Monday, May 25

NBA Playoffs: Where Egg on My Face Happens

"[I]f I were a betting man, I'd be all over Denver for game three."

3 second-half points for Mello and another bad pass that will undoubtedly earn Trevor Ariza $5-10 million extra dollars when he signs his next deal are things I should have foreseen. I'm not sure exactly why the Gasol hate has continued through these playoffs. He played very small in the middle part of the Rocket series, but from game seven of that series he's been the best big man in the playoffs. He's been a force on the offensive boards (more so than any of the "tougher" Denver big men) and unlike Dwight Howard, he's stayed on the court playing just as many minutes as Kobe. With Bynum playing like a big Tracy Morgan, Gasol's performance has been vital to their 2-1 series lead. Lamar Odom has been definition Lamar Odom. He scored 19 or more in 3 games against the Jazz, but since he's scored more than 10 only once. Midway through the Rockets series, it became apparent that Kobe would have to be on for the Lakers to win any game the rest of the way out. At the time, asking if he could do it ten more times seemed like a long shot, but now we're down to six "on" games for the Mamba, which seems much more doable.

On the flip side, if the Nuggets lose this series, it will be having an advantage in talent and owing it almost exclusively to mental miscues. Nene, his name is four letters long, can we please agree on a pronunciation. It's not as if he's got a Russian-Bulgarian hyphenated name. There are as many pronunciations as letters floating around currently. A guy that I believe can help swing this series, if he can get on the court: Renaldo Balkman. The energy that the Birdman typically provides has not been apparent in this series, but Balkman is another guy capable of making a difference without scoring (something the Nuggets have lacked thus far). I don't care if George Karl has to call Larry Brown to e-mail over some in-bounds plays on his Blackberry, if one more clutch in-bounds play is botched, he's going to lose this team, for good.

In the east, I couldn't be happier that the entire nation is getting to see the Orlando Magic's cheap-shotting, moving screens and constant arm-barring of Hedo. People want to sing their praises, but this has much more to do with LeBron's supporting cast playing like they just got done with ten rounds of drunken dizzy bat and go sell the Magic's defense somewhere else because I'm not buying. They are collapsing on the King and they're not paying for it. The Cavs guards have become intimidated (although Delonte has shown flashes) and they continually settle for jumpers. This, along with the horrendous officiating has resulted in the free throw disparity that so many people are talking about. Watching LeBron he's still an MVP caliber player, but he's looking much more man than myth in this series. He's certainly adept at scoring, but on the defensive end, he's ended up in no man's land on several plays, and I keep waiting for him to get mad to fire up his teammates, but when Mo Williams was face down bloodied, LeBron looked concerned, not incensed. Kobe, Larry, or Michael would've made the other team pay. To this point, the King hasn't. I do hope the Cavs pull this out, so we can call Turkgolu "Turk-Ehlo" for the rest of his career.

Just remember both series are 2-1, hardly insurmountable leads, there's plenty of chance for more egg on my face this week.

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