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Old 04-15-10, 03:19 PM
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ESPN Hollinger Playoff predictions: Round by round

Playoff predictions: Round by round

PER Diem: April 15, 2010

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By John Hollinger
ESPN.com
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2010 NBA Playoffs: John Hollinger's predictions - ESPN

We don't know.
That's the first thing I'll tell you about the Western Conference playoffs this year. Not only are we unsure which team is best, but we're unsure which players will take the court or how they'll feel. With star players from virtually every team nursing injuries heading into the playoff openers Saturday, health is likely to be as big a factor as talent in determining which teams make deep runs and which ones spend May golfing.
Start with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and work your way down. Kobe Bryant has a messed-up finger and, perhaps, dead legs, while Andrew Bynum wants to return but might or might not be a rust-laden mess after his Achilles injury. Meanwhile, my ride on the Utah bandwagon is imperiled by injuries to all three frontcourt starters: Andrei Kirilenko has a bad calf, Mehmet Okur a troubling Achilles and Carlos Boozer a tricky rib injury.
San Antonio's vets have numerous aches and pains, and youngster George Hill is trying to return from an ankle injury. Oklahoma City's Nenad Krstic will try to go on a bad knee, as will Denver's Kenyon Martin, whose mobility or lack thereof looms as a major impediment to the Nuggets' hopes. Phoenix's Robin Lopez won't play in the first round and perhaps at all, and if Portland's Brandon Roy plays, it will be at half strength. Only Dallas enters the playoffs at something approaching full health, although one look at Jason Terry's "Friday the 13th" mask tells you even the Mavs could be feeling better.
We don't know a whole lot more in the East, especially when it comes to the teams that matter most. Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O'Neal have played exactly three games together in the Cleveland frontcourt; what kind of conclusions are we supposed to draw from that?
But here's something we do know, or at least something we think we know: It's all about the matchups.
That's the first thing anyone tells you when the playoffs start, and it's true ... to an extent. The matchups absolutely matter, but so does a team's quality. This might seem like master-of-the-obvious stuff, but the better team usually wins, even if the matchups aren't necessarily to its advantage.
Digging through the data supports that point of view. The playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984, and since then, when the team with home-court advantage has won the regular-season series, it also has won the playoff series 81.9 percent of the time. That's impressive, but here's the rub: Even when the team with home-court advantage has lost the regular-season series, it has won the playoff series 65.6 percent of the time (see chart).

HOME-COURT TEAMS AND REGULAR-SEASON RESULTS, SINCE 1984

Regular-season resultWLPct.
Won series1723881.9
Split series843272.4
Lost series422265.6
Source: Elias Sports Bureau


So having a regular-season advantage definitely has mattered -- it just hasn't mattered as much as fans of, say, the Portland Trail Blazers (a 2-1 series winner against Phoenix this season) might hope.
If we plumb a little deeper, however, we reach a very interesting finding. It turns out that in the first round, when the home-court team has won the regular-season series, it also has won the playoff series 41 straight times.
I repeat: 41 straight. Forty-one and oh.
The last team to defy the rule was the 1997-98 San Antonio Spurs, who lost the season series to Phoenix 3-1 but topped the Suns in a 4 versus 5 series in the playoffs; each team had won 56 games that season. It happened three other times in the 1990s, so the odds are slightly better than the daunting 41-0 figure indicates, but in the big picture we're looking at a success rate of about 5 percent. Based on that information, six of the eight road teams in Round 1 are looking at a difficult situation.
But here's where it gets really odd. Remember when I said teams won more often when they won the regular-season series? Well, virtually the entire difference occurs in the first round. After that, winning a regular-season series doesn't do much to prove you're the favorite.
Subtract that 41-0 streak from the chart above, and the team that won the regular-season series won the playoff series 78.8 percent of the time, versus 73.0 percent of the time with a split and 70.5 percent of the time with a loss (see chart). Given the quality leakage in this examination (i.e., an underdog is more likely to have won the season series if its record was close to that of its opponent) and the relatively small sample size, the difference is virtually irrelevant.

HOME-COURT TEAMS AND REGULAR-SEASON RESULTS, SINCE 1984
NOT INCLUDING FIRST-ROUND SERIES SINCE 1999


Regular-season resultWLPct.
Won series1413878.8
Split series652473.0
Lost series311370.5
Source: Elias Sports Bureau


As I prognosticate the playoffs below, that will be one of the guiding principles: Regular-season matchups matter heavily in the first round and barely at all after that. When it comes to rules of thumb, "don't bet against 41-0 without a darned good reason" seems like a pretty reasonable one to follow. By the way, I'm betting against it twice.
Something you'll notice is that I included "odds" for each team to win a series. The odds are based off my Power Rankings and a tool I built to play out postseasons. I didn't necessarily use Thursday's Power Ranking for each team, but rather its ranking as of the last game it seriously tried to win. Using a four-point home-court advantage (it tends to be larger in the postseason) and the team's differences in the Power Rankings, I played out each series and compiled the resultant odds for each team.
One other thing to keep in mind, since people always seem to be taken aback by it when they see it in predictions: Best-of-seven series often end in five games when the home-court team wins. My picking against your team in five isn't a sign of disrespect; it's one of probability.
All that said, I can't remember feeling less confident about a set of playoff predictions. With particularly the playoff situation in the West more wide open than ever, I'm sure you'll be able to refer back to this in two months for a good chuckle.
In any case, here's one man's look at how the entire postseason will play out and who will be holding the trophy at the end.



West First Round








(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (8) Oklahoma City
Season series: 3-1 Lakers.
Odds say: Lakers 56.4%; Thunder 43.6%

Everyone seems to think L.A. will just turn it on now that the playoffs have started. Count me among the skeptics.
In fact, I think it's going to take all the Lakers can muster to get out of the first round. Andrew Bynum's return will help, but the Lakers have other issues to deal with, from Kobe Bryant's late-season struggles to Jordan Farmar's unheralded injury that could leave L.A. more dependent than ever on the flailing Derek Fisher.
The saving grace for L.A. is that the Thunder aren't clicking right now, either. Kevin Durant is a monster, but Russell Westbrook has been in a funk since mid-March and the Thunder were just 9-8 over their final 17 games. I'm not sure the Lakers will win a game in Oklahoma City, but they'll do just enough to get out of this alive.
Pick: Lakers in seven









(2) Dallas vs. (7) San Antonio
Season series: 3-1 Mavs.
Odds say: Spurs 74.5%; Mavs 24.5%

This is one of two matchups that really vexed me, because the statistical indicators basically collide with themselves.
Let's start at the top. In a previous piece on the Mavs that got Dallas fans stirred up, I mentioned I thought my Power Rankings had overrated San Antonio. Oops. As it turns out, they were remarkably prescient: San Antonio went on to crush one contender after another the rest of the way. (Lesson: Never try to make playoff predictions in early March. Not that making them in mid-April will turn out much better.)
Second, there's that whole 41-0 thing. Dallas won the season series with San Antonio 3-1, so the Spurs would be a glaring exception to the rule if I were to pick them.
I've been cynical about Dallas' contender status ("Really?" Mavs nation says, "You don't say?"), but the Mavs played much better over the final 10 days of the season and ended up with a respectable point differential over the final quarter of the season. The Mavs also are 23-7 since trading for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, which is superior to San Antonio's 20-11 mark in that time.
The difference is that San Antonio played one of the league's most difficult schedules over the final quarter of the season, while Dallas' schedule looked like it was drawn up by TCU's football program. (You like that? Two Dallas sports insults in one sentence! P.S.: Roger Staubach was a ninny.)
In all seriousness, Dallas played the league's second-easiest schedule over the final quarter. Of the Mavs' final 21 games, 12 were against lottery teams, two others were against the lottery-esque Bulls and one was against San Antonio's scrubs -- plus, 12 of the 21 games were at home. So only six of 21 were against playoff-caliber competition, and they lost four of those games (and two others).
Meanwhile, San Antonio faced a murderer's row over the final month. Eleven of the Spurs' final 17 opponents won 50 games, and two others (Memphis and Houston) were respectable, plus 10 of the 17 were on the road. In that time, the Spurs beat Cleveland, L.A., Orlando, Denver, Boston and Oklahoma City, and posted a better scoring margin against the brutal schedule than Dallas did against its parade of softies.
What I'm saying is that the records deceive -- by most advanced measures, San Antonio appears to be the better team. As for that little 41-0 thing? It comes into play only because the Spurs tanked the season finale in Dallas. Had they won, the season series would be 2-2 and I'd have no reason whatsoever to pick Dallas.
As noted, the last team to defy the 41-0 rule was the Spurs, who did it the last time they went into a series without home-court advantage in the first round. It looks like they'll do it again.
Pick: Spurs in six









(3) Phoenix vs. (6) Portland
Season series: 2-1 Blazers.
Odds say: Suns 64.9%; Blazers 35.1%

The odds and head-to-head matchups say the Blazers have a chance; common sense says otherwise.
Forget the fact that Phoenix is the hottest team in the West at the moment and that the Blazers are ill-suited to take advantage of the Suns' biggest weakness (a lack of quality size), because there's also the little matter of Portland's best player being unable to perform.
Brandon Roy wasn't as good this season as he was in 2008-09, but there's still a serious diminution in production when he's off the court. Portland was 8-9 in games he missed in the regular season and had a negative scoring margin in those 17 games. While the rest of the Blazers were good enough at times to hammer Orlando by 15 and even beat the Suns in Phoenix without him, they also were bad enough to lose to Washington and New Orleans.
We'll talk more about the Suns down below, but suffice it to say, I'll be surprised if they're tested in Round 1, buying them more time to get Robin Lopez back into playing shape.
Pick: Suns in five









(4) Denver vs. (5) Utah
Season series: 3-1 Nuggets.
Odds say: Jazz 61.2%; Nuggets 38.8%

If you're wondering about Carlos Boozer, you're worrying about the wrong guy. Paul Millsap can replicate much of what Boozer provides -- it's Andrei Kirilenko's absence that sent Utah sideways over the final three weeks.
The Jazz had the best Power Ranking of any team in the West prior to his calf strain and had won 20 of 24 games in which Kirilenko had played at least 25 minutes. But with him gone, the Jazz went only 11-7 down the stretch and missed out on a division title that the Nuggets had basically laid at Utah's feet.
Obviously, Boozer's availability is a factor, too, especially since Mehmet Okur's Achilles is still bothering him. Nonetheless, I suspect Kirilenko's health will be the deciding factor for Utah's playoff hopes.
Denver, in the meantime, went only 13-8 after losing Kenyon Martin to a knee injury. While Martin played in the final three games, he wasn't that Kenyon Martin and in fact pulled himself out of Sunday's rout at Phoenix at the half because his knee was still bothering him.
The Nuggets have home court, which is important but less crucial than history might indicate. Because of the altitude and the travel, Denver and Utah historically have massive splits between home and road records; this season, the Nuggets had a 15-game differential and the Jazz an 11-game split. But with no back-to-backs, just one-hour flights and only a 1,000-foot elevation difference, it shouldn't be as large a factor here.
The Jazz have a superior scoring margin and the same win-loss record, and Kirilenko is expected back for Game 1, all of which would make me hugely confident in Utah were it not for that 41-0 staring me in the face. Denver had a healthy Martin for all four meetings, though, and I'm suspecting it won't for this faceoff. As a result, I'll spit into the wind of history a second time here.
Pick: Utah in six




East First Round








(1) Cleveland vs. (8) Chicago
Season series: 2-2 split.
Odds say: Cavs 97.0%; Bulls 3.0%

Cleveland needs a tuneup to work Shaquille O'Neal back into the mix, and the Cavs will get one with the Bulls. While Chicago rallied to make the playoffs and has proved to be a feisty opponent in the teams' regular-season meetings, I have trouble seeing the Bulls providing much of an obstacle in the postseason. We have more important stuff to talk about, so let's not dwell on this one.
Pick: Cavs in four









(2) Orlando vs. (7) Charlotte
Season series: 3-1 Orlando.
Odds say: Magic 91.9%; Bobcats 8.1%

Orlando was the best team in the league in the second half of the season, so it's a little odd that nobody seems to want to talk about it. Over the final quarter of the season, its average scoring margin was a jaw-dropping plus-12.8, and for the whole season, it led the NBA at plus-7.4. Make no mistake: This is a formidable, championship-caliber outfit.
For Charlotte, here's Larry Brown in a nutshell: He took the team to its first playoff appearance, and he might be already lining up his next gig. The Bobcats likely will take one game from Orlando, given Charlotte's phenomenally large home-road splits this season (31 home wins against just 13 on the road, an 18-game differential that was the league's largest this season). However, things will take a turn for the worse for Charlotte when Brown leaves the bench in the second quarter of Game 4 to take the Philadelphia job.
Pick: Magic in five









(3) Atlanta vs. (6) Milwaukee
Season series: 2-1 Atlanta.
Odds say: Hawks 74.8%; Bucks 25.2%

The Bucks have gone 4-2 since losing Andrew Bogut two weeks ago, so they aren't exactly chopped liver without him. Nonetheless, their hopes of pulling a first-round upset probably went out the window when Bogut hit the floor.
Atlanta beat the Bucks in Milwaukee this past weekend in a game that both sides were trying to win, providing a grim omen for the Bucks' playoff hopes. A raucous home crowd (partially of Bogut's creation) should be able to snag a win for them, but I can't see them doing much more against a deep, balanced Hawks squad, especially with the 41-0 rule staring them in the face.
Pick: Hawks in five









(4) Boston vs. (5) Miami
Season series: 3-0 Boston.
Odds say: Celtics 54.2%; Heat 45.8%

We think of the Celtics as contenders and the Heat as pretenders, but they finished only three games apart in the standings. Boston started 23-5 and finished 27-27; Miami was 24-27 at one point but finished 23-8 in its final 31 games. So we have two sides going in opposite directions, and normally that and Dwyane Wade would be enough to get me to side with the Heat.
But this is a bad matchup for Miami. Boston beat the Heat all three times they played, and two of those meetings were in Miami; furthermore, the Celtics were missing Paul Pierce for one of those games and Kevin Garnett for another. The Celtics' defensive approach against the Heat has been interesting, and effective: Wade has run wild on them, but the Heat have yet to produce another 20-point scorer in a game against Boston.
Sum it all up, and I think the Celtics can survive this one ... barely. Much like a year ago in the Chicago-Boston series, it will go down to the wire and probably provide our best first-round series. The 41-0 rule says it would be foolish to pick against the Celtics here, so in the absence of compelling counterarguments, I'll take them by a whisker.
Pick: Celtics in seven




West Second Round








(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (5) Utah
Season series: 3-1 Los Angeles.
Odds say: Jazz 57.8%; Lakers 42.2%

Uh, somebody want to do me a favor and let me know who's suiting up for this one? Without knowing the participation plans of Andrew Bynum and Carlos Boozer, this is a difficult series to forecast, but we'll forge ahead anyway.
I mentioned above that the Jazz were going gangbusters before Andrei Kirilenko went down, and he should be back in top form by the time this series tips off -- that's a major advantage for Utah. The Jazz were scorching hot before he went out; despite a rocky finish, they landed with a better point differential than the Lakers for the season.
Meanwhile, L.A. isn't exactly roaring into the playoffs, at just 16-12 after the All-Star break. More depressing is the state of Kobe Bryant's game. He's injured pretty much everywhere right now, and as a Blazers source told me after Portland's win Sunday in L.A., "He's just off." Observation seems to support that point of view. Forget missing the clutch free throws; what about Nic Batum blocking his shot flat-footed?
Since the All-Star break, Bryant has lost nearly four points off his per-40-minute scoring average, even with the Lakers' other injuries seemingly increasing the need for his offense. His turnover rate is significantly higher, too, with nearly four miscues a game after the All-Star break.
Here's the most damning evidence that something is wrong with him physically. Bryant shot 85.4 percent from the line through the end of December. But after hurting his finger in early January, he's at 77.6 percent, which would shatter his career low for a full season.
That said, the matchups here are really problematic for Utah. L.A. won three of four in the regular season, partly because the Jazz don't have players who can reliably check Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom, and partly because the normally highly efficient Jazz offense had unusual difficulty scoring on L.A. The Jazz could have had a dream matchup if they'd won against Phoenix on Wednesday night; they're a combined 10-1 against the three other teams on that side of the draw. Instead, they have a hard slog against Denver and L.A., teams they beat only twice in eight tries.
All told, both teams have pretty convincing reasons to pick against them. I'll go with the Jazz here, but I can't say I feel real strongly about it.
Pick: Jazz in six









(3) Phoenix vs. (7) San Antonio
Season series: 2-1 Phoenix.
Odds say: Suns 53.9%; Spurs 46.1%

I believe this series will decide the Western Conference champion and that the karma gods owe one to the Suns. Further, I think they can beat the Spurs on merit. These have been the two best teams in the West since mid-March, but Phoenix has been hotter longer. The Suns are 28-7 in their past 35 games, playing so well that they now boast, "We're going to start Jarron Collins and still beat you."
Additionally, the much ballyhooed loss of Lopez hasn't appeared to have any material effect on their fortunes. Lopez's plus-minus is almost exactly zero -- they get roughly the same outcomes with Channing Frye or Louis Amundson in the middle.
San Antonio is a legitimate threat to win it all, but I worry about the availability of George Hill -- Suns guards Steve Nash and Goran Dragic roasted the Spurs two weeks ago in Hill's absence, and Hill apparently reinjured his ankle Wednesday night. Between the lack of home-court advantage and the frailty of their three stars, I think the tables will finally turn against the Spurs in this matchup.
Pick: Suns in seven




East Second Round








(1) Cleveland vs. (4) Boston
Season series: 2-2 split.
Odds say: Cavs 76.7%; Celtics 23.3%

Boston and Cleveland played to a draw in the regular season, but Cleveland won by 20 and 11, the Celtics by four and six. Additionally, the Celtics have been a mess since midseason and are going to be lucky just to get out of the first round, while the Cavs should be fresh and rested after quickly dispatching Chicago.
That said, I don't expect this to be an easy series for Cleveland. Boston is good at uglying the game up, and Rajon Rondo causes a lot of problems for Cleveland defensively since none of its guards can stay in front of him. Additionally, Cleveland still will be getting in sync with its returning players at the start of the series and could drop a game as a result.
Ultimately, Cleveland will win, because it is a much better team and the Celtics look exhausted, but the real value in this series for the Cavs will be working out the kinks before their final exam against Orlando.
Pick: Cavs in five









(2) Orlando vs. (3) Atlanta
Season series: 3-1 Orlando.
Odds say: Magic 81.1%; Hawks 18.9%

Orlando is almost the perfect stereotype of a team Atlanta would struggle against. The Magic control the defensive boards and limit the Hawks' second shots. They have a tall post-up center who can play over the top of Al Horford, who is tough and fundamentally sound but only 6-foot-9. And they get fast-break points, taking advantage of Atlanta's lax transition D.
Also, they're really good. The Magic beat Atlanta three times in four meetings; the one loss came at the buzzer, while the wins were by 32, 18 and 17. Ouch. The Hawks are built to match up against pretty much any other opponent in the playoffs, but they're overmatched here and it might not be pretty. Look for the first second-round playoff win of the Mike Woodson era, but nothing beyond it.
Pick: Magic in five




Conference Finals








(3) Phoenix vs. (5) Utah
Season series: 2-2 split.
Odds say: Suns 57.1%; Jazz 42.9%

I have the Suns and Jazz reaching the conference finals, but you could pick two teams out of a hat and face nearly the same prospects at being correct. The Playoff Odds tool gives no Western Conference team more than a 21.8 percent chance of reaching the Finals. That 21.8 percent team, surprisingly, is Phoenix, just ahead of San Antonio's 20.4 and Utah's 18.5.
I like the Suns a little better in this faceoff for a couple of reasons. First, the usual questions about Utah's health apply, although a month from now I'm presuming everyone will be in decent shape. Second, the Jazz won't have home-court advantage. I respect them and all, but picking them to win three straight series without home court is a bit much.
But the real reason to pick against Utah is because of Phoenix. Everybody is sleeping on the Suns, but to me they're clearly the team to beat in the West. Amare Stoudemire has played phenomenally well since his near-departure at the trade deadline, Steve Nash's back isn't giving him fits anymore, the bench has been much better than advertised and speedy Leandro Barbosa is back in the mix after missing 38 games.
Contrary to what many have started believing, the Suns still don't defend worth a lick; although their numbers improved over the final two months, they ranked only 19th in defensive efficiency. But they're so good offensively it doesn't matter. Check out how badly they lapped the field in offensive efficiency this season.
After six years of hearing they can't get to the Finals this way, I think they'll get to the Finals this way.
Pick: Suns in six









(1) Cleveland vs. (2) Orlando
Season series: 2-2 split.
Odds say: Magic 60.0%; Cavs 40.0%

Welcome to the real NBA Finals. These have been the league's two best teams all season, and the winner of this series will be an overwhelming favorite to claim its first championship.
In 2009, Cleveland breezed in as the top seed before being upset by the Magic in the conference finals, leading to a series of roster overhauls by Cleveland that were made with the express purpose of matching up against Orlando.
It seemed to work: The Cavs won two of the three regular-season meetings that mattered (I'm not including their last meeting), and Shaquille O'Neal was able to contain Dwight Howard enough to limit Orlando's 3-point shooting barrage. The Magic made only 22 of 64 shots from long distance in those three games, and both the quantity and the quality of 3-point attempts were to the Cavs' liking.
My numbers like Orlando because of its dominance down the stretch of the season, but Cleveland was with the Magic step for step in the Power Rankings until Shaq and Anderson Varejao went out. We still haven't seen what the Cavs are capable of with Antawn Jamison, Varejao and O'Neal on the court together, but I suspect the answer is "awesomeness."
Most importantly, the Cavs have the best player in the league. A year ago, James' 38-8-8 series averages weren't enough because Cleveland couldn't stop the Magic at the other end. This time around, he has more help, and I think he gets it done in a seven-game slugfest.
Pick: Cavs in seven




NBA Finals








(1) Cleveland vs. (3) Phoenix
Season series: 2-0 Cleveland.
Odds say: Cavs 55.7%; Suns 44.3%

The most cursed sports city against the most cursed NBA franchise? Can it possibly happen? It says here, yes.
I saw Cleveland play Phoenix in December, when the Cavs led by four touchdowns at halftime and coasted to a 17-point win. Suffice it to say that I expect this series to be a bit closer. The Suns are playing dramatically better than they were in December, when the two teams played both games in their season series.
That said, Phoenix might have a lot of problems in this one. The Suns need Lopez to come back to have the size to deal with Shaq, and they have nobody even remotely qualified to defend against LeBron. Varejao, on the other hand, is perfectly qualified to check Stoudemire, and the Cavs have some size to throw at Steve Nash, too, with defenders like Delonte West and Anthony Parker. Moreover, Cleveland will have home-court advantage, and few crowds are louder than the gatherings at the Q.
I suspect they'll have plenty to cheer as King James leads the the Cavs to their first championship. Of course, you might want to take that prediction with a grain of salt -- I said the same thing a year ago.
Pick: Cavs in six
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Old 04-15-10, 03:35 PM
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i like his first round take, but the whole "Spurs are frail/Karma owes one to the Suns", if you're gonna start off an analysis like that, it's really a really poor take.

i like our chances against the Mavs like i've said, let's take this one round at a time and we'll see where we are. even though he says the Spurs could get hurt, it's the same deal with the Suns. the Blazers are no push overs, even without Roy (especially since it's reported Dudley said they wanted Portland, last thing they need is a fire lit in them)
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Old 04-15-10, 03:37 PM
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the Suns in the finals? Not with that group.
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Old 04-15-10, 03:41 PM
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Yeah, what happened to that stat thing? The Suns have played well, but I'll take Pop over Alvin any day.
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Old 04-15-10, 05:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uwe Blab View Post
Yeah, what happened to that stat thing? The Suns have played well, but I'll take Pop over Alvin any day.
I'd take Manu over the Suns in any series.
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Old 04-15-10, 05:12 PM
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I can't blame him, I had Phoenix going to the WCF's in my bracket. I think our team isn't built as well as the half court team that used to beat the Suns and I think we'll end up trying to run with them a little too much and they'll beat us in the running game.
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Old 04-15-10, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by KVas View Post
I can't blame him, I had Phoenix going to the WCF's in my bracket. I think our team isn't built as well as the half court team that used to beat the Suns and I think we'll end up trying to run with them a little too much and they'll beat us in the running game.
we've run against the Suns and ended up in the 100+ before. the difference this year is can our defense, who is better equipped at defending their team, do its job?

half court wise, we got TD, Manu, Tony, and RJ, if anything, we're better than we used to be, especially with Hill on the team. if we take their 3's away, it'll be the same story. but we must do that first.
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Old 04-15-10, 05:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jose_TheGenius View Post
we've run against the Suns and ended up in the 100+ before. the difference this year is can our defense, who is better equipped at defending their team, do its job?

half court wise, we got TD, Manu, Tony, and RJ, if anything, we're better than we used to be, especially with Hill on the team. if we take their 3's away, it'll be the same story. but we must do that first.
Yeah I'm really concerned about our defense against them. It looked kind of iffy in the games we played against them this season. We have the ability to run with them but when it comes to defending them will we be able to??? Back then I think what hurt the Suns the most was Bruce Bowen. Not only for his ability to bother Nash on the defensive end, but to get in their heads mentally with the Stoudamire heel trip and the low blow knee to Nash and gashing his nose. Even Horry's hip check, those kind of things threw off their game in a bad way. Now, the Suns don't have to worry about any of that and it may help them play better against us this time around. Just my opinion though.
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Old 04-15-10, 06:15 PM
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Hard to argue with him. I do see the Spurs as being stronger than the Mavs in a lot of ways-- especially at full strength. They've not had nearly our injury issues this year and barely got in ahead of us. The fact that they've got both Dampier and Haywood means they've got more inside presence than before, but also negates their previous strength, which was being able to really spread us out and get TD away from the rim.

I also think this may be the year the Suns get their revenge on us. They are really playing strong ball and Goran Dragic gives them the backup they've never had in the Nash era. In past series vs. us, it would be Nash giveth and Barbosa taketh away, game in and game out. No more. Stoudemire actually seems to be doing some reboundin too, which is scary, and Channing Frye-- where did that come from?
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Old 04-15-10, 06:21 PM
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I also think this may be the year the Suns get their revenge on us. They are really playing strong ball and Goran Dragic gives them the backup they've never had in the Nash era. In past series vs. us, it would be Nash giveth and Barbosa taketh away, game in and game out. No more. Stoudemire actually seems to be doing some reboundin too, which is scary, and Channing Frye-- where did that come from?
i do concur (did i say that right?) lol anyway, yeah they're more balanced than before. if they got any worries is: can the bench hold up? Gragic and Dudley haven't been to the playoffs nor played a real physical game. they've had an easy schedule too. if you're gonna take anything out of these regular season games is that the Suns finished strong with a weaker schedule, the Spurs finished strong with a tougher schedule.
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Old 04-15-10, 06:22 PM
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i do concur (did i say that right?) lol anyway, yeah they're more balanced than before. if they got any worries is: can the bench hold up? Gragic and Dudley haven't been to the playoffs nor played a real physical game. they've had an easy schedule too. if you're gonna take anything out of these regular season games is that the Suns finished strong with a weaker schedule, the Spurs finished strong with a tougher schedule.
Yeah, the key to that series would be whether Dudley can hold up. He's the Manu-stopper, you know.

Seriously, it's tough to predict vs. the Suns. Sometimes I think that the advantage of the Suns' run and gun style fades in the playoffs not so much because of a tempo change inherent in the playoffs, but because teams get into the same kind of rhythm the Suns are in because of the pace of the game. So a team like the Spurs that is not used to scoring a ton gets used to taking and making a lot of shots, and by the end of the series, their offensive edge is gone. But this year they're on such a roll, I don't know if that will hold up, at least against us.

Last edited by grizzly_bexar; 04-15-10 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 04-15-10, 06:26 PM
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Yeah, the key to that series would be whether Dudley can hold up. He's the Manu-stopper, you know.
yeah lol but he's carried the bench along with Gragic and they've both hit 3's off the bench. the best design for success against this Phoenix team is:

1. have them play the Nash/Amare pick and roll like 05 and have them score the whole time.
2. don't leave 3 point shooters open unless it's Grant Hill in the wing. he's horrid from there, but can make the corner 3's
3. Hill has to use his long arms against Nash and bother him one on one before the pick comes. he's the best defender not named Bruce Bowen for the job
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Old 04-15-10, 07:57 PM
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Hollinger clearly doesn't pay attention to matchup issues between teams. The Jazz are a bad road team and their front line matches up poorly against the Lakers. There's no way the Jazz can win that series without homecourt.
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Old 04-15-10, 07:59 PM
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Really, as always, its going to come down to making shots. They can't stop the Suns pick and roll, so yes they should just guard the 3pt shooters. But the Spurs are going to have to score against them.

Look at us, acting like the 1st round is a foregone conclusion...
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Old 04-15-10, 08:03 PM
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Hollinger clearly doesn't pay attention to matchup issues between teams. The Jazz are a bad road team and their front line matches up poorly against the Lakers. There's no way the Jazz can win that series without homecourt.
I agree, stats don't paint the whole picture. But his stats are based on team play, and the Lakers didn't play very well to end the season. If they had a healthy Bynum, then yes the matchups overwhelmingly favor the Lakers. But how effective will he be?
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Old 04-15-10, 08:17 PM
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Time to sign Robert Horry and this time, tell him to send Nash OVER the scorers table this time around.

Just kidding...









Maybe.
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Old 04-15-10, 10:00 PM
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Yeah I'm really concerned about our defense against them. It looked kind of iffy in the games we played against them this season. We have the ability to run with them but when it comes to defending them will we be able to??? Back then I think what hurt the Suns the most was Bruce Bowen. Not only for his ability to bother Nash on the defensive end, but to get in their heads mentally with the Stoudamire heel trip and the low blow knee to Nash and gashing his nose. Even Horry's hip check, those kind of things threw off their game in a bad way. Now, the Suns don't have to worry about any of that and it may help them play better against us this time around. Just my opinion though.
Yep, the switch to put Bowen on Nash alot won us those series IMO, that right there was a huge luxury that we don't have anymore.
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Old 04-15-10, 10:04 PM
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Yep, the switch to put Bowen on Nash alot won us those series IMO, that right there was a huge luxury that we don't have anymore.
if Hill is healthy by then and we beat the Mavs of course, i think Hill is a better option for Nash than Bowen ever was.

mainly because we'd have a SF switch to a PG, which meant our PG guarding their SF or SG depending on defensive rotations.

now Hill is playing Nash position to position. imagine Hill and Bowen on the same team when Bowen was in his defensive prime? lol ah yes keep dreaming Jose

but i think Hill on Nash is a much better defensive matchup than Bowen/Nash for those reasons.
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Old 04-16-10, 12:50 PM
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if Hill is healthy by then and we beat the Mavs of course, i think Hill is a better option for Nash than Bowen ever was.

mainly because we'd have a SF switch to a PG, which meant our PG guarding their SF or SG depending on defensive rotations.

now Hill is playing Nash position to position. imagine Hill and Bowen on the same team when Bowen was in his defensive prime? lol ah yes keep dreaming Jose

but i think Hill on Nash is a much better defensive matchup than Bowen/Nash for those reasons.
Except it was Bowen's physicality that hindered Nash. He would get his hand in there, shove him, bump him, and throw him off, which I loved. Hill doesn't have all those tricks up his sleeve.
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Old 04-16-10, 02:05 PM
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C'mon people we're talking bout the suns already? We haven't even started the mavs series, they are the no. 2 seed, I'm just as confident we'll beat the mavs, but we still have to beat them. I'm not one for superstition, but I don't wanna jinx it, haha. I do believe we'll beat the mavs in 6. GO SPURS!
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