Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The 2011 NBA Playoff Context (Eastern Conference)

With the 2011 playoffs having commenced with all teams getting a taste of the playoff action, it is time to peer into what I see.

Since no one is aware, this is how I picked the East 1st round: Chicago in 4, Miami in 4, Boston in 6, Orlando in 6.

1 - Chicago

The Good: Derrick Rose stamping his class so far. 39 in Game 1 and 36 in Game 2. 66 free throw attempts in 2 games is amazing.

The Bad: The Game 1 performance of Carlos Boozer is not ideal. At least, the bounce back was admirable Also, poor shooting numbers from Joakim Noah in both games. The rebounding numbers and the defense have been ok, to his credit.

The X-Factor/s: The Bulls are totally dependent on Rose for their rhythm. It is essential and important that they need to dispatch this Pacer team to get him rest. At least, for their sake, they are not getting the Heat or the Celtics in the next round. CJ Watson needs to be a really adequate back-up. They also need production from their other guard complementing Rose. Kyle Korver was that in Game 1 with 13 and CJ scored 7 on Game 2.

2 - Miami

The Good: Their team defense has been holding up well as the Sixers have shot 41% and 34% on both games. They're slowly figuring things out on how they can succeed. Game 2 was a blowout, but in Game 1, Wade was doing the closing.

The Bad: Mike Miller being a total dud so far, with a combined total of 5 minutes in 2 games. The specter of migraines for Dwayne Wade almost cost him Game 2.

The X-Factor/s: Joel Anthony. The Heat need someone to do the dirty work and be the defensive workhorse and enforcer, especially since your fellow big man is Chris Bosh. So far, he's been doing the job that Udonis ought to be handling. With Lebron now doing most of the ballhandling chores, perimeter shooting is a need, and the likes of James Jones, Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby need to make 'em jumpers.

3 - Boston

The Good: Jermaine O'Neal being alive. He was 6/6 in Game 1. He wasn't needed that much in Game 2 because of Amar'e situation. The RPGA Tour is humming. Jesus Shuttlesworth scored the winning basket in Game 1. Rondo flirted with a sneaky trip-double (10-9-9) in that game, then scored 30 in Game 2. 2 playoff games, 2 double-doubles for Garnett.

The Bad: Still no Shaq in sight. Bench contributions have been minimal at best, but they could do much better.

The X-Factor/s: Jeff Green needs to convince us all that he's a quality reserve. I am also a little disappointed that Big Baby really not getting much love in the 6th Man voting.

4 - Orlando

The Good: Dwight Howard being a modern facsimile of what Wilt was back in the day. Jameer Nelson's scoring output during the 3rd quarter of Game 1. Their defense in Game 2.

The Bad: Outside shooting has been bad. 45 attempts and 22% shooting from beyond the arc so far. Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu have been really disappointing.

The X-Factor/s: Someone other than Dwight and Jameer need to step up. Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson scored 8 apiece after getting goose eggs on Game 1.

5 - Atlanta

The Good: Hawks coach Larry Drew taking a page from the Doc Rivers / Gregg Popovich playbook on how to handle Dwight Howard. It has worked somehow in both games. Kirk Hinrich being a steady presence at the point. The J's presence offensively (Joe, Jamal, Josh).

The Bad: Their shooting in Game 2. Larry Drew's bench Horford if he gets 2 fouls for the rest of the 1st half principle.Marvin Williams so far.

The X-Factors: They amassed a roster of role bigs (Jason Collins, Zaza Pachulia, Josh Powell, Etan Thomas in Game 1, Hilton Armstrong in Game 2) designed to shadow Dwight one-on-one. That's a lot of fouls they can use. Any positive contributions they produce is a bonus.

6 - New York

The Good: Amar'e had his way with whoever guarded him in Game 1.Carmelo also had his way, especially when he was the only one left standing with the injuries. He scored 42 in the loss. Another thing, considering their situation, they have not yet been blown out to smithereens.

The Bad: The final minute of Game 1 was a head-scratcher for the Knicks. Chauncey Billups missed Game 2 and is still unknown when he'll return. Amar'e had back spasms and only played 17.5 minutes in Game 2. The 0/11 Bill Walker put up. The non-existence of Landry Fields in both games.

The X-Factor/s: Toney Douglas has been a bright surprise for New York in minimizing the loss of Mr. Big Shot. He can shoot the three and can score in bunches if allowed to do so.

7 - Philadelphia

The Good: Thaddeus Young becoming an option. He finished a far third in the 6th Man voting won by Lamar Odom, he already has been the top scorer for both games. They have done well from beyond the three-point line in the past two games. They shot better there than their overall shooting in Game 2.

The Bad: They can't make buckets.They can't get rebounds (39 with -13 and 40 with -6, respectively). Elton Brand just mustering 3 points in Game 2.

The X-Factor/s: Andre Iguodala needs to pick it up offensively. He has been great in reprising his Team USA role for Philly this season. Although, his eventually successor to that role (Evan Turner) did well in Game 2 amidst the blowout loss.

8 - Indiana

The Good: They have yet to be blown out by the Bulls so far, which is a plus.  In fact, they have competed well and might even say were better than the Bulls for stretches. Having Paul George guard Derrick Rose has been effective at times.

The Bad: Darren Collison's ankle injury in Game 2. They also shot 41.6% overall in Game 2.

The X-Factor/s: AJ Price played adequate in Darren's absence. If he can't play, they'll need a career night from him. The North Carolina connection of Hansbrough (UNC) and McRoberts (Duke) need to play well to match the impact Carlos Boozer provides.

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