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Posts Tagged ‘Yao Ming’

It's all hugs in Cleveland these days. Though this one's still a little creepy.

It's all hugs in Cleveland these days. Though this one's a little creepy.

Having floated on a marshmallow cloud through the first two rounds of the playoffs, it is reasonable to question how Cleveland will fare when finally tested. The more important question, though, is will they be tested? Atlanta played terribly and Detroit is terrible.  But the upcoming competition isn’t playing up a storm either. Plus, they are now fatigued from battling each other. Cleveland, meanwhile, has yet to play a single superfluous game.

Orlando can’t stop Cleveland and the Celtics won’t. Boston would not have topped Cleveland last year without home-court advantage, and they certainly won’t this year against a Cavs team that has won 43 of 45 home contests this year. KG or no KG, I’m sticking to that statement. No KG, home court won’t even be an issue. Orlando, as well as being weak-willed, does not match well with the Cavs. And they won’t know what to make of all that hustle. The whole team will look like Mo Williams watching Delonte and Kinsey take pictures at Lebron’s MVP ceremony.

How many games can either of these teams take? Two has to be the max, and even that number feels high. One sounds more likely. Zero is totally achievable. Lebron shares the glory with his teammates, not his opponents. Will the Eastern Conference Finals be a test? Only of basketball fans’ abilities to stay awake.

Which leaves us with the NBA Finals as the first potential test for the Cavs. We devoted a whole post to the havoc Houston would wreak on Cleveland. But that was with Yao Ming. The current roster, despite their last performance against LA, is far less scary. Kobe will need every ounce of energy he can muster to fight with Lebron for seven, and given the struggles he still has ahead of him, it is fair to question if he will have enough. And then there is Denver, the hottest team in the West right now. Ask Carmelo how confident he is about squaring off with Lebron every other day for a couple weeks and you won’t have to wait for the long pause, nervous expression, or flop sweat to pass. You’ll already have your answer. That Finals won’t take a couple weeks.

Cleveland is by no means unbeatable. They probably aren’t even the best. But testing them is about more than just favorable match-ups. Cleveland has two things going for them in any series: The best player and the most energy. Thanks to a perfect opening two rounds, Cleveland is perfectly healthy and perfectly rested. The best these others can muster doesn’t appear worthy of Cleveland at their best.  Cleveland can certainly be tested, they can even be beat, but they won’t be.

When the dust finally settles, only Lebron will be left standing.

When the dust finally settles, only Lebron will be left standing.

Posted by BA Brokeass

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"I'm going to eat you later."

"I'm going to eat you later."

Ron Artest came out strong last night, allowing the Rockets to put the Lakers on their heels early.  But it was really the combination of Yao Ming (28pts, 10 reb) and Aaron Brooks (19 points and some good ball-handling) that kept the Rockets going offensively down the stretch.  Aaron Brooks & Yao Ming are like a Crockett & Tubbs for our times.

Unfortunately for those of us hoping for a Kobe-Artest battle, Shane Battier defended Kobe almost exclusively.  And it looks like that might continue for the duration of the series as he did a really good job.  He forced Kobe to settle for jumpers and only sent him to the line twice, resulting in Kobe scoring 32 points, but on 31 shots, and only taking five free throws the entire game.   Battier, and Houston’s great team defense, kept Kobe from taking over the game.  Expect Kobe to be much more aggressive in game 2, driving more often and trying to get to the line more.  But the Rockets did what they had to do – they stole one in LA, taking away the home court advantage, and set the tone for the series.

Late in the first quarter, Shane Battier got his face all jacked up by an inadvertent Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic elbow.  There was blood everywhere.  It was awesome.  Unfortunately, the NBA wants everything to be all cookies and cream up in this mug, so I couldn’t find a good picture of Shane’s bloodied visage.  Instead I bring you bootleg video.  Enjoy:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This reminded me of the first Red Wings game I attended as a young lad in Detroit.  The Red Wings were bad then so fans were pretty much just chanting “Fight!” and “Blood!” the whole game.  Who was I to deny the people what they wanted?  I punched my old dad straight in his grill.  Took that dude out.  Whatever.  The young must rise up and destroy the old.  It’s every generation’s destiny.

And a Tru Warier shall lead them.

And a Tru Warier shall lead them.

Posted by LA Dubbs

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Muscle up, lil’ babies. Western Conference semi-finals: Don’t you ever in your life, when i got a gun, come at me with a knife. A’ight?

(1) LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. (5) HOUSTON ROCKETS

Seven games of this? Yes please!

Love will tear us apart.

BROKEASS: Houston’s got the Lakers?! What?! Oh no.

DUBBS: I know! Our bandwagon team is up against the top dog in the West. I love what Houston did in the first round. Ron found some redemption and with that Houston found its identity. But this ain’t the first round and the Lakers are not the Blazers. Houston will push them but the Lakers are too good. Sorry, Ron. Just stay in the tree of trust and keep your shrink on speed dial.

BROKEASS: Win, lose, or fight the crowd – this is Ron-Ron’s series. He’s back, baby! And he seems saner than ever. This has to be the calm before the storm. Where’s that Ron-Ron insanity we all know and love?!

DUBBS: I think Pau Gasol just dunked it over Yao. Seriously, Pau is gonna give Yao fits. He’s way too fast and light on his feet for that gnarly old tree. And he can draw him away from the basket.

BROKEASS: Yao may not be nimble or quick, but he is a rather large candlestick to jump over. And on offense, well, good luck with that Pau. The Lakers can be beaten. Hell, the Pistons even beat them once.

DUBBS: What’s a Piston? The only advantage Houston has over LA is at the point guard position. Aaron Brooks is gonna make Derrick Fisher and Jordan Farmar look like Shrimp Fest at Red Lobster.

BROKEASS: Cheesy biscuits! On paper, the Lakers seem stronger. And on the basketball court, the Lakers beat the Rockets every time they played this season. But Ron-Ron don’t care about first rounds and he DAMN SURE don’t care about regular seasons or positional matchups. He and Shane Battier will corral and harass Kobe all game long. Ron-Ron is moving in to Kobe’s head as we speak. And Ron-Ron is a noisy guest. A frustrated Kobe equals a tentative, nervous Lakers.

DUBBS: In matchups against guys like Kobe, Ron has a tendency to forget he has teammates and turn it into a game of one-on-one. And Kobe is the only guy in the NBA not afraid of Artest. Houston will try to grind but the Lakers are gonna run on them. LA is too fast, too agile and they have too much firepower. We haven’t even talked about Odom and Ariza. And Phil Jackson has spent his career peeing in Rick Adelman’s kitchen sink. Lakers in 6.

BROKEASS: If LA runs, Houston won’t catch them. But Houston’s aim will be to slow the tempo and test their trapping D against that vaunted Triangle Offense. On offense, pick your poison in the post: Yao, Artest, Scola, Landry. The Lakers softies will be overmatched. A quick PG like your boy A-Brooks will average ten dimes on drop-offs alone. No one can phase Kobe over the course of a single game, but in a series, we have seen him unravel. If that happens against the Rockets, Houston will pounce. I’m saying it, Dubbs! UPSET!!! Houston in 6.

DUBBS: Don’t tell Ron and the rest of the Queensbridge soldiers I fell off the bandwagon so quickly. Big Noyd, we meet you at the top kid! Shout to Cormega!

(2) DENVER NUGGETS VS. (6) DALLAS MAVERICKS

"Put your tongue away, Dirk. You ain't Herr Jordan."

Kenyon laughs at Dirk's Herr Jordan impression.

DUBBS: Did you see that Chauncey Billups received the Joe Dumars Sportsmanship Award last week? That shit’s like rain on a motherfucker’s wedding day, son. Denver is rolling right now but New Orleans rolled over and died on them. They have yet to be tested. This series with Dallas will show us if Denver is for real or not.

BROKEASS: Denver is real. I’ve been there. It’s in Colorado. Oh, you mean as a basketball team. Right, this will test that. But I think they can pass that test. Defense has long been their achilles heel, but Billups has changed that. Scoring was never a problem. This team can now beat you in a variety of ways.

DUBBS: Dallas is coming off of the high of beating their archrival. Chauncey Billups is a much better match-up for Jason Kidd than Tony Parker was. And the Nuggets are starting Dahntay Jones? What the fuck is a Dahntay Jones? Is that the traditional Irish spelling of Dante? Why aren’t they starting JR Smith?

BROKEASS: JR Smith comes off the bench until he learns his lesson from a disciplinary issue four years ago. These are two of the deeper benches in the NBA and the team that best utilizes its reserves will probably win. This will be a battle of JTs and JRs; Carrolls and Kleizas; Birdmen & Balkmen and Basses & Bereas. Gerald Greens. Anthony Carters. You get the picture. A battle of benches.

DUBBS: It’s certainly not gonna be a battle of Centers. Dampier vs. Nene is a wash. I’m not sure who that’s more embarrassing for. Basketball, I guess. Chauncey and J-Kidd may cancel each other out. So it comes down to who’s gonna come up bigger: Dirk or Carmelo. Carmelo is inconsistent. He only had one great game against New Orleans, and he spent the entire series being guarded by the defensive sieve of Peja Stojakovic and the sadness of James Posey. Josh Howard is a much tougher defender. And Dirk, unlike Melo, is consistent. Kenyon can’t take him for seven games.

BROKEASS: Carmelo’s inconsistent scoring hasn’t equalled anything but victories. In years past, Melo’s lack of offensive input spelled automatic doom. But this year he has blended into a balanced offense keyed on enabling the hot hand. His 34 in the N’Orleans closer reminds us that he lives for the big game, even if his pro career hasn’t been prolific with opportunities. If Dirk doesn’t shine, Dallas is probably hopeless. The same is not true of Carmelo and Denver.

DUBBS: Whatever. Carmelo’s head is emptier than the Palace at playoff time. Jason Terry will exploit JR Smith’s awful jigsaw puzzle tattoos. Josh Howard will tempt Birdman with a fattie, getting Birdman kicked out for violating the terms of his reinstatement. Dallas in 7.

BROKEASS: Josh Howard is a Star-Spangled-Banner-hating traitor. If Dallas wins, so do the terrorists. You need to quit siding with anti-American sentiment, Dubbs! Denver in 7 thanks to home court advantage and American pride.

DUBBS: Wait a sec. Dallas has Matt Carroll? Ugh. Can I change my pick?

We’ll be back with our Eastern Conference picks on Monday, assuming Boston and Chicago don’t secede from the NBA and start their own league.

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After Houston disposed of the Blazers in round one, Ron Artest sat down with the press to explain why Tracy McGrady is a puss (read between the lines) and how going into the crowd is different these days:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I love it! Ron don’t give a shit about first round victories. He’s in this for something bigger. Which is probably why they got out of the first round finally. They’ve needed this attitude in Houston for a long time.

If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you’ve probably seen this day on the horizon. But it has arrived. We here at AF4D are officially on the Houston Rockets bandwagon and we are riding it all the way to Upset Village. Bring on Kobe. Bring on Lebron.

You heard of us. Official Queensbridge murderers.

Best. Picture. Ever.

Best. Picture. Ever.

Posted by LA Dubbs

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Dunkmaster Flex

Dunkmaster Flex

Before the Playoffs began, I made the argument that Cleveland was so much better than everyone in their conference that they deserved a First Round bye. In watching the Cavs series against the Pistons, I realize they got one. And unless the rest of the East is playing possum, it appears no one else is going to challenge the supremacy of Lebron & Sons either (cue the Fennis Dembo Curse).

No one out west has done much to debunk the theory that the Lakers can already be penciled in as Cleveland’s opponent. But that match-up is so marketable and obvious it kills me. Literally. Lakercavitis is a painful killer that affects one in five basketball fans, and can be spread through anal sex and blogging.

I’m just not ready to concede the NBA to Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Ready or not, that might be coming. But I have no intention of wasting valuable blog space on the sadly inevitable. Instead, let’s imagine the worst possible scenario for Lebron. That, my friends, would be this man:

"Lebron who? Sorry, I don't follow basketball."

"Lebron who? Sorry, I don't follow basketball."

The NBA is all about matchups. Look at Atlanta vs. Boston last year or Utah vs. Detroit since the beginning of time. No opponent should strike more fear in the hearts of Cav fans than Ron-Ron’s Rockets. In Houston’s 93-74 February home win, not only did they hold Cleveland to their lowest point total of the season, they kept James from dishing even one assist for the first time in his career and BROKE BEN WALLACE’S LEG!

I know what you’re thinking: Yao can’t hang with an agile 7-footer like Big Z for seven games. You’re right. No match-up is perfect. Obviously, I’m kidding. Yao is cumming hoisin sauce thinking about a Finals battle against cement-boots Zydrunas. All Yao did in that Houston home win was score 28 on 13 of 15 shooting. That’s only 10% worse than if no one was guarding him!

If Kobe and Lebron end up squaring off at the end, I’ll accept it. But the thought of King James fighting through Artest/Battier double-teams really gets my motor running. Lebron needs an arch-nemesis: A defender that inspires him to work to be better. Not to oversell it, but the next decade of professional basketball hinges on it. You know we’re in trouble when you read these words: Obi-Ron, you’re our only hope.

Posted by BA Brokeass

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Who don't wanna sex Mutombo?

With all the fragile big men in this series, who guessed it would be timeless Dikembe that falls?

The Pacific Northwest is infamous for its rainy seasons, but if you felt rain drops in Portland last night, they may have come from the eyes of a giant. On Tuesday, Houston’s Dikembe Mutombo tearfully said goodbye to his playing days.

He went down jostling for position in the post, just like he had a million times over his eighteen-year career. His leg tangled with that of Greg Oden and something gave out. It could have been either of them, and given Oden’s unfortunate health, one might have predicted it be him. Instead, it was Dikembe, falling for the last time.

“Nobody ever thought they’d be carrying the big guy out like a wounded soldier,” he said. I’m not sure that is true. Dikembe, like most players with more than a healthy supply of passion and heart, could not have left basketball any other way. They had to carry him out just to get him to leave the party.

It seems fitting that Oden was present at Dikembe’s Last Stand. Much has been unreasonably stated about Greg’s potential. He will not be the next Shaq or Kareem or Hakeem, or even Yao. If health and luck permit, he could find himself the second coming of Mutombo. This is no small praise of Greg’s abilities. After Bill Russell, Deke was the greatest defensive center of all-time.

Physiologically-speaking, it never hurt that Dikembe Mutombo was seven feet and two inches tall, with an even wider wingspan. But beyond that, he had an innate gift for tracking the ball quickest. When a shot clanged off the rim, he wasn’t just the highest in the air, he was the first. He didn’t just block a shot on length, he timed it. His patented finger wag was not just a symbol he had bested your body, but your mind.

For the better part of a decade, he was unmatched as a game-changing defender. He was also unmatched as the League’s most lovable large. Perhaps it is Greg Oden’s turn to be both. Their legs and destinies tangled last night, and the Fates decided there could be only one. The last of the old guard has fallen and the new era is fully upon us. Anyone else feel old?

Who doesn't wanna sex Mutombo?

Who wanna sex Mutombo?

Posted by BA Brokeass

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Go West, young man, and grow up with the country. It’s time for our Western Conference picks!

(1) LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. (8) UTAH JAZZ

"Hey, Kobe! Tickle, tickle."

"Ronnie, I said tweak it and blow on it, not palm it!"

BROKEASS: Utah didn’t pick the best time to start playing their worst basketball of the season, but they should be better and I think they will be better. The Lakers clearly are better. In virtually every way. That being said, I think the Jazz are being prematurely written-off. Deron Williams is going to annihilate Derek Fisher and Utah is historically brutal for visiting teams. But those factors will only serve to delay the inevitable. Lakers in 6.

DUBBS: Utah has a lot of talent. And a good coach. And the most awful fans in the League. But they’ve been sucking it lately. And the Lakers are too good – easily the best in the West. Lakers in 4.

BROKEASS: Utah has some chemistry issues, but the playoffs can often resolve that. Ask Rasheed Wallace. Besides, Boozer, Memo, and Millsap need to have strong showings if they hope to earn big free agent paychecks. The Lakers are cocky right now, as the result of too many people declaring them de facto Champions of the West. I think they’re going to be tested.

DUBBS: The Lakers are too deep, too versatile, too good and too Kobe. The Lakers may be tested, but it won’t be by this mötley crüe. A team is not going to have an epiphany and suddenly find themselves while playing a juggernaut like the Lakers. They are going to suddenly find themselves getting crushed. And, as Cleveland found out, if you have to rely on Carlos Boozer, you’re in trouble.

BROKEASS: How dare you? Carlos Boozer is the type of guy you trust with your kids.

(2) DENVER NUGGETS VS. (7) NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

"James, I can feel the baby kicking!"

"James, I can feel the baby kicking!"

DUBBS: Denver can be an up-and-down team. But Chauncey will give them the stability they need in the playoffs. Chris Paul will certainly pose a lot of problems for him but he won’t abuse Le Chaunce the way he did J-Kidd in their matchup last playoffs. And Billups is too big for Paul on the offensive end. He should be able to get what he needs. Mostly, the Hornets are just way too thin. Denver in 5.

BROKEASS: Sure, Mr. Big Shot is nice, but what about Big Game James Posey? I think this series goes to 7 because, while neither team floors me, I like the clutchness of both. CP3 will be singularly good enough to stretch it, but not win it. Carmelo at the buzzer, Denver in 7.

DUBBS: Wow, you’re calling it down to the buzzer!? Neck tattoo to Neck tattoo. I like it. I don’t see it, but I like it. Also, Big Game James has to be the least-maintained nickname since Mr. Big Shot. Carmelo Anthony will roll right over him.

BROKEASS: Fine, forget about the dagger-thrower James Posey. Get ready for the epic resurgence of Tyson Chandler!

DUBBS: They sent Chandler to the OKC Thunder and the Thunder sent him back! They have like three guys on that team. Nothing but roster spots. And they returned his ass! One last reason Denver will win: The Birdman is gonna fly!

(3) SAN ANTONIO SPURS VS. (6) DALLAS MAVERICKS

Who will survive the standing-8 count.

Who will survive the standing-8 count?

BROKEASS: This is one of those series where home-court doesn’t matter. And not just because the teams play down the road from each other. No two teams understand each other better than the Spurs and Mavs and I expect every game to be tightly contested. This battle won’t be as epic as previous ones, but it stands to be one of the better match-ups in a pretty weak crop of first-round pairings. In the end, I am picking San Antonio, because they just don’t know how to lose this early. Plus, my knees creak when I think about what Tony Parker is going to do to J-Kidd. Spurs in 7.

DUBBS: The Mavs are playing well. Dirk is Dirk. Jason Terry is instant offense off the bench. Yes, TP will undoubtedly torch Jason Kidd. But Carlisle has done a good job with Kidd this season. He’s hidden him well enough on D and worked him less on O, so he’s actually shooting the best he has in forever. And Jason Kidd is a lot of things but choke artist isn’t one of them. Ginobli is out. The Spurs ain’t winning without their Big Three. The Mavs have too much firepower. Mavs in 7.

BROKEASS: Dirk is Dirk, yes, for better and worse. Meanwhile, Timmy D is always Timmy D and that equals money in the bank. Rick Carlisle may be able to hide Kidd’s weaknesses, but not his own. Pop will straight-up father him. If these games stay close, and you know they will, are you betting the farm (ranch?) on the provens or the dis-provens? If Dallas was a youthful, athletic team I might pick them against the step-slower Spurs. But Dallas equals San Antonio in decrepitude. They expended too much fuel fighting for that 6 spot, and a half-tank of gas won’t get them out of San Antonio.

DUBBS: First of all, Dallas has beaten San Antonio before. Second, Timmy D ain’t always Timmy D. He’s aging. And without Manu there to extend and break down the defense, Dallas can key in on Duncan a lot more. Are Parker and Duncan gonna run pick-and-rolls every single play? The Spurs have two guys. That’s it. Are you really going to take Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich’s pre-season beard against Dirk, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard and a serviceable bench? And while I would never argue that Rick Carlisle is as good a coach as Popovich, he’s certainly a better coach than Avery Johnson. Everyone keeps saying you’ve gotta pick the Spurs until they lose. Well the Spurs have lost. Their supporting cast, like Manu’s hair, gets thinner every year. (The NBA: Where Zing! Happens.) Until they inject some young blood into that squad to support their Big Three, it’s over.

BROKEASS: You have no idea what Matt Bonner is capable of.

(4) PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS VS. (5) HOUSTON ROCKETS

Fighting in party stores, fighting in the paint.

Big Tree Fall Hard.

DUBBS: I really like Portland. They’re a gutsy young squad, with one of my favorite players in the NBA (Brandon Roy), a guy I really want to see succeed (Greg Oden), and a good, tough coach. But… Houston is a really good defensive team. Ron Artest and Shane Battier are gonna eat these young boys’ lunches. The two-headed power forward beast of Luis Scola and Carl Landry will swallow LaMarcus Aldridge up. And while Yao has trouble against smaller, more agile big men like Amare, he’s gonna play really well against Oden and Joel Pryzbilla. Plus, Tracy McGrady’s out – another point in Houston’s favor. I want Portland to win. But I’m picking Houston. In 7.

BROKEASS: Yao will be the best big man on the court, but Portland has plenty of bodies to throw at him. Przybilla and Channing Frye are lacking individually, but combine to provide a nice complement of skills and fouls. I predict Greg Oden makes serious noise in these playoffs. Let’s not forget, everyone questioned him in college until the Tournament. Then no one questioned him. Some guys are just built for this shit. I think Yao might be the McGrady to Oden’s Tayshaun Prince. Brandon Roy will have difficult match-ups, but is another guy who seems built for the playoffs. He was born with a veteran’s swagger. This should be a solid series; each team holds a few advantages. Portland secured home-court advantage by winning one more home game than Houston, and that will be the same difference in this series. I want Portland to win too…And they will. Blazers in 7.

DUBBS: If Greg Oden were “just built for this shit,” he wouldn’t keep breaking down. Oden is like the reverse Benjamin Button. The matchup between him and Yao is the immobile object vs. the unmoving force. Who will shatter into a thousand pieces first? Seriously, those dudes might break each other. They’re gonna finish the series playing wheelchair ball. Also, nice 2003 Tayshaun vs. McGrady reference. Way to broaden our readership.

BROKEASS: I thought 2003 was relevant in this series, since it was the last time Houston had a point guard. Seriously, who is their PG? Aaron Brooks? Kyle Lowry? Steve Blake is going to own those punks…And that line has never been written ever! This Houston group has never made it out of the first round for good reason: They are always a piece or two short. This year is no different. Of course, if Ron-Ron shows up in rare form (either as a player or an asshole), all bets are off. But I can’t wager on a team with so many question marks.

DUBBS: If Aaron Brooks is given a place at the table, he will eat! It only makes sense that Houston would finally get out of the first round without McGrady. It’ll allow his spiral of depression to continue to run its course. And too much is being made of Portland as the only team in the West that can challenge the Lakers. They haven’t even been in the playoffs since they were the Jailblazers. Jumps like that don’t happen in the NBA. It’s more of a steady progression. And Houston is ready to take that next step.

That’s it for the First Round. Check back throughout the playoffs for more tomfoolery.

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