Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Even-up out West

Well, despite the Suns's blowout win over the Mavs tonight (Raja Bell for MVP!), I still think the Mavs take the series. After two previous seven-game series for the Suns, I think the third time's the un-charm. Assuming Dallas takes the next game at home and holds court, the Suns will need to go seven again to make it to the next and final round, and I just don't think they have it in them. Of course, I could be wrong. Steve Nash seems to be making a habit of making liars out of people. And, um, we are all witnesses.

Meanwhile, out East, we are perhaps witnessing the death of an almost-dynasty. If the Pistons do lose, is it vindication for Larry Brown? Or would this have happened even if he had stayed, and he just knew when to bounce? (Then again, he went from the frying pan into the toilet, so maybe I'm giving him too much credit.)

I like to think that the Pistons just ran into the wrong team at the wrong time. Since last year at this time, when Dwyane Wade went down and the Heat fell to these same Pistons, everything has been building to this series. The re-match for the ages. Is it any wonder that Wade is shooting 60 percent from the floor, that Shaquille O'Neal is prancing like a brash rookie? Once again a legendary coach will reach the Finals from the East, only this time it will be Pat Riley instead of Larry Brown.

Assuming the Heat and the Mavericks make the Finals (which would be an entertaining matchup, to be sure), either one would make an intriguing NBA champion. If it's the Heat, Riles finally gets one for the thumb, Shaq goes one-up on Kobe (and leads a third team to the Finals), and GP gets his belated Diesel-powered ring (and I suppose Zo justifies, at least to himself, his escape from New Jersey). If it's the Mavs, it's all about Mark Cuban, NBA champion. Will he finally leave the officials alone? Will his blog take over the entire internet? Will he offer to trade franchises with James Dolan in order to take on a bigger challenge? (Dream, Knick fans, dream.) Will David Stern just toss him his ring from across the court? The thought of Keith Van Horn with a ring isn't exactly comforting—and the reality of it would probably give guys like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley nightmares for decades. Could be worse, though. Could be Tim Thomas.

"I want to die a Knick."

We hear you, Steph. Better hope that Dolan and Co. don't take it as a suggestion, though.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Game 2, Western Conference Finals

It's round about 10 of 9, Eastern time, and TNT was just playing Fugazi's "Waiting Room" on the lead-in to Mavs/Suns. FUGAZI! Hard to believe. I wonder if Ian Mackaye is watching?

Joey Crawford is part of the officiating crew, and as much as he overreacts sometimes, I like the guy.

Keith Van Horn and Tim Thomas are both starters. Awesome. Not entirely sure about what kind of message that sends the kids, but hey, after being traded for each other twice they may as well have something else in common.

Somehow it seems doubtful there will be too many 24-second violations in this one.

It's highly unlikely that either Leandrinho or Devin Harris are on steroids, but has anyone tested either of them for nitrous?

Van Horn is the Mavs starting CENTER tonight, which is funny because he probably wouldn't get called for a three-second violation if they were cumulative.

Interesting that none of the playoff beard teams made the Final Four. Has ANY NBA team that's adopted a hair-related postseason unification theory EVER won a championship? John Hollinger should do the research.

If anyone offers Tim Thomas more than three years at the mid-level exception, they're insane. I don't care if he winds up the Finals MVP. In fact, he should probably offer to play his next three years for free for one of the teams he mailed it in for.

Doug Collins has gotten seriously creepy over the years.

If Phoenix can go home up 2-0...yikes.

Yes, I'd rather wear Cheryl Miller's clothes than Craig Sager's. And TNT is OK with this? Charles Barkley should go on wearing a half-shirt and a Speedo.

With every game, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Steve Nash is all good as MVP.

And doesn't the success of the Mavs and Suns cement the genius of Don Nelson? Enjoy retirement, Nellie, you earned it.

God, I hate David Hasselhof.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lucky Sevens

Not for LeBron, I guess. He could have used some help from his teammates (Larry Hughes gave a decent effort, all things considered) and maybe in-their-prime versions of Mark Price. Brad Daugherty and Craig Ehlo. Well, maybe not Craig Ehlo.

But it's not like anyone thought the Cavs would beat the Pistons, let alone take them seven. It would have been almost disappointing had the Cavs won, like things were progressing too fast. It's bad enough that LeBron already looks 28, already has an alarmingly well-rounded game, let's take the time to savor his early struggles before he starts accumulating the big prizes, like rings and Finals MVPs. Before they have to amend the saying on that statue in Chicago.

I still think the Pistons are going to win the whole mess, by the way. Despite going seven with the Cavs, I don't think they're terribly tired. Rip Hamilton could probably play a 70-game series of triple-overtime games and be less tired than I am after updating this blog. Ditto for the darn near ethereal Tayshaun Prince, the Schwarzeneggerish Ben Wallace, and the utterly insane Rasheed Wallace (I love how he talks to the refs with an exasperated look on his face even when the calls are going his way). Chauncey Billups has been terrific as well—I just hope that Rick Pitino's been watching.

And their slow-down, defense-first style helps keep them fresh. They can score 75 points and still win by double-digits, while teams like Phoenix and Dallas score 130 in nailbiters. It's not that the Pistons exert much less effort, it's that less of it is spent running up and down the court like lunatics.

Which is exactly what I'll be looking for in the Western finals following tonight's pair of Sevens. San Antonio may still hold serve at home (they're clawing their way back as I type), but I think everybody would love to see a Phoenix/Dallas series. Nothing against the Clippers, whose presence this deep in the playoffs almost qualifies as a sign of the apocalypse (I believe Chris Kaman is either Pestilence or Death), but the idea of Nash running against his former mates is just too good.

I'm thinking it's Detroit vs. Dallas in the finals, with defense leading Detroit to another address change (FOUR Championship Way, or whatever). There's a chance that another D, Dirk, could decide things, but I'm thinking the Commish would let Ruth Riley, Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars ref a deciding game rather than deal with Mark Cuban, NBA Champion. Although the thought of Keith Van Horn with a ring does bring a tear to my eye (by the way, Keith, your playoff beard would be more intimidating if you stopped getting that grade-school haircut).

More later—seriously. I want to talk a little about L'Affaire Larry, which is all anyone could have wished for following the Knicks season of horrors.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Some random playoff thoughts...

....before everyone forgets about me.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas's beard is epic. He's like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with a low-post game. And damn, that thing grew faster than LeBron James.

Speaking of beards, it's a damn shame we only got to see Pau Gasol's for four games when he took the trouble to grow it all year. Guy Ritchie needs to put them both in his next movie—and I will NOT be satisfied until Z gets cast as a Bond villain, dammit.

The most prominent players in the first round? The officials, of course. Then again, with all the clotheslines and ball-grabbing going on, I had to check a few times to make sure I wasn't watching the WWE by mistake. (Chris Kaman's hair was no help there, either.)

The Clippers are in the second round of the playoffs, while the Knicks and the Celtics missed the whole shebang by a country mile. There must be a lot of older NBA fans feeling REALLY old these days.

All in all, it seems like the Nuggets would have been better off not making the playoffs at all. But hey, I guess they've got five more seasons to learn how to deal with Kenyon Martin. Unless the Knicks want him.

LeBron IS growing up fast though, huh? He's already working that baseline fallaway that Jordan didn't pick up until he was in his mid-30s. At this rate Bron's going to quit to pursue a baseball career by the time he turns 24—and he'll bat .400, hit 80 home runs and go 28-2 as a starting pitcher.

I wish the Wizards/Cavs series would go 25 games.

Imagine if Peja Stojakovic misses half the Nets series AND doesn't re-sign with the Pacers? I guess the only consolation is that Ron Artest is still as crazy as—well, crazy.

Kobe probably won't be naming any of his kids Raja.

The disparity between the top-seeded teams and lowest-seeded teams is pretty far these days. Has it always been like this? I can't remember one way or the other.

Not sure if the Spurs are going to defend their title this year, assuming they survive the Kings. Especially with the Mavericks waiting for them.

Who DOESN'T want to see a Clippers/Lakers second-round series? Well, besides Steve Nash and company, of course.