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: I know I should probably do the right thing and start with the first game of last night, but it was mainly uninteresting and the second game WAS NOT. The duel that Tony Parker and Chris Paul had going on was absolutely epic. I can’t remember a game in which two point guards absolutely took over and scored at will. I think Parker was a little sick of people questioning him and his team after the first two games of the series, so with Duncan not playing to an extremely high level, he decided it would be his night. Chris Paul has thrust onto the NBA scene and it is hard to talk about the best players in the NBA without mentioning his name in the first four or five. It was just special to watch in the second half as they just traded baskets back-and-forth-and-back again. They flew into the lane without regard for the guys standing there who were easily six to eight inches taller than them. Paul and Parker also both showed some of their mid-range game and (unlike some other superstars) they realize shooting the three isn’t their game and only took three between them. Paul had the play of the night when he was fouled, did a 180 in the air and flipped it over his head for the and-one. I kind of remember this one guy who used to do stuff like that, his name escapes me though… Parker didn’t have one single play like that, but he was just masterful with the ball. I’m still not sure why the Hornets didn’t realize what was going on some of the time. Multiple times in the game, Parker would take the basketball to the right corner and one of the Spur big men would come and set a screen to get Parker open close to the elbow. Parker had eight or ten just on that play alone, he’s money from right there. Oh, Parker and Paul had eleven and nine assists, respectively.
More NBA talk, a Fabricio Oberto reference and of course, boobies after the jump…
The Spurs finally looked like “The Spurs” that everyone was waiting for in the series. Ginobili got the starting nod and responded extremely well. He responded with thirty one points on an array of drives, threes and a mid-range game. Tim Duncan had ‘only’ sixteen points, but every time he touched it one or two Hornets were running at him. His passing out of double and triple-teams really opened things up for Parker and Ginobili. I NEVER thought I would say this, but Fabricio Oberto played really well. He is a very good passer for as big as he is. He only got credit for two assists, but he made some passes that were just incredible and absolutely amazed me that Fabricio Oberto had just made them. I thought the turning point for the Hornets was when Tyson Chandler got his fourth foul (away from the ball) with about two minutes to go in the third quarter. Paul had to carry things offensively for them for the rest of that period and that’s when the Spurs took the lead which they never lost again. It seemed when he did come back into the game in the fourth quarter, he was less agressive on both ends of the floor. The Hornets’ pick-and-roll is a lot better when Chandler sets the high screen. We can only hope game 4 is half as good as game 3 was.
In other shocking news, King James dropped another stinker last night. He shot 6-24 from the field and another 0-4 from deep. He has still yet to make a three in the series, but has still shot ten. Some things still amaze me, not named Fabricio Oberto. Boston doesn’t have one, great, lock-up perimeter defender, but every guy they put out there is at least a good defender. They also play really good team defense, as there are never any easy shots in the lane. Even with their good defense, someone could have made a lot of money if they had bet that LeBron would be shooting 8-42 through the first two games of this series. Boston’s Big Three each had decent games that paced the Celtics. Since the game was so lopsided, none of them even played forty minutes, which should help their older legs as their playoff run lengthens. Their big test now comes in trying to win a game that is not in the Garden, or whatever the hell it’s called nowadays. They struggled with the Hawks in Atlanta, so will they do the same with the Cavs in Cleveland? I would only guess so if King James can start putting the round ball in the hoop. He has to score to open things up for everyone else and right now, that’s just not happening.
Brubaker: Begrudgingly, I will say that Parker played a great game, which only fuels my hatred for him more. I still just think he has it so much easier than other point guards because the Spurs spread the floor so well, and run that high screen-and-roll. He very rarely lines up and beats his man one-on-one, instead running off screens and then exploiting mismatches. However, 31 points and 11 assists are pretty great numbers, especially in a must-win game. Ginobili…well, he played…please don’t make me say this….good (ugh – I just threw up in my mouth). He still whines way too much for my taste, but he is a crafty player who always finds a way to the rim, and when he’s hitting from outside, he’s tough to guard. They also got timely contributions from Oberto and Bruce Bowen…both whom never cease to make me swear profusely upon seeing them do well. But the Spurs finally looked like the Spurs last night, and showed some heart after two blowouts in New Orleans. The next game will be crucial, to see not only how the Hornets bounce back, but to see if the Spurs keep up their intensity. I find it interesting how the Pistons are often noted for losing focus, while it’s said the Spurs “know when to turn it on”. Isn’t that basically the same thing? I guess it just shows how much spin can be put on a story by the media when your best player is a likeable, non-threatening Tim Duncan, vs. a wild, crazy-looking Rasheed Wallace. I’m still sticking with New Orleans to win the series, because they still had their chances last night. Of course, if the preceding paragraph wasn’t clear, I’m not a Spurs fan and I wouldn’t pick them for anything. But I honestly feel that the Hornets can beat the Spurs in this series. A couple plays go the other way last night, and San Antonio is looking at a 0-3 deficit. If I’m Byron Scott, I just keep my team loose for the next game, and let them play the way they played in Games 1 and 2…full of energy, not afraid to make a mistake. The Spurs thrive on playing smart while the other team implodes, and if the Hornets are able to stay out of their own way, they can win this.
On a related note, Chris Paul has officially become unguardable. He is lightning quick, has ridiculous handles and supreme confidence…making him a nightmare to match up with. I love watching him split the defenders on screens…a tricky move that’s hard to pull off, yet he does it without thinking. He always has the defenders on their heels, because he’s thinking two steps ahead. Not to mention that lay-up last night…just incredible! I love his attitude – Paul always plays with a chip on his shoulder and he’s always in attack mode. Prior to the playoffs, I thought Paul had a fantastic season, and was on the verge of overtaking Steve Nash as the best PG in the league. Now, he’s no longer on the verge – he’s there. Keep in mind that he’s only in his third year in the league, and it’s easy to get excited about him.
As for LeBron…ahem, I mean the Cavs vs. the Celtics – please make it stop. LeBron just simply can’t get anything to fall, and since he accounts for about 40-45 points per game between his scoring and assists, it’s not hard to see why Cleveland is down 0-2. The Celtics are just playing great team defense, making it hard for him to get going, and always having an extra defender ready to help. The Cavs feed off LeBron, and when he’s not hitting, they’re not hitting. Mike Brown has gotten a lot of criticism for his offense in the last two seasons, and I’m starting to understand it. The Cavs continue to run screens for LeBron when he has the ball, which makes sense in theory to get him in a mismatch, but it also puts two defenders in the area. If they really want the offense to run through him, why not just let him go one-on-one without the screens? He can get by anybody anytime he wants, but it’s the second and third defenders who are giving him problems and forcing him to give it up. I would spread the floor even more, and let him penetrate against his defender. If help comes, he can pitch it to a shooter, who hopefully will have an open look. But right now, they’re just allowing the Celts to collapse around him, and the results have been ugly.
But as you said, the next test comes on the road, where Boston was less than impressive against Atlanta. I think LeBron gets it going in Game 3 (yes- I realize I said that about Game 2 also), and the Cavs get a win. But overall, this Celtics team is just too deep and too talented. With Ray Allen getting some confidence back, and Pierce playing well, they can just overwhelm Cleveland on the perimeter. And while I love Big Z as much as the next guy, he simply can’t guard KG. I think this series ends in 5, and as a Witness, I can only hope LeBron gets some help before next season. I think Cleveland has too many “third options”, and not a second option. Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Big Z, Sasha Pavlovic…they’re all fine players, but I wouldn’t consider any of them to be reliable second options who can carry a team when the star is not feeling it.
Smoothron: Hmm, so after reading that, I’m guessing you aren’t a member of the San Antonio Spurs Fan Club? It was a little hard to tell, but I thought I’d go out on a limb. I’ll admit I was shocked by Bowen’s offensive “prowess.” Ok, it wasn’t exactly prowess, but he definitely knocked down some big shots.
Thanks to the ingenious TV schedule setup by the NBA, there’s only one game on tonight. The Jazz host the Lakers and all they can be hoping for is just to not go down 0-3 in the series. I know I sound like a broken record, but I like the Jazz because of their homecourt tonight. The fans in Utah, Mormon or not, are crazy loud. They understand basketball and they understand the importance of tonight. The fans, along with Jerry Sloan and a hint of refereeing towards the Jazz’s favor enables a Utah victory. Kobe will most likely still get something like 30/8/6 and continue his playoff dominance. The Jazz have to try and guard him one-on-one, allowing him to get his and not let the other guys beat them.
Their offense is fine, I mean they scored 110 points on Wednesday night. But, it all starts with Deron Williams and it all ends with him as well. He’s got to get in the lane early to open things up for the other guys. He and Paul came in the league together and they’ve been compared every day since. Paul has obviously passed him by, putting his team on his back in the playoffs. It’s not like Williams isn’t playing well, but if he wants to even stay in Paul’s shadow he has to step his game up tonight. I expect someone no one expects to have a big game (Korver, Brewer, Harpring) that carries them over the hump.
Brubaker wanted to respond to me, particularly to say the Lakers would dominate, but his real job got in the way. What a joke! While I’m still pissed there’s only one game tonight, I’ll watch regardless. Also, you knew I’d have to put some boobies in here, so that woman is Vanessa Bryant… you know, Kobe’s wife. And I wouldn’t cheat on her. There, I said it.