orlando. Detroit leads 2-0, one win coming easily and the other was pretty nip and tuck the whole way. Hopefully, everyone has moved on from the malfunctioning clock debacle and we can all agree the Pistons were going to win whether they had counted the shot or not. I think the Magic probably win this one at home tonight. They realize their backs are against the wall and if they don’t win, the series is all but over. Obviously, the Magic can only go as far as Dwight Howard’s huge shoulders can carry them. He followed up his Game 1 stinker with a pretty impressive performance in Game 2. I think someone probably reminded him that he’s pretty much un-guardable.
For more NBA analysis and even a Tree Rollins reference, follow along after the jump…
Orlando has two major flaws they have to get past. The first problem they have is they have no one to guard Chauncey Billups. In crunch-time of Game 2, they had Keith Bogans out there. He did a fair job on Billups, but when he’s out there they are pretty much playing 4 v. 5 on offense. In the last two minutes of the game, if Bogans ever touched the basketball, it appeared as if he had caught gonnorhea and was trying to get rid of it as quickly as possible. The second issue for the Magic is Rashard Lewis. He has to be the worst player to ever receive a max-contract. He’s the THIRD best player on his own team! Sure, he had twenty points the other night, but it was on 6-21 shooting. He’s also 6’9″ and got five rebounds. Tayshaun Prince, on the other hand, is 6’9″ and got ten boards. Prince also had seventeen points on 8-13 shooting. Advantage Pistons.
Like I said, the Magic probably win tonight just based on the fact that most teams usually at least win one game at home during a series. Also, when things are going well for the Pistons they like to relax a little bit and give a crappy performance. I expect to see a very flat Piston team tonight in Orlando. Magic by double-digits.
Brubaker: I agree the Magic get this one tonight, because as you said, Detroit has shown a tendency to get bored with leads. They play with a cockiness I can’t figure out, because last I checked, this group has 1 championship ring. Until they win it again – they’re the NBA’s version of the mid-90’s Atlanta Braves…good but not great.
Anyway, even if Orlando wins this one, the Pistons are just a better team overall. Jameer Nelson is serviceable, but he’s not a point guard who will take you to the next level. Howard gives new meaning to the word “beast”, but he can only do so much. He’s not going to create his own shot, and if the three-pointers aren’t falling, the Pistons collapse around him and make his life miserable. Not to mention when he picked up two early fouls in Game 2, and Adonal Foyle entered the game. Talk about a drop-off. Who’s next off the bench, Tree Rollins? (By the way, the Pistons supplied their own comedic relief when they put Walter Herrmann in the game, prompting at least three guys at my gym to make the inevitable Fabio comparison). But if the Magic can hit enough three’s to make the Pistons play the perimeter, Howard is unguardable one-on-one. The Pistons can wear him down with a bevy of defenders, but he’s just too good to be held down for too long.
I agree that crunch-time exposed the two biggest flaws Orlando has…PG play and the ability to create their own shot on the perimeter. Billups is too strong for the Magic PGs, and too quick for anyone else on the roster to guard. He got matched up against Turkoglu on a couple possessions, and poor Hedo was so concerned about getting beat off the dribble that he essentially gave Mr. Big Shot two free looks at threes, of which he drained both. If Chauncey gets going early in a game, he’s a nightmare to handle. Secondly, the Magic have no one who can reliably create off the dribble when they need it. Lewis and Turkolgu are both good players and excellent shooters, but they’re much better at coming off screens than breaking their man down and going to the hole. If you look at who is doing well in the playoffs, its the teams with guys who can create their own shot – Chris Paul, Kobe – guys who can catch the ball with 5 on the shot clock and get to the rim for a bucket or foul. Orlando doesn’t have that unless you count Maurice Evans, which I certainly don’t.
Magic win tonight, then drop the next two games to end the series. And we can only hope there’s not another Foyle sighting – I don’t think I can take that. Their first priority in the draft should be upgrading that backcourt, and by that, I don’t mean getting more minutes for JJ Redick. They need a PG who can defend, and a shooting guard who can slash…both of which should be available in this draft.
Smoothron: I couldn’t agree more on the Magic’s need to upgrade their backcourt. Redick has played six minutes and has no points all series. I’d always thought Duke made good NBA players? If Westbrook, Augustin or Lawson are available when the Magic pick in the Draft next month, they’d be stupid to pass.
You brought up Kobe as a guy who creates his own shot. He is also doing pretty much whatever he wants to do this postseason. It’s pretty apparent that the Jazz have no one to guard him. Ronnie Brewer doesn’t have the experience, Matt Harpring and Kyle Korver are white, and Andrei Kirilenko is the same guy who wanted to get out of his NBA contract before the season. The only way the Jazz have a chance is to try and make someone else beat them. If I’m Jerry Sloan, I’m taking my chances with Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol beating me over letting Kobe beating me, again. If Kobe catches anywhere in the frountcourt, I’d run the next closest defender at him. I’d also use some hard (not Marvin Williams hard) fouls on him when he goes to the rim. If Kobe is fouled hard, he’ll get frustrated. When he’s frustrated, he tries to take over.
If you can get Kobe trying to take over, not passing to open teammates, not doing what he’s been doing all year, then maybe you can cause a small riff in the Lakers. Get Odom and Gasol wondering what happened to their shots. Make Derek Fisher think he’s got to find Kobe every time down the court because Bryant is yelling at him in every huddle. Start putting questions in Phil Jackson’s head to call sets for Kobe, and Kobe only.
Offensively, Deron Williams has to take over for the Jazz. If he can break down the Lakers’ guards and get to the rim, LA will be forced to help off on the Jazz shooters. Getting Harpring, Korver and even Okur good looks from the perimeter will make everything go smoother for the Jazz. Also, the Jazz have to make Kobe work on defense. Whoever he happens to be guarding needs to be in constant motion. The more he works on defense, the more fatigued he’ll be on offense.
In a shocker, I’ll take the Jazz tonight. The MVP buzz will be just enough of a distraction for the Lakers for the Jazz to sneak up and get a W. One question, will the Laker fans still chant “M-V-P” when Kobe’s shooting free throws… even though he’s already won?
Brubaker: The only thing with Kobe is he is in such a zone right now that I don’t see him getting rattled. In the first game, Gasol was struggling early, so Kobe picked up the scoring slack, dropping 15 in the first quarter. But in every other game, he’s looked to get Gasol involved early as much as possible before taking over in the second half. It must be nice to be able to flip a switch and drop 30 points whenever you want…
The Lakers are so confident right now – they’ll be tough to beat, especially at home. Utah needs Boozer to start playing like he did last year in the playoffs if they even want to have a chance. Deron Williams can easily exploit Fisher, who made Mike Bibby and Tony Parker quite a bit of money in the Lakers’ three-peat years, when he proved incapable of guarding anyone. Williams is a notch below Chris Paul, but he’s still fun to watch a guy who just keeps getting better and better. But everywhere else, the Lakers hold an advantage. Even if Kobe is out of the game, Gasol and Odom can carry the offense, while guys like Luke Walton, Sash Vujacic and Jordan Farmar bring enough energy to avoid a letdown. Besides Williams and Boozer, Utah’s offense is inconsistent. Kirilenko is capable of scoring, but he also takes himself out of games mentally when he’s frustrated. Brewer can’t shoot to save his life, and Okur is streaky from outside. Korver is lights out, but when you’re counting on a pure shooter coming off the bench to carry a big offensive load against arguably the best team in basketball, you’re in trouble. Besides that, Korver may not be able to guard me, let alone anyone on the Lakers’ roster.
I’m not sure I like the hard foul idea. With the way this postseason has gone, you don’t want to risk a suspension for a key player, and with Kobe being the freshly-minted MVP, he’ll get the league’s protection. Also, Kobe may get angry and stop playing team ball for a game, but he also could drop 50 in a heartbeat, just to prove a point that game. Look what he did to JR Smith and Denver when they started talking, dropping 49 points but then reverting back to team work the next game. I’ve always believed you can’t play scared or intimidated against superstars, but you also shouldn’t give them any extra reason to beat you. The Jazz simply aren’t deep enough to afford having someone suspended, even if it’s a Paul Millsap or Mat Harpring-type guy off the bench.
I think Kobe is just another level right now, both physically and mentally. He knows he can’t do it all himself, and even if he takes over a game or two here and there – he realizes he ultimately needs his teammates to get another ring. The Lakers are just functioning so well as a team right now – I don’t see Utah winning more than 2 games in this series. LA wins tonight with, Kobe getting 24-28 points and 6-8 assists, while Gasol also scores in the 20s.
And on a related note – I like Kobe getting the MVP. I felt like legitimate cases could be made for Kobe, Chris Paul, KG or LeBron, so I would have been okay with any of them winning it. Regardless of how anyone feels about Kobe, they can’t argue the fact that he’s a ridiculous talent who has matured throughout his career, and this award is well-deserved for the year he has had.
There you have it, folks. We both pick the Magic to get a win against the Pistons tonight and give them ZERO chance in the series. I think the Jazz sneak up on the Jazz and Brubaker’s man-crush on Kobe has reached new heights. Tune in tomorrow for a recap of tonight’s games and preview of tomorrow’s.