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EAST BEATS WEST?
Posted by Rob Peterson on March 22 2004 2:15 p.m. ET

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

My, my, my. How the times have changed.

Earlier in the season, some were suggesting that the NBA re-seed the playoffs regardless of conference.
-- Click and Roll, Nov. 11, 2004; Houston Chronicle

"... The longer that the Eastern Conference remains the junior varsity, the more steam the concept will get. The NBA might have to play around with its new six-division format for a while. But a real realignment might have to eventually be considered."
-- Houston Chronicle
Four months later, check out the spate of "Hey, you know what? The East's top teams aren't that bad" articles, including, to his credit, one from Jonathan Feigen, who wrote the preceding paragraph in the Houston Chronicle:

Houston Chronicle: League compass no longer points West

SI.com's Marty Burns: It's not crazy to think the Pacers or Pistons can win it all

Philadelphia Inquirer: East's best rate a little love, too

And finally, the Pistons make their way to the top of ESPN.com's most recent power rankings.
ESPN.com

The Pistons and their near-perfect play of late has helped change the perception of the East's best teams as weak sisters. Detroit has won eight straight, 12 of its last 13 and held a record five teams to less than 70 points at the beginning of the eight-game streak.
-- NBA.com

Add to that, no team in the West, right now, is playing consistently great basketball.
-- Contra Costa Times

That, and every team has its flaws.
-- SI.com

Still, in the NBA, respect is tangible. We can talk about it and argue about who deserves it now with 12 games left in the regular season, but at the end of the Finals, 12 men will have earned the right to wear that respect on their ring fingers.

This season, there's a greater chance of those ring fingers belonging to the members of an Eastern Conference team.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

I saw a great movie this weekend: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
-- Rottentomatoes.com

To make a long, complicated and moving story short, there's a firm -- Lacuna Inc. (there's even a web site for the fake firm) -- in the movie that can erase a person's memories (often unpleasant) of a specific person or event or both.

Milwaukee Bucks fans may want to look into scheduling an appointment with Lacuna. They've seen this movie before.

That movie unspooled in front of them in 2002, when at 31-22 the Bucks were tied for first with the Pistons in the Central Division. Six weeks later, the Bucks had fallen not only out of first but also from the playoffs altogether.

Cut back to 2004. Picked by many to be the worst team in the East this season, the Bucks thumbed their collective noses at the experts by racing to a 33-27 after a win at Orlando on March, good for the fifth seed in the East and within sniffing distance of home-court advantage in the first round.

Alas, as of today, the Bucks have lost seven of their last eight and five in a row and some of those losses have been muy feo.

-- They blew a 20-point second-quarter lead to the Sixers, losing 97-92 on March 8.

-- They blew a 26-point third-quarter lead to the Knicks, at home, losing 103-100 on March 14.

-- Losing by one-point at home to Portland on a last-second shot by Damon Stoudamire. (Strangely enough, Stoudamire hit a last-second shot to sink the Bucks in Milwaukee in 2002 as well.)
-- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

-- On Saturday in Phoenix, the Bucks lost by 12 (and it wasn't that close) the night the Suns placed Charles Barkley in their Ring of Honor.
-- Suns.com

-- On Sunday, the Bucks fought hard, but fell by one to the Lakers in L.A. in overtime.

How Murphy's Law is it for the Bucks right now? On their way to the STAPLES Center, their bus broke down.
-- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Maybe Bucks coach Terry Porter (and the two other UW-Stevens Point alums in the NBA, former Blazers GM Bob Whitsitt and referee Blaine Reichelt) can take solace that his alma mater won the Division III national title on a last-second shot.
-- D3Hoops.com

Still, Bucks fans, maybe you should hold off on the Lacuna appointment for now. As the movie poigniantly notes, erasing all of your memories from a bad experience would also smudge out the moments that made it so very special in the first place. For example, Bucks fans, here are some of the wonderful things that have happened to your team so far this season:

-- Michael Redd made his first All-Star Game and that East coach Rick Carlisle thought enough of Redd to give him the last shot of the game

-- Porter is still a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate

-- GM Larry Harris made some deft moves -- hiring Porter, signing Brian Skinner, trading for Keith Van Horn

And despite the five-game skid, the desultory nature of the Eastern Conference has kept the Bucks in the race and in the fifth seed.

Case in point, the Bucks have lost only one-half game on the fourth-seeded Hornets. One New Orleans columnist thinks it's about time the Hornets step it up and make a solid run for home-court advantage in the first round.
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune

Still, with Miami having won five in a row and New York and Cleveland closing in, the Bucks need to get a move on it.

FOUL PLAY

To hack away or not to hack away, that has been the question facing some coaches at the end of recent close games.
-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

To eliminate the hand-wringing about such situations, I propose a change. No one will listen, but I'll propose it anyway. Never hurts to ask. Or to run it past my boss. Check out this IM exchange:

Rob: I'm actually suggesting a rules change in Click and Roll.
Boss: That being?
Rob: Under a minute in the fourth quarter, anyone fouled outside of the three-point line gets three foul shots, not two.
Boss: For what reason?
Rob: That way a team is punished for not playing defense and just taking the foul. Why, if you are trying to tie or win the game with a three should you be penalized if someone tackles you 28-feet from the hoop to prevent you from getting a shot off?
Boss: Too penalizing if a game is tied and a team is just trying to D up.
Boss: I've seen the make the first free throw, miss the second, get the rebound, score. It happens enough to know that the foul is not a gimme.
Rob: See, I don't think it's too penalizing. Most of the time it's [the foul] deliberate and I think teams should pay for that scheme.
Boss: I think it sounds wackier than Dick Vitale after he's been cooped up in the studio with Digger for 4 days...
Boss: Can you make sure to get this one in there, too?
Boss: This one

First, Kerr and now this. "This one" is a story about how Kobe Bryant is weighing his options after this season.
-- Los Angeles Times (Registration required)

But, back to our regularly scheduled debate. Allow me to reiterate. We can use the one-minute mark in the fourth as the point of demarcation such as the NFL does with the two-minute warning. Ready? OK, here goes.

-- Any offensive player with the ball who is fouled anywhere on the floor behind the three-point line with one-minute or less remaining in regulation and subsequent overtime periods shall be awarded three foul shots.

So, instead of punishing an offensive team that is trying to tie or win the game with a three isn't at a disadvantage because one of their guys is hammered 28-feet away from the hoop.

Of course, we want to know what you think. E-mail Click and Roll and let us know whether you agree with me or the boss man.

TIP-INS

Look! Crazy uncle Charles has made it to the Knicks family reunion in Houston. As Oakley notes, someone needs to bring some barbecue. Mmm... barbecue!
-- Houston Chronicle

He's out. No, wait, he's in.
-- Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune (Registration required for Trib)

Uh oh. 'Melo made like A.I. on Friday night. Kids these days, so impressionable. On Saturday, he apologized.
-- Denver Post

Sick of those "ThunderStix"? Here's the guy you want.
-- Seattle Times

Which guys have "in the gym" (once he's in the gym, he can hit a shot from anywhere) range? Two words: Brent Barry.
-- Seattle P-I

Will Rasheed help the Pistons and the East get the last laugh this season?
(Allen Einstein
NBAE/Getty Images)

2003-04 ARCHIVE
March 15 -- Very Scary Bears
March 8 -- Sick and Tired
March 1 -- West Side Story
Feb. 24 -- Surfing the Nets
Feb. 17 -- City of Angles
Feb. 13-15 -- All-Star Blog
Feb. 9 -- Git Up, Git Out
Feb. 2 -- Lobbying for L.A.
Jan. 26 -- Midwest is Best
Jan. 19 -- More Central
Jan. 12 -- Grand Central
Jan. 8 -- Starbury Time
Dec. 29 -- American Rookies
Dec. 22 -- The Greatest Gift
Dec. 15 -- Hail the Kings
Dec. 8 -- Spurs Sportsmen
Dec. 1 -- Holiday Exchange
Nov. 24 -- Hive Talkin'
Nov. 17 -- Clip and Save
Nov. 10 -- Short People

BACKCOURT
The week that was:
March 17: Hawks stun Mavs
March 20: Big win for the Grizz
March 21: Vince hits for 42
March 21: Shaq: 31-26

FRONTCOURT
The week that will be:
March 23: Spurs at Wolves, again (NBA TV, 8 ET)
March 24: Mavs at Pacers, another Indy test (ESPN, 8 ET)
March 24: Kings. Lakers. Be there. (ESPN, 10:30 ET)
March 26: Wolves at Lakers, always fun (ESPN, 10:30)

THE NUMBER
69.375 -- Points per game average for the Pistons' opponents during Detroit's eight-game win streak

WEEKLY KERR
My boss likes Steve Kerr's Yahoo! column. I like my job. Here's this week's link to Steve's piece on ... Hey, wait a minute! What's this? The East has a chance? (Thanks for jumping on the bandwagon, Steve.)

'ROUND THE GLOBE
Want to know how hoop is being played around this little blue marble?

Check out what our intrepid international bloggers -- Rafael Alique, Yaron Talpaz and Joaquin Henson -- had to say this week in the NBA Blog Squad.

PLAYOFF ROSTER
Congratulations to Sacramento and to Detroit, both of whom clinched spots in the 2004 NBA Playoffs. Now, it's three down, 13 to go.

Date clinched -- Team
March 5 -- Indiana
March 17 -- Sacramento
March 18 -- Detroit