Wednesday , Apr , 20 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Trash Talk: Volume XVI

Hi, all. It’s about that time. May is on the way, and it’s not only the weather that’s heating up. Things are all but set out west, and one berth remains to be clinched in the east, with Vince and Jason’s Nets fighting the LeBron-led Cavaliers harder than Ron Artest in the tenth row. (Is it too soon to be joking about that?) Both franchises have two games in hand: New Jersey face Washington and Boston, and Cleveland also have Boston, followed by Toronto.

<b>NBA Trash Talk</b>: <I>Volume XVI</I>“/>Who’s taking that spot then?  The smart money would be on the Nets, who own the tiebreaker with Cleveland and are currently riding a two-game win streak.  Cleveland, conversely, suffered a pair of heart-breaking losses on the road over the weekend, leaving both the capital and MoTown empty-handed.  The squad that makes it will have their stars to thank, as both teams are staying above water as a result of the stellar efforts of their main men.  Vince has put up 37.5 points a game through the last four contests, while Ason (good as he is, he still has no “J”) has been playing out of his mind of late, somehow managing to average a triple-double to be named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.</p>
<p>Elsewhere, LeBron has been doing as LeBron does, finding new ways to amaze on a weekly basis.  At some point recently, he decided to show us that, further to simply being able to score and pass like an MVP candidate, he could hit the boards like a hockey player, grabbing 10.4 a game through his last five.  King James played like basketball royalty in that stretch, averaging 35 points and 7 assists an outing in addition to his double-digit rebounding numbers.  Still think the kid was over-hyped?  I didn’t think so. </p>
<p>Despite LBJ’s otherworldly efforts, I’m calling New Jersey for the eighth position.  It would take two Cleveland wins and a New Jersey loss to see LeBron in the play-offs for the first time, and, given the circumstances, that doesn’t seem particularly likely.  There’s always next year, young fella. </p>
<p>If the season were to end today, this is how the playoff picture would look, with the definite match-ups denoted by an asterisk: </p>
<p><b>West</b></p>
<p>Phoenix (1) vs. Memphis (8) *</p>
<p>San Antonio (2) vs. Denver (7) *</p>
<p>Seattle (3) vs. Sacramento (6) *</p>
<p>Dallas (4) vs. Houston (5) *</p>
<p></p>
<p><b>East</b></p>
<p>Miami (1) vs. New Jersey (8) </p>
<p>Detroit (2) vs. Philadelphia (7) </p>
<p>Boston (3) vs. Indiana (6) </p>
<p>Chicago (4) vs. Washington (5) </p>
<p></p>
<p>However things transpire, it’s going to be fun.  The talent in the west is simply phenomenal and the east is packed with hungry teams, at least two of which will make it to the second round. </p>
<p>In the west, the Denver-San Antonio match-up has been confirmed, and it looks to be a good ‘un.  Despite their slight slump, Denver are still hotter than Jerry Krause in a sauna (apologies for the image), and the Spurs are, to my mind, one of the top two teams in the league.  Carmelo, Kenyon, Marcus, Manu, Tim and Tony on the floor together for at least four games?  If that doesn’t get you excited, you’re probably watching the wrong sport.  </p>
<p>While they split their season series, both of Denver’s wins came against a Spurs side lacking The Big Fundamental, the obvious focal point of their offence and a major contributor on the other end of the floor.  Even with their phenomenal run following the All-Star break, the Nugs just don’t have what it takes to deal with what might be the league’s most complete team.  A frontcourt rotation of Kenyon Martin, Nenê and Marcus Camby will cause Duncan as many problems as any, but even they won’t be able to limit the Wake Forest product in any significant way. </p>
<p>I’d be surprised if the run-and-gun Nuggets didn’t take a game, but it’s safe to say that one is their limit.  Expect the boys in the blue and gold to head back to the hills after five, perhaps four if the Texans are feeling charitable. </p>
<p>The Phoenix-Memphis series requires little analysis, with most considering it a foregone conclusion that the Suns are going to deal out a thorough beating to the Tennessean team which disappointed this season, having been the surprise success story of the previous year.  With MVP candidate Steve Nash running the show, and Amaré, Shawn and Q running the break, Phoenix should run Memphis out of town.  The Suns’ offensive prowess will leave the Grizzlies looking as fierce as Yogi, and about as fit to be on the same floor as them as the aforementioned tie-wearing bear. </p>
<p>The Sonics-Kings series could prove a little more closely contested.  The other team in green is less than four games ahead of Sacramento, and both franchises started the year with some promise before losing their rhythm, leaving them in the third and sixth playoff spots, respectively.  Seattle will have trouble guarding Miller inside (unless Fortson manages to get into his head), and nobody on the roster seems capable of matching up with Peja, who, interestingly, is listed as being an inch taller than he was last year, now apparently standing 6’10”.  That said, Ray and Rashard will be causing problems themselves, with the pair having shown that they can get it done from long-range, as well as being able to take it to the rack when necessary.  When Jesus and ‘Shard are both hot, they’re a cause for concern for any team in the league. </p>
<p>Houston-Dallas.  Dallas-Houston.  Mavericks-Rockets.  Rockets-Mavericks.  Simply saying their names in a different manner and order is enough to have me changing teams like Jim Jackson.  In the end, my final decision wasn’t a decision at all, but a realisation that this series is to be determined by the head-to-head between Yao and Shawn Bradley.  While most would expect the improving Yao to demolish the stick-thin Bradley, he has always had difficulty facing the only man in the league who can look him in the face.  We know Dirk and Tracy will be putting up astonishing scoring numbers and filling up the sheet like the big names are expected to, so it looks as if the outcome of the series rests on Yao’s shoulders.  No pressure, big fella. </p>
<p>Check in this weekend for my analysis of the remaining four playoff series, which are to be confirmed in the next few days.  As always, feel free to get at me via email (8charles@gmail.com) or by using the box at the bottom of the page if you have comments, questions or suggestions.  Until we next meet, try to keep up with the scramble in the east for those coveted postseason spots. </p>
<p>Take it easy now, </p>
<p>Chuck. </p>