Three weekends later and the first round is finally over.... finally!
Remember the times when the first round was 5 games and was over by April 25th? Remember when the second round started as soon as the opponents were set? Remember the excitement of 2 or 3 games a day no matter what with practically every game having some sort of meaning? Take away the ultra competitive Bulls - Celtics series and we were left with a bunch of yawners in the first round. I know the NBA will never reduce playoff games, but the first round looks more like a playoff preseason, even finishing behind the NHL in excitement. And the NBA should NEVER take a back seat to playoff hockey!!!
Anyway, let's take a quick look back at all eight series in the newly christened Playoff Preseason:
Cleveland beats Detroit 4-0: YAWN! (And that was from Piston fans who didn't sell their seats to Cavs fans.) If we're claiming the Bulls-Celtics series one of the greatest ever... ever...ever (echo-echo-echo) and making lists proclaiming it as such then let's to a list of the worst ever call this what it was: an abortion! Basically this was the worst playoff series since the Celtics-Pacers in 2004.
The Pistons gave up on the season way back in November when Joe Dumars hired Michael "I'm afraid to stand up to my veterans" Curry and shipped their leader, their heart and their soul in Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson's expiring contract. You gotta hand it to Joe Dumars, he not only killed one of the most successful teams in professional sports but he also ripped the heart out of Iverson and offered it to Kali Ma like that dude in Temple of Doom. The end result is collision of a team on a mission against a team mailing it in. I'm guessing Stern didn't consider this when expanding the Playoff Preseason to 7 games.
Orlando beats Philadelphia 4-2: If these teams actually had fans this might have been a little more exciting. Instead the only entertainment factor was watching the TNT crew rip the Magic apart for their offense, their coach, their star players, their role players, their fans, their city... everything. When did the Orlando Magic become the Terrell Owens of the NBA? I get that their offense is bland and uninspiring and that Dwight Howard is not yet at the level of playoff superhero but take it easy fellas. The Magic CLEARLY aren't in the same category of the Lakers, Cavs or Celtics but just a level below with Denver (thanks to their GM Joe Dumars). I feel they're headed in the right direction. I just think Orlando like NOLA last year benefited playing the role of upstart team and stole a few W's here and there (hello Lakers!). We'll see what happens next year when they play all season with a HUGE target on their back.
Atlanta beats Miami 4-3: Again since we're now all about absolutes, is this the worst 7-game series ever? The closest game was 10 points! Even worse, those loud 4-letter bombs you hear are coming from the ABC and TNT offices after missing out on the ratings winfall of LeBron vs. Wade. How did David Stern let this pass? The 2006 Stern would give Wade 30 to 40 freethows, the 2006 Stern would have fouled out Mike Bibby AND Joe Johnson, the 2006 Stern would have had Joe Crawford give the Hawks three tech's... oh he did?... well it least he got that right. The 2006 Stern would have found a way to make LeBron vs. Wade happen.
Anyway, the only other thing I got from this series is Mike Woodson's "who just farted?" face. Call me crazy but if your coach looks confused, panicked and annoyed AT THE SAME TIME... well I'm not feeling too confident unless I have a ghost writer coach like Tom Thibodeau.
Boston beats Chicago 4-3: The greatest series ever! The greatest clutch-ness ever! The greatest fans ever! The greatest coaching ever! (SCREEECH-CRASH!!!)
Okay stop right there! This definitely was one of the most competitive series ever. Five of the seven games went down to the last possession with each team showing extreme cantaloupe-sized balls. But let's take a pause before rating this as the greatest ever. As the TNT crew said, this series was close because of parity. If Boston had KG this goes maybe 5 and we're all talking about how boring the 2009 Playoff Preseason was. If Chicago had a head coach they win in 5 (seriously, how many times will Ray Allen be single-guarded with the C's down three? And how many games did Del Negro lose because he ran out of TO's?). If Derrick Rose actually knew how to play defense the Bulls win in 6. If Paul Pierce wasn't so run down from carrying the Celtics to 60 wins, the Celtics win in 5. But none of that happened and instead we witnessed easily the most competitive in the Playoff Preseason since the league expanded to 7 games. But to call it the best playoff series ever is absolutely insane.
The best ever are filled with drama, with stars, with destiny and a feeling of importance. Take the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals between Celtics-76ers, you have the drama (five games decided by 2 or less), the stars (Dr. J near the end of his prime and Bird coming into his own) and you have the importance (playing for a Finals appearance). Remember last year's Suns-Spurs Game 1? At the time people were calling it the greatest playoff game ever, basically erasing 60 plus years of NBA history along the way. But in the end the series fizzled in 5 with neither team having any relevance in the NBA title hunt last year. Now Game 1 is just a 30 second commercial and nothing else.
Let's see how Boston does for the rest of the playoffs before we rank this series in history. If they somehow find a way to compete with Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals then we're talking a heroic effort along the likes of the 1987 Celtics, who fought tooth, nail and broken ankles through to the NBA Finals. BTW - one of my favorite teams in NBA history and a true lesson on how to properly defend a title (2006 Miami Heat I'm talking to you!). However, if they get bounced easily by Orlando, then the Bull-Celtics series will be easily replaced by whatever close 7-game series happens next year.
One final note about this series: Rondo was great, but not THAT great. What I'm sayin' is that he's put together some very impressive numbers against ZERO defense. The Bulls focused on shutting down Paul Pierce and sagged far away from Rondo, giving him a slew of WIDE OPEN jumpers. Also, early in the series Derrick Rose played matador defense and leaked out for fastbreak opportunities. We heard Doc Rivers pointing that out during a timeout and Rondo took advantage to the tune of a near triple-double average. Before we start comparing Rondo to Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson or even Chris Paul let's see what he does with defenses actually focused on him. But WIDE OPEN is still WIDE OPEN and Rondo made the Bulls pay for not defending him one iota... so I guess he's got that going for him.
One more final note: Will Boston drop a banner and throw a parade for eliminating a 7-seed at home?
March Madness eat your heart out! One weekend down and there were several upsets, a few stinkers and a couple expected results. As much as I love the whole one and done March Madness thing, you don't get the physical play, the adjustments and strategy that a 7-game series offers. Here are a few thoughts with one game down in each series:
Boston vs. Chicago - Is there room on the Derrick Rose bandwagon? The Bulls were the one team I regret not seeing in person this year. Anyone with an eye for hoops can appreciate the full range this rookie brings to the Bulls but what I didn't notice until Saturday is Rose's quick and explosive LAST step. Most players have that quick first step to blow by defenders but Rose explodes right at the rim at his last step. Also, his extremely calm nature works well with the youthful Bulls. Game 1 against the defending champs and he has the heart rate of a librarian and it's contagious as the Bulls weren't phased at all. I still think Boston wins, but the Bulls should make Rose the GM, coach and owner and build around him for the next 12 years.
Cleveland vs. Detroit - Are we done yet? Are we done yet? Are we done yet? SWEEP!
San Antonio vs. Dallas - One quarter in, Duncan had springy legs and looked very 2007, I was on the brink of writing a "Mavs should have kept Maquis Daniels instead of Josh Howard" piece and Nowitzki was in foul trouble... basically it didn't look good for Dallas. I left home, went out thinking the Spurs would win easily and I caught the last few seconds at a bar as Dallas... PULLED AWAY FOR A W??? What the hell happened? Suddenly Dallas looks like a very legit Western Conference finalist and San Antonio looks old.
Portland vs. Houston - This really looks like a match-up problem for Portland more than anything else. Maybe their inexperience cost them a W as they didn't have that fifth gear or maybe they're just happy to be there. All I know is Yao played the best playoff game of his life and showed EVERYONE that the problem was always T-MAC.
Los Angeles vs. Utah - No Okur, no chance for Utah... it's just that simple. But the real story is the referees killing the entire second half of the game. It's no surprise that Joey Crawford was the lead ref in the worst called game of the weekend. Does the NBA pay him by the fouls? Does he really think the fans pay to see him ref? Is he out to single-handedly ruin professional hoops? There were SIXTEEN fouls in the 3rd quarter alone and a free-flowing game became a possession-by-possession freethrow festival. Terrible!
Orlando vs. Philadelphia - I've said this all year, Orlando doesn't have the go to guy necessary to make a deep run in the playoffs. C-Webb pretty much blew a gasket ripping on the Magic not riding Dwight Howard all game. But does Superman really want to be "that guy" with the Magic or is he content with monster numbers, monster dunks and showmanship? NBA Champions all have the definitive alpha dog and an understood chain of command. The Celtics heart lies with KG but crunchtime went Pierce first and Sugar Ray second. The early 00's Lakers had Shaq for 3 1/2 quarters with Kobe as the closer... what about Orlando?
Atlanta vs. Miami - The Hawks put together a Special Edition Double-DVD set of highlights on the Heat on Sunday. Instead of 2006 Kobe and the Lakers with their near upset of the #2 seeded Phoenix Suns, the Heat resembled the 2007 edition and the very one-sided 4-1 loss to Phoenix. But we'll see what kind of road playoff team Atlanta is in games 3 & 4.
Denver vs. New Orleans - Denver put together a sick 21-0 run late in the 3rd early in the 4th to put away what was a close and very physical game. Chauncey Billups went retro looking like a 2005 version going 8 of 9 from three on his way to 36 points. NOLA basically gave up at the end of the 3rd quarter so this blowout doesn't really mean the Nuggets will sweep. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if NOLA steals game 2. This really feels like a very bitter and very physical seven game series.
Here are a few takes from the past weekend of hoops:
Does Steve Nash realize he's a defensive sieve?: How does it go... if you can't pick out the defensive liability in the room, then YOU are the defensive liability...or something like that. Rajon Rondo and later Paul Pierce took turns playing H-O-R-S-E (or is it G-E-I-C-O?) on Steve Nash all Sunday afternoon. Finger rolls, 5-foot runners, 10-foot jump shots... they literally took uncontested shots anywhere on the floor as soon as they noticed Nash was matched up on them. I really would love to see exactly how many points were scored specifically on Nash alone because I saw something like 65 maybe 70. Does it bother the two-time MVP winner that everyone he defends drops a career-high on him? He's a modest, intelligent and introspective guy, does he understand that he's the worst defensive player on his team? I actually like what he brings to Phoenix and hope he sticks around for a few more seasons, but the Suns need a young defensive-oriented two to help out on defense. Somewhere at the Glendale, AZ Applebee's is a solemn Terry Porter screaming, "EXACTLY!!!!"
Question for Pistons Fans: Do you like A.I.? This isn't a rip on Allen Iverson because quite frankly he's one of my favorite ballers of all time. But do Pistons fans blame A.I. for Detroit's sudden collapse? Since the Billups-Iverson trade, the Nuggets are clearly the 3rd best team out West whereas the Pistons long run as a title contender has come to a crashing halt. Are there very audible groans when A.I. puts up the occasional 4-16 night? Or is there a reverence for one of the best players in the past 25 years? Seriously, I'm curious how Detroit feels about watching A.I. on a nightly basis.
In my opinion, and this is why I do this site, A.I. is just a pawn in the NBA money game. Dumars traded for A.I. to clear up cap space next year and the Pistons are stuck with a terrible coach and a poorly assembled team. This summer makes or breaks Joe D's legacy as a GM. Does he clear even more salary for 2010 or does he make a move (via free agency or trade) that saves the franchise? To me, Pistons fans have to look at the recent track record: drafting Darko, hiring Flip Saunders, hiring Michael Curry, and trading Chauncey... any questions?
Kobe and the MJ fade-away: Boston Sports Guy pointed it out during one of his 1,312 anti-Kobe rants... Kobe Bryant is developing the same post-up fade-away that MJ lived off from 1996 to 1998. What better time to work on a low-post game than during Bynum's (hopefully not) annual knee injury. The Triangle Offense sets up nicely for it and MJ carried the Bulls to three titles with the virtually unstoppable move. You can see Kobe hasn't completely mastered it but there were a few nice spurts, especially during Friday's OT win against the Hornets. This is the one MJ signature move that Kobe NEEDS in his arsenal if he wishes to play until his late 30's. It conserves energy and is hard to defend, as Jordan showed during the 2 years in D.C. that never existed.
Larry H. Miller's passing: I never knew the guy, I never attended a Jazz game and I've never been to Salt Lake City, but I feel the NBA lost a HUGE personality when the Jazz's owner Larry Miller died. The league needs to honor a guy that has made a franchise located in Salt Lake City (one of the smallest TV markets in professional sports) one of the most successful in NBA history. I'm not a religious man, but you have to credit a guy for skipping out on a few of the NBA Finals games that *HIS* team was in. Simply reaching the Finals is a rare opportunity and Miller stuck to his religious beliefs and sat out all games on Sunday. Now THAT is dedication! I hope for the Jazz fans that the next-in-line (his son?) runs the franchise in the same manner. The NBA needs more owners like Larry Miller.
I love me some me: Is there anything cooler than seeing your name on the jumbotron? Once a year the Lakers honor their upper deck season ticket holders with a halftime snack (beer, wine, chips and salsa) and a meet and greet with the ticket reps in a private suite. It's a small but very cool gesture and they put your name in lights. Friday's game against New Orleans was my turn and as you can see (and to establish my NBA street cred) I've been a season ticket holder for 10 seasons (BTW - that's not me in the Gasol jersey).
Rip off Jack Nicholson + Die = Academy Award: Simple math eh? Heath Ledger blatantly rips off Jack Nicholson from The Shining (even down to the tongue thing!) and he's THE GREATEST ACTOR IN THE WORLD! I know this is a hoops blog but does a below average 8 hour long comic book movie really deserve any Academy Awards? Seriously, all this means is that we'll get yet another 321 more comic book movies this summer. YUCK! Heath Ledger was a good actor but TRUST ME, years from now people will react with the same "huh??" as they do now with Marisa Tomei's award from My Cousin Vinny. Oh and Mickey Rourke deserved the Best Actor Oscar!
Normally I'd break out a MMPG to round of some thoughts over the past weekend but I wanted to see who'd win last night (and was I wrong!). Anyway, here are some random thoughts now that we know the match-ups heading into the Conference Finals:
Who will the Media blow now that NOLA is gone? CRASH! BAM! BANG! The CP3 Bandwagon has crashed, blood is spilled all over the place at ESPN, AOL and all other media outlets. As great as Chris Paul was this season (and he WAS awesome!), the lovefest was getting very uncomfortable. Seriously, we were a Game 7 victory from media passes that double as knee pads.
The gushing was so bad that people were praising the efforts of the Hornets GM. The guy didn't draft Paul or David West and all he did this season was trade for Bonzi Wells. Yet somehow that's worthy of a 3rd place finish in the GM of the Year award behind Ainge and Mitch Kupchak. You're telling me that RC Bufford of the Spurs (who acquired Kurt Thomas for nothing and reacquired Bones Barry in a wink-wink deal) is worse? Ummmm, who won Game 7 last night?
And let's not forget to mention who won the Coach of the Year Award. Byron Scott is making a career of riding the coattails of brilliant point guards (Magic, Kidd, Paul). All he did was benefit from a healthy team and a breakthrough season from CP3. What about Jerry Sloan or Greg Popovich? And let's not overlook what Phil Jackson did in 07-08. He coached the Lakers through the Kobe saga in October, found success with Andrew Bynum as a solid No. 2, held the Lakers together through a myriad of injuries, blended in the skills of Pau Gasol (just ask Avery and D'Antoni how difficult that is) and molded the Lakers into one of the most efficient and explosive offensive teams this season. Oh and the Lakers improved by 15 games to lead the Western Conference. But forget all of that and give Byron Scott (a coach that runs one single offensive play) the Coach of the Year Award.
But as long as the Boston Celtics are around, there's still space for the media to pile on (there's no way in hell they fall for the Spurs or Pistons, people are still reeling from 2005).
22-3 is the most overrated stat since the Rockets winning streak: That's the record of the home teams in the Conference Semifinals and a CONSTANT storyline every single damn night. Just because the Celtics, Hornets, Jazz, Magic and Cavs all blow on the road doesn't make it a storyline. You want an impressive number try 3-2 (the Pistons road record) or 3-2 (the Lakers record on the road with 1 of those loses in OT). Could that mean something? Yeah, the Celtics, Hornets, Jazz, Magic and Cavs blow on the road (I'm not making predictions after last night!).
Doc vs. Flip... need I say anything? Does the Eastern Conference Finals involve the worst coaches not named Isiah Thomas? YES! Did Flip Saunders finally find someone he can outcoach? Yes and no only because we all know he doesn't coach the Pistons, but if he did he would. Will it be fun watching both dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate fans kill themselves over poor in-game decisions? YES! Will it be fun listening to Jeff Van Gundy lose his mind during the ABC telecast? Hell yes!
Pierce gives the Celtics a 4-2 lead with that hoop. AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
The Boston Front Runners: The Boston Celtics need to dial down all their crap! Yes, it's great to see KG's raw emotion and energy transfer up and down the roster, but show a little veteran poise. I really wanted to like this team after all the summer deals. It was exciting to see championship level hoops back in Boston again. The NBA ALWAYS is better with successful teams in Boston, LA, Chicago and New York... good, good, good. I even bought a KG No. 5 tee shirt that was an instant conversation piece whenever I wore it.
And then I saw scrubs like Kendrick Perkins trying to act like Rick Mahorn, Tony Allen running constant smack despite doing NOTHING and Glen Davis (btw - check out his pic here) being Glen Davis and I found them very unlikable. Mix in KG turing into The Big A-Hole after a win over hapless Minnesota and Paul Pierce doing his primal screams after a first quarter layup and I'm suddenly pulling for the Pistons. Whatever happened to acting like you've been there? Oh yeah, they haven't! Let's go with baby steps here... win a road game and maybe you can drop in some primal whispers.
Bring on the Spurs!: And finally, I knocked the Hornets all post season, but as a Lakers season ticket holder they had me scared. You had Chris Paul running roughshod through everyone to 28 and 14 every night, a very talented David West with his mid-range game and Tyson Chandler who's a very difficult player to defend. They had the potential to stretch the Lakers to 7. Instead, the Spurs come to town with a very physical defensive-oriented team, an All-Star power forward, a their brilliant coach and an awesome point guard. Didn't the Lakers just beat that? The difference is Manu Ginobili, but the Spurs are not as deep or as young as Utah. And Horry because of his Lakers background won't have the juice in him to pull any of his crap this time. Again, after last night, I'll pass on any predictions, but I feel better about this matchup.
This ain't Tayshaun Prince running away from LeBron!
It's no secret that LeBron owns the Pistons. Literally any time he faces the once vaunted Pistons defense, LeBron flies down the lane for uncontested layups and thunderous dunks. The infamous Game 5 from last season proves a point, LeBron's in their head. As a basketball purist, it's really frustrating to see a team that once thrived off of their defensive reputation simply give up. Embarrassing!
Well, big ups to the Boston Celtics for putting on a defensive clinic on LeBron last night, forcing him into the worst game of his career. And it really didn't take brain surgery, just hard work. The C's were always closing the lane on drives with multiple players, they were always in LeBron's face contesting every shot and the were quick to recover off the help defense, challenging jumpers whenever LBJ dished.
Mix in the thoroughly uncreative offense from Cleveland and you have one of the one of the league's best shooting a preposterous 2-18 from the field with 10 turnovers. Seriously, Mike Brown needs to wake his ass up on offense. The TNT crew and especially Charles Barkley were losing their minds watching LeBron struggle in their 1-4 set down the stretch. Basically it's LeBron at the top of the key and the rest of the Cavs spaced all over the floor opening lanes for LeBron to dive. This works against teams like Detroit, who don't challenge LeBron once he gets to the paint. But against the C's, LeBron's expending a ton of energy just to get a shot off, which explains those blown layups in the last 45 seconds... LeBron was simply gassed.
Brown needs to find a way to create easy shots for LeBron. How about running LBJ off some curls to get the ball on the wing or posting him up? Take the pressure off LBJ by not having him run the point so much. The Cavs have the talent to beat the C's, but they need their closer to have the energy down the stretch.
BTW - Mike Brown deserves every bit of blame for his uninspired offense, but I'm not calling him a bad coach. We all look at these Cavs as a modern day version of the Doug Collins-led Chicago Bulls with LeBron and his supporting cast. But Brown's done a fine job getting his team to buy into the LeBron-first offense, play hard and win (not an easy thing to do in the game today... dudes want to score and not be role players, which explains Larry Hughes being shipped off). But Brown's also done a fine job at making the Cavs one of the best defensive teams in the league. It's no fluke that both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had their career worst games last night. Sure, some may argue that they both were tired from playing defense against LeBron, but we're talking a COMBINED 4 points from two of the big three.
Anyway, not a lot of teams have the talent make up of the Boston Celtics to defend a LeBron James like last night. But the Pistons do! Flip Saunders (or more like Joe Dumars), are you watching?
Even if LeBron splits KG and Parker Posey he still has Kendrick Perkins waiting to close the lane... textbook defense.
Is it me or have these playoffs established a wider divide between the coaching haves and have-nots? For every Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson leading two well-oiled machines primed for a colossal showdown in mid-May you have Flip Saunders and Doc Rivers doing... well doing their best Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders impressions (read: not coaching). Since the haves are very obvious (Jackson, Popovich, Byron Scott, Jerry Sloan, the Hedgehog and Mo Cheeks) lets focus on the have-nots:
Mike D'Antoni: Honestly, Phoenix Suns fans should be even more pissed off at D'Antoni after Sunday's season-saving win over San Antonio. It only took all of three games for D'Antoni to finally make the key defensive adjustment by switching Boris Diaw on Tony Parker. THREE FREAKIN' GAMES!
When we finally look back at the 2006-07 Suns, people will point fingers squarely on Steve Kerr and blame downfall of the Suns on the Shaq deal. It was a huge gamble that, as Charles Barkley pointed out on TNT, the Suns needed to take a chance on. Sure, they probably needed more time to blend together as a cohesive unit and facing the second best team in the West in the first round obviously didn't help. But Mike D'Antoni cost the Suns this series. Let's even look at that epic Game One where Popovich ran circles around D'Antoni at three key moments:
1. D'Antoni had Leandro Barbosa guarding Michael Finley as he hit the first game-saving three at the end of regulation. Where was Grant Hill? He has same build and athleticism as Finley and is strong enough and has the basketball IQ to throw off Finley from the perimeter. Instead the Brazilian Blur, who's not know for his half-court defense, became the Brazilian Burned and the Spurs were given a second chance.
2. The second game-saving three was a pure miracle shot by Tim Duncan that never should have happened. The Suns should have fouled Ginobili when he was dribbling around the perimeter looking to create (or facilitate, the buzz word for 07-08) for one of the Spurs spot-up shooters. Instead, the Suns watched Ginobili dribble around and then the collapsed on him in the lane leaving Duncan wide open. Why collapse on a guy in the lane when you're up three? And isn't it a European thing to foul instead of playing defense? And didn't D'Antoni make his name as a hoops star in Italy?
3. But the game winner was pure Popovich! The Suns were out of time outs and Nash just hit a risickulous three in the corner to tie it up. Normally Pop would signal an immediate time out and diagram a play. He's notorious for saving all of his time outs for these situations, but the Spurs didn't stop the action. Why? Because the Suns took out all of their interior defenders for that last-second three and Popovich realized that Manu had a good chance at driving the lane for a game winner. Well... we all know how that ended and we all know that Pop CLEARLY dominated D'Antoni.
So the question remains, how many more postseason failures and late adjustments will the Suns' fans, front office and roster put up with? Or more importantly, how many more seasons do they have a relevant Steve Nash on the floor? Stay tunned!
George Karl: Rumors persist that the Nuggets are keeping Karl for next season.
(Time to play "Really" with Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler.)
Really? The Nuggets are keeping a head coach who's led the third highest payroll to a first-round sweep? Really? The Nuggets have a total of three playoffs wins in the last four years (BTW - such a low number that it's grammatically correct to write out the number) and you're keeping him? Really? Melo admits that the team quit in game three. Isn't it the job of a coach to motivate the players? Really? Really? The same George Karl famous for season-ending flameouts in Seattle and Milwaukee is being asked to return? Really? Karl will return to coach the team that "saved" Allen Iverson from 76ers. Isn't that the same 76ers that have at least two more playoff wins than Karl's Nuggets? Really? REALLY?
Avery Johnson: Before Sunday's loss to New Orleans, Johnson was on the 50-50 list along with Mike Woodson, Mike Brown (say what you want about his coaching, the guy pulls out W's), Sam Mitchell and Rick Adelman. But Avery Johnson made two mistakes that killed the momentum of the game and ultimately ended the series (Dallas just doesn't have the stones to rally from a 3-1 deficit.).
What the hell was JJ Barea doing in uniform instead of Tyronn Lue? I know he's injured with a back, but a broken Lue is eons better than Barea! And the Mavs paid dearly when Johnson put Barea in with a lead during the second period. Barea played like it was "win a spot on the Mavs night" and killed all of their momentum. That was the turning point of the most important game of the season and Dallas never really threatened the rest of the way. Why play the ball boy during the playoffs?????
Unlike Phoenix, people should point to the Kidd trade as the downfall of the Mavericks. It never should have happened and now the Mavs are way over the salary cap with Avery Johnson most likely fired this summer.
Doc Rivers: Until this guy actually wins a playoff series (which he hasn't in *NINE SEASONS* of coaching!) I can't ever consider him a good head coach. And the "best team in the NBA" just lost to the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Hey I understand... quality teams are allowed to stumble every now and then. As San Antonio showed us, good teams tend to lose focus. But what absolutely kills me is that this guy is actually in the conversation for his second coach of the year award. Really? (opps, I already did that!) So you're telling me that he's getting votes over nine-time NBA champ Phil Jackson or even Jerry Sloan (who deserves it more that anyone). The guy has never won a playoff series in *NINE SEASONS* of coaching!!!!!!!!!
Eddie Jordan: Two GLARING things with the Wizards: bad turnovers and worse emotions. A ton of HORRIBLE turnovers did the Wizards in on Sunday. But what's even worse is the lack of control that Eddie Jordan has on his players. Is it wise to piss of one of the best players in the NBA? Do you really need to motivate him even more?
Flip Saunders: Let's save the best story for last. On Sunday's telecast on TNT, Chris Webber confirmed what everyone in the NBA already knew but didn't know: that the Pistons tune out Flip Saunders. With Detroit losing to Philadelphia by 10 at the half, Ernie Johnson put a question out to the former Piston and new in-studio member:
Ernie: You've been in that locker room with Flip Sauders at halftime, what is the mood in there now.
C-Webb: Truthfully, no disrespect against Flip but it doesn't matter what Flip says because they take on the personality of Joe Dumars. So I'll tell you this: Rip, Chauncey, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed and McDyess are very mad right now, they're probably not even talking and they're probably just saying, "okay we're going to go win this ballgame."
Joe will come down to the locker room though and tell everybody, "I don't know what y'all think you're doing. I'll trade all y'all today." Joe will do that.
So who's doing the coaching anyway... Joe D or Flip? This totally explains why under Saunders the Pistons seem bored during the playoffs. But if they were tuning him out last year (as C-Webb learned first hand), then why is Saunders still coaching them? Again, like the Suns, how many playoff disappointments under Flip Saunders will the Pistons' fans, front office, and roster put up with? Sheed, Rip and Chauncey are getting up there in age. Do they really want to do this again next season?
Kobe Bryant had a very unusual triple double last night, 39 points 10 rebounds and 11 turnovers. I will be the first to say that all of those turnovers were not his fault with special thanks to Kwame “brick hands” Brown and Ronny Turiaf.
That being said Lamar Odom was the reason why they lost the game last night. With 8 seconds left in the game he leaves Tayshaun Prince for a wide open 3 pointer which I could have made since there was nobody within 15 feet. To make matters worse, on the Lakers out of bounds play the ball goes right to Lamar. He made a great pump fake to lose his defender and has nobody in his way to the rack but Chauncy Billups. So what does he do? He pulls up for a 20 foot shot which goes 18 feet. WHY DID HE NOT MAN UP AND TAKE IT STRONG TO THE RACK??? At the very least he gets fouled.
After the air ball you see Kobe walking off of the court Pissed off and just shaking his head.
To make matters worse the Lakers post game callers had the Lakers trading Kwame and Lamar to the Memphis Grizzlies for Stromile Swift and Paul Gasol. You have to love Laker fans trying to make a great trade for them. If the Grizzlies make that trade I think that I can run a basketball team better than the current GM.
The bottom line is the Lakers SHOULD of won that game and if not for the GUTLESS Lamar Odom they would have won.
Here's a picture of the game winner.
The Sarge (or Encyclopedia Bri-Danica from the public access airwaves) is a frequent commenter, Madden trick-play specialist and longtime friend of The Association.
by Brett Edwards
Here we have Rasheed Wallace basically just showing off the many ways that he would kill you in a game of H-O-R-S-E. The man is obviously ridiculously talented, and has spent way too much time in the gym to be able to pull of some of these shots.
I was lucky enough to be in Detroit for Friday night's Pistons game vs. the Bulls, and it was an awesome experience. Here are some thoughts on the trip:
My Seat: The Palace is a killer NBA arena. Granted, I've only been to four other ones: the old Forum where the Lakers used to play, the old Sports Arena (Clippers), Staples Center (Lakers/Clippers), and America West (Suns), but this one is great. Of course, it didn't hurt that my seats were basically five rows from the floor, just back and to the left of where Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen were sitting to call the game. There are courtside seats that go four rows deep, then an aisle, then a riser where the rest of the seats start to go up, and I was in the first row of the riser. Not bad. Side note: Jeff Van Gundy in person is really ... bald.
The introduction of the starting lineups for the Pistons was maybe the coolest thing like that that I've ever seen. I don't know if it was being that close to it, Mason's enthusiasm, or the fire balls shooting up behind the baskets, but all I can say is, it was fucking dramatic. Similar footage has probably been posted a million times, but here's the video from where I was sitting.
Automotion, the Pistons' cheerleaders: On a scale of 1-10, these girls average a 6. They fall into the classic "good from far, far from good" category. They are all thin and mildly attractive, but heavily made-up and they could all use some time in the gym doing some toning exercises. I know this because they were all walking back and forth in the aisle right and front of me the entire game. The bright side is that they were all very nice, giving us free programs that they had left over from passing them out to the courtside folks. And when they changed into their final outfit of the night which consisted of tight white spandex pants and halter tops, I actually decided to upgrade the average to a six-and-a-half.
Hooper, the Pistons' mascot: Maybe it's because I've never followed a team closely where a mascot was a prominent part of the act, but I just don't get the fascination with Hooper, the (horse?) dude that is in the costume running around firing up the crowd. Seriously, every fan seemed to love this thing... he it would walk by, and literally everyone was yelling things like, "Hey, Hooper! What's up, Hooper?!! Come here, Hooper!!!!!! HOOOOOOOPERRRR!!!!!" As Craig might say, "We Want Tacos" level excitement.
The Game: Unlike seemingly every arena in the NBA, the Pistons actually let the game speak for itself. What I mean by this is, there isn't constant noise being pumped in to entertain/occupy the crowd during the game. It's actually quiet: no music, no piped in defense chants, no race car sounds, nothing. Perhaps that's why Mason is overly exuberant with his call of the game. He and the team are the entertainment, not a bunch of noise that has nothing to do with the action. It was very refreshing, and I wish more teams would go back to that.
As for the contest, It was close the entire time, but the Pistons couldn't overcome TERRIBLE nights from Tayshaun and McDyess. Each contributed only four points, but McDyess was way worse because the Bulls kept leaving him open, to the point where I lost my voice in the fourth quarter screaming "STOP SHOOTING!!" after he'd fire up another brick when he was wide open. I know Maxiell was in foul trouble, but I would have liked to see more of him in the fourth instead of McDyess.
Tayshuan didn't seem to have the energy on this night, he was scored on twice down the stretch, once refusing to get out on Duhon when he mad a big three. As the ball swung to Duhon in the corner (basically right in front of where I was sitting), I yelled at Tayshaun to get out there, but he only took like a half step, didn't get a hand up, and Duhon nailed the three. *SIGH*
The Pistons have no one that can cover Nocioni. He had a big game, hitting threes and getting to the basket seemingly at will.
Joakim Noah is actually decent. He's like a controlled version of Anderson Varejao, and I mean that as a compliment. He brings the same energy, but instead of running around like a madman flopping into everyone and being only mildly effective, he's patient with it and makes a lot of good hustle plays around the basket.
The only down side to the evening was the fact that the Pistons lost, but then again they always lose to the Bulls in the regular season (5 out of the last 6). Other than that, it was a very exciting night at The Palace.
Ignoring the obvious (that the Pistons played ABSOLUTELY ZERO defense in Game 5), Sheed pulls a Suns/Kings fan and claims that the NBA is fixed. Before we go any further, I've got a few more questions for Rasheed Wallace:
Did David Stern prevent YOUR Pistons from double-teaming LeBron in Game 5, forcing the ball out of the only threat on the Cavs?
Did David Stern order Jason Maxiell to guard LeBron from the top of the key with less that two minutes left and no help defense in Game 5?
Did David Stern order the artist formerly known as Tayshaun Prince to literally sprint out of the way as LeBron drove the lane for a thunderous dunk toward the end of Game 5?
Here's a clip of the Top Five Plays from Game 5. Three of them show LeBron penetrating the lane for uncontested dunks. The fourth play shows Prince sprinting out the lane as though LeBron's carrying a bomb. Possible the worst defensive moment in Prince's career:
Come on Sheed! You're a damn good player on a team that pulled a Sacramento Kings when it mattered. You flat out choked! From the owner to the fans to the coaching staff right on down to the players themselves, y'all balled up in the fetal position and watched LeBron YouTube your asses into history. It wasn't David Stern dreaming for ratings, you simply blew your chance at glory and now with the window of opportunity slamming shut, you're left throwing out irresponsible quotes.
Take responsibility for you and your teammates' actions!