Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Night Wrap-Up

I got a late start on the games tonight and by the time I saw them and enjoyed Inside the NBA, I was too tired to write extensive entries for each game. So here are just a few thoughts on each contest, going in reverse order:

Suns Dominate

If you love basketball, you can't do much better than the first half that Phoenix played tonight. Steve Nash had at least five passes that required extensive rewinding and slow motion viewing on my TiVo, Amare set the tone with several massive blocks early on, and Leandro Barbosa had another monster game. Barbosa really impressed me, because he was very much primed for a fall. He had the huge opener, he won the 6th Man award, and then he came out and missed his first three shots and picked up two fouls. But he shook off the rough start and just went crazy, scoring 17 in the first half. That was just an incredible half of basketball.

(By the way, someone needs to point out to Sam Mitchell that the way D'Antoni handled Barbosa's two fouls is probably a better idea than panicking and sitting a guy down for 15 minutes.)

Bulls Hold Serve

The Bulls made good use of that home court advantage on Tuesday night, answering everything the Heat could throw at them and ultimately running away with a 106-87 victory and a 2-0 series lead. Ben Gordon had another terrific game and Luol Deng (or "Leo Dong" as Barkley tends to call him) took things to the crazy next level scoring 14 of 16 at one point in the fourth. I know everyone keeps waiting for Miami to flip a switch and start winning, but it seems clear to me that Chicago is the better team. They are younger, faster, more cohesive, feature more shooters, and are certainly better defensively. The lack of lowpost scoring will cost them a game or two, but I can't imagine them losing this series. My only criticism of the Bulls is that Skiles needs to get Ty Thomas more playing time. At some point, either in this series or against Detroit, they are going to need him to win. Good things happen when he's in the game (like the "steal, wild dribble, dish to Nocioni for a three at the first quarter buzzer" sequence) and he's just so much more athletic and so much quicker than other frontcourt players. Personally, I think he should be getting all of Duhon's minutes.

Raptor's Squeak One Out

On Sam Mitchell's big night, the Raptors managed to salvage a split of the first two games behind strong play from Chris Bosh and a huge night from Anthony Parker. That said, it doesn't bode well for the Raps that it took another woeful shooting performance from Vince Carter and some mangled end-of-game execution by the Nets to get a home court split. For the life of me, I can't figure out why New Jersey didn't go two-for-one at the end of the game when they were down 84-83. With 40 seconds to go, you have plenty of time to go quick and get a good look, ensuring the last possession of the game. Instead, they looked aimless, Kidd dribbled around for 15 seconds, and they wound up getting a tough Richard Jefferson pull-up jumper that clanged off the rim. Not at all impressive. This time it was Lawrence Frank screwing things up, evening the "coaching mistakes" scorecard at 1-1 for the series.


Branden Higa said...

We all need to take a moment and realize how fortunate we are to be living in the Steve Nash era. He is the perfect player for those from the "Come Fly With Me" generation. Jordan was like going to college. You knew you were in for a great experience because of his youthful exuberance, his athleticism and raw physical ability. Nash represents a higher level of sophistication. Subtle, skillfull... like an expensive glass of port and a fine cigar. Like notes of a Jazz saxophone mixing in a dark smoky room. Was John Stockton ever even close to this good? That's why its so improtant that Nash wins a ring. An NBA Championship will bring that true seperation to the argument.

The Suns look like the team to beat right now. that dismantling of the Lakers (and yes, I know its just the Lakers) was brilliant.

Everyone who is going crazy about Lula Dong just needs to settle down. Yes he has had two big games against Miami, but he's being checked by Jason Kapono. Last I looked, Kapono was no Bruce Bowen. Half the time, he got lost in Miami's defensive rotations and was getting wide open looks. He's a nice piece to this team. The next Richard Jefferson. I still don't know how the Bulls don't ship him to get Pau Gasol. They are afraid to part with a good swingman to get very good post player? Outrageous.

Anonymous said...

To Brandon Higa,

How can you say the Bulls should have traded Deng after the last two games? He has carried Chicago to a 2-0 lead over the defending champs and has been the best player in the playoffs so far. What, Pau Gasol would be scoring 50 a game? You must be a Miami fan and a hater.

Adam Hoff said...

First of all, "annonymous," you spelled Higa's first name wrong. So good work there.

Second, I would argue that while Deng has been good, Baron Davis (granted, he's only played one game) has been better. You could make a pretty good case that Deng's teammate Ben Gordon has been better.

But that misses the point anyway. Last time I checked, the objective of the NBA Playoffs was to win the title, not to win two home games against the Heat. The "defending" champs are a mess. And while the "experts" might have been taking Miami, you can see on this blog that plenty of people expected the Bulls to win this series.

The Bulls are one of the top three defensive teams in the NBA (in part due to Deng's play on the wing), they have a young core, and they are well-coached. Plus, they have a guy in Gordon that can get his own shot and make huge baskets in the clutch. They have almost everything you need to win it all. Everything but a lowpost scorer. Without one, they will not win the title. Which means if they wanted to win a title this year - which, again, is the objective - they should have traded for Gasol.

As for Deng, I do think he's better than Jefferson and will be a fixture in the All-Star game, but is he better than Josh Howard? I don't think he is. And if the Bulls didn't have Deng and could have either Howard or Gasol for free, which would they take? Easy, it would be Gasol. I think this little hypothetical shows that you get overly attached to your own guys, which is natural.

Of course, after looking around the league and sorting some cap numbers, it looks entirely possible that the Bulls might be able to keep Deng this summer and make a run at Jermaine O'Neal. While Gasol is better than O'Neal, I suppose you could argue that O'Neal/Deng is better than Gasol.

So maybe the Bulls know what they are doing. But until they actually do bring in a legit inside scorer to weather their cold streaks and enable the offense to work inside-out, I will maintain that they made the wrong decision.

Branden Higa said...

Hi Anonymous,

No hatin' on the Bulls here. I'm not even hatin' on Deng. I just think that Gasol's skill set is a rarer commodity than Deng's. But I don't need to re-hash what Adam has already said.

As far as Miami goes, I am perfectly fine with them getting bounced out of the playoffs. As a matter of fact, the sooner the better. I am still appaled that Gary Payton, Jason Williams and Antoine Walker have a ring.

BTW, any word around Chi-town on how much Kirk Hinrich's mouthpiece is going for? That and the beer cup that started the Artest brawl in Detroit would be great centerpieces for any collection of sports artifacts.

Adam Hoff said...

Can you imagine taking that slimy moutpiece in the grill? Or, even worse, getting a little saliva as it went wizzing by.

That's no way to treat the home crowd, right there.