Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The 2011 NBA Playoff Context (Western 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 West 1st round: San Antonio in 6, Los Angeles in 4, Portland in 6, Oklahoma City in 7.

1 - San Antonio

The Good: They missed Manu in Game 1. His presence is essential in their win on Game 2. Tony Parker has been fine in the three games. We know Tim Duncan is on a decline, but he still can dominate if he wants to.

The Bad: The Gasol-Randolph bruise brothers are just dominating against TD, Blair, Dice, Bonner.

The X-Factor/s: Richard Jefferson can be lost in the shuffle with TP9, TD and Manu all afoot, but he has been a modest contributor.

2 - Los Angeles

The Good: Kobe Bryant and his determination. After his performance in Game 1, he decided to use the energy to try to D up CP3. It limited his production on the offensive end, but it did affect Chris' numbers. However, all eyes are now on his ankle. Lamar Odom just won the 6th Man of the Year and showcased the reason why in Game 2 as Kobe focused on the defensive end. Ron Artest making major offensive contributions (31 pts in the first 2 games).

The Bad: Pau Gasol has been really soft in this series. Someone needs to knock some sense into him.

The X-Factor/s: The steadiness of Andrew Bynum continues. Double-double average so far. He's a major reason why they're controlling the boards.

3 - Dallas

The Good: The Mavs deciding to use a time machine and use it for Jason Kidd in this series and Peja Stojakovic in Game 2. Dirk being Dirk as he goes for 28 in Game 1 and 33 in Game 2, while making 28/30 shots in this series from the charity stripe.

The Bad: Minimal rebounding numbers. Shawn Marion being really quiet on the stat sheet.

The X-Factor/s:Without Beaubois, It's up to the liliputian backcourt (Terry, Barea) to step it up offensively, as you're pretty much getting next to nothing from Deshawn Stevenson. Having Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood tag-teaming on Aldridge makes sense.

4 - Oklahoma City

The Good: That someone has stepped up to provide offensive oomph alongside KD and Russ. Has been different guys. From Maynor in Game 1 to Ibaka in Game 3, someone has joined in the offensive cudgels.

The Bad: Not much, but they are still prone to being victimized by spurts. That's mainly due to the team's relative youth as a whole, especially their core guys. Oh, as you saw in Game 4, Russell Westbrook took more shots than Durant, 30 to 18.

The X-Factor/s: We know what KD and Russ would do. We don't know how much Serge can do alongside Perk. Well, Ibaka has been a monster alonside the Scowl, especially in Game 3.

5 - Denver

The Good: The relative balance. Virtually anyone can rack up points anytime at any point.

The Bad: Lack of a real go-to-option late in games. That happens when you trade Carmelo. George Karl will probably go with the hot hand, but it has be from whatever Ty Lawson sees. Defense has been an issue with how they have been lit up by Durant and Westbrook and in Game 3, Ibaka.

The X-Factor/s: JR Smith. He simply can shoot you into games, like he almost did in Game 3. Or drive you crazy. All in a matter of minutes. The most volatile person on the Nugget roster. Oh, and the health of Arron Afflalo is a key. He's one of the sought after defenders that they can put on either Durant or Westbrook.

6 - Portland

The Good: Lamarcus Aldridge's emergence continues into the post-season. Someone from the wings has been stepping up. Still needs them most, if not all, to click to ensure victory.

The Bad: Brandon Roy being reduced to a non-factor early, no thanks to the mismatches caused by the lilliputian yet speedy Mavericks backcourt, although he proved us wrong in the last 2 games (especially in Game 4).

The X-Factor/s: Andre Miller has to have a heady and steady play at the point, because of Roy's state.

7 - New Orleans

The Good: CP3 made sure people know that it is not just about the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Trevor Ariza in Game 2 showing why the Lakers immediately sought his services when he was in Orlando during their Finals tussle. He has been the other major minute burner for the team.

The Bad: Lack of rebounding strength, and that is without Pau for the Lakers.

The X-Factor/s: Carl Landry needs to approximate the numbers David West had. Jarret Jack also needs to keep the offense going as both CP3's chief reliever and wingman. Aaron Gray's ankle.

8 - Memphis

The Good: Marc Gasol has been the better Gasol in the playoffs. Zach Randolph has been a beast, giving San Antonio fits alongside the Wendigo. Tony Allen has personified how the Grizzlies are now as a team.

The Bad: They're still a turnover-prone bunch, which is a given due to their lack of experience and relative youth. They also get into stretches where they go into droughts, which would be minimized if Rudy Gay was not injured.

The X-Factor/s: OJ Mayo seems to have accepted his role as the key 6th Man for the Grizz. A team with little oomph offensively as it is right now without Gay, OJ needs to literally juice things up.

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