Playoff observations: Billups not acting his age in sparking Denver
Five NBA playoff observations from the night that featured heroes better suited to a
Billups is 32 years old, which could earn him a few jabs as "Grampa'' among the coltish point guards running free through this first week of NBA playoffs. I'm pleading guilty as charged, too, because when a radio host rattled off the names of the game's new breed Wednesday --
The correct answer, though, might have been g) none of the above. Billups wasn't on the sports yakker's list and I didn't catch it, which might be one small example of what has the Denver Nuggets' point guard so darn driven through two playoff games this spring. At 32, Billups is a generation removed from most of the point guards cited above. What he has done for the Nuggets, though, is as impressive and as invaluable as anything the kiddie corps has pulled off. We need not even go to his résumé for the All-Star invites, the Finals MVP trophy or, of course, the ring.
In leading Denver to a 2-0 lead over New Orleans, Billups has outscored Paul 67-35, picked apart the Hornets' defense and, in a dozen ways, led this talented but playoff-challenged Denver club in ways it hasn't been led before. His best work Wednesday night came in the third quarter, after he already had scored 18 by halftime. There was a pull-up jumper in transition to reward
Oh, and Billups is 19-of-19 from the foul line through the two games, with nary a turnover.
Factor in the play and likely fate of the team that shed him back in November, the Detroit Pistons, and there's no one who deserves to gloat and drop an "I told ya so'' like Billups right now. Which, true to his nature, he won't.
Miller, if he were being honest, would have to credit Lee for the defensive work he did in the Magic's 96-87 victory (
No wonder a handful of NBA execs were burning up the phone lines on draft night last year, trying to beg, buy or steal an extra first-round slot to grab Lee. His clear-eyed work at the task put before him was a man's performance, especially with
That's not meant as a knock on the Heat's rookie forward at all; Beasley contributed 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench in Miami's 108-93 series-evener (
Haslem was at his best down the stretch, immediately after the Hawks had pulled within 94-89. First, he hit a jumper from the right side with 4:35 left. Next trip down, Haslem scored from the right elbow. And at 101-91, he got an offensive rebound that chewed up clock on the increasingly frustrated Hawks.
In Atlanta, it was Spirit, the Hawks' mascot -- which happens to be a real live hawk rather than some furry or inflated man-stuffed character -- dominating the proceedings for a spell when he strayed from his usual pregame flight pattern. Spirit veered onto a camera atop one of the shot clocks and delayed the game briefly until he could be coaxed to his handler.
Later in Denver, the Birdman of Altitude,