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NBA:  The NBA Playoffs - 5/15/2000

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For starters, wearing a Superman t-shirt during warmups of an NBA playoff game, then taking it off and scoring 41 points with a good FG% is just plain bad-ass. And that's what Reggie Miller did. Love Reggie or hate him, I know you wish you were him that night.

Didn't most of you think Miller was washed up? Not the player he used to be? Admit you did, because we did as well. And there was reason to think that, judging by his regular season - a good year but we just weren't as frightened by him as we used to be. He dropped his 41 on the Bucks, then hit the Sixers for 40 just a few days later.

We said it before and we'll say it again: The Pacers really could use Antonio Davis' services right about now.

Jalen Rose is picking it up as well. But as for dreams of reaching the finals and perhaps winning a championship, Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Travis Best, and Austin Croshere do their respective jobs at a consistent, high level.

The Suns are really playing a high level of basketball in round 2. Unfortunately, they're up against the Lakers. Game 1 was a blowout.  Game 2 featured the Suns playing terrific ball, but Kobe bailed the Lakers out with a - yeah, we have to say it - Jordanesque game-winning shot. Game 3 was close as well, but the feeling that the Lakers just won't allow themselves to lose right now continues. Perhaps the two games they lost in Sacramento only served as a wake-up call - reminding the Lakers that if they slack off, they'll lose, but if they stay focused and do what they're suppossed to do, they own the NBA this season.

Of course, whether they stay focused or not is another story. The Blazers are playing fantastic basketball right now, at the level we thought they'd be playing all season. Shaq generally owns Sabonis, but Sabonis can always stand way outside on offense and do damage with his outside shot and remarkable passing ability. The Blazers have Rasheed Wallace and Brian Grant with an advantage over the Lakers' power forwards, Pippen and Detlef as superior small forwards to Rice, and while Kobe Bryant is the best shooting guard between the two teams, Steve Smith is no slouch. Neither team has particularly good point guards, so that spot is fairly even.

The point is, the Western Conference finals should be one hell of a battle.

It appears the Miami Heat might be sick of losing to the Knicks in the playoffs. Because we assumed that a hurt and ineffective Tim Hardaway would put New York over the top, but so far things are looking Miami's way. And just when the Knicks looked to take advantage of Alonzo Mourning's foul trouble in the 3rd quarter of Game 3, guys like Otis Thorpe, PJ Brown, Clarence Weatherspoon, and the great (in game 3, anyway) Anthony Carter were there to spoil the fun. If the Knicks don't take game 4 (which begins in just a few minutes), look for all hell to break loose from the New York media. It should be noticed that Dan Majerle's defense has been fantastic. And Jamal Mashburn, with help from his entire team, has contained Latrell Sprewell. Zo owns Ewing, and New York has gotten little or no offense from their bigger forwards.

The Sixers might benefit from Iverson and Kukoc devoting as much effort to the defensive end of the court as they do on offense. And, a healthy Eric Snow would have helped as well.

I love watching the Knicks and Heat battle each other. If players are wide open and miss lots of shots, that's bad basketball. But if guys can only hit 3 or 4 out of every 10 shots they take because incredible defense is being played and open shots are unheard of, that's just awesome. Watch Dan Majerle guarding Allan Houston and try to tell us that's not a battle worth watching.

Jeff Hornacek may be retiring soon. About one game from now. The man deserves tons of respect for the fantastic career he had. Very few basketball players in the history of the planet can toss the rock into the hole like he can.

This is it for the Utah Jazz. Once Hornacek goes, Stockton only gets older, and while we discount Karl Malone's age as being totally irrevelant to his existence, adding candles to his birthday cake can't help. Other members of the Jazz don't appear to be improving much as players, and the promising Howard Eisley is a free agent this summer.

"Well, Horny's retiring this year and Stockton's retiring supposedly next year, then I'm after that," Malone said. 

"So, oh yeah. Hopefully people enjoyed it. Because everything has to come to an end. It's just a start with Horny, and it's just going to be a chain reaction after that." 

Doesn't sound like a championship is something to expect from this crew.

As for right now, the Blazers are just too big, strong, fast, deep, and, well, good for Utah to handle.

The Jazz did give us many years of really enjoyable, intelligent basketball. Dunks are nice on the eyes, but so is an effective pick and roll, give and go, and all around smart play. And that's what Stockton, Malone and company gave us for a long, long time.

On with the playoffs.



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