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: So, even though we’d made plans to do this over the weekend… it never happened. Some of us drank stupid amounts of beer (me) and others had dates (you). There were some really good games over the weekend though. The Jazz and Spurs have made series out of 0-2 deficits, the Celtics look like they can’t win a road game and the Pistons have all but ended their series with the Magic. Here’s a few quick thoughts on each series…
Jazz/Lakers… I told you I thought the Jazz could make a series out of this based solely on their homecourt advantage and they seemed to have done just that. Carlos Boozer waking up and realizing the series had started also helped. He looked absolutely dominant on Friday night and played well towards the end of the game yesterday. Deron Williams must have read what I wrote (not really), because he looked awesome in both games. Derek Fisher getting early fouls, making Jordan Farmar have to ‘guard’ Williams is killing the Lakers. Not that Fisher is a great defender, but he’s leaps and bounds better than Farmar. There’s been a lot of talk about the Turiaf ejection, but that was a pretty easy call to make in my opinion. The whistle had blown, Price was trying to get a continuation call and he just pushed him while he was in mid-air. Pretty cheap, if you ask me. The Lakers will obviously play better, without 18,000 crazy Mormons yelling at them.
More NBA talk, a nickname for the Spurs I’d never heard before and possibly boobies after the jump…
Pistons/Magic… Jameer Nelson has guaranteed a Magic win in game 4. Jameer Nelson of all people? Not their best player in Dwight Howard? Or the best guy they’ve had this series in Turkoglu? Or even the max-contract Rashard Lewis? No, it’s Jameer Nelson. The PG they can’t play in the closing minutes of games because he’s not good enough. It amazes me what these guys say sometimes. Nevermind the fact that the Magic were just beaten by a Pistons team without its leader and starting PG, Chauncey Billups. Apparently, that didn’t matter and the Magic will do what they haven’t been able to do yet, win in Detroit. Whatever you say, Jameer. Also, I loved Flip Saunders not calling a timeout when the Pistons had the ball, down one, with under twenty seconds to go the other day. That is totally the right call and it helped Tayshaun Prince get the winning bucket. Not calling the timeout enables you to just run a play without the Magic being able to set their defense or having to get the ball inbounds. NBA players have been playing long enough, they know how to manage a late-game situation. The Pistons have all but set a date in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Celtics/Cavaliers… The tale of two teams. Boston looked absolutely dominant in game 2 of the series. They had kept LeBron from getting off in either of the first two games and the Big Three all seemed to be clicking. Then, Saturday night happened. The Cavs looked like the dominators and again, like they did in Atlanta, Boston looked old and unintrigued by anything going on. Maybe they think they can try and win a Championship without winning a road game, but I don’t think that’s a great plan. At some point, they’re going to have to play with the same intensity and drive they do with at home. It also helped that LeBron finally got going a little bit, which in turn opened things up for Delonte West, who shot 4-6 from three. You have to keep picking Boston to lose on the road until something changes.
Spurs/Hornets… I know you hate it, but the Spurs look like the defending champs once again. For the past five quarters, they have been absolutely the better team. For the first two games, the Hornets looked quicker, faster and better. Something happened and San Antonio finally woke up. Tim Duncan looks like the Tim Duncan of old, Manu Ginobili is getting to the rim whenever he wants and Tony Parker looks awesome. Their offense went from dormant to explosive. Two games in the 80’s in New Orleans and then they score in the 100’s in San Antonio. This is the most intriguing series to me and I love watching these games. I can’t wait for game 5.
Brubaker: Well if nothing else, this weekend showed how important home court is. The Jazz and Spurs looked like totally different teams in evening their respective series, while the Lakers and Hornets struggled to play with the same confidence and rhythm they displayed in the first two games. Boston continued to play Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde as they got blown out on the road, despite a less than superhuman performance from LeBron. Detroit meanwhile was the only road team to enjoy a victory, and they even did it without Billups, as you pointed out.
Jazz/Lakers…The Lakers team I saw in the first six games of the postseason was nowhere to be found this weekend. Not only did they lose, but they appeared to lack the same offensive flow and confidence that carried them all season. Pau Gasol doesn’t seem to have adjusted to the physical Utah frontcourt, as he has had to work hard for every basket, which means more heavy lifting for Kobe, who at times tried to revert back to the old Kobe yesterday…looking for his own shot and not worrying about his teammates. But you also have to credit Utah’s offense too, especially Deron Williams. On ESPN radio today, Scott Van Pelt said the Deron Williams is one of the top 10 players in the league, and my first thought was What?!?! Then I started thinking, and realized…he just might be. I don’t know that I can name 10 players right now who I would take over him – he’s that good. He’s deceptively athletic, and is able to get his shot anytime he wants. He also has mastered Jerry Sloan’s offense, and he’s a nightly threat to drop 20 points and 10 assists. Additionally, he’s not scared of anything, an attitude he first showed last year in the playoffs, and something he’s carried to this year. And to think, he was second fiddle to Dee Brown in college…
As for the Turiaf foul – I don’t think he intended to hurt Price, but I agree with the ejection,. Turiaf plays with a lot of energy and emotion, and he just let it get the best of him there. But How about Price’s block on Luke Walton later in the game? Talk about not giving up on a play – that was terrific hustle. I think the Lakers come out and play better at home, but now the Jazz have confidence, and Williams knows he can light up Fisher and Farmar at will. I’ll stick with the Lakers winning the series, but something tells me it might go 7 games now.
Pistons/Magic…Jameer Nelson, meet DeShawn Stevenson. DeShawn, would you perhaps be kind enough to explain to Jameer what happens when you stick your foot in your mouth in front of the national media??
This series is over in my mind – especially with the added fuel on the fire. I agree that the Magic have been close, and a few plays here and there, this series might look different. But bottom line, the Pistons have made those plays and the Magic haven’t…illustrating the difference that playoff experience can make. Even without Chauncey, the Pistons managed to come back on the road for the victory, and in my eyes, they also tore out the heart of Orlando. Howard is visibly frustrated, and I think he sees the writing on the wall. The Magic have a lot to look forward to in the coming years, but they’re just not as good right now, and no amount of false bravado or guarantees can hide that. Pistons win game 5, and get a couple extra days rest for the conference finals…
Celtics/Cavs…What can be said about the Celtics’ road woes that haven’t been said already? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team that is such a polar opposite of themselves away from home…especially a team with so many veteran players. I figured the Cavs would get one at home, but they way they looked Saturday, they could take both of them. LeBron didn’t play his best, but he got plenty of help from his supporting cast, who played with a lot more confidence than they had in Boston. At some point, I thought Boston would just snap out of it, and come out with a fury on the road….hasn’t happened yet. I guess if this trend continues, the Celtics should be lucky they have homecourt throughout the playoffs. The scary thing for Boston fans is that LeBron still hasn’t had a “LeBron” moment, and if he gets going for a game or two, Cleveland could find themselves back in the conference finals.
Hornets/Satan’s Minions…I’m very fortunate I had a date this weekend, otherwise it would have been a total waste for me…with the Spurs winning both games at home. This just about ruined my weekend, and what’s worse, I can’t say that the better team didn’t win. The Spurs just outplayed New Orleans in every facet. The decision to let Chris Paul get his points and try to blanket Peja is looking pretty good so far. Parker is getting to the basket at will, and Ginobili, much to my chagrin, is also playing well. Morris Peterson isn’t doing much in the way of slowing down Ginobili – I’m wondering why Julian Wright isn’t getting more burn. I know he’s a rookie, but at 6’8″ with long arms, he might be able to slow down Manu a time or two. Duncan knows he can get his whenever he wants, and Bowen, Oberto and Finley are all playing their roles to perfection. I still think the Hornets need to calm down and get back to playing loose, although that’s much easier said than done when you’re losing. But I really feel like they can play with San Antonio if they don’t get caught up in the hype, and just play their game.
On a side note…the intentional fouling by Popovich is really becoming annoying. Yes, it’s within the rules, and yes, other teams have done it, but that doesn’t make it any less cheap. Last night, they wrapped up Tyson Chandler with 14 seconds remaining in the first half so they could get the last shot…good strategy but give me a break. I was rooting for the Hornets to do the same thing to Bowen, and then watch the Spurs foul Chandler again…with the final 15 seconds taking about 30 minutes. The Spurs are too good to employ a cheap, low-brow strategy like that, and it makes me sick. They should be ashamed of themselves (ok…deep breaths….I’m fine).
We weren’t able to give anything else today due to class and work obligations. I think it’s safe to say we both believe that Boston is going to have to win a game away from home before either of us picks them. And, like Brubaker said, LBJ still hasn’t really made his mark on this series yet. I would bet that comes before Boston wins on the road. It is still surprising, though, seeing as the Celtics had the best road record in the league during the regular season. And the smoking hot girl is Talor, who is a member of the New Orleans Hornets’ Honeybees. We’re in love.