On Wednesday, we looked at LeBron, Joakim Noah’s dumb comments, the Denver Nuggets and much, much more in Part I of “20 Things I Think I Know,” about the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
Now, with two more games last night, Aaron thinks he knows more than ever before. But does he?
Find out, as he discusses the Lakers, Celtics, Dwyane Wade’s future in Miami and much, much more in Part II of “20 Things I Think I Know.”
11. I Think The Lakers Haven’t Done Anything To Make Me Think That They’re Not Still The Favorites: Didn’t think I’d start things off with a double-negative did you? I guess you just don’t know me as well as you thought.
Anyway, onto the Lakers. Through two games, they really haven’t shown me all that much. Kobe still makes his jumpers, Ron Artest still plays really good defense, Pau Gasol still looks like he got stabbed in the spleen every time a call goes against him, and Phil Jackson still has the same glazed over look on his face he’s had all season, like he just came off a week long spiritual retreat in the mountains with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.
And you know what? I’m ok with it.
The playoffs are a long, two month marathon, not a sprint to the finish line. You can’t let the highs and lows get to you, and this team doesn’t. They go out and play smart, efficient basketball, never seem to get too excited about anything, and while it isn’t always pretty, it’s definitely effective.
Now as I said, through two games I haven’t been overwhelmed, but that’s fine. The Lakers are up 2-0 on a pesky underdog, a team that as recently as two weeks ago was considered a dark horse to make a run in these playoffs. And for the most part, they’ve made it look pretty easy so far.
Believe me when I say that when it’s time to play hard for 48 minutes, the Lakers will be ready. Again, they haven’t shown me much yet, but they also haven’t shown me anything to believe that they’re not the favorites going forward.
Got that? Maybe we should just move on.
12. I Think That If Anyone Is Going To Beat The Lakers In The West, It’ll Be The Mavs: Ok, I know Game 2 against San Antonio was bad. Really bad.
At the same time though, think about it: Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd probably had their worst combined game of the season. Jason Terry was hardly world beating. Neither was Caron Butler. At the same time, Richard Jefferson emerged from a year long coma and basically had his best game of the season with the Spurs. Tony Parker played his best basketball since returning from injury. And you know what? The Mavs were still in it with a few minutes to go.
Assuming they get by the Spurs, and the Suns too (Which I understand is no small task), let’s look at a potential matchup with the Lakers, simply for the sake of fun (We all like fun, right?) Because from what I’ve seen, Dallas is the only team that can beat them in the Western Conference.
What I like about Dallas, is that they’re kind of the West’s version of the Cavaliers. In other words, they can beat you any way they need to.
Need to go big? They can play Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier at the same time. Need to go small? How about Kidd and Terry in the back court? Need quick and athletic? Where are Shawn Marion and Caron Butler? How about a little spark off the bench? Get me J.J. Barea and Rodrique Beaubois. Basically, the Mavs are the Noah’s Ark of the NBA, they’ve got two of everything. And I haven’t even mentioned some guy named Dirk.
So while it’s way (way) too early to think about now, it’s something to keep an eye on in the back of your head.
Dallas and Los Angeles for the Western Conference title. Sign me up for that.
13. I Think The Celtics Are Going To Sweep The Heat, But I’m Concerned Beyond That: Game 2, Celtics Heat. 106-77 final score, without Kevin Garnett. Here come the Celtics right? Umm, I’m not so sure.
Yes the Celtics looked great on Tuesday night, and yes they did it without Garnett in the middle. Wonderful.
Then again, they also did it against a team that has one guy on their entire roster who should be an NBA starter (More on that coming), and against a team that is so offensively impotent that I doubt they could have come back from a 10 point fourth quarter deficit, let alone a 30 point one. Truthfully, at this point, I think even I could check Carlos Arroyo if someone asked me to.
But assuming that the Celtics beat the Heat- And honestly, a sweep wouldn’t surprise me- are we really believing that this Boston team is beating Cleveland?
I mean, I was in the TD Banknorth Garden on Easter Sunday, when Boston did beat the Cavaliers, and I have to tell ya, everything that had to do go right for the Celtics basically did that day. Guys were playing hard on both ends of the court (A rarity this season), tough shots were falling all game, Cleveland was playing without Shaq and Anderson Varejao, and even though LeBron had 42 points, it was hardly his best game, as hard as that might be to believe. The King finished 0-9 from three, and missed six foul shots. We’ll see a lunar eclipse before that happens again in these playoffs.
Beyond that, since when has this Celtics team shown they can maintain the intensity needed to beat Cleveland in a seven games series? Remember, this is the same team that lost to the Knicks and the Wizards (Combined record of approximately 36-723 during the regular season) within three games after beating Cleveland on Easter. They’re also the same team that played with such little focus during the regular season, that I often found myself choosing to watch the Nets instead of them on my local cable package this winter. At least the Nets played hard.
So while I’m ready to ride the Celtics out of the first round, the buck stops in Cleveland. Hope Boston fans enjoyed things on Tuesday night. I don’t think the good times will last much longer.
14. I Think That Rajon Rondo Has Become One Of My Three or Four Favorite Players To Watch In The League: Not to mention the single most terrifying player in the open court not named Steve Nash.
As I mentioned before, I attended that Easter Sunday game, and when I did, I was lucky enough to sneak down into some good seats. Ok, amazing seats. And the one thing that stuck out to me more than anything else, is that when you’re that close, the action just moves so fast. Soooo fast. It really is breathtaking.
And Rondo moves at another speed entirely. Watching him again in Game 2 of this series hammered that point home for me.
I can’t think of a single guy in the league right now who makes better decisions at a faster pace than Rondo. If there’s an open guy in the corner or down low he’ll find them. If he needs to take the jumper, he’ll do that too. And he makes all these decisions in a split second.
While the “Big Three,” may get all the love from the national media, anyone who watched the Celtics this year knows: Rondo was this team’s best player.
15. I Think That Charles Barkley Had The Funniest Line Of These Playoffs So Far: When in the midst of the Game 2 Boston beat down he said, “It’s not often I call my bookie and say, ‘I’ll take Miami +30,’ and still lose.”
Umm wait a second. Isn’t betting through a bookie illegal?
Maybe we should just move on.
16. I Think That Glen Davis Had The Best Self Appointed Nickname Of These Playoffs So Far: So when Big Baby described himself as “The Ticket Stub,” in reference to his start for the suspended Garnett, who himself is known as the “Big Ticket.” I suppose you could probably even take the joke one step further, considering that Davis is, umm, kinda stubby. Although I don’t really think he put that much thought into the nickname.
Either way, all I’ve got to say is this: Very clever young fella.
17. I Think That Heat Fans Should Be A Lot More Worried About Dwyane Wade Leaving Miami This Summer Than Cleveland Fans Should Be About LeBron Leaving Cleveland: It took until these playoffs for me to realize how truly inept Wade’s supporting cast is. And inept might not be a strong enough word.
Honestly, look at these guys. Udonis Haslem hasn’t been good for half a decade. Quentin Richardson and Jermaine O’Neal are nice… If you’re trying to recreate a 2001 All-Star team (In which case why not get the whole gang back together, and add Glenn Robinson and Eddie Jones to your starting five?). Michael Beasley is a power forward trapped in a small forward’s body. Mario Chalmers is a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body. And Carlos Arroyo…Eww. Just eww.
So for all the talk about LeBron leaving Cleveland, what exactly is Wade’s motivation for returning to Miami? To be just good enough to make the playoffs every year, but never good enough to actually do any damage? Because other than that, I’m not seeing much.
Beyond that, if you’re Wade, unless you can convince Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire or some other legitimate big guy to come to South Beach, isn’t Chicago a way better option than staying where you are? The Bulls have good young guys (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah) and cap space to bring in another vet, not to mention it’s your home town. Hell, isn’t New York even a better option? Their fans pack the arena to watch a 25 win team. Miami can’t even sellout unless it’s the playoffs. If my career is going down in flames, I at least want it to be in front of fans who appreciate me.
Remember too that Wade isn’t quite as young as these other guys, as he turned 28 in January. With the way he plays the game, how many peak years does he have left? Three? Four?
So while all the talk will turn to LeBron on July 1, the real question to me is where Wade will end up. Because I can’t think of one good reason it should be Miami.
18. I Think That Orlando Still Might Be The Best Team In The East: Sorry Cleveland fans. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
Now I know that the Magic have hardly been overwhelming so far in these playoffs, and that Game 2 of their series with Charlotte was about as exciting as an Ellen marathon on the Oxygen Network (Not that I’ve ever viewed one. What? I swear!). But when I watch this team, I absolutely positively think they can beat the Cavaliers.
What makes this team so terrifying to me, is that they’re just so damn lights out from the perimeter. They’ve got seven guys who hit at least 78 three’s this season (Seriously, think about that. Basically half their roster averaged at least one three a game. Wow!) and also have seven guys who shot at least 37 percent from behind the arc this year, all taking a high volume of shots. They have guys in their starting lineup that spread the court (Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson), and lose nothing by going to their second team, when they can bring guys like J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus in. Even with Shaq to defend Dwight Howard down low, there are still always four guys on the court who will kill you from the perimeter if you leave them open.
Believe me when I say, as an unbiased observer, I want Cleveland to win the title, and I hope I’m wrong.
But I still think the Eastern Conference goes through Orlando.
19. I Think That The Charlotte Bobcats Roster Might Be The Weirdest Collection Of Guys I’ve Ever Seen: I didn’t fully appreciate just how weird this team is, until I sat down, and really thought about it on Wednesday night. Wow.
When I did start thinking about it, I got the weird feeling that I was at some bizarro high school reunion. Every time I looked up, a new guy that I’d long since forgotten about was emerging from the bench.
“Tyrus Thomas? Wow, it’s been forever. How are the kids?
“Nooooo!! That can’t be. Boris Diaw! How are ya, you son of a b***h?”
“Tyson Chandler!?!? Come here ya big lug!”
Beyond those guys though, look at this roster again. Please, for my sake.
Their leading scorer (Stephen Jackson) will always be known as one of the prime instigators in one of the worst black eyes in league history (Brawl in Detroit). Until this year Gerald Wallace was someone you loved to have on your fantasy team but were impartial to in real life. The Bulls tried everything but bringing in Tony Robbins to motivate Tyrus Thomas before shipping him to Charlotte. Larry Hughes is a contract albatross that no one wanted. Boris Diaw literally ate his way out of Phoenix after his waist line tripled one off season. And Nazr Mohammed? Well I thought he retired about four years ago.
Again, just a weird, weird roster.
But the strangest thing about this team, is that despite everything, despite all the arrests, suspensions and neck tattoos, it somehow works. And coach Larry Brown deserves the credit.
He’s somehow taken all these guys off the scrap heap, gotten them to play hard on both offense and defense, and made them a bona-fide threat to steal a game or two in Orlando this weekend. They’re not going to win the series, but aren’t going down without a fight either.
Honestly, when Brown came back to coach this team and this franchise, I thought he was crazy. And he still might be.
But I don’t many other guys who could have taken this group, and made them a playoff team.
Kudos to the old coach.
20. I Think That If Amare Stoudemire Plays Like He Did In Game 2, The Blazers Cannot Beat The Suns Or Even Come Close: Isn’t basketball a weird sport?
Look at Amare’s stat lines for the first two games:
Game 1: 18 points (8 of 19 shooting), 2-3 FT, 8 Rebounds
Game 2: 18 points (5 of 10 shooting) 8-8 FT, 7 Rebounds
Not that much different right?
Well I watched those two games, and they were totally different.
In Game 1, Amare took shots, but was passive in his aggression toward attacking the basket. If that makes sense. He was settling for 15 foot jumpers, rather establishing himself as the man in the paint.
But in Game 2, those eight foul shots told the story. Every time he caught the ball he was ready to score, and when he didn’t finish, you knew he was getting to the foul line. And Phoenix won by 29.
If Amare continues to play like he did in Game 2, the series is over. Finished, done, complete. As good as Marcus Camby is, he can’t stop Amare. And if you can’t stop Amare, you can’t stop the Suns.
I’m thinking this series could be over in three games.
(Love the article? Hate it? Let Aaron know by commenting below, or e-mailing him at ATorres00@gmail.com. Also, for his thoughts on all things sports, follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres and Facebook.com/AaronTorresSports)