Saturday, April 19, 2008

2008 Play-Offs - The Real Deal Starts Now

Since I started writing for this blog, I've manage to make friends from various community. I always wondered what was their opinion from their own perspective which is why I had an interesting idea for this post.
With the post season just around the corner, I was thinking of sharing this space with of the best NBA blogging expert about their respective team and most important of all, the Tall Albiceleste that plays for them.

So I went on a mission to looks around for anyone who was keen to share their views with us. Fortunately I had good friends from the Raptors and Rockets camp but very unfortunate non from the Spurs or Pistons side.

Nevertheless, as they say the show must go on.....

So let me just start of with what I feel about Manu GINOBILI, Fabricio OBERTO and San Antonio Spurs. Do they have what it takes to do it back to back titles?

Well before I answer that question let see how did they actually faired during the regular season. To be honest, I feel they were very lucky to finish at third spot in the wild wild Western Conference. Don't get me wrong here, it wasn't like they were playing badly but as always when you are the defending champion, your opponents will play their best game against you. Just ask the Suns.

However there is no doubt that Manu GINOBILI raised his game to whole new level. He was simply out of this world. Once again there was huge debate about him being a starter or a bench player. But for me , the fact that he delivers that matter the most. Do you remember his back to back 37 points last year. What that 46 points he posted in Cleveland? He is Spurs top scorer this season and now everyone talks about him being the this years “Sixth Man” winner.
Fabricio OBERTO pick up from where he left off last season. Many times, as the starting center, he allows himself to do all the little things that others often decline. He also had couple of big nights as well, like the one recently in Sacramento and another one against Denver back in December. He was bound to loose his minutes of playing when Spurs decided to bring in Kurt THOMAS. But in true Argentinean nature, he work hard and fought his way back into the team.

Now the real deal starts, against a team that is even more determined to knock them out after that high intensity series last year. When I think about the Spurs/Suns series, it does remind me a lot when Argentina take on England in football. Though the Suns have Shaq but Spurs have the character that suits well for games like this. A lot will be expected from Manu to deliver the points, considering that he has been their most consistent shooter through out the season. If he does that, than Spurs will be fine on the offensive.

As for OBERTO and Timmy are going to deal a bigger headache when facing off both Amare & Shaq. Its hard to say how this series is going to but I can tell you this is not something that you want to miss. Go Spurs Go!!!

The Raptors are one of the most exciting teams to watch. This is true when you look at their roster that consist the best of two world, NBA and International pedigree. So after all the struggle that he had gone through in Detroit, I just wonder how is Carlos DELFINO going to fit in the puzzle. To talk about that, the best person to refer has to be Sam from – The Best Damn Raptors Blogger around.

With all the success the Raptors had last season, finishing .500 this year has been a step back in the development of this franchise. The Raptors were unable to take advantage of easy stretches they had in the schedule to offset the massive injuries to BOSH and FORD. The only positive thing to come out of FORD's injury was the emergence of CALDERON as a legitimate NBA starting point guard. He filled in admirably, only fueling the FORD/CALDERON debate. When the shots rain down, the Raptors are as tough a team to beat then any top team, but when defenses have dug, the shooting has cooled down.

Carlos DELFINO, for the most part, has been a welcome addition. He is the best man-defender at the small forward spot the Raptors have. He has the ability to shoot the three, and is one of the few Raptor players who consistently attacks the basket off the dribble. His inconsistent play has been the cause of concern for some of us. He will drop bomb-after-bomb on way to a 20+ point game one day, then will disappear totally for three games.

For the Raptors to be successful against the Magic, DELFINO will have to step up his level of consistency on the offensive end. He has to continue attacking the basket, and limit his attempts from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, he has to take away drive penetration, contesting shots and drawing charges. The one thing we can count on DELFINO for is his immaculate hair style!

I was very excited when I heard that the Rockets decided to buyout Luis SCOLA’s rights from the Spurs. With him playing alongside YAO and T-Mac, are we looking at the possibility of another BIG THREE in the making? Maybe the dish was superb but just lack that important spice and flavour. To explain more on this, I’ll hand over the mike to Houston’s very own Grunge Love & Lee from the Dream Shake blog.

Luis SCOLA is in a rare class of professional athletes. Translation? There are only 5 players in NBA history whose replica jerseys I actually paid money to own: YAO Ming, Robert HORRY, Remggie MILLER, Penny HARDAWAY... and now Luis SCOLA. It takes a certain type of skill and tenacity for me to wear a particular player's jersey. SCOLA has all the necessary qualities.
A year ago, the Rockets had a significant hole at the power forward position. Chuck Hayes and Juwon were serviceable, but just not enough for the Rockets to succeed in the playoffs. This year... everything is different. At the end of January, Rick ADELMAN put Luis SCOLA into the starting lineup at power forward. The Rockets have not looked back since. Those first 22 games with SCOLA as a starter were all wins. All of them. In a row. SCOLA is everything the Rockets needed in a power forward: size, skill, hustle, defense and attitude. The Rockets surprised everyone by winning 55 games, even with YAO Ming missing more than a quarter of the season. Luis SCOLA is the common denominator.

What do I expect to see from SCOLA and the Rockets in the playoffs? Well, we face Utah (again). So we get to see precisely how much the Rockets improved over a year ago. The Jazz, are essentially the same team as last year. The Rockets are missing YAO, but have SCOLA, Carl LANDRY and Bobby JACKSON as prime players. SCOLA is a grinder, and that fits right in with Shane BATTIER, Chuck HAYES and Dikembe MUTOMBO. I expect SCOLA to be the 2nd option on offense and the best rebounder in the entire series. Which I think will go the full 7 games... only this time - Tracy McGRADY wins that ever elusive playoff series. And he'll have Luis SCOLA to thank.

With that said, let me just end this article on the one last player that is left to talk about. Just who am I referring to? For some of us, he is known as El Guerero but for most of you out there he is Walter HERRMANN.

If there is one team that is capable of stopping the Boston Celtics it has to be the Detroit Pistons. No offense to others as my preferred team on the East has to be the Raptors. Their regular season record of 59-23 is even better than the Los Angeles Lakers. With the likes of “Need4Sheed” WALLACE, Richard Hamilton and Chauncey BILLUPS doing their thing, they should make it to the Conference Finals again. In recent games, coach Flip SAUNDERS decided to give his bench some time-playing and their responded with positive results.

But my main concern on this team is Walter HERRMANN, who will be going to the play-offs for the first time in his NBA career. From a Bobcats he became a Bad Boy. I'm still surprise on Charlotte decisions to sell him considering the way he flourished for them towards the end of last season. Going to Detroit wasn't really a good idea as he will in the pecking order behind Tayshaun PRINCE and Jarvis HAYES. But if you look at the stats, he does seems to contribute something despite of his limited time playing.

So big the question for the play-off will be, is that how much are going to see him in action against the 76ers? I will not be surprise that he might be place under the inactive list. But as SAUNDERS has already mentioned that he will not hesitate to use him if needed. So we will just keep our fingers cross for the time being.

With all that, so let the play-offs begin. I know can't really wait for this happen considering the number of mouth watering series that will take place. I would also like to give a big shout out and special thanks to Sam and Dream Shaker crew for their contribution. Really appreciated it. Good luck to all your respective teams.


coach said...

the spurs will lose to the suns in the 1st rd.....and so is the rockets to the jazz !
as to the raps , it's 50/50 !

nbaroundtable said...

Nice preview, I'm really looking forward to how all this plays out. I'm looking in Scola's direction with the most anticipation. It's too early to call him part of a "big three". He's had a great rookie season and he's certainly capable of a lot more (I actually expected more from him this season), but I'd like to see that happen first. Sticking with a Rick Adelman related analogy, I think he (Scola) can be the Vlade Divac to his Chris Webber (Yao Ming). I don't think Houston have much of a chance without Yao, they just don't have enough firepower to stick with Utah. I expect Scola to put together his best performance of the season though!

I don't know what to make of Oberto's playoff chances. I think he's grossly underrated player who's one of the most inelligent big men in the league. He does great things for San Antonio's ball movement with his passing and movement off the ball. Hard nosed rebounder too. But he hasn't matched up well against Shaq or Amare in the past. I'm not sure if we'll see the usual quality from him.

I don't expect to see Hermann play. He's more of an insurance policy for Detroit. He'd be a great fit in San Antonio next season (replace Horry/Bonner), I'd love to see that happen.

Delfino is huge for the Raptors. They don't have a top second scoring option so it's very important their role players get involved and put the ball in the basket. They'll need a big performance from Delfino to win.

Ginobili will be Ginobili. I rate him as the second best shooting guard in the league (behind Kobe). He's got to face Raja Bell though, Raja plays him tougher than anybody else in the league but class always comes through.

It's going to be fun, let the games begin.

metzeger said...

interesting perspective... delfino is a key player for the raps having been here many times with detroit before

Carolyn said...

I'll be your Cavs friend!

Cavs in 6.

Maynard and or Lando and or Bada said...

Hey man, this blog is awesome. Anywho, I'm predicting a Celtics vs. Spurs series in the Finals. Since the West is so incredibly touch I think whoever comes out from it will probably be too exhausted to topple the Celts. Won't that be somewhat ironic? The West is tougher than it has ever been and someone from the lowly East takes home the title, lol.

Maynard and or Lando and or Bada said...

I meant tough*, obviously, lol

Dominique said...

Manu Ginobili just proved that no matter his hair loss and his refusal to shave his head, he is one of the biggest player in the NBA when it matters the most.
Kobe & Lebron are the best.
Manu is not far from their level as far as competitiveness is concerned.
Duncan's shot for the overtime was great, but Gino dished it to him, and Gino was also the one who killed the Mavs with his nearly buzzer beater.

Manu for president !!

Rick Morris/ said...

Really enjoyed your preview and thanks for letting us know about it in the comments at our blog, The FDH Lounge! I agree with my fellow Cavs fan in the comments above, Cavs in 6 and we are on our way after today! Word of warning if we get the Spurs in The Finals again: tell Tony the Frenchy and Manu Manu that Big Ben will be waiting for them in the low post with his 'fro and a wicked pair of elbows the first time they try to take it to the hole :-)


Anonymous said...

hello. i really appreciate you commenting in my blog but you have mentioned anything that i wrote. anyhow, i think you are right about the fact that the only team to knock out the celtics is the pistons. i would want the cavs to go up against the celtics and and then go on to face the pistons in the eastern conference finals. i know you are cheering for the spurs but trust me, they wont be able to keep up with the suns this time. i want the suns to go all the way, past the lakers and the celtics. i really am voting for the suns. reply back for concerns or questions! thank you!

Time Intact said...

The Spurs-Suns game was nothing less than sheer drama today - what an INSANE game. I won't lie, it stung like hell to watch the Suns lose this one though. They HAVE to beat the spurs this round otherwise it's going to another indelible mark.

I can't even begin to explain how excited I am for my Raptors' playoffs to start in about 12 hours: I really hope they play some shred of defense..and a crazy matchup in this series: Sam Mitchell vs Stan Van Gundy: :SSSSSS

nbaroundtable said...

The Suns-Spurs game was incredible.

Oberto came up big for the Spurs especially on that game tying three. At 6-10 he gives them a great inbounding passer, someone skilled enough (passing, decision making) and big enough to see over the top and make sure they get the ball in. As soon as he delivered it to Manu, he dropped a big screen to get Michael Finley a great look from three. Overtime. He did a good job on the backboards throughout.

Manu Gibobili is ridiculously skilled. After Parker fouled out they left him at the point guard, and let him run the team against Steve Nash. Nash had the Suns offense rolling. Manu didn't miss a beat, running the Spurs offense to perfection and outplaying Nash to the win. Clutch baskets by Manu. Great game.

Tim Duncan was another level. That's the best game I've seen all year.

khandor said...

Having been to Argentina myself and seeing first-hand just how good the best players from this country actually are I thoroughly enjoyed reading your perspective on the 1st Round of the Playoffs this year, focussing on the exploits of the '5 PrimeTime Argentines' ... hey, kinda like the sound of that!

What the basketball world still has yet to understand is just how good that team was which won the Silver Medal at the 2002 Worlds and the Gold Medal at the 2004 Olympics ... with outstanding players like Ginobili, Scola, Oberto, Nocioni, Sanchez, Wolkowyski, Delfino, Montecchia, etc.

If the Lakers DO NOT get Andrew Bynum back, at full strength, by the time they reach the Western Conference Finals vs the Spurs ... then San Antonio will finally get its chance at a 'repeat' championship vs the Boston/Detroit winner.

Will the Spurs be good enough this year to pull off the back-to-back against a quality opponent like the Celtics/Pistons, after playing as many as 21 incredibly hard-fought games against 3 high calibre teams in the Western Conference Playoffs, before even reaching the NBA Finals?

Only time will tell ... but it's going to a h*lluva ride ... of outstanding basketball (like yesterday's game vs Phoenix ... WOW!) - until we get there.

Only in the NBA ... Where amazing happens! ... and, "I Love This Game!", really do come true.

khandor said...

... and, BTW ... please feel free to drop by for a visit at any time.

Adriano Ratto said...

Nice preview.
But I think the Rockets will lose to the Jazz. Deron Williams is the third best PG in the league (behind Nash and Paul).
He and Boozer are the best players in this series (T-Mac third).
As for the Spurs-Suns series, it's totally unpredictable.
Manu is Spurs' MVP, Duncan is Duncan. For Phoenix, Nash and Amare are NBA's best 1-2 combo.
So, the difference will be Shaq and Tony Parker.

ArMas said...

thanks for the comment pal... i guess my teams are hanging on the ropes right now: rockets, suns, dallas... dalls was eliminated.. T_T