Links: Playoffs Diary Day One

by April 20, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

Welcome to the postseason. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this all year, trying to treat the regular season as the marathon, comprehending that not every game matters as much as we tend to believe at the time. Now we’re at the sprint. Every step counts.

I could be at the ballet today. Wifey had tickets to a Saturday matinee here in NYC. I convinced her, however, that the Playoffs were more important. And it’s going to be like this for the next three months. I gave up plenty of games the last six months. The next three are all mine.

And yours. I’m watching hoop every day for the next three months, and I’m going to post thoughts here every night, seven days a week. I’ll probably miss a day every once in a while, but I’ll try to get people to fill in from time to time, when I’m out.

I’m assuming you guys watched the games or at least saw highlights, so I’m just going to hit a few things here and let you guys talk it out down below…

Anyway, let’s start. I watched all of the first two games this morning, then had to escape from the apartment for dinner (though I went to a restaurant with a TV so I managed to catch bits and pieces of New Orleans/Dallas). Then came back and caught the end of Houston/Utah…and barely stayed awake. Both great teams, but not the most compelling series. When Houston was playing their best this season, they were balanced and playing as a team. Utah always plays like that, and I don’t think Utah can out-team the Jazz. They need someone to carry them, and T-Mac didn’t seem in the mood to carry much of anything tonight.

I didn’t see enough of N’awlins’ win to opine on it, but we’ll have notes up on SLAMonline soon enough. I picked New Orleans because I think they’re going to be the surprise team out of the West this postseason, and their game one win puts them on that road.

Today’s best game, obviously, was San Antonio/Phoenix. That’s why I picked San Antonio to win it all — even when they’re not playing well, like they weren’t for the first 28 minutes of the game, they can hang around, keep it close, and then in the fourth they know how to win games. It helps when Tim Duncan turns into Robert Horry at the end, but for whatever reason, San Antonio just has Phoenix’s number.

Some other random thoughts…

• LeBron James should be playing 48 minutes every game and touching the ball on every possession. No excuses otherwise. You’re telling me Danny Ferry made all those moves this season and this is still the best roster they could assemble? I’m sure LeBron loved hearing he’d have Wally Sexyback as his wing man for the Playoff run.

• Good to see Gilbert back and playing, but he’s obviously missing the explosiveness he used to have that made unguardable. Check his shot chart — only stuff outside the paint. He was hot in the second quarter today, but I think if you’re Cleveland you can live with Gilbert jacking up 35-footers.

• For having such tough perimeter players, Washington might have the softest frontline in the Playoffs. Defensively they didn’t present much challenge around the rim, and offensively Washington seems so reliant on the midrange stuff.

• Delonte West still looks like he just broke out of prison. And he shoots like he just crawled through five hundred yards of sh*t-smelling foulness I can’t imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to.

• Was the Cleveland crowd having a yellow out?

• I was texting someone to describe LeBron’s alley-oop today and the best way I could describe it was as “an all-time amazing alley-oop.”

• When did the Wizards decide they were the Bad Boys? They should be Princeton — quirky and fun with a smart offense. For all their veterans, they don’t seem to have much maturity on the court.

• My favorite line from a broadcaster today was when Ben Wallace accidentally kicked Caron Butler in the jewels, and upon watching the replay, Rick Carlisle said Butler got tagged “a little below the navel.”

• A great win for Cleveland. I picked Cleveland to win the series because I just don’t think LeBron is going to be denied, at least not by this Washington team. The problem is, LeBron has to be completely engaged on both offense and defense the entire time he’s on the floor for Cleveland to have a chance, and I don’t think he can maintain that level of concentration forever.

• Boobie Gibson got a star shaved into his head? I hope it’s a role playing star instead of a superstar.

• If Mark Jackson gets hired as coach of the Knicks, he should hire Jeff Van Gundy as his top assistant.