May 13, 2002

Did anyone expect: Sacramento to win in 5? Because I sure didn't...My question is this: Will Cuban break up the group this summer and are the Kings underrated?

posted by BlueTrain to basketball at 11:27 PM - 10 comments

Cuban and Nelson kind of skipped the defensive end of the court. I didn't expect the series to go a mere five games, but I'm not totally surprised by the outcome. Webber's toughness and desire is still questionable. If they're gonna beat LA, they need him to pound it inside. I'll give decent odds on an inside-playing Webber and Divac against Shaq, particularly since Kobe will have his own worries. But will Webber play the way he needs to play? Who knows? Anyhow, that wasn't the question you asked. I think Cuban will make trades over the summer. Van Exel might not be long for that team, in particular. Nowitzki needs to learn to play defense. And they need a big center who can clog up the lane and make up for any other players lapsing defensively. Van Exel might make tempting trade bait for Jerry Krause...

posted by Bryant at 01:27 AM on May 14, 2002

The biggest reason for the Mavericks going down in flames was their inability to score in half-court, slow-down basketball at the end of the game. They were putting up some pathetic shots at the end of games 3 and 4, shooting against double- and triple-teams. If the Mavs could've figured out how to score in those situations, they might've been able to overcome their conscientious objection to playing defense. Cuban will probably tinker with the team in the off-season, but as a fan, I'd rather see him let this group learn to play together for a full season. I don't think you can win a title by reshuffling your players all the time. As for Nelson, there may be a reason his teams have never advanced to the conference finals in his career. He makes some bone-headed calls in the playoffs, like his decision to start Bradley at the beginning of overtime in game 4 just to win the tipoff. Bradley lost the tipoff and got stuck out there for more than a minute, and the Mavericks lost an opportunity to jump in front.

posted by rcade at 09:26 AM on May 14, 2002

Man, I actually picked the Mavs in this series, though I didn't think it would be over in 5 games either way. I figured the Mavs would be able to keep a scoring jag going enough that they'd be in games- a lot of 120-116 type games, but in the games nonetheless. It wasn't just lack of defense (after all, the Pistons held the Celtics to just 66 points, so why didn't they win?)- they mysteriously lost the ability to score in the fourth quarter. Between watching the Mavs and watching the Spurs absolutely crumble, that's some of the most depressing basketball playing I've ever seen. LA wasn't the reason the Spurs fell apart- claims that LA was "torturing" San Antonio by letting them get a lead then taking it away in cruel fashion is silly: that's not how a guy like Jackson runs his team, and if LA were so good they could do that at will they'd not have left it 87-85 with the Spurs in possession to end the game, and they'd have gone 82-0 this year to boot. It's just that San Antonio and the Mavs choked in the clutch, forgot how to move the ball to create shots, and spent 20 seconds per possession working to make a single lousy shot. It's amazing how teams that can score gangbusters like these teams can metamorphosize from "spreading the defense and moving the ball around the perimeter to get that dagger-in-the-heart unguarded 3 pointer" to "collapsing without any gameplan right into a packed defensive post area before fumbling the ball into a turnover". At this level, it seems, winning and losing is psychological. The Spurs were in all of those games, as were the Mavs- but they just couldn't get it done in the 4th quarter. Jerry Bembry at spelled it out when he states:

But all that talk [of how Kobe is the next Jordan] just camouflages the real problem with the Spurs: lack of fourth-quarter execution. In the game Sunday, the Spurs hit just three of 18 shots, and 16.7 percent shooting from the field in any quarter is not going to win too many games. The reason the Spurs were so horrendous in crunch time: lack of confidence of players Sunday not named Tim Duncan or David Robinson (12 points, six of nine from the field) and the lack of smart decision-making on the court. Here's an easy equation the Spurs could not solve: if Duncan scores 30, hitting nine of 15 shots along the way, then it makes sense that he gets more than two fourth-quarter shots.
I don't often agree with Walton, but I certainly agreed with him at the end of the Spurs/LA Game 4 the Spurs needed just 2 points to tie it and came up with a non-play to get Duncan a fading near-3 point attempt at the buzzer which missed, Walton in his best snide voice said, "You take a time out before this possession and that's the play you run?". Sorry if it seems like I'm harping on the Spurs in a Mavs-Kings thread, but since later today the same thing will happen to the Spurs that happened to the Mavs, it seems worthwhile to talk about how the Spurs are blowing it the same way.

posted by hincandenza at 01:07 PM on May 14, 2002

Are there basketball games on right now? Huh. I had no idea. GO LEAFS GO! Seriously, I thought the Mavs would have put up a better fight, and I wouldn't have felt too silly to have put money down on them if I was in Las Vegas. The big question right now is: Will Nash play for the Canadian team at the world championships?

posted by grum@work at 01:28 PM on May 14, 2002

Let's give the Kings some credit. There was a reason why they ended up with the best record in the league. It's funny because the Mavs seemed to get most of the attention this year. But the Kings have proved to be formidable. Their bench is deep, and, after this series, it seems to have gotten even deeper. I think their successful play without Webber earlier this year has proven to be beneficial. Also, the addition of Bibby is huge. Jason Williams would have been on the bench for most of the 4th quarter for either launching 3s from the halfcourt, getting into a fight, or throwing an unnecessary no-look pass through his legs, around his shoulder, off of his left knee to Webber during a crucial moment of the game. Bibby is rock solid.

posted by jacknose at 03:02 PM on May 14, 2002

I don't often agree with Walton, but I certainly agreed with him at the end of the Spurs/LA Game 4 the Spurs needed just 2 points to tie it and came up with a non-play to get Duncan a fading near-3 point attempt at the buzzer which missed, Walton in his best snide voice said, "You take a time out before this possession and that's the play you run?". I agree with this (wow, I agree with hincandenza). Lack of chemistry really hurt the Mavs. I truly hope Cuban keeps the team together. They say that in Indian cooking, if you allow the dish to be stored, if only for a few hours, the spices and flavors have a chance to prove themselves, creating a beautiful dish. I feel the same way about the Mavs. Van Exel and LaFrenz were just added after the All-Star break. Give the team time to stew. IMHO, the Kings were definitely the underdog in this matchup, and they really shouldn't have been. This just goes to show that flash, or in jacknose's case, hustle doesn't win ballgames.

posted by BlueTrain at 04:00 PM on May 14, 2002

Well, the Mavs are definitely in storage now. I didn't mean to slight the Kings earlier, who were clearly the better team. I don't know if they can beat the Lakers, but they're better than any team the Lakers have faced in the playoffs during their tenure at the top.

posted by rcade at 04:59 PM on May 14, 2002

True, rcade; for all the Mavs boosting, the fact that the Kings beat them, and beat them decisively, means that this year at least hey have that X-factor that will help them against the Lakers. Limping in against the Lakers- whether it was the Mavs or Kings- would have been like a lamb before the slaughter. Right now, a Kings victory isn't out of the question. They showed tremendous ability to manufacture plays and keep everyone involved, which is the only way to beat LA. I'm still hoping that the Celtics can topple the Nets in the conference finals- no easy task, but doable- to set up a Celtics-Lakers Finals... :)

posted by hincandenza at 05:11 PM on May 14, 2002

I forgot to mention, although I have no idea how much this is a factor, Duncan did lose his father last week. Truth is, when Camby's family was taken hostage last year during the NY-Toronto matchup, NY took a big hit. I expected the Spurs to take a similar hit, especially given the fact that Robinson's injury is career-threatening. Spurs would've given the Lakers a run, but circumstances were bad. Last year, I was sure the Knicks would beat the Raps.

posted by BlueTrain at 05:15 PM on May 14, 2002

I think the Celtics have a pretty good chance against the Nets, yeah. The Nets matched up poorly against the Celtics during the regular season, and most of that was before the Rogers/Delk trade... the Celtics just played well in New Jersey this year. Should be a fun series. (Now Detroit will come back, to punish me for my arrogance.)

posted by Bryant at 05:51 PM on May 14, 2002

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