April 27, 2007
ORLANDO, Fla. -- How does an NBA team go an entire game with only four players scoring? I'm serious. I need to know. I was in Orlando watching the Detroit Pistons take apart the Orlando Magic for the third straight time, so I didn't see any of the Houston Rockets-Utah Jazz game.
As for the Magic and Pistons, I'm torn between two takes on this series. One, that Detroit is the most balanced team in the league, and it has a deep front line. The Pistons control the tempo of every game because they never commit turnovers. (They led the NBA in fewest turnovers: around 12 a game.)
Chauncey Billups is impossible to rattle, and pressure defense doesn't bother him. The Magic forced a few turnovers early in Detroit's 93-77 win Thursday night and ran off 10 fast-break points in the first quarter, but that was it for the night. Billups and the Pistons handled the pressure the rest of the way, gathered themselves, gained the lead and just wore Orlando out. The Magic couldn't score.
When Detroit controls the pace, it wins games because its defense is still terrific (even without Ben Wallace) and its halfcourt offense is really good.
My other take is that Orlando just isn't very good. I realize they went 40-42 and finished with the eighth seed in the East, but still, the Magic just can't score -- particularly when Grant Hill is struggling. For this team to take the next step, it needs a serious playmaking perimeter player and a shooter. Oh, and it also needs Dwight Howard to develop a post game.
I may be crazy, but I'm not sure Howard is going to pull it off. As talented as he is, he's not a natural born post player. I'm not sure you can teach a guy to all of a sudden become really gifted on the block. Either you've got it or you don't.
With big men, there's an innate sense of how to score down low. Zach Randolph is a low-post scorer. He just has a knack for finding holes, seeing angles and putting the ball in the basket. Did he learn all that in one year at Michigan State, or did it come naturally to him? I think it came naturally.
Howard? I don't see it. He's a physical specimen, a phenomenal rebounder, a good shot blocker and lightning fast for a big man. But he doesn't have touch on the ball, and his footwork is robotic. I just don't think he's ever going to develop an efficient, nasty post game.
* Since Orlando needs a shooter, and since this series with the Pistons will most likely end on Saturday, isn't it about time to give J.J. Redick a chance? I thought Brian Hill would give him a shot in Game 3, especially with Detroit stifling the Magic with a zone defense. But Redick never got off the bench for the third straight game in this series. Orlando is a team that is playing for the future. It's time to see if Redick will be a part of it.
* Watching the Los Angeles Lakers get on the board in their series with the Phoenix Suns was a reminder that you never ever listen to the knee-jerk reaction that tells you a team up 2-0 is automatically going to sweep a series. As good as the Suns looked in Game 2, L.A. was able to throttle them, slow them down and take over Game 3.
* It helped that Kobe Bryant played a perfect game, mixing up his inside and outside games and finding the ideal balance between shooting and passing. But the playoffs are so emotional, and winning one game can change everything. Going home and getting a win has totally changed the Lakers' outlook. Now they're back in the series.
* The rumor in Seattle is that Spurs assistant general manager Sam Presti will take over as the Sonics' G.M., and he may bring assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo with him to be his head man. But if that doesn't happen, is there someone out there who seems like the ideal fit for the Sonics?
* The same goes for the Pacers. Unless Mark Jackson or Reggie Miller decides to be the coach, is there a name out there that seems like the right fit?
* Remember, the Memphis Grizzlies job is also open. Plenty of jobs, but not many names.