Thanks to the flight home and Mother’s Day, I’m a little behind with the Playoff MVP votes. Time to do some catching up. We’ll do a vote tally at the end of the second round.
Day 20 – The Day the Cavs went up 2-0
3 votes – Lebron James. Another faultless performance by Lebron and another Cavs blow out. More to say about Lebron later in the votes.
2 votes – Wally Szczerbiak. For his 17 points on 7-9 shooting off the bench. A lot of people forget how good this guy used to be and what a luxury it is for the Cavs to have him coming off the bench. He made the West All-Star team in 2002 while playing for the T-Wolves, and regularly averaged between 17-20ppg during his prime. All he needs to do is have a game or two like this once every series and he’s worth his money.
1 vote – Mo Williams. Really solid game by Mo. Ended up with a team-high +/- differential of +30. Anytime one of Lebron’s teammates tops him in that stat you know they’ve had a damn good game.
Day 21 – The Day the Lakers stole one in Houston
3 votes – Hedo Turkoglu. I watched most of this game from the airport, and it seemed like Hedo just couldn’t miss. His seven points in two minutes halfway though the fourth quarter completely blew the game open and the Magic never looked back.
2 votes – Kobe Bryant. I honestly did not think LA would win this game after the way they stumbled to victory in Game 2. But Kobe was relentless at both ends of the court – his block on Yao Ming was sublime.
1 vote – Dwight Howard. Got in some foul trouble, but ended up with a tidy 17 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. No other player has a game like that described as “tidy”.
Day 22 – The Day the Mavs got shafted
3 votes – Lebron James. Just an epic game from Lebron – 47-12-8. One of those games that has me racing to Basketball Reference to see the last time that happened. Since 1991 (the furthest back you can go for playoff stats), only Michael Jordan has had a game of at least 45-10-8, against Miami back in 1992 – what’s interesting is Lebron did it shooting 5-10 from three-point range, while MJ didn’t even attempt one three. I remember watching Kobe in the playoffs last year thinking it was one of the most remarkable post-season runs in recent history – he was averaging 33-6-6 through the first two rounds. But Lebron has gone one better this postseason averaging a phenomenal 33-10-6. The obvious difference of course is that Kobe did it against stronger teams in Denver and Utah, while Lebron did it against the lowly Pistons and a flat Atlanta team. But you’re only as good as your opponent right?
Don’t mean to rain on Lebron’s parade, but there’s two problems I had with what happened in this game. Firstly, after the game Lebron kept saying he was proud of how his team “handled adversity”. He was referring to the fact this game was mostly close throughout, and that Cavs only pulled away in the dying minutes. He used the word “adversity” about five times in that interview. Now, I may not be an NBA player, and I may not truly know what adversity is, but I know what it’s NOT. Adversity is NOT playing a close game with the Atlanta Hawks that you end up winning by 15 points and going up 3-0 in the series. No disrespect to Hawks fans there, but it’s not. That is NOT adversity. Not when the opposition’s biggest lead was only 6, not when you’ve been easily handling them all series. If I may take a stab at what adversity IS, I would suggest the following: being stuck in a dog-fight with a team that has your measure, going down 0-2 or 2-3 in a series, coming back from 15 down to win in the fourth, outlasting your opponent in a Game 7, winning when your best players are injured, playing against a team that physically bullies you. They are examples of adversity. If Lebron and the Cavs think they have faced adversity so far these playoffs, they are truly delusional. And as history will show, the Champions invariably end up facing their fare share of adversity on the way to a title – John Hollinger points this out here.
The other problem I have is with with this post-game quote:
It’s unexplainable, honestly. There’s only a few guys in this league that can get into a zone like that, and he’s blessed to have the ability to be one of those guys.”
This is the standard kind of quote you’ll hear about Lebron when he turns in a mammoth performance like this. But here’s the thing: I changed that quote, the underlined “he’s” should actually read “I’m”, and the person that said this quote was Lebron James. Am I the only one who has a problem with a player stroking their ego like this? No doubt, what Lebron is saying is true. Every time he or Kobe or Wade has a game like that, this is exactly what they’re probably thinking. But you don’t say it. Am I making too big a deal out of this? Interested in your thoughts.
2 votes – Chauncey Billups. The Renaissance of Mr Big Shot continues, proving the New Orleans series was no fluke. This game will always be overshadowed for the incredulous officiating error at the end where Carmelo Anthony was clearly fouled but they didn’t call it. That is unfortunate because it was a great game, one of the best these playoffs, and Chauncey was again in blistering form. 32 points on 9/16 shooting with only 1 turnover.
1 vote – Carmelo Anthony. 31 and 8 for Melo including the game-winner. Again, the no-call received all the post-game attention, but let’s give some credit to Melo for hitting this shot. He had fumbled the ball along the sideline and was off-balance when he shot it, but he hit nothing but net. As tough a game-winning three as you’ll see.
Day 23 – The Day Big Baby won the game
3 votes – Aaron Brooks. The result of this game shocked almost everyone, apart from the Rockets players apparently. Without Yao the Rockets dominated from the beginning, led by Brooks who continued to wreak havoc against the Lakers guards as he did in Game 1. Derek Fisher was completely ineffective and only played 20 minutes, and it begs the question – was his suspension in Game 3 a blessing in disguise for the Lakers as I suggested? The Rockets will not win this series. You can mark it down. But if they take the Lakers to a 7th game you’d think it would be a confidence-shaking exercise for Kobe and his team.
2 votes – Paul Pierce. The Truth was huge in this game through the second and third quarters when the Celtics shook the Magic and built an 8 point lead. Glen Davis will get all the limelight for his game-winner, but Paul Pierce did the team-on-his-back thing again in typical unassuming fashion.
1 vote – Glen Davis. Could have given this to Shane Battier or Rajon Rondo for a 21 point, 14 rebound performance, but I just couldn’t look past Big Baby. He didn’t just hit the game-winner. He hit the shot 30 seconds earlier to give the Celtics the lead, and he was hitting shots all night on his way to 21 points. He is now averaging 16 points these playoffs, compared to 7 in the regular season. KG should be proud.