Bucks Diary

Monday, April 23, 2007

Notes on NBA Playoffs Opening Weekend

Here's some follow-up notes on my initial playoff prognostications:

Bulls vs. Heat (Bulls 1-0)

Ironically, this is where I think my analysis is most shaky. I took the Bulls in 5. I actually thought this was going to be my safest pick. The Bulls were the far superior regular season team, they were hot coming into the playoffs, they gave the Heat a hard fight last year, and the Heat were wounded this year. So why am I nervous? Well, the Bulls won Game One, true, but they played a terrific game, and the Heat had nearly everything go wrong for them, and yet it was still a close game. Shaq had a shockingly easy time scoring on Ben Wallace, and had he played a more sensible game (eg what the fuck is he doing trying to take Bogut-like charges? And, btw, Shaq, both of those blocking fouls they called on you were totally proper, so quit whining) the Heat might very well have stolen Game One. That said, the one area where the Bulls can play better is at the point. Hinrich and Duhon were collectively awful. They should be able to do more against the ancient Gary Payton and the defenseless Jason Williams.

Raptors vs. Nets (Nets 1-0)

The Raptors had a not unexpectedly shaky game in their opener. They'll bounce back and take Game Two. But give New Jersey credit. They were pretty much on their game, with the exception of Vince Carter (although Carter's fingerroll to ice the game was a beautiful move that brought to mind the work of Dr. J in the 80s). That's what experience will do. And props to Jason Kidd. Kobe should watch him play. When his shot wasn't falling, he concentrated on getting the ball to his teammates. By himself he practically outassisted many of this weekend's other participating teams. His leadership was the difference in the game, I felt. He's a throwback to the 80s, when superstars looked to make their teams better.

Pistons vs. Magic (Pistons 1-0)

The Pistons pretty much did what I thought they would do. This game was not as close as the 8 point ending deficit might lead one to believe. The Pistons were never threatened, and this is despite the fact that the Magic basically shot the lights out (except at the free throw line, where they were inexplicably atrocious). I was reminded after I did my analysis that the Pistons always drop one game in the first round, but I don't think they will this time.

Cavaliers vs. Bullets (Cavaliers 1-0)

The Cavaliers basically slept walked through this one, and it still wasn't close. This series isn't even worth watching. The New York Times made the interesting observation that the Bullets are, without Agent Zero and Caron Butler, basically a 23-59 team (if you extrapolate their record without the pair and apply it over an 82 game season). If I were the Cavs, though, I would be worried. If they don't pick up the intensity, they will get buried in the second round.

Rockets vs. Jazz (Rockets 1-0)

I picked the Jazz in 6. Looks bad right? I don't know. The Jazz played as bad as they can possibly play, and yet they led by 9 at halftime. I think they will bounce back. I still don't think McGrady will continue to dominate, and at some point I think Yao will go soft. I'm not worried about this pick yet.

Spurs vs. Nuggets (Nuggets 1-0)

Where was the Spurs intensity? This game wasn't so much won by the Nuggets as it was completely lost by the Spurs, in my opinion. If, however, the Spurs difficulties were in the main the product of the Nuggets newfound love of defense, then Denver could be a very tough out, because they have all the offense they need to beat anyone.

Suns vs. Lakers (Suns 1-0)

This was the Lakers game to win. The Suns were way off, and the Lakers did not take advantage. Kobe continues to alternate between carrying the Lakers and killing them. Until he stops doing the latter, you can't put him in the same sentence with the Jordans and Birds of the world. Those two dominated the ball for their teams, just as Kobe does for the Lakers, but when those two made their moves, their teammates seemed to know exactly where to go to take advantage of open spaces, and Jordan and Bird knew exactly how to find them. That's how great music is made on the hardwood. By comparison, Kobe and his teammates seem to be singing out of completely different hymnals. How many times did it appear as though Kobe's "passes" to his teammates were nothing more than desperate heaves he threw only because he couldn't get his own shot? No wonder he had only one assist. His teammates aren't carrying their fair share, that's true, but he only looks for them when all else has failed for him. Totally dysfunctional.

Mavs vs. Warriors (Warriors 1-0)

I said the Mavs would have troubles with Nellie and Golden State, but frankly, given all the talk about how much trouble they would have, I expected Dallas to come out with some real fire in Game One. They didn't. That was shocking. It leads me to question their makeup. I still think they will win the series, but you have to wonder how this team is going to summon anything like the championship mettle they need to get through the "First to 16 Wins" NBA postseason tournament. And Mark Cuban, how about laying off the carbs a little. Did you see how pudgy he's gotten? It seemed a metaphor for his team -- soft.


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