April 18, 2008
After 1,230 regular season games, the NBA Playoffs are finally here. (Tomorrow!) KD and I will have our own first round predictions later today, but for now we stick with the bloggin' team experts. On deck: Basketball John and David from The Dream Shake breakdown the Utah-Houston series.
Basketball John: We played 82 games for this? In Jerry Seinfeld's "I'm Telling You for the Last Time" standup bit for HBO, he gives us this quote about race horses:
"The horse must get to the end and go: 'We were just here! What was the point of that? This is where we were. That was the longest possible route you could take. Why didn't we just stay here?'"
The Jazz are right back where they were last year. Northwest Division Champs. #4 seed in the conference. And they lost home-court advantage at the end of the season to the #5 seed, the Houston Rockets.
The Rocket men return with McGrady and cast minus China's number two basketball export in Yao (#1 being every plastic basketball in America). But they've added Luis Scola who plays very much like Paul Millsap. He's a hustle guy that will get plenty of rebounds and put-backs. Shane Battier moves into the McGrady sidekick position with Yao out. He'll knock down the three and give you some good defense. And it will be up to Aaron Brooks and Bobby Jackson to slow down Deron Williams.
The Jazz will counter with a balanced attack with the big three of Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur. Any of these three can lead the team in scoring. They'll also throw 18 fouls at McGrady with Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Andrei Kirilenko. And it will be up to Paul Millsap to cancel out Scola.
And of course you have all of the subplots a beat writer drools over. Will McGrady finally pull a Susan Lucci and make it out of the first round? Will AK and T-Mac be able to control the waterworks? Will writers be able to go the entire series without a "Houston, we have a …" cliché? Will T-Mac's face finally freeze that way when he snarls?
The Jazz will go into Houston and surprise them in Game 1. Then they'll take care of business at home.
Sorry Rocket fans, you have a problem.
David, The Dream Shake: It's like Christmas in April. The Playoffs are here! The Rockets are in! And we got everything we asked for in March — home-court advantage against the Utah Jazz in round 1! Yes, we asked for this exact scenario! We requested this not necessarily because we believe the Rockets match-up great against Utah, or that we think Utah is soft or any of the typical reasons you want to face a particular opponent in the playoffs ... no.
We want revenge.
Tracy McGrady gets to correct any misconceptions that he is not clutch against the very same opponent that drove him to tears last year following Game 7. The fact that we hate the Utah Jazz so very, very much only adds to the level of interest in this particular series. T-Mac and the Rockets need to treat Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer the same way the '94 and '95 Houston Rockets treated John Stockton and Karl Malone — send 'em home, boys. Just send 'em home.
Yes, I am aware the Rockets will not have the services of Yao Ming. This does not detract from my unbridled optimism. Last year the Rockets had no power forward and a definite question mark at point guard. This year? The Rockets have Luis Scola and Carl Landry. There's Bobby Jackson and Aaron Brooks (and Rafer whenever he gets back from injury). And don't forget about Dikembe and his fountain of youth. And, oh by the way, there's also the real defensive player of the year in Shane Battier.
Utah is what we want in a playoff test — a fundamentally sound team that will not give an inch. If the Rockets are truly aiming for The Ring, this series is a perfect test for whether a "Heart of a Champion" beats inside.
So, in the immortal words of Al Bundy ... "Let's rock!"
Rockets in 7.