... about the NBA:
1. Dallas is in trouble unless its interior defense improves after what we saw Sunday. Nene looked like a Hall of Famer against Erick Dampier and Ryan Hollins, scoring 14 of his playoff career high 24 in the second quarter of a 109-95 win for Denver in the opener of the Western Conference Semifinals. Chris Anderson came off the bench to score 11 points, grab six rebounds and block an astounding six shots as the Nuggets dominated the paint. Anderson was one of the players who had double figures off the bench for Denver, which scored 39 points altogether. J.R. Smith shot 7-for-13 for 15 points and dished out six assists while Anthony Carter got hot as well, shooting 6-for-8 for 12 points and four assists. The Nuggets built an 82-75 lead after three quarters with little contribution from anyone other than Nene and the bench, and when Carmelo Anthony finally turned it on to score 14 of his 23 in the fourth quarter, it served only to widen the margin of victory. It was a familiar refrain for the Mavs on offense, who got 28 points and 10 rebounds from Nowitzki but nothing noteworthy out of anyone else. That was Denver coach George Karl's strategy, not double-teaming anyone and forcing someone other than Nowitzki to step up. Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd all had 15, but no one else had more than six, and the Mavs wound up turning the ball over 20 times. Rick Carlisle must counter with a coaching move of his own, the rest of the Mavericks other than Nowitzki must improve their play and Dampier has to show a pulse in order for the Mavs to have a chance in this series.
2. Everyone will remember the Chicago-Boston series. Only diehards and Hawks fans will look back fondly on the Miami-Atlanta series, finally won by the Hawks after seven games decided by 10 points or more. Atlanta took control early and never looked back behind stellar performances by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith in a game that wasn't even as close as the 91-78 final score. Johnson hit on six of eight three-pointers, scored 27 points and added five rebounds and four assists, while Smith scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Ronald Murray nailed three treys and Mike Bibby two as Atlanta caught fire from behind the arc, shooting 11-for-23 as a team. That was in stark contrast to Miami's 2-for-9 long-distance performance. Dwyane Wade shot 2-for-9 on three-pointers but still managed to score a game-high 31 points. Udonis Haslem had 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Michael Beasley added 17 points and seven rebounds in a surprisingly proficient showing for a rookie in a Game 7 on the road. But no other Heat player scored more than six points, as Miami's other prominent rookie, point guard Mario Chalmers, went 1-for-6 for just four points and four assists. Jermaine O'Neal had to leave the game after playing less than a minute, shooting an airball and committing two fouls to show he still wasn't right after suffering a concussion in Game 5. Al Horford returned for the Hawks, but wasn't much of a factor, scoring seven points and pulling down just three rebounds as Miami gained a 39-30 advantage on the boards. That edge was offset by 17 Heat turnovers compared to just seven for Atlanta. Enjoy it, Hawks fans. It's as far as your team is going to get with LeBron and the Cavs up next.
3. I don't like to point out these things too often, but have to do a little self-recognition here. I came within a game of correctly predicting every Eastern Conference first round series. I picked Cleveland in four, and they won in four. I picked Atlanta in seven, and they won in seven. I picked Boston in seven, and they won in seven. I picked Orlando in seven, and they won in ... six. OK, I didn't see a 25-point blowout in Philadelphia minus Dwight Howard coming. I can live with that. I wasn't quite as accurate with Western Conference. I had the Nuggets in five all right, but thought the Lakers would finish off Utah in four games instead of five. I had the Blazers and Spurs advancing rather than the Rockets and Mavericks. So that means I nailed four of eight series, came within a game on two more, and was wrong on the last two. I'll take it. Now let's see how the second round goes.