Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Portland's interior defense was a joke in Game 1. Its marked improvement by Game 2 on Tuesday was critical to a bounce-back win for the Blazers. Yao Ming had 24 points in half on Saturday but was held to 11 on just six shots from the field the entire evening Tuesday as the Rockets fell 107-103. Joel Przybilla, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden combined to shut down Yao and reverse a disparity in rebounds from Game One, as the Blazers were able to edge the Rockets on the boards 36-35. The other key for Portland was Brandon Roy, who took matters into his own hands on the offensive end and wound up with 42 points on 15-for-27 from the floor and 10-for-12 from the line. It was the kind of performance the Blazers needed to have from their superstar at some point in the playoffs. It didn't hurt that LaMarcus Aldridge was also on his game, scoring 27 and collecting 12 rebounds, both figures more than any other Rocket posted for the evening. Houston was led for a second straight night by Aaron Brooks, who had 23 points as he continues to dominate the point guard battle with Steve Blake. Von Wafer got hot off the bench, getting to the interior of the Portland defense and scoring 21 points. The Rockets certainly welcome heavy scoring from somewhat unusual sources, but will have a tough time getting anywhere if Artest, who had 19 on Tuesday, and Yao can't crack 20.

2. You'll have to excuse the Lakers if they look a little bored. The Jazz, especially when they're on the road, simply can't compete with the West's overwhelming favorite. The Lakers built an early lead scoring at will against Utah, particularly inside, where Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom took advantage of Mehmet Okur's continued absence with a strained hamstring and combined for 26 of the L.A.'s 41 points in the first quarter. The Lakers put it in cruise control the rest of the way, letting the Jazz within three points late until the defense clamped down. Carlos Boozer made it 109-106 with 3:16 to play, but the Lakers stymied four straight Utah possessions with a Trevor Ariza steal, a loose ball foul against Carlos Boozer, a Derek Fisher steal, and two Gasol blocks. Kobe's 21-footer with 1:03 to play sealed it. Kobe led the way with 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds, but really it was a balanced effort as seven Lakers reached double figures, including recent bench revelation Shannon Brown, who had 12. Brown had most of those against Deron Williams, who otherwise had a stellar night with 35 points and nine assists. Boozer was no slouch with 20 points and 10 rebounds, as it became apparent that even when their stars are shining, the Jazz have serious problems with the Lakers. Okur's possible return in Game 3 would certainly help, but it's unlikely he'll be able to swing a series that L.A. has completely dominated so far.

3. The Cavs, like the Lakers, got a little sloppy in Game 2 of a lopsided series Tuesday. Cleveland built a 29-point lead over the Pistons by the fourth quarter, which was whittled down to seven with both teams' reserves on the floor, before the starters returned to restore order in a 94-82 victory for the Cavs. LeBron James was unstoppable, with totals of 29 points and 13 rebounds that were both game highs, plus six assists to boot. He was scarcely the only one for Cleveland, as Mo Williams had 21 points and seven assists while Delonte West had 20 points, just one fewer than his playoff career high. Antonio McDyess had 11 rebounds for the Pistons, but no other Piston had more than four on a night when Detroit was simply out-toughed, a rarity in Detroit's heydey. The Pistons relied on their guards for scoring, as Richard Hamilton had 17 and Rodney Stuckey 14 to lead the way. Will Bynum had 10 of his 13 and Arron Afflalo all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter as both teams emptied their benches. It's become clear after two games that the best chance the Pistons have at a single win in this series is for Cleveland's newly crowned NBA Coach of the Year Mike Brown to repeat his mistake of slackening the reins too early. Don't count on that happening.

No comments: