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May 23, 2005

Conference finals a tale of two styles

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
As the NBA Conference Finals start up this week, the Eastern and Western Conference games will not only feature different geographic locations, but also different styles, both on and off the court. If you like good, fun basketball with guys who just shut up and play, then the Western Finals are for you. If there are no repeats of "One Tree Hill" on, then the Eastern Finals could be passable.

The NBA needs to make some sort of Phoenix Suns instructional video to show to all the other teams in the league to get them to play the same way they do. Even though the Suns lost to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, they forced the normally sluggish walk-it-up Spurs to run with them and score 121 points. The two clubs combined for 235 points, and the game was back-and-forth for all four quarters.

This series comes after Phoenix and Dallas each eclipsed the 100-point mark in all six games of their battle in the second round. And even though the players may not be as electric as some characters in the East, their thrilling style of play speaks for itself.

The Eastern Conference series will feature two teams that allow an average of 92.3 points per game, or 19 points less than the Suns averaged this season. The match up between Shaquille O'Neal and the Detroit Pistons' two-headed monster of Wallace and Wallace should be fascinating, but the tempo of the game will be less `80s retro and more late `90s slow-mo.

League Commissioner David Stern has got to be praying that the Miami Heat knock off Detroit and make the Finals, because at least they're capable of scoring some points. But in this round, the Pistons should be expected to slow the game down considerably, and if Miami wins, they'll have to do it 90-86, instead of 110-106, the way they did with Washington, who ran like a poor-man's Phoenix.

The flashiest displays in the East will likely come in the Press Room after the game. Everyone knows how charismatic O'Neal is in interviews, and Rasheed Wallace and other Pistons are good quotes. What I really want to see is if no-nonsense Ben Wallace puts up with Alonzo Mourning of the Heat, who showed up and insulted his opponents in the playoffs thus far, flexing after every basket and preening around like a big baby.

And nobody's been willing to give him an elbow to the jaw like he deserves, all because he came back from a kidney ailment. I don't care; if you show up your opponent, you should get a People's Elbow in your grill.

But once Wallace decks Mourning, the East really begins to lose its flair. For Detroit you have a team without a major superstar, which holds opponents to 70 points. On Miami, you have Shaq, Dwyane Wade and a bunch of show boaters who haven't won anything, or in Damon Jones' case, been on a team for two years straight. Miami is his ninth team since 1998.

That's why this Western Final should be so great. The goal will be to score a lot of points in a short amount of time. Everyone important in the series is all business out on the floor. Even Amare Stoudemire, when he unleashes a furious power dunk, doesn't prance around the court like he's a king.

Game One in the West was thrilling, and with the Suns avoiding defense like the plague and the Spurs playing as thrilling as they have all season, the next two weeks in the Southwest should be a terrific ride.

And then on nights when the Heat and Pistons are on, you can at least know that you don't need to watch until there's less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter. After all, there will only be about 40 points total scored up until that point.

Mark Tuesday, Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday down on your calendars, because that's when the Suns and Spurs will make real must-see TV. And the nights like tonight, Wednesday and Sunday, when Miami and Detroit are on?

Hey, there are always TiVo'ed episodes of "Date My Mom" to watch instead.



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  • sam on May 24, 2005 at 10:25 PM
    mike, someday youll run out of bad TV shows to make fun of. and then you'll be jokeless, you hear me? JOKELESS!
  • Ravi on May 26, 2005 at 1:53 PM
    Sam, there is an endless supply of bad TV shows for Mike to make fun of.

    And Mike, I'll take defense over offense any day...this should show you that the adage, "defense wins championships," is true.

    The Spurs will most likely sweep the Suns (they've lost something like 3 games each year), and last night was a fluke for the Heat. Don't expect it to happen again.

    I'm really looking forward to a low-scoring, defense-dominated finals series between the Pistons and Spurs.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on May 26, 2005 at 2:29 PM
    Ravi, you're the only one. Trust me; when they show the ratings for the a DET-SA final, there wont even be a ratings number. It'll just say "RAVI" next to it.
  • John on May 26, 2005 at 11:15 PM
    You guys are all nuts.
    it's SA vs Miami.
  • Ravi on June 8, 2005 at 10:47 AM
    Excellent...this will be a series to remember.
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