Playoff Bullets

Here are my quick thoughts on the playoffs:

  • The Nuggets have been the most surprising team in the playoffs thus far. Melo is making an image comeback. He is showing a lot of heart out there on the court. The Nuggets in general are playing inspired basketball. Nene is a force down in the middle and Kenyon Martin is the closest thing we have seen to "an enforcer" in recent memory. The Nuggets success, and George Karl's job, can all be traced back to Chauncey Billups. He has put this team on his back and showed them how to win. Chris "Birdman" Anderson and J.R Smith have become huge forces off the bench. I'd even go as far to say that the Nuggets have one of the top 3 benches in the league at this point. J.R Smith is an explosive scorer and Anderson is the hustle player you need to make the big block, get the big rebound, dive for the ball, or get the big dunk. What more can you ask for? This team is for real.
  • Dirk Nowitski clearly cannot carry the Mavs alone. The Mavs will lose this series, and no one would be surprised if they got swept. The Mavs need to reload this offseason and go after a player who can play alongside Dirk. Josh Howard is a great player, but another big time scorer or a defender would take the Mavs a long way. Kidd will be a free agent this summer which means two things. 1) 20 million in space and 2) Cuban can stop running stats to prove that the Kidd trade was a good one. It was not. The Mavs need to go big this summer as Cuban is one of the only owners in the league who can afford to spend money. Chris Paul anyone?
  • The Rockets will not go away easily. Everyone counted them out before this series even started. The series is sitting at 1-1 and the physical play shows no signs of tappering off. Blood has been drawn, elbows have been thrown, ejections have been handed out, and we have been treated to a series. This is the edge that Ron Artest brings. He brings a blue collar style of basketball to the Rockets who is ready to do the nitty gritty stuff that is essential to playoff success. I also don't want to hear that the Rockets are better without Tracy McGrady. I can assure you that Rick Adelman would love to see him out there as another offensive threat. Speaking of threats, the biggest threat to the Lakers is Shane Battier's defense. He has solidified that he is the best defender in the league against Kobe. Making Kobe work hard on every possession is as much as Adelman can ask for. Battier putting a hand right in Kobe's face is the most effective defensive strategy in basketball. Hands Down. This series is far from over.
  • The Lakers were exposed in Game 1 against the Rockets. The time off showed how vulnerable the Lakers were to physical play. It also showed how tough the defense was on the interior which kept the Lakers bigs from going off. The perimeter defense was solid in game 1 which caused the Lakers to shoot 2/17. In game 2, the Lakers flipped the script and came out gunning. What is worrisome for the Lakers is they are not playing good enough defense. They seem to just be putting up volume scoring without commiting on the defensive end. Expect PJ to fix that before this series is over. There is a team in Colorado that is much further along on the defensive front than the Lakers have been this playoffs. This is also one series that the Lakers do not have a distinct size advantage. It is a struggle for the Lakers big men down low to check Yao Ming, and the penetration in the lane has not been easy. Lot of work to do here for the Lakers.

  • The Magic will almost undoubtedly lose Alston for the next game. That will be a crushing blow to the Magic for game 3, but they can still win that game. In fact, they should beat the Celtics in the series. I don't see any reason why they lose this series. They outmatch the Celtics in size and if they limit their turnovers, this series should go to Orlando. Dwight Howard has to transform from class clown to proven team leader. This is the big test for the Magic. A series win against the C's will be a gigantic step for the organization. The encouraging thing is that this Magic team is essentially the same team as last year, and the improvement is drastic. I do think this is another series that goes to 7 games, but facing the Cavs in the next round is not something to look forward to. I think the Magic are the only team in the East who can legitimately challenge the Cavs. That series would be a treat for NBA fans. Orlando...please finish this.
  • The Celtics are beat up. Fatigue has clearly played a role in this series, and will become an even bigger factor as the series goes on. Yeah yeah...defending champs. They can overcome anything. No. Please don't kid yourself. The Celtics need KG. That is the end of it. Here is an interesting thought experiment. Lets imagine KG never came to the Celtics. The Celtics now have Pierce, Allen, and Al Jefferson. Jefferson got injured at the end of the season. Would Jefferson have a better chance to come back during the playoffs than KG? Would the Celtics have won the championship last year with Jefferson instead of KG? Give that some serious thought. I think the Celtics would have still won the championship last year, and this year, Jefferson would probably be able to come back, or at the very least, have a better chance to come back than KG. This playoff season has brought the emergence of Rajon Rondo. He has lived up the potential that he has. The success of a healthy Celtics team rests on how well Rondo can play. He has 4 triple-doubles this playoff season, the first player since Jason Kidd. Rondo is for real. Injuries have decided this postseason in the East. A healthy Celtics team on the court means a very different outcome. Next year.
  • The Cavs are playing flawless basketball. I'm wondering whether the Cavs are actually this good or their competition has been this bad. Lebron is the MVP and he is playing like it. There has been no legitimate defense against Lebron, and I don't know if such a thing is possible. The one concern for the Cavs is the lack of challenge for the Cavs. If you buy into the "Must be battle tested before the finals" menality, then no, the Cavs are not ready, and hopefully the Conference Finals will provide that test for the Cavs. If you buy into the "Bring on anything, and we are ready" menality then yes, the Cavs have what it takes to live up to any challenge. Not much else to say about the Cavs. Their play says all that needs to be said.
  • The Hawks? Have fun on your summer vacation next week! This series is over.