Links: Weekend Playoffs Running Thread

by Lang Whitaker

1:25 a.m. MONDAY
The most exciting part of either of the two late games tonight — Hawks/Heat and Hornets/Nuggets — might have been when someone tossed a beer on the court at the end of the game in Denver. Both games turned into blowouts, Hawks and Nuggets cruising to easy wins. And the best finish of the Playoff might have gone down in Orlando earlier.

I listed three things I took from the Hawks/Miami game here on Basically, the Hawks dominated the Heat in every facet of the game. D-Wade got his, scoring 19, but Miami had no answer for Josh Smith, who was so active he made Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem look like telephone poles in comparison. I predicted on Friday the Hawks won win this series pretty easily, and if Game One is any indication, it might be easier than I thought. (And remember what I wrote about Joe Johnson not being much of a drop off from Dwyane Wade? Joe had 15-2-5 and 3 to’s; Wade had 19-5-5 and 8 to’s. I’m just saying.)

In Denver tonight, I think the Nuggets proved they are for real. They can play uptempo, downtempo, can defend, are versatile, have depth. the thing that scares me with them is that George Karl is the coach, and he always seems to be able to screw things up in the Playoffs. Last night the Hornets so bad that it didn’t matter, but I’m curious to see if Karl can keep them motivated for the next two months. And it’s too bad there’s no such thing as a hot hand, because Chauncey Billups made 8 out of 9 three-pointers.

I didn’t think Andre Iguodala had it in him. I thought he a step below being a franchise player, but he stepped up tonight and pretty much tugged the Sixers back from an 18-point deficit to beat Orlando in O-Town. The whole time I watched, I was thinking: Remember when I said as a Hawks fan I’d rather play Miami than Philly in Round One? That was why! The Sixers are a dangerous, dangerous team. I think they lack the basic fundamentals to win a game that’s a low-scoring, halfcourt game, but if you try to run with them, forget it. Orlando learned that the hard way. Slamadamonth contender might be when Anthony Johnson crushed one of Theo Ratliff.

Charles Barkley’s advice for the Jazz? “Start packing.” The Lakers controlled them from start to finish tonight. If this goes 5 games it’s an upset. Chuck also said, “You know you’re in trouble when the toughest guy on your team is your coach.”

We made it throught he weekend! And now I’ve got a meeting at 10 a.m. So I better get a few hours sleep. Two days down, about 50-something to go…

3:41 p.m. SUNDAY
We’re nearing halftime of the Lakers/Jazz game, and the Lakers are thus far having no trouble handling the Jazz. With Okur out (with a “mild hamstring strain,” the Jazz are really behind the 8-ball. I figured Okur was going to provide their best opportunity to stretch the Lakers defensively, to draw Bynum or Gasol or whoever outside the lane and give Boozer a little more room inside. I don’t know how bad an injury Okur has, but if you’ve got any sort of injury that is actually “mild,” how can you not be playing in this game right now?

Other quick news: KG is prolly going to have surgery ….. And Doc on the chances of Scalabrine playing in this series while returning from a concussion: “So far he hasn’t passed out, so we’ll see.” ….. Melo says the Nuggets will beat the Hornets in 7 ….. The Sixers are going to use an injured Sam Dalembert and the 126-year-old Theo Ratliff against Dwight Howard ….. Unrelated to the Playoffs but full of awesome quotes: Kenny Anderson wants to become a head coach. “I might have had things in my personal life, but who hasn’t? Who hasn’t? My first marriage, I was 23 years old … that’s 16 years ago. I’m not ashamed to talk about that. I’m in my third marriage now. I’m married, I’m stable. I’m a whole different man. I don’t do those things. But that’s the perception.”

Anyway, lots of action today…and I can’t wait. I’ve been looking forward to this Hawks/Heat game for about a week, so I hope the game is at least worth watching — I don’t want a blowout either way…well, unless the Hawks blow out the Heat. I’d like that.

If you’re a Jazz fan and you need a laugh, check this out.

1:45 a.m. SUNDAY
Got home late from dinner tonight and turned on the Rockets/Blazers game. It was the third quarter and the Blazers were down by 104 points. It was already so out of hand that Nate McMillan had poor Greg Oden in the game. I thought, Oh well, the Blazers can play Game Two and then regroup when they get back to their homecourt. And then I remembered they were playing at home. Oops. I didn’t watch much of this game at all but I’m guessing Portland’s troubles were at least related to refereeing, because every time I saw Portland play this season, Brandon Roy flopped more than an Italian soccer player and got calls and went to the line a lot. (Just checked the box scores and B-Roy shot only 1 free throw. Also, I wish more Americans knew that Italian soccer players flop a lot so I could’ve channeled Yeezy and written Roy flops so much he can speak Italian.)

I wrote the other day that I couldn’t vote for Rick Adelman as Coach of the Year because the Rockets always seemed to refuse to work the ball inside to Yao. Yao went 9-9 tonight. I’m just saying…

Dallas hasn’t won a road game in the Playoffs since they went to the 06 Finals, but I wasn’t shocked that they marched into San Antonio and beat the Spurs. The Spurs look dunzo, worn out and exhausted. Without their zig-zagging Argentine off the bench, and with Tim Duncan hobbled, San Antonio lacks the atleticism to compete for a title this spring. Can they at least give Dallas a run for their money? The Spurs managed to contain Dirk, but Josh Howard got an early start celebrating 4/20, emerging from the cloud of some he was in all season to puff in 25 points and lead Dallas to the win.

We didn’t talk about the Cavs/Pistons game earlier, but we don’t have to because that game was boring as heck. The Pistons didn’t let Cleveland run away with it, but the Pistons were never in this to begin with.

3:53 p.m., SATURDAY
Now THAT was how you start the Playoffs. An overtime battle in Beantown. The defending champs, hobbled but spirited, come out and compete from the get, but eventually just can’t keep up with Derrick Rose and the Bulls. Chitown wins in OT, 105-103. The Celtics had the game to win, as the Bulls committed dumb fouls and sank a series of mildly ridiculous shots. Rondo had 29, 7 and 9, and Pierce went for 23. But Ray Allen scored 4. Just 4. (Went 1-for-12 from the floor.)

Chicago got a nice game from former Home Improvement child star Ty Thomas, who scored 16 points on a series of jumpers, and Joakim Noah had 17 boards (and one particularly dumb foul late in regulation). Rose showed why I voted for him as Rookie of the Year, pushing the ball again and again, attacking relentlessly. He finished with 36 points and 11 boards. This point total apparently tied some sort of record nobody cares about previously held by Kareem Adbul-Jabbar. (Not the Hipster Grifter, Korean Abdul Jabbar.)

“Did you know that? Did you know you a record held by tied Kareem?” ESPN sideline reporter Nancy Lieberman demanded this information from Rose, almost insinuating that Rose had tried to score EXACTLY 36 points, no more, no less, but exactly 36, only because Kareem had once done this. Rose said no, he hadn’t known this. He didn’t seem to care. I know I didn’t care — I was waiting to see if Lieberman would ask him about, you know, the actual game. She didn’t.

Cavs are up early on Detroit. Breakout star of the NBA Playoffs after one game? Vinny Del Negro’s dad, who sits on the bench with the players and probably has to listen to them all complain about why his son won’t put them in the games.

12:30 p.m., SATURDAY
As i sit down to type this it’s 12:30 p.m. and my main man Joakim Noah just opened the 2009 Playoffs with a dunk. Gonna be a full weekend with a schedule jammed with games, and I’m intending to post sporadically throughout the weekend, since I’ll probably be sitting here watching games for the two days straight. And really, all these early games are just just the run up until tomorrow night’s Hawks/Heat game.

Anyway, thought I’d create someplace for us to keep the Playoff chatter going all weekend, and I’ll chime in occasionally up here in this part of the post. I’ll also be tweeting from time to time, I’m sure.

Oh, and one more thing — yesterday in The Links we talked about the recent “hot hand” study. I got this email late last night from my Dad…

As I was reading your hot hand article, a question was formulating in my mind. And then you answered it. At the end of a game, you are not going to go with Jordan just because he has hit his last 3 shots ???????

I know this is the reason I’m not coaching, but I go with the hot hand. Then there is baseball. You pinch hit for a guy in the 9th inning just because he has got a hit in his last 3 at bats ????? I know Bobby Cox would !!!!!

Um, so obviosuly my Dad and I are on different sides of the Bobby Cox coin (considering I’m writing a book about him and all). Otherwise, I agree with ya, Dad.

Oh, and also last night I was watching a rerun of the 2004 Jordan Brand Classic on ESPNU, a game that featured guys from Al Jefferson to Rajon Rondo. Dwight Howard was also out there, and the play-by-play announcer asked color commentator Jay Bilas which NBA player he thought Howard compared to.

Bilas’s answer? Kwame Brown! Thanks, ESPN!

One other thought: everyone’s talking about KG being out, but don’t forget the Celts won the title last year without Perkins, who was injured. This year is Perk is back, and he’s going to have to be a beast for the Celts to have a chance.

Anyway, as always, talk it out…