POSTCARDS FROM THE ABSURDLY ENJOYABLE FIRST ROUND OF THE NBA PLAYOFFS


Holy shit, this is fun.


Sure, we knew this’ years playoffs were looking promising, but it’s not as if that kind tof hing is ever a guarantee. Needless to say, this one delivered upsets, meltdowns, the likely end of at least one coaching tenure, Chris Paul reminding us who the REAL best poing guard is and the official end of Zach Randolph as a punchline, among other things.


Some thoughts, then.


THAT OMINOUS MUSIC YOU HEAR IS STAN VAN GUNDY’S EXIT THEME


                                              




Hey, when you go from an NBA Finals appearance in 2009 to a first round Playoff loss to the FUCKING HAWKS two years later, somebody gots to pay.


It’s been a fun ride with Stan, the notorious fashion plate and impassioned huddle poet that he is, but the expiration date on the fire-and-brimstone guys is usually five years at best, and I’m not sure there is a good explanation for why this team has floundered to this extent that doesn’t involve them tuning out SVG.


Dwight Howard is playing at a higher level than ever, and yet the other 11 guys whose only task is to hit jumpers and maybe make the odd defensive play have completely pooped themselves, combining to shot 35% over 5 games. Ryan Anderson and Wes’ favorite NBA player are both well under 30% for the series. Yeah, I know it’s tougher for these guys to get good looks when Atlanta refuses to double-team Howard, but jesus, you’ve gotta do better than 35% as a team. Show a little fucking pride, Hamilton.


Don’t cry for the man Shaq once called the master of panic, though, as I’d consider him a mortal lock to end up on ESPN sooner than later.


Until then, we’ll celebrate the good times…







                        

  


                                 AN A-PAUL-OGY



A few weeks back, some idiot (aka “me”) wrote that he thought Chris Paul had lost something. Now, in fairness, he’s coming off a season where he clearly looked to have lost a step and he certainly wasn’t playing his best basketball. What reason did I have to think that he’d do anything differently come the postseason?

Well, because it’s the playoffs, idiot.

CP3 has had two masterpiece performances against the Lakers. I don’t care about how L.A. has mis-played him by switching their bigs to guard him on the perimeter and all of that talk. It doesn’t matter. Paul has sliced and diced the defending champs. He’s broken the ankles of everybody on the roster. He’s hit numerous shots in everyone’s respective faces. He’s gotten triple doubles, played remarkably efficient basketball, and stepped up as the leader that everybody thought he was.

The fact is, when this Chris Paul shows up like he has, he’s the best point guard in the league. I love D-Rose. I think Russell Westbrook is awesome. Rajon Rondo is uniquely talented. Deron Williams is… well… nobody cares about Deron Williams right now, but he’s pretty good. However, Paul is the definition of greatness at that position. He’s a floor general, first and foremost. He makes the right passes and the right decisions. If need be, he takes a team on his back and scores a bunch of points. He hits big shots.

To top it off, like any great, he’s doing it in the playoffs. He understands that it’s a whole different animal now, and a lot of players have a tough time handling that. Paul, on the other hand, is shining.

Do I think he’s going to propel the Hornets to a huge, 1st round upset? Of course not. However, this stretch should be praised and remembered. In short, I’m sorry, Chris.


SPEAKING OF APOLOGIES…





… Atlanta… I’m sorry. Sort of. I predicted that, as usual, you wouldn’t win a damn thing and now, you’re on the verge of knocking out Orlando. Of course, realistically, this is about Orlando’s failure(s) more than anything, so don’t get too excited.

Seriously though, I’ll give credit where credit is due. The Hawks of old would have been given the gift of Orlando’s collapse and somehow squandered it away. That hasn’t happened. They’ve gotten great guard play from Kirk Heinrich and Jamal Crawford. Hell, even Joe Johnson, who previously went to hell when the postseason came around, has had a decent series. Al Horford has played all-star ball. Zaza is out there headbutting guys. These Hawks have (slightly) more fight in them.

(A reminder: Orlando has sucked. The team has collectively taken on the approach of HEDO and forgotten how to play. You know that, though.)

Who knows? Assuming Atlanta actually does this, they’ll probably head to Chicago in the second-round and face the “vulnera-Bulls,” a team that they actually match up with decently. If that happens – if Atlanta makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals – then I will write a poem about the Hawks and post it on this very site.

Even if they lose, I still might do it, actually.



WRONG PLACE (WRONG TEAM)





Thus far, Denver has only managed to win one game and looks primed to be sent packing by OKC in the fifth game. To be fair, with the exception of Game 2, it has been a competitive series. However, you kinda get the feeling that it hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, and most of the rhetoric regarding Denver has a taste of disappointment to it.


Look at it this way, though: they got hit by all of the things that can hurt a team full of guys who are trying to gel. First, they lost Aaron Afflalo for the first few games, and he’s probably their most well-rounded player (not to mention, a guy who can play great, pressure defense on a guy like Westbrook). Then, they come out and get absolutely jobbed on a horrible non-call in the opening game. I know, I know – they still had their chances and didn’t execute. Nevertheless, that call came at a pivotal point in the game, and if things would have gone their way and they would have won that, the complexion of this series is completely different.

Instead, they lost in a hugely deflating way. George Karl was massively distraught after that one and, ya know, that guy has been through a few things in his day. I can only imagine how the players felt…


… wait, I know how they felt, because they came out and got killed in Game 2. Then you had JR Smith whining about his role and so on. They had a nice win last night, but you still get the feeling that it’s over.

The point is, the human psyche is a fragile thing, and a basketball team can reflect that. The Nuggets came into the series full of life, and now, although they’ve gotten up after getting dropped, it seems like it’s one of those “back to the feet to get gloriously KO’d” deals.

The worst part of it all is that I’ve had to listen to Mark Jackson talk about how “… when it comes down to the end of the game, Denver does not have a guy who you can go to and rely on to BLAH BLAH BLAH…”. Of course, with any Mark Jackson moment, you’re usually being coated in a heaping dose of irony. In this case, he was uttering these words as the team with the “go-to-guy,” the team that acquired the “best scorer in the game,” the team that made THE TRADE…

… was getting swept out of the fucking playoffs. Might not have turned out how you wanted, Denver, but let the record show that you went out to the bar and at least got somebody’s number, while New York went home alone. Again.



THE KNICKS WERE THE OFFICIAL LIMP NOODLES OF THE 2011 PLAYOFFS


I’ve already said enough how badly the Knicks got punked in the ‘melo trade so…


Fuck that, I’m not done.


Who in their right mind doesn’t think the team they had prior to that trade wouldn’t have stood a better chance against the Celtics than that sad unit they had out there? Felton, Gallom, Amar’e, Chandler and Fields was just fine, and even tough to stop when they had it rolling. What the Knicks trotted out last week looked like Carmelo and the D-league all-stars.


Yeah yeah, I know Chauncey Billups was hurt and Stoudemire’s back blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure Chauncey’s inclusion is reason #92 why this trade sucks. I mean, why wouldn’t you give a 35 year old point guard 14 million dollars for next year after he missed one-third of his games since you picked him up and you are now spending 52 mil. on three players?


Sounds wise to me.


So now you head into the summer with virtually no cap space left (if the cap stays around where it was this year), about six serviceable players under contract and a mountain of uncertainty over whether the smart fellows (Donnie Walsh, Mike D’ Antoni) are going to be run off by the dumb ones (Jimmy Dolan, Isiah Thomas), and even worse, no more assets to snag anything worthwhile in a trade which means you’ll be lucky to win another 42 games and gets wept again next year and you know what I CAN[‘T TAKE THIS MADNESS ANYMORE WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE IDIOTS THIS INSANITY IS MAKING ME CRAZIER THAN A SHI…


Sorry.


THE HORNETS ENDED UP BEING THE BAD MATCH-UP SLEEPER THAT NOBODY SAW COMING





Honestly, the Hornets looked to be the easiest first round opponent for the Lakers (by far), or at least until they actually played game 1. By that point everyone could see that Chris Paul was healthy for the first time in almost two years and ready to wreak havoc, Trevor Ariza had come to play with a nice-sized chip on his shoulder and Carl Landry was simply too much man for Pau Gasol. Alot was made of David West being injured, but it actually worked to the Hornets’ favor in this series, as landry was able to push Pau out into the nether regions in a way that West never could.


Seriously, a healthy Chris Paul is either the best pure point guard ever (Calm down, Magic Johnson nuthuggers) or he’s a close number two, and when you couple that with the Lakers pronounced ineptitude when it comes to defending quick guards, well, let’s just say it could have been worse.


Chances are the Lakers were gonna win the series regardless, but New Orleans defended and scrapped  enough to make the games ugly, and had decided advantages in ways that vastly superior teams (hello, Dallas) won’t. Oh, any Laker fan who denies being nervous after going down double-digits in Game 5 is a dirty, lying whore or whatever.


In summation, don’t assume that there is something wrong with the Lakers based on the way this series went. Save your worries for Derrick Rose (he of the 37% shooting in round one) and the Bulls, who struggled mightily to beat a 37 win team in round one and got almost nothing from Carlos Boozer. Let’s face it, they were basically a couple of Kyle Korver misses away from having to go 7 games with the Pacers.


Of course, they are playing the Hawks next, so it won’t get much harder for at least one more round. Ahhh, the spoils of getting the #1 seed…








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