Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Semis After Game 2, P2

How is the West? I think the Thunder are holding up. Marc Gasol had an unbelievable game one, and I feel he was the real difference in that game. I can't believe that he will continue to be the hero. Zach Randolph has been on a tear, but cooled in game two and I don't know if he'll be as consistently dominant as he was in the Spurs series, not if Ibaka is healthy (though Zach Randolph has proven a lot of people wrong). Durant has been his usual terrific self. I think the key for the Thunder is Russell Westbrook's play. Lots has been said about his decision making, especially how he often makes up his mind before a play instead of letting it come to him. I don't blame him; he's young and unlike Paul or Rose, he's not the unquestioned star on his team.

The real shocker is LA. I predicted that they wouldn't be able to stop Barea. I predicted that Kobe might not be uber-dominant, though I didn't know he would have ankle problems or that Kidd would defend him. I predicted that Dirk would be great. I did not predict that Dirk would be a monster. Outside of the 2006 Spurs series, where Dirk said to himself: "screw it, nobody on this team can defend me," I haven't really seen Dirk this way. Usually it's the "I know I can score and get good shots but I'll pick my spots and eventually get mine." In this series, Dirk has evolved into the transcendent player I know he is, with his "I am going to score until the Lakers, their coach, and the crowd are scared to death of me and will overplay all of my squad mates just to see me without the ball. And I will still score."

I thought that LA could defend him. Gasol has continued to disappear. Odom has sunk to a whole new level after receiving that nice sixth-man award. Bynum has had good stretches but disappeared in the second half of game two. Brown, Barnes, and Blake have been wretched. Artest is suspended. Fisher can't stay on the floor defensively. Bryant has been efficient, but if there's one series where he needs to jack shots, it's this one.

So LA has problems. But I want to give the Mavs all the credit. They knew they would have trouble on the boards, but battled anyway. They came out fighting. When the starters went out, they continued to scrap. Dirk has been on the floor a lot. They have pushed the pace and are close to pushing the Lakers out of the playoffs.

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