NBA Playoff Banter: May 15


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:  Wow, last night was full of surprises.  Okay, not at all.  Unless you consider me sitting at home by myself on a weeknight a surprise and if you do then you probably don’t know me.  I had a fabulous night, though.  Sitting around… watching basketball… Let’s move on.
Boston handled Cleveland in a pretty easy manner, you know, because they were playing at home.  KG was absolutely dominant, finishing with 29 points and 16 boards.  It’s simply amazing how he can be so good in Boston and seemingly disappear elsewhere.  Pierce played really well also, getting 26 points.  The surprise of the night for Boston was that Rajon Rondo had 20 points, 13 assists and played 42 minutes.  In turn, Sam Cassell only played 5 minutes, which with the way he has been playing is a good thing for the Celtics.  Rondo even hit two 3’s in the first half, which I would guess not many people would have expected (especially LeBron, who kind of called him out about it during his halftime interview with TNT).  LeBron did finish with 35 points, but he had to dominate the ball most of the time.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t touch the ball every possession, but like I said yesterday, he’s better when he is making his teammates better.  That obviously didn’t happen last night, as the Cavs only had two other players in double-figures.  I’m sure, however, Cleveland will look dominant again in game 6, forcing the inevitable game 7 back in Boston.

More NBA talk, a Sasha Vujacic reference and well, you know after the jump…
And, on the other side of the country, the Lakers held rank by beating the Jazz, at home of course.  Kobe had a very MVP night, scoring 26 and dishing out 13 assists.  It’s been very impressive watching him becoming more and more trusting of his teammates.  He’s a lot more fun to watch when he’s playing like that, getting 26 points on only 10 FG attempts.  I think it’s very clear to everyone that he won the MVP, though, so I really wish that the Laker fans would stop reminding the country every time he shoots a free throw.  I know I may sound like a certain Moosebear that we both know, but the Jazz just aren’t very clutch, save Deron Williams.  They jacked up 3’s like they weren’t ever going to be able to shoot another one again.  Williams was his typical self, just being very good.  He handles the ball like he has it on a string and he might shoot it better when he has a defender flying out at him rather than when he’s wide open.  The Lakers got great efforts from all their starters as they all scored in double figures and Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol were especially good in the fourth quarter.  Sasha Vujacic did try to kill them with his 1-11 effort from the field and even through all that, he shot a 3 in a close game with less than 30 seconds to go. 
The thing about these playoffs is becoming that homecourt advantage is outrageous.  It’s just not the crowd support, it’s how the officials call the game.  Carlos Boozer was getting absolutely hammered a few times in the fourth quarter with no fouls called, but Odom gets barely touched as he flies down the lane and gets the call.  I know the NBA officials have always favored home teams, but it seems like it’s getting close to out of hand.  It’s as if the officials are making it almost impossible for road teams to win.  That’s why I fully believe both of these series will end up right back in Boston and LA for game 7’s.

Brubaker:  Well once again, the home teams held serve. If you go by the old adage that a series doesn’t start until one team wins a road game…then I guess I can’t wait for the second round matchups of Boston/Cleveland, LA/Utah and New Orleans/San Antonio, because apparently none of them have started yet.

Go figure…Rondo is given more minutes and he delivers. Guess that combination that produced 66 wins in the regular season wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Rondo is a great fit for this team because he doesn’t dominate the ball and he’s got a high basketball IQ. He’s a great defender, and he has the ability to score if need be. I like Cassell, but he just hasn’t been a good fit in this series. It also helped that KG was his normal self last night, playing with a ton of intensity. The Cavs reverted back to LeBron-watch mode last night, which isn’t going to work in this series. I still question Mike Brown’s offense…I just don’t think he puts LeBron in the best position to score. He’s always handling the ball at the top of the key, which enables other defenders to easily help out. In comparison, watch where Kobe usually receives the ball in the Lakers’ offense…on a wing, on the elbow, etc….places where he can operate one-on-one and create easier shots for himself. LeBron on the other hand, is not only charged with being the primary ball-handler and assist man,but also the leading scorer. There’s not much he can’t do on the court, but he can’t play 1-on-5 against a great team and expect to win a series. For argument’s sake, I’m going to pick Boston in Game 6. They have to win a road game sometime, and I think they should finally be sick and tired of hearing about their road woes. Cleveland keeps it close, but Boston wins and moves on to face Detroit.

And on that same note, the Lakers will win in Game 6 also. They got back into their offensive flow last night, and Kobe showed why he was the MVP, playing a great game without jacking up a ton of shots. As you said, Gasol and Odom played great last night, which really opened things up for Kobe. By the way, is there a more talented but less appreciated player than Lamar Odom? When he puts his mind to it, he is a fantastic player. Even when they’ve lost to Phoenix in the playoffs in recent years, he has dominated Shawn Marion with his combination of ball skills and size. He’s perfectly suited for a third-option role in this offense, where he can use his passing to spread the floor. He isn’t always as aggressive as he needs to be, but he is a smart player who I think is overlooked sometimes with all of the attention on Kobe and Pau.

Williams continued to show that Derek Fisher couldn’t guard him in a phone booth, let alone on a basketball court, but he got very little help. Okur and Boozer came up with clutch basket after clutch basket in the playoffs last season, but it just hasn’t been there for them this year. The officiating has been questionable at times, but I don’t think it’s been any worse than in past years. For some reason, these teams full of seasoned NBA veterans are approaching road games like college freshmen…scared, nervous, tight and without a sense of urgency. It’s bizarre, and I can’t figure it out for the life of me. But I am going with the road team in both of these series…guess we’ll just see what happens.

Smoothron:  I’m defnitely not shocked by us disagreeing on these two series.  I just can’t pick something to happen that is yet to happen.  Plus, if LA and Boston both win game 6’s, what will America watch all weekend? 
And as for tonight, I know (again) we’ll disagree but I say the Spurs win.  I’m not saying they’re definitely going to win the series, but they are much too proud to get beat on their homecourt.  It will be pretty typical, of course, picking another home team to win, but that’s just how these playoffs are working. 
The bigger question here is:  Why are home teams so dominant?  The top four teams from each Conference are playing basketball at a very high level, but can’t get a road win.  What is it about these playoffs that make it so hard for teams (except Detroit) to win away from their own building?  Is it youth?  I’m totally amazed by it, I can’t remember anything like this since I’ve been watching basketball.  What is going on??

Brubaker:  Picking the Spurs…you must want to end our friendship huh?  I’m picking the Hornets by 37 tonight, and that’s final.

And the way these playoffs have gone – perhaps I’m just trying to spice things up. Although, this is the year when all four #1 seeds reached the Final Four, so maybe we should just go ahead and say Boston will beat the Lakers in 7 games for the title…with home teams winning throughout. And I really have no explanation for why teams can’t win on the road. Especially when we’re talking about teams like Boston, San Antonio, Utah, the Lakers…all veteran teams who have done it before. I’ll give the Hornets a pass , since they are so young and lack playoff experience for the msot part, but the rest of these teams aren’t young upstarts who are new to the scene. Kobe has won three titles already, and I’m pretty sure they got a road or two somewhere in that run. KG, Pierce and Ray Allen might not have had a ton of playoff success, but all are veterans who have faced and overcome tough environments before.The Jazz went to the conference finals last year, and they gained valuable playoff experience there. And the Spurs have won four titles since 1999 – they  shouldn’t be fazed by anything. Yet all four teams have been totally different on the road – it’s absolutely bizarre. If I had the answer, I would be coaching one of them right now. I think the whole “whats wrong with them” storyline probably does have an effect on them by this point…almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy where they expect to play bad on the road. But I really have no explanation for it. I will maintain that at some point, someone will break through…and I’m hoping it starts tonight with CP3 and New Orleans.

Well, I guess that’s it.  Eleven years of friendship down the drain over an NBA game.  Oh well, I’ve lost friends over less.  Me and 2SL stopped being friends when I told him to to pick anyone in the Kentucky Derby not named Big Brown.  Whoops!  I’ve got the Spurs winning by double-digits tonight and apparently Bru has the Hornets winning by 37.  I don’t know much about basketball, but I’m willing to bet the Hornets don’t win by 37.  If they do, I’ll chug a quart of moonshine this weekend.  Actually, I’ll probably do that anyway.  Also, I don’t want to recycle the females on here, but Eva is just so hot.  Plus, maybe it will inspire the Spurs not to get beat by 37…

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