Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday Night Wrap-Up

Another night, another entry.

Spurs Close Out

Poor Denver. Their coach is dealing with serious family issues (which I think contributed to the bizarre J.R. Smith saga), they got crushed by the commish on those brawl suspensions, and when they finally found the range and closed the season on fire, all it got them was a matchup with the Spurs. Then, they lose three straight difficult games, come out playing really well on the road in Game Five, only to find that nothing they do can get the job done. You could just see their collective will break late in the first quarter when the Spurs went on a 9-2 run behind a step-back, fadeaway Finley three, a Bowen circus bank shot, a pull up jumper from Jacque Vaughn, and then a wheeling finger roll by Robert Horry (it looked like it went in by accident). It was kind of like one of those Madden games where the computer is pulling off one miracle play after another and you just know there is no way you can win. Even after the Nuggets went on a 17-2 run to take a four-point lead at the half (followed by Melo's fantastic "biggest balls, biggest heart" quote), you just knew the Spurs would win. Anyway, I felt bad for the Nuggets. They are probably one of the top five or six teams in the NBA right now and just had the misfortune of being pitted against one of the top two. There is no shame in the way they played and if they can finally solve their 2-guard problems over the summer, move AI back to the point, and get K-Mart back (even though he's overpaid, he still brings valuable toughness), they should be able to build on their successful April. Unfortunately, they have over $30 million tied up in their three big men and zero picks in the coming draft bonanza. I think that means they have to move Camby. More on this tomorrow.

As for the Spurs, they should be erecting a statue of Michael Finley outside the AT&T Center, because he was the difference between a 4-1 series and something much rougher, probably at least six games, maybe seven, maybe even a Denver upset. He turned back the clock a bit and made a ton of huge shots, turning the Spurs into a team that basically lives (but rarely dies) by the three these days. It must be especially painful for Mavs fans to be locked in such a tough series with the Warriors, only to watch a former Dallas hero playing amazing basketball for a mortal enemy. I still don't understand how Finley could sign with a rival like that (he had his pick of title contenders), but I can't help but like the guy. He is like a beloved old dog that still looks the same and moves the same, but now has a face/beard full of grey hair. That said, ss well as Finley played, I hope the Spurs aren't counting on him to go 19-for-34 from behind the arc again.

Suns Close Out

Nice symmetry tonight, as the Spurs and Suns both won 4-1 and now will meet in the second round, which is a bit of a travesty since they appear to be the two best teams in the field. San Antonio certainly had the tougher series, but the Lakers presented enough of a challenge that Phoenix still had to get up to playoff speed (unlike Detroit and Cleveland). I don't think either team gained an advantage based on first round matchups. As for this game, Amare didn't even play well and was saddled with foul trouble, yet still finished with 27 and 16. He's not a good individual defender (is probably the worst starter in the playoffs at denying post position), but his presence has radically changed the Suns thanks to his scoring, rebounding, ability to draw fouls, and shot blocking. I still contend that he's the biggest key to the entire postseason.

My only other comment about this game is a note of praise for Lamar Odom's valiant season. Considering the injuries, family tragedy, and mismatched role on the team, I thought he played as hard and as well as possible. I wonder if the Lakers wouldn't be better off running their offense through Odom and Kobe every time down the court, using them in the mid post or in pick-and-rolls. Basically they could adopt Dallas' primary set and Utah's primary set and ditch the triangle. Odom just has so much more to offer and I think he could allow Kobe to focus on being a finisher for bigger chunks of time, keeping him fresher (he clearly wore down in fourth quarters in this series). Maybe that wouldn't work at all, I don't know. But it seems like Odom is one of the true talents being squandered in the NBA right now. Remember how sick he was in Miami his last year there?

(Which reminds me ... genius trade by Mitch Cup-Check to deal Caron Butler for Kwame Brown. The same Kwame Brown that is so crappy that the Lakers couldn't summon the courage to send Andrew Bynum to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. Meanwhile Turiaf is the best big man they have. Not that things would have worked out this way, but it is conceivable that L.A. could have entered this postseason with a lineup of PG Kidd SG Bryant SF Butler PF Odom C Turiaf. That has to sting a little bit.)


Lakers Fan said...

I feel sick to my stomach right now. Turiaf is a bit of a stretch as a starting center and you are right that things might not have fallen the same way, but thinking of Kidd and Butler slotted between Kobe and Odom makes me genuinely sad.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the NBA should re-seed all the teams 1-16 when the playoffs start, with no regard for conference affiliation? Then we wouldn't get the #2 and #3 teams in the NBA meeting in the second round.

Marco said...

I think Finley is better than Jet and should be Dallas' shooting guard right now. An all-Badger backcourt of Michael and harris would get this team a title.