Finally, at least for one night of NBA action, order has been restored. Both higher seed won tonight, sending Phoenix and San Antonio on to face each other in what should be a must-watch series in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Utah and Houston are fighting it out for the right to get slaughtered by whoever wins the Golden State/Dallas series.
Tonight’s two winning teams were an interest contrast. I thought Phoenix seemed just a little bit off. They won easily, yes, but they never really were tested and as Doug Collins aptly put it, they seemed to kind of “cruise.” (I bet Reggie Miller would have said that they “crewed.”) On the other side, San Antonio looked as crisp as I’ve seen them this postseason. They completely executed the Nuggets with their halfcourt offense, especially when they started making all those crisp interior passes between their big men.
I was wondering what would happen if the Lakers fell way behind. Would Kobe disappear like he did in Game Seven last year? He didn’t, though. In fact, he and Lamar (and Turiaf, to an extent) were about the only Lakers who played hard throughout. I guess there’s a chance that the other Lakers played hard, too, but they just aren’t very good. The one thing that kept occuring to me about the Lakers was how far they have to go to be a contender. More on that later.
And I can’t quite get a grip on the Nuggets. Just looking at their starting five, I don’t know if there’s anyone in particular I’d want to replace, because they’re all five above-average players. They just don’t seem to be able to consistently click as a team.
Anyway, a few random thoughts and notes from tonight…
• I think that since the NFL season ended, Pam Oliver signed a couple of extensions, if you know what I mean.
• And while we’re talking sideline reporters, if my mailbox is any indication, the breakout star of the postseason is far and away TNT’s Stephanie Ready. I might have to try and interview her for The Links or something.
• By the way, I don’t say this enough, but I just wanted to publicly thank all of our readers and commenters out there. As good as I think all of our SLAMonline writers are around here, are posts only get better when you guys start chiming in. So…thanks.
• A lot of times in the SLAM Dome we’ll be discussing a player and arguing about that guy’s position within the NBA hierarchy, the discussion/heated argument will turn to the guy’s rating. Is he overrated? Is he underrated? Or is he, in a phrase Khalid has coined, “rated right”? I thought about this while watching Carmelo tonight. He’s developed his offensive game to the point where he’s so polished and skilled now that he now basically demands a double team (he averaged 27 ppg over the series). I know he’s well-known and you guys know I’m prone to liking Melo, but could he still be a little underrated by most fans?
• Whenever Michael Finley scores in San Antonio, they should play a snippet of “Carribbean Queen” over the P.A. system. And I loved when Finley kind of stood up for Duncan and accused the refs of distracting Duncan after he missed a free throw. Finley got right in there and started barking at them. Every NBA team needs a vet like Finley.
• Does the fact that if I was in a shopping mall or maybe passing through an airport and I saw either Sean Corbin or Tom Washington passing through in street clothes and I would immediately know who they are mean that I watch too much NBA?
• I really wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Horry retired after this season. Watching him play now is kind of painful — he can only run in a straight line out there.
• It’s interesting that there’s an old school guard who’s gone from being a big-time player to a role player on every team that’s advanced: Finley, Lindsay Hunter, Adrian Griffin, David Wesley, Jalen Rose. And Jerry Stackhouse and Derek Fisher are still around, too. The only problem is that all those guys tend to get a lot of fouls called against them because they’re black.
• I want to give an unsolicited shoutout to VitaminWater, which has powered me through these late-night updates. That 50 Cent might not be the most talented rapper, but man can he design a flavor of VitaminWater. I predict Formula 50 will be his enduring legacy to the world.
• Before Suns games, when Cedric Ceballos is out on the court practicing his pregame introductions over the P.A. system, do you think Mike D’Antoni ever kind of sidles up to him says something like, “Don’t know if you heard, Ced, but Amare’s out tonight and we’re going to need you to suit up.” And as Ceballos starts to run back to the locker room, his dreams fulflled for a triumphant return to the NBA, D’Antoni just cracks up laughing and says, “Gotcha!” Think that ever happens?
• I saw somewhere yesterday that someone — it might have been Henry at True Hoop — was arguing that the Lakers should move Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd. I strongly disagree — I think this would be about the worst trade the Lakers could make. The Lakers would probably be a better regular season team with Kidd out there, but with Kwame Brown as your best big man, the Lakers would basically become what the Nets are now, a guard-heavy line-up with bigs who don’t have the hands to take advantage of Kidd’s terrific interior passes.
• During one of these games I started thinking about how some guys can go minutes or quarters at a time without getting a field goal attempt. This got me wondering: Who averaged the fewest shots per game in the NBA this year?
I looked it up. He finished 433rd out of 441 NBA players listed in this season’s NBA.com database. He played in 56 games and averaged a paltry 0.8 shots per game, a number so minuscule that it actually takes work to not shoot that much. Your winner?
And he’s white! I knew it! Conspiracy! Someone call the New York Times!