Monday, April 25, 2005

Day Two-NBA Playoffs
By Zach

So, hopefully you read what I wrote about the first four games of the playoffs. Today, 4 more games and 10 more hours of TV.

Miami 116, New Jersey 98
A really disappointing game for the Nets. Not so much that they lost to the Heat, after all, they are the 1 seed. But the Nets failed to control any facet of the game. They allowed the Heat to shoot a blistering 59.2% from the field (and only shot 43.6% themselves), they were outrebounded, sent the Heat to the line 9 more times, and wasted a good three-point shooting effort (10-22) by letting the Heat shoot 9-15. In other words, they got waxed. And all this happened despite the fact that their nemesis, Shaquille O'Neal, didn't really do much, scoring 17 and grabbing 11 boards. Still, the Nets played terrible defense. They couldn't keep Dwyane Wade out of the lane, as he scored 32, and they did a poor job rotating out to shooters, as Damon Jones hit 7-9 three pointers, and they were almost all wide open shots. Even when they weren't hitting threes, the Heat were getting open mid-range shots for Christian Laettner and Udonis Haslem. On offense, the Nets had some success early on getting Nenad Krstic open for mid-range shots of his own, but the shooting woes of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter doomed them. Kidd picked it up in the third quarter, but the Heat just kept hitting shots of their own. Still, there is some hope for the Nets. They don't have to win every game, just more then the Heat. And Richard Jefferson played 23 minutes and didn't look too rusty. Still, this series is the Heat's to lose.

Game 2: Chicago 103, Washington 94
Another game that proved that coaches who can't control their players will struggle to win games. Eddie Jordan is, I think, a good coach. But he couldn't get the Wizards to take a good shot down the stretch. That, more than Ben Gordon (30 points) or Andres Nocioni (25 points, 18 rebounds, 1 funky goatee), killed the Wiz. Gilbert Arenas looked like he had no idea where the basket was, Larry Hughes never regained his first-half rhythm, and Antawn Jamison was uninvolved. Neither team had much playoff experience, but only the Wizards looked lost. The Bulls did a tremendous job of getting the ball in the hands of the guys they wanted to take shots down the strecth, Gordon and Kirk Hinrich. The biggest concerns for the Wizards are that Brendan Haywood was fairly ineffective, and that Kwame Brown, who was, got hurt late. He apparently bruised his right knee and will be evaluated tomorrow. For all the criticism he's recieved after being the #1 overall pick in 2001, he's become a pretty damn good front court option, scoring 13 and grabbing 9 boards in 35 minutes off the bench. But even with him, the Bulls outrebounded Washington by 10. Sure, Nocioni's 18 had a lot to do with it, but when Chris Duhon had 10 boards, something isn't working. With Arenas and Hughes looking to release on the fast break, the Wizards need all of their big men active to get those defensive boards. Despite the big win for the Bulls, their first playoff win since 1998, this series looks like it's far from over.

Game 3: Denver 93, San Antonio 87
The ten-minute fourth quarter stretch when San Antonio didn't make a shot goes down as one of the oddest things I've ever seen in sports. Three or four minute draughts are one thing, but they practically went an entire quarter without making a single field goal. Clearly, Tim Duncan isn't at full strength. But just as clearly, for all the talk about Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili being great, they're not ready to carry this team. Neither did a damn thing in the fourth, as the each missed several open shots. But, as Aaron has mentioned, the Nuggets deserve a lot of credit for putting out a great defensive effort. They have the kind of team that can really bother the Spurs, especially with Duncan ailing, because they can give TD a lot of different looks, with Kenyon Martin, Nene, and Marcus Camby all defending him at times. But there are warning signs for Denver. They're not getting 31 points from Andre Miller again any time soon. Plus, they had a ton of trouble keeping Nazr Muhammed out of the paint. They did what they had to, they got a game in San Antonio. But while it's still hard to picture the Spurs bowing out in the first round, it got a lot easier after the win tonight.

Game 4: Phoenix 114, Memphis 103
This game showed every reason why I'm not sold on the Suns. Yeah, they shot nearly 50% from behind the arc, and they outrebounded the Grizzlies. But they also went through prolonged stretches where they seemed to have no clue how to execute. Plus, had Memphis not been totally inept, they could easily have choked this game away with poor shot selection and clock management at the end of the game. The fact is, once Memphis realizes that they have to stay at home on the perimeter and make Steve Nash hit tough shots in the lane, they'll be able to hang with the Suns. Look, the Suns are fun to watch, but they're paper-mache thin, and I just can't see them beating a more disciplined, smarter team.


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