Greetings everyone. Playoffs start in 24 hours and we've got some juicy first-round series to break down. Let's have at it.
Before we start -- we still don't know who won random drawing between Raptors and Warriors to determine 7th/8th position and whether first-round pick of Golden State may be headed to Utah. Hopefully will learn soon.
John, everybody is talking about one team's top-6 defense shutting down the other team's bottom-6 offense...but aren't they getting it wrong? Seems like it's Atlanta's D that's poised to dominate...
It's both defenses .. did you see the two regular-season games they played with their starters? Good heavens was that some ugliness. This will be a low-scoring, knock-down, drag-out series, even though neither team will be playing with a conventional center for most of the time. I think Atlanta's chances in this series have been dismissed too easily; it's not a bad match-up for them and they have home-court advantage.
Will the Jazz big lineup, Millsap-3 Favors-4 Jefferson-5, cause the Spurs problems?
What surprises me about that look is how good its been defensively; I just don't know if they can play that way against all San Antonio's floor spacers. It's asking a lot of Millsap and Jefferson defensively, and Favors can't block shots at the 3-point line.
what series are you assigned to for rnd 1? What 'x-factor' for lack of a better term will you be keeping an eye on?
I'll be here in Atlanta for Games 1 and 2, and then after that we'll play things by ear a little. As far as the Atlanta series goes, I'm very interested to see what Larry Drew does with his frontcourt. My expectation is that Josh Smith will basically be paying center the entire series, with Marvin Williams, Vlad Radmanovic and Ivan Johnson getting the minutes at 4. But the real interesting part is when Smith comes out -- who plays 5 then? Jason Collins? Johnson?
Does anyone outside of Dallas believe the Mavs have any shot against the Thunder. Losing Chandler, Barrea, and Stevenson definetly don't make them the same team they were last year.
"any shot" is pretty extreme ... I mean, they have some kind of a chance, right? I expect OKC to win because Dallas's offense has gone off a cliff, and the Mavs won the title with offense last year. But I do think Dallas is inside the Thunder's heads a little bit, and that could come into play if the Mavs grab an early lead in the series.
Who's the 2 seed more likely to be upset, Miami or OKC? Knicks are legit and Dallas is the defending champs.
I'd say Miami, just because the Knicks at this point appear to be a much better team than Dallas. I'm very interested to see how many minutes Melo plays at the 4; New York is dramatically better when they space the floor with the Novak-Smith types and play smaller, but the Knicks have so much money tied up in Melo-Amare that I'm not sure they're willing to commit to playing that way.
Our Beckley Mason is saying that Golden State won the coin flip. But by "won" I'm not sure if he means "won" or "lost"
OK, it appears he means "won" ... Golden State is in No. 7 position, so if nobody leapfrogs them in the lottery the Warriors will keep the pick and Utah will have a top-7 protected pick from Golden State in 2013.
No Per Diem today? What gives?
That 4,500 word playoff manifesto wasn't enough for you? The link is up now: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2012/story/_/page/PERDiem-120427/nba-playoffs-predicting-every-round
trying to predict what lineups George Karl will use is a fools erand, but what lineups do think Karl SHOULD use against LAL?
The biggest thing is monitoring his frontcourt match-ups. He has to keep size out there on Bynum and Pau, and then when L.A. goes to the bench he can play around with the Harrington-Gallo smallball stuff. I think we'll see a lot of McGee and Koufos and maybe even some Mozgov, and we'll see a lot of Corey Brewer on Kobe. That could squeeze the minutes for Harrington.
Do you agree with Mike Wilbon that Steve Nash would make the Jazz a 55 win team next year?
Not sure I buy that, just because Utah would have to completely change how they play, and for that matter who they play. But I'll say this: I think Utah will win a bunch of games next year no matter who they get to play the point.
So after getting murdered in the paint since Dwight's been out, what chance do the Magic have with Big Baby and Orton? Can they keep it locked up enough to hope for a hot shooting night?
I think Orton is their best shot; Big Baby is giving up roughly 26 inches to Hibbert and Roy will be able to play right over the top of him. But big picture, Magic are basically counting on hot 3-point shooting to offset what's likely to be an easy offensive series for Indiana. I have trouble seeing them winning more than once.
why does the NBA reward obvious tanking? Do you think something should be done about it?
Yes, not because it's "unfair" but because it creates horrific, unwatchable basketball that ultimately undermines the league's product. They have to give teams an incentive to compete in April.
John, would the Nuggets have more chance at beating the Lakers with me instead of McGee? I looked pretty good at the end of the season.
I think the Nuggets' odds would improve with Nene instead of McGee, yes, provided Nene didn't have a hangnail and felt like playing.
How happy do you think the Pacers are that New York couldn't quite make it to the 6th seed?
Ecstatic. That was a 50-50 series at best for the Pacers. Now they cruise into the second round and let the Knicks wear out their second-round opponent. Don't sleep on Heat-Pacers, folks; that's gonna be fun.
Wow do you hate the lakers! In all seriousness, do the advantages that lawson and ganillo provide really come close to the advantages the lakers have with their big 3?
It's hard to imagine that the Nuggets can win when the Lakers have the three best players in the series. But what's crazy is that the Lakers' point differential with all three stars on the court is barely any better than Denver's for the entire season with any combination. All of the team-level data points in Denver's direction except that L.A. won the season series. This is not going to be a cakewalk at all.
Are the Bulls being overlooked? There are definite flaws but they are a better all around team than last season. Especially if Rose starts playing like he is capable of.
I would not describe the Bulls as "overlooked." I think they're one of the three teams that I would not even be mildly surprised to see holding the trophy this June. I think you're right that they're probably better than a year ago, but they need to be, and they're not as healthy as they were at this time a year ago. Also, I don't think Hamilton was a good fit and I'd like them better with Brewer and Korver getting those minutes exclusively.
Do you think the Blazers will make the playoffs next year? Do they have any hope of keeping Batum at a reasonable price?
Yes, he's a restricted free agent and the Blazers will have a major advantage in retaining his services. As far as making the playoffs, let's see what they come up with this summer. Portland has as many balls in play as any team in the league, which makes it sort of scary that nobody is totally in charge.
How did you have Blake Griffin 5th on your MVP ballot? He's a bad defender, and as a power forward that does matter.
Huge plus-minus numbers, and availability -- he played every game and played 37 minutes a night, whereas a lot of his competition missed several games. So even if he wasn't as good as several other candidates on a per-minute basis, my argument is he added more value than the others by being there every night.
You know Popovich is going to be able to shred Utah's defense. What, if anything can Utah do to counter? Speed up the game? Pound it inside?
Pound, pound, pound. Jefferson, Millsap, Favors. Rinse, lather, repeat. That's the Achilles heel of San Antonio defensively, and the Jazz will have to exploit it mercilessly to have any chance.
So if you are the Lakers and win the first three games, do you consider tanking a game or two to get MWP back in the second round or is that just playing with fire?
If it was Kobe you'd think about it. MWP? Playing with fire. Remember, if you extend the first round you're putting a compressed schedule and a back-to-back in play in the second round. Who do you think deals better with that, an OKC team where everybody is 23, or the Lakers?
Given the Clips lack of size at the 2/wings - Tony Allen guards CP3 whenever the 2 are on the Court - right?
My expectation is that Allen will guard CP for long stretches, but I don't know if he'll start games on him. CP is a notorious slow starter as he looks to get everyone else involved, so I wonder if he'll start games with Conley on CP and then sick Tony Allen on him in the fourth quarter.
Most competitive first round series? Which series is most likely to end in a Game 7 thriller?
Everyone is talking up Clippers-Grizzlies; I'm thinking right city, wrong team. Lakers-Nuggets is gonna be a blast, and what makes it even better is that right now nobody expects it.
How good is Evan Turner?
Rotation player. Not sure he's anything more than that unless he shows dramatic progress as a shooter.
Philly isn't winning a game are they? I can't see it.
Philly took a game off of Miami a year ago and I could see the same thing happening this year -- a narrow win in Game 3, warm applause, and then everybody goes home.
Could the schedule makers have been any kinder to SAS? I thought the playoffs 1st round schedule was going to be compressed?
The first round schedule is *exactly the same* as it has always been. It's the second round that is compressed, and that could hurt San Antonio if there is a back-to-back in Memphis or L.A. in Games 3 and 4, followed by one day off the rest of the series.
BTW, just saw that Tyson Chandler has the flu. Let's hope for New York's sake it's the 24-hour variety.
You do realize the Nuggets never win in Staples against the Lakers?
I'm presuming that if Gallo has a wide open lay-up to change that fact, he'll make it this time.
You really are so blinded by your love of the Heat, huh? Or should I say love of Lebron.... You are totally ignoring the Knicks right now. Baron Davis is better than Chalmers; Shumpert is an excellent defender of Wade; Melo is not far from Lebron's level; Stat and Bosh are virtual ties; and Chandler will own the paint. Knicks and Heat will definitely be the best series and most competitive - just watch and see.
I have it going six games -- how much frothing over the Knicks were you hoping for? Aside from wildly optimistic matchup analysis, New York is intriguing because they can make things very very difficult if they play Melo at 4 for long stretches and stop trying to force the Melo-Amare thing. But I'm not sure they will. And otherwise they're depending on a couple hot shooting nights on 3s extended the series before the inevitable happens.
Mozgov crush playoff?
I expect him to be this year's Unintentional Comedy breakout star of the 2012 playoffs.
Does Rose have to be 100% or at least close for the Bulls to get by Philly and beyond?
They can beat Philly with Rose in a barca lounger. But the degree of difficulty ramps up considerably in likely match-ups against Boston and Miami, which is why the first round is important to shake off his rust.
Not that it matters, but Gallo's blown lay-up would not have won that game. It would have only tied it.
You're crushing my hypothesis. Just crushing it.
John: Have you forgot about me? I am the king of unintentional comedy!
It's almost unfair that one team can have this much UC swag. I thought Marc Gasol had a fine performance in last year's playoffs, but he has no chance if the Nuggets extend the series.
Can Utah re-injure Josh Howard and Raja Bell for the playoffs? Corbin might ignore the 3 bigs lineup now that they are healthy again.
Weird year for Corbin. He deserves the praise he's reserved for keeping everybody playing hard, but some of the personnel choices have been perplexing and they still act like the corner 3 is some kind of foreign concept unsuited for their system. I'd love to see them get broaden their horizons beyond the retro Sloan stuff, try spacing the floor and see what it's like to defend without fouling.
My hypothesis is that the Bulls are more dangerous to the Heat without Rose playing. If he plays, the ball is GOING through him in the 4th, and LeBron can shut him down every time...without Rose, they move the ball till a shot opens up, and that's a more effective way to attack the Heat....thoughts?
I think that's a stretch ... they're allowed to play that way with Rose on the floor too, remember. My bigger problem with Bulls-Heat is Hamilton; I'd much rather they play Brewer.
Were you surprised that Kobe sat out last night and handed the scoring title to Durant?
Not at all. Playing would have been shallow and selfish, especially since he would have needed to play a lot to get to 38. He's already won a scoring title, he was just injured, and this is his last good chance for rest. Playing him would have made no sense whatsoever.
I know the Spurs have had trouble with size in the past few years, but they DID go 9-2 against the Grizz, Lakers, and Jazz this year. And the Jazz loss was with the JV team. Thoughts?
Yep. The Spurs are a fearsome team any way you slice it, but when teams have had success it's been with the Bynums and Griffins. I don't think it will bite them this year, and people forget this but the loss to Memphis was more a failure on offense than defense. That said, if you're Utah, that weakness is your best shot.
Where oh where will Steve Nash land? Which team makes the most strategic sense?
Bike lanes, Steve. You need bike lanes. And independent bookstores. Portland is perfect. There are lots nice communes where you can raise your family, and you won't have to deal with all that pesky sunlight that bothered you so much in Phoenix.
In all seriousness, I think Nash would be inclined to look at the Heat, the Lakers (if Sessions walks) and Dallas (if Deron doesn't come). New York is off the table since they'll use their midlevel to keep Lin (a no-brainer both financially and basketball-wise).
%chance the blazers dont match batum and trade aldridge?
0.000. They're keeping Batum unless the price gets completely ridiculous, and nobody is trading for Aldridge coming off of hip surgery.
Out of the 72 "expert picks" (12 for each series) on the series pages of espn.com, only 5 total picks are upset picks. Does that say more about the experts or about this years match-ups?
Actually, Boston is technically an upset pick -- they had a worse record and don't have home court. But in the bigger picture, there are an average of 3.6 non-home-court wins per playoffs, including an average of two in the first round. We're picking 17 of 72, which is almost exactly the same ratio.
I was thisclose to making it 18. Denver has a really compelling case. I'm still torn about whether I made the right call on that one.
You apparently didn't watch the Sixers-Bulls games this year. Sixers outscored them. 1 blowout win and 2 close losses. Sixers take this AT LEAST to 6 games.
Sixers blowout win was early in the year when they were playing much, much better. I agree that the games will largely be competitive, but I don't think Philly will end up winning more than one of them.
Where does Miami go if we don't win it all? I assume they might break the team or go after a guy like Nash (as you mentioned)?
I can't imagine them breaking the team up. It's impossible to get fair value for Wade, and that's the only tradeable piece. The rest of the roster has essentially no trade value. They would probably amnesty Miller to get access to the full midlevel, and try to get Steve Nash and Grant Hill as a package deal.
Nuggets have won 4 road games since the 1996-97 season against the Lakers.
Thank you. I'm sure Ryan Bowen's failures will weight heavily upon this series.
How much will the Lakers miss MWP in the 1st round vs Denver
Not as much as they would have against Kevin Durant in Round 2, that's for sure. Gallinari has been up and down since coming back and the Nuggets generate most of their points on guard penetration. Where Artest's absence hurts is more in the sense of losing a big chunk of minutes form the rotation, and now they have to cobble together Barnes-Ebanks-Goudelouck time to backfill.
Since you have the lakers ranked 16 in your rankings would you consider it an upset if they beat the nugs?
No, Power Rankings didn't know Kobe was out. But I do see this series as a toss-up.
What's PDX's potential with Nash next year after matching and keeping Batum?
Biggest hurdle is bringing in enough other talent to convince him that it's worth bypassing his other options. Have to have a ready-made roster to show him on July 1, which only happens if they do some slick stuff on draft day. Without a GM.
If Denver does manage to win the series against the Lakers and OKC advances, how would you see the series between OKC and Denver playing out?
I think it would be absolute hair-raising madness, OKC would win but we'd be talking about the series for a long time with all the 120-118, end-to-end play. I went to the Denver-OKC regular season game, the one that went to overtime with Durant scoring 50, Russ scoring 40 and Ibaka getting a triple-double, and it was one of the best regular season games I've ever been to. Salivating a bit imagining that times seven, in the playoffs.
I see that you changed your mind about the Grizz/Clippers series. When did this happen, and why?
When I was breaking down the lineup data to write my piece last night and this morning. I didn't like the way Memphis ended the season, but when they have their best players on the court they're still a handful.
Folks that's all the time I have, but thanks again for the great questions and we'll do this at some point next week -- time and date TBD depending on my whereabouts. I'll have some dispatches from Philips on Sunday night from Hawks-Celtics Game 1; you can follow them on Twitter at @johnhollinger