Saturday, December 27, 2008

The NBA Xmas Day Marathon

I saw the danger, but didn't anticipate it. There were five NBA games scheduled for Christmas Day and I planned to be in most of the day housecleaning and cooking (the fish came out nicely; the veal chop was a revelation but the brussels sprouts roasted in maple, lemon and fresh thyme was the screaming down the lane 360 degree spin slam dunk of the day). I planned to watch Boston-L.A. and figured I'd watch bits and pieces of the other four games if they were interesting. For the most part, they were. As a result I spent Christmas with the tube on NBA for nine straight hours and feel better off for it. Some notes.

Boston - L.A.
Well, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing these two teams meet seven or eight more times. While watching the game and checking popcorn machine later, it seemed that the difference was that L.A.'s bench badly outplayed the Celtic bench, and that Fisher and Allen neutralized one another, which is a big advantage to the Lakers. Not that this is a big surprise, but Jackson outcoached Rivers. Several of those Gasol baskets down the stretch came after Doc subbed Eddie House for Perkins. Doc should have kept the small lineup on a short leash. The Lakers big men had had subpar games to that point, but Jackson didn't forget that they were in the game.
Lastly, I was intrigued by Kobe. Several times during the contest he called for the ball but didn't get it. Then with the ball in his hands repeatedly down the stretch of a close game, he passed to Gasol who had a better shot.
Make plans for February 5 when these teams meet again in Boston.

Phoenix-San Antonio
One point games come down to lots of things but in this case, the final play, in which Roger Mason nailed a three at the buzzer is what matters most. Plain and simple: Jason Richardson, who is an asset to the Suns, made a bonehead play rotating off of Mason to double team Tony Parker. Mason is lethal from behind the arc. Parker was already bottled up by Grant Hill.

The Wizards played like they had this game circled on their calendar for a long time. They didn't look like a 4-22 team. If Mike James plays half this well going forward, the Wizards will be respectable for the last two thirds of the season. Cleveland was the beneficiary of several hometown calls; Cleveland, welcome to the elite.

The Mavericks are a better team than they are given credit for and if healthy, they will scare the beejeezus out of someone in the playoffs. Jose Barea is the best backup point guard in the West and he may have the Mavs dreaming of life without Jason Kidd's salary on the books. New coach Rick Carlisle has done a good job of mixing and matching from a bench full of young inconsistent players.
The Portland offense is designed to have a dominant inside scorer. On nights when Greg Oden isn't that guy, they are going stumble a bit. They shouldn't; there's talent on this team to play in a variety of styles, but Nate McMillan doesn't seem interested in offensive diversity right now. Maybe if Denver wins a few in a row...

Orlando-New Orleans
I flipped it on near halftime and was happy to see that it was a rout. Otherwise, I would never have gotten out and exercised.

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