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?

The first four games in this series are spread out over eight days, with a Wednesday/Friday/Sunday schedule to follow that. This means seven games in 15 days and I ... I don't know who that benefits.

Does it benefit the Nuggets, who are nursing Kenyon Martin(notes) back to health? Martin's presence turns the Nuggies from a well-below-average defensive team into merely a mediocre one, but that's a huge jump once you factor in a middle of the pack defense with Martin around (provided he keeps rebounding) with what is nearly a league-best offense.

Most important to me, though, is the way it could help Chauncey Billups(notes), who shot 38 percent in both March and April. That's a good six weeks worth of poor basketball, and while extra rest doesn't guarantee accurate set-shooting, it could help.

Or does the stretched schedule help Utah, who is dealing with injuries to (stop me if you've heard this before) Andrei Kirilenko(notes) and Carlos Boozer(notes)? Deron Williams(notes), in theory, should be able to rip all over Billups in the point guard matchup, but it was Billups that dominated that pairing during the regular season (though DW certainly got his). Then again, most of that noise came before March and April.

In the end, despite Denver's home-court advantage and Utah's iffy showing of late, I still think the Jazz are the better team. And I still think the Nugs chase down excuses when things go their way. That said, if Boozer is a shell of himself (even with the presence of Paul Millsap(notes) around), this thing is going Denver's way pretty quickly. -- Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
The Jazz vs. Denver's fans

The Jazz are as bad on the road as when you stop at a Taco Bell drive-thru before a long drive that you forgot doesn't have any exits after the one you just accidentally missed. Well, maybe not that bad, but barely .500 is fairly atrocious for a playoff team.

Then again, the Nuggets are worse, falling below .500 on the road this season. The only difference is that they don't have to win on the road. If they take all four of their home games, they take the series. And in the Pepsi Center is where the Nuggets do their best work with the bench players feeding off the crowd like when you go to a Brazilian steakhouse after you skipped lunch. -- Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
Light blue vs. Lighter blue

It kind of feels like this series was made for people like my mom who consider their favorite colors to be "periwinkle" and "seafoam green." Those are made-up colors, just like what the Nuggets and Jazz wear.

The truly unfortunate thing is that both of these teams have amazing alternate jerseys that are way better than their standard kits. If the Jazz wore their greens and the Nuggets sported their navy uniforms all series, I'd be a happy man. Mostly because I wouldn't have to constantly adjust the brightness on my television. -- 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.

"The edge." Heck, we're all looking for it. When the margin between you and your competition is razor-thin, what's going to give you that tiny spark, that extra half-step, that genetically abnormal height that puts you over the top? When I was playing, the answer was, "Hybrid hormone stimulant/robotic implant amplifies your fast-twitch muscle fibers and spurs a reversion to Cro-Magnon bloodlust." But everybody's got those nowadays, because of NAFTA.

So what will differentiate Utah and Denver, two teams entering the playoffs with the same record (53-29), near-identical finishes to the season (since March 1, Utah is 15-8 and Denver is 14-9) and several dinged-up key contributors (including Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur(notes), J.R. Smith(notes) and Kenyon Martin)? Fundamentals? Leadership? Execution?

Nope. It's crazy. Guano cray-cray. "I don't know karate, but I know cah-ray-zee." The wild card without a moral compass is the guy you want when you're facing live fire and you need to fight for every inch just to survive and advance.

And there's nobody crazier than Ronnie Price(notes).

Don't let the smooth taste fool you -- he's like G.G. Allin multiplied by the Red Skull. You mark my words: There'll come a time -- Game 3, I'm guessing -- when Ty Lawson(notes) is about to get out on the break for a bucket that could swing the momentum of the series, and Price is going to stop him in his tracks and steal his soul like Shang Tsung. Figuratively, I mean. (As far as you know.) Still, it'll definitely scare the wits out of the kiddies in the stands.

I can't say I condone it, but man: You want to talk about "going for it?" Stealing a promising rookie's soul darn sure qualifies in my book. Well, it's technically more of a brochure than a book, but you get what I mean. -- 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 | Mavericks vs. Spurs | Suns vs. Trailblazers

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