Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Randomization: 05/24/06

Things I'd rather do than watch "Karaoke Idol" tonight.
--> Stuff my mouth full of nails
--> Detach my own retina
--> Blow my nose with sandpaper
--> Watch tapes of injuries suffered over the years by Joe Theismann, Napoleon McCallum, and Moises Alou
--> Eat a pocketknife
--> Lick a flagpole in -30 weather

I'm sure there are more, but this should be sufficient for you to get the point. I'm not going to make the crack about more people voting for one karaoke performer or the other than we have voting in the presidential election, because unlike "Karaoke Idol", the presidential election actually requires the ability to read.

NBA West Finals preview. First off, congratulations to the NBA for what has been a rather entertaining playoff year. It's not your fault that the Eastern Conference sucks. I think it's the poor influence cast on the whole conference by Isiah Thomas. And that influence extends to their conference final series, which pits the Heat against the Detroit Pistons. It won't be as bad as Cleveland-Detroit, or those old-school Heat-Knicks playoff series that I like to make fun of. But it will be bad, especially in comparison to the series in the West.

I really like this Phoenix-Dallas matchup. I like it so much that I don't think it's a stretch to say that there will be times that these games are more entertaining than the Buffalo-Carolina hockey games that this series will be head-to-head against. It's sad for hockey, as an entertaining NBA playoff series is the last thing the NHL needs to have to worry about right now. But it's good for basketball.

Two teams that have excellent speed, skill, and perimeter shooting. Two teams that like to push the tempo. Two teams that have superstar influence (Nowitzki and Nash).

And Mark Cuban.

You can't beat this combination for entertainment. If these teams play to their ability, the series should go six or seven games, and if it does, it will go down as one of the most entertaining playoff series the NBA has seen in nearly 20 years.

As for the matchup, you almost have to let Nash and Nowitzki cancel each other out, even though Nowitzki does more for his team than Nash does his (evidence: Phoenix won twice in their conference semifinal series against the Clippers when Nash played poorly; Dallas wouldn't be here if Nowitzki played poorly as often as Nash has). Dallas' smallball lineup, which gave San Antonio fits, won't help them as much here, because the Suns are also adept at that brand of basketball. But who has the better supporting cast?

Phoenix has Shawn Marion, playing crazy minutes and averaging a 20-10 so far; Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, and Boris Diaw, all of whom average between 14.5-16.4 points per game in the playoffs, while Bell is their top defender; and Tim Thomas, who got cut early in the season by Chicago and inexplicably sat at home for more than half the season before Phoenix picked him up.

Dallas has Jason Terry, who is at almost 20 points per playoff game and leading his team in assists when he's not punching opposing players in the "groin"; Josh Howard, a good rebounder and shooter who is currently hitting for almost 16.5 points per game in the playoffs; Jerry Stackhouse, who has emerged as a solid role player for the Mavericks; young point guard Devin Harris, a Wisconsin product (Harris was a huge factor in the San Antonio series after he was inserted as a starter for Game 2); and DeSagana Diop, a big man who virtually disappeared from the NBA after being a lottery pick out of high school, yet he was somehow a huge factor in Dallas' Game 7 win. Dallas will also use Keith Van Horn and Erick Dampier to provide the occasional "big" presence, though I would imagine their roles will be diminished, as will Diop's, in this series.
I think Dallas has a bit more depth, but Phoenix is a more explosive team. This is a tough call, but I'll take Dallas, going back to Nowitzki (I guess I lied when I said he and Nash cancelled each other out) and the level he is playing at right now, which is out of this world. I also really like Terry and Howard against Phoenix's defense. I think the Mavericks will need the full seven games, but they will advance to their first NBA Finals.

And I don't really care who comes out of the East. I want Dallas to win, if for no other reason so I can see David Stern give the O'Brien Trophy to Mark Cuban.

I don't understand this. I get that people want Barbaro to make as close to a full recovery as possible after his leg injury in the Preakness. And I'm with those folks. I'm fully in favor of Barbaro living a long life on some stud farm somewhere and making his owners many, many dollars doing nothing but having sex with hot young horses. That's the way to live.

But do these people realize that Barbaro can't read? Do they think someone is printing these, taking them to his stall, and reading them to him at night?

"Josephine Adams, of Nimrod, Minnesota, says 'I have prayed for you every night, Barbaro. I'm thrilled to hear your recovery is going well. All the best to you, and may you get the chance to breed.'"

And if someone really is doing this, do you think the horse reacts to the various messages?

(Speaking of the horse reacting to things since his surgery, I was heartened to hear that Barbaro was taking interest in nearby mares on Monday. Good to know that he can be horny after such a major operation.)

Instant classic in Edmonton. Just loop the third period alone and show it for a day on ESPN Classic. Four goals for each team, and Anaheim almost rallying from a 4-0 deficit when all looked lost? Perfect. Too bad no one was watching.

The Ducks deserve a lot of credit. I know that we are prone to saluting teams for "trying hard" or "giving a good effort" or "putting up a fight". But the Ducks were down 4-0 in the third period in a tough building, and facing a 3-0 series deficit that would be almost impossible to come back from. And they showed more fight than some teams did when the deficit wasn't nearly as daunting (see: "Jose, San" and "Rangers, New York"). Good for the Ducks. The character they showed on Tuesday night will carry them a long way in future playoff runs.

I tip my cap to their leadership guys, Scott and Rob Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, Todd Fedoruk, and others. The veterans on that team really showed the way last night, even though their valiant comeback fell short. I'm not going to sit here and predict a series comeback for Anaheim, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they at least forced a fifth game in their building on Saturday night.

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