Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Suns tie series, Celtics look to clinch series tonight

Both Western and Eastern conference finals series are competitive. A 2008 finals rematch of Celtics versus Lakers that looked inevitable this weekend, is now only probable. A Suns over Lakers result would be shocking, while the Magic coming back from down 3-0 would be unprecedented.

The Suns would have blown out the Lakers if Kobe Bryant didn't put the Lakers on his back and carry them from the second quarter to the end, finishing with 38 points, 6-9 on threes. The strength of the Suns (bench) outplayed the Lakers strength, front line size. The Suns second unit played high energy basketball, got stops with zone defense, and made every Lakers player outside of Kobe look exasperated. Suns coach Alvin Gentry liked the production of his second unit so much, he allowed them to play until about three minutes left in the game. At that point, the veteran starters on the Suns finished the Lakers by taking care of the ball and hitting free throws down the stretch.

I don't see the Lakers losing three in a row. Bench players play better at home, no matter the team, as the home crowd energizes subs. The Lakers rotation is not very deep, so they cannot afford an off night from Lamar Odom, and desperately need Shannon Brown to match the energy of the Suns bench. The Suns have confidence and momentum on their side going to LA. Look for Kobe to play more point guard to penetrate the Suns zone defense, and score early to diminish the Suns morale. If the Suns win game 5 in LA, Kobe will punch a few team mates in the locker room after the game.

The Eastern conference finals are still heavily tipped in Boston's favor. Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson carried the Magic past the Celts, partly thanks to an off night from Rajon Rondo, 9 points, 8 assists. It took an overtime period for the Magic to finish the die hard Celts.

The biggest dilemma for the Magic is Vince Carter, who has been very disappointing in this series. Carter went 1-9 with three points in game 4 and his confidence is obviously rattled. The Magic are almost too deep, a nice problem to have, but it leaves Stan Van Gundy with difficult choices for game 5. Does he stick with his proven veteran in Carter or does he go with Matt Barnes for competitive energy and physical toughness? JJ Reddick looked sharp beyond the arc and carried the team on a few possessions. Don't forget Mikael Pietrus, who can hit do damage with that little corner three ball. the Magic stay with Carter, as often it takes a horrific performance to motivate a player.

The key for the Magic to win: stop Rondo, stop the Celtics. Put the best defender on him and live with Pierce going off.

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