Thanks, David. If the Thunder would have won, I think most of us would have rooted for them in the WCF and beyond. I know I did last year.
As for the Spurs, I think they're going to be a tougher opponent for the Griz than either the Clips or the Thunder. They're a more complete team with multiple contributors and both good bigs and guards. They execute their offense better than any team in the league. And they have 3 hall of fame players, arguably the best coach coach in the league, and a desire to revenge that playoff series loss to the Griz from two years ago.
As for player match-ups, it couldn't be much closer:
Gasol versus Duncan is a toss up.
Zbo versus Splitter should favor the Griz, but Splitter gave Zbo fits in the regular season, so this is a match-up to watch (of course, Collison gave Zbo fits in the regular season too, and we saw how that played out in the series against the Thunder).
Prince versus Leonard is another interesting match-up. Leonard is clearly the better player. He's a more dynamic scorer, a better rebounder, more athletic, and he is nearly as good as Prince on the defensive end, if not equal to him. But Prince has a lot more experience, an elite level BBIQ, and he doesn't have to chase around the world's best offensive player all series long.
Allen versus Green favors Allen simply because Green's offensive game isn't dynamic enough to counterbalance Allen's All-NBA level defense. However, this match-up may be similar to the Allen versus Sefalosha match-up in that neither player will guarding one another.
Conley versus Parker has historically favored Parker, at least in the regular season. If Conley can or tie this match-up it would be huge.
As for the bench, the Griz bench bigs versus the Spurs bench is pretty much a wash. Arthur from two years was by far the best bench big, but he hasn't been the same player since the injury. On paper Davis is the best bench big on either team and would have the most value in a trade. But it's not clear whether he'll even get playing time. For the Spurs, Blair could be useful in spurts as a kind of Reggie Evans type player. The same with Bonner, who may be not be a factor but could be used to force the Griz out of what they want to do on defense. And Diaw can be a pest with his passing and outside shooting. I say even.
The Griz bench guards versus the Spurs bench guards is also pretty close, but the Spurs should be favored given that one of their bench guards is Manu Ginobli.
I still haven't figured out my pick, but I think whoever wins will do so in 7 games
Beat a 56 win team and 60 win team without home court advantage in either series. With or without Westbrook, that's impressive.
Let's hope GSW-SAS goes 7
As far guarding KD goes, there's no easy answer. The best the Griz can do -- or any team for that matter -- is make him work for his points and make him uncomfortable. With that said, I think that Tony Allen should guard KD late in games, as in game 2, and periodically throughout the game -- e.g., at end of quarters. And when he's not guarding KD, I'd like to see him on Martin. I know Bayless defended Martin relatively well last night, but Martin is the kind of player who once he gets started, he's hard to stop. And given the injury to Westbrook, stopping Martin is key in this series.
Actually, one adjustment Hollins could make if needed is to start either Quincey or Bayless instead of Allen. Both Qpon and Bayless can space the floor, and a defender of Allen's caliber isn't needed to defend Sefalosha. This way, Allen can be used when Martin enters the game.
Regarding Collison, I don't expect him to be as big of a factor as he was 2 years. Two years ago the Thunder could afford to have him and Perkins on the floor at the same. They had plenty of scoring with Westbrook, KD, and Harden. But with Westbrook out and Harden playing in Houston, Brooks can't afford to play Collison, a non-scorer, as much as he might want unless he's on the floor with Ibaka, the only Thunder big who can score. The problem, however, is that despite all the talk from some about Ibaka being DOPY, Ibaka isn't a particularly good one-on-one defender, and he certainly can't guard Gasol as well Perkins.
I disagree. Hollins has been pretty close to brilliant in this series. Even game 1 was more about rebounding (and officiating/foul trouble) than coaching. And game 2 was more about free throws. If the Griz win, he deserves a ton of credit, not to mention a new contract and a large raise.
If it were not for injuries, Noah may have won it. He was most deserving in the amount of time he played. But Marc was next in line, and was healthy all season.
As for Ibaka, he's overrated. He's improved, but his one-on-one defense is only slightly above average. He's definitely not a defensive stopper.
The Clippers are the clear favorite in this series, and maybe that's a good thing. The Griz know they have little room for error and individual players will have to step up. There's no home court crutch to fall on, which may explain in part the loss in game 1 and 7 last season and the loss to the Clippers last Saturday.
It's all about the playoffs, and it always has been in my view -- at least the first round and especially if the Griz have home court again. The same goes for the national narrative surrounding the Rudy trade and probably whether or not Zbo is moved in the off-season. If the Griz win in the first round, Hollins will be back without question. the guys in the Front Office will look like geniuses for trading Rudy, and Zbo, depending on his playoff production, will be back for another season. If not, nobody will be safe, as the old questions will resurface and we'll see another round of the blame game.
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By Hannah Sayle, Chris Herrington, Chris Shaw, Louis Goggans, Greg Akers, Bruce VanWyngarden, Jackson Baker and John Branston
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