Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday Night Wrap-Up

What a day of playoff hoops ...

The Baron

I might have to put tonight's Inside the NBA on "save until I delete" status, because I'm not sure it gets better than watching the highlights of this Warriors-Mavs game, set to the Polow Da Don's "Boy Looka Here" beat, as Kenny Smith drops a "too much Baron Davis, man!" Game Four was one for the books, not just because Golden State jumped to a 3-1 lead over the Mavs, or because of TNT's "Warrior mascot throws pie in Barkley's face" graphic, but because of the way the Warriors won. They fell behind by more than six points at least five times during the game, only to come back, tie or take the lead, and then fall back again. Normally, this is the kiss of death, because you need to get over the hump or you lose your will and your energy. This G-State team lost neither. They just coming; relentless and supremely confident. Meanwhile, no matter how many free throws and bank threes Stackhouse threw in, you could tell the Mavs were playing the entire second half with "holy crap, what is it going to take to put them away?" looks on their faces.

It's hard to even describe how sick Baron was tonight. He made a 49-footer off glass to tie the score at the end of the first half. And that was after picking up two fouls in the first four minutes, staying on the floor without committing another personal, somehow remaining aggressive, hitting big shots when his team was flagging, and scoring 18 points to keep the Warriors in the game. As great as he was in the second half, it was Baron's first half that was a truly astounding effort. But what a second half it was. He had a sequence late in the third, after yet another Mavs run that threatened to break Golden State's will, in which he hit a step-back fadeaway three while keeping a two-for-one alive (he's one of the best in the league at managing the clock at the end of quarters), then stole an inbounds pass, raced past Jason "Jet" Terry, and finished with a vicious dunk and even more vicious scream. Tied at 77. Then, after G-State came out shaky to the start the fourth (jacking up threes while Stackhouse went on a scoring binge) Baron took over with leadership, physical defense, and great finishes at the rim in transition. Then came the drive and dish to Jackson for three. Then the no-look rifle pass to Biedrins (who has the worst free throw shooting form I've ever seen, yet was somehow still in the game as the Warriors tried to preserve a six-point lead with 43 seconds left). Then the stop and pop. Then, after struggling all game from the line, the second of two free throws to keep it a three point game. Just a virtuoso performance.

I have more to say (like: what on earth happened to Josh Howard in the second half? where does Matt Barnes' big three rank in the "no, no, no ... yes, yes, yes!" Shot Hall of Fame? and is Biedrins the only NBA player that puts gel in his hair?), but it is late and there are three more games to mention, so I'll close with this: the series is far from over (tomorrow I will lay out how the Mavs can still win), but up to this point, these have been Baron Davis' playoffs.

Nash is Ridiculous

Could it be that Baron was only the second best point guard on the floor today? Or the third (see: Kidd, Jason, below)? Probably not, but if you like point guard play, leadership, and lifting teammates to a higher place, you needed to be watching playoff basketball on this fine Sunday. Nash destroyed the Lakers today with 23 dimes - one short of the playoff record - and would have had more if not for the game-and-time situation near the end, which required a stall offense. He had nine, count 'em nine, passes that required pausing and rewinding for multiple views on my TiVo, including three that I dissected in slow motion just to see how he could even make them. My dad, who has seen a whole lot more basketball than I have, told me earlier this year that he had become convinced that Nash is the best passer he's ever seen. Trust me, that's high praise. I know that the postseason has no bearing on the awards voting, but I hope everyone who cast a vote for Nowitzki over Nash as the MVP was watching today. And that they hate themselves.

(Oh, and by the way, Amare had 27 and 21, and has the Suns looking very much like the eventual NBA champs. Thought I'd throw that in there.)

MRI Watch Starts in Cleveland

The way the Nets are playing, the Cavs' only hope of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals may be if Jason Kidd's gimpy knee goes out on him. New Jersey is quietly playing perfect basketball against the Raptors right now. Vince is attacking the basket, Moore is rebounding, Collins is playing good defense, and Kidd is basically dominating everyone on the floor. Sam Mitchell continued to prove why he's the coach of the year by saying that Kidd was faking his knee injury in game three, which no doubt inspired J-Kidd to go 17-13-8 in just 28 minutes of action. Don't worry, Sam, you've only cost your team a couple of playoff games.

Bulls Break Out Brooms

It looks like losing the last game of the season to New Jersey wasn't such a bad move for Chicago after all. Had they defeated the Nets, they would have landed the #2 seed, knocked Jersey down to #7, and had one heck of a fight on their hands. Instead, they got the aging, overrated, and injured (Wade) Miami Heat. Who the Bulls pretty much own, by the way. I'd say that worked out fairly well. And so what if they have to go through the Pistons? They have to beat them eventually anyway. And with a sweep to match that of Detroit, both teams go into this battle healthy and rested. For an Eastern Conference second round matchup, this promises to be pretty tasty. We've got oh so many storylines. Here are a few:

- The rising dominant team in the East (Chicago) is trying to unseat the (more or less) reigning dominant team in the East (Detroit). Hey, just like the late 80s!

- Ben Wallace is taking on his old team. If the Pistons fans were willing to berate poor Darko (who had the gall to get traded), imagine what they have in store for Big Ben.

- Tayshaun Prince is getting a chance to regain his shine as a defensive stopper as he squares off with the seemingly unstoppable Luol Deng. Prince lost a whole lot of luster last year when first LeBron and then Wade crushed him game after game.

- Ben Gordon, the next evolution of Rip Hamilton, takes on the original Rip Hamilton.

- Billups, the master of drawing fouls, squares off with Kirk Hinrich, the master of fouling.

- The most annoying PA announcer (Detroit) and local broadcasters (Chicago) in the entire league are involved in the same series.

There is also a battle of Argentine teammates off the bench (Delfino and Nocioni), potential bad blood between Rip and Tyrus Thomas from their recent squabble, and so much more. I can't wait.


Hoops Addict said...

As a Raptors fan based out of Toronto I'm still in shock that Smitch won COY. His substitution patterns are horrible, his in game management sucks (Morris Peterson should have gotten a ton more burn in this series again NJ) and he fed Kidd the perfect motivation to step up.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Smitch heads to Indy or Charlotte this summer and the Phoenix assistant (Marc Ivaroni?) or Rich Adelman come in to coach the Raptors.

Branden Higa said...

I think that Mitchell was the right pick for COY. The Raptors went from awful to relevent in one year, plus they were plagued with injuries for most of the season. Mitchell held it together and got them into a good position to make a run the the conf. finals. The Raptors just happened to run into Jason Kidd, who is having one of the best series in NBA history.

Having said that, if I was Mitchell, I would absolutely cash in and make a move to Indy(although i wouldn't go to Charlotte, Seattle, Milw or Sac-town). Its going to be tough to build anything in Toronto. Its a hockey town, its cold and you get paid in Loonies (while a 1 million Looney contract sounds enticing, its barely above league minimum).

Its too bad because Toronto is a great city. But I think they have a ways to go before the Raptors become an Eastern Conference dynasty. (By the way, the hockey HOF is awesome. Anyone who has a chance to visit Toronto should plan to spend an afternoon there),

Adam Hoff said...

Good stuff on Toronto.

As for Mitchell, I know I'm repeating myself a little bit, but there are a few reasons why I'm not down with Mitchell winning the award:

1. There were other, better candidates. Sloan is the "lifetime achievement" candidate, Avery piloted the best team, D'Antoni managed the Stoudemire return beautifully, and Van Gundy led an injury-ravaged team with no bench to a 50-win season. My original choice was Sloan, but the more I think about it, Beetlejuice has to be the guy. Other than Battier, he received no major additions to last year's roster, got T-Mac and Yao together for less than half the season, and has Rafer Alston for a point guard. I think he's the choice.

2. Mitchell sucks at coaching.

3. Bryan Colangelo seems like the no-brainer choice for Executive of the Year for turning this moribound lottery team into the #3 seed in the East. He brought in seven new players, put his extensive knowledge of the international game to use (Bargnani, Garbage-josa, Parker), made a Seal-for-Ford trade that got ripped and turned out to be quite good, and tracked down wash outs like Kris Humphries to fit into the system. Anyway, here is the question: are we really okay with BOTH the coach and executive of the year coming from a 46-win team in the East? I mean, how much love are we going to give the Raptors? It would be one thing if they surged to 62 wins, the way the Suns did a few years ago. Then, sure, hand out hardware to everybody. But I don't think you can justify giving out both of the major "men in suits" awards to the same mediocre team. Either the credit goes to the GM or the coach; there isn't enough success to credit them both to such an extent.