Sunday, May 1, 2011

First Round of the Playoffs

With the first round over, here are some quick observations:

  • Lakers v. Hornets

  • New Orleans had great success with the pick-and-roll against Los Angeles; on several occasions in Game 4, I saw Andrew Bynum forced to defend Chris Paul one-on-one after switches. The big man gamely saw in a defensive crouch to defend Paul, but the latter torched Bynum for swished jumpers time after time.

  • Mavs v. Blazers

  • LaMarcus Aldridge has become very, very good in the low post. Nicolas Batum is a nice two-way player. Greg Oden, if healthy, can form an outstanding defensive line with Aldridge. Gerald Wallace is a great sixth man. All Portland misses is an All-NBA caliber guard. Unfortunately, Brandon Roy's knees are not what they were in 2009. Committed to Roy through 2015, Portland has little hope of crafting a championship contender.

  • Spurs v. Grizzlies

  • I was surprised that San Antonio repeatedly had no answer for Memphis's slow, arboreal attack. Unfortunately, Antonio McDyess is too old, Matt Bonner too slow, and DeJuan Blair too short to deal with Randolph or Gasol. On the other end, one would think that Parker and Ginobili could repeatedly hit outside jumpers against the inexperienced defense of Sam Young, Mike Conley Jr., and O.J. Mayo. Unfortunately, Memphis's perimeter players (including the excellent Tony Allen) are relatively tall, and Parker is not; also, Ginobili was slowed by an elbow injury.

  • Thunder v. Nuggets

  • Denver had a full company of troops to do good combat with Oklahoma City, but they were outplayed late in their losses. Excepting the blowout Game 2, here are the fourth-quarter scores and the final scores. Game 1: Tie in 4th quarter, OKC wins by 4. Game 3: OKC by 5 in 4th quarter, by 3 overall. Game 5: OKC by 7 in 4th quarter, by 3 overall. The Thunder have Kevin Durant to get results in crunch time; Denver's best scorer is Danilo Gallinari.

  • Celtics v. Knicks

  • The Celtics may have swept New York, but we should not infer too much from this outcome. Boston could barely defeat NY in two games at home, enjoying some lucky bounces and mental miscues by the Knicks in the fourth quarter. When the series moved to Manhattan, had little trouble dealing with a team missing Chauncey Billups and a healthy Amare Stoudemire.

  • Magic v. Hawks

  • Similar to Dallas's problem, Orlando fields a 5'11" point guard as its second-best player and alleged team leader. Its shooting guard going forward, J.J. Redick, is 6'4". How on earth can these guys hope to defend Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, or Ray Allen? They certainly couldn't do it against Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, who averaged 18 and 20 points, respectively, in six games of their first-round series. Worse, Orlando's contractual commitments to Hedo Turkoglu (through 2013) and Gilbert Arenas (through 2014) preclude the team from making any good trades or adding good free agents. Dwight Howard would be crazy to re-sign here.

  • Bulls v. Pacers

  • The Pacers surprisingly kept the first three games close and won the fourth, thanks to superstar play by Danny Granger and necessary buckets from their big players, Hansbrough and Hibbert. Chicago had a difficult time pulling away from Indiana in the first four games, in part because Carlos Boozer only scored 12 PPG in those contests. Without Boozer throwing in a regular 20 points per, the Bulls generally lack scoring punch. Their first priority for improving the roster must be finding a two-way SG who can throw the ball through the rim and stop the opposing counterpart.

  • Heat v. 76ers

  • Like the Pacers, Philadelphia played Miami tight in four of the five games: three of Philly's losses came by 8 points or fewer. With young players like Holiday, Young, Turner, Williams, and Iguodala, the Sixers are one of the few teams in the league that can play at Miami'a fast pace; Iguodala in particular helps the 76ers run up and down while staying with Miami's stallions defensively. Only an ultra-quick or ultra-strong team can probably defeat Miami in four games out of seven. The Boston Celtics, unfortunately, reduced their strength significantly when they traded Kendrick Perkins.

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