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 Western Conference. Let's NBA!

What Up?

I cannot get past the idea that tells me the Mavericks are not as good as their record. That a team that finished 10th in offense and 12th in defense is the second-best team in the Greatest Conference Ever. Dallas won a ton of close games, and while I realize that the current roster wasn't rightly around for the first half of the season, Caron Butler(notes) (14 PER, 16 points per 36 minutes) doesn't really have me jumping through hoops.

But they did topple the Spurs last year. Though that was without Manu Ginobili(notes). Though Tony Parker(notes) nearly averaged 29 points and seven assists last year against Dallas in the playoffs, and though he might (quite literally) average half of that this year. Everything keeps balancing out. Why must it keep balancing out? Why can't I find an edge? An injured George Hill(notes)? That's an edge?

Tim Duncan(notes) and Dirk Nowitzki(notes)? That bench versus this bench? That coach versus this coach? All games played in Texas? All luxury tax bills paid in full? It's like two 7-foot mirrors, quite skilled, staring each other down.

Here's what will happen - possibly the best series you'll see all year. This could be epic, especially if the shooting is on. The Spurs (ninth in offense, eighth in defense) seem to have the slight edge on paper while the Mavericks have the slight edge in getting to wear their white uniforms four out of seven games.

I can't give you any significant reason why either team will pull ahead. Just pull up a chair. -- Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
Tony Parker vs. his hand

No George Hill means Tony Parker and his kind-of-healed hand need to be a lot better than the Spurs were hoping when "Baguette" went down earlier this year. Without Hill, and with Parker still recovering, the Spurs might have trouble putting up enough points to hang with the Mavericks.

However, as any scholar of French history will tell you, a Frenchman's hand heals faster than any other hand on Earth. It has something to do with Napoleon and the way he stuck his hand in his vest. Probably. I might have just made it up, but it sounds right. -- Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
DeShawn Stevenson(notes) vs. relevancy

Here are a list of things that have made DeShawn Stevenson notable throughout his NBA career: fouling Ricky Davis(notes) during his infamous triple-double attempt, having a beard-growing contest with Drew Gooden(notes), the "I Can't Feel My Face" celebration that he stole from Juelz Santana, having a flat-top, bringing Soulja Boy to a Wizards game/rap beef, dressing like the 1980s, getting tattoos on his face that don't make any sense whatsoever, being a marginally good defender. Cool résumé, man.

Either do something cool on the basketball court, or tone down the antics, bro. -- 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.

It can be hard to meet friends, make business contacts and make "love connections" if you're naturally shy, or if you're a real jerk who doesn't believe in tie pins, like Larry Krystkowiak. That's why I really believe in something that Dan Aykroyd said in the 2000 coming-of-age comedy "Loser" -- Interested is interesting. If you show people you're interested in what they care about and share what you care about with them, before you know it, you'll be well on your way to establishing the foundation of a solid relationship.

This series is chock full of examples of how well this Aykroydian approach can work. Jason Kidd(notes) is interested in how often all of his teammates want to shoot the ball, which is so often, so he tells them he's interested in passing them the ball. Next thing you know: 55 wins, the No. 2 seed and a really, really good friendship with Erick Dampier(notes) where they help each other out. DeJuan Blair(notes) is really interested in how the basketball feels, so he tells his teammates he'd really like to rebound the basketball, if it's cool by them. Sure enough, they're cool with letting him grab 12.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and he gets to meet likeminded individuals who share his basketball-feeling passion. Everybody, except Richard Jefferson(notes), wins. -- Dan Devine

The Picks

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

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