Sunday, May 06, 2007

NBA Playoff Impressions: The Hurdle Is Still There.

Jazz 103, Rockets 99 - It's like we're watching that sort of old magic that Stockton and Malone would work, sure, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams need to do this on a more consistent basis, but this is Jerry Sloan's tried and true system, much as some of us hate it in terms of boring old halfcourt offense. Tracy McGrady still has that first round playoff hurdle to get over, and while Shane Battier should be kept to assist McGrady and Yao Ming, the rest of the parts (maybe save Rafer Alston) could be scrapped in order to add for another role player to spread the floor out. It's certainly not as if McGrady didn't give it his all; it just wasn't enough, yet again.

Pistons 95, Bulls 69
- This whole series got off on the wrong foot for the Bulls to begin with, getting whistled for five cheap fouls in the first few minutes (with two of those on Ben Gordon in about three minutes, and they need him to score early and often to have a chance at the upset), and Detroit just owned this game from the beginning. Of all the teams that play in the old slow-down, half-court offense, Detroit is possibly the most exciting because the front court of Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber, and Tayshaun Prince is similar in size and passing skills to what would be optimal for say, the Suns, if a more solid defensive version, as Max noted in his series preview at the Starting Five.

Western Semis Picks: I think both of these matchups will go seven, so let's get that out of the way.

Spurs vs. Suns - The obvious problem for the Suns, as viewed in prior years, is that the Spurs can play run-and-gun with the Suns, but this team of control freaks will be looking to slow down Phoenix after an initial attempts to beat them at their tempo. What San Antonio does is beat you at your tempo, then shift to the pace they want to play at. The wrinkle in the whole series this time will be the play of Amare Stoudamire. This Suns team is vastly improved with him in the line-up, and he's gained more skill in his absence. Tim Duncan will need to push the post, get Amare in foul trouble early, and let's see if Nash can put up a defensive fight against Tony Parker. I think this Suns team squeaks through this time.

Warriors vs. Jazz - Carlos Boozer will do to the Warriors inside what Dirk Nowitzki either could not or would not -- pound the post. We need to see how Don Nelson will line up his squad to prepare for that. Hopefully he doesn't do what Avery Johnson did, and change up the lineup that got him to the second round. The Warriors have a decided advantage when the games are at Oracle Arena, but they will need to take one in Salt Lake City. Can they do that? I think they will be able to steal a road game, so Warriors in the full number of games, as long as Baron Davis' hamstring holds up.

(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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