The Playoffs so Far (West)

So where do we stand?  With the Eastern Conference Finals starting in about 19 hours, and the Western Conference Finals to be set by about 6:30 PM Eastern time, I’ve got a boatload of reviewing to do if I want to actually cover all of the stuff that’s happened so far.  Well, then I guess I won’t.  Instead, I’ll just give some highlights both of my writing and my analysis to let you know what kind of reading you are in for.  Hold on to your hats, folks.

1) Spurs v Grizzlies – So I didn’t watch much of this series, but I definitely got the gist.  Spurs couldn’t stop the Griz inside and their offense, which had been great throughout the regular season was missing.  So the Spurs fell in 6 (although it should have been 5; I have a better chance of rolling snake-eyes 5 times in a row than for that sequence to play out ever again).  At some point, I’m sure, we’ll get to the rampant “they’re too old” speculation and what SA has to do, but for now let’s move on)

2)OKC v Denver – wasn’t a huge fan of either team going in, but did watch a number of games.  Basically, everyone thought it was going to be closer than it was going in.  In the end, though, OKC was simply better and the better team won.  I have no idea what Denver is – they traded their best player for the other team’s… well… team, and did fairly well for themselves.  Then they got trounced in the playoffs.  Who knows.  More summer speculation on them coming up (got to love how the losers get my interest).

3) Dallas v Portland – Portland was the team of the future 3 years ago, then had wretched luck, became a shell of their former selves, pulled off a steal of a deal (whatever crap they gave Charlotte for Wallace), and became competitive again… all in three years.  So when the media’s flameout darling (the press needs somebody to be their whipping boy) was matched up against them, everyone was calling for an upset.  Heck, even the Mavs tried their best to make that dream come true.  They almost let Brandon Roy on zero good knees beat them (almost as ghastly as watching the Heat fail to stop a one-armed Rondo a round later).  Anyway, all that’s to say that I definitely relished the opportunity to watch Dirk be awesome.

4)LAL v New Orleans – How the Hornets won two games still puzzles me.  I guess it’s just further evidence of how badly things are going for the Lakers.  The Hornets literally have Chris Paul and… nobody.  Here’s the rest of their starters: West – DNPIR; Landry – good, but not going to win you anything; Ariza – great role player, but not #2 scoring option; Okafor – again, fantastic role player, but offensive zero; Belinelli – here’s a rant: why would you get this guy (all Offense, no D) when you had a young, immensely talented 2-guard, Thornton on your bench all year?  He’s better than Belinelli in every way already.  So, yeah, Lakers should have won in 4 and obliterated the Hornets inside with side and outside with Kobe.  Instead, they got dragged to 6 games and moved on…

5) Memphis v OKC – fantastically weird series.  I haven’t been able to watch most of these games, but following them is so strange.  It never feels like one team, no matter how big their lead, is in control of the game or series.  Huge blown leads, huge turnarounds game-to-game have totally marked this series.  Two things from what I have seen – Durant looks like he hates basketball right now, which isn’t good for OKC fans.  I’ve never been a fan of Westbrook’s game, but if Durant is going to be as squeamish as he’s been looking for the last few games, then Westbrook’s doing the right thing.  Finally, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Randolph score live on TV.  Basically, that means that he scores in bunches and that I keep missing them.  However, it also means that he’s quiet for stretches of time.  Not sure what to make of that, yet, but hopefully I’ll have a better idea after I watch the game tomorrow evening.

6) Dallas v LAL – besides obviously putting a smile on my face, this series was quite astonishing. First, the underdog (clear underdog I might add) won in 4; next, the Lakers imploded so badly after/during game 4 that nobody knows quite what to make of it; finally, the Mavs looked unbeatable… but how much of that is simply a mirage?

Let’s put aside the Mavs for a second, though, and focus on the Lake-no-show.  They lost two at home to start the series with Kobe looking very average and Gasol looking like a zombie.  I don’t want to claim gnostic knowledge or anything, but it certainly looked at times like the Lakers were totally lost.  It’s as if they think they have 3 super-stars, but all three have a habit of disappearing at times.  Sometimes Bynum shows up (21-10 in game 3); sometimes Gasol dominates (15-11-7 in game 1; don’t tell me that was a “poor” performance); and sometimes Kobe takes over (game 1; 1st half of game 4).  But they all seem to disappear at other times.  They never looked like they had any fight whatsoever; Ficher and Artest looked old and lost; Odom was good, but was fighting a 1-man battle.  It was so incredibly weird.

Then, of course, everything came apart at the seams in game 4.  Kobe played 1 good quarter, Gasol never took his warm-up suit off, Bynum ended up taking his jersey off in protest of having his butt kicked, Fisher missed everything all night, Artest blew a dunk… even Luke Walton missed a pair of threes and looked horrible in the closing minutes.  Basically, there had to be more than just the Mavs being good and the Lakers bad/old/unfocused.  That’s how I feel and it seems like an awfully legitimate place to be standing.  They really do have serious “trust issues” as Bynum put it.  I hope we find out soon what those are.

Two final notes before moving on to the East.  First, the Lakers series shows that teams actually matter in basketball (shockingly).  For years, everyone’s been saying that all it takes is a super-star to win in the NBA.  Well, I think the Lakers’ internal meltdown, Denver’s resurgence post-Melo and Miami’s abysmal 9-8 start to the season show that “team” might actually mean something in the NBA.  Secondly, Bynum’s little elbow stunt on Barea (who by the way make cutting through the Lakers’ defense seem so easy a caveman could do it) should have garnered a longer suspension.  I went back and watched his shoulder to Gerald Wallace earlier this season.  It was horrible.  Bynum really needed to be punished for 10-20 games for A) essentially throwing a punch on a guy in midair B) showing that he hadn’t learned at all from his previous altercation c) showing no remorse after the game until about 3 days later (reading the ESPN report on the matter, it seemed like Bynum was owning up to it being a cheap shot, but if you listen to the tape of what Bynum says, the “embarrassed” comment is spoken as justification, not remorse.  Nine times out of ten, Barea would have been seriously hurt – the NBA should have thought about that before handing out its puny sentence.

Yours Truly,

Basketblogger

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    • Your favorite younger brother
    • May 15th, 2011

    mwahaha, I get to be the first commenter. At least I think so. Anyway, I think that it is kind of coincidence that I was just thinking of making a baseball trivia blog to salvage my boredom today. Yeah, you’re a funny child, basic point. And I don’t know if you were just trying to be sassy or you made a mistake when you said “First, the underdog (clear underdog I might add) lost in 4.”

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