29 April 2011

Elimination Thursday report

Things certainly felt... final last night in the National Basketball Association.

1. Dallas beat the Blazers 103-96, in Portland, to win the series 4-2. My original prediction had Portland winning in 7 games, as I assumed Dallas would get good numbers from Dirk and not much else. Turns out, Jason Terry scored 22 and Marion contributed 16 points on Thursday, two players I didn't expect that much from. Meanwhile, Wallace, Aldridge and Matthews had good games, but the team as a whole only made 5 of their 21 3-point attempts, and while their percentages of 44% from the field and 80% from the line aren't terrible, especially for the playoffs, they let the Mavs shoot 50% from the line and Dallas made 86% of their freebies.

Looking at the series stats, Portland didn't play poorly, Dallas just played better. Close series, and the horses came out on top. Sometimes that's the way it falls. And for Dallas to close it out on the road is kind of impressive. I had them getting smoked by the Lakers in the next round, but now I kind of feel like they can win a game or two.

2. The Lakers beat up on the Hornets last night, in New Orleans, 98-80. Paul submitted a nearly superheroic line of 10 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, but he needed a real superheroic performance to get the win. Poor guy got very little help in this series; Trevor Ariza shot 41%, Marco Bellinelli was 39%, Jarrett Jack shot 35% and Paul's lone bright spot was Carl Landry's 45%.

Anyway, LA is huge and a matchup nightmare for anyone. Sorry, Hornets. Get some better pieces around Chris Paul.6%

3. Atlanta finished off the Magic 84-81, to win the series 4-2. Another outcome I failed to predict, and what's funny is I gave a lot of credit to the Hawks... I just assumed Dwight would go crazy and his shooters would be average. Instead, Redick hit 35% of his shots (6% from deep!), Jason Richardson was a 35% shooter as well and Turkoglu hit 30% of his looks (23% from deep). As a team they hit 26% of their 3-pointers, while letting the Hawks hit 36% of theirs, including Crawford's blistering 45%.

Tough luck, Orlando. Better luck next year.

In other news, Real Salt Lake got beat 1-0 by Monterrey (a club team from Mexico) in Sandy, Utah. If Real could have scored a single goal, they would represent North America in the World Club Championships or something, which would have been cool and maybe I would have become more interested in soccer. As it was, they got shut out, at home (did I mention that a tie would have been as good as a win? Silly soccer), and went home losers. Tough break for those who hope American soccer can take off.

27 April 2011

The Jazz are fine

It seems a lot of the Jazz talk on the radio this offseason has been doom-and-gloom type stuff. Lots of complaining about losing Deron, about the team's record over the last half of the season and a longing for the good ol' days when the Jazz were in the Western Conference Finals.

My response? That's ridiculous. It's no secret I was tired of the Deron/Boozer/Okur trifecta as early as 2008. That nucleus was good for 50 wins and absolutely no chance at an NBA championship. The team's ceiling had been hit. Everything from that point to the Deron trade was just treading water.

The Jazz team right now is not good enough to win a championship either, but the difference is, they are far from reaching their ceiling.

For starters, hey, the Jazz actually ended up with Derrick Favors! He's 6-10 and 246 lbs. at 19 years old. Kid works hard, as evidenced by how built he is. Had 17 points and 8 boards against Tim Duncan (okay, the ghost of Tim Duncan) and the Spurs earlier this month. He shot 51.7% from the field this season and 59% from the free throw line. He averaged 8 points and 5 boards with a block for the Jazz, all while playing less than 20 minutes a game.

In short, I think this kid is going to be a monster on both ends of the floor. Not just an offensive player, like Boozer. Not just a defensive player, like Fes (to whatever extent he is a defensive player). A complete big man, the likes Utah has not seen since Karl left for L.A. retired.

Losing Deron hurts, but I think getting Harris and Favors (along with some draft picks) was more than a fair trade at this point. Harris is a very serviceable point guard, and I don't see him as a weak spot for the Jazz at all. The blossoming of Hayward into a good-maybe great? guard has been surprising, but if continues on his upward trajectory he might turn into the slashing/shooting guy on the wing Utah's been needing for decades.

Slap on a good-to-great center in Jefferson and Millsap as a 6th man/small forward and that's a good starting five. Maybe they'll be as good as the 2008 Jazz team, maybe they'll be worse in the end. But maybe they'll be better, and that's what I'm focusing on.

I do wish this draft were better, as it appears to be worst possible time to get lottery picks in the 6 AND 12 spots. That said, there are always diamonds in the rough, and we don't know for sure who will pan out and who won't.

In addition, the Jazz have tons of cap space to work with, thanks to Andrei's $17.8 million contract finally expiring.

And I may be a BYU homer, but I'd be fine with the Jazz picking Jimmer at 6. If he can score 50 points in college when being double teamed, he can score 10-15 in the NBA when he'll be single covered at best. And if he's playing with two legit low-post options in Favors and Jefferson? Kick it out to the Jimmer and start running the other way, because he'll hit at least 50% from deep when he's wide open.

To sum up, if I can't root for a team that is dominant (2006 BYU, 1996 Jazz), I'd rather cheer for a team with the potential to get there than one with no shot at it.

The Jazz are fine.

25 April 2011

BYU basketball is popular

In case that's hard to read, it's a chart of the highest-rated sports broadcasts on cable over the last month. Up top? BYU vs. Florida in the Sweet 16. Not bad. People love the Jimmer.

Of course, it ended up being one of the worst games of his career, but still.

Here are the highlights.

Weekend NBA updatery

1. Sorry, Denver, but your scrappy "no real star, who you gonna guard?" offensive just isn't enough to make it past the Thunder. Durant and Westbrook didn't have the best games Saturday, and in fact, OK City went over 6 minutes of game time without scoring at one point and the Zombie Sonics still won. J.R. Smith was not fouled on the final shot... it was amazing defense from Harden and Smith should have passed it once it was clear he wasn't getting anything close to a good look. Thunder up 3-0.

Prognosis: goodbye Nuggets.

2. The Celtics completed a sweep of the Knicks Sunday. I would feel sorry for the fans in New York, but most of them are also Yankees fans, so whatever. Not all that surprised the pairing of Amare and Carmelo didn't exactly take off, but you'd have thought they could at least win one game. The Knicks as a whole might have had a chance to win some games if they'd played some defense, at least. Boston spent most of the second half of the season struggling to score on anyone, but Ray Allen shot 65% from deep against them on the series and Pierce was at 50%. Add in Rondo's freakish triple double of 15 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists in Game 4 and you have a pretty big bag of defensive fail.

[Rondo joined] Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to record six career playoff triple doubles.
A Mike D'Antoni leading a team known for poor defense? Whodathunk? Boston wins 4-0. Prognosis: the Celtics need to look this good against a team that cares about the other end of the floor before I'll take them seriously.

3. Portland beat the Mavs Saturday behind Brandon Roy's 18 fourth-quarter points. Dallas shot only 40% as a team, and while Portland only made 42% of their looks, Nowtizki's 20 points weren't enough. Like I said, both teams have their flaws, and it's going to be a close series. Tied 2-2.

Prognosis: Dallas wins.

4. The Sixers beat the Heat Sunday to extend the series at least one more game. In a nutshell, Wade and LeBron had great games and no one else showed up for Miami. Bosh: 5-12 and 5 rebounds. Bibby: 0-6. Chalmers: 3-9. Jones 1-3. Just an ugly offensive showing for the Heat's role players. The Sixers weren't exactly on fire themselves, but rookie Evan Turner scored 17 on 7-13 shooting to help Elton Brand's 15 points, and they got it done. Heat up 3-1.

Prognosis: good job showing some life, Philly, but it's not enough in the long run.

5. Similar story for the Magic and Hawks. Dwight continues tearing it up (29 points, 17 rebounds and 2 blocks in Game 4) but his supporting cast is terrible. Turkoglu shot 2-12, including a last-minute 3 attempt at the end of the game. Jameer Nelson was 3-12 and Redick shot 0-6. In fairness, the ghost of Gilbert Arenas did score 20 points on 9-18 shooting, but if not for this unexpected good night from him, the loss would have been much worse than three points. Apparently the strategy of "get a dominant big man and surround him with shooters" doesn't work if your shooters can't shoot. The Hawks had four guys in double figures, including the red-hot Jamal Crawford, who is averaging 24 ppg and 47% shooting from deep for the series. Atlanta leads 3-1.

Prognosis: Atlanta is scrappy.

6. Derrick Rose's bad shooting numbers finally caught up to him as the Pacers beat the Bulls 89-84 Saturday. Rose shot 6-22 from the field, bringing his series average to 29 ppg on 35% shooting overall and a blistering 17% mark from deep. He was outscored by Deng, Boozer and Noah, while taking several more shots. Rose himself was 1-9 from deep... someone needs to tell this kid to stop jacking them from behind the line. You don't see Rajon Rondo doing that, do you? He knows his limitations and doesn't hurt his team by shooting from range. Anyway, Hibbert and Granger both had double-doubles in the close win. Chicago leads 3-1.

Prognosis: it'd take a miracle for Indiana to win, especially considering Mr. Stern has no intention of his league MVP getting ousted in the first round. Sorry, Hoosiers.

7. Memphis punked the Spurs for the second time in three games Saturday behind Zach Randolph's 3-pointer with less than a minute left to put Memphis up four. Here's how improbable that shot was: Zach was 8-21 on the night and had only hit 8 of his 43 three-point attempts on the season. Duncan afterwards said he didn't think Randolph would shoot it from there, and he had every reason to think that, but sometimes the basketball gods smile on otherwise poor shooters. Ginobili and Parker combined to shoot 10-24 from the field and Duncan only scored 13 points on 11 shots. Pau's little brother contributed an efficient 17 and 9 in the win. Memphis up 2-1.

Prognosis: San Antonio is old, but they'll figure it out.

8. And the cherry on top of a good weekend in NBA basketball: Kobe Byrant shoots 5-18 and spends the night yelling at his teammates in a classic Lakers loss to the Hornets. Chris Paul was brilliant, racking up a triple double line of 27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists and flat out destroying anyone who tried to guard him. He got good help from Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry and Aaron Gray, as the team shot a relatively blistering 44% from the field. The Lakers had five guys in double digits, but Gasol only pulled down 4 boards and Odom was 1-7 from the field. Series tied.

Prognosis: CP3 can't keep it up forever, but look out for the Thunder, Laker fans.

22 April 2011

Some statistical analysis

My buddy Stu took some time to compile the average years played in the NBA for each team in the league. I told him if he sent me the data I'd blog it, so here I am.

To begin, here are the numbers:

Sacramento: 2.57 24-58
Minnesota: 2.69 17-65
Washington: 2.80 23-59
Toronto: 3.06 22-60
LaC: 3.21 32-50
Houston 3.26 43-49
Golden State: 3.5 36-46
Portland: 3.571 48-34
Cleveland 3.6 19-63
OK City 3.714 55-27
Memphis: 3.66 46-36
New Jersey: 3.73 24-58
New Orleans: 4.06 46-36
Indiana: 4.13 37-45
San Antonio: 4.73 61-21
Denver 4.78 50-32
Utah 4.9 39-43
NY: 5.0 42-40
Philadelphia: 5.06 41-41
Phoenix: 5.21 40-42
Detroit: 5.26 30-52
Charlotte: 5.40 34-48
Milwaukee: 5.42 35-47
Chicago 5.46 62-20
Atlanta 5.714 44-38
Orlando: 5.923 52-30
Dallas 7.8 57-25
Boston: 8.26 56-26
Miami: 8.26 58-24
LAL 8.5 57-25

Boy that is ugly. Maybe if I were better with Excel I could manage to make it look prettier.

Anyway, the last stats class I took was my senior year of high school, so let's see what I can do.

For starters, the top seven teams are in the playoffs. The bottom seven teams are out of the playoffs. Milwaukee has the honor of being the oldest team in the NBA to not make the post season, while the Blazers are the youngest.

Two jumps up from Portland we have the Thunder, who are not only super young, but also a real threat to win the West. Meanwhile, the Pistons, Bobcats and Suns struggled mightily while being older than most teams in the league.

Obvious outliers (oooh a fancy stats term):

-Houston because they are so young but still almost managed to sneak into the playoffs.
-Portland for being so young and so good.
-OK City for the same reason as Portland, only moreso.
-San Antonio for winning 61 games while having the average experience of squads like the Pacers and Nuggets. I had no idea Duncan, Parker and Ginobili were surrounded by such relative newcomers.
-Detroit for having as much experience as the Knicks and Jazz but winning only 30 games total. They've got three guys with over 11 years of playing time and can't even make the playoffs. Of course, who can blame them when these three guys are Ben Wallace, Tracy McGrady and Richard Hamilton?

What does this show? Well, my poor methodology displays the fact that unless you get super lucky in the draft and end up with really young studs like Oklahoma City, having experience on your team definitely helps you reach the top of the NBA standings.

Unless it doesn't. Then you probably made some bad signings somewhere along the way.

Feel free to forward this invaluable information to and NBA GM's you know.

And if any of you are stat heads, feel free to enlighten me to hidden nuggets of information I may have missed. I can offer temporary, limited fame!

19 April 2011

NBA ramblings

-So the Heat smacked the Sixers around for a while last night, and when all was said and done they led the series 2-0. Philly shot 34% for the game, despite a decent night from Evan Turner. If the Heat win it all this season, it's going to be on their defense, and their defense looked good here.

-Also last night, the Bulls toyed around with Indiana some more and ripped their hearts out for the second time in two games. Derrick Rose continued his ways of shooting poorly from the field and earning a ton of trips to the free throw line. Boozer showed up, scoring 17 points and pulling down 16 boards. Granger led an amazingly balanced effort in scoring from the Pacers, as nine players scored at least 6 points, and one more scored 5. If nothing else, this series might give Indiana fans some hope for next season.

The Rose thing is interesting. Normally I hate it when a player scores 25+ on 40% shooting, because hey, if the entire team shot that poorly, they'd definitely lose, right? Scoring a lot in an inefficient manner isn't that impressive. But with Rose, his free throw attempts and conversion rate are so high it almost offsets it. Would I like to see him hit more of his shots? Yeah. But if he keeps forcing people to foul him, and then keeps making 12-13 from the stripe like he did on Monday, I'm willing to overlook the field goal percentage mark a little.

-The NBA said "Oh yeah, that was totally offensive interference on Kendrick Perkins that one time."
Had the officials whistled Perkins for an illegal touch, the Nuggets would have gotten possession with a one-point lead and just over a minute remaining in regulation; instead, the Thunder took a one-point advantage and held on for a 107-103 win to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series.
Ouch. That said, this was one bad call, one moment in the game that didn't go Denver's way. The night was made up of thousands of moments, and if any of them had gone differently, maybe that offensive interference call wouldn't have even mattered. If there were three, four, five egregiously bad calls, then you can complain, Nuggets. But one call? Play better for the first three quarters and make the score late so lopsided in your favor that bad calls don't even matter. Good luck in Game 2.

-Dwight Howard won his third Defensive Player of the Year award in a row. As Ball Don't Lie wrote,
...you should probably be up for putting Dwight Howard's grinning mug up on Mt. Rushmore for leading this group of sieves to the third-best defense in the NBA in 2010-11.
Spot on. That the Magic were that effective on defense with Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson covering the perimeter, then Dwight was simply transcendent this season.

Here's hoping he gets some help in Game 2 against the Hawks tonight.

18 April 2011

Supplemental playoff draft idea

Do you wish you could watch Blake Griffin in this year's playoffs? Miss seeing Deron Williams, Stephen Curry or Brook Lopez? I have an idea on how to improve the quality of the playoffs and make everyone happy.

In short, the NBA should institutes a supplemental playoff draft.

After the regular season ends, each playoff team can draft one player from a non-playoff team to join their squad for the playoffs. The draft order is determined by final regular-season record, which means the Bulls would choose last and the Pacers would choose first this year.

So say the Pacers take Blake. They have him for every game until they get eliminated. At that point, everyone goes home and Griffin is a Clipper again next fall.


1. Fans of non-playoff teams have a reason to watch. Any Clipper fans who don't normally care about the playoffs are now watching the Pacers play, increasing TV ratings and boosting revenue across the board. The same goes for fans in New Jersey, San Francisco, Houston and many other markets.

2. Players on bad teams get valuable playoff experience. Blake Griffin plays against the Bulls, gets to understand the intensity of the playoff experience, and returns that much more valuable for the Clippers. When the Clips finally manage to reach the playoffs themselves, they have a battle-hardened Griffin ready to lead them... he knows exactly what to expect and doesn't need to spend a couple games figuring things out.

3. In today's NBA, there are no 70-win Bulls teams. There are no Showtime Lakers or Bird/McHale/Parrish Celtics. Teams in the past were way more loaded than they are today (mostly thanks to league expansion), and even the Lakers, Spurs and Bulls have holes they wouldn't mind filling. Even if you're getting the 16th-best player of those not in the playoffs, that's awesome.

Here's a non-scientific list of the best 16 players not in the playoffs (according to the Yahoo! fantasy rankings in my league this season).

1. Stephen Curry
2. Monta Ellis
3. Al Jefferson
4. Dorell Wright
5. Kevin Martin
6. Eric Gordon
7. Channing Frye
8. Steve Nash
9. David Lee
10. Andrei Kirilenko
11. Brook Lopez
12. Carlos Delfino
13. Luke Ridnour
14. Andray Blatche
15. Brandon Jennings
16. Javale McGee

Somehow Blake doesn't rate on this system, which is ridiculous, but you get the idea.

The Bulls add Javale McGee while the Pacers get to choose from Griffin, Curry, Ellis or Jefferson. Meanwhile the Spurs can add Andray Blatche and the Nuggets can grab David Lee. Not a bad setup, in my opinion. No one is stuck with a scrub, and if a team doesn't want to risk ruining their team's chemistry, they can just pass.

Potential Cons

1. Owners might not want their best players risking injury to help another team, similar to how Mark Cuban has complained about Dirk playing for Germany in the Olympics and other international tournaments.

To offset this, I would have the drafting team pay one or two million dollars to the non-playoff team in exchange for rights to the player. Maybe even a second-round draft pick on top of cash considerations. And the owner's guy gets the playoff experience needed to benefit his team next season.

2. Players might not want to assist another team's effort to win a championship. In that case they can remove themselves from the draft, though in order to offset this reluctance they'd also be paid handsomely for their time and effort. In addition, they may end up getting historical credit for helping another team win a championship, as in "Kevin Love assisted the Denver Nuggets in winning three championships while part of the Minnesota Timberwolves." And as previously mentioned, they get playoff experience... a vastly important factor if you'd like to win one for your team one day.

They also get the added benefit of other teams watching them in the playoffs. If Curry tears it up against the Lakers and helps the Nuggets get to the conference finals, you don't think his value goes up? His next contract is going to be larger than it would be if he were just part of the perpetually non-contending Warriors.

And to top it all off, you know David Stern loves this idea. It increases TV revenues, gets his young stars more exposure, and creates more even playoff matchups (though that's not much of an issue this year).

I think this idea would work. Your take?

17 April 2011

March Madness lives on

(Photo: Jayne Kamin/Oncea-US PRESSWIRE)

Is the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament bleeding into the NBA playoffs or what?

No lower seed this weekend has been embarrassed. In fact, three of them have outright won Game 1, meaning the Lakers, the Spurs and the Magic have already lost a home game to what people considered to be vastly inferior opponents.

Dag. This is why I don't gamble on sports.

Anyway, here's my breakdown. More detail available from games I actually watched.


An absolutely heartbreak for the Pacers. To lead the entire game, only to utterly choke in the final two minutes or so... that stings, and I don't even care about Indiana.

Rose was unstoppable. For a team that publicly pronounced they had to slow down Rose to beat Chicago, the Pacers sure did a bad job. 39 points is always impressive, though he was ice cold from dowtown (0-9) and as a result shot only 43% overall. But he got to the basket so often, and in such a way it was impossible to block his shot or draw a charge, that he attempted 21 free throws, making 19 of them. Normally I hate seeing a stat like that, but believe me, Rose earned every one of those attempts, getting smacked in the face and hammered across the arms more than once. The Pacers tried to make him earn his points, and he did.

The other thing that stuck out was how bad Boozer was. 12 points on 4-11 shooting and 6 rebounds? That's what the Bulls are paying him $14 million for? And besides the horrendous offensive showing, he was completely outclassed by Tyler Hansbrough on the other end. Psycho T scored 22 points on 10-19 shooting, most of which was one-on-one against Carlos. This was despite catching an elbow to the temple from Kurt Thomas and apparently being knocked unconscious at one point in the game.

Midway through the 4th, the Pacers were essentially running the offense through Hansbrough and he was coming through. Then they inexplicably stopped giving him the ball, were unable to score over the last 3 minutes of the game and lost as Rose did whatever he wanted on offense. I believe if Hansbrough hits one or two more jumpers over Boozer's pathetic excuse for a defensive effort, Indiana could have won this one.

As it was, massive collapse, loss, try again next time.


Miami doesn't run an offense. Defensively, they're very good, and LeBron and Wade can both get to the hoop pretty much any time the want, but it's essentially pickup ball. Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young (best name in basketball) and Jrue Holiday all had great games for the Sixers, but in the end, Miami's Big Three were too much, even if the rest of the Heat were worthless.

Miami's lack of a structured offense will hurt them eventually this postseason, but not against Philly.


I'm going to choose to believe I lit a fire under Dwight Howard with my criticism last week. I mean, 46 points and 19 rebounds? Really? Jameer Nelson also had a great game, contributing 27 points, but no one else really showed up for the Magic. Arenas: bad. Turkoglu: bad. Bass: bad. Redick: bad.

Meanwhile, the Hawks had five players reach double figures, and four of those scored at least 15. Crawford had one of those games he's capable of producing, scoring 23 points on 5-6 shooting from range, and Joe Johnson was not terrible, putting up 25 points on 9-16 shooting himself. Overall, Atlanta shot 51% from the field and 43% from deep; those numbers will win you games no matter what time of year it is.


A close game throughout, but in the 4th quarter it was the Nowitzki show, as he scored 18 points over the final 12 minutes. Most of those were from the free throw line, and as I didn't watch I can't comment as to whether they were legit fouls or not, but still an impressive stretch of basketball. Kidd was Dirk's second banana last night, and without his 24 points I doubt Dallas wins.

Aldridge scored for the Blazers, and Camby rebounded (18 total), but overall they were just no match for the big German.

San Antonio-Memphis

25 and 14 for Zach. 24 and 9 for Lil' Gasol. Three other players in double digits. These are not the last decade's Spurs.... no way the Grizzlies shoot 55% from the field with a younger, healthier Duncan and Co.

But this afternoon it was the younger, healthier Grizzlies taking it to the legends and coming out on top. Duncan wasn't terrible, scoring 16 and pulling down 13 boards, and Parker got to the line a ton on his way to scoring 20, but you can't shoot 40% from the field as a team and expect to win without some amazing defense. And San Antonio just doesn't have it right now.

Epic upset in the making here.

Los Angeles-New Orleans

It appears the rumors of Chris Paul's demise are greatly exaggerated, as he out-dueled Kobe on a way to a big win for the Hornets. 33 points, 14 assists and 7 rebounds is clearly a better line than 34 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, I don't care how many rings the Black Mamba has.

Carl Landry came up big, scoring 17 and apparently helping the Llama to a 2-9 shooting night.

Kobe had no help from anyone in this game, but I wonder if he'd involved his teammates a little more early if it would have paid off in the end. Five turnovers for Bryant in the loss.

Boston-New York

Tight Game One, fitting for a predicted tight series. All five starters with double digits for Boston. Poor shooting from Pierce, Garnett and Rondo. Meanwhile, 28 and 11 from Stoudamire, but little help from Carmelo, Billups or anyone else. Does not bode well for the Knicks.

Oklahoma City-Denver

Durant with 41 points on 13-22 shooting, 3-6 from downtown, and 9 rebounds. Kid is a winner. Westbrook held up his end of the "best backcourt in the NBA" label, scoring 31 points and dishing 7 assists to go with 6 rebounds. No one else did much (outside of 11 highly effective minutes from Maynor (I miss that guy)), but it didn't matter. Oklahoma holds off a strong effort from the star-less Nuggets for a close win.

Denver needs more from Ty Lawson (10 points) and Wilson Chandler (9) if they hope to keep this series close.

16 April 2011

Western Conference playoff predictions

I don't have quite as many thoughts about the matchups in the West, and it's late, so this post will be a bit shorter than my one from earlier today.

Memphis-San Antonio

I know what you're thinking. "The Grizzlies? In the playoffs? Against the Spurs? I'll get my broom." And yes, while the Duncan\Ginobili\Parker trio has been winning championships since what seems like the Reagan presidency, these are not the 2003 Spurs, and the Grizzlies are better than you think.

Zach Randolph had a monster season for Memphis, averaging 20 and 12 on 50% shooting and often pulling down upwards of 20 rebounds in one night. Sure, he's crazy, but at least lately, he's been good crazy. Put him next to Pau's little brother and you have a formidable front court, maybe enough to contain Timmy.

If Rudy Gay were healthy (out for the entire playoffs with a shoulder injury) I may give even pick the Grizzlies with some confidence, but as it is, San Antonio's experience and coaching is just too much. Maybe next year, Grizz.

Spurs in 5.

New Orleans-Los Angeles (Lakers)

This matchup is just sad. Chris Paul is working on what I have heard are knees completely devoid of cartilage, and his best teammate, David West, is done for the year. Outside of these two, no one else scored more than 11 points per game this season, and I guess Emeka Okafor is their second banana for the series. Yikes.

Meanwhile, L.A. has looked disinterested more than not over the last few weeks, losing to the Jazz, among other terrible squads. That said, Odom has been lights out since marrying that Kardashian robot, averaging 14 and 9 on 53% shooting, and Pau is Pau. If Bynum can be healthy, it's tough for anyone to beat these guys, let alone a team led by a crippled point guard.

The only way I see L.A. dropping even a single game is if Kobe goes into Bad Kobe mode and shoots 40 shots at a 23% clip. Not going to happen; he only goes into that mode when he's worried, and the Hornets won't put up enough of a fight to rattle him.

Lakers in 4.


An interesting series, if only because both teams have received a lot of hype in the past, and then came crashing down to earth. The Mavs haven't been the same team since losing to the Heat in the Finals in 2006, and the Blazers have finally succumbed to the hex put on them by that witch, and injuries to just about every player on that team = bad times.

Dirk is Dirk, and the 7-foot shooting guard submitted another great season, scoring 23 points per game on 51/40/90 percentages while pulling down 7 rebounds a night. That said, he's lacking a Robin to his Batman. Jason Terry and Caron Butler are good players, but not suited to carry more of a scoring load than they already do. Then you have the broken shell of Shawn Marion (12 points and 6 boards a game) and Tyson Chandler, who's a double-double machine when healthy.

Portland has some good pieces: LaMarcus Aldridge turned in the best season of his career, but before the Gerald Wallace trade, no one else on the roster was especially impressive. Brandon Roy's knees are gone. Wesley Matthews is good, but he's not the key to winning a championship. Wallace has been decidedly Gerald Wallacey for the Blazers, averaging two blocks, two steals and seven rebounds per game on top of 15 points. In addition, he's the exact type of defender that has been able to slow Dirk down in the past.

In short, this is a tossup. Dallas has homecourt, which I imagine will be a big advantage, but not enough of one to affect the final outcome.

Blazers in 7.

Oklahoma City-Denver

To start, the Thunder are my pick to beat the Lakers in the playoffs this season. They almost did it in 2010 without any kind of defensive post presence, and with Perkins, I see them pulling it off. But to get there, they have to get past a surprisingly lively Denver team.

The Nuggets lost both Carmelo and Chauncey Billups in February, but managed to finish the season winning 18 of their last 25 games. Looking at the roster, this team is filled with great role players, but the closest thing they have to a star is Nene. That said, who is Oklahoma City going to guard? Gallinari is a scorer, Afflalo is a waterbug, Wilson Chandler was a fan favorite in New York and J.R. Smith can get hot at any time. There's nobody to key on.

Meanwhile, the Thunder are humming. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have proven themselves to be the best backcourt in basketball, and with the added strength of Perkins in the middle and a freed Ibaka roaming around creating havoc, this is a well-built squad.

It should be an entertaining series, but in the end, OK City's star power is too much for the Ewing Theory Nuggets to overcome.

Thunder in 5.

15 April 2011

Eastern Conference playoff predictions

My NBA watching this season was a complete disaster.

After the wife and I decided to get rid of our cable, I decided the only things I'd really miss, and couldn't get online free somewhere, were the NBA and NCAA football.

Turns out there wasn't anything I could do about the football side of my sports withdrawal, but the NBA does offer a League Pass option for broadband users. After researching my options within the program, I chose a package that let me pick eight teams to watch (all home and away games, unless televised).

I chose Golden State, the Clippers, Miami, the Knicks, Portland, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Boston.

In retrospect, I think I picked well from an entertainment perspective.

Anyway, this plan cost around $100, which I felt was a reasonable price for an entire season of watching Blake Griffin and LeBron James do their thing. For the first few weeks, everything was great. The picture quality was good, and I could stream the games to my TV if I didn't feel like sitting at my desk to watch Kevin Durrant score 43.

Then we changed ISP's to a cheaper, wireless option. It saved us around $25 a month, and the initial download speeds we were getting were great. For about a day.

Then everything went to pot.

From the 3.2 megabit download speed I was enjoying, it dropped to around 40 to 50kb/sec, utterly unsuitable for streaming media like Youtube, Netflix and... the NBA League Pass.

I figured it was just a temporary problem, but after two days of this, I called my ISP and was told they were throttling my connection because we used streaming media.

Yeah, apparently this cheap, 3.2 megabit package was only for people who check their e-mail and play Sudoku online. Stream anything for a period of time and they throttle you. Go over your 5GB monthly download cap, they throttle you.

I actually spoke with the tech who signed us up for the service initially, and he had the gall to tell me he asked what we use the internet for, and I said nothing about streaming. Dude, ever since we got rid of cable, internet streaming is 70% of what we do with our connection! You never asked me that question, and if you had, I would have told you we use Netflix and Hulu almost every day.

Anyway, Netflix and Hulu are generally able to work okay with extensive and time consuming buffering, but the NBA League Pass just can't do it, seeing as to how it's a live stream and all.

Bad times.

Bottom line, I watched almost no NBA over the last few months of the season. I faithfully read the blogs, which is nice, but I haven't seen anyone play an entire game, and that stinks.

But since when has a lack of knowledge and insight stopped me from offering my opinions before?

The good news is that I'll be watching a ton of playoff basketball over the next six weeks, thanks to making some arrangements. Expect a lot of blogging on the National Basketball Association through early June.

Without further ado I give you my 2011 NBA Playoff Predictions, Eastern Conference Style!

Video courtesy The Two Man Game via Ball Don't Lie


Remember waaay back in 2008 when I wrote David Stern had rigged the draft to get Chicago the #1 pick and thereby restore the Bulls to their rightful place as NBA Royalty alongside Boston and L.A.?

That plan certainly worked.

Anyway, the Bulls are a great team, mostly defensively. Second best squad in the league at giving up points, at just over 91 a game. As we've learned, this trait is hugely important in the playoffs, when things slow down and getting that one stop at the end of the game can be the difference between winning a championship and going home a loser.

It's weird to think Boozer is on this defensive juggernaut, but as I've argued extensively in the past, put him next to a defensive center/team and his defensive liabilities, which are many, aren't as much of a problem anymore. The Jazz playing him with Okur was a disaster of epic proportions. The Bulls playing him with Noah, a defensive player if there ever was one, equals success.

The Pacers are an interesting bunch. Danny Granger is a poor man's Kobe, Roy Hibbert was tearing it up for a while there and then cooled off a whole bunch and they have two identical moderately useful white forwards in Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts.

I can see the Pacers keeping it close in two or three games, but overall they just don't have the talent or coaching to beat Chicago.

Bulls in 5. Derrick Rose gets more ammo for his (mostly deserving) MVP campaign.


Ah, the Heat. Target of billions of pounds of internet vitriol over the last nine months. Were Wade, James and Bosh overly cocky last summer? Definitely. Was expecting the team to win 70 games unreasonable? Maybe, maybe not. Losing Haslem was a giant blow, and the same goes for Mike Miller. Give them a defensive specialist down low and a guy who can hit wide-open 3's and the LeChyane Washames group can win a lot.

But even if these three have to do it all themselves, there's no better place to make it work than the playoffs. Grind it out games, where one guy who can get to the hoop at will is invaluable... and Miami has two.

The Sixers had a roller coaster of a year. Started terribly, worked their tails off to get into a decent playoff spot, then tanked the last few games to earn a date with Miami. I guess when Andre Iguodala is your best player, that's about the best you can do. Sorry, Philadelphia.

Heat in 5.


Hooray for Dwight Howard! He is finally showing post moves, and as a result, scoring more than he ever has before.

That said, an improvement from 20.7 ppg to 23 ppg is not exactly mind blowing.

There's still a lot of room to grow with Dwight, but I honestly just don't see it ever happening. He doesn't have a tenth of a percent of the "I will step on your throat until you die" attitude Jordan had, and in the NBA, that's what makes the supremely talented legends. Dwight's abilities + a killer attitude = at least 30 points per. Maybe more. The dearth of talent at center around the league means he has tens of games a year where he just needs to dominate Jamaal Magloire and Hasheem Thabeet in order to own the league, and he just doesn't want to do it.

Regardless, he is still a force of nature and even all by himself I think he could beat Atlanta. This is not to malign the rest of Orlando's roster; Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu are not bad pieces. This team won't make it to the Finals, but it will be enough to get past the Hawks.

Meanwhile, Atlanta is relying on max contract guy Joe Johnson to get it done. Yes, the same Joe Johnson who scored 18 ppg on 44% shooting from the field and 29% shooting from deep this season. $16.3 million this season. And over the next FIVE seasons? He'll earn 19, 21, 23 and 24 million. Per season.

Thank the Hawks and this contract if this NBA lockout extends too far.

On the plus side, Josh Smith is always fun to watch, and the Horford/Pachulia combo may be enough to throw Dwight off his game. Who knows, maybe Jamal Crawford might get hot one game and bury the Magic in 3's.

But in the end, Orlando comes out on top.

Magic in 6.

Boston-New York

Two good teams, both with major flaws. Let me break them down for you.

The Celtics are old and injured and need to rely on good playoff minutes from Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal to be a contender.

The Knicks can't play defense worth a lick and D'Antoni only uses 6 guys a night, leading to fatigue in the long run.

Bill Simmons has been complaining for weeks about the February trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Yes, Perkins was somehow a defensive presence down low despite being 6'4" and having no vertical. But he wasn't exactly all-world or anything.

That said, when your backup options are a 39-year-old (THIRTY NINE) Shaq and a guy who scored 5 ppg for you in 24 games, I think I might be upset, too.

Sure, Shaq was surprisingly halfway decent for the Cavs last year in the playoffs, recording 11 points and 5 boards a game on 51% shooting while banging around on defense. I'm just not sure he can do it again.

Add in the reports that apparently Perkins and Rondo were BFF's and Rajon's been moping around for the last two months and you see the problems.

The opposing argument (from GM Danny Ainge) is that the trade set the Celtics up to be more prepared for the future, but it seems they sacrificed the 2010-2011 season to do it. We'll see how it works in the long run.

The Knicks are greatly rejuvenated (Stern rejoices) thanks to signing Amar'''''e Stoudamire last summer and acquiring Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline. Much like the Heat, these three players are capable of winning a bunch of games on their own, or they would if Chauncey hadn't started declining and Stoudamire could guard anyone/rebound in the playoffs.

I expect some entertaining games in this series as D'Antoni tries to solve the riddle of Boston's defense (lessened with the departure of coach Tom Thibodeau to Chicago). The Celtics don't have anyone who can guard Carmelo, and if Amar'''''e can have his way with Garnett, New York might actually win this series.

But in the end, Playoffs Rajon Rondo is Playoffs Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen can still shoot lights out and Garnett is always able to motivate through insanity, so expect the Celtics to prevail. This round, at least.

Celtics in 7.

I'll throw up a Western Conference prediction list later tonight.

11 April 2011

BYU football hype

A poster over at Cougarboard.com shared some information he got from an unnamed member of BYU's administration. Take it for what it's worth, but I found it interesting and exciting.
- Team has the best depth that Bronco has ever had. This is the first year under Bronco that we have actually maxed out our full scholarship allotment (85). In '05 and '06 we were way "under-manned" due to so many academic and HC dismissals. Broco believes this is his first year when we are actually 2-deep at every position.

- Defensive players Bronco is "gushing over" this spring: D. Sorenson (calls him the heir apparent to Andrew Rich), Hague, Hadley, Kaveinga.

- Said Phillips' role is still uncertain. Needs to become more well-rounded if he is to have a significant role as a RB...needs to improve receiver skills to play in the slot. Is definitely an athlete and will be a play-maker - but he needs some seasoning yet.

- Said Bronco/Doman still have a lot of belief in Riley Nelson. Heaps is the clear starter and is better suited to stretch the field and run the offense, but Riley's ability cannot be ignored. There will not be a "split" QB situation, but Riley will very possibly see the field and use his legs to make plays in some capacity.

- Said this year's OL is setting up to be perhaps the best BYU has ever had. All of the starters are veteran players...2-3 with NFL potential. Backups are all legit and there isn't a huge gap between many of the 1's and 2's.

- Said Bronco had a wake-up moment last year when he re-involved himself in coaching instead vs administrating. Said it even surprised him how the players responded. It became evident to him that the offense needed the same type of influence.

- Doman's offense is built around the talents of this team - OL and QB. Said it makes sense to go back under center and "ride the hogs" to victory. Said the offense is built around a strong running game, mixed with a vertical passing attack. Described Anae's offense as ball control - "tick, tick, tick, tick, tick". Described Doman's offense as a down-hill running, big play passing blend - "tick, tick, boom" (his words). Said Doman was frustrated at times with the lack of big play play-calling, and he wants to get back to that. The associated risk is a lot more 3 and outs (something Anae rarely did), but coaches think the D is good enough to hold their ground and give our O more opportunities. In his opinion, Doman's greatest fault is perhaps his impatience...he loves the vertical throws, as does Heaps. It will be a challenge to remain as successful on 3rd down conversion as we have become accustomed to, but we will see a lot more big plays and hopefully more points.

- Said under Doman, the offense is trying to establish the same mentality that the defense has had the past few years - cohesion, unity, work-ethic, attacking mentality. This has been lacking in the past. Defensive players in the past have worked a lot harder than offensive players. The "Band of Brothers" was a mentality of the D moreso than the O.

- Said the existing staff needed the personnel change probably more than the players did. Said he hasn't been around a coaching staff so focused and friendly to each other. "Maybe they're still in the honeymoon, but I've NEVER seen this kind of synergy at BYU in the past."

- Said Quezada is one of Bronco's favorite players on the team. Bronco called him the poster-child of what he is looking for in a non-LDS player. Has an incredible work-ethic and is just very humble and focused.

- Said Bronco has reached a level with the HC Office to where they almost let him handle everything internally. This is because Bronco has proven to take infractions very seriously and he often addresses problenms before it hits their radar. Said Bronco and the HC are on the exact same page, and they see eye to eye on the handling of infractions. Said Bronco has only had one instance in his tenure where he felt the HC was amiss and he let them know it. (He wouldn't tell me what the incident was - I am guessing balloon-gate).

I love that the team is finally full... that there's enough talent for an honest-to-goodness 2-deep, where the fans won't have to cringe in fear when the starter takes a rest. The OL talk is also encouraging... football is won in the trenches, after all... but we've heard this kind of talk before and then watched overweight and out-of-shape big boys fail to protect the quarterback or open up holes for the running backs.

Anyway, good stuff. Only a bajillion more days until BYU @ Ole Miss! Let the countdown begin!

06 April 2011

Micro blog post

It's been two months since I last blogged! And I have about 300 different topics to blog about, but no time to write 300 posts.

Here we go!

-Jimmer and BYU made it to the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost because they had zero post presence. Jimmer then won every single Player of the Year award except for the Bob Cousy, which went to the best point guard in the NCAA, Connecticut's Kemba Walker, who had zero assists in the boring and horrific title game against Butler.

-BYU basketball head coach was wooed by several "BCS" schools, including future "BCS" school Utah. He said thanks, but no thanks to all of them, and signed a new 5-year deal with BYU.

-Derek Rose is getting a lot of buzz as the NBA's MVP. In a weak season, I guess he's a viable candidate, but 25 points per game on 44% shooting from the field and 33% from deep isn't overwhelmingly impressive.

-The Jazz were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by the Lakers, and then turned around and beat L.A. last night, hurting the Kobe Show's chances of getting a #1 seed. All the losing Utah has been doing doesn't bother me... it translates into a better lottery pick this summer, and the young guys need to learn sometime.

-In a related story, hey, the Jazz got Derrick Favors! Sure, they had to give up their All-Star point guard to do it, but as some radio guys argued so astutely last week, what NBA champ got there on the back of a point guard?

-In a related related story, I appear to have been way off about Gordon Hayward. Over the last month or so he's averaged 10 points per game on 54% shooting from the field and 50% from the 3. Plus he had a sick throw down dunk on the entire Lakers team last night, so that was good.

-Spring football camp is a cruel institution. There have been loads of great reports coming out of BYU's camp, which gets me all excited for football season, but then I remember football is like six months away and I get sad. That said, apparently Heaps is a machine, linebacker transfer from USC Uona Kaveinga has been tearing it up and Ross Apo is apparently the second coming of Randy Moss. Spring game this Saturday. I'll be there, snow or shine (it's supposed to snow).

-The uprisings in the Middle East are a giant mess. Egypt will most likely end up being run by someone bent on invading Israel (that won't end well). America's involvement in Libya seems a lukewarm, weird situation; the rebels are safe from being bombed from above, but Gaddafi's troops are free to flamethrower and shoot to their heart's content? I just don't get how air strikes are horrifically against international law, but ground-based weaponry is just fine for slaughtering your own people.

-Carmelo Anthony went to the Knicks, where the team proceeded to lose a bunch of games and then win five in a row as of today. Not sure where I stand with this team yet. The playoffs will be a big help deciding.

-When I purchased an Evo 4G last summer, my biggest concern was the lack of a tactile keyboard. I learned about Swype, a program that uses swiping motions along the touch screen to type instead of "typing." After learning the beta was closed, I waited for an official release. Six months later, I discovered Sprint had pushed out Swype to my phone automatically, and all I had to do was enable it. While annoyed I wasn't exactly informed, I've loved it. I can actually use Google Talk now, and while I may go back to a tactile keyboard one day, for now the touch screen is fine.

-This government shutdown thing is ridiculous. Republicans want to cut .005% of the national budget and Democrats want to cut .002% of it. The argument is reportedly unsolvable. Ugh.

-Pastor Terry Jones burning a Koran is stupid, insensitive and bigoted. Muslims murdering UN workers on another continent in retaliation is evil.

-To finish off where we started, I believe Jimmer will do just fine in the NBA. If he can shoot as well as he did at BYU with teams double and triple teaming him, I think he can handle hitting a few wide-open jumpers for someone like Phoenix or Denver. Stephen Curry is his closest analogue in the association, and he's a good-to-great player for the Warriors.

Now back to your regularly scheduled somewhat frequent blog posting schedule.