Sunday, April 22, 2007

NBA Playoffs: Day One Stars

Putting together a team of All-Stars for the first day of the playoffs is just the kind of excessive post I'm known for at the beginning of either the NCAA Tourney or the NBA playoffs. So just bear with me while I get it out of my system.

After watching 10 hours of basketball (balanced nicely against 17 minutes spent working on a crucial paper for law school), I've decided on my All-Star team for the opening day.

PG - Ben Gordon. He's not even really a point guard, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Okay, bad joke, but without Gordon's ability to slide over to the point, run the offense (11 assists), stay aggressive, and keep Duhon off the floor, they let a golden opportunity slip away today against the Heat. (Note: there was a lot of really impressive stat sheets produced by point guards today. Gordon was 24-7-11, J-Kidd went 8-10-15, Billups had 22 and 11, and Alston went 9-11-8 with 2 steals. And those were just the winners. Deron Williams went 15-9-9 in a losing effort and the Raptors point guard duo of Ford and Calderon combined for 34 and 10 in 48 minutes.)

SG - Tracy McGrady. 23-4-7 and two blocks, with 22 of the points coming after halftime. His personal mission for playoff validation is off to a good start.

SF - Luol Deng. Two Bulls on the list, which is appropriate considering that Gordon and Deng scored almost 60% of Chicago's points today. Deng dropped 33 on 14-of-22 shooting, while adding 8 boards, a steal, and a block. (Apologies to Richard Jefferson.)

PF - Rasheed Wallace. He only had 16 and 6, but he threw an early haymaker with 10 first quarter points, including two deep threes. You could see the wind come out of Orlando's sails a bit when those long bombs started going down.

C - Yao Ming. Yao threw up a nice 28 and 13, but his impact went beyond the numbers. He marched to the line for 14 free throws, which stabalized the Rockets offense at various points, and was a vital part of a Houston defense that shut down Utah and held Boozer and Okur to 17 total points on a horrendous 6-of-31 shooting.

Day One MVP - Ben Gordon. Maybe I'm just bitter that nobody in the national media can recognize just how valuable those 25-30 minutes of point guard duty were, but I'm bypassing the cold-blooded efficiency of Deng and the emotional second half tour de force that McGrady threw up and going with Gordon was the day's best. He scored early, ran the offense in the middle, and then hit the key free throws late.

Day One LVP - Andrei Kirilenko. There are a lot of candidates here, including the aforementioned Boozer/Okur duo, but I have to go with the other Jazz frontcourt player here. It may be that his rolled ankle was what kept him off the court, but regardless, AK-47 played 15 pitiful minutes and is so bad right now that Utah is clearly better when they have Matt Harpring at small forward instead. That's LVP quality, right there.

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