Saturday, April 29, 2006

Friday Recap


- I thought the Wizards came out again & set the tone with their defense (hard to believe, I know), but they cooled off a little in the 2nd quarter giving up 31 points--if it wasn't for a couple incredible drives at the end by Lebron (questionable non-calls), the Wiz walk away with a tough fought victory

- Like I said before, the Wizards had an uneven defensive performance--Cavs shot 41.2% from the floor, but managed 52 points in the paint

- Arenas actually didn't take too many bad shots today & had some pretty sweet drives (his forte) but he had 2 assists/ 6 TOs--sort of a pattern with Gil: the occasional game he decides to keep his shot selection in check, he has low assists & high TOs--its like clockwork. The Wiz had 17 turnovers which did not help their cause

- I liked how the Cavs tried to get BIg Z involved early--he responded ok, but was saddled with fouls too much to make enough of an impact; the Cavs need to continue to go to him to relieve too much offensive burden put on Lebron


- Kings really impressed me again by coming out very aggressive and really taking the action to the Spurs, especially attacking the paint again--Spurs gave up 50 points in the paint & gave up 15 offensive rebs. (Bonzi had 10); Sacto also got to the line 10 more times than the Spurs

- I felt that the Kings defense was surprisingly solid for the second game in a row; they did a particularly good job protecting the 3 pt line (Spurs shot 6 for 20), something that has killed them the first 2 games

- Tim Duncan, hurt or not, bounced back with a typical Duncan-playoff performance--29 & 12, most important was his 6 blocks

- The Kings really shot themselves in the foot in the 3rd quarter with too many trunovers which got the Spurs back into the game

- I like how they kept going to Artest down the stretch on the box--his strength causes mismatch nightmares for S.A.; this should continue to be the gameplan for the Kings if they want any chance to advance


- Fun game. It started out with a super fast pace in the first quarter but definitely slowed down in the 2nd where the Suns only scored 17 points & they only mustered 18 in the final stanza--not what the Suns want

- Lakers went with the smart gameplan again of attacking the Suns' super weak interior defense--58 points in the paint for the Lakers & they outrebounded them by 19, while pulling down 16 offensive boards; Gotta love the small ball

- I still think even with those numbers that the Lakers still weren't pounding the post enough--Phil still needs to call Lamar's number much more often

- I actually thought the Suns played a half-way decent game on the defensive end--Lakers shot 41.5%--again they did a fairly good job on Kobe (6 for 18 from field) keeping multiple guys around him, even though he did have a another good floor game controlling the rhythm of the offense

- It must be quite discouraging to Phoenix to lose by 7 when they score 20 fast break points & hold LA to 41.5% from the floor--it comes back to their lack of size; that small ball might work wonders in the regular season but come playoff time it's always exposed

Friday, April 28, 2006

Thursday Recap


- For the third game in row the Bulls came up with another tough-minded performance and finally were rewarded for their effort with a drubbing of the Heat; Jason Williams was the only bright spot with another good game

- Having Shaq come out listless and then get into foul trouble definitely aided the Bulls' ability to take command of the game on both ends--they really got back to their signature defensive play (Heat shot 41.7%) & their dribble penetration was absolutely killing the Heat, which either led to easy points in the paint or great drive-n-kick situations

- Like mentioned above, the Bulls did a great job at attacking the basket all game (they got to the line 46 times to the Heat's 33), even when Shaq was in the game--Nocioni was his usual aggressive self and Hinrich was doing his Steve Nash Jr. impersonation again by probing the defense with his dribble & finding guys (11 assists/1 to) & also did another solid job on Wade (9 for 22)--I really think he's ready to make the jump to all-star level in the next couple years

- The Heat defense was awful last night (especially giving up 39 points in the 3rd)--they were getting eaten alive on the perimeter by giving up constant dribble drives; this could be an ongoing issue to watch for deeper in the playoffs

- I expect the Heat to come out in Game 4 with a purpose and the Bulls better be able to absorb the Heat's full onslaught


- Easily the ugliest game of the playoffs, somewhat painful to watch--a combined total of 39 TOs, combined 68 fouls & a combined shooting % of 39, not to mention a total of 21 missed free throws

- The Clippers were absolutely awful at the offensive end--24 turnovers--but still had a chance to win at the end, but again Dunleavy made some curious moves by not having the ball in Cassell's hands; two close games & Dunleavy again goes away from Sam?? Like I said before, Sam has to have the ball in last 3 minutes in a close games--he loves it & usually produces

- The bad news for the Nugs is the Clips played as bad as possible on offense but easily could have won the game--Denver shoots 37.8% from the field, wait for it...0% from 3 pt land-same old pattern, the offensive boards helped them to degree again (13) & 19 fast break points is a good sign but they better pray that the Clips' offense is this pathetic the next 3-4 games for any chance at this series

- The Nuggets' defense was pretty solid & had some reason for LA's ineptitude--I thought Camby did a good job distracting Brand's shot and would like to see him more on Elton; Camby is one of the finest post defenders in the NBA (probably does the best job at guarding Duncan as anyone) & very underrated

- The Clippers' defense was not a problem last night they were pretty good again--they did another good job on Melo (6-17), although they put the Nugs on the free throw line too much (partly a byproduct of atrocious reffing) & again got hurt on their defensive boards

- The Clips should not be too worried about this game, as long as they take better care of the ball they should win this series no doubt--the Nuggets' shooting is just too big of an issue to overcome no matter how many offensive rebs. & fast break points they get


- Watched bits of this game, the Pacers continue to play their tough team defense (Nets 38.7%) & were better than usual on the offensive end and hurt the Nets on the glass 43-30

- Jermaine O'Neal was taking a beating in the media for his performances so far, when people seemed to forget to factor in the degree that foul trouble had on his play--in Game 1, he was the key to why they won in the 4th and you can see what he can do last night by not being saddled by foul trouble (which was somewhat dubious, again sketchy reffing)

- Vince was 8-21 from the field, 2-6 from 3--settled for outside shots again--Vince has to realize that the playoffs started 3 games ago, & has to understand the need to ratchet up from regular season intensity

- The Pacers need to keep riding O'Neal on offense--again he's just too quick for anyone on NJ's frontline

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wednesday Recap


- Memphis came out strong after the opening tap and looked real sharp offensively (especially Gasol), then in the middle of the 2nd quarter Memphis smacked into a wall and never recovered offensively the rest of the game

- Turnovers (20) were once again the deathblow of the Grizzlies--these careless TOs started to pile up in the disastrous 2nd quarter (a couple sketchy offensive foul calls help that total), which led to only 12 points--I believe they did not score a point in the last 6 minutes of the quarter

- Grizzlies did a decent job defensively again--Memphis shot 46%, Dallas-45%--the difference was the Mavs went to the line 10 more times (Dirk had 14 ft attempts) & the above mentioned 20 TOs by the Grizz

- Mike Miller did try to get involved a little more today but was way off the mark on some shots; he still needs to take more than 7 shots--like I mentioned in my series preview, the Grizzles just don't have enough firepower after Gasol


- Kobe was just not going to let his team lose last night--the prime example came when the Suns cut the lead to 3 (61-58) on a Tim Thomas 3 pointer in the middle of the 3rd, you had a feeling Kobe was going to do something to stem this rally, and he drove right to the basket pushing the lead back to five--I thought that was the biggest play of the game because the Suns were in their best rhythm of the game

- For second game in a row, I thought the Suns guarded Kobe fairly well--even though he shot 50% from the floor, he was forced to make some really tough shots that only Kobe is capable of making, especially late in the shot clock--Suns also did an admirable job on the boards only being outrebounded by 4

- I felt the Lakers let the Suns back in the game in the 2nd half by not consistently pounding the ball in the post like they were doing in the 1st half--like I said the other day, Odom has to have more post-ups called for him by Phil; this is a must

- Lakers did another solid job defending--holding the Suns to 42.3% from the floor & also making a good effort of discouraging 3 pt attempts (something I mentioned in my series preview in depth)--but again Phoenix was missing jump shots that usually go in for them, you have to imagine this is going to change--the Suns only scored 16 points in the 2nd quarter and did not score a point for the first 5 minutes of the quarter

- Lakers have a great shot at winning this series if they keep attacking the paint at all costs & encourage 2 pt. shots by the Suns


- Did not catch much of this game, but I don't feel I'm missing much--this series is a foregone conclusion, maybe the Bucks can steal one game at home

- Pistons' defense as usual--Bucks were 43.5% from the floor

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tuesday Recap


- Washington's defense on Lebron was the key to this victory, they sagged off him and cut off driving lanes pretty well when he attempted to get to the rim, this was the best team defense from the Wizards I've seen--also Jordan's decision to put Jeffries on Lebron was a great move: Jeffries' length and great ability to move his feet for a guy his size is a nice asset

- All in all, Eddie Jordan was the MVP of the game--his entire defensive gameplan, combined with throwing Jeffries and Butler on Lebron, plus calling plays for Butler really made a difference--the Wiz held the Cavs to 36.1 % from the field

- Drew Gooden was the only bright spot for the Cavs, he really attacked the glass with a passion

- Although, Arenas scored 30 points and kept his TOs down, he shot 41.6 % from the floor and kept proving my point of having the worst shot selection in the league--by my count he had at least 8-10 ill-advised shots, not to mention 2 horrible shot attempts late in the game--what was he thinking on that 3pt attempt with about a minute remaining when they had the lead??? Like I've said before, I'm not quite enamoured about his basketball IQ

- I think Washington needs to keep this same gameplan on Lebron and the Cavs, especially if Mike Brown is not going to play Damon Jones, Pavlovic or Marshall very much---Brown needs to consider getting more plays for Big Z


- The Kings really surprised me with their effort and execution--I really thought the Spurs were going to roll over Sacto (especially without Artest), but the Kings did an unexpectedly good job defensively-- I thought they did a pretty solid job containing Parker and sagging off him

- Bonzi came out of the gate super aggressive, attacking the basket at will until he fouled out -- I thought this was one the worst defensive efforts in the painted area by the Spurs that I can remember--the Spurs gave up 56 points in the paint, the Kings also outrebounded them by 13

- Shareef definitely aided Bonzi in this demolition of the Spurs' interior defense--he was putting on an absolute clinic in the post, he took it right at Duncan and I was surprised when he was getting his shot over the top of Duncan--everytime he was making his moves in the post I thought there was no way he could clear his shot cleanly over Timmy but he kept proving me wrong

- This leads me to my observation that Duncan is not right, I know this is not any big secret but he just has not looked good the last 2 games--defensively he's not moving as well and not finishing shots like usual--I go to the play with about 1:30 remaining in regulation, the post-up on left block did not have enough on it and you can see his leg give out a little, maybe I am reading too much into it but this definitely will be a problem in the next round

- Let me just say, that the play for Barry's game-tying three was one of the best set plays I've ever seen--a lot of things need to happen just right for it to work, probably the biggest thing is Bibby being able to be picked off--when I saw the play happen in real-time I thought it was just a broken play but when I saw the replay and saw Duncan pick off Bibby, I agreed I saw one of the best set plays I've seen

- Bibby deserves blame for that play, no doubt--he needs to stick to Barry no matter what, he needs to see him always and even should be feeling Barry with his arm for the whole play--If Duncan gets a shoudler-to-shoulder pick for Barry then you could give Bibby the benefit of the doubt but Bibby had too much separation from Barry before the pick

- 3 point shooting was the only reason the Spurs won this game, they did not play typical Spurs' defense and they got beat up on the glass, the only reason they stayed close with Sacto in the first half was because of 8 for 11 shooting from long-distance--the Spurs hit 12 threes for the entire game on 46 %

- I think the Kings needs to keep pounding the paint with Wells, Artest and now Rahim with Duncan looking gimpy--they also can consider playing Duncan straight up and concentrate more on guarding the 3 pt. line, something that's killed them the last two games


- I did not to get to see as much of this game as I wanted to cause of the overlap, but what I gleaned from the little I saw was that Indiana got in foul trouble again and this definitely hamstrung their defensive efforts

- Carter seemed to get the message and attacked the basket with more urgency--he was 8 for 8 in the paint but still probably took too many threes--1 for 6 from downtown

- O'Neal got into foul trouble again and the Pacers could not overcome this predicament this time, combined with Jackson's foul trouble and Peja sitting out, you can really understand the Pacers 35.4 % from the field on only 75 points

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Monday Recap


- The 1st half was exceptionally well-played by both teams--they were both on fire from the field, probably the sharpest basketball of the playoffs so far

- I was impressed how well the Bulls' offense was executing in the 1st half without much aid from Gordon--Hinrich performed great on both ends of the floor: he was doing a tremendous job on Wade defensively and doing a quasi-Steve Nash impersonation by probing the defense by keeping his dribble alive

- Jason Williams was matching Hinrich's performance for the Heat, shot the ball great while Wade was struggling

- The Bulls lost steam in the 3rd, missing shots they were making in the 1st half, Miami pulled ahead but Chicago again hung tough by making another run in the 4th by playing their best defense of the day

- Shaq looked real good again and he looks very motivated, which should scare other teams for upcoming rounds--if Williams can continue to play like this he could be the X factor for the Heat to keep advancing

- Nocioni has really raised his game throughout this year, his shot has improved and he always doing the little things---I loved this guy since I saw him throw down a vicious baseline slam on Duncan in '99 at a pre-Olympic qualifier

- The Bulls' defense has not been their usual self so far but I think that they are totally overmatched by Shaq, even more than any team--Chandler is the only guy on the team over 6-8 that has any ability to remotely impede Shaq, and Tyson is just giving up too much weight to bother Shaq consistently--The Bulls might take one game, but that's it


- Clips came out like a team possessed from the opening tap and continued steamrolling to the final buzzer in an utterly dominating performance besides a minor hiccup at the start of the 3rd quarter when Melo got a little hot

- I said before that the Clips defense was underrated and again they played great--they were playing a very good sagging man and were helping each other wonderfully, also they threw in some zone again which is a no-brainer vs. Denver

- Denver shoots 34.2 % from the field, 29.4 % from 3pt--again not surprising, I felt the Nugs were the easiest team to defend as a whole in the playoffs and they are proving my theory right

- I know this is obvious, but Denver has to get out and run, hoping the Mile High air might tire out the Clips, if they can not establish a consistent running game this series will be over quicker than expected

- Brand has really improved his game and really taken it from borderline all-star level to perennial level--his shot is vastly better allowing him to have more of a mid-range post-up game, also his sleeker body has definitely made him even more mobile than in the past--he really surprised me with his shot blocking ability, I don't recall him doing this before with regularity--I guess the super long arms help as well

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sunday Recap


- Probably best game of the weekend, O'Neal was a force in the 4th--like I mentioned before he's just too quick for Collins

- Pacers played their usual tough team defense--held NJ to 42.5 % overall, 1 for 15 from 3 pt--Stephen Jackson did a very good job on Carter, it also helped that Vince was in settle-for-long-jumpers mode for most of the game

- As usual though, the Pacers' offense really bogged down during the middle of the game and looked totally out of sync besides some instances when they freed Peja for some good looks--I thought during the game they needed to get Peja open off of screens more often, especially in the 3rd with O'Neal in foul trouble--good things happen when you get Peja open

- Indy still pulled this game out on the road while committing 17 turnovers while NJ only had 5--another testament to Carlisle's defensive gameplan

- Indy's role players came up big on Sunday--Foster was his usual scrappy self with 5 off. boards, Fred Jones's athleticism is a nice change of pace for the plodding Pacers--he really got up to disturb Jefferson's final shot, and Anthony Johnson did his usual solid, steady quarterbacking


- Where was the aggressiveness and urgency in Kobe? He seemed to be playing half-speed and his body language suggested no fire

- The Suns provided a nice surprise by playing some solid defense--I thought they did a good job keeping multiple guys around Kobe and doing a decent job cutting off driving lanes on the perimeter

- The Suns held LA to 42.2 % from the floor (very good by the Suns' standard), but they gave up 42 points in the paint and 15 off. rebs to the Lakers, and were outrebounded by 11--this trend should continue

- The Suns were actually missing more shots than usual, a lot they usually make were just not falling--this might be bad news for the Lakers later in the series--The Suns struggled to score during the middle part of game (2nd & 3rd), but LA never could take advantage

- The Lakers need to keep pounding the ball into the paint--they were doing a good job of getting the ball to Kwame, but its just too bad he has no discernible skills to finish---they need to start going to Odom as their main post option

- Obviously, Kobe needs to be much more aggressive from now on for the Lakers to have a chance


- Bucks stuck around early on, then the Pistons just flicked the switch onto "Playoff Mode" in the 2nd half, especially defensively

- The Pistons' defense from the middle of the 2nd quarter to the final buzzer was just suffocating--they were putting tremendous pressure on the ball which totally stymied the Bucks--Bucks shot 35.6 from the field

- Detroit shot 34 free throws to 10 attempts for Milwaukee--I guess the Pistons have earned that right over the last couple years

- There is not much the Bucks can do to win this series, they should just be happy with stealing one game in Milwaukee


- I thought the Grizz should have felt really good about themselves at halftime only being down by 9 while Gasol was non-existent in the 1st half, also only being down 5 at the end of the 3rd was a good sign, but they let things get away in the 4th with too many turnovers and bad possessions

- Memphis had 19 TOs and gave up 15 off. rebs. to Dallas--this is why Dallas can shoot 45.9 % to Memphis' 53.2 % and still win by 10

- Fratello has to get Mike Miller much more involved--running more plays for him is a must, getting him in two-man situations with Gasol would be nice too

-Miller has to take more than 5 shots, he also has to be more assertive himself and not look to pass so much--he did this in the 4th too much, when he has a sliver of daylight he needs to release his deadly jumpshot

- If Dallas can get Dampier to produce like that every night......Yeah I know, don't hold your breath

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Saturday Recap


- I guess the concern about Lebron having no playoff experience really came to fruition

- Arenas---7 for 20 from the field, 1 for 7 from 3pt, 3/3 ast/to, tons of ill-advised shots, pretty standard stuff for Gil

- The Cavs outrebounded the Wiz by 16, Cavs got 20 offensive rebounds

- Both teams didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but I thought the Wiz's defense was rather bad & dribble penetration was killing them--they really should consider some zone & try to make the Cavs jumpshooters, especially Bron


- Not much to add, the Spurs looked like the Spurs we thought we see at the start of the year

- Sacto' D was awful, Bibby was his usual self---Parker slashing all over the place


- Surprisingly good game, the Bulls played their hearts out, Skiles is a flat-out great coach

- The Bulls played pretty good defense even though they gave up 48 % from the floor---that had alot to do with no answer for Shaq (just like every other team), you take Shaq's 11 for 16 away, the rest of the Heat were held to 42.6 % from
the field

- I thought Hinrich did a great job on Wade for most of the game, Wade was just too tough down the stretch though

- Gordon is one of the best pure scorers in the league, that's basically all he does, but he does it real well
His shot is tough to stop even though he's only 6-2 at the 2guard--it's a combo of his long arms & high arc

- Shaq showed some surprising energy on the defensive end when the game was tight, showing me his defensive acumen has more to do with his motivation than all this overhyped loss of physical ability

- Bulls' youth did seem to get the better of themselves at the end--too many bad shots & bad turnovers. Although they were not helped by the zebras making some home-field calls for Miami


- Even though it was a close game, it was not that well-played of a game--a few too many lulls offensively for both

- Denver shot 38.5 % from the field, 1 for 6 from 3 pt--no big surprise there

- Denver really needs transition points to be competitve, which is not a good sign in the playoffs

- I always said if you want to play Boykins, the opposing team has to make the Nugs pay at the other end and post him all the time. I don't care if your point has no post game--every person in the league should be able to post up Earl. Dunleavy did a good job of this in the 2nd quarter

- Also in the 2nd quarter, Dunleavy did a good job going to zone for a little while & Denver missed some shots, why he did not stay with it, I am not sure

- But Dunleavy pretty much washed away this good coaching in the 1st half with his major mismanagement at the end

- Why in the world did Cassell not have the ball in his hands at the end of the 4th? Why was he setting screens & moving to the other side of the court away from the ball??? Dunleavy was making some mighty boneheaded decisions

- Cassell has to have the ball in his hands, that what he lives for-- he usually makes great decisions and had been great with the ball all game long--I don't have that big of problem with running some post-ups for Brand, but let Cassell run the two-man game with him, let Sam make the reads and have him handle the ball, he could even call for high pick/rolls with Brand if Sam felt that was a better option--he's a coach on the floor

Saturday, April 22, 2006

NBA Playoffs--West Conference 1st Round

(1) San Antonio vs. (8) Sacramento
Sacramento is definitely better than their #8 seed and will provide a tough out for San Antonio. The Kings' defense has easily improved since Artest arrived, but it still has enough holes that will eventually be too much to overcome. Bibby has never been much interested on the defensive end. Which is too bad because it's imperiative that he tries to keep Parker out of the lane. Probably will not happen. Another major problem for Sacto, is the lack of size & skill on the defensive end at the 4 spot. Thomas is just too small and Shareef is never been a defender. So that opposing 4 on the Spurs should have a field day if consistently single-teamed. What should the Kings do to remedy this situation? Double-team Duncan hard on the catch, get the ball out of his hands and make the other guys prove they can hit outside shots. Without question, sag off Parker & Ginobili--force them to be jumpshooters (especially Parker). Don't be shy about throwing some zone in to try to discourage driving lanes for Manu & Parker. The Spurs have more guys than they ever had who can hit from long-range, but you have to make them prove it. For the Kings on the offensive end, they must establish both Wells & Artest on the block. Both guys are capable of overpowering Bowen & Manu and getting them in foul trouble. Keys for the Spurs: Just be the Spurs.

(4) Dallas vs (5) Memphis
Should I have to even give my synopsis? It seems like everyone has the Mavs sweeping this series and the Grizz keeping their playoff game losing streak alive. Just cause Memphis is never on TV does not mean they are no good. They were the 4th best team in the West. This is a very solid defensive unit that Fratello has slapped together. As many problems as Dirk causes Gasol on the defensive end, Gasol does vice versa to Dirk. Memphis has a good possible match-up for Dirk in Battier, an extremely underrated player. The problem with Memphis is they just don't seem to have overwhelming offensive firepower. Mike Miller is nice. Ed Jones is alright. Battier does some nice things. Just not enough sizzle after Gasol, who was the only guy who did much of anything last year vs. the Suns. You have to give credit to Avery, he has single-handedly turned around the Mavs defensively. These guys rotate so much better & close off driving lanes exponentially better than they ever had; you really have to wonder what they were doing in practice when Nellie was coaching. As long as they get a well-rounded effort offensively from guys like Howard, Stack, Terry, and if Dampier can just give them a little consistency (dubious, I know), they should prevail.

(3) Denver vs. (6) LA Clippers
How hard is it to just re-seed the playoffs 1-8? Am I missing some buried bylaw? Seriously, why do some people seem to be making this harder than it needs to be? Tangent aside, this series should be interesting. Very interesting (Say it just like Timmy Hardaway) This series has wild & wacky written all over it. (Sorry, Marv) I could see Melo pulling his Bernard King-impersonation where he is just draining a variety of shots 17 feet & in. Then I could see Cassell doing some call & response and just matching every big Melo shot with his own. I could see Sammy with a big smile on his face, jabbering down the court, probably getting into with George Karl, which you know George would love. Throw in Mobley, Kenyon, Ruben to the mix and you have a series full of colorful characters. But from a strict basketball sense, the Nugs have a major problem after Melo--they can't shoot from the perimeter at all. This has been their Achilles' Heel since the start of this year & they have done nothing to fix it. They have no pure shooting guard on the roster. The Nugs are the easiest team to defend as a whole in the playoffs. It's a no-brainer that you double, triple team (yes, seriously) Melo often. Plenty of zone is advised as well. Camby is really the only guy you have to honor out to about 15 feet. Make Melo's every touch a miserable affair just like the Spurs did last year, just swarming him with 2 & sometimes 3 guys. The stuff I said above about Melo turning into Bernard shouldn't happen with any consistency, if you bring a smart gameplan defensively. One thing that goes overlooked about the Clips: their defense. It is pretty good and was good last year before injuries.

(2) Phoenix vs. (7) LA Lakers
I have been wavering back and forth about this series for a couple days. I can easily see the Suns winning in 4 games where they just execute to perfection on the offensive end. I can also see the Lakers pulling a mild upset in 7 games. I can see the Suns winning a close series in 7. For the Lakers to win, they must attack the paint at all cost, all the time. The Suns lack height, it was one of their major flaws last year. Their answer to the problem over the summer was to add Pat Burke. Exactly. The Suns' interior defense & rebounding were a problem last year even with Amare. Now, no Amare, Kurt Thomas is questionable, Brian Grant is running on fumes--small ball it will be. It annoys me all these people who think that D'Antoni is some genius for playing small ball with Diaw in the post. Like he has a choice. Also, to all these people--when has small ball ever worked in the playoffs? Sometimes D'Antoni gets way too much praise. The Suns have been awful at the defensive end since the All-Star break. During the month of March, the Suns were giving up roughly 49% fg pct. on the defensive end, while getting out-rebounded by 10 a game. They were getting murdered on their def. glass as well. The two factors of def. FG % and lack of taking care of your def. boards are crushing come playoff time. The great sage, Hubie, will always agree with me on that. On defense, the Lakers need to sprint back to the paint as fast as they ever have. Head always on a swivel vs. the Suns. In the half-court, I suggest they encourage Nash to be a primary scorer. The Suns love to run high pick/roll with Nash & spread three guys out on the 3 pt. line. They want you to help off the shooters, so they can jack up threes. The Suns love threes, it's a huge part of their offense. I say let Nash go off inside the three-point line, stay home on shooters. These other guys are always playing off of Nash, waiting for him to get them involved, and Nash's instinct is to get them involved. If Nash is enticed to score, the other players seem to stand around. If you cut down on the Suns' 3pt attempts and curb their transition points, they are scoring less points. With the way they have been playing defense & giving up second chance opportunities, the Suns really need that extra point on each three point shot and easy points in transition that much more. Easier said than done, though. It's worth a shot, Phil. I think the Lakers will not be able to stop Phoenix's tempo enough and will not get enough after Kobe. Although, Kobe, just by himself, will be good enough for two wins.

NBA Playoffs--East Conference 1st Round

First post, let's get right to the prognostication.

(1) Detroit vs. (8) Milwaukee
The Pistons should basically cruise in this series. The Bucks do have the size to compete with the Pistons upfront, which should help them steal one game, but overall the Pistons are too much. I expect Detroit to ratchet up the defense a couple notches from their solid, but not great defensive numbers in the regular season. I think they will sag off TJ Ford & dare him to shoot, and punish him on the other end with a full dose of Billups in the post. The Bucks do have Redd playing well, but although The Pistons overall def. FG% was average, they guarded the 3 point line the best in the NBA.

(4) Cleveland vs. (5) Washington
It just might come down to which team decides to play just a modicum of defense. A battle of two of the worst defensive clubs in the playoffs. Nevertheless, should be a very competitve series cause of two of the most explosive scorers in the NBA: LeBron & Arenas. I don't buy into this hype about LeBron & the Cavs first-time-in-the-playoffs angle that a lot of media types are making a big deal out of. It's not like this Wiz team is filled with wily vets who will take advantage of LeBron's "inexperience". As good as a scorer Arenas is, he might be one of the worst decision makers with the ball in the NBA. The guy is a turnover machine, has one of the worst asst/to ratios in the league, and just from my personal perspective, has the worst shot selection in the league; especially now that Larry has reigned in Crawford in NY. The Wiz have to consider throwing some zone or sagging man2man at Cleveland. Have LeBron & the rest of the Cavs prove they can hit outside shots. I would love to see Mike Brown put LeBron onto Arenas for some possessions & see if his length effects Arenas. This series could go either way. In this instance, I am going with the best-player-on-the-floor tiebreaker. LeBron over Arenas all day.

(3) New Jersey vs. (6) Indiana
As good as the Nets have played down the stretch, I am sure they got the opponent they least wanted to see of the bottom 4 seeds in the East. Although, Indiana has had major injury problems(physical & mental) all year, which in turn led to chemistry issues & juggled line-ups, they are dangerous. Very dangerous. They had similar problems last year, and played the Pistons tough for 6 games. Carlisle always gets his teams to bring up their defensive intensity in the playoffs. The Pacers have O'Neal at the 4, which just happens to be the Nets' glaring weakspot. As underrated as Jason Collins is as a defender, he's better at guarding centers, not athletic 4s who like to float out--this should be an interesting subplot. With all that said, the Nets backcourt has looked nearly unstoppable the last couple weeks. Larry Frank really must emphasize to his troops to get out and run like the Nets of a couple years ago, cause the Pacers really don't like to play uptempo at all. It could come down to which team imposes its preferred tempo. This series could easily go 7. I could have easily chosen the Pacers, but they seem to go through too many lulls offensively and can look disjointed. Also, the shaky status of Tinsley does not help their case.

(2) Heat vs. (7) Bulls
Bottom line, the Bulls just don't have enough offensive firepower to compete with the Heat over the longhaul. I think the Bulls will sneak one game cause their superb defense will keep them in games & Gordon will probably go off one game from the 3 point line. Shaq & Wade will just be too much each night. The Bulls don't really have a big guy that Shaq needs to follow around on the perimeter defensively or get him caught in pick/roll situations (the bane of Shaq's existence). Although, I'm a huge Skiles fan (was robbed of Coach of the Year in '05) & he might just squeeze two wins out of his young squad.