Hey folks, having a wee spell of technical difficulties with the live blog; will be up as soon as I can.
Can't imagine it takes too long to fix
Thanks for your patience
Oh, sorry, just woke up. Were there playoff games last night?
Right, there were. Entirely boring, no? Kind of predictable, too?
But tonight? Tonight might be a doozy. The only thing I fear is that, eventually, one of these six teams is going to have one of those nights where nothing goes right and they get killed. So far it hasn’t happened but you wonder how long a young team like Chicago or Portland or even Philly can keep the intensity up.
One more night, we hope. And we’ll be here (or maybe in some local establishment depending on whether I win the Survivor vs. “Not Another Night of Basketball” discussion concerning the big TV. But I digress. From wherever I am, we’ll start just before 7 and see how the night unfolds.
And now, ta-da!
About Last Night
A game of attrition
|Do you really think he's going to take this lying down?|
Wade’s hurt, O’Neal gets hurt, Moon’s had an operation, the Miami Heat bench makes Toronto’s look like the second coming of John Havlicek and Vinny Johnson and all I can think of is: Why is anyone surprised that Atlanta won easily.
I don’t know if the Heat can summon enough energy to win at home tomorrow (I think they’ve got a good chance to get the game at the slow pace they prefer) but I’m also not sure about Atlanta’s ability (with its youth and precociousness and, yes, immaturity) to close out a series on the road.
I don’t know Wade all that well personally but I have heard enough about his personality that getting blown out in Game 6 and watching the Hawks dunk up 20 or so in the final three minutes is going to tick him off incredibly.
And even if his back’s sore, I can see him getting 35 in a Miami win.
What to do in Denver when you're not dead
No one knows how much money the Nuggets are going to make from hosting more playoff games but whatever it is, the owners ought to give half – at least – to Chauncey Billups.
I didn’t watch much of another dismantling of the woeful Hornets last night (one car wreck of a game in a single series is enough for me) but trying to say with clarity what Billups has meant to the Nuggets is nearly impossible.
This is a team of excitable players to say the least, of J.R. Smiths and Kenyon Martins and Carmelo Anthonys and a coach who seems to invite confrontation every now and then but every time they even think about sliding off the rails, he comes the calm hand of Chauncey to settle them down.
Their whole manner during the New Orleans series was that of a team simply taking care of business. They had some flash but they also had a quiet confidence that came from their leader.
There was a good reason the Nuggets hadn’t been out of the first round in eons, they weren’t grown up enough to succeed. Now, they are.
A Denver-Dallas series, with Billups vs. Kidd has got to be a good one.
What now, Hornets?
Remember a year ago? Everyone loved New Orleans. Chris Paul was a serious MVP candidate, David West was going to be a perennial all-star, Tyson Chandler dunked every time he touched the ball and it was Mardi Gras all the time.
Now? Not so much and I can see big change coming.
Byron Scott’s coaching tenure is in question – but having a year left on his deal could get him into next season; they’ve already tried to deal Chandler away – a pure salary dump that they’ll likely re-visit this summer; and I guarantee you Paul is having second thoughts about his long-term future in New Orleans.
Things can change rather quickly, no? Here’s how they buried the Hornets in the paper today.
Okay, before we get to anything too NBA-centric, you have to check out Randy Starkman's Olympic blog right here.
A bunch of you will remember this kid from halftime of Raptors games this year, a bunch of you will come away pretty impressed, I say.
What’s coming up? Maybe a quiet night or two.
After tonight’s three games (Boston-Chicago, Portland-Houston at 7 on The Score and Orlando-Philly at 7:30 on
The Score RaptorsTV) there’s only one game tomorrow, thanks to Denver. It’ll be Game 6 of Miami-Atlanta at 8 p.m. on RaptorsTV).
Saturday has endless possibilities, though. There could be three Game 7s depending on what happens tonight or there might be nothing if all the series end tonight.
Sunday’s got a 1 p.m. doubleheader, either Game 1 of Cleveland-Atlanta or Game 7 of Atlanta-Miami followed by Denver-Dallas.
Nothing in a Laker vs. Portland-Houston western semi or a Boston-Chicago vs. Orlando-Philly eastern semi until Monday night, regardless of what happens tonight.
Plan your lives accordingly.
So, Dwight Howard gets the one-game suspension we all figured he would and it leaves just one question:
What if the refs hadn’t blown the original call? If they’d got it right and either assessed him a Flagrant 1 and then upgraded it to a Flagrant 2 and thrown him out when he took the shot at Dalembert, how would that have changed Game 5.
Well, considering Howard went on to get 24 and 24 and dominate, I think you could make the case that Philly might be going home leading 3-2 instead of trailing.
And we’d be thinking a whole lot different about the series, wouldn’t we?
Simple question, simple answer from a rather (at the moment) barebones mailbag:
Q: Hey Doug, here's a simple one for you. After the first round, the NHL re-seeds the remaining teams. But the NBA does a bracket system like the NCAA tournament. I think they are the only league that doesn't re-seed after the first round. Should the NBA start re-seeding teams?
Simon S-G, Toronto
First off, if a No. 8 seed upsets a No. 1 seed, I think a case can be made that they deserve some kind of “reward” of meeting the 4 or 5 instead of the two.
And, since I’m an inveterate TV watcher for the first series and at least the start of the second, I love the fact one series blends into the next, there always seems to be a doubleheader every night and there aren’t long stretches of days without games.
Speaking of the Raptors (oh, wait, there’s nothing to speak of about them, is there?), the big shots are over in Berlin for the EuroLeague Final Four that goes tomorrow and Sunday.
We’ll have lots more on this here tomorrow (I’ve got to have some conversations with people who know more about than I do) but you can watch it if you like.
RaptorsTV will tape-delay tomorrow’s semifinals and show them Saturday starting at noon and Sunday’s championship game will be shown Monday.
(Why do I feel like a TV Guide today?).
I somehow get the feeling that Ben Gordon, he of the sore hamstring, is being treated as a cross between Willis Reed and Wheelchair Paul Pierce. But it even took a backseat to the fallout from Game 5 asK.C. scribbled today.
Here’s the difference between Brad Miller and Erick Dampier.
The Dallas centre, as we all recall, went very public – very stupidly – with thinly-veiled threats about knocking down San Antonio’s Tony Parker and got himself in a wee bit of hot water with the big poobahs at NBA Central. Silly idea.
Miller, on the other hand, hasn’t said anything about Rajon Rondo and I can only think actions will speak louder than words tonight.
Speaking of Rondo, in Boston they were wondering what all the fuss was about with him slapping Miller in the head on that final drive the other night.
What the heck, let’s finish off with a Raptor question:
Q: I know you do not always like speculating on players and where they may go and not go, but I am very curious about Raymond Felton. Do the Raps have any interest? And if so, what would it take to get him here? And if not the Raps, do you see him staying or going off somewhere else?
Zack B, Kuwait City
A: At the right price, I’m sure the Raptors, and likely a dozen or so other teams, would have interest in Felton. However, I’m not sure what that price is. I don’t see, however, how he fits in Charlotte and he may be one of those bargain free agents teams can pick up on the relative cheap this summer.
|They were rocking in Boston - and Portland - last night.|
Okay, what’s next? Every game goes to overtime? Someone goes off for 60? Buzzer-beaters at every buzzer imaginable?
I don’t know how any night in these playoffs can top last night.
We had another great one in Boston, controversy in Orlando, a brilliant finish but a supposedly too young team in Portland and perhaps the end of an era in San Antonio.
Sure took the stench of Denver-New Orleans away, didn’t it?
Sure, we’re going to watch tonight and probably be entertained; and we’re going to watch for the next 50 or so nights and be equally entertained but I don’t think we’re going to get another night quite like last night.
But we'll try, of course. And we'll try with one of our fun-filled in-game blogs tonight just before 8 for Miami-Atlanta. Had pretty good attendance last night, I hope everyone had fun and you should join us.
And now ...
About Last Night
There he is!
More than a few were wondering when the real Paul Pierce would show up and he did, just in the nick of time.
What he did in the late stages of that superb game last night was just what Finals MVPs are supposed to do, make every big shot he took.
Yes, Rajon Rondo has been spectacular but with Ray Allen fouled out (and those last two fouls were among the cheapest of the night, I contend) the Celtics needed their best player to make huge plays and he did.
For most of the series, I’ve been wondering if something’s wrong with Pierce (and the fact he’s not getting to the free throw line still has me wondering a little bit) but when everyone in the gym knew exactly what he was going to do – drive to the spot just inside the free-throw line, stop, step back and shoot – he did it and made the shots.
I still don’t think this series over by a long shot, I truly expect to be sitting somewhere sipping a beverage on Saturday night but if Pierce doesn’t make those shots, I’m not sure the Bulls wouldn’t have closed it out tomorrow.
How’d you like to be Brad Miller? Talk about your up and down night. He makes three gruesome turnovers in the first quarter (passes that were reminiscent of Bad Oakley) but then hits a huge three, makes a Maravich-like pass a second or two later and then has a chance to tie the game with that layup at the end of OT.
If he was one step quicker and could jump faster, he’d have got to the rim and dunked but all he could do was take a terrific shot to the chops for a foul and then blow the first free throw.
Tough, tough evening.
He’s got to sit
How’s “starting centre Marcin Gortat” sound to you Orlando fans?
I know Dwight Howard had a monster Game 5 against Philadelphia, his best of the series by far, but if he’s in uniform for Game 6, I’ll be shocked.
Check this out:
If Stu Jackson doesn’t get a whiff that video and hit Howard with a one-game suspension, it will just feed into the theory that stars get preferential treatment, especially come playoff time.
That’s as premeditated and dangerous a shot as you’re going to see; if Howard hit him flush, he might have killed the quasi-Canadian.
And I know there’s precedent – by the NBA’s vice-president of discipline – because I saw it first-hand.
Back in ’01, in that Sixers-Bucks Eastern Final that Toronto could very well have been in, Stu suspended Milwaukee’s Scott Williams for Game 6 for a shot he took at Allen Iverson in Game 6, a shot that I don’t think even was called a flagrant foul or a technical in the game.
I love Dwight Howard, he’s a nice, funny, good guy but he can’t get away with that crap.
So this is what the end of a dynasty looks like.
I was kind of happy to see Tim Duncan, playing on about a leg and a half, go out blazing (what did he hit? His last nine shots in a row or something stupid like that?) and Tony Parker was great but watching San Antonio bow meekly to Dallas made me wonder if one of the best runs of the modern era in the NBA is over.
No one knows for sure how Manu Ginobili’s going to come back (that ankle problem’s been around in some form for more than a year) and it’s quite clear that the likes of Imre Udoka and local favourites Matt Bonner and Roger Mason Jr. were just not ready for the big-time this year.
The Spurs were always able to surround their stars with great role players, guys found late in the draft or late in their careers, but I’m not sure they’ve got the pieces in place now to keep up their phenomenal run.
Here’s what the folks were writing in the Express-News today.
How big are fans?
I don’t know about you, but as I was flipping between the demise of the Spurs and the delight of the Blazers last night, I got to Portland in time for that devastating game-ending fourth quarter run and all I could think was that my opinion that Rose Garden fans are the best in the game was being validated.
Sure, the Blazers made shots and played their best defence of the series in that fourth quarter but anyone who doesn’t think the adrenaline rush provided by full-throated fans is huge would be proved dead wrong.
I’m not sure Portland can play with the same emotion in Houston tomorrow but I wouldn’t count them out.
The one big strategic move: Starting my fave Rudy Fernandez over Nicolas Batum in the second half. What it does is put another scorer on the floor that Houston has to deal with, occupying a defender who could go over and help on Brandon Roy.
I presume Nate McMillan stays with that new starting five tomorrow night; just as I assume Rick Adelman will come up with some counter.
I know Chicago-Boston has been full of drama and great games but for my money, the last four games of the Portland-Houston series have been just as, if not more than, compelling.
It’s going to make for a delightful Thursday night, I hope.
On to other, more mundane, matters
Let’s clear up one Raptor misperception that might be floating around out there today.
The surgery Jose Calderon had yesterday on his finger – and I’m told he’s home and recuperating already – will have nothing whatsoever to do with any plans he has to not play or to play for Spain later this summer.
The European championships don’t begin until the week after Labour Day (Sept. 7, I believe) and serious preparation won’t begin until late July or early August. Even using the outside timeframe of eight weeks for his recovery, that’s still more than enough to time to play, if he wants.
Now, from private conversations I had with him to what he said the day after the season ended to the thinly-veiled suggestion that Bryan’s told him the Raptors would rather he sit out, I am virtually certain he won’t play.
But, it will be because he’s played for Spain for far more than a decade and would like a summer off; not because of surgery on the ring finger on his non-shooting hand.
You know the really bad news yesterday?
Jamario Moon having season-ending surgery on a sports hernia.
For a guy without a guaranteed contract for next year – and a guy who has really been up and down for this entire season – the uncertainty has to be a terrible feeling.
Now, I’m sure there’s enough time for him to be operated on and fully recover before he’d have to get into the gym in the summer but I wonder what teams are going to offer him, knowing he’s coming off surgery.
I always thought the very best he’d get on the market this year was a two-year deal with the second not fully-guaranteed (and I even wondered if there’d be a full guarantee on the first) but this is going to end up costing him some money, I’d presume.
And he’s a good guy who probably deserves better.
Maybe he’s like Leon Powe in Boston, another free agent whose season ended with an operation; maybe the Heat will do right by him like I expect the Celtics to do right by Powe and offer him a contract.
I sure hope so.
This is old, and a wee bit late but Wayne Parrish and the folks at Canada Basketball have reason to be proud.
And since summer is approaching so, too, is international basketball season and it’s a big, big, big one for the people here.
The men and women senior teams have to qualify for next year’s world championships – and if they don’t, it means a disaster for both programs – but there is some good news. The men’s and women’s under-19 teams have both already qualified for the worlds so there will be some good stuff to report on as they prepare and play.
Plus, it’ll give me something to do in the NBA downtime.
Torrential downpour means a drive to school, which means a detour for a triple vente latte, which means morning neighbourhood traffic ‘cause everyone forgets how to drive in the rain, which means a very late posting, which means one or two of you might care.
Or you might not as I digress.
You do know we dodged a bullet tonight, right? The original TV schedule I got yesterday morning had the Chicago-Boston, Dallas-San Antonio doubleheader on TSN2, which really irked me. The other one (Philly-Orlando and Houston-Portland) was on The Score but not being able to see Bulls-Celtics was the big issue.
Well, I’m not sure which saner heads prevailed where – I presume Maple Leaf Sports was involved somehow – but another schedule landed about 3:30 that had the Chicago-Boston, Dallas-San Antonio twinbill switched over to RaptorsTV.
It’s a 7 p.m. start and we’ll be in our usual place to do the live blog if anyone wants to stop around.
And now …
ABOUT LAST NIGHT
Byron’s last stand?
Look, there were whispers around the league that perhaps Byron Scott’s time was coming to an end even before these playoffs began but losing by 58 FREAKING POINTS AT HOME! Surely that’s the death knell, no?
Now, you know I’m a pretty big supporter of coaches, generally; I think they get too much blame when things go wrong and too much credit when things to go right. I think coaches who are considered “good” are coaches with the best talent.
The Hornets had no toughness, no answers offensively, no defensive play and no heart. And as much as I’d like to suggest they get rid of eight or nine of the players who came up with such a despicable performance in the biggest game of their season, if Scott had one foot out the door before, this is the game that spells the end.
So, how’d it happen?
The biggest thing, to me, is that the Hornets just didn’t have the mental resolve early.
It’s like they knew the Nuggets were tougher – mentally and physically – and they had no desire to fight back. And that’s strange to me given how much I’ve heard about Chris Paul’s desire and attitude and game.
But he was the most disappointing of all of them. He let Dahntay Jones push him around and stop him cold and that’s not what great players do.
Yes, the coach is going to get the heat; the all-stars (including David West) need to have their feet held to the fire, too.
Speaking of home dogs
How about the Heat?
A chance to put the series pretty much out of reach and they come out and shoot something like 21 per cent in the first quarter and 37 per cent in the first half and get themselves so far buried they end up losing? And, yes, I know Jermaine O’Neal had another statistically strong game but so did the guy he was playing against, Zaza Pachulia and O’Neal had nine of his 20 in the first seven or eight minutes.
As our good friend Ira points out here, there’s lots of ways the Heat blew this one.
The shocking thing to me? Two points off the bench? TWO POINTS. That’s almost Rpator-esque.
Lakers win series, Kobe great
Seriously, has one series been as absolutely uneventful and conducted in such relative anonymity, as that Laker-Jazz one that's now over. One kind of good game (Game 3, the Deron Williams shot) but the sense of inevitability was overwhelming and I don't imagine there's a person in the world surprised that it's over so soon.
The good thing? It gets the Lakers some rest, not that they're injured or anything, but I'm not entirely convinced how mentally strong they are (outside of that Bryant fellow and Derek Fisher) and not having many close games may make it easier for them as the post-season progresses.
Peter, during the in-game blog last night, wondered this:
Q: Since blog topics are tough to find, can you tell us how it works between someone like yourself and Bryan Colangelo? Can you call him anytime? Directly? If it's a paragraph or two, I wouldn't mind hearing how that process works in a morning blog
A: It’s a good relationship, one that develops over the course of time and, yeah, I can make a call any day, to either the office or the cell, if I’ve got something on my mind. And I don’t think there’s been one time that I’ve left a message if he’s out and not had a call returned.
Of course, it’s not something I want to abuse so it’s not like I make a call every day. But every other day or so, just a quick check to see if anything’s going on, or to check on the veracity of some other report, or to have some specific query answered, is not out of the norm.
And every now and then, one of those “cold calls” (like, ‘hey, I heard rumblings about this, is it true?” or “what do you think about this idiotic thought of mine?”) yields a good off-day story.
One thing that’s become apparent in the first week of the playoffs, at least to me, is that Matt Devlin and P.J. Carlesimo have quickly developed some good chemistry as a play-by-play and analyst team working for TNT.
I guess I’m not all that surprised because both of them are professionals and really easy-to-get-along-with guys but, as we heard with the NBA-TV duo last night in the Denver-New Orleans game, nothing is for sure when strange duos are put together to do broadcasts.
You know that Denver’s 58-point edging of New Orleans last night represents the greatest margin of victory in game ever by the Nuggets, right? You know what’s now second?
It was 39 points.
And you know when that was, right?
Who wins tonight? I wish I knew but I do now that there’s a chance for four very good games, which is going to make the evening quite a lot of fun.
Of course, we’re all looking forward to Chicago-Boston because that’s the series that’s caught everyone’s attention the most but don’t sleep on Philly-Orlando. As good as the other East one’s been, three of the four Sixer-Magic games have come down to a last possession and that’s pretty impressive.
Hey, how much does this bite? Three games tonight and all us Rogers hostages can see in the comfort of our homes is Denver-New Orleans? That might be the best one (Miami-Atlanta’s a bit of snorefest and the Lakers should finally end the Jazz season) but this whole TSN2 thing is biting us in the bum in the post-season, as we figured it would.
Of course, The Score, which has done a tremendous job so far in the playoffs, simply won’t pre-empt its wrestling show so that leaves us with Nuggets-Hornets at 8:30 tonight on RaptorsTV.
We’ll be here, a bit grumpy perhaps because of the limited choice, but here nonetheless. See you then.
About last night
A classic confrontation
|ELISE AMENDOLA/AP FILE PHOTO|
|: ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : )|
It’s been suggested that we just run the names Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo in this space followed by a few lines of smiley-faced icons.
Not a bad idea to get across what we’re seeing but it does sort of let me off the hook and I’ve been coasting for a few days and feel a tad guilty.
So, I will say this: I don’t remember a specific series in a while where two guys who play the same position have gone at each other with such fervor, and success.
Yesterday’s 2OT thriller might not have been a true gem (there were a lot of blown plays – did you see the blown defence on the Ray Allen game-tying shot; or wonder why Boston didn’t foul on the catch in the two-point area up three before Gordon hit his game-tying shot?) but it sure was exciting.
And mostly because the two point guards simply went at each other incessantly.
I have no idea how the series is going to turn out – I would venture that whoever wins Game 5 wins it all but there’s no dead-certain lock on that winner – but I do know it’s been fun to watch.
Again, we’ll give youK.C.’s take on things.
Where’s the big man?
I know Dwight Howard is an exceptional basketball player, big, quick, strong, dominant a times.
But as we’re watching the Orlando Magic play close games down the stretch, isn’t it an indictment of the big guy that his team cannot throw him the ball in clutch situations? His inability to make free throws, and the limits to his offensive game turn one of the best young players in the game into little more than a spectator on every crucial offensive possession his team runs.
Now, I know how many of you think that the Orlando coaching staff has done a tremendous job with Howard but I’m going to suggest that until they find a way to extend his range or get him to make free throws, Howard remains unfulfilled potential.
And it’s almost killed his team in these playoffs. If not for Hedo Turkoglu’s tough three-pointer yesterday, the Magic could have been staring up out of a 1-3 hole and we’d be talking about how they’ve been a disappointment rather than a good young team.
Bye, bye Pistons
Not only did Detroit go out meekly against Cleveland (and no point in any game did anyone ever seriously think they had a legitimate chance to win, even in that scrub-led comeback in Game 2) they also played their last game as a unit we’ve come so accustomed to seeing.
I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen but I can pretty much guarantee that Allen Iverson is gone; I don’t see a scenario by which Rasheed Wallace returns (his contract, and his time, seem up to me) and I can see them not bringing back Antonio McDyess, either.
And you can think all you want about the trade value of guys like Tayshaun Prince (two years, $23 million left) or Rip Hamilton (four years, a whopping $50 million remaining) but I seriously wonder if cash-starved GMs are even going to be interested in them.
I can see this being the dawn of a dark age in Detroit, where they are sort of stuck with money to spend and no one really good to spend it on and a team stuck between young and kind of old and really going nowhere.
Few NBA franchises have had a run like Detroit did – six consecutive trips to the conference finals is nothing to sneeze at – but when we look back, do we see an NBA version of the Buffalo Bills?
Here’s how my buddy Chris McCoskey so aptly summed it up.
What’s it all mean for Ben?
Ben Gordon’s having an excellent series for Chicago so far, of that there can be no dispute.
And it’s led a whole lot of people to wonder how the unrestricted free agent will cash in when he’s looking for a new deal this summer.
Well, the story is that Gordon turned down a six-year, $58 million deal from the Bulls last year and signed a one-year qualifying offer of about $6.4 million.
It was a gamble. A bad gamble, I suspect.
In these changing economic times, with the cap figure going down and teams leery of what a new CBA might look like in 2011, I’m not entirely sure there’s going to be a contract that lucrative waiting for him this summer.
That would mean no matter how great he is in however many games the Bulls have left, I don’t think he’s making himself that much money.
We shall digress, for a moment, to the local team.
Know what I love about this time of year (or hate, depending on my mood actually)?
Some story yesterday morning quotes Brandon Jennings as saying Toronto’s been in Italy to scout him (among about three teams he mentioned specifically) and I get about five e-mails on a slow day asking what this means and how the Raptors could get him.
What it means is, frankly, nothing. It means the Raptors brass is doing its job and if they hadn’t scouted him, someone should be fired.
When it’s all said and done by late-June, Toronto will have scouted maybe 75-100 players. Some because they might be available when they make their selection, some because they might figure into some kind of draft-and-trade scenario, some because it’s just basic due diligence.
There really is nothing to read into it.
Yes, Jason Kapono got a second-place vote in balloting among writers and broadcasters for Sixth Man of the Year.
Yes, that makes very little sense to me.
Yes, when I next make snarky comments about such things as fans messing up things like all-star starters, you should bring this up.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).