Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Figured I'd Get Around To It Eventually...

After going 6-for-8 on first round predictions - in which every single top seed advanced, expcet the Nuggets, who shouldn't have been a high seed, anyways - I figured I needed a little help in making my Round 2 predictions. Not too much, though - just a game. So now that all four series have played one time, here goes...

In order of easiest to predict to toughest...

Pistons vs. Cavs. After that game one debacle, its painfully obvious the different classes the Cavs and the Pistons are in - kinda like in third grade how there was always that little table of the "advanced" kids reading their books with "hard covers" and then the rest of us drooling idiots trying to color inside the lines. Man, I hated that table. Buts that's the Pistons. Excluding LeBron, they are superior in basically every meaningful facet of the game: defense, rebounding, passing, shooting, execution, cohesiveness...and plenty more, I'm sure. The LeBron Factor is good for one game, maybe two (hey, if the Bucks can pull of a W, I think Bron Bron can snag at least one at the Q). Although the Pistons are pretty upset over being relagated to NBATV for three games (Why, though? They were playing the Bucks. And when they watch game film of themselves, are they ever jumping up and down? Chauncey looks pretty sleepy in the commercial where he's watching film.) But still, they're pissed, so they could turn this into a statement series.
The call: Pistons in 5.

(OK, screw that "easiest to hardest" thing. The next three series could go either way...)

Heat vs. Nets. In my humble opinion, Game 1 was an anomoly, for a few reasons: 1) The Nets aren't going to continue shooting like that. 2) The Heat will stop being idiots and play hard. As much as you can talk about strategy and whatnot, it comes down to one thing with the Heat: do they play hard? When they give their top effort, they are very, very good, but they don't always do that, probably because their alleged leader will "make his free throws when they matter" (hey, Shaq? They always matter.) and will "decide when he wants to get mean." I think Game 2 sounds like a good time to start. Flip the switch, Big Daddy.

Plus, why are the Heat doubling ball screens with Shaq? Why not go under every screen? Make Carter, Jefferson, Kidd shoot over screens? The Heat perimeter is full of more holes than a pound of Swiss cheese (there's my best Rick Reilly impression), so why not play off them and force them to shoot? If the Nets are going to consistantly drill long range shots, you aren't going to win anyways. So make 'em shoot, Miami, and sure up that perimeter D, and take your chances. Reilly should be able to figure this out, although he seems to just be chilling during games and then all depressed after them, so who knows.
The call: Heat in 6.

Suns vs. Clippers. First and foremost, thank God the "hallway series" never happened. That's the one and only time that monstrosity is ever getting mentioned.

I think I'm a little dissapointed in Sam I Am. Kenny had it right on TNT: he let the Clips fall for the bait. The Clippers were running at weird times, forcing tempo, taking pull up jumpers without numbers...it was just, um...disconcerting. I think they'll figure it out. Plus, if Kwame Brown was able to eat these guys up inside, what can Elton Brand do? Even Kaman? Elton's 40 point game should be a good indicator. Plus, when you throw the ball inside, it forces you to be patient on offense. You put it inside, wait for the double team, play of that...maybe you end up taking a jumper, but it's going to be an open one, and it's going to be later in the shotclock. Which is how you beat the Suns. And the Clippers are going to have 2 very good guards on the court at all times, which means the MVP is going to have to play defense at all times for the first time this playoffs (thank you very much, Smush).

But as much as it is about taking advantage of the Suns lack of D, it's more about stopping the Suns on offense. You are gonna get your points. You need to make sure the Suns don't get yours...and you do that by controlling tempo. By being patient on offense, you slow tempo. Make Phoenix score in the halfcourt. They are still very, very good at that...but the opportunities are limited. The Suns want more attempts. Limit those attempts, and you've won yourself a ball game.

As long as the Clips stop falling for the bait, this series is theirs; they clearly have a superior, deeper team. During stretches last night, when the Clips didn't fall for it, they led. But that bait is so tantalizing. You don't think that carton of milk looked good at first to Ron Burgundy? And we all know how that worked out..."milk was a bad choice." Don't drink the milk, Clippers, and you'll be fine.
The call: Clips in 6.

Spurs vs. Mavs. There is no logic here. None at all. But I think this is Dirk's coming out party. And he really didn't have an exceptional game one...and Bowen pretty much locked him up on that last shot...and he kinda flipped out to the press...I dunno. Just a hunch. Pretty insightful analysis, eh?

This is probably just because I hate the Spurs. Well, mainly Manu. Freakin' balding flopper, I can't stand him. And Bowen is dirty as hell, putting his feet underneath jump shooters...that's so damn wrong, I can't even talk rationally about it. And only Tony Parker could make me hate some one like Eva Longoria. Thanks, "TP" (as in, "old man johnson called the cops on us for playing football in the street, lets "tp" his house.) Duncan and Horry are OK, I guess...but they don't really make me like the Spurs, just not hate them any more than I already do. The sooner they are out of the playoffs, the better. Let's go Mavs!
The call: Mavs in 6.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

"The Greatest First Round Ever" Recap.

Odds and ends from the Greatest First Round Ever...

- Aren't you glad the first round is a best of seven format? I am.

- If I was Boris Diaw, I would switch my first and last names. Doesn't "Diaw Boris" sound much cooler, not to mention about ten times tougher? I think he'd average 3 more rebounds and 1 more block per game just by doing this. And his first name wouldn't be "Boris." It's a win-win.

- I am officially off the Manu Ginobili bandwagon. I still had a pinky toe on just cuz I liked when Barkley yelled "GINOBILI!" but enough is enough.
He is Vlade Divac's little brother. The flopping is borderline ridiculous; you get anywhere near him, and he goes down like a sniper's bullet just shredded his hammy. Next time he does this, someone run at him with a yellow card. Please. (Also, I'm sick of looking at his bald spot. He looks like Freddie Prinze Jr.'s dad.)

- The Grizzlies will never win a playoff game. Ever. And you know why? Mike Fratello's hair. We all know that isn't your real hair color, Mike. Listen...I have no problem with a guy getting up in his year's and not wanting to show his grays. Fine. But...that's a little excessive, no? Just trick us a little bit; at least give us the illusion that that may be your real hair color. Kinda like seeing the tissue paper sticking out of the bra. (Unbelieveably, Fratello is only second on the That's Not Your Real Hair Color List. No one was ever, ever born anywhere on this earth with hair the color that Doug Collins is currently sporting. No one.)

- Too bad Michael Redd didn't sign with the Cavs in the offseason. Really.

- Why does Smush Parker have that line shaved down the middle of his head? It looks like the stripe on a football helmet. He lives in L.A. for God's sake; couldn't someone tell him he isn't on the set of Boys 'n da Hood?

- Does it seem like Steve Nash lost the ball an unnatural amount of time? Have I just not seen him play enough? Not even on those memorable traps in the corner...just in general - little bobbles here, a fumble there. Seems like something to be concerned about, maybe.

- While the Kobe vs. LeBron debate rages on, maybe an even more important debate surrounding those two should start: Who's supporting cast is worse? I'm going to give a slight -
slight - nod to the Cavs, because the Lakers have another bonafide player on their team in Odom. Cleveland's second best player is..who, exactly? Hughes? Z? I don't know...worth exploring though, and I'm not sold either way. Convince me.

- Best pass of the first round, of the top of my head: Shaun Livingston's no look, lefthanded, underhand flip through traffic against the Nugs. When it's all said and done, his name will be up there with LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Melo, and all the other defining players of this era. If he plays one, maybe two more years under Cassell and then takes over that team...look out. Is there a more promising budding nucleus than him and Brand? Maybe the Baby Bulls, maybe what the Bucks are trying to put together...but for my money, I'm going with Dr. Livingston.

- Heard Kenny say something interesting on TNT after the Bucks blew a close, late game against the Pistons. "The Pistons are comfortable in a close game late." Any other team feel that way? The Spurs perhaps. But that's the list. And that's probably why those two are going to be playing in the Finals.

- I got nuthin' on Pacers/Nets since it was always relegated to NBATV - and rightly so. Seems like Jermaine O'Neal is really good at spinning baselines and dunking with his left hand. Must have done that at least twice every game. I'd sit on that if I was guarding him.

- LeBron telling Gilbert that he better make his FTs or the game was over...wow. I mean, he probably shouldn't have touched him, but to make that kind of statement -
when you are losing - is just incredible. Imagine the pressure LeBron put on himself? I think that had to freak Gilbert out more than anything. How could anyone be that confident? And especially since he didn't end up taking the GW himself? Unreal. If I was Gilbert, I woulda missed, too. Probably an airball. To the left. And short. And then peed myself. A lot.

- And if LeBron had done that to someone he didn't know, then it might have been out of line. But Gilbert was in the Cavs' locker room after Game 5, joking around and saying that since he didn't get to be Mr. Game 5, he would have to be Mr. Game 6. So it's just a little gamesmanship. Some freakin' ballsy gamesmanship, but gamesmanship nonetheless.

- Not to sound like Seinfeld here, but
what's the deeeeaal with players being so chummy after games? This is the playoffs, isn't it? And I understand they all know eachother and they played AAU ball together and All-Star teams and whatnot...but its the playoffs! Jason Kidd and Anthony Johnson hugging and smiling after the Nets bounced the Pacers; players going out to dinner with eachother in between games, Arenas in the Cavs freakin' locker room? I don't know..something just seems wrong there.

- Call their name before throwing them a pass: Anderson Varejeo and Kwame Brown. Those two are where assists go to die.

- This has been bothering me: Simmons rips the Heat fans for wearing white t-shirts, then lauds the Clip fans for wearing red ones? Plus, the Clippers fans did the wave. During a playoff game. No explanation needed. Those in glass houses shouldn't...ah, I forget the saying, but that's a little hypocritical, methinks.

- Things I will never get sick of: Ben Gordon's tear drop runners...LeBron throwing chalk in the air...Steve Nash running a pick and roll...Steve Nash's fake drive, pull up for a J move...Dwyane Wade create in mid-air...Dirk's stroke (not a classic beauty, but still can't take my eyes off it - it's the Angelina Jolie of jumpshots)...Tayshaun Prince chase someone down and swat their layup to halfcourt while the shooter stands there with a "where they hell did
he come from?" look on his face...being scared to death whenever Kobe has the ball...watching Gilbert flick on shots from 40 feet like he's at the free throw line...watching Jason Kidd place passes perfectly...watching Vince Carter get his ass put on the floor...

- The All-First Round Team. Unbelievably, two players from losing squads make the team:

  • Steve Nash, PHX
  • Kobe Bryant, LAL
  • Gilbert Arenas, WAS
  • LeBron James, CLE
  • Dirk Nowitzki, DAL
Honorable mention: Bonzi Wells...Rip Hamilton...TJ Ford...Dwyane Wade...Kirk Hinrich...Andres Nocioni...Jason Kidd (1o assists per)...Elton Brand...Raja Bell.

Coach of the First Round? Pop, solely for that sweet baseline pass play he drew up in Game 2 of the Kings series. It was so pretty.

Anything memorable I forgot?

Read the Rest After the Jump...