|NBA Double-Header: Pistons Defeat Bucks, Lakers Defeat Sonics, Plus NBA Talk.
||[Apr. 1st, 2006|06:00 am]
It's a great night to be sauce1977 when the Pistons and Lakers play on TV, back-to-back.
Milwaukee shot out the lights for most of the game, but the Pistons turned on defensive pressure and forced them into 12 total turnovers. The extra looks gave Detroit more chances, and at the end of the game, Chauncey and Rasheed hit great long jumpers to increase the lead to five with 50.4 seconds to go. After Tayshaun bothered the next layup by Milwaukee, he nailed a fantastic long jumper over Kukoc to seal the game. The Pistons triumphed, 112-105.
Milwaukee had already impressed me with their 3-point demolition over Phoenix the other day. Charlie Bell had a fantastic game for the Bucks, and they continued that shooting against Detroit. Milwaukee's guards have fantastic shot accuracy. The Bucks hit 51.9% from the floor and 57.9% from beyond the arc on 19 attempts against Detroit. Guys like Michael Redd and Charlie Bell were dropping those shots with hands in the face. Detroit's defense was very much alive, so their percentages were off the charts, considering who they faced.
Anyone still in dejection over losing Ray Allen to the Sonics should really take a look at their current NBA roster. Michael Redd's almost a carbon copy of Ray, right down to the mediocre defense. Yet, that Redd, man, he can shoot the ball. The shots he made against the Pistons were on the move with a defender in his face. One can never leave Michael Redd open on the court, since he'll hit it almost every time.
Bucks fans should not despair. I dogged this team earlier in the season because I was in large disagreement over the caliber of Andrew Bogut. He's decent, as it turns to be. The Magloire deal didn't make much sense, either, but that's another part of why I thumbed my nose at their chances of making the playoffs. This team has enough pieces to work and move for more.
As for the Lakers, they rolled over Seattle, 106-93. Sacramento, Denver, and the Clips won their games, however, so they didn't move anywhere.
It's somewhat nice to see Los Angeles hold Seattle's offense to 93 points, yet, beating Seattle is not much of an accomplishment, since the Sonics literally have one of the worst team defenses in the history of the NBA. It's the San Antonio game at home that Los Angeles blew that points to a more rational picture of their ability. SA harassed Kobe and forced the team to provide more help, and that help never happened. That tells everything about the weak status of this team.
Without Kobe, the collective would earn a top 3 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery.
The Lakers need to get out of their current playoff position, since they're on a course to face Phoenix. If they face Phoenix, then I don't care if B.J. Armstrong takes some acid and sees the Lakers winning the 2006 Finals. This team is a first round exit against Phoenix. The Suns will run and run and gun, and the Lakers will try to match, but the one weakness in that strategy would be Kobe's shot selection. Against the Suns, Kobe would take way too many contested jumpers, and the Suns would romp right back and bury them in transition. If they had a different matchup, like Denver, then they could do some damage. Denver's the biggest pretender of the top bunch. Their defense has improved, but they're positioned to flounder in the playoffs in part because of the poor competition in their division. They're likely to exit early in major part because defense in the playoffs tightens, and when the Nuggets need outside shots, and Carmelo Anthony's constantly double-teamed, Denver's not going to make those shots, since they don't have any other reliable outside shooters. No amount of alley-oops and Ruben Patterson sex-offender pressure is going to carry that team to the Finals.
One game at a time is the name of the Lakers game, and after the loss against San Antonio, it points to how much of a weak playoff entry Kobe's crew is. No amount of Flea's horrible poetry can change this.
With the Lakers, I'm a realist, but I would like to see them have some sort of success.
Maybe people wonder why I would care about the fellows in purple and gold.
I can explain why I like the Lakers.
When I started watching the NBA, it was the mid-1980s. The Pistons started their rise from obscure professional team to perennial title contender with the draft of Isiah Thomas in 1981. During the mid-1980s, Detroit's next task, similar to Cleveland and Milwaukee in present day, was to knock off the top dog. In the Eastern conference, the top team for many years remained the Boston Celtics.
Detroit had a pretty good year in 1986-1987. Their team offense and defense hovered near the top of the league. They'd finished second place in their division at 52-30, and they beat the team in 1st, the Hawks, to get to the Celtics.
I will never forget being at Jawor's with my dad. We were there for Putt-putt. In the pro shop on their television set, the Pistons played against the Celtics in Game 5 in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. I stood there and watched. Detroit looked to have won the game by one point with possession and a handful of seconds to go. The win was to put Detroit up 3-2 with a chance to beat Boston at home in Game 6.
From the NBA.com recap:
As Detroit's Isiah Thomas prepared to toss the ball inbounds from the sideline, Boston's Larry Bird looked away from his man and stole a glance at Thomas. He saw the Pistons' captain look toward center Bill Laimbeer in the low post an instant before releasing the ball. So Bird cut into the passing lane and stole the ball before it could reach Laimbeer's hands.
His momentum looked like it would carry him out of bounds, but Bird somehow managed to gather his balance at the baseline and turn toward the court, where he spotted teammate Dennis Johnson beginning his cut from the foul line toward the basket. Bird whipped a crisp pass to DJ who laid it in with one second remaining for a 108-107 victory.
Isiah inbounding. . . Bird steals . . . to Johnson.
Bird to Johnson . . . for the win.
Bird . . . to Johnson.
I watched CBS replay that play over and over on the golf shop's screen. Daly's boys lost the game. The Celtics beat the Pistons that series in seven games, and I, as a young Pistons fan, felt crushed.
From that point, I never cared for the Celtics. It was probably the multiple replays by CBS. If you're from Boston, and you're reading this, it's CBS's fault.
I do respect and enjoy Larry Bird, if only for his body of accomplishment. However, as a child, I generally despised sporting teams from Boston. Bird's steal solidified it. What can I say? He was good. What a jerk for stealing the Pistons' thunder.
The contempt of Boston sports started in the previous fall. I watched Bill Buckner's historic error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, live on NBC. Because of the error and the resulting win by New York, the Mets forced and won that Series in the 7th game. When Boston fans overlooked McNamara's managerial errors in favor of general harassment and death threats of Bill Buckner, well, I felt for him and against the people of Boston.
It's difficult to bring up Buckner, to this day, with the average sports fan from Boston. They don't want to talk about it. I'll talk about Bird's steal in relation to the dashed hopes of the Pistons in '87, but good luck on the reacharound.
Don't worry, I don't much care for the whole Eastern sporting seaboard. Meh, Yankees sometimes prove quality.
Plus, Bill Simmons really sucks at writing. His humor and wit fail at a frequent rate, and the ideas fare at an IQ that's below average. Paul Shirley has more talent, and he was in the wrong profession. Simmons probably remains very predictable. Yet, I stopped reading Simmons a long time ago, so I don't know anymore. For all I know, he reached Truman Capote in writing quality, but I doubt it. Why? It doesn't matter. I don't care. I'm a jerk. Even-steven.
Regardless, with that Bird play in May of 1987, Detroit's goal progression stalled. They still had to beat Boston, and they eventually lost the series. Once they owned that team, then and only then could they could probably own the conference. From there, they could dominate the league.
That summer, I watched what would become the other part of my NBA love. The 1986-1987 Los Angeles Lakers had the best offense in the NBA, and their solid defense helped that offense strike with what all basketball fans know as . . . Showtime.
Everyone loved Magic Johnson in Detroit, except when he played the Pistons. He was from Lansing, Michigan, so that helped this region to love him. He was one of Michigan State's best college players before he jumped to the NBA with Los Angeles. In 1986-1987, he had a career year, lighting up the shots and assists like Steve Nash. Magic had seasons that actually eclipsed Nash's production, but that's part of his, well, Magic. He was the main ballhandler in the Showtime offense, and he helmed a crew that handled and passed the ball well as a team.
The 1987 Lakers championship acted as a strange redemption in my heart. Boston wasn't supposed to have a chance against Los Angeles, but after 6 tough games, the Lakers won the 1987 Finals. I went on to watch a lot more Lakers over the years, since the national broadcasts featured them often enough to become familiar.
When the Pistons weren't great, there were the Lakers, and vice versa. When both teams are great, it is pure and sweet joy for me.
When the teams collide, that's when I see that my fandom is split somewhere between 50.1 and 60 percent to 49.9 and 40 in favor of the Pistons. Of the seven Finals appearances by the Pistons, 3 of them have been against the Lakers. During these times, the percentage shifts to 70/30 for Detroit, so it should be of no surprise to anyone that I celebrated the Pistons Game 5 win for the 2004 championship with a burger and fries at Mel's Diner in Hollywood.
On Tyrus Thomas and Glen "Big Baby" Davis out of LSU . . .
I don't want to see or hear any more about these kids.
Dick Vitale just blubbered his arp-arp of approval for Davis, and while it's nice to have a great kid with a wonderful personality who can be coached, the guy is ranked #60 on the Top 100 on ESPN's NBA Draft board. He's a 6'9 310 baller with colossal flubber-arms.
Anyone in consideration of Davis to play a backup PF or C role has to realize that despite his girth, there are going to be guys who run 260 or heavier on every NBA team, and every night, Davis is going to give up a two or three inch height disadvantage. Unless the kid drops about 50 and bulks up with muscle, he not only will be out-muscled and out-hustled in the paint, but he'll sputter out toward the end of games, and, of course, the end of the longer NBA seasons. Right now, no team running any major uptempo game is considering Davis, or at least, they shouldn't.
6'9, 229 is his frame, and that reads like a 3, but on LSU, he's basically playing power forward. With his lack of guns, that's not going to work any better than it does for Tayshaun Prince in emergency minutes. Granted, Tayshaun's appearance, when compared to most other NBA ballers, is, well, emaciated. While Tayshaun does show muscle tone, Thomas looks less-so. The other difference is Tayshaun's ability to hit jumpers from the arc. Tyrus doesn't have a reliable mid-range shot, much less an outside shot, so that makes Thomas, the #2 player on this year's board, well, at best, a potential backup defensive specialist at the 3.
I could be slighting both of these guys way below their actual NBA caliber, but hey, college basketball really really sucks, and I haven't watched much of it since Webber's dubious time-out. The quality has eroded, and most kids will continue to stay the minimum amount of time, or they'll head from high school over to Europe. The NCAA's pretty spread in talent over a lot more teams, too, so that parity doesn't help sell me. I have a powerful lust for witness of sporting dominance.
This brings me to my point on the 2006 NBA Draft.
Good luck to any team with a 2006 lottery pick, since you'll be picking around that spot at this time in 2007.
There's some hope in LeMarcus Aldridge, and maybe Adam Morrison out of Gonzaga will be a decent shooter, but this draft is bare in the cupboard. Guys normally primed to jump to the NBA out of the McDonald's All-American high school showcase are jumping to college squads for about a year because of the age limit increase by Stern. Couple that with a basket of who-the-hell-knows in Euro-FIBA-fancy prospects, and I keep looking at Chicago, and I see they have the #1 pick from the Knicks, and I can't help but think they should try to deal all their '06 picks plus some of their youngsters for an elite 4 or 5.
The big men at the top of 2006 draft lists do not translate into major help next year, and a lot of the guys have serious deficiencies that need more work or can't be worked on, period. A prime example would be J.J. Redick. His inability to get open for jumpers at the college level against competent defenders, well, that's more of the norm of the players available this year.
There's not much help available in free agency in 2006, either. Ben Wallace is expected to re-sign with Detroit, and that's about the long and short of the elite list. The big list of fantastic free agents for 2007 makes for any team that spends a lot of money in 2006 to be a prime candidate to have zero improvement. They'll also be laughed at in 2007 when guys like Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh decide their futures.
As for Kevin Garnett, the 'Sota legend shows great heart for repeated public expressions of his desire to stay with the Timberwolves, and he's completely in the right to publicly demand that the owner push the executives to find better ballers for a better chance at a title.
Yet, he's got Karl Malone written all over him.
The reality for Kevin? He turns 30 in May. The team's roster boasts players who do not work as a solid unit, and the collective amount of their salaries don't look for much ability to sign new guys in free agency. Some of these guys have extended periods of time left on their deals, so they're not going anywhere for a while.
Jaric's probably better as a shooting guard, and they have him running the point, which is the same problem he had in Los Angeles. He's a bit sluggish at the 1. Ricky Davis? He's offense-only. That's hard to win a championship, having him giving up as many or more points as he nets at SF and SG. He gives up so much at the 3 because he's got a SG's body. Plus, his offense really doesn't contribute enough to warrant him a start at either position. Hassell? He's been gimped, but he'd serve as a solid defensive stopper at shooting guard and shooting forward, and yet, the T'Wolves have him starting. That's one guy, Jaric, out of position, and there's two others, Davis and Hassell, who should be bench solutions.
Eddie Griffin at center? Obviously, he would net zero playing time at the 4, which is rightfully owned by KG, but being 6'10 and 232 usually gets a guy owned at the 5. He's holding up fairly well, but KG's a pretty lean power forward, so one could realize that Griffin is not the right combo for him.
Minnesota's shooting-guard-loaded, point-thin, and completely outmatched besides KG in the front court.
Right now, the Lakers, Knicks, and 75% of the other NBA teams are willing to give picks, players, and players in the last year of their deals in order to match enough to net Garnett. His saving grace remains the fact that Minnesota's division, the Northwest, is about as horrible in terms of talent and outlook. Denver's very beatable in the post-season, and they'll stay that way until they add a better shooting guard and get a full season out of Marcus Camby.
Despite an easy division, KG's got a lot of guys around him that won't do much better than .500 ball.
Any talk of getting Stephon Marbury is pure lunacy. Marbury adds another shooter, and he can pass the ball, but he's a 2 in a 1's body, which is another disadvantage. Marbury plays a lazy defense, so that doesn't help, either.
Finally . . .
During the ESPN and TNT NBA broadcasts, I keep noticing "Joga Bonito" and Ronaldinho. What the hell is Joga Bonito?
I went to Nike's website, and the whole set of the extended video spots looked like they were marketing a soccer version of a basketball game at Rucker Park . . . all offense, no defense. I don't get the context, since I'm an American. Yet, since they choose to put this Brazilian on spots during the NBA, and his name's not Nene or Anderson Varejao, I am irritated into asking more.
Happy Fool's Day, fools.