Tuesday , Apr , 24 , 2007 Oly Sandor

NBA Wrap-up For April 24, Playoff Edition

Breaking down the day’s top NBA playoff stories … We’ve got game 2 adjustments for Dallas, Phoenix, and San Antonio … How to get Dirk and Timmy D more involved … Has T-Mac been the best player in the playoffs? … Read all about Houston’s win … And Detroit’s all business in game 2 baby …

NBA Wrap-up For April 24, Playoff Edition

Top 3 Stories

1) Helping Dallas, Phoenix, and San Antonio win game 2
2) The Rockets are up 2-0
3) Detroit toying with Orlando

1) Adjustments for the West’s big three

What Happened: The Western Conference’s big three, , , and , all looked shaky in the opening game of their playoff series.

Dallas, the first seed in the Western Conference, got locked into a small-ball duel with Don Nelson and . The Mavericks had no answer for Coach Nelson’s left-sided double-teams on superstar i.

Phoenix, the second seed in the Western Conference, looked lethargic in beating a one-man team. The Suns lose game one if , the freshly-minted bench player of the year, doesn’t come up with a huge second half.

San Antonio, the third seed in the Western Conference, had no answer for Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. These two volume shooters hit more than half their field goal attempts. Where was the Spurs’ trademark defense? was a non-factor, scoring just 14 points and turning the ball over 5 times.

Here’s how ESPN reporter Mark Stein saw these three games:

Reaction of: ESPN reporter Mark Stein on Dallas losing to Golden State:
 “Avery Johnson caved into Don Nelson’s matchup madness before the opening tip by starting Dirk Nowitzki at center for the first time all season and now Dallas looks somehow farther away than it did coming in from countering Golden State’s athleticism … and the Warriors’ backcourt size … and their continued success, spearheaded by Stephen Jackson, in preventing Dirk from going left and keeping him out of his comfort zones.”  (ESPN)

Reaction of ESPN reporter Mark Stein on Phoenix struggling to beat Los Angeles:
 “Maybe the best thing you can say about the Suns’ Sunday is that their two main rivals were beaten. Phoenix got its victory in the end but was inexplicably flat and jittery against an ultrathin Lakers team that entered the playoffs playing worse ball than anyone else in the field.”  (ESPN)

Reaction of ESPN reporter Mark Stein on San Antonio losing to Denver:
“The Spurs Manu Ginobili was snuffed out by the Nuggets’ team coverage, Tim Duncan was neutralized by Nene on a joga bonito day for the NBA’s Brazilians and Carmelo Anthony hit the hosts with the most composed playoff performance we’ve ever seen from him. Factor in the grit of a typically fearless-on-the-road Allen Iverson and you can’t help but believe that winning the opener in San Antonio is more significant for Denver this time than it was in 2005.”  (ESPN)

My Take on Dallas’ adjustments for game two: I think Dallas needs to be Dallas. Forget changing their starting line-up to match-up against the Warriors. The Mavericks posted the league’s best regular season record, the Warriors should adjust to them. This mean Erick Dampier draws back into the starting line-up and Dallas slows the tempo.

Dirk Nowitzki has to adjust to Golden State’s double-team. The Warriors had success bringing an extra defender from the left-hand side when Nowitzki backed down his check.

In this situation, Nowitzki has two options. First, he can pass the ball before the double-team arrives. Then he can demand a return pass back into the hi-post or cut off the ball.

Second, he can look for different ways to get his offense. For example, Nowitzki could drive to the basket or take his check to the low block.

My Take on Phoenix’s
adjustments for game two: I think the Suns lacked energy for the first half of game one. So they should start Leandro Barbosa, the super-sub. The Brazilian blur brings speed and enthusiasm; he’s perfect for setting a fast-paced tempo. When Barbosa’s racing up the court, the Lakers are forced to play at an uncomfortable pace.

The Suns also need Raja Bell to get off on offense. The lock-down defender only had two points in game one. He needs to make his shots so Bryant won’t cheat on defense.

My Take on San Antonio’s adjustments for game two: The Spurs need Tim Duncan to get involved. Timmy D needs to hit a few signature bank shots and draw either Nene or Camby away from the paint. Then Manu Ginobili can start driving to the basket.

The Spurs have to do a better job on Iverson and Anthony. These two can get their points, but only if they shot a low percentage. Opponents are in for a rough night when Denver’s dynamic duo hits more than half their shots.

2) T-Mac leads Houston to another victory

What Happened: had another strong game, leading the to a 98-90 win over the .

McGrady had 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in the win. But McGrady wasn’t the best player on the floor-that was Carlos Boozer, Utah’s star power forward.

Boozer scored 41 points, matching a career-high. He also added 12 rebounds and 6 assists in the loss.

The Rockets now lead the series 2-0. Game 3 is in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Reaction of Houston guard Tracy McGrady on the importance of getting to the line:
"We find some way to keep ourselves in a game, despite shooting the ball extremely bad. But we hit big shots when we needed them. We’re doing a great job of getting to the free throw line." (ESPN)

Reaction of Houston forward Shane Battier on Tracy McGrady getting to the line:
"Mac did a great job cutting to the basket and getting to the free throw line. That’s the only way we can survive 36 percent shooting." (CNNSI)

My Take: Houston is poised for a playoff breakthrough. Their star, Tracy McGrady, is in a zone. Today, he shot a poor percentage, making just 9 of 29 attempts from the floor, but he grabbed 10 boards and got to the charity stripe.

McGrady’s changing his legacy as a basketball player. In Toronto and Orlando, he was labeled a selfish slacker. Right now, he looks like a poised, mature superstar. He’s tapped into all that potential, becoming the franchise stud and leader he always should have been.

Point blank: T-Mac’s been as good as any player in the playoffs. When healthy, McGrady’s one of the NBA’s best.

I love Houston’s supporting cast. Chucky Hayes, the undersized 4, is all heart. Rafer Alston is a great fit at the 1-spot. Shane Battier gets it done as a utility player. And Yao Ming is a star center. But McGrady is the straw that stirs the drink.

3) Detroit’s balance leads to another win

What Happened: balanced attack was too much for . The Pistons had four starters score at least 17 points in a 98-90 victory over the Magic in game 2 of their playoff series.

Detroit’s starting backcourt, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, combined for 43 points, while Rasheed Wallace hit for 18 and Tayshaun Prince added 17 points.

The Pistons’ centers also had big nights. Chris Webber had 10 points and 9 rebounds. Antonio McDyess chipped with 9 points and 11 rebounds.

and kept Orlando close. Hill tallied 21 points and 8 rebounds. Turkoglu chipped in with 22 points.

Game 3 is in Orlando. Detroit leads the series 2-0.

Reaction of Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace
on staying focused for the rest of the series:
"We can’t let them get back into the series. We have to get that third win." (CNNSI.com)

Reaction of Orlando forward Grant Hill on the series:
“They are a good team. We are learning to be a good team." (ESPN)

Reaction of Orlando Coach Brian Hill
on trying to contain Detroit’s balanced attack:
"It isn’t just that they’re balanced. They are balanced and they are good. You have to play solid defense against them because they are used to playing together and they are very unselfish. It’s tough." (CNNSI)

My Take: I think Detroit, when they receive balanced scoring, are tough to beat. They completely toyed with Orlando. When their starting unit is clicking, the Pistons can compete with any team in the NBA.

Game 3 will be a test for the Pistons. Can they stay focused and put Orlando away? 

Come back tomorrow morning for another edition of the NBA Wrap-up, Playoff Edition. Click here for more of Oly Sandor’s NBA blog