Didn’t the Knicks get the memo? This is the NBA Playoffs. Hello? The final two-min. execution has been absolutely horrendous for New York and that has been the difference maker this series. The Knicks led in the closing moments of both games, but managed to pull a typical New York. In game one, they got beat by an out-of-bounds play and a cold-daggered three from Ray Allen. In game two, the Knicks had to rely on Toney Douglas and Jared Jeffries due to their star PG and PF being injured. The Knicks later had to go with Jeffries late in the game due to Melo being double-teamed. Result? Jeffries surprisingly gave the Knicks the lead with nearly 45 seconds left, but then he reminded us that he is Jared Jeffries. He ended up giving the game winning turnaround to Garnett, and then on the following possession, turned the ball over attempting a wrap-around pass. Jeffries had a clear lane to the basket since Melo was being doubled again. Instead, he attempted a wrap-around pass? I have no idea what he was thinking on that possession, but if he goes to the bucket strong, it’s a lay-up or a foul. The play might have been designed that way, but you cannot pass up an open opportunity like that. Regardless, the Knicks were fortunate just to be in that situation. They were lucked out by a fluke Jeffries bucket off an offensive rebound on the previous possession (or should I say last 3 since of the offensive boards). Also, New York’s offensive execution in the final two minutes was nonexistent. They looked confused in their offensive sets once Carmelo was doubled. Players were rushing shots or making poor decisions. Coach D’Antoni could have definitely done a better job preparing his team in the closing minutes. It was really sloppy basketball. What’s even worse is the Knicks forgot to foul in the final 6 sec when only being down one point. Instead, they let the clock wind down to .6 before fouling. This is one very smart basketball team. The final couple minutes were one of the poorest closing attempts I’ve seen in a while, especially in the playoffs. For all Knick fans, let’s hope players like Jared Jeffries, Roger Mason Jr., and Bill Walker never ever see minutes again when the game is on the line.
1. Chicago Bulls vs 8. Indianapolis Pacers
The Bulls were predicted to be a good team, but nobody expected them to be the #1 ranked team heading into the playoffs. While Chicago is looking to make a deep run into the playoffs, the Pacers seem happy to be in the playoffs. However, the Pacers do have some players and can make this series interesting. The advantage the Pacers seem to have is size. Granger is big for a small forward and can bully other players in the paint. Hibbert is also one of the few remaining true 7 ft centers in the NBA. Outside of having the NBA MVP on their roster, the Bulls also have a solid set of complimentary players. Boozer is an athletic PF who should have no troubles with Hansbrough. Noah is a solid 10 & 1o player who will get looks off of pick and rolls. Deng is also a solid SF who plays well on defense and can shoot from deep. For the Pacers, they need to make sure they get out to early leads and attack the Bulls. Chicago on the other hand needs to use their superior talent and athleticism to get by the Pacers. The Bulls might lose one our two, but in the end should win this series.
Luol Deng, Bulls: Rose is going to get the hole and has Boozer down low to feed the rock, but a third player needs to step up. Deng needs to knock down perimeter shots when fed the ball and lock down Danny Granger.
Roy Hibbert, Pacers: I wanted to say Collison, but Hibbert needs to dominate in the paint and prove that he can be a force in the middle. He will need to eliminate his inconsistencies and lock down Noah.
Bulls in 5
2. Miami Heat vs 7. Philadelphia 76ers
As sad as this is, I don’t think Philadelphia competes with the Heat in the least bit this series. Whenever you think of first round blowouts, this is what I have in mind. The Sixers have some solid players, but when compared to the Heat they only true advantage they have is at PG. Holliday is starting to come into his own while Bibby and Chalmers are decent at best. However, Miami has three superstars which will give Philly fits. Everyone knows LeBron James and what he brings to the table. I honestly don’t see a single player on the other team who will be able to stop him. It might get interesting if the put Igudola on him, it might get interesting, but that still leaves Dwayne Wade going against someone like Jodie Meeks. The biggest advantage I see for the Heat is down low. Elton Brand has had a nice season, but I think Bosh and his size will give the shorter Brand problems. Overall, this should be a relatively boring series that ESPN will give too much coverage to because of the names on the Heat.
Chris Bosh, Heat: The “third” wheel needs to step up in a big way, most likely against fellow big Elton Brand. If he plays the way that everyone knows he is capable of playing, than this series should be over fairly quick. If he doesn’t, perhaps Philly can sneak a game (or two?) from the Heat.
Jrue Holliday, 76ers: When this kid makes plays, the 76ers seem to win. That might not necessarily hold true in this series; however, if he does play well, then that will at least give them a chance…right?
Heat in 4
3. Boston Celtics vs 6. New York Knicks
I’ll be dead honest; I have a strong aversion towards the Celtics. I’m sure it’s how everyone else feels about the Spurs; they want them to lose, but they keep winning despite age. It also doesn’t help they always seem to take series down to the 7th game every single time. The Knicks are interesting to me as they are with everyone else. They made a blockbuster trade to get Carmelo, and have settled into mediocrity. A lot of this has to do with their offense. They seem to settle early and take too many three pointers. They need to figure out how to work together on both ends of the court and start meshing as a team. The Celtics also made a mid-season trade giving up Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. Since then, they haven’t been the same down low in the paint and have been mediocre as well. Both teams however only have one star down low so the fact that Boston has gotten smaller shouldn’t hurt them. As cliche as it is to reference a star player, Anthony needs to body up Paul Pierce and take him down low. He can dominate based on his size. I think the Knicks make it interesting, but the Celtics know what it takes.
Rajon Rondo, Celtics: It’s been a bit of a down year for Rondo, but he always seems to step up in the playoffs. This year is no different. He needs to take command of the Celtics and lead them through the series.
Chauncey Billups, Knicks: Billups was brought over from Denver along with Anthony and has played well. However, he’s 3-point percentage has slipped. Billups will get open looks so he needs to be ready for them.
Celtics in 7
4. Orlando Magic vs 5. Atlanta Hawks
The first thing I thought of when I saw this match up was Dwight Howard against Al Horford. Howard is arguably the most dominant center in the league while Horford is of all-star calibur and plays in similar fashion. Seeing these two go at it will be fun. For Orlando, it’s the same team as always with a few different players. They will shoot early and often from deep and I can’t blame them with Richardson, Reddick, and Turkolu. Of course, going down low to Dwight is a pretty nice option as well. Expect to see screens to set up those looks from deep. For Atlanta, I like Joe Johnson’s matchup against Richardson. Johnson can score in just about every way imaginable so I think he should be able to put up a high number of points. The key here will be experience. Orlando has been to the finals and constantly make deep runs in the playoffs. Atlanta on the other hand hasn’t seemed to be able to make a deep playoff run in forever. They may be matched up similarly, but Orlando knows what it takes to make it in the playoffs.
Hedu Turkolu, Magic: For some reason, Turk only plays well for Orlando. Based on what he’s done in the past, Hedu could make the difference and play the X-Factor as he has just a few years ago.
Josh Smith, Hawks: When Orlando traded away Lewis, they gave up some definite size as they had him at PF. Josh Smith is uber athletic and a force down low. If he can focus and stay in the paint, he can dominate.
Magic in 6
Earlier today, the 3-point shootout contestants for the NBA All-Star game were released and I am not impressed at all one bit…
Here are your competitors
I was very surprised to see Kevin Durant’s name in the shootout. Not to take a knock at the kid, but he hasn’t been so hot beyond the arc this season. He is only averaging nearly 35% which isn’t even in the NBA top 40. On the other hand, I was glad to see Ray Allen up there since Allen will be the NBA’s All-Time 3-pt leader by the end of the week. Also, one last shout out to “Boobie” Gibson, as the Cavaliers have a shot to win in something since they can’t win an actual game.
James Jones, Miami
Why do I even bother with the All-Star game anymore?
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City
Deron Williams, PG, Utah
Manu Ginobli, SG, San Antonio
Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles
Dirk Nowitski, PF, Dallas
Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio
Pau Gasol, C, Los Angeles
Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston
Ray Allen, SG, Boston
Joe Johnson, SG, Atlanta
Paul Pierce, SF, Boston
Kevin Garnett, PF, Boston
Chris Bosh, PF, Miami
Al Horford, C, Atlanta
Western Conference Reserves
Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors
Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers
Eastern Conference Reserves
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
Raymond Felton, New York Knicks
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
In my opinion, the NBA All-Star game is a joke; just like the Pro Bowl. It usually consists of fan favorites and high-flyers, which is pointless. It’s more of a popularity contest and sometimes the more deserving players get shafted due to playing for smaller market teams. This is what I think the Western and Eastern All-Stars should look like.
Western Conference Starters
PG: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
SG: Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors
SF: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
PF: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
C: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Head Coach: Gregg Popovich
PG: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
SG: Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers and Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
SF: Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
PF: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies and Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
C: Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
Eastern Conference Starters
PG: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
SG: Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat
SF: Lebron James, Miami Heat
PF: Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks
C: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Head Coach: Tom Thibodeau
PG: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics and Raymond Felton, New York Knicks
SG: Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats
SF: Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers and Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
PF: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
C: Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets and Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
10. Denver Nuggets (16-10)
If Carmelo Anthony is traded, this team will have no business being on this list for the rest of the season.
Upcoming Games: Wed @ SA, Sat @ OKC
9. Orlando Magic (16-11)
With the return of Hedo Turkoglu and the additions of Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson, look for this team to creep up in the East.
Upcoming Games: Tue v. Dal, Thu v. SA
8. Chicago Bulls (16-9)
It is unfortunate the Bulls will be losing Joakim Noah for approximately 8-10 weeks due to injury just after Carlos Boozer returned from his.
Upcoming Games: Tue v. Philly, Weds @ Was
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-9)
This young team is quietly winning games, but they still have a long way to go.
Upcoming Games: Tue @ Cha, Weds @ NY
6. Utah Jazz (20-9)
Deron Williams continues to make his case for MVP.
Upcoming Games: Wed @ Min, Mon v. Portland
5. Miami Heat (21-9)
Their 12-game win-streak finally came to a halt, courtesy of the Mavericks.
Upcoming Games: Thu @ Pho, Sat @ LA
4. Los Angeles Lakers (21-7)
With Andrew Bynum finally returning from injury, look for the Lakers’ defense and rebounding to improve quickly.
Upcoming Games: Tue v. Mil, Sat v. Mia
3. San Antonio Spurs (24-3)
Spectacular plays from Manu Ginobili have been the story for the Spurs this season. Ginobili has been playing at a MVP level this season as the Spurs hang onto the best record in the NBA.
Upcoming Games: Wed v. Den, Thu @ Orl
2. Dallas Mavericks (22-5)
The Mavs have won 15 of their last 16 as they trail the Spurs by two games. Dirk Nowitzki has been shooting lights out with a career-best 56% (.558) so far this season.
Upcoming Games: Tue @ Orl, Mon @ OKC
1. Boston Celtics (22-4)
Even with Rondo hampered by ankle injury, the Celtics continue to win games. They currently hold the longest, active win-streak in the league with 13 in a row.
Upcoming Games: Wed. v Philly, Sat @ Orl