After dropping some thoughts on the East , here are some items that have bubbled to the top of my head while watching the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. When the Pacers make the playoffs again (don't worry, they will make the playoffs again), call me a hypocrite for complaining about the down time between games in round one because right now I'm loving the expanded round one schedules which allow maximum hoop watching.
SAS-PHO: The greatest first round series of all time has morphed into an anti-climactic cruise to the second round for the San Antonio Spurs, with a boring hack-a-Shaq grind dominating the runnin' and funnin' Suns. Yes, the Suns rose up for a blow out win in Game 4, but asking the Suns to repeat that result three more times is a bit much. Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal can't carry a championship team on their own, while Tim Duncan, Manu Ginbobili, and Tony Parker have no problem doing the heavy lifting for the Spurs. Game 1 was one for the ages. If the Suns could've pulled that win out, this would probably be the series everyone was hoping for. Instead the Suns couldn't close the deal while the Spurs took full advantage of every little opening the Suns offered. Duncan for three? Crazy. Like many, I admire the Spurs' hoop excellence but I'm ready for a new champion. Although, Game 1 win had me briefly re-thinking things. Did you see Timmy baring his basketball soul and all the emotions within for all of us to see? That was cool. As was his post-game interview that had him giggling with delight. Unfortunately, it has been business as usual since that wildly, wonderful Game 1 experience. Hopefully the Suns can make this series worth watching again before it ends.Technorati Profile
LAL-DEN: Quick, close your eyes and spin your mind back to August of last summer. Did you have the Lakers as favorites to go to the Finals? How about the playoffs? Yeah, I didn't think so. The Denver Nuggets won 50 games and underachieved with plenty of talent to spare, yet the Lakers are carved them up so bad there's talk of coaching changes and roster upheaval in Denver. Kobe Bryant has his mates humming along in the first round while Phil Jackson is left to tweak his role players in the media to make sure no one gets too comfortable. I have a friend who live in Denver and used to always refer to the local NBA team as the No Guts. I always figured those days were gone with Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony in town. Maybe not. Thanks for playing, Denver. Sorry, there are no lovely parting gifts for getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.
UTH-HOU: Utah is off and running with a 3-1lead in a strange series that has seen the road team win three of the four games so far. It is too easy to say that these teams were heading in opposite directions when the playoff started. The Jazz were primed and ready for the post season with a healthy roster and some successful playoff experience under the belt of team leaders Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Meanwhile, the Rockets were still trying to re-ignite after their incredible winning streak during the regular season. Still without Yao Ming and with point guard Rafer Alston dinged up, no one would blame them if they lost the series. Hmmm, I'm sure Tracy McGrady doesn't buy that line. T-Mac is now sitting on another first round playoff loss and you know what, the criticism is valid. These are the playoffs and there are no excuses. There's no time to get tired in the fourth quarter no matter how much you dominate the first three quarters. I feel like these two teams are reflections of their respective coaches. Rick Adelman is a great NBA coach and a nice guy. Jerry Sloan is a great NBA coach and a tough guy. Sloan's guys embrace the challenge and increased intensity of the playoffs because Sloan demands it. Seems to be working out pretty well for the Jazz.
NOH-DAL: The Chris Paul era of the NBA is off and rolling as he and his young New Orleans Hornets teammates have exposed the Dallas Mavericks as Western Conference pretenders once and for all. The Hornets come at you with the young, active bigs in Tyson Chandler and David West, with Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright providing energy inside off the bench. The front court is a wonderful compliment that allows CP3 to run the game as he sees fit and also open plenty of Peja looks. As for the Mavericks, they're suddenly a mess. Mark Cuban is a loyal owner, always standing up for his guys, but he's going to have to give some hugs as some of his guys leave town. I don't think simply replacing Avery Johnson will do the trick. Looks like Cubes will have plenty of time to analyze the situation since the Mavs figure to be in offseason mode real soon.