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Posted by Rob Peterson on April 19 2004 2:30 p.m. ET


Welcome to the NBA Playoffs 2004. Can you feel the love?

About halfway through the first quarter of Game 1 between the Bucks and the Pistons (when the game was close), ESPN cut to a shot of Pistons forward Corliss Williamson and Bucks guard Damon Jones doing the man hug (one arm around the back, right hands clasped, a back pat, a chest bump) before the game.

Analyst Bill Raftery sounded slightly wistful when he saw that image.

"I doubt you would see Rick Mahorn hugging an opponent before the game," he said.

I don't think Raftery was bemoaning the absence of malice but more of the old warrior's stance that the postseason ain't personal, it's bid-ness.

Well, the Pistons took care of business, clobbering the Bucks by 28 (more later). But if you equate playoffs with skull crackin', then we have some examples for you. As a matter of fact, we'll go from naughty to nice when evaluating Game 1 of each series.


Conventional wisdom before series: Pacers have same players, offer new challenges
-- Boston Globe

Conventional wisdom after Game 1: Brace yourselves
-- Indy Star

You see, in Game 1, which the Pacers won easily, Celtics rookie Brandon Hunter tossed Indiana's MVP candidate Jermaine O'Neal to the hardwood. Boston coach John Carroll said Hunter is not the basketball equivalent of hockey goon.
-- Boston Globe

During the O'Neal-Hunter tête-à-tête, seems that Ron Artest left the bench, stepped onto the court and then headed back to the bench. The Celtics want him suspended.
-- Boston Herald

And, it happened. Artest will miss Game 2.

Playoff intensity quotient: 10 out of 10 -- for calling for another player's suspension publicly

Game 2: April 20, Celtics at Pacers, (8:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV)


CW before series: Let's Get It On!
-- New York Post

That's a different cry for action than Marvin Gaye's.

CW after Game 1: Nets: Play Hardball on 'D' to Bully Knicks
-- Newark Star-Ledger

Yes, the Nets pounded the Knicks into submission in Game 1. New York forward Tim Thomas took the brunt of the pounding as Nets center Jason Collins delivered a hard foul.
-- New York Post

The series' first game also saw Knicks guard Frank Williams shove Jason Kidd. Richard Jefferson also stepped onto the floor, but he was not suspended.
-- New York Times (Registration required)

So, what does the old Bad Boy think? He thinks vengeance belongs to the Knicks.
-- Newark Star-Ledger

"The playoffs now are about raising your emotional intensity level and concentration level," Knicks president Isiah Thomas said. "We'll see if we're capable of doing that."

Playoff IQ: 10 out of 10 -- because familiarity breeds contempt

Game 2: April 20, Knicks at Nets (8 p.m. ET, TNT)

After these two series, the contentiousness drops off like offensive production in the playoffs. We still have time to raise the Playoff IQ and the offensive production.

From here, we'll take a quick look at the other six series.


CW before series: Nuggets defense to focus on guard Cassell.
-- Denver Post

CW after Game 1: Cassell's charge was just what his team needed
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Registration required)

Sam Cassell official position may be a guard, but after the Wolves' Game 1 win, you could probably change his position to "tough to guard" after dropping 40 on the Nuggets' nuggets.

Off the court link: In Minnesota, the specter of seven consecutive first-round exits have people getting all Nancy Reagan and looking to the stars for help.
-- St. Paul Pioneer-Press

Playoff IQ: 5 out of 10 -- The Wolves really, really, want out of the first round this year

Game 2: April 21, Nuggets at Wolves (9:30 pm ET, TNT)


CW before series: Looks like Lakers are set to rule again.
-- Philadelphia Inquirer

CW after Game 1: After a one-point, nail-biting win in Game 1, one scribe thinks the Lakers aren't ready for prime time.
-- San Diego Union-Tribune

Still, some found positives in the Lakers' and Kobe's Game 1 performance. For example: Now, that's the way to have a one-shot half. The biggest difference, though? The Lakers won this one.
-- L.A. Times (Registration required)

Off the court link: Wither Phil Jackson?
-- L.A. Times (Registration required)

Playoff IQ: 5 out of 10 -- If you're talking Lakers-Rockets; 10 out of 10 if you're talking the Lakers vs. Lakers

Also, one writer wants Yao to crank it to 11.
-- Houston Chronicle

Game 2: April 19: Rockets at Lakers (10:30 pm ET, TNT)


CW before series: Grizzlies to get a taste of hard-nosed playoff basketball.
-- Memphis Commerical-Appeal (Registration required)

CW after Game 1: Spurs need to fight off boredom
-- San Antonio Express-News

Yikes, that's harsh, even after the Spurs' 24-point Game 1 win.

Off the court link: Sean Elliott, phone home. The Spurs may need you to suit up. (The Spurs decided they didn't need him to do so.)
-- San Antonio News-Express

Playoff IQ: 4 out of 10 -- The Spurs look rarin' to go

Game 2: April 19: Grizzlies at Spurs (8 pm ET, TNT)


CW before series: Whee!
-- Sacramento Bee

CW after Game 1: Mavs' run-and-gun strategy may still work in the end.
-- Sacramento Bee

It worked for about 36 minutes in Game 1 before the Kings pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Off the court link: Will Rick Adelman be fired? That's crazy talk says one scribe.
-- Sacramento Bee

Playoff IQ: 178.6, as in 95 percent of a target heart-rate

Game 2: April 20: Mavericks at Kings (10:30 pm ET, TNT)


CW before series: Hornets may boom or bust.
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune

I guess that speaks to the Hornets inconsistency this season.

CW after Game 1: Hornets miss chance to kill Heat's spirit.
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune

After allowing the Heat to score a measly four points in the game's final 7½ minutes, the Hornets let Dwyane Wade score with 1.3 seconds remaining to give Miami a Game 1 win. After one game at least, the answer to the CW before the series would be bust.

Off the court link: Miami fans, let's not crank the choral of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 out of the boom box just yet, OK? Odes to joy in professional sports usually manifest themselves in the form of a ring, not just being in the hunt.
-- Miami Herald

Playoff IQ: 4 out of 10 -- Though, if there are more close ones like Sunday night's thriller, this number could rise

Game 2: April 21: Hornets at Heat (8 pm ET, NBA TV)


CW before series: I like the headline (or subheadline) for this story: Bucks anticipate challenging series.

When it comes to understatement, that's right up there with "wardrobe-related malfunction." Challenging ain't the half of it.

And that was before they ran into the Brick Wallaces in Game 1.

CW after Game 1: Defenseless Bucks ready for the slaughter
-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The above link also included this statement by Bucks coach Terry Porter: "I'd like to see us execute our offense at a high level and then see how their defense does."

Uh, coach. Your team had 25 turnovers. The 14 steals were a by-product of the Pistons' defense.

According to this writer, one thing is clear: Pistons already are better than they were at this time last year.
--Detroit News

Playoff IQ: 4 out of 7 -- As in, after one game, that's how long this series looks to last

Game 2: April 21, Bucks at Pistons (7 pm ET, TNT)


Tom Reed, an Ohio writer, had this to say about LeBron James: "My bad."

Click and Roll: Ahem!

"My bad, your highness?"

Click and Roll: That's better.
-- Akron Beacon Journal

Trade T-Mac? If so, this writer says the Magic are in for a world of cosmic hurt.
-- Orlando Sentinel

One Chicago scribe wonders what the heck are you thinking!
-- Chicago Tribune (Registration required)

Wow, here's one man's opinion on how the 50 Greatest NBA Players should be revised. You'll be relieved to know hell hasn't frozen over and a certain Bull is No. 1. (No, it's not Quintin Dailey).
-- Chicago Sun-Times

Tim Thomas and the Knicks left Game 1 against the Nets bruised and battered.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant
NBAE/Getty Images)

2003-04 ARCHIVE
April 12 -- Give Them Away
April 5 -- Fight for First
March 29 -- Prime Time
March 22 -- East Bests West?
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


The week that will be:
April 19-25: These are the playoffs, people! Every game is important!

My boss likes Steve Kerr's Yahoo! column. I like my job. Here's this week's link to Steve's piece on ... wait a minute. Now that Steve (or is that Mr. Kerr?) is now part of the investment group that plans to purchase the Suns, will he have time for his column? You bet. He previewed every playoff series.