Thursday, May 27, 2010

Magic win game 5, down 3-2 in series

Technically, the Magic are on the brink of elimination down 3-2 in the Eastern conference finals to the Celtics, but after Orlando's win last night the pressure is on Boston. It wasn't an ordinary win, but a statement win (pardon the cliche). Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, and Brandon Bass physically beat up the Celtics. Glen Davis and Marquis Danials both suffered a concussions, Davis from a Howard elbow and Danials by Gortat. Rajon Rondo came back down to earth for the second consecutive game, scoring 19 and dishing only six assists.

Perhaps the most significant story of the game was Kendrick Perkins and his early ejection, as he racked up two early technical fouls, thus warranting an ejection. The first call was a no-look elbow to Gortat as he helped Paul Pierce up off the floor after a whistle, similar to the elbow from Kevin Garnett to Quinton Richardson in Boston's first round series against Miami. Garnett's shot was more malicious, but the situation, intent, and delivery were similar. Garnett's cheap shot cost him a one game suspension.

Perkins deserved his first tech, but the second was questionable. On the play, Perkins tried to root out Howard for low post position on a Celtics possession and was called for a foul away from the ball. he immediately turned to the ref, as he always does, gave a look of stupefied disbelief, turned around and audibly cursed the call as he shuffled back to the defensive end. Perkins, who honestly believes he has never committed a foul, could have avoided the second tech if he used better discretion on which calls to argue and which calls to let go. Perkins has accumulated seven techs in the post season and faces a one game suspension, however; the NBA will review the calls today and are likely to rescind the second tech and allow Perkins to play.

If the NBA does not rescind one of the techs and Perkins is suspended, the Celtics will be without two impact big men and be at a serious disadvantage, as Davis is unlikely to play. Rondo looks slowed by muscle spasms, Tony Allen has a sore ankle, Davis and Danials concussions, and Perkins on the edge of suspension.

The Celtics look old. Again.

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.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Warriors pick sixth in draft

The Warriors fell two spots in the draft to #6. This is another David Stern conspiracy to beef up the weak Eastern conference and improve ratings in two huge markets (Philly and DC). Okay, I'm not serious.

The fall from fourth to sixth pick doesn't make a difference. One mock draft has the Warriors taking Cole Aldrich, the 6'11" center from Kansas. (head scratch) Another has Wes Johnson, 6'7" forward from Syracuse, falling into the Warriors laps. The Warriors would be very fortunate if Wes Johnson is available when they pick sixth, but Al-Farouq Aminu, 6'8" SF from Wake Forest, would be a nice pick, too. I doubt DeMarcus Cousins will be available, but if he is, I hope they pass on him. He reminds me of Erick Dampier and is a project. It looks like the Warriors must rely on the free agent market or the players currently on the roster, to address the most glaring weakness: power forward/center.

Outside of John Wall and Evan Turner, the talent in this year's draft is evenly distributed. I don't see any players who can step in and lead a franchise face lift on a bad team, but there is a myriad of players who can can strengthen the bench of already good teams. This draft will not be like the draft of 2003 (1. LeBron, 2. Carmello, 3. D-Wade, 4. Bosh...). I can only see John Wall as a face-of-franchise player. This year's draft will help the best get better, as there will be solid players for the taking, who can make immediate impact and depth on the bench. #19,20,21,22 picks go to the Celtics, Spurs, Thunder, and Blazers respectively.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Warriors hope for high darft pick

I'm not ready to discuss LeBron until the season is over and the NBA champion is decided. The four remaining teams are great stories. The Celtics, older than most NBA analysts, beat up the Cavs and stole game one of the Eastern finals in Orlando. The Suns offensive power against the Lakers size and finals experience...

The Warriors are back in the conversation as the draft lottery order is decided this week. The Warriors hope to get one of the top picks and add another peice to a rebuilding roster. Steph Curry was the seventh overall pick last year and this year, the Warriors would be stoked on a top four choice. The popular choices to go in that order in this year's draft are 1. John Wall, PG, Kentucky 2. Evan turner, G-F, Ohio St. 3. Wes Johnson, G-F, Syracuse 4.) Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech. If the Warriors landed any of the top three guys, Monta Ellis trade talk could be taken seriously, as they would build around Curry and that a new blue chip player. Derrick Favors, predicted to go somewhere around fourth overall on many darft boards, would be a great fit for the Warriors roster as it stands. He is ultra athletic and skilled 19 year old. It would take a few years for him to make an impact on offense, but his size would help with the Warriors achilles heal: rebounding.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Suns sweep Spurs, Celts tie Cavs 2-2 on Rondo triple double

When have we seen LeBron look as foolish as he did when Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo took the ball to the rim on a fast break, only to drop off a behind the back pass as king James flew across the screen in attempt to block Rondo's would-be shot.

Rondo looked more king like and was the MVP of game 4, as he carried his Hall-of-Fame teammates to victory with a ridiculous triple double. Rondo scored 29 points, grabbed 18 boards, and made 13 assists. The Cleveland LeBrons don't look like a team that deserves to be in the Finals.

How can anyone not love Steve Nash? (I guess the Spurs don't) Nash gets a Tim Duncan elbow to the orbital bone on the eye brow and has to be stitched up to close the wound. His right eye is swollen shut like a boxer, yet he proceeds to hit a dagger three ball and continuously get in the lane. You gotta love his Canadian toughness, and you know he played hockey growing up. It doesn't matter if Nash breaks his nose, loses a tooth, or splits open his face. The guy is a champion and deserves a shot at a ring. It was only proper that the Suns go through the Spurs to reach the Western conference finals.

Nash and Stoudamire are so tough to stop in the pick and roll, especially with Amare's new skill of knocking down 15-17 foot jumpers. The not-so-secret weapon for Phoenix is our beloved Jason Richardson. Jason is a big, athletic two-guard who can score inside, knock down three pointers, and most importantly rebound his position extremely well. I can't think of a better rebounding guard. The Suns will be a worthy opponent for the Lakers grind-it-out style.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cavs look shaky, Lakers on track

Should Cavs fan be worried? Yes, not because of LeBron's sore elbow, but the MVP's future in Cleveland. You know how I like to make predictions. Most of the time I'm wrong, but every so often I get it right. Here's another one: Mike Brown will not be the head coach of the Cavs next season, as his team looks to be repeating history. The Cavs dominate the regular season, then stumble in the playoffs when LeBron can't carry the lead on his shoulders. The Boston Celtics are a real basketball team. They have a committee of leaders, several go-to scorers, committed defense, and play selfless basketball. The Cavs are younger, have an athletic advantage, and have the MVP. Their dependence on LeBron makes them a group of disjointed pieces, unstable and without a back up plan. I still think the Cavs will find a way to advance past the Celts, but they won't get over on Orlando.

Prediction: King James relocates his court to New York.

While I don't care for them, I never doubted the Lakers as best bet to make it out of the West. As the Warriors enjoy their summer, Bay Area fans don't have too much invested in any team playing now, however; I'll argue many are rooting for the Phoenix Suns and beloved former Warrior Jason Richardson. The Suns are looking good, as they now have a 2-0 series lead on the Spurs. Barring any Lakers injury, I don't see the Suns getting through LA to the finals (assuming the Suns finish of the Spurs).

My NBA Finals prediction of Lakers versus Magic looks safe at the moment. These teams defend the rim with solid interior players and have deep benches, ideal for the grind-it-out style that wins championships. A healthy Jameer Nelson gives Orlando the edge this time around.