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Blog Entry

Playoff Post-Ups

Posted on: April 19, 2010 11:41 am
 
Ron Artest is nuts, Kevin Garnett is emotional, Jameer Nelson is back and the Trail Blazers are very much alive. These are just some of the things we learned from the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs. As we gear up for Game 2s, we examine all of it in a special playoff edition of Post-Ups:

• The Heat-Celtics series has lived up to the hype as the most intriguing Eastern Conference confrontation – in every sense of the word. With no Kevin Garnett for Game 2 Tuesday night due to an ill-advised elbow to Quentin Richardson’s chin, the pressure is on Boston to preserve home-court advantage without the most important member of the Big Four – at least on the defensive end. Something tells me it won’t be quite as easy to clog Dwyane Wade’s lanes to the basket when Garnett isn’t standing underneath it. But the BullsJoakim Noah weighing in from afar with his opinion that Garnett is a “dirty player” should remind us that winning without Garnett in the playoffs is nothing new to the Celtics. With tempers flaring already, this could quickly develop into the most contentious first-round series, especially if the Heat steal home court in Game 2.

• Watching the two Western Conference games Sunday night made it clear that I picked the wrong upset out there. It’s only one road game, and I saw enough encouraging things from the Spurs to conclude that we haven’t heard the last of them in this series. But the Mavs look like they have too much for San Antonio to handle. In Phoenix, what the Trail Blazers did Sunday night without Brandon Roy puts that series at the top of my radar out West. First, it was another inspiring coaching job by Nate McMillan, who has guided this team through a minefield of injuries all season. The Suns clearly don’t want to be involved in playoff games that barely hit triple digits on the scoreboard. But contrasting styles aside, the Blazers’ 105-100 victory brought one glaring omission from the Roy injury analysis to the forefront: The Blazers are embarrassingly deep. In Roy’s absence, Portland got significant contributions from Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster (those consecutive blocks were monstrous), Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless. Which brings us to a very important subplot to this series: The future of the Blazers’ front office. To me, Game 1 was a testament to the job Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn have done putting this team together. Now, inexplicably, the fired Penn is watching on TV and Pritchard is clinging to his job by a thread. If the Blazers win this series, something tells me people other than those who deserve the credit will be taking bows.

• Jameer Nelson reminded us that neither Dwight Howard nor Vince Carter is the most important piece of their quest for a title. With 32 points in Orlando’s series-opening victory over Charlotte, Nelson took a major step toward restoring his teammates trust that he’s a point guard capable of guiding them to a championship. After missing most of the playoffs last season, Nelson entered the 2009-10 season in less than ideal shape, then got hurt again and struggled with his confidence and consistency. The Magic aren’t going to play many postseason games in which they get a combined 17 points from Howard and Carter. But if Nelson can maintain anything close to the impact he exerted on Game 1, Orlando will be extremely difficult to beat.

• Was it Phil Jackson’s mind games or Ron Artest’s brute force that forced Kevin Durant into a miserable playoff debut? It hardly matters; Artest is the problem that Durant will have in front of him for at least three more games. Your initial impression may be that Artest’s spray-painted head was the most interesting development in Game 1. To prove otherwise, I take you back to a conversation I had with him in the visiting locker room in Oklahoma City after Durant scored 26 points on Artest in the Thunder’s 91-75 victory over the Lakers on March 26. Durant was 14-for-15 from the foul line that night, and the Lakers were thoroughly disinterested in the festivities. But the most interesting tidbit that emerged from that game was the following admission from Artest regarding what concerns him about defending Durant. “Nothing,” Artest said. “My whole mind frame is locked up. That’s all I’m worried about is how I’m gonna lock up, lock up, lock up, lock up, no matter what happens. And I don’t care what the other guy will do. I don’t really care what he can do. I don’t even study these guys. You know? I don’t even study them. I’ve got to worry about what I’m doing. Am I taking care of my body? And if I’m doing that, then I know that everything will be all right.” The most physical and feared defender in the playoffs doesn’t even study his opponent? Like much else that is revealed by conversations with Artest, you can take that for what it’s worth. But judging from Game 1 of the Lakers’ title defense, Artest is in rare form – exactly the form the Lakers expected when they signed him.

• I fail to see how the Bucks have enough size without Andrew Bogut to make a series of it with Atlanta. So Game 2 Tuesday night in Atlanta is all about the Hawks and whether their past playoff experience has taught them anything. As underdogs against the Celtics and Heat in the past two postseasons, the Hawks weren’t called upon to exert the kind of killer instinct that is required to put away an outmanned, demoralized opponent. That is what the Hawks must do in Game 2. The slightest hint of complacency could easily result in needlessly squandering home-court advantage and giving life to an opponent that otherwise would have none.

• Utah-Denver is a different story. Despite George Karl’s absence, the Nuggets are playoff-tested enough – and have enough leadership from Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony – to avoid a letdown in Game 2 Monday night against the injury-ravaged Jazz. With Carlos Boozer hurting, Andrei Kirilenko out and Mehmet Okur lost for the rest of the postseason with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, the Jazz have reached the end of the road. It is up to the Nuggets to have the poise and ruthlessness to show them the way. If there’s a silver lining for Utah, it’s that several frontcourt combinations including Kyrylo Fesenko instead of Okur have performed surprisingly well. According to adjusted plus/minus guru Wayne Winston, a frontcourt of Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles and Fesenko performed 13 points better than average this season. With Boozer instead of Millsap, that combination was 26 points better than average. Regardless of who fills in for Okur, Utah’s fate in this series will be determined by whether Jerry Sloan can find a defender – or defenders – who can be physical enough with Anthony to get him out of his comfort zone. My honest guess: Nope.

• I don’t have much to say about Bulls-Cavs, other than 1) I agree with Joakim Noah that downtown Cleveland is a little on the, um sleepy side. (Cleveland is all about the suburbs.); and 2) Mike Brown and Danny Ferry have to be smiling at the playoff scores produced by the opening weekend. After the NBA’s highest-scoring regular season since 1994-95, the opening weekend of the playoffs fell back in line with what postseason basketball is all about – defense and halfcourt execution. Only two opening games – Utah-Denver and Portland-Phoenix – saw both teams hit the century mark. In three of the other six games, neither team scored 100. This trend bodes well for teams that favor a slower pace and thrive on holding opponents below 100 points. Teams that should be concerned: Phoenix, which allowed the most points per game among the 16 playoff teams (105.3), Denver (102.4), Dallas (99.3), and Utah (98.9).

• Check out CBSSports.com’s special NBA playoff blog for news, updates, video, links to playoff coverage around the country, and full-game simulations from NBA2K10.
Category: NBA
Comments

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: April 20, 2010 6:54 pm
 

Playoff Post-Ups

Great call on Utah-Denver game 2, Berger.  You were right, the Nuggets didn't have a letdown Monday night...unfortunately, neither did Utah!!  Guess they didn't read your column...



Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2010 4:12 pm
 

Playoff Post-Ups

The overall picture that all should take from Sunday's game is that the Suns came out flat, and lost to a team that was missing its best player. It also proves what everyone thought, the Suns do not match up well versus the Blazers. Steve Nash is a huge defensive liability to the suns, that was evident when Andre scored 31 going 10-17 shooting. As far as getting Amare in foul trouble that will be easy when the Blazers are being forced to give the ball to LA every 3 possessions. I am not saying that the Blazers will win the series, what I am saying is that they have all of the momentum and confidence and if the Suns dont win this game big then they will LOOSE in 7 games. Lastly congrats to the Blazers for signing Camby to an extension. Great pickup.



Since: Apr 27, 2008
Posted on: April 19, 2010 9:52 pm
 

The Point is...

This series shouldn't take six games. If the Suns are as good as they've been proclaiming, Suns fans have been proclaiming, and Phoenix radio and TV personalities have been screaming from Camelback Mountain, they should not lose that game last night. All of the Amare' Stoudemire excuses of, "not taking the Trail Blazers seriously", are totally bogus. Bottom line, the Suns aren't that good. Their defense is average at best, as evidenced by giving up 105 to the Blazers with no Brandon Roy.

What the Suns should do is:

A) Concnetrate on the next game rather than making plans for the NBA Finals.
B) Quit giving the Blazers bulletin board material. Are you listening Jared Dudley?

and

C) Learn to play some freaking D. Although it's a bit late for that.

The Suns certainly shouldn't lose to a team decimated by injuries (on their 3rd center this season) and missing a Top 10 player, not even one game... If the Suns are playoff ready.

They're not. They're soft, with absolutely no inside presence. Local talk show guys are now lamenting the loss of Robin Lopez. As if the Blazers aren't missing somebody with just a wee bit more talent. These guys may not even punch a ticket for the next round, much less the Finals.

What a crock. But I guess if we all go on  what Suns fans and announcers hope for... The Suns will be fitted for rings in June.

Yeah, that's gonna happen.

Sweet 16 in 2010.

Peace 



Since: Dec 20, 2009
Posted on: April 19, 2010 7:20 pm
 

Playoff Post-Ups

I totaly agree.  Plus Amare probably won't play that bad the rest of the way.  Portland played to win.  Phx didn't.   With their backs agsint the wall, Phx will play harder on every phase.  Amare will play like he can.  etc. etc.

Phx in 6



Since: Oct 10, 2006
Posted on: April 19, 2010 4:24 pm
 

Playoff Post-Ups

Here's why I don't put much stock in the Blazers win over the Suns; I've seen this story before.  Look at what happened.  Marcus Camby has a great defensive game and frustrates the oppositions main big man.  Andre Miller goes off for 31 points, including a big 3, and outplays the opposing point guard.  Hmm, sounds a lot like April of 2005, when Miller and Camby were suiting up for the Nuggets.  The Nuggets opened up the playoffs at San Antonio;  Camby shut down Duncan, including holding him scoreless in the 4th quarter.  Miller went off for 31 points, including a half-court 3 to end the first half.

So what happened after that?  The Spurs went on to win the next 4 games and take the series in 5.  The thing is, you just can't count on Andre Miller to keep playing like that throughout the entire series.  The guy is a 14 point per game scorer in his career, 17 point per game scorer in the playoffs.  He will come back down to earth, probably for the rest of the series (he might have one more big game in him), and the Suns will still win the series.  I thought this series would be over in 5 at the most; the Blazers might push it to 6 but I don't see it going any farther than that, and the Suns will still take it.



Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 19, 2010 3:44 pm
 

Playoff Post-Ups

sorry about the spam. I don't know what happened...



Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: April 19, 2010 3:42 pm
 

Playoff Post-Ups

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"The Blazers are embarrassingly deep." Couldn't have said it better myself. Great article Ken. Like you, I am most excited for the Blazers' series and especially looking forward to their domination over Phoenix and then the Mavs in Round 2. If Portland keeps up their wonderful defense and aggressive offensive style they have the means to go very far. Watching last night’s game, Stoudemire seemed to be the biggest weapon Phoenix had against Portland. As soon as he fouled out the game belonged to the Blazers. Game 2 plan: drive to Stoudemire to make him foul out. As long as the big men can hold their own Portland should thrive.

Blazers win in 5 over PHX

Blazers win in 6 over DAL




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