As far as my NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Round 1 predictions go, I was 3-for-4. The Pittsburgh Penguins let me down and I finished the entire first round with an overall record of 7-1. The NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference quarterfinals didn’t lack for intensity and excitement, either. The Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens series was a 7-game thriller. The Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres series was a 7-game thriller. Oh, and yes, the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning went the full 7-games, too. The Washington Capitals dispatched the New York Rangers in 5-games. Onward we skate to the NHL Playoffs Round 2!
Having watched Rajon Rondo since his freshman year at Kentucky, I’m well aware of his away-from-the-rim shooting woes. Because of his freakishly-long fingers, the Celtics point guard has never had the prettiest form. Granted, he’s improved his free throw shooting since he was in college (from mid 50 percent to the mid-to-high 60s — it still needs to be higher for a starting point guard), but every so often, we learn old habits die hard; or they can come back to bite you in the form of shooting an air ball from the free throw line.
Defending the championship they worked so hard to win last season just got a lot harder for the Boston Celtics, provided Doc Rivers’ foreboding prognostication about Kevin Garnett’s knee comes true. Rivers told the Boston Globe he doubts Garnett — who has been struggling with his knee since around the All-Star break — will be available throughout the playoffs.
“This is the first time I’ve said it, because it’s the first time I’ve really watched him,” Rivers said. “He’s not gonna be ready. After watching him run, there’s no way. So, we’re gonna move without him. And the way I saw him move today guys, I don’t know if he’ll be ready… he’s just limping. He just can’t run. …
“This was an honest run today, you couldn’t fake your way through it … and the guy is a warrior, you can see him trying to mask it, but after 20 minutes of running, there’s just no way. I don’t see it. I just don’t. And I’ve flipped completely because I was watching him move, and he looked great, and then … after today, there’s no way he can play.
Because of his bum knee, Garnett has missed 25 games, but much to the defending champs’ credit, the Celtics are 18-7 during KG’s absence. However, beating teams like Orlando and the Cleveland LeBrons in a seven-game playoff series is much different than posting a respectable win-loss regular season record while a key component nurses an injury.
Jason Terry’s game-winning shot against Minnesota last night — specifically, Sebastian Telfair, who got absolutely faked out of his sneakers — not only won the game, but it also moved the Dallas Mavericks out of the dreaded eighth playoff spot. The Utah Jazz now face the prospect of playing Kobe and the gang when the playoffs start on Saturday. Oddly enough, Utah plays their last game of the season tonight against said Lakers in Los Angeles. If they want to entertain chances of not seeing them in the first round, the Jazz have to win tonight and hope Dallas loses to Houston on Wednesday.
These factors make Terry’s shot that much bigger. The Mavericks match up well with all of the teams fighting for the second seed; currently occupied by Denver. If they maintain their seventh seeding, provided New Orleans doesn’t lose their last game while Dallas wins, the Mavericks would be in a good position for a run to the Conference Finals.
Of course, the same logic is true for any Western Conference team in the second-seed side of the bracket.
In light of the all this Western Conference leap-frogging going on, it’s hard not to look at the Eastern Conference and all laugh. If Dallas, New Orleans or Utah played in the East, they’d be high seeds going into the playoffs, while teams like Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia would miss the playoffs entirely — unless they were allowed to defect to the Western Conference as reciprocation for losing the Jazz, Mavericks and Hornets.
If that happened, Chicago and Philly would push Golden State and Minnesota aside and Shaq would be Twittering about “carrying” Phoenix to the NBA Playoffs. With that in mind, perhaps this type of nonsensical realignment is best for all parties involved.
We are down to the last game(s) of the NBA’s regular season and teams are scratching and clawing for favorable playoff position. A great deal of said scratching and clawing is being done by star players like LeBron and Kobe — two of the favorites for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. As indicated here and other, more prominent NBA blogs, Dwyane Wade deserves to be part of the MVP conversation and after last night’s career-high 55-point performance against the New York Knicks — which secured the no-playoffs-without-Wade Heat the fifth seed when the fun starts on Saturday — he might have just sealed his MV3 fate.
The Miami season has largely been about the return of Dwyane Wade to his dominant self, something he’s stepped right into following his impressive Olympics showing. But last night, he might have outdone himself. Scoring a career-high 55 points (on 19-30 shooting, plus a career-high six 3-pointers) and pulling 9 rebounds in one of your last games of the regular season to help solidify your team’s playoff position — on a team, that, without Wade, would certainly be looking at a lot of lottery balls — is most valuable indeed.
However, is he the most, most valuable? Or has LeBron done enough to hold Wade’s stampede off?
Where’s the “Dwight Howard for MVP” talk? After his performance against the Boston Celtics last night — 24 points, 21 rebounds, 4 blocks, and that vicious alley-oop over KG and Glen Davis to end the third quarter — Howard should be right there in the LeBron or D-Wade discussion. For their efforts against the Celtics last night, the Orlando Magic also clinched another Southeast Division title, not to mention gaining the current number two seed in the NBA Playoffs. Of course, the seedings could change between now and the end of the season, but if the playoff started today, the Magic would be the two-seed and Celtics would be third.
LeBron and company have a firm grip on the Eastern Conference number one, leading both the Celtics and the Magic by five games with about 11 or so games remaining in the regular season.
Nevertheless, isn’t it about time Howard was mentioned more prominently in the MVP discussion? Considering the fact that the Magic haven’t missed much of a beat since Jameer Nelson went down, how can he not be?
Are the Pistons, now that they moved Rip back to the starting line-up, back? Ready to make a run at the Eastern Conference? Seeing how they are 5-5 in their last 10 games (although, they have won 5-6), and only two games above 500 (32-30), an extended run through the NBA Playoffs is probably asking a little much, but one thing’s for sure: The Pistons still dominate the Orlando Magic. And said domination continued last night as the Pistons yet again beat the Magic, 98-94, making it a season sweep for the Pistons.
The highlight of the game was Jason Maxiell’s one-handed finish, courtesy of a Rip Hamilton lob. I knew Maxiell could jump, but I didn’t know he could extend his body like that for such an exquisite catch and finish.
As for the Pistons, the Freep is calling this a “rise from the ashes,” and seeing how the Pistons are winning again, that may not be far from the truth. After going through an extended losing streak less than a month ago, it looks like the Pistons have cured what was ailing them. However, does this equate to an extended playoff run? Are the Pistons a threat to the Celtics or the Cavaliers?
In spite of the Orlando domination and a rediscovery of what it takes to win, it’s hard to see that happening from here. Also, what happens when Iverson gets back from his injury? Although he’s said all the right things, how will he handle Sixth Man duties? Will the team allow AI’s presence to “fit” with the rest of the Pistons?
Last Friday, LeBron James went a little nuts in Milwaukee, at least from a scoring-the-basketball perspective. James finished the game with an impressive 55 points, but that gaudy total was somehow overshadowed by his absolutely overpowering start to the third quarter. The Cavaliers entered the second half down by six, but Cleveland responded with an 18-4 run over the first 3 minutes of the quarter — but that’s not the eye-catcher. No, that designation belongs to LeBron who scored 16 of those 18 points during the run.
Actual clock time during LeBron’s impressive salvo? Around 2:50. That’s two minutes in fifty seconds. Putting it a better way, James scored over five points a minute during his otherworldly outburst. The above video has the moments immortalized in all of their uncut glory, clocking in at under five real-time minutes.
The question concerning the Cavaliers from this point going forward is are they a true threat to end Boston’s championship run at one? With Delonte West back in the lineup — giving LeBron yet another outside shooter when defenses happen to collapse on him, the Cavaliers look awfully good. But are they ready to take Boston and perhaps Los Angeles down as well? Let’s not forget about Orlando either. The loss of Jameer Nelson obviously stains their appeal some, but who is going to stop Dwight Howard?
Of course, as long as LeBron’s on the court, the same must also be asked of him (try your damnedest to hold him to jump shots).