SprungOnSports’ Thoughts & Theories
-Jrue Holliday said it best. The Bulls are “really different” without Derrick Rose. So different that the Sixers could end up taking this series against Chicago. Joakim Noah has to continue his superb play down low because Philadelphia now holds the advantage in the backcourt. If the Sixers win the battle in the paint, they’re going to move on.
-It seems like the Heat were built to beat the Knicks. They have better star players, more skilled on defense, better coached and actually disciplined. Carmelo Anthony can’t win a playoff series by himself and Amar’e Stouedmire and Jeremy Lin will be back next season. It really is not a big deal how Miami is wiping the floors with New York and LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are just going about their business and moving onto their next Eastern Conference victim.
-Orlando’s role players are hit and miss and so are the Magic without Dwight Howard. Indiana has remained consistent on both ends and should finish off the Magic rather quickly and move on to an interesting series against Miami.
-Both Boston and Atlanta have dealt with injuries and suspensions and it seems like this series has already gone on for a while. We’re just getting started. This series has the makings of a grind-it-out slugfest with stars on both teams evenly matched and ready to go the distance.
-I thought Utah would give San Antonio a tough time in this series because of a superior young frontcourt. Boy, was I wrong so far. The Spurs have been stellar on the defensive end and Tony Parker continues to turn in his best season as a pro. Will the Jazz put up a fight in Salt Lake? I sure hope so.
-Oklahoma City and Dallas are two evenly matched clubs that are very familiar with each other. But since the Thunder have a clear talent advantage, the Mavs have to play at 110 percent to keep up. They did just that in the first two games but had a major letdown in game three. Russell Westbrook has been sensational and OKC has proven it can play on a high level against an experienced Dallas group.
-As expected, this Lakers-Nuggets series has been a walkover. Denver doesn’t have the muscle inside to compete with Los Angeles’ slow, methodical pace. That halfcourt pace usually dominated in postseason play and Andrew Bynum has definitely been at the top of his game over the first two contests. Unless Denver accelerates the pace, their exit from this year’s postseason will be…accelerated.
-The Grizzlies-Clippers series has been everything we thought it would be and then some. Dynamic matchups everywhere on the floor. Role players making impacts on both sides. An epic comeback in game one by the Clippers followed by a classic grit and grind win for Memphis in game two. Blake Griffin has not yet broken out in his first career playoff series, and doing so may just turn the tide in the Clips’ favor as they head to Los Angeles.
Three Questions With Aron Jacobowitz
What do you think the best series of the playoffs has been so far and why?
Well, before last night I would have been inclined to say Dallas and Oklahoma City. But then game three happened. Dallas shooting 34 percent at home happened. And that’s all she wrote.
The best playoff series now has to be the Clippers and the Grizzlies. And this has nothing to do with the fact that I follow the Clippers – it’s just the most evenly matched series out there. The Clippers tied an NBA record with a 24-point fourth quarter comeback in game one. The Grizzlies rallied and tied the series heading back to L.A. Saturday afternoon. Each game from here on out will be hard-nosed, tough and down right fun to watch.
Every now and then we get a Chris Paul highlight taking the entire Memphis team to the rack. Then we get Rudy Gay in an isolation with Bobby Simmons or Nick Young, and he just rises over them and scores at will. This is also Blake Griffin’s first playoff series. There are so many reasons why this is the best series its almost unfair to point to just one or two. The Clippers were the biggest story entering this season. The Grizzlies shocked everyone last season taking down the top seeded Spurs in the first round. It’s intriguing, exciting and down right entertaining to sit and watch this series that will almost certainly go the distance.
Now the plot line thickens. Caron Butler is most likely out for the series (and perhaps the postseason if the Clipper advance). Mareese Speights has literally been the unheralded MVP for the Grizzlies as he continues to knock down mid range jumpers with incredible accuracy. Mike Conley has played very well manning the point guard spot opposite Paul, limiting his turnovers while Paul has commit nine over the first two games. DeAndre Jordan threw down the alley-oop dunk of the playoffs in game two over Tony Allen’s helpless body. Marc Gasol has proved he may be an even more skilled passer than his older brother. This series is sexy, appealing, and awesome in every way, shape and form.
What team has been the most dominant so far in the postseason and why?
Easy, the Miami Heat. Everyone wanted to talk about how the Knicks had the wherewithal to make this a long, drawn out series. With Carmelo Anthony playing some of the best ball of his career and Amar’e Stoudemire set to return from a herniated disc – this series may go six or seven, right? Wrong.
The Miami Heat are just way too good. Simple as that. And I’m not even talking about their offensive prowess. Defensively, they are just too active for the Knicks to compete. What has Steve Novak done thus far through the first three games?! Absolutely nothing. Anthony has shot terribly from the field. They were blown out by 33 in game one. Showed a little better in game two, only to be blown out at the Garden in game three.
It isn’t Mike Woodson’s fault either. The Knicks are just not a good team. Plain and simple. They have plenty of above average, talented players on their squad but as a unit they are almost laughable. Isolation for Anthony just does not work in the postseason. There is a reason he has failed to accomplish anything in the playoffs through his career – he is selfish. He does not possess the basketball IQ necessary to win. It’s a shame for Tyson Chandler too – and his DPOY acceptance speech said it all – even if it was just in jest.
We all know that Amar’e Stoudemire would be the Least Valuable Player of the postseason’s first week, who would be the MVP and why?
Well, since I cannot include tonight’s game three between the Lakers and the Nuggets, I’d have to give it to Russell Westbrook. Andrew Bynum would most certainly get it if he plays anything like he has in the first two games – but Westbrook has answered the call thus far and Dallas has literally had no answer for him.
In the first two games at home, Kevin Durant struggled mightily from the field, hitting less than 40 percent of his shots and the only constant was that Westbrook was doing his thing night in, and night out. Everyone criticizes his inability to become a true point guard, however in this series, it has benefited him and his team that he remained the player he is. Through the first three games he has shot 49 percent from the field and averaged 26 points per game. When a possession breaks down, he takes a mid range jumper with five seconds on the shot clock and drains it.
Westbrook has his team up 3-0 against the defending champs. A team that sent the Thunder home packing last season is on the brink of elimination at the hands of a much younger team all thanks to the consistency of Westbrook. The only knock on him is that he is averaging less than four assists per game from the PG position. That number will have to rise in later rounds, but to defeat the Mavs, his game is killing them. Kudos to him for sticking to his guns – and blowing the smoke out before he holsters them.
NEW YORK– By Daniel Friedman
1) I think the Nashville Predators have what it takes to come back and erase this series deficit. A ton of credit needs to be given to the Phoenix Coyotes for all they’ve accomplished to this point, but their 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven is, at best, tenuous.
The Preds are a focused bunch right now, having suspended Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for violating team rules and, in doing so, re-instilling the professionalism and work ethic that made Nashville a formidable foe. I don’t think the two players should sit for the remainder of the playoffs, but I don’t mess with the lineup unless Phoenix wins another game. Kudos to GM David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz for doing the right thing in this situation. Rules are rules, playoffs or not.
2) I’m not surprised that the LA Kings have a series lead on the St. Louis Blues. I picked them to beat Vancouver in the first round and have them knocking out the Blues in the semis, too. What does surprise me, however, is that the Kings are ahead 3-0. I think we all expected a more even matchup, but LA’s taken care of business in all areas of the game.
Jonathan Quick has proven, without a doubt, that he is one of the best, if not THE best goaltender in all of hockey right now. If there were any questions as to why Quick’s a Vezina-finalist and Brian Elliott is not, they’ve been answered over these last three games. Granted, the Blues were missing top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for most of game one and the entire game two, but I have a hard time believing that his presence would’ve been enough to prevent St. Louis from falling behind in this series.
3) I think the New York Rangers are going to edge the Washington Capitals in six or seven games. This has been an entertaining series and game three was easily the most exciting (or if you’re a Rangers fan, nerve-racking) contest of the postseason.
The Rangers like to dictate the pace with a certain style and the Caps have shown they’re willing to play that game. Unfortunately for coach Dale Hunter and his squad, I think the Blueshirts are better at it. I expect this to be a tight series the rest of the way, but the Rangers will emerge victorious because they’re stronger on the forecheck and because their big guns, particularly Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, have finally awoken from their slumber while Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin have been relatively silent for most of these playoffs.
Also, as steady as Braden Holtby’s been in net for the Caps, I would sooner take my chances with a guy like Henrik Lundqvist any day of the week. He’s the superior goaltender in this duel and that’s why he’ll be on the right side of the handshake line when it’s all said and
4) I think the Philadelphia Flyers are going to regroup and find a way to best the New Jersey Devils here.
Down 2-1 in a series that’s far from over, the Flyers certainly have the firepower, the defense and the depth to reverse their fortunes. The main concern, one that Philly’s all-too familiar with over the better part of the last two decades, is between the pipes. Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t been great in this best-of-seven, but his performance in this second round has been a dramatic improvement over his play during the Pittsburgh series.
I think, however, that the loss of Sean Couturier will be a tough one for the Flyers to overcome. He recorded four points in these playoffs and has been excellent defensively, so Philly’s neutral zone play is going to take the bigger hit. They have plenty of guys who will step up offensively; that’s not what worries me.
5) I think it’s time I apologized to the Devils for underestimating them to this point.
This team has more depth than previously thought, and guys like Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter have really stepped up when they’ve needed to. Enough cannot be said about the way Petr Sykora, Adam Henrique, David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky have played, either.
If you ask me, that’s the biggest reason why New Jersey is still in the playoffs right now, because at this time of year, teams will only
go as far as their depth players take them.