Archive for April 28th, 2005

Mish Mash

April 28, 2005

An assortment of goodies for your pleasure

The Incredible Shrinking DirkThe playoffs were supposed to be a coming out party for the Mavericks, with their new coach, their new defensive emphasis and newly-ordained MVP candidate Dirk Nowitski, but instead they’re in grave peril of their worst playoff performance in recent memory. The Diggler’s struggled, shooting a combined 13 of 40 against such defensive illuminaries as Ryan Bowen and Scott Padgett, while fellow foreign giant Yao Ming was utterly dominant with 33 points on 13 of 14 shooting (!), while drawing what seemed like 33 fouls on Mavs post defenders. However, the series has belonged to Tracy McGrady, who’s always played well in the playoffs but now has the team around him to make some noise. T-Mac’s averaged 31 in the two games, has taken his turn at guarding Dirk (pretty effectively), hit a game-winning shot and delivered the most viscious facial in recent memory to one Shawn Bradley. I think that trade for Steve Francis has worked out.Kings — Sonics Careful what you wish for. While it may not be fair to say the Kings tanked it down the stretch to fall to the six seed, they certainly weren’t upset about facing the Sonics in the first round. The Sonics were awful down the stretch, but have gotten solid play from their stars, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen, and an unexpected boost from Jerome James to run out to a 2-0 lead. For the Kings its been the stories of the stars that haven’t shown up; Mike Bibby in game one and Peja Stojakovich in game two. The Kings are still very much in this series as the Sonics have only held serve thus far. Most disturbing thing from the playoffs thus far? Vladimir Radmonovich’s hair. Really, man, close the window; nobody wants to see that.

Spurs — Nuggets Settle down, settle down, everyone. Yes, the Nuggets pulled out an improbable game one victory, but don’t jump off the Spurs bandwagon just yet. Look, Andre Miller scored 31 and Tim Duncan was awful and the Spurs missed about 73 shots in a row in the fourth quarter and still almost pulled out game one. Game two was a statement game as the Spurs won by 29, and Duncan played more like the methodical, expressionless sphinx we all know and have a mild affection for. The truth is probably somewhere in between these extremes, but somewhere in between still has the Spurs winning in six. The Nuggets have had a nice run, but they should have drawn the Sonics if they were hoping to advance; The Spurs are too professional to let that happen.

Suns — Grizzlies The Suns seem to play basketball like some NFL teams play defense; they just send more people than you can stop. The result is the NBA’s version of an all-out blitz, with the rim sitting in for the quarterback’s role. Memphis is simply overmatched here, though they did put up a valiant stand in game 2. They may be able to steal a game if Gasol gets rolling good and can get some help from a Mike Miller or somebody on the perimeter, but I’d be surprised to see it go past five games. A Suns-Rockets matchup would be real interesting in the second round; Yao gives them fits when he can stay out of foul trouble and the Rockets defend well enough to take the edge off the Suns onslaught.

On with the Chlorophyll!Do we really have to go through the charade of the first two rounds of the Eastern conference playoffs? Detroit and Miami are so much better than everyone else out there, they look like they decided to play some guys at the YMCA or something.Heat — Nets I really thought New Jersey might be able to put up a better fight here. Yes, their post defense is even worse against Shaq than most teams, and, yes, Richard Jefferson is just coming back from injury, but they were a hot team heading into the playoffs and I thought. . . . well, who was I kidding? Shaq hasn’t really done much this series, but Dwyane Wade is just so brilliant, and Alonzo Mourning seems to be coming to life, which is just terrifying for the rest of the league. Also, the Heat can really defend when they want to, and their role players fit in well around the stars. Expect some broom action in this one.

Pistons — Sixers This series is kind of painful to watch. The Pistons seem to be going into the games wondering which cruel, demoralizing way they should choose to methodically grind down Philly. In game one, they let the Sixers stars, Iverson and Webber, get off (scoring 30 and 27 respectively), while holding their bench to six, yes six American points. (I’m not sure how that exchanges with the Euro-point right now). Game two it was the opposite story as Detroit put the clamps on AI and C-Webb (as well as K-Corv and the other AI and Sam-dog). This team is just suffocating and seems to be rounding into championship form. It should be an absolute war when they finally have their inevitable matchup with the Heat.

Celtics — Pacers This is one of the more even matchups out there. You think Ricky Davis might know better than to provide one of the best clutch players ever motivation, but, then again, Ricky never was the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. I’m interested to see how the Celtics play in Indiana; this team’s character seems to me to be right on the edge — they could easily either fold in the face of adversity or find a mean streak in themselves and move on. If Indiana does advance, it will be on the strength of great coaching and Reggie’s leadership, as it doesn’t look like Jermaine O’Neal’s shoulder is going to let him do much.

Bulls — Wizards I haven’t followed this series as closely as the others, so my comments will basically be based on the box scores. I am surprised that Chicago’s up 2-0 with the scores at or around the 100’s. Washington’s the better offensive team, so I would have thought that tempo would suit them. The Wizards can’t seem to get their stars cranked up at the same time. Larry Hughes was brilliant in game one, while Gilbert Arenas was shockingly bad; game two it was Arenas on and Hughes off. Antawn Jamison has played indifferently in both games. I don’t see how the Bulls aren’t starting Ben Gordon, but it seems to work for them.

He’s GRRRRRRREAT!Tiger roared back to form at the Masters a few weeks back, so does this mean he’s ready to dominate the tour like he did in 2000? Well, I’d guess it’ll be tougher this time around, if only because the tour has weathered this storm once before, and, thus has confidence it can do it again. Tiger will probably never have quite the invincible aura about him that he wore back then. However, he does have the British Open at St. Andrews where he set records in winning by 8 strokes in 2000, and if he gets some luck at the U.S. Open, we could be in for history heading in to the PGA Championship.Random golf observation. You remember at the Masters when Vijay was grousing about putting over Phil’s spike marks? Well, I figure that was mostly Vijay being his usual sunshiny self, but it does raise a fair point. Strictly from a golf perspective, wouldn’t it be better to shoot early in the round then later in the day? Not only do you get a less beat-up course, but you normally shoot in cooler weather and get to avoid the heat of the day. Yet, the leaders get “rewarded” by hitting after everyone else on the tee box and green. I know, I know, it’s for the fans and the drama, and I’m all for that, but strictly from a sporting perspective it seems like a funny way to reward a guy for playing well.

Picking up the slack

What sport is benefitting the most from Hockey’s absence? Well, sorry soccer fans, but it’s not MLS. Actually, lacrosse is the fastest growing pro sport in the land, and it’ s a natural to replace hockey. It essentially is hockey, just on grass and with baskets on the end of the sticks. It’s just as physical and violent, by all accounts, though perhaps a less skill-intensive game than hockey. SI has a good article about the game on its website if you’re interested in learning more. My one piece of lacrosse trivia: the greatest player in lacrosse history, by all accounts, is Jim Brown, who went to Syracuse on a lacrosse scholarship, not a football scholarship.