Saturday, April 28, 2007

Second Season: Day 7

Golden St. drops the second worse beating of the playoffs on Dallas. For whatever reason, I wasn't on the Golden St. bandwagon at the start of the playoffs - I'll blame that on being very, very unfamiliar with their roster - but after watching them totally outplay and outclass the Mavericks, how can anyone - and I mean anyone; I'm including Maverick employees here - not be cheering for Golden St. to pull this thing off?

Golden St. is playing with an energy and an enthusiasm and a passion that is just very, very rare in the NBA right now. They are like the Phoenix Suns on ecstasy. They are the anti-Pistons. If you didn't know any better, you would think you were watching a college game tonight. Not to go all Bill Simmons here, but as a fan of basketball (I can't begin to tell you how condescending that is and how pissed off I get when I read it) how can you not be praying for Golden St. to send the moping, entitled Mavs on an early fishing trip?

You can X and O it all you want, go over matchups, question coaching decisions, but the fact of the matter is that Golden St. just wants it more. It is as simple as that. It doesn't even matter who they throw on the court. The Warriors are playing to prove something; Dallas is playing like they are entitled to the second round.

The Warriors are pushing the ball, making plays, knocking
down drive and kick shots, playing as a team. And yea, they are making an unreal amount of shots, and a lot of their shots could be classified as "lucky," but really, they are making their own luck. I mean, when you get to the rim that often, you are going to shoot a high percentage, I don't care how many of them you double-pump and shoot over your head.

Do the Mavericks have any desire to stop penetration?
Any? Baron Davis has borrowed Allen Iverson's crossover, circa 1998, and is getting to the rim at will. At will. No one can check the dude. Jason Richardson got the the rim whenever he wanted. Hell, I could name their entire roster. They lived in the paint.

And every time they did it, the Mavs just stood around, shooting each other dirty looks, bitching to the refs, talking under their breaths. I may have missed it, but did anyone in green look like a leader this evening? Maybe D Wade was right; maybe the Mavs don't have a leader. Every time they gave up a lay up - and this was fairly often - they just looked at each o
ther, like, "Hey, shouldn't you be doing something about this?" No one showed even the tiniest bit of resolve.

The fact that they were losing didn't make me cheer against the Mavericks. The fact that they wouldn't wipe that entitled, pissy look off their collective face
all night did. Combine that with the most joyful - yes, I said joyful - basketball I can recall seeing, and it is a no brainer: I believe.

If you want to X and O it a little bit...maybe Avery was onto something when he tried to go small ball with them. Usually when a team tries to play small ball, you go big, pound it inside, shoot two-foot shots over your shorter opponents and kill them on the glass at both ends. The team going small ball then has to rely on the three pointer and scoring in transition to make up for the difference. Height usually wins out in this instance, because, hey, it is easier to shoot layups than threes. This isn't the case in this series for a few reasons:

1. Dallas' big guys are not skilled enough to make Golden St. pay for guarding them with smaller players. Seriously, Diop & Dampier average like 4 points a game,
combined. You'd think Dirk - hey, he's pretty tall, too - would just freakin' camp on the block and kill whoever the hell is guarding him, but that hasn't been the case. To be fair, GS has done a good job doubling him near the basket, but Dallas is still doing a pitiful job making the Warriors pay the price for going small around the bucket - partly because they are not skilled enough offensively to, partly because well, I don't know why.

2. Diop and Dampier - and basically their entire team - can't keep the Warrior guards - or anybody from Oakland, really - out of the paint.
It looks like lay up lines. If I was more ambitious, I would look up the points in the paint, but please believe, believe it please, it wasn't even close. I remember seeing a graphic at one point and thinking, "Hey, if Golden St. was only allowed to shoot in the paint, it would still be a good game."

If Dallas had one guy -
one guy - who could score from the block, this series would be wildly different. But as of right now, they don't. If Dallas is going to win this series, it is up to Dirk to get his ass on the block, say screw these double-teams, and just kill the Warriors in the paint. If he does that, Dallas will escape. If he doesn't, well...I think we need to recount those MVP ballots.

For all intents and purposes, Chicago sends Miami fishing. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and something is telling me that Del Boca Vista (do you realize they give significant minutes to 5 guys who have been in the L for at least a decade? And their PG has been here for 8? Half their team could retire next week and I wouldn't bat an eye lash) doesn't have the energy to be the first.

I know Shaq has been complaining about the refs, and I know he is the hardest player ever to officiate in the history of the illustrious National Basketball Association, but my God, gotta do better than this. Shaq should be killing the Bulls. They are guarding him with Ben Wallace who gives up like half a foot and almost 100 pounds. Yea, he's tough, but c'mon. The Bulls are basically just letting Shaq play one-on-one in the post. They come every so often with a half-hearted double team, or they'll maybe have a guard take a swipe or two once he puts it on the floor, but for the most part, he is free to score.

Usually, a 23-13 game is sufficient, but not when your playoff life is on the line, the other team doesn't ev
en have a center and they are refusing to seriously double team you. Shaq from a few years ago would get 40 against this type of defense. The sad part is, Chicago doesn't have to double-team him because he doesn't make them pay anymore.

It is really bizarre that the two games I watched tonight featured teams winning playoff games with no semblance of a low post threat. Neither team has one, and both are in the driver's seat in their respective series. Same thing applies here, though, that applies with the Warriors - Miami doesn't make Chicago pay for going small, not enough to make them change their approach, anyways. And Chicago, as a team, just wants this series more.

Pat Reilly made a good point before the game. Basically, he said that once you become the champ, you think you dominated the entire season before. You don't remember that you doubted yourself, that there were times you didn't think you could win it, that teams got the better of you, how fortunate you were in certain instances. I thou
ght that was a genuine, thoughtful peak into the mind of a champion, and an aging one at that. I guess that Reilly guy is pretty smart after all.

So, this series is over. The only question is how many games? If I were Chicago, I'd do everything in my power to make this a sweep. Detroit is going to close out Orlando in 4, and you don't want them getting any advantage in the rest department. Skiles will have them playing harder than ever, I am guessing - he is crazy intense: ESPN showed a close up of him staring straight ahead and I had to look away; I lost a staring contest to Scott Skiles that he didn't even know he was in - but Del Boca Vista has too much pride to go down in 4, I think.

Don't they?

And some other things:

I liked the wildly unpreicatbale, out of control Jason Williams better. Can he still do all that stuff, you think?

I can't believe Chicago "wasted" Antione Walker's performance. That ain't happening again.

Ben Gordon likes to shoot. But if I was that flippin' good at anything, I'd do it that often, too.

Vince Carter makes people in Toronto hate him ever more, if that is possible. Didn't watch it, but a few thoughts, anyways: that was one slick pass from J. Kidd. And did you see his stat line? If I told you someone had a 16, 16 and 19, you wouldn't even know what those numbers represented. What a dominant performance. Guess the knee is fine.

Vince Carter...well, if that 37 point outburst proves anything, it that he can be mentally shaken. Toronto has to steal Game 4, Vince will crumble in Game 5, and then they just have to come up with either 6 or 7. Sounds like a plan.

But seriously: 16, 16 and 19. Damn.

Quick programming note: Vote either here or in the upper left hand corner for which game should get the nod for tonight's live blog:

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