THE NBA IS BACK

OK – no one cares. No one is watching. Especially in Boston. Stipulated. But the NBA playoffs have been UNBELIEVABLE!!! Among the highlights:

1) Dallas-San Antonio Game 4 was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time. Overtime, great shots, ex-Mav Michael Finley hitting two huge threes in Dallas. Avery Johnson’s two point guard offense against his ex-coach George Popovich who has switched his starting lineup in response – and two questionable calls in Dallas’ favor. Followed up by Game 5 where Tim Duncan hits his first twelve shots. SA wins by one. Dallas had a chance but missed, Dirk tries to tap the rebound in two-handed but misses. The champs are still one game from elimination but the Mavs will play Game 6 without Jason Terry whose huge mistake punching Finley may cost the Mavs dearly.

2) Game 5 in Phoenix – Double OT. Nicholson in the front row – how does he do that? Phoenix winning despite a ton of mistakes by two tired teams near the end. In the series Mike Dunleavy has done an incredible job devising a scheme to stop Steve Nash. Reminds me of the 1979 Michigan State "ball defense" which was so effective against Larry Bird and others. Not enough is made of Amare Stoudimire being out – in the Nets series they mentioned Clifford Robinson’s 5 game suspension every other minute. Here they rarely do – a tribute to Nash, Mike D’Antoni and everyone else. Without him though, the Clippers are clearly the better team. Question is their effectiveness in closing out games.

3) Cleveland beats Detroit in Detroit in Game 5 despite a huge mental lapse by Tony Snow who grabbed a rebound/loose ball after Detroit’s seemingly final shot and inexplicably throws it down court where a Detroit player runs it down, calls time and the Pistons get it at halfcourt with 1.9 seconds left. Now Detroit faces a Game 6 on the road and LeBron James looks at making history.

4) Miami winning Game 5 despite a great effort by NJ – who double-teamed Dwayne Wade at the top of the key down the stretch – as KC Jones did against Michael Jordan in Game 3 of the 1986 Celtics-Bulls series.

A few more observations:

The coaching has been excellent. Dunleavy’s scheme on Nash, Avery Johnson’s starting two point guards, D’Antoni somehow keeping Phoenix competitive without Stoudimire, Eddie Jordan’s adjustment on Wade and Pat Riley’s effective use of the Heat personnel.

Bill Walton and Snapper Jones remain the greatest color team in basketball. Walton was great last night in a largely one-sided game. Talks like fans do when we’re kidding around about sports – "biggest game in the history of Clipper Nation." "The crowd rising to its feet as one" – "biggest game in the history of the Maverick franchise." "Steve Nash and Bill Russell are the same person.”

One more thing – for pure basketball – there can be no debate – these games blow away any game in this year’s NCAA tournament. It’s a no-brainer.

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