Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Hey, it's the playoffs! We'll miss the bad teams, but let's talk about the good ones. Today, the Eastern Conference, tomorrow the West. Let's NBA!

What Up?

Yes, the Cavaliers split the season series with Chicago. And, yes, one Cleveland win came with Joakim Noah(notes), Derrick Rose(notes) and Luol Deng(notes) out, and the other came with Rose still struggling with an early season ankle injury. It really doesn't matter. Chicago will compete, but they're no match for Cleveland's rotation.

A rotation that will use every bit of this series to figure itself out. Everyone's stats start at zero again, so there's a legitimate chance Mo Williams(notes) could clang away. Nobody knows how Shaquille O'Neal(notes) will react to playing his first game since late February, especially with his slimmer size, and the last time LeBron James(notes) had to enter the playoff fray after sitting through a week and a half's worth of off days? Well, it was last spring, after Cleveland had swept Detroit and then Atlanta. And he dominated the next round, despite the nine-day break between the two series.

This isn't to say the Bulls won't compete, they will. But the team struggles to score too often, and Cleveland's offense just keeps getting scarier and scarier. Even if it uses the first round as a test run. And speaking of "back to zero," Antawn Jamison(notes) gets to start anew after a regular season turn with Cleveland that saw him shoot 50.6 percent from the line. There are just too many weapons, and though the Bulls have gone back to their defensive roots as of late, this team wasn't built for 2009-10.

Cleveland was. -- Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
The Cavaliers vs. rust

One of the silliest stories of the past two weeks is LeBron James not playing in the Cavaliers' last few regular season games. Sure, it might have cost them a few victories, and some fans might not have had a chance to see the league's best player take the court, but that's really not that relevant to an NBA team. They want to win a title, and having your best player healthy is one of the biggest parts of doing that.

However, there can be some consequences to resting your players down the stretch. There's a chance they might be a step slow from not playing a game in a few weeks, and that can come back on a team. So you take LeBron not playing, add it to the fact that Shaquille O'Neal and new addition Antawn Jamison haven't yet played together, and you could have a team not playing up to its potential. And just like when they faced last year's depleted Celtics team, that's the Bulls' best chance of winning this series. -- Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) vs. Brad Miller(notes)

Can you even imagine a one-on-one game between these two? It'd be even more bizarre than someone doing a handstand against the Bean in Millennium Park.

Neither 7-footer would dare go within 18 feet of the hoop, unless they'd pump-faked the other. But that would never work because neither of them would fall for a pump fake since they can't jump. I'm guessing it would resemble the most boring game of H-O-R-S-E of all-time. -- Trey Kerby

Mark Eaton says...
Made-up thoughts on "going for it" in the NBA playoffs and in life, from the 7-foot-4 former Utah Jazz center and current celebrity motivational speaker.

People always come up to me after my sessions -- a little gun-shy, since I'd just crushed it, and am a little hoarse, because of the "Reach Your Screamaximum Potential" exercises, and a little drained, from the fartlek run -- and say, "Mark, you were an All-Star. Your number's retired in Utah." Their voices normally trail up a little at the end of each sentence, like they're astonished and asking questions rather than stating facts. But still, those words, in that order, always come out of their mouths.

Anyway, they know I've put my stamp on something, and they want to know how they can make that kind of lasting impact. You know what I tell them? I tell them that they need to do something that will resonate for eons -- that will prove they once drew breath and that future generations will look at and marvel. They need to put everything else on hold, hop on a mountain and deface it with chisels and acid. Or write a sonnet cycle (possibly sensual in nature) about "The Incredibles." Or get dunked on by Michael Jordan on videotape and get it put on the Internet.

The point is, you won't be around forever. Now is the time to do something unforgettable. Yes, James Johnson(notes), I'm looking at you.

You played less than 12 minutes a game this year, and at times, you looked OK out there on the court. But let's be honest: The playoffs aren't going to be about you ... unless you make them about you. This is the time to play to the back row. Go back to the locker room with "tightness," come back dressed like Morganna the Kissing Bandit and give Mike Brown a peck on the cheek. Grab the unicycle from the halftime show, ride out to the foul line and hit Anderson Varejao(notes) in the act of shooting.

Pants the ref. Pants the ref. Everyone will think it's funny and you'll be remembered forever. Just go pants the ref. -- Dan Devine

The Picks

BDL playoff previews
Eastern Conference:  Magic vs. Bobcats | Hawks vs. Bucks | Celtics vs. Heat
Western Conference: Lakers vs. Thunder | Mavericks vs. Spurs | Suns vs. Trailblazers | Nuggets vs. Jazz

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