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.
Also, how in the world did I post this with the wrong date two days in a row and not get roasted by TGC?
Brubaker: First off…no picture of the date. We’ve been out only twice, and I’d prefer not to scare her off just yet…although I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough anyway. Let’s just say she is way too hot to have gone out with me. Once she figures this out and gets rid of me, then maybe I’ll see what I can do (allow 2-3 more dates for this to occur).
Hate to rub it in, but good call on the Spurs game last night. For a team full of champions, they certainly looked like a bunch of crybabies last night, whining the entire night while letting the Hornets dictate the pace of the game. And if it’s not clear by now, I am absolutely sick of watching Manu and Parker flop every other time down the floor, laying on the ground for 10-15 seconds just to sell the foul. That’s not basketball. If they want to do that crap – go sign up for an acting class and have fun performing on stage. But quit doing it in the NBA – it’s sickening to watch.
More NBA talk, a Matt Bonner reference, about 2500 more words and some boobies as a reward for reading it all after the jump…
On the plus side, David West was simply fabulous last night, dominating the Spurs front line. When he plays like that, the Hornets have as good of a inside-outside combo as any team in the league. Paul was typical CP3 last night, driving and dishing and just generally owning the Spurs, while Morris Peterson decided to wake up and start shooting now that Peja is being blanketed. With their confidence restored, especially West, I think New Orleans wins Game 6 in San Antonio, provided Tyson Chandler is able to play. His energy, board work and defense are a huge key for the Hornets, and let’s face it, Melvin Ely just isn’t going to get it done.
However, even if this goes to a Game 7, I still think the Hornets take the series, prompting some interesting questions for the Spurs. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Oberto are solid, but the rest of their core is aging and deteriorating rapidly. Horry is done, so hopefully we can quit hearing about what a great clutch performer he is. Congratulations, you managed to ride other people’s coattails for your entire career, leaving you fresh for the postseason. I think he scored 13 more points than me the past two seasons. We’ve talked about Bowen’s shortcomings…he’s no longer the same defender he was three years ago, and he certainly brings nothing else to the table. Udoka is solid, but he’s much better suited to be a 7th man than a starter on a championship contender. Kurt Thomas is, by my best guess, 58 years old, so he can’t play too much longer. Finley and Barry are good in spurts, but both have been inconsistent this year. And Matt Bonner has bright red hair, so he’s not the answer (assuming he’s still on their roster – is he??). The Spurs are going to need to be active in the next couple of summers to upgrade their supporting cast, or they’re due for a steep fell once Duncan decides to hang ’em up.
As for the Pistons…how about Tayshaun’s block at the end? Despite being named first-team All-Defense, Tayshaun, is, in my opinion, vastly underrated throughout the league for his abilities on that side of the floor. Everyone talks about his playoff heroics (the Reggie Miller block, guarding Kobe in the Finals), but I don’t think people realize he does that every night. Not only does he have the length to bother shooters and the athleticism to stay with slashers, he also has terrific timing and is unafraid to go after a block, as evidence last night when Turkoglu tried (in vain) to throw down a statement dunk. Despite weighting only about 107 pounds, Tayshaun will challenge anyone at the rim, and more often than not, he wins. He’s the perfect compliment to the grind-it out defense of Billups on the perimeter, and the shotblocking of Rasheed inside. The Pistons are playing well right now, and with a couple extra days of rest, they will be tough to beat in the conference finals. However, as good as a 4-1 series victory looks, they shouldn’t get too cocky. They beat an inexperienced, albeit talented, team, and three of their four wins could have gone the other way. It’s one thing to stop Turkolgu or Jameer Nelson from scoring at the end of the game, it’s quite another to stop LeBron or Paul Pierce.
Smoothron: I am pretty sure not too many people were surprised by the Pistons finishing things off last night. The Pistons have playoff experience and they knew they needed to get the job done. It was another impressive win without Chauncey Billups, who my dad referred to as, “…that guy in another ugly-ass jacket.” Last summer, I was not at all impressed when the Pistons drafted Rodney Stuckey. I guess last night proved to be Reason #5983 why I’m not an NBA GM. Stuckey played really well, 15 points and 6 assists, not bad for a rookie. Speaking of not bad, somehow the ghost of Antonio McDyess has risen and McDyess had 17 and 11 last night. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who turns 34 this month playing against one of the more athletic frontcourts in the NBA. The Pistons look more like the team that went to the Finals in ’04 and ’05, rather than the team that was upset in the Conference Finals in ’06 and ’07. I would guess the motivation of losing to two teams you think that you’re better than would be good enough to get them playing well this offseason. Obviously, Rasheed and McDyess aren’t getting any younger. With this added rest, I look for them to make it to the Finals.
And, yes I love Tayshaun. He’s simply put, one of the better players in the NBA. He wasn’t in our top 10s yesterday, but I would say he could easily be in the top 25 or 30 players in the league. He’s never going to lead his team, let alone the league, in any offensive category; but, he plays his role and usually ends up guarding the other team’s best player. I, obviously, will always think a little more highly of him than most because he played at UK, but this guy is really good. He found the perfect team so that he could play his perfect role. Also, his block on Reggie Miller in ’04 is one of my favorite plays of all-time.
Oh, the Spurs. Once again, they reverted back to looking slower and older than the Hornets. For the Spurs, the stat that jumps out at me is that Duncan had 18 rebounds. Getting 18 rebounds is always impressive, but if you look at the rest of the Spurs, the next highest total is 3. Hell, someone had to get all those rebounds. It’s just like the tale of two teams right now with this series. All the other series in the Confrence Semifinals have had games which have been decently close, even though no road team has won. The closest game in this series was eleven points, in a game that really wasn’t even that close. The Spurs probably win again at home in game 6. Who knows… I knew homecourt advantage was a big deal, but I never thought it would be like this.
I think you might be getting just a little ahead of yourself writing the Spurs’ eulogy. How about looking at the Magic since they are done? What do they need to do to improve this offseason? Who should they be looking at in the Draft?
Brubaker: I will never be to ahead of myself in writing the Spurs eulogy…my eulogy will be written before I give them any credit. I really can’t wait for the rules committee to look at all of the flopping this summer and get some changes in place, something that’s rumored to be happening. We’ll see how effective Manu is when he can’t just flail about and act as though he’s been assaulted everytime someone nudges him. But enough about the Spurs for today, before I explode and hurt someone. I can’t even talk about that team without getting riled up.
Anyway… the Magic badly need an upgrade in the backcourt. Nelson is undersized and not a PG who makes his teammates better. He would be a good fit as a back-up, but he’s not a guy who should be starting for a team with championship aspirations. If I’m Orlando, my top priority is finding a pass-first PG who can play defense. I think someone like Mario Chalmers could be a good fit for this team. He’s also a little small, but he’s got long arms and is a great defender, plus he has a high basketball IQ. At SG, a rotation of Dooling, Bogans and Evans is solid, but not spectacular. However, bringing in another scorer might not mesh well with Lewis, Howard and Turkolgu, who all need their shots. But they need some scoring off the bench, so they could go for someone like Chris Douglas-Roberts or Courtney Lee, who could fill that role. I think getting Brian Cook and Tony Battie healthy will help the frontcourt rotation, although neither of them is likely to set the world on fire, so getting an athletic big man to back up Howard would probably help. If they’re still available, Robin Lopez or Jason Thompson would be good fits, both providing size and energy off the bench. But overall, I think Orlando has a good young core to start with, and they don’t need to make any huge changes. Keep in mind, this was the first year Lewis was there, and Howard is still learning how good he can be. I’d keep this team intact as much possible for next year, and see what another year of cohesion does for them. They made strides this year, and they should continue to do so next year.
Smoothron: We’ll continue to agree to disagree on the Spurs.
The biggest problem I see with the Magic is that they signed Rashard Lewis to a max contract last year. After one year, I’d have to give the signing a solid ‘D.’ I understand they wanted to show Dwight Howard they’re committed to winning, but he was not the guy to do that with. Now they’ve got him locked up for the next five years at an outrageous price. For the Magic’s sake, you hope Lewis gets the same drive he had during his contract year back. If that happens, they really could start contending in the East; Howard, Turkoglu and an 07-08 Rashard Lewis is a damn good frontline. They really must do something at point. If I’m running their draft, I take the best PG available, period. As you said, Jameer Nelson may be a decent backup, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want him running point for my NBA team in crunch time. He’s just not very good. Whether it be Chalmers, Ty Lawson or DJ Augustin, they have to get someone better in there. All three of those guys would be major upgrades.
How about the games tonight? Is Kobe’s back really hurt or is he sandbagging the Jazz? Did LeBron’s dunk take the wind out of Boston’s sails? Can a road team do the unthinkable?
Brubaker: Out of those three, I’d take Chalmers, just because of his defensive abilities. Augustin is better than Nelson, but still not a great defender, and Lawson really needs another year at the college level to work on consistency. But like you said, any of the three would be an upgrade. Also, don’t forget that TJ Ford might be available this summer if Toronto decides to go with Jose Calderon as their starter next year. Ford also is undersized, but he’s a much better athlete than Nelson and he could help the Magic run and create mismatches. If nothing else, I would be open to him signing a contract with Orlando for next year.
And while Lewis might be overpaid, I don’t think it was an awful signing. He’s a guy who can spread the floor and create mismatches, and he’s a solid second or third scorer. Granted, you don’t want to be shelling out $118 million for a second scorer, but I really think they’ll end up liking that signing. Lewis isn’t a franchise player (even though he’s being paid like one), but he is a good talent who will compliment Howard well as they continue to grow. He’s certainly not at the same level as a LeBron or McGrady in terms of small forwards, but he fits the Magic scheme well. And as I said, this was only his first year there, and the team showed marked improvement. Of course, it wasn’t all him, but I’d have to say he deserves some credit. On top of that, with so few solid free agents available, Lewis was a good fit for that team. He doesn’t bring off-the court headaches, and by all accounts, he’s a good locker room presence on a relatively young team. Right now, I give the signing a mid-level B, with all things considered. Now, the key will be seeing if the Magic continue to grow, or if they run in place for the next few years, never quite able to reach that next level.
For tonight, I believe Kobe’s back might be a bit sore, but he’ll still be Kobe tonight. The Lakers win, 106-95.
I won’t even try to make a prediction about the Cavs/Celtics tonight, because I haven’t been able to call it right yet. I kept thinking LeBron would explode one game, and that hasn’t happened yet. I also thought the Celtics would play inspired on the road to shut everyone up, and that also hasn’t happened. So for tonight, I’ll just say the team with the most points will win.
Smoothron: I’m so befuddled by the Boston/Cleveland series. I thought that if Cleveland planned on winning games in this series, LeBron would have to go for 30+. That hasn’t happened, but they’ve still won two games. I will say, though, that game 4 was what I thought he would look like when he came into the league. He got 21 points, but he also had 13 assists. When he was in high school, his athleticism was obviously impressive and he could score at will; but his passing and court-vision were the more impressive parts of his game. Then he got to the league and Mike Brown got him the ball and told the other four players to make sure they stood around and did nothing. Hopefully, he’ll continue to get the kind of help from his teammates he deserves so he won’t be forced into another 2-18 night from the field.
The Celtics obviously have a lot of issues, but they haven’t lost at home yet so it’s hard to pick against them there. I do feel like Boston fans are getting more and more restless about this team. No one really believes they can win an NBA Championship without winning a road game and the Pistons looked a hell of a lot better than the Celtics have looked up to this point. I guess I’ll pick the Celtics tonight, with little confidence. Boston 96 Cleveland 90.
I, too, think Kobe’s back is really hurting; but he is superhuman at this point so I doubt it affects him much. These series have become increasingly mundane to try and predict because the teams are totally different at home and on the road. The LA crowd saw how energized the Utah crowd was and goes bonkers tonight spurring on a Laker victory. LA 117 Utah 104.
I still haven’t been able to figure out, does Brubaker like the Spurs or not? I know he called them “Satan’s Minions” but I still think there’s hope for them yet. Ok, maybe not. Also, I put a picture of cougar Laker fan, Heather Locklear. I’m sure she’s had some help, but damn! She’s like a fine beer bourbon, she just gets better with age. We hope you tune in and try and enjoy the Boston/Cleveland game tonight, just look past the incompetent coaches. Do tune in for the LA/Utah game, though. Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan are gurus.