Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tuesday Night Wrap-Up

On Friday night, would you have ever guessed that the Jazz would beat the Pistons to a conference final? Utah had just been blown out in Oakland and appeared to be in a dogfight, while Chicago had just wilted on their home floor and trailed the Pistons 3-0. Yet here we are, four nights later and Utah is safely on to the next round while Detroit is facing questions about will and intensity as they were unable to close out the Bulls at home.

Jazz March On

When Utah pulled out that Game Seven against the Rockets, I became convinced that they had something special going. Nothing in the last five games has changed that particular opinion. Tonight there was a key play in the fourth quarter when the Jazz led 80-78 and were fending off the Warriors' last great charge. Utah had failed to capitalize on a series of technical free throws and were showing the first signs of cracking. Boozer was getting wrapped up in the drama, Williams couldn't do much of anything right, and Harpring seemed to be fending off a migraine after Barnes put the hurt on him late in the third. So what happens? The Jazz turn to the suddenly-amazing Derek Fisher for a big three. He launches ... and it clangs off the rim. The crowd goes quiet as Jason Richardson waits alone under the basket for the rebound. Then, miraculously, after bounding eight feet into the air, the ball comes down right through the center of the basket. Game over.

The Jazz are clearly going to be a handful in the next round. I think they actually match up better with the Spurs, because the Warriors style and speed gave them trouble, but Golden State didn't have the experience, mental toughness, or execution to make it pay. Phoenix won't have those problems. Plus, they have Thomas to put on Boozer, Marion or Bell to put on Williams, and Amare ready to present matchup nightmares and with little to worry about on D other than just staying close to Okur. The good news for Utah is that they probably won't play the Suns. And they match up with San Antonio just fine. If you thought Nene made Duncan work in Round One, just wait for this Boozer/Duncan matchup. That should be ridiculous. And Okur is going to destroy Oberto/Elson (by the way, this combo made me realize that the other four San Antonio players must be beyond amazing to carry that kind of slack). Williams and Parker will be a great clash, Kirilenko will present some matchup issues, and the Harpring-Ginobili duel off the bench will be hilarious because of all the hacking. Given Harpring's physical style of play, I expect Manu to shed actual tears and possibly break something trying to take a charge. Plus, who is Bruce Bowen going to guard? I don't know if he can handle Williams, who isn't as good as Nash, but is far more powerful and probably faster as well. Putting Bowen on anyone else seems like a waste. I mean, shutting down Gordan Giricek isn't exactly going to turn the tide.

Anyway. I'm getting ahead of myself, but I think the Jazz are in good shape. No matter who they play they are going to get some rest and have a chance to steal Game One. Then they would have home court advantage, where they are 6-0 in the playoffs. Plus, there is something magic in the air of that arena right now.

(By the way, it was another amazingly close games considering the stats. G-State was outrebounded by 24, committed 12 more fouls, shot 6-for-30 from three, and got an 8-for-33 shooting night from Baron and Jackson. If it wasn't for all their steals and Utah's terrible free throw shooting, this probably would have been ugly. The Warriors can definitely stay in games against all odds though. I guess that bodes well for the future? I have NO idea how they will fare next year.)

Wait, We Are Still Playing Chicago?

Not the finest moment in this Detroit Pistons 2003-2007 run. Obviously Chicago was on fire tonight and showed a lot of heart in winning an elimination game on the road. But I still feel like this one was more about what Detroit didn't do. Sheed couldn't keep his composure. They didn't commit to playing team defense. Rip missed some easy shots. There were a lot of problems. Jason Maxiell was the only guy that really had the eye of the tiger. Everyone else had the anus of the skunk.

Now the Bulls have a chance to be the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit. I'm guessing that won't happen.

(By the way, a big thank you to Scott Skiles for finally giving Ty Thomas some confidence by playing him with a lead. Instead of waiting to use Thomas as punishment for a starter's poor play or as some sort of last ditch effort, he gave him a legit role in the rotation. And it paid big dividends [5 steals in 21 minutes] to the surprise of ... pretty much nobody.)

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