-A game that could have huge significance as a tiebreaker since these teams could very likely end up finishing with the same record--although, the home-court advantage did not mean much last year, so will wait & see
- The Mavs' defense continued where it left off last year, by doing a great job helping & recovering to shut off driving lanes. They did not allow much deep penetration from Parker or Manu at all. And Diop did another commendable job on Duncan, just like he did in key parts of the Conf. Semis. & also Diop added 6 off. rebs.
- The Spurs seemed to have made the decision this year to guard Dirk with a big instead of Bowen--Oberto, Duncan, Elson & Horry were assigned Dirk. Elson was their best option with his athleticism.
-I think what ultimately hurt the Spurs in the playoffs was when they had Bowen on Dirk, they could not cross-match their center onto Josh Howard so they went with Finley instead. But this led to the Spurs getting hurt on the boards, which to me, was the deciding factor of the series. Now if they can get away with their center on Dirk, then they can hopefully keep the board battle tight, which is an encouraging scenario for the Spurs.
- Manu looked great overall--16, 4rebs, 5 assts, & 2 steals; this is why he's on my fantasy team. Granted, he forced a couple shots (something you live with), but he had a great all-around game & looked spry--evidenced by him skying for a couple boards.
- The Spurs kept the rebound margin even, but still gave up too many off. boards (13, 6 to Diop). This is something that came back to haunt them in the Conf. Semis, so they have to concentrate on this vs. the Mavs.
- Steve Kerr needs to re-examine the fact that he's adamant that teams can't go under screen/rolls or generally sag-off Parker. He's falling into the same trap that alot of media people have made lately that Parker is an improved shooter evidenced by his great shooting %. Sorry, Parker was getting most of his shots off of runners & lay-ins, and I believe was one of the leaders of pts in paint. This is one instance where you get in trouble just looking at the stats. I'll keep sagging off Parker all day--he wasn't knocking down outside shots in the playoffs all that often.
- Elson was a nice surprise on both ends, I don't ever remember him showcasing any off. skills in Denver. He could be the X-factor for the Spurs to return to the Finals, especially if he can hold his own defensively vs. Dirk
- A rather ugly game, filled with sloppy turnovers & plenty of missed shots.
- Surprise, Surprise....the Nugs' outside shooting killed them once again--4/23 from deep, all 4 makes from JR Smith. JR Smith's play was encouraging, but like I've been saying since the summer, the Nugs need multiple shooters besides JR. They have to move one of their bigs soon in exchange for backcourt help, hopefully someone who can shoot.
- Camby was superb on both ends of the floor--basically providing the the Nugs with only the outside shooting threat besides JR Smith. Camby drilled a few shots that were slightly farther than is normal 15-foot range.
-Denver's defense on the whole was very active & disruptive, led by Camby who I've always felt was an underrated defensive force; I think he guards Duncan better than anyone, although Diop is rising. Denver's rebounding kept them in this game (56 rbs to 38 for the Clips) while their outside shooting kept the Clips in the game. Also, Tim Thomas's 5/11 from 3pt. range was a nice additon to Cassel's 35 pts.
- Cassell was vintage Sammy (35 pts, 6 assts)--using savvy & guile to create space for his jumpers. Some people worried that his age would be an issue for the Clips' success this year, but I wasn't too concerned. Sammy's game has never been predicated on speed--he plays like a 50-year old at the YMCA who knows all the tricks & angles.
Friday Games to Watch:
Nets at Heat--rematch of Conf. Semis that was much closer than most people realize. The Nets played the Heat as tough as the Bulls in the playoffs, and had great chances to win Games 3-5. Two teams who have a legit shot at East Conf. crown & could meet in the East Finals. Will see if the Heat come out with some fire after having 3 days to stew over their ass-kicking courtesy of the Bulls.
Cavs at Spurs--Possible NBA Finals match-up. See if Cavs can take advantage of the Spurs playing on back-2-back nights. Will see if Bowen & Finley's legs can recover enough to hopefully contain Bron.
Jazz at Suns-- Contrast in styles--the uptempo, finesse Suns vs. the methodical, grinding Jazz. Interesting to see if Sloan chooses to pound the post with Boozer to take advantage of the interior defense-less Suns.
Game not to Watch: Knicks at Hawks--do I need to explain why.