Tuesday, May 20

NBA Playoffs Non-Analysis: Conference Finals

Just so you know, it kills me not to be able to label this article with the "Cavs" tag, but such is life as a sports fan. I'm still happy I got to see the Cavs post another solid year, send Washington packing once again, and take the team with the NBA's best record to the very brink of elimination.

The good news: until the Boston-Detroit series ends and the East title is awarded for 2008, the Cavaliers remain the Eastern Conference Champions!

So, here's to next year. But first,

Eastern Conference Finals

(1)Celtics vs. (2)Pistons
I think most of us figured these would be the last teams standing here, and it should provide for an entertaining series. Sure, I picked the Cavs to knock off the C's in 6, and had they pulled out Game 1 or 5 in Boston they might have done just that, but that was clearly a bit of a vanity pick. It's easy to say now that it's over, but a non-Cavs-fan Andy would have picked the Celtics in 7.

As for this series, you may remember that I picked Detroit as my champion at the front of my first-round analysis, and can't think of a reason to change that. OK, two reasons: the domination that home teams enjoyed in the second round (22-3), and that split that Chauncey Billups did on-court during the Magic series. If he's healthy, I expect him to control Rajon Rondo and lead the Pistons to their third Finals in six years. If not, things could be tougher for Dee-troit, but even with home-court in Boston's...court, how can I pick a team that hasn't won a road game yet against the East's 8 and 4 seeds? I can't and I won't.
Pistons in 6

Western Conference Finals

(1)Lakers vs (3)Spurs
I selected LA as my West champion at the outset, and have no plans to change that now after two convincing series wins to start the playoffs. The battle-tested Spurs should offer more of a challenge than the Nuggets or Yazz did, but I still like LA to advance, leading to a rematch of the Finals from '04. On the other side of the coin, I have picked the Spurs to lose both of their series so far and they have done nothing but fail me and collectively whine about foul calls even more than Doc Rivers. (Incidentally, Doc, give it a rest. You guys got whipped three times in Cleveland and it had nothing to do with officiating. Did you notice how Mike Brown didn't hang everything on the zebras when his team lost? It's called class.)

Like the Cavs, picking the Hornets to topple the defending champs went against my better judgment, and I said as much when I did it. But I'm going to keep picking against San Antonio (less foolishly this time), because I'm tired of them winning, I'm tired of Tim Duncan's eyes popping out of his head every time someone calls a foul on him, tired of Ginobili and Parker flying to the basket and hoping for bailout calls, tired of those cheap light-bulb rodeo graphics in the upper end zone of their arena, and especially weary of Robert "Cheap Shot Bob" Horry. Plus, they only win in odd-numbered years.
Lakers in 7


Ernest said...

It figures that my four LEAST favorite NBA teams remain. I wish it were possible for the season to end prematurely without the crowning of a champion (like in the strike-shortened '94 season of major league baseball). What I really don't want to watch is a chest-thumping Garnett pitting his Ray Lewis impersonation against the smug whininess of former accused rapist Bryant. On the other hand, a Pistons-Spurs sleepytime series will help elminate any insomnia I may be suffereing from. Whatever.

Go Tribe!

Figgs said...

Your jealousy of San Antonio amazes me. I love they way they play, they have pretty much single-handedly changed the way the NBA is played over the last decade, forcing teams to start playing that other aspect of the game, defense. Greg Popovich has been the best coach in the league since he arrived in San An, and while Duncan is a bit of a complainer, watch ANY NBA player after a foul call, everyone will argue it 95% of the time. I got the Spurs in 6 in this series, then taking care of the Eastern champ.

Andy said...

Dislike and jealousy aren't the same thing! I don't like them, but it doesn't mean I don't recognize that they play good defense and team basketball and win a lot. I'm not stupid. I know Duncan is good and that Gregg Popovich is a good coach.

I also think that the idea that teams didn't play defense before SA is silly.

Bill Simmons made some good points about them in his column about the Suns:

Maybe the Suns didn't win a championship, but we'll remember them 100 times more fondly than the brutally efficient and hopelessly bland Spurs, who taught everyone over the years that the regular season doesn't matter, transformed the NBA playoffs into a flopathon, revived the vile and fan-unfriendly Hack-A-Shaq strategy and did everything short of sending Bruce Bowen out on the court with a chainsaw and a taser. If the Spurs were the Team of the Decade, no wonder ratings dwindled until the league's big comeback this season. The real shame is that all the mugging, acting, eye-rolling, flopping, rule-bending and hysterical shrugging obscured what should have been remembered as a throwback sports team, a shrewdly assembled roster of well-coached guys who played beautifully together, didn't care about credit and revolved around the best power forward who ever played. Instead, we'll remember them as the team that turned the NBA playoffs into the World Cup.

Steve said...

I respectfully concede that Duncan is the greatest power forward of all time, Popovich is a great coach, Parker is one of the best finishers . . . blah blah blah. But I hate those pseudo-purists who regard defensive excellence as some sort of morally superior means of athletic success. Just as I would rather eat pizza and watch The Sopranos instead of eat Brussels Sprouts and read Moby Dick, I'll root for the high-flying Suns or Warriors any day of the week over the precise Popovichian execution of the Spurs . Basketball is supposed to be entertaining and crazy offensive shootouts are entertaining. And so is parity. Put another way, even if you did enjoy the literary brilliance of Moby Dick, would you want to read it three times in five years?

Figgs said...

I'm sorry, I don't believe good, fundamental basketball to be synonymous with boring basketball. I respect what the Spurs have done and how they have done it. Simmons' comment on the Spurs 'teaching everyone that the regular season doesn't matter' is pure stupidity. They have done exactly the opposite. Here is where the Spurs finished since they began their dominance in 1999. Years with an * were championship years.
'99 best record in the NBA*
'00 4th in West
'01 best record in the NBA
'02 2nd in West
'03 best record in the NBA*
'04 best record in the NBA
'05 2nd in West*
'06 1st in West
'07 3rd in West*
'08 3rd in West (soon to be *)

Andy said...

Can you send me a link to your Spurs blog?

Nick said...

Alright, I'm here to moderate. I don't have a horse in this race. A couple of points.

1) The object of the game of basketball is not to entertain, it's to win. The Spurs win games, and they win championships. They don't owe anything to anyone other than doing everything they can to win.

2) There are more aesthetically pleasing teams than the Spurs, but that doesn't matter if the Spurs keep on winning.

3) Bowen is a jerk and Duncan IS a bigtime whiner. That's what's annoying about Duncan: not that he complains, but the way he complains. He's like a little kid begging his mother to buy him some ice cream (pleeease, PLEEEASE!) I'm not sure that Duncan's the best PF (Karl Malone, we need to talk about him), but he's certainly in the top two.

4) On the regular season not mattering... It does, but once you get in anything can happen. By slacking in the regular season, you will probably make your job tougher in the playoffs.

5) I'll remember the Suns one way: soft. A team that excelled in one half of the game (offense, obviously), but was so bad defensively that their offensive prowess was wasted in the playoffs.

San Antonio is not my favorite team to watch, but they win games, and that's really all that matters.

Andy said...

Yes, Nick, winning is what matters, and I don't think I've said otherwise.

Here's the thing: I DON'T LIKE THE SPURS. That's the only point I wish to convey.

dave said...

First of all Figgs the Spurs are very very lucky that Kobe and Shaq were seperated because had they stayed together, the spurs would not have won another championship. Popovich is not the best coach in todays game nor has he been the best coach of the last decade. He could never overcome Phil Jackson so when people say that the spurs were the best team in sports in the last decade, they seem to forget that they were second to the lakers then, and this year they are second to the lakers.

Also People who say the spurs are boring don't know anything about basketball. I know they have Bruce Bowen who is a cheap overrated defender and they have Manu give me the award for best actor Ginobli, but they also win and as nick and I think Figgs said that is the sole reason for sports. If you want something else watch a playground game or something.

Also Nick just a quick point. You said that Karl Marlone should be in the consideration for best power foward and I have to disagree. As you pointed out the purpose of sports is to win and Karl Marlone did not win a championship. The Jazz had the capability of beating the bulls but they never did. That doesn't mean I don't think he was great because as far as I'm concerned he is a better offensive player than Duncan and he is equal on defense to duncan (Malone guards duncan and garnett better than anyone). The only thing Malone lacked was the wins.

I really hate Bowen and Parker, and Ginobli and the only one I have any respect for is Duncan (it wouldn't hurt to develop a left hand Tim).

Its not going to matter because the lakers have been the clear cut best team in the post season and they are going to win it this year and for the next five years (ok I don't know about that, maybe ten years.)

Steve said...

I know a lot about basketball (I've coached and played at the college level) and I still find the Spurs boring. The whole point of a professional sports team is not necessarily to win, but to generate the highest revenue (with the greatest profit margin) for your business. (And granted, the easiest way to achieve those monetary goals is to win.) As a fan of professional sports, the most important thing is for me to be entertained. And yes, sloppily played offensive shootouts are often (but not always) more entertaining than precisely executed schemes enacted by individuals lacking in personal charisma. So yes, I'll take the decidedly non-professional playground kids having fun over the Spurs any day. And to emphasize this again, parity/unpredictably/the accomplishments of the underdog are also highly entertaining. So I did actually enjoy the small market Spurs' exuberant first championship. But that was a long time ago.