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The second day of the NBA playoffs kicked off with a shithouse game between the Lakers and the Thunder; both Kobe and Kid Delicious put in stinkers, and it never felt as though the Thunder were a real chance to pull an upset. Just as expected, the Lakers length troubled the Thunder, and that’s not going to change any time soon – as they say, the big blokes don’t shrink. On an encouraging note for the Thunder, Russell Westbrook had a strong game, and he’ll only get better as he realises just how often he’ll be able to get by Fisher.
The Orlando-Bobcats that followed didn’t start off much better. The Magic came out and dominated behind a superb offensive showcase by Jameer Nelson and a staggering eight blocks from Superman in the first half. As a fan of funky stat-lines, I was pretty excited at the possibility of a Duh-Wight Points/Boards/Stats triple double. Unfortunately, not only did Duh-Wight fail to record a measly two blocks in the second half, he also got his lunch handed to him on the boards by Gerald Wallace, finishing with 7 to Wallace’s 17. Actually, speaking of Wallace, I’m really intrigued by that one-sided shoulder-pad thingamabob he wears. Do we think he got a normal thingamabob and just cut off one of the shoulders? Or would it have been especially designed? I want answers in the comments! Anyway, back at the game, Larry Brown would surely have been pleased with holding the Magic to 39 points in the second half, even if the Cats didn’t quite manage to complete their comeback. His decision to keep a slightly injured Stephen Jackson on the bench throughout the fourth quarter shows he believes the series is far from over.
The best basketball of the day was undoubtedly seen in the Mavs-Spurs game, with Nowitzki and Manu both going bananas in the first half (23 & 18 points respectively) and Caron Butler impressing in isolation sets. But from late in the second quarter onwards, I thought the Mavs did a really great job of setting up their defense to counter Manu’s passing game, resulting in some uncharacteristic turnovers from the great man. Timmy D fumbling a few balls didn’t help either. With George Hill clearly not 100% and Richard Jefferson (aka The Thief) sucking as usual, San Antonio were playing 3 vs. 5 at times, and Dallas made them pay in the second half.
In the last game, we saw Andre Miller and the Blazer’s merry band of misfits tough it out against a Phoenix team that on paper should have won this game by plenty. Phoenix obviously miss Sideshow Lopez, but the decision to persist with Jarron Collins as a replacement (even for only 12 minutes) says to me that Gentry and the staff there aren’t as confident as they need to be of winning with the ‘7 seconds or less’ philosophy. Yes, Channing Frye will likely get owned defensively and on the boards, but that’s happened all season, so there’s reason to change it up now. To protest his demotion to the bench, Channing went out and grabbed what is surely a career-high 7 boards.
Finally, if anyone has been following my Western Conference betting suggestions, you’d have seen I finished the day 2-for-3, with the Blazers spoiling a potentially perfect day. Tomorrow, Denver-Utah is the only WC game and once again I will be hammering the overs. They’ve raised it from 209 in Game 1 to 212 tomorrow, but that’s still too low for these two teams.
3 votes – The Dirk. Germans may be known for their efficiency, but this was ridiculous. The dude dropped 36 points on just 14 shots, every single one coming from the elbow and mid-post. Defended in turns by McDyess and Bonner, Dirk ate up the single coverage by draining turnarounds and then getting to the line when the defender overplayed. Pop will no doubt experiment with some double teams and traps in Game 2, but if Dirk shoots the way he did tonight it won’t matter. The dude was ON FIRE.
2 votes – Andre Miller. Was always going to be the player with the potential to give the Suns some real headaches. With Nash on Rudy Fernandez right from the start of the game, Miller went to work against J-Rich and co with his usual combination of aggressive drives and post action. Add in a few beautifully weighted lobs to LaMarcus Aldridge, and he finished with an impressive 30 points & 8 dimes, clearly outplaying the 36-year-old Nash, who wasn’t too shabby himself.
1 vote – Jameer Nelson. With all the talk about Carter and Howard, Jameer Nelson has probably been forgotten a little bit ever since injury cost him a trip to the Finals. After failing to recapture his All-Star form in the regular season, ‘Meer signaled his return with a pick-and-roll clinic against Raymond Felton and the Bobcats in Game 1. Having Duh-Wight as the screener doesn’t hurt, and Nelson was able to get wherever he wanted in the first half, en route to 24 points.