Friday, April 25, 2008

Go Sixers! (Sixers-Pistons Game 3)

Wow. Sure glad I got to watch that game. I got home mid-way through the second quarter. The Sixers were up two at the time (I think), and it just got better from there. Final score: Sixers 95, Pistons 75.

Even before the Sixers broke the game open, I was thinking that the Sixers looked like they were playing within themselves. On offense, they weren't relying on contested fadeaways or circus shots to score. They were running there offense and getting good looks out of it. On defense, they weren't getting lucky deflections or frantically recovering on penetration. They were staying in front of the Pistons and making solid rotations on passes.

In other words, they looked like a team that completely belonged.

Why do I mention this? When an underdog is beating a favorite, the upset is often the result of a team that is playing above its head -- getting every lucky break, getting every loose ball, hitting shots as the shot clock exires, etc. I often think those games are frantic, and in the end I'm still left with the distinct impression from watching the game that the better team (the favorite) didn't win. Watching the Sixers tonight, I never once got the sense that the better team wasn't winning. If I hadn't known that the Pistons were favored, I would never have guessed that fact based on what I saw. I didn't see the previous games in the series to compare them with this one, but after tonight's game I'm actually believing that the Sixers can win this series. Of course, the Pistons won't have 23 turnovers every game...

The one negative from tonight's game? Igoudala still can't seem to find his rhythm offensively. Quite frankly, he looked like the worst player on the floor tonight. I know that the Pistons are gearing their defense to stop him, but that doesn't explain how bad he looked. Still, I'm feeling pretty happy right now, so no more negative comments from me.

Added bonus: Henry Abbott (TrueHoop) liveblogged from the game tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Will I finally get to watch the Sixers?

Game 3 of the Sixers-Pistons series is tomorrow. Because I'm in Alaska, tip-off is 3 pm local time. I played hooky on Wednesday (I took a vacation day, so hooky probably isn't the right term) to go skiing in the sunny, 50 degree weather, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to leave work early tomorrow. But I'm sure going to try to get stuff done so that I can!

Wish me luck!

Jazz- Rockets

I'm sitting here watching the Jazz-Rockets Game 3. I saw a little of a previous game in which bodies were flying everywhere without whistles being blown. This game, the refs were calling it much closer. I felt like the refs were calling things tighter against the Rockets. Then the 4th quarter started, and the Jazz apparently decided to see how far they could take it physically. I think they picked up four fouls in the first three minutes of the quarter, and none of the calls were even debatable. Just very weird-- this quarter just has a much different feel to it then the previous quarters. It also happens to be a two point game right now (Jazz 79, Rockets 77), so maybe that has something to do with it.

[Pause as I watch the final nine minutes of the game]

Okay. After that timeout, things calmed back down, and the teams got down to just playing some good basketball.

It looked like the Rockets had sealed the deal on a victory when, with 1:40 left in the game, McGrady hit a jumper as Kirilenko ran over Carl Landry. The refs said that McGrady had released the shot before the foul, so the basket counted and then Landry got to shoot a free throw which he nailed to put the Rockets up 93-86.

Of course, it wasn't that easy. Korver hit a quick three with a minute left in the game, McGrady got called for an offensive foul when he pushed Kirilenko to the ground in an attempt to get free, and then Okur canned a three pointer with 40 seconds left to cut the Rockets lead to one (93-92). Even on the replay I couldn't figure out how Okur was so find open.

McGrady missed badly on the next trip down the court. Rather than call a time out, the Jazz looked to score in the flow-- basically looking for Deron Williams to create something. Houston played some great defense, but finally Williams managed to penetrate the middle of the lane. It looked like he was going to get a pretty good look at a lay-up, but Carl Landry got off his feet really quickly to make a fantastic block (making it even sweeter for Landry, he had lost a tooth earlier in the game when he'd accidentally been whacked in the mouth by a Jazz player). And then he made another great play to grab the ball before it went out of bounds and pass it to Luis Scola. Scola made one of two free throws, and after the Jazz missed their tip attempt at the buzzer, the Rockets had cut the Jazz's series lead down to 2-1.

Good game.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spurs-Suns Game 2

Just finished watching the Spurs-Suns game. Fun game. I missed the double-OT thriller in Game 1. While this game didn't match that one from all accounts, it was still a good game.

A couple of thoughts:

1. I started watching around the end of the first quarter. For the rest of the half, I was surprised at how much pushing and shoving the Phoenix Suns were doing without having anything called. The Spurs definitely seemed to be waiting on the refs to start making calls, but the refs weren't helping them out. Then the second half started. And the Spurs were a completely different team. They pushed, they shoved, and they no longer seemed like they thought the refs were going to blow the whistle. Basically, they did everything in the third quarter that the Suns had been doing in the first half. It seemed like at half time Popovich must have said, "Hey, see how the refs are calling the game? Now go out there and take advantage of it like the Suns are doing, or you're going to lose this game. The refs aren't going to start blowing their whistle in the second half." The Spurs did, and the refs didn't change how they were calling the game. And I think that was what turned the game in the Spurs favor.

2. Not that it's a newsflash, but Tim Duncan is an incredibly heady player. With about a minute left in the game, the Suns missed a shot and a Spur (I think it was Ginobili, but I could be mistaken) grabbed the defensive rebound a few steps from him. Duncan noticed that a Suns' player was sneaking up behind Ginobili to try and take a swipe at the ball. So what does he do? He sets a pick that completely seals the Sun player off from Ginobili. Let me repeat-- In about half a second he realized that Ginobili was going to be blindsided and prevented a turnover from occurring by setting a pick-- ninety (how long is a basketball court?) feet from the offensive basket. That's smart basketball. It doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but it is a steal that doesn't show up on the Suns' ledger, and it is the type of play that wins games. And just about every other forward in the league would have been so focused on heading down to the other end of the court after the defensive rebound that they wouldn't have noticed what was going on, much less have reacted quickly enough to stop it.

3. At the end of the game, the Spurs were trying to inbound the ball. Nash seemed to shove Ginobili, who stumbled. No surprise, considering how the refs had called the game to that point, no whistle was blown as a result of the contact (On the next inbounds play, Nash and Ginobili banged into each other, in a play on which a foul probably could have been called on either one of them, but the refs again decided to swallow their whistles). What did surprise was that Nash then stumbled over the endline right in front of Duncan who was inbounding the ball. As Nash stumbled right in front of Duncan, he reached out. He might have nicked Duncan's arm, but at the very least he clearly put up his arm to get in the way of Duncan inbounding the ball. As far as I'm aware, going over the endline and interfering with the inbounds pass is supposed to be a delay of game on the defensive team. But no call. Duncan, heady player that he is, just called a time out when he couldn't inbound the ball before the five second count was expiring so it ended up not being a big deal, but I was shocked that there was no call and the announcers didn't say anything. Duncan appeared to say something to the refs after he made the time out call, but it was unclear whether he was arguing that Ginobili had been fouled or if he was pointing out that Nash had interfered with him.

A few links: TrueHoop's Liveblog, Spurs comment thread, Suns Comment thread, and the boxscore. (Fair warning- I enjoy both the Spurs blog and the Suns blog that I linked to, but they definitely have a "personality" that is not for everyone.) I tried to find on-line video of the events I talked about in points 2 & 3 (to confirm my memory and to let you see what I'm talking about), but nothing is on-line yet that I could find.

I can't believe it!

I can't believe the Sixers beat Detroit on Sunday. I also can't believe that I missed the game.

I was traveling this past weekend -- headed to Boston for Passover and to see my girlfriend. I was at my friend's parent's house for Seder on Sunday evening....thus, no chance to watch the game, and no chance to post any thoughts about this series.

(I'm also likely to miss the game tomorrow night. I can't believe I (occasionally) post on a Sixers blog, yet I'm going to miss the first two Sixers' playoff games in the post-Iverson era. Damn.)

Quick thoughts: A Sixers victory in this series would be a huge upset. As a fan, I'm hoping for it and I'm cheering them on, but as an independent observer I can't see the upset happening. And I don't really think the Sixers' victory in Game 1 changes that in any real way. But I sure hope they do! Also, as someone who liked the Reggie Evans signing this past summer, it was nice to see him get a bunch of credit for the victory.