Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Playoffs Musings & Observations

Some early random thoughts:

- Early on, things are reminding me a little bit of the 2001 Playoffs in that, even when the games are blowouts, they've still been compelling because so many young players are announcing their presence with authority on the big stage.

In '01, I think the highlight of this phenomenon was the Philly-Toronto series, a seven-game set in which Iverson went for 54 in Game 2, Vince came back at him for 50 in Game 3, before AI delivered his answer with 52 in Game 5.

Look at the insane numbers that the 23-and-under crowd are putting up through two games this year:
* LeBron: 31 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 8 apg, 55% FG
* CP3: 33.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 12.5 apg, 3.5 spg, 64% FG
* Howard: 27 ppg, 21 rpg, 4 bpg, 67% FG

Not to mention guys like Amare, Duncan, Bosh, Gasol, D Williams and others have all delivered big-time performances so far.

Ernie said that D-12 joined Wilt and Nate Thurmond as the only guys to go 20-20 back-to-back in the playoffs, and TNT also showed the ridiculous company that Chris Paul is in, in terms of consecutive 30 pt-10 ast games in the playoffs.

MJ is the only guy with 3, and here's the list of guys with 2 that CP3 has joined: Nash, Magic, Mayor Kevin Johnson, The Big O, Jerry West and John Havlicek.

Always fun to watch emerging players and...

- ...I also think it's always fun to watch champions try to hang onto their crown through sheer mental toughness even when their talent level is slipping, so I find myself strangely pulling for the Spurs.

I've loved watching the Suns as much as anybody, would love to see Nash get a well-deserved title, for Amare to move up the ladder of great players, and for the Diesel to get one last hurrah. I love what their style of play has done for the league, and I think their fans deserve the title which has long eluded them.

That said, I'm finding myself drawn to the Spurs. I really thought S.A. was shot for the night midway through the 2nd Q in Game 2 - they were getting no offense outside of their Big 3, and they absolutely couldn't stop Amare.

But then they just stuck together, like always, slowly fought back, like always, and displayed their supreme mental toughness yet again, like always.

- Other Suns-Spurs notes:
* The Suns-Spurs matchup seems to be drawing a lot of interest because it's seen as a big rivalry. Why is it seen as a rivalry? In no small part because it's the third time they've met in the last four years.

This was the point in our post on why playoff re-seeding would be bad (which we don't think we expressed very well): if you seed the playoffs as one big group of 16, you make it much less likely that these teams meet up in any given year. Which lessens the chance that this or any other rivalry will get a chance to develop.

* Poorly officiated game tonight, I thought - lots of missed foul calls and fairly uneven on several out-of-bounds calls, too.

* What was with the rush to immediately label this as the greatest first-round series ever after the classic Game 1? Let the thing play out. Chill.

- My goodness, the Mavs are a complete mess right now. What was up with those double teams on Paul in the first quarter, in which N.O. stormed out to a 39-29 lead from which they never looked back?

That was some of the most pathetic team defense in terms of double teaming that I think I've ever seen. Not even an attempt to rotate over on shooters, or for the double-teamer to scramble back in help-and-recover. Half-hearted effort to close off Paul's space. Certainly no aggressiveness in trying to turn the trap into TOs.

I'm not asking for the '91 Bulls trap out here, but come on - it was like they were fine with letting the Hornets play 4-on-3, and then sure enough, here was one of Avery's postgame quotes: "They were playing 4-on-3 sometimes, which we wanted them to do, and [Morris] Peterson made shots, [Tyson] Chandler caught some lobs, and they really jumped out on us in the first quarter."

Really? You wanted them to play 4-on-3? Then this club is in more trouble than I thought.

- I don't think I've ever heard Magic laugh as hard as he did when he spotted the flat top, at around the 2:25 mark:

- You know, I respect how the Jazz are playing, and think they're a contender, but I just can't get the end of last season out of my mind, when Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Derek Fisher essentially called out selected teammates for already having vacations planned and not showing much desire in the Western Conference Finals.

The players being referred to were thought to include Okur and Kirilenko, and I just can't help but wonder if Utah can count on these guys to deliver the supreme mental toughness that it's going to take to scale the Western Conference this year.

- T-Mac may have been a hero for carrying his depleted Rockets for three quarters in Game 2, but I don't think his subpar fourth quarter was strictly due to fatigue - looked like the same subpar shot selection I've been seeing for awhile.

- I apologize if I'm late to the party here, but I just saw this stat on John Hollinger's chat transcript: Jose Calderon's assist/TO ratio in April was 66:1! That might be the most amazing stat I've seen all season. He had a TO last night, though - what a scrub! Now he's down to 79:2 for April, counting playoffs.


At 12:31 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

They broke up the European Vacation clique when they shipped out Giricek.

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

supreme mental toughness?
AK led his nationalteam to victory in the last euro with stellar play, passion and leadership so i think u can stick that in your craw.

Does he care more about that than his jazz duties?
Without a doubt and thats what pisses u off.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Nikolay said...

It pisses me off when a second year guard and a role player are allowed to judge other players on the team.

Why wasn't Dwill talking trash after the GSW series? He sucked badly but Jazz came through partly because of AK.And don't come to me Williams' averages for the last years playoffs -he padded his stats in losing efforts vs SA.

He is a good player but these remarks were totally off the mark and very detrimental to Jazz chemistry.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Geez, I didn't even realize I was pissed off.

I don't particularly care if AK cares more about playing for Russia than Utah.

Go back to our Sept. '07 archives and you'll see plenty of praise for AK's outstanding Euro performance.

But, as intense as that event is, it's still more of an emotional NCAA Tournament-style event of a couple weeks, rather than the grueling two-month run of the NBA Playoffs, and a lot more mental toughness is required to win the latter.

At 4:18 AM, Anonymous Olexiy said...

Regarding the AK, he flourished agains GSW (and sucked against every other team) because he doesn't have a position in Jazz offensive schemes, and GSW was the only series where Jazz were allowed to make a step to the left or to the right off their strict schemes. Whether that is his fault of Sloan's - that's another question.

And, sure, he slipped on the defensive end a bit.

At 4:18 AM, Anonymous Olexiy said...


At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Olexiy said...

In fact, it was Boozer, not Fisher, and DWill who claimed some people didn't play full strength.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger rsn said...


Your analysis of KG and the Celtics season is fantastic. Just fantastic. I love your historical research. Was the Texas Triangle sweep the first for ANY team in 7 years??

I am also a bit concerned that my Dream Team poll may never reach quorum -- any chance you'll syndicate it on the Painted Area?? I understand that this is a monumental request during playoff time, so will understand if you refuse.

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