Wednesday, April 25, 2007

First Round Dominance

Did you catch a look at Kobe Bryant's face at all last night? Did you see the frustration in his eyes every time he turned the ball over or missed one of his forced up fade aways? Didn't he resemble that guy in pickup games who knows he can do better but consistantly gets flustered into making a mistake? Kobe's face was one that I, and all amature ballers like me know all too well, it was the face of a guy who is overmatched, a guy unable to do what he knows he needs to do in order to win. Forget their offense last night (well, forget it for a minute), the Phoenix Suns, as a team, played some of the best defense I've seen from them, and they used it to control the game, almost from begining to end. Early in the broadcast, Craig Sager reported that Dantoni was going to use a different set of schemes on Bryant. The ever impressive Raja Bell remained Kobe's primary defender, but his perimeter and weak side help defenders played off their men enough for a consistant barrage of double teams. No matter where he recieved the ball, whether he brought it up the court or whether the Lakers ran him off screens, Kobe was hounded by two or more Suns' defenders. I give the Suns a raw deal sometimes, partially because I don't believe they are as good a playoff team as the Spurs and Mavs are. Still, when they play well, the Suns are among the NBA's elite, and they showed that last night. I'm not sure the Lakers can take a game off them the way they're playing, and sweaping the Lakers would leave them fresh for San-Antonio (assuming that they make it past Denver).

Many people expceted Phoenix to dominate in the first round, few expected that result from Chicago. Because they are matched up with the defending champs, pundits (including myself) and experts everywhere imagined that this 4/5 matchup (which is really a 3/5 matchup) would be a dogfight. The fact is, we were all fooled by the myth that superstars can turn bad teams into good teams overnight. Miami never played up to the level they demonstrated during the '05-'06 season. A large part of that was due to injuries, but part of it stems from the fact that Miami's pieces are getting old, and its young guns' growth (Kopono, Haslem, and Posey) have been marginalized by a system that revolves around two players. Miami is not in Chicago's league, that was evident in game 1, where Chicago pulled out a victory despite playing their worst game in months, and it became painfully clear by the buzzer of game 2. When Chicago buckled down, they prevented the Heat from getting the looks they wanted, and then ran the ball down their throats. Chicago is an elite team in the East, part of a tier that I think includes only them and Detroit. Miami is a playoff team, but the stars are no longer aligned for them, a championship is too much to hope for, especially when they had the luck of being matched up with the beast of the east in round 1. I'm not going to predict a sweap now, though I wouldn't be surprised, I will say,however, that these two games have demonstrated how overrated Miami really is.

Finally, I wish the NBA would throw me a bone and let me watch some of the Toronto/NJN series, because that looks like its the best (only?) series in the east right now.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must prepare myself for a night of terrific bball.

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