Sunday, May 01, 2005

Catching up on the NBA Playoffs

We’re nearing the end of the first round, with two sweeps already completed and a few other series heating up. A few random thoughts over the weekend, with our first Playoff Power Rankings at the end...

  • After Houston won the first two games of their series, I commented to a friend on email that “You know Dallas isn’t done in this series yet. Watching the play, you just get the feeling that we’ll be hearing a lot more from them before this series is over. Odds are that they win the next two games in Houston and bring everyone back down to earch.” Well, after seeing them win games three and four, I think they’re going to win the series. Houston’s performance at the end of game four – when they had several chances to win the game and were turning the ball over, making bad passes, and missing long jumpers – they don’t look like a confident club anymore and I wouldn’t be surprised if the series was over in six.
  • Did anyone notice that it’s taken former Blazer Bonzi Wells one and a half seasons to wear out his welcome in Memphis? He missed the team’s shootaround on Sunday and didn’t play in the game. As a matter of fact, not only did he not play, he wasn’t even in the building, and it was a “mutual decision”, and TNT reported that it’s the culmination of an entire season’s worth of friction with Memphis coach Mike Fratello. In a more interesting note, former Blazer coach and current Clipper coach Mike Dunleavy called the Memphis-Phoenix game for TNT and it would have been nice to hear his thoughts on the situation, which he never provided, saying only “Bonzi played very well for me in Portland.” Disappointing considering that there was rumored friction between he and Bonzi when Dunleavy coached Portland. I believe that Bonzi only has one more year left on his deal, so he’ll be easy for Memphis to trade this offseason. And with Mike Miller around, they don’t really need him that much anyways.
  • Speaking of Dunleavy, once you learn to ignore his annoying accent, he’s a very good color-man and I hope TNT uses him further as the playoffs progress.
  • The “Phoenix Model for Success”: 1. Get a dominant low post big man. 2. Surround him with a fantastic lightning quick point guard and several excellent shooters. Look at Portland’s team … they’re halfway there. They've got the dominant low post scorerand the laser quick PG, now they need to find some shooters somewhere, and viola you have Phoenix v 2.0. Yes, I know it’s quite a stretch.
  • Anyone else think that Cleveland could have put up a better fight against Miami in the first round of the playoffs? Only one of Miami’s four straight wins over New Jersey was even close, though it was nice to see Dick Jefferson back. Now the speculation for New Jersey will center around Jason Kidd and whether he’ll demand a trade this offseason. If New Jersey can land a decent big man (Theo Ratliff?), that may be enough to convince Kidd that the Nets can be competitive next year.
  • I hope that Phil Jackson goes to either the Lakers or the Knicks, so he can be exposed as what he really is: a fraud who won championships by riding the coattails of MJ and Shaq.
  • Watching San Antonio come out in game two and blow out the Nuggets was impressive, and a huge testament to Greg Popovich. You could tell they’d been reading some of the press, claiming Duncan was too hurt and San Antonio didn’t have the weapons to keep up with a hot Nuggets team. In one quarter they took control of the series and put into question all of that confidence that Denver had built up over the past three months. Now they’re up 2-1 with game 4 on Wednesday.
  • Is there a more schizophrenic team in the playoffs than Indiana? I can’t figure this team out. The Celtics might be the worst three seed I can remember in the past ten years, by the way.
  • Assuming that both West favorites win in the bottom half of the bracket, that second round Seattle-San Antonio match is interesting. I don’t think San Antonio will roll through them quite as easily as everyone seems to think, and here’s why: they’re a pretty good matchup. One theory says “stick Bruce Bown on Ray Allen, series over” … but I don’t buy it. San Antonio can definitely stick Bowen on ray allen and mitigate his damage, but actually Seattle has two things going for them: Ginobili isn't tall enough to guard Rashard Lewis (who developed a very nicelittle post game this year) so that could be problematic, and Ridnour is actually a decent matchup vs Tony Parker. Parker beats people with heady play and with quicks, not with muscle, and those are two areas that Ridnour can match up with him at. Rid struggles against bigger PG's who can push him out of the way, postup, and shoot over him (like we thought Bibby would be able to do), and Parker doesn't do any of that. Nnot that I think any of this means Seattle has a chance, it just means the series goes 5 or 6 games instead of 4.
  • I think we’ve probably seen the best two games of Jerome James’ career. And if Brad Miller were 100% healthy, he wouldn’t have looked as good. And nothing is funnier than an athlete saying “I’m finally coming into my own” following two good games after being a disappointment for six years. James looks like a very good center now, but he's a free agent this offseason and has got "the next Mark Blount" written all over him.

And, finally, here are our Power Rankings, as of May 1st. These rankings include only playoff teams and do not take matchups into consideration.

  1. Phoenix - Clearly playing the best basketball of anyone in the playoffs.
  2. San Antonio - Back on track after opening game stumble.
  3. Miami - Shaq will have a week to heel bruised thigh after sweep.
  4. Detroit - Won't see how good they really are until series vs Miami.
  5. Dallas - Nowitzki starting to put it togeter. They need Van Horn back to make noise.
  6. Seattle - Looking better than most people thought vs Sacramento. Nice road win in game 4.
  7. Houston - Surprisingly balanced. Yao needs to be great more often than good.
  8. Chicago - Could be in trouble if they lose game 4.
  9. Washington - Arenas & Jamison getting hot. Hughes could be key to series.
  10. Sacramento - Defense looks terrible. Can they win a playoff game on the road?
  11. Denver - Looking like they played over their heads in game 1. Must win game 4.
  12. Indiana - Reggie making one last run, and got a great matchup for it.
  13. Boston - Walker back for game 5. Winner of game 5 probably wins series.
  14. Memphis - Never had a chance vs Phoenix; Suns do everything better.
  15. Philadelphia - AI's best season not enough. Webber deal looks like a mistake.
  16. New Jersey - Would have thought Carter/Kidd/Jefferson would be good for one win.

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