Tuesday, May 17, 2005

NBA Update: The “Yeah, I Really Didn’t Mean That Whole Four Sweeps” Version

WARNING: In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is gonna be some explicit NBA stuff, meaning it should interest about three of you. Just take solace in the fact Star Wars comes out tomorrow night, it’s season finale time and I got my summer job at PennDOT, meaning I won’t be whining and making plans to work in an Erie fruit market anymore.

Last week at this time, sports pundits were talking about four sweeps, and why wouldn’t they be? Washington looked like they had no chance of handling Shaq and Flashw, the Mavericks were foolishly trying to outrun the Suns, the Sonics couldn’t score and got banged up by the rolling Spurs and the Pacers were finally running out of gas against their rival, the Pistons.

So what changed? Well, in the Washington-Miami series, not much, as the national sportswriters finally had to stop forcing LeBron, Carmelo, Kobe and T-Mac down our throats as the next MJ, mainly because Dwyane Wade showed that the Air Apparent doesn’t necessarily come announced. Wade improved to 8-0 in this year’s playoff and single-handedly stomped out any more “Shaq Got Robbed of the MVP” columns that were brewing. The Wizards need to make sure they resign Larry Hughes, then make an attempt at trading for Brad Miller, who would fit in perfectly in their offense, and they’ll maintain their status of “Advancing Into The Eastern Conference Playoffs Until They Meet The Heat”.

In the Suns/Mavs series, everyone is talking up Avery Johnson’s great coaching decisions, and while he deserves some credit, it’s a little simpler than that. The Suns have a very limited rotation, depending on getting a lot from a minimal amount of players. When one of those players, Joe Johnson, breaks his face, and another, Q Richardson, can’t find his shot, it’s incredibly difficult for everyone else to pick up the slack when they haven’t been asked to do that all season. Assuming Q finds his stroke, the Suns will be fine, especially with two of the next three in the Valley of the Sun. It’s nice to see Dirk finally decided to put in a nice game in Game Four, his first real quality outing of the playoffs.

I wish I could explain the turn around in the San Antonio/Seattle series with something other than “The Sonics Just Got Really, Really Hot”, but that’s all I have. Did you see Game Four? Ray Allen was knocking down fade-away pull-ups and arcing threes over Bruce Bowen like the All-Defensive First Teamer wasn’t even there. Luke Ridnour’s third quarter was ridiculous, as he was knocking down everything, along with dropping one of the most beautiful dimes you’ll ever see – the lefty, no-look, one-handed bounce pass between two Spurs. Tony Parker is getting into one of his funks, and without Speedy Claxton and Steve Kerr to bail him out like they did in 2003, he’ll need some Eva Longoria Loving or some Tim Duncan Discipline to get back on the ball and stop the bleeding. If Ridnour keeps outplaying Parker that badly for any period of time, someone else on the Spurs is going to have to step up huge.

Pacers/Pistons was the wild card series because of Indiana’s potential, and I meant to write about them after Game Two, but didn’t have time. Despite their best efforts, the Pistons are slowly morphing into the lackadaisical, “We already earned this” team they beat last year in the Finals. Did you hear the chatter after Game Three? “When we finally started playing well in the fourth, we dominated, so it’s up to us.” Considering the way Game Four went, they’re probably right, and it’s highly possible that the champs only have to play two quality games and they’ll win the series, regardless of what the Pacers throw up against them, but do you think that attitude will work against Miami? I don’t think this series is over, not with Jermaine O’ Neal yet to play well and a Big Game lurking in either Stephen Jackson or Reggie Miller. No matter how this series turns out, mad props to Jeff Foster for Game Two 20-rebound performance, which put him at a Mike Gansey level for the night.

The NBA: I love this game, and with three potential game sevens looming on the weekend, I think I’m going to love it even more. (Please give us one Game Seven – if either of these series ends in a two-game wooping by someone other than the Suns, it’ll be really disappointing.)

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