I’ll believe the Spurs are out of the playoffs when they’re actually out of the playoffs, meaning someone has beaten them four games out of seven. The Spurs being down 2-0 is not any other team being down by the margin that usually means playoff doom. But let’s say this does not look good for San Antonio when their big three guys can’t break 20 points in a game. When commenting on Deadspin before this series started, I thought Tyson Chandler would be extremely key — mostly because of defense on Duncan, but I’d ignored a paint presence to keep Tony Parker from driving in the lane. That’s the case right now. It’s unrealistic to expect the Spurs not to get one out of the two games at the very least back home, but they look their age, as if they cannot keep up with all facets of a young Hornets team, with guys like David West getting double-digit boards even as his points die down and Julian Wright being a factor off the bench.
In contrast, Orlando is toast. The Pistons may take a game or two off, but this will be over in no more than six games and they’ll likely be waiting for the winner of a very tired Cleveland/Boston series. What the Pistons appear to be doing is taking advantage of Orlando’s liability at the guard positions (Jameer Nelson had a good 22 point game, but fouled out at a very poor time) and, on the defensive end, forcing their frontcourt into numerous turnovers. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Dwight Howard turned the ball over 17 times in Game 2.
Boston’s lapses on the road in the first round haven’t bothered me as much as they should. Obviously, Atlanta shouldn’t have been allowed to sniff a Game 7, but that doesn’t automatically mean that Cleveland will fare just as well. This Cavs team is worse than last year’s — that’s already acknowledged, and I could swear Mike Brown’s entire offensive plan consists of “Oh, fuck it, give the ball to LeBron and see what happens.” Great players are able to carry teams, and James was able to carry the Cavs to the Finals by topping Detroit. I just don’t think he can do it with this team as it stands.
Watching Game 2 between the Lakers and the Jazz will be a reaction game for Utah, as in “how many people do we put on Kobe Bryant and force Gasol, Odom et al to score for them?” Essentially, if the Lakers’ offense is firing on all cylinders, that’s akin to asking whether you’d like to have your throat slashed or simply bleed to death from strategically placed lacerations. If Kobe is going to drop 38 on you and hit 21 free throws in the course of doing it, then that’s probably the action you have to take. 98 points in a loss is not much to sneeze at — but Deron Williams has to shoot better, although having a former back-court mate like Derek Fisher guarding him (he probably knows quite a few of his tricks) doesn’t make it any easier. Take away Williams’ shot threat and the game is over before it actually begins.
Photo: AP/Ann Heisenfelt