Things are getting interesting. The Lakers are now playing like NBA Champions, Boston handed Orlando their first loss at home since mid-March and the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to survive amidst rumours of possible coach and player movement. Also, Raptors fans will be paying close attention to the NBA Draft lottery today since the first three picks in July's draft will be determined by the lottery. The rest of the lottery teams will select positions 4 through 14 in opposite order of their consolidated standings at the end of the regular season. So take the Raptors and say, New Jersey. The nets finished with a 12 and 70 record so they get 250 tickets placed in the proverbial draw. The Raptors finished with a 40 and 42 record and get 7 chances at possibly getting a first pick in the draft. It may look like the Nets are a shoe-in for a choice pick but that's why they call it a lottery, right? Anything can happen. Same goes for the playoffs and the Cavs' future, so let's get to it.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the setting Suns
I have been living accross the street from my neighbour Clayton for a few years now and I don't know why it took me this long but in one of our classic and heated 'driveway debates' over the weekend, he professed his undying loyalty to the Phoenix Suns. He even made the Canadian argument. Ok. Before we go any further, we all know my allegiance to the purple and gold. I appreciate Steve Nash's skills and I know he has a spot in the Hall one day. My will to cheer for the Lakers over the Suns does not stem from me anti-Canadian. Far from it. The Lakers have a rich history with Jamal "the silk" Wilkes, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Magic Johnson and now Pau Gasol and Kobe, to name a few of my favourites. Looking at the stats and looking at the history, the Los Angeles Lakers do it for me. Sure, everyone told me going into the playoffs Kobe and the gang were going to get sidelined since this was Lebron James' year to win the final dance. Instead, Lebron is at home wishing he had better prom dates around him and Kobe is laughing. Especially after last night.
So the Lakers take game one of the Western conference final, by 21 points (128-107). Finally, no more games won by a mere bucket. They needed to win like they did last night since there were so many questions about the Lakers bench compared to the Suns' bench. And then there's always Kobe's knee. Watching last night's game was like watching game tape in coaching school about how to run systems. The Lakers seem to have an answer for everything. They ran the triangle both offensively and defensively but it was on the defensive end that was key for them. This shut down Steve Nash and held him to only 13 points and 13 assists on the night.
Also, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson always preaches the third quarter push and Kobe listened with 21 of the 40 points he got last night coming in the third quarter alone. No question marks left about his knee after a performance like that. There were questions swirling around his abilities going into game one since Kobe didn't practice much with the team during the 7 day break they had since sweeping the San Antonio Spurs. But he did concentrate on shooting according to Phil Jackson and it certainly paid off huge against the Suns in game one. I am wondering though, what Suns Coach Alvin Gentry is going to change about their game plan for game two. Their strong point has been their bench, aside from Nash and Stoudemire. But with Lamar Odum putting up 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Lakers as he did in game one, game two will be a challenge for the Suns if they don't show their bench is just as deep.
More than a Feeling - Boston over Orlando
"It's more than a feeling - When I see how Rondo and Allen play - I begin dreaming - Of an NBA final: Boston and L.A.....". Songwriter Tom Shultz took five years to write the original hit for the rock legend, Boston - however, wouldn't it be nice if my little diddy came true? If game one of either series is any indication, the dream I had last night is not too far off. They only won by four (92-88) but Boston showed Orlando they are not the only ones looking for a winning streak. This was Orlando's first loss at home since mid-March and was also Vince Carter's first taste of playing in a conference final. He was a sneaky little one on Sunday in game one, wasn't he? Missing a free throw on purpose so Jameer Nelson could get the rebound and lay-in. The gamble paid off but not in the momentum department since the Magic never lead once during the game and that's only happened once this season. In the first 16 minutes, Orlando scored 14 points, so Boston was making them play uncomfortable from the start. That's what you need to do with a team like the Orlando Magic who have been on a kind of "under the radar" streak with all this talk of Lebron or Kobe going to the final. Ray Allen was finding a way to drive the lane and not always sticking to the jump shots. This helped him put up 25 points and 7 rebounds on the night for Boston. Plus, Orlando's last opponent -the Atlanta Hawks- just seemed to lay down and take whatever they got dished, hence a swept series for the blue and white. Now, Boston is trying to prove to Orlando they are not the doormats to wipe their collective high tops on, but a real contender.
Cleveland - a "should he stay or should he go" situation
So what. Lebron James may or may have spoken to Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls about possibly carrying his number 23 over to the windy city. Just a rumour at this point. What the Cavs should really be concerned about is their coaching situation. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has denied reports he fired Coach Mike Brown and is saying the Cavs are merely in the evaluation process. Let's pretend after this evaluation process Mike Brown does leave Cleveland. I don't think he'll have trouble finding a job with so many NBA clubs shopping for a man of his skill. When a team shops for a new coach, don't they usually consult the Lebrons of the club to get their input? Think about it. The Cleveland Cavaliers may have to search for a new coach not really knowing for sure if Lebron James will be in the Cavs' line-up next season or not. Plus, remember we are embarking on draft and free agency season now and this is no time to go shopping for essentials.