TNB on TNT
By Paul Benedict
8:00- NBA Tip-Off with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley
Only a quickie pre-game show tomorrow. The crew will probably discuss the All-Star reserves which were announced on Tuesday.
8:15 – Game 1: Lakers at Detroit, with Kevin Harlan, Chuck Daly, and John Thompson
TNT’s doing a little teetering with the commentator teams tonight, going with former coaches Chuck Daly and John Thompson beside Kevin Harlan for Game 1, and teaming up Steve Kerr and Doug Collins for Game 2 with Marv Albert. I can understand why they’re doing this–Kerr seems a bit overwhelmed on his own since Fratello left and it’s not a bad idea to team him up with someone like Collins, who’s good no matter who he’s with. I am a bit frustrated that they broke up the Harlan/Collins team however, which I feel is the best in the biz today. Daly and Thompson could make up a nice duo, though I’m not sure the energy Harlan brings to the broadcast will mesh as well with the old-timers. Oh yeah, there’s a game too–a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals; too bad Shaq and Phil are gone, and Kobe is out. The Lakers, who will be playing their 4th road game in 5 days, will undoubetdly be overmatched by a Pistons team that will be well-rested after their drubbing to the Nets on Saturday.
Observe Closely to see which, if any Laker, has anything left after that remarkable comeback last night in New Jersey. 4 games in 5 nights is tough for any team, and it’s not like they’re going from Philly to Jersey to MSG to Washington. Lakers were in Houston on Sunday, Atlanta the next night, Jersey tonight, and Detroit tomorrow. Considering that Frank Hamblen has generally being going with an 8-man rotation, it’s impossible to see this team mustering a big enough effort to challenge the team that stunned them in the finals last June. And if you’re expecting the Lakers to rev it up for some revenge, remember that just two players from last season’s team will be active for the game.
Pay No Attention to what anyone says about Detroit’s depth and how it does not stack up to last year’s team. Larry Brown generally only goes about 8 deep, but each player he uses is versatile and so Brown can mix and match his lineups and lose very little. The addition of Arroyo gives the Pistons some offense off the bench out of the guard position and also allows Chauncey Billups to shift over to the two, where he can focus more on scoring. Hunter can’t seem to score anymore, but he’s still a top-notch defensive player and can spark the team with his hustle off the bench. McDyess is the top post threat on the team and allows Rasheed to step out and face the basket, where he’s more comfortable with the ball. And if Carlos Delfino can ever get healthy, he can do a little bit of everything at the 2/3–the one position where the team is lacking in depth.
Watch and You Will See that the Lakers will play hard no matter what they are up against. This game has all the makings of a blowout, but I just can’t get past the fact that the Lakers, with or without Kobe, still come to battle every single night they play. And for a team that relies heavily on its perimeter shooting, all it takes is a hot performance from one or two keys guys and the Lakers can stay in this game. Still, I like the Pistons to pull away in the 4th and win by double-digits.
Prediction- Pistons 90, Lakers 78
10:45 – Game 2: Sacramento at Seattle, with Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Doug Collins
As I mentioned above, TNT is meddling with its broadcast teams and so tonight we’ll see how Steve Kerr and Doug Collins work together. Having Marv Albert by their side, arguably the best play-by-play man in any sport, certainly won’t hurt, and I think for now Kerr is better served as being part of an analyst duo–he just wasn’t getting the job done while shouldering the entire load. Collins is anything but an egotistical primadonna and so he should be able to handle himself just fine while teaming up with Kerr. The game? Should be a good one, assuming Ray Allen is fully healthy after battling sickness all of last week. Sacramento will make their first appearance after that heartbreaking loss to Phoenix on Tuesday which lead to Chris Webber and Brad Miller both throwing temper tantrums. I think both of their emotions were riding high after being snubbed from the All-Star team and going up against a team that featured 3 All-Stars.
Observe Closely to see if Chris Webber, who has a triple-double in each of his last two games, goes out of his way to try and record a third straight. I’ve never viewed Webber as a selfish player on the court, but when you consider his inability to assert himself in crunch time or in big games, you have to wonder how he approaches a game where there’s a milestone within reach–especially when considering that the Kings have dropped their last two by giving up a combined 239 points. If anything, Webber needs to assert himself more on defense.
Pay No Attention To any team statistics that TNT shows on graphics for the Sonics besides these two: shooting percentage and rebounding. They have shown throughout the season that when they shoot well and when they hold their own on the glass, the Sonics are able to dismantle anyone in the NBA (see two decisive wins over San Antonio). And seeing as Sac Town has been paying less attention to their defensive matchups than Freddie Mitchell, Seattle should have plenty of opportunities to catch fire and pull ahead in this game.
Watch and You Will See that Seattle’s Reggie Evans is one of the more enjoyable under-the-radar players to watch in the entire league. Listed at a generous 6-8, Evans knows his role on the team–to grab rebounds and keep opposing post players out of the paint, and executes it admirably. There isn’t a single shot that goes up where you won’t find Evans using his Sweetneyesque keister to box out and lunge mericlessly for the ball. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis both were elected to the All-Star team, but they can thank Evans for making their jobs easier and Reggie knows this. “To be honest with you, I feel like I’m an All-Star right now,” he said after the Sonics’ win over New Orleans on Tuesday. “Ray made it, Rashard made it, and I feel like I made it too.”
Prediction- Sonics 107, Kings 105
1:00 – Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley
Once again–the best hour on television.
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