Links: Playoffs Diary Day Eight

by April 28, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

And it don’t stop. You know, this might be Day Nine of the Playoffs Diary — not really sure. Feels like 9 or maybe even 10. And we’re just now seeing the light at the end of the first round tunnel.

For the Wiz, that light is wearing a number 23 jersey. After Jay-Z officially got unofficially involved in this ridiculous Soulja Boy/DeShawn Stevenson/LeBron James feud, the Wizards sounded like they were fired up and ready to go. Until LeBron showed up. Again.

In Jack McCallum’s great book about the Suns, Seven Seconds Or Less, there’s a portion that takes place during the Playoffs against the Lakers, and the Suns staff can’t figure out what to do with Kobe Bryant. They’re torn between two options: Either they let Kobe get his and try to stop everyone else, or they focus everything on stopping Kobe and hope everyone else doesn’t beat them. As I recall, they end up sort of splitting the difference, and Kobe ends up splitting them.

For the life of me, with that roster the Cavs trot out night after night, I don’t understand why the Wizards don’t have two men on LeBron at all times. Prison Break West might hit an occasional three, but if you can take LeBron out of the game the Cavs shouldn’t be able to keep it close enough to even come down to a last-second shot.

And I’m sorry to tell you this Wizards fans, but when your team is led in rebounding in all four games by Antawn Jamison, you don’t have a championship team. Maybe you win one round, but that’s the best you can hope for. And it’s not going to improve until something major is changed. Glad to see that Darius Songaila signing worked out so well, though.

In Phoenix, the Suns figured out how to top the Spurs — they watched them miss shots. The Spurs shots a dismal 39 percent from the floor and the Suns got surprising performances from Raja Bell (27 points including 5-7 on threes) and Boris Diaw (20 points, 10 boards and 8 assists). The Suns won a do-or-die Game Four, 105-86. This doesn’t matter because the Suns aren’t going to win this series.

I think the bigger question in Phoenix is, What now? Everyone’s joked about Steve Kerr going back to TNT if the Shaq trade didn’t work out, but realistically, that’s not happening. Kerr was brought in by the owner to improve the team, and Kerr isn’t responsible for the Suns not playing a lick of defense for the last four years. So if/when the Suns lose again in the Playoffs without sniffing a ring, does that mean it’s time for Mike D’Antoni to go?

It’s an interesting conundrum. They’ve been so entertaining to watch and they made basketball in Arizona fun again. But they’re spinning their wheels and no really going anywhere. The thing is, of course, that it was D’Antoni who hatched this plan to make the Suns play the way they’re playing, and who pushed for a roster that (mostly) suits that style of play. So do you toss D’Antoni and start over? I’m guessing the easier answer is to bring in an assistant coach who specializes in defense and try to improve that way, although I think bigger picture, the Suns may be setting before our eyes.

Speaking of teams at the end of their ropes, the Mavs lost Game Four at home and lost their cool, too, as Jason Kidd got tossed in the fourth for flipping the human typo, Jannero Pargo, on a layup attempt. Six Hornets were in double figures, led by David West (24 pts) and Chris Paul, who rebounded from a subpar Game Three with 16 points, 8 assists and 7 boards.

The last and most predictable game of the day was in Philly, where the Pistons climbed out of a 2-1 hole and beat the Sixers, 93-84. We expect nothing less from a Flip Saunders-coached team, right?

Tomorrow night we have Toronto at Orlando, Boston at Atlanta, and then LA at Denver. Orlando and LA have a chance to move to the next round. The Hawks have a chance to prolong what feels like the inevitable. (And yeah, I’m trying to be as negative as possible so I don’t jinx anything.)

And I just got the official schedule from the NBA for Tuesday night — it’s gonna be a doozy (all times listed are Eastern):
Game 5 Philadelphia at Detroit 7:00 PM NBATV
Game 5 Dallas at New Orleans 7:00 PM TNT
Game 5 Utah at Houston 9:30 PM NBATV
Game 5 Phoenix at San Antonio 9:30 PM TNT

And finally, with all the bad blood between the Hawks and Celts following Game Three, I thought it was nice to see how supportive the city of Boston is being toward their new favorite team, the Hawks!