They were 44-11 before Garnett was injured in February and since then they've gone 18-9 with him playing in bits of four games (3-1). They are a proud team that held off the Magic for the No. 2 seed, and
There is no small urgency to Bynum's mission because the next round will deliver either the highly physical Rockets or the spry Blazers, who have won eight straight at home against L.A. The Lakers are going to reach the Finals, but why take chances? They don't want to feel insecure about Bynum's role and then have those fears exploited in the second round by Houston or Portland.
The obvious answer to this question is the Nuggets, who as the No. 2 seed hold home court through the first two rounds on the easy side of the draw (the side that doesn't involve the Lakers). Denver hasn't won a series in ages, but
Grand Slam tennis tournaments can anticipate with confidence that
I asked an NBA advance scout for his view of these intriguing showdowns.
In order to win the series, Paul likely will have to dominate this matchup -- but Billups isn't going to let that happen.
"I don't think Denver can run those traps in transition," the scout said. "So Paul will have to control the tempo, because if he lets Denver get back and set up defensively, then Denver will be effective defensively. The next thing for Denver is to make sure the Hornets are taking the ball out of the net -- that helps Denver get back defensively."
Which is to say that Billups needn't worry about matching Paul basket-for-basket. As long as Billups is running the Nuggets offensive productively, they can keep Paul out of the open floor and nullify him with trapping defenses.
"Brandon Roy has a lot of help, and they've got a lot more weapons than him. He doesn't have to dominate the ball as much as, say, Paul does for New Orleans. Roy can pick his spots more ... but in the fourth quarter they do look to him to take big shots.
"The Rockets will be very physical with him, and those two guys having 12 fouls between them to use on Roy is going to make it a long day for him. Can Portland win without him having a big series? I guess the answer is that I don't look for them to win. Houston has toughness and size. If the Rockets get [
"Atlanta is such a Jekyll-and-Hyde type team. They can beat anybody and then just look miserable and stupid the next time out. But I think Atlanta can win this series. They've got more weapons -- even
According to Denver coach
It's true that three-pointers lead to long rebounds that can be turned into easy baskets at the other end. But what if the defense can't control the rebound?
"The longer the shot, the more it's a 50-50 rebound," Karl said. "The further it bounces out, the more it becomes a toss-up. What I find is if you have five guys intently rebounding the three -- you're not thinking about [maintaining floor] balance, you're not thinking about get back [on defense], it's just all five looking to rebound -- then it's close to a 50-50 rebound.''
"That scramble rebound when you rebound the three makes it easier to find another three," Karl said. "When you rebound the three, everybody's thinking rebound -- they're not thinking, 'Cover your man' -- so if you get the offensive rebound and you move it quick, you can find another open three."
When you see players chasing long caroms that lead to unpredictable threes, understand that it's all part of a larger strategy.
"If you rebound the three offensively at, say, 40 percent,'' Karl said, "it's by far the best shot in basketball."
It isn't a no-brainer -- the Cavs tend to elevate their play in the postseason, which would be especially impressive coming off 66 wins -- but right now I like the Lakers.