Monday, April 24, 2006

NBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW CONT'D!

PUTTIN' THE WRAPS ON ROUND 1 OF THE EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF PICTURE

DALLAS MAVERICKS V. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES:
The Mavs' outclass the Grizz' in virtually every category. In PF Dirk Nowitzki Dallas has an MVP caliber Forward who's;
A. A true 7-footer.
B. Possesses remarkable agility for such a big man. In fact, the "Giant German" can put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop.
C. Dirk, who averaged almost 27 PPG, has a sugar sweet shot (shot a remarkable 48% from the floor and 90% from the 'stripe this year), can drain the 3 (40+ % from 3-point land), and is the prototypical Euro-Hoopstah'. Nowitzki's complete game and emergence was the genesis of the league's interest/obsession in European players.
Needless to say, Dirk's 31 point, 11 'board game spurred the team to its 103-93 Game 1 victory. But in addition to "Dirk Terrific," and although assists aren't necessarily his forte', Dallas has a solid scoring PG in Jason Terry (17+ PPG), an up and coming stud in SF Josh Howard who, although he was saddled with a nagging back injury all season, still posted a more than respectable 15+/6+/2, and a bench that is amongst the deepest (Marquis Daniels, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Van Horn) in the league.
This should be a relatively easy round for the Mavs'.

PIVOTAL PLAYER PF Dirk Nowitzki: As Dirk goes... so go the Mavs'. Now, that's not to say that the team couldn't win with Dirk sidelined because they can. But... they are a different club with the formidable Forward on the floor. Last year Nowitzki played through the pain of plantar fascitiis and was saddled with naggy high ankle sprains. This year, Dirk was able to stay on the court for 81 of 82 games, and didn't suffer the pains of last year. A brilliant talent, Nowitzki is no less important to the Mavericks than Shaq' is to the Miami Heat. A bold statement for sure, but one that is not without merit.

GRIZZLIES: A flurry of late season wins allowed the team to secure the daunting 5-seed, and the team's aggressive, relentless defense must be acknowledged.
PF Pau Gasol, much like his Euro-colleague Dirk Nowitzki, is also a true 7-footer, can take his man off the dribble, and is as fundamentally sound a player as you'll find this side of Spur star Tim Duncan. Gasol averaged 20+/9/4.6, with almost 2 Blocks and a steal per game. His shooting percentage of 50.3% from the floor was even better than Nowitzki's 48%, and alongside tough-as-nails SF Shane Battier and jack-of-all-trades Mike Miller, Memphis has a decent threesome.
Still, the team lacks the firepower to compete with the big boys of the NBA and their bench is about as deep as a kiddy pool.

PIVOTAL PLAYER: SF Mike Miller: No doubt, Gasol is crucial to this team's fortunes. And that's just it... opponents are aware that shutting down Gasol is tantamount to shutting down the Grizzlies. But, if Mike Miller... a guy who shoots 46+% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc can catch fire, Dallas will be forced to allot defensive resources to covering him. Covering both Gasol and Miller will leave the underneath stuff open for Battier, and when the D collapses upon Battier the former Duke star can kick it out to veteran Bobby Jackson. See what I mean?

PREDICTION? Break out the brooms, Dallas in a "Suhweeep!"

MIAMI HEAT V. CHICAGO BULLS:
Miami... ah, Miami. Following in the highly successful Laker and Bull template, the franchise features a dominating Center and a lethal Shooting Guard who is able to blow past a defender and take it to the hoop... or kick it out to the open role player. Shaq', the pre-eminent Center of this generation may be aging, but he remains the most formidable Basketball force on the planet when he's healthy. That being said, O'Neal's skills appear to have entered a full-blown retreat; his 20 points, (down 2 full points from last season), 9.2 Rebounds, and 1.9 Assists per game were all career lows, and "The Big Aristotle" is becoming increasingly fragile. O'Neal played 59 games this year, his lowest total since his '96 season as a Laker, and it just seems that while the mind is willing... Shaq's ego is writing checks his body can no longer cash. Still, all in all, Shaquille O'Neal remains a force to be reckoned with... he remains the most dominant Center in Basketball.
Playing Robin to Shaq's Batman is SG Dwyane Wade. The '03 1st round pick has rapidly risen to stardom, thanks in no small part to O'Neal's presence. Where Shaq' found himself with career low numbers at season's end... Wade found himself with a pile of career best diggies'! Unafraid to toss his body around for the good of the team, Wade is a selfless player and is a more likeable and younger, version of Kobe Bryant.

PIVOTAL PLAYER; Shaquille O'Neal / Udonis Haslem: If O'Neal can dominate the paint... and really, the Bulls are ill-equipped to handle him, they'll be forced to collapse upon him and leave Wade and PF Udonis Haslem relatively unmolested. Wade will still attract attention, even if the Bulls are forced to leave Haslem unguarded. Udonis, who is now facing a 1-game suspension for tossing his mouthpiece at an official, will have to make the Bulls pay for their disrespect by sinking 18-20 points per contest.

CHICAGO BULLS:
A blossoming franchise, the team features a blossoming young core...

TO BE CONTINUED!

WESTERN CONFERENCE; ROUND 1 OF THE PLAYOFF PICTURE!

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