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After hitting the rookie wall, Click and Roll has found its second wind ... With the excitement building as the regular season draws to a close, Click and Roll has returned to duty every weekday until the playoffs. This way, we can break down the numerous postseason races. So, without further ado, here's what's going on.

NBA Playoffs 2003 | NBA Playoffs 2003 Schedule | Playoff Mailboxes

Friday, April 18

The Playoffs Opener and Other Random Observations

The playoffs are a grind and a veteran like Phil Jackson knows that he can't waste any energy by standing and doing the wave.
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NBAE)
Ah, the NBA Playoffs, where the coaches' rotations become short and players' tempers even shorter. Survival of the fittest. Only the strong survive. Win or go home.

Of course, in this postseason, it may take a while for some teams to go home now the first round has been extended to seven games. No need to worry, though, folks. These seven-game first round series will take the same amount of time to complete as the five-game series did the last two years when all the games were liberally spaced (play Monday, play Friday, play Tuesday, etc.). So if a series does go to seven games, it won't take a month to complete.

As a matter of fact, the largest gap in any series is five days in the Kings-Jazz series, where they will play Game 2 Monday in Sacramento. After using covered wagons to traverse the mountains in returning to Utah, they will play Game 3 on Saturday.

Still -- and if you'll allow me to channel my inner-Walton for a moment -- how can you not want to see more basketball? It's the greatest game in the woooooooooorld!

OK, now that I purged that from my system, the NBA Playoffs 2003 provides plenty of intriguing first round matchups, none of which may be more interesting than the Timberwolves-Lakers series.

Poor Minnesota, they work their fuzzy little tails off to get home-court advantage for the first time in team history and they draw the three-time defending champs. Yet, if you think the Wolves are howling at the moon over their fate, think again. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Still, one may question whether home-court advantage really matters? (Sacramento Bee)

Well, we'll see if it does beginning Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) as the Bucks meet the Nets in the Meadowlands to tipoff the playoffs.

To get you ready, here's Click and Roll's assessment on each of the first round series.

Eastern Conference: New Jersey (2) vs. Milwaukee (7), Game 1: 4/19 12:30 ET, ESPN
It's the battle of the Oakland-born free agent point guards, as the Nets' Jason Kidd and the Bucks' Gary Payton face free agency in the offseason. Question is, whose offseason will come first.

Mystery Men for the series
Nets -- Dikembe Mutombo: Healthy? The Nets could use his rebounding, but he hasn't played much or well all season.
Bucks -- Tim Thomas: He and George Karl still aren't getting along. This is the time of year, however, it's time to shut up and play.

Series X-Factor
Tempo. If the Nets can get out and run, they have the advantage. If the Bucks can slow it down, they do.

Eastern Conference: Indiana (3) vs. Boston (6), Game 1: 4/19 3 ET, ESPN
Both teams were 6-4 in their last 10 games heading into the playoffs.

Mystery Men for the series
Pacers -- Jamaal Tinsley: Can he provide the quality point guard play that's so important in the postseason? If you disagree, just ask Isiah. (Indianapolis Star)
Celtics -- Tony Delk: Can he provide a third scorer like Rodney Rogers did last season?

Series X-Factor
Rebounding. The Pacers are supremely tall along the frontcourt. Indiana was fifth in the league with 44.2 boards per game, the Celtics were 26th at 40.5. The Pacers averaged seven more boards in the teams' four meetings.

Western Conference: San Antonio (1) vs. Phoenix (8), Game 1: 4/19 5:30 ET, ESPN
The Suns took the season series 3-1.

Mystery Men for the series
Spurs -- David Robinson: Can he do the dirty work so desperately needed in the playoffs?
Suns -- Amare Stoudemire: Great rookie season, but this is the playoffs.

Series X-Factor
Point guard play. Like a cat with a mouse, Stephon Marbury loves matching up against Tony Parker. The Spurs will need to find a way to slow Marbury down. (San Antonio Express-News)

Western Conference: Dallas (3) vs. Portland (6), Game 1: 4/19 8 ET, TNT
You think the Mavs are happy to see the Blazers instead of the Lakers?

Mystery Men for the series
Mavs -- Michael Finley: His importance to the Mavs was never more evident than when he missed 15 games late and the Mavs went 7-6.
Blazers -- Scottie Pippen: Since he took over the point (i.e. decision making), the Blazers have been great. But is he healthy? (The Oregonian)

Series X-Factor
Length. Can the Mavericks deal with Portland's size in the front court?

Western Conference: Sacramento (2) vs. Utah (7), Game 1: 4/19 10:30 ET, TNT
You think the Mavs are happy to see the Blazers instead of the Lakers?

Mystery Men for the series
Kings -- Scot Pollard: If he's healthy, he can add more depth and rebounding to an already deep team. (Sacramento Bee)
Jazz -- Matt Harpring: Second on the team in scoring during the regular season, can he handle the burden in the playoffs?

Series X-Factor
Focus, for the Jazz and urgency for the Kings. (Salt Lake Tribune, Sacramento Bee)

Eastern Conference: Detroit (1) vs. Orlando (8), Game 1: 4/20 12:30 ET, ESPN
The Magic "earned" the right to play the East's top seed when they rested Tracy McGrady and lost to the Bucks on the final night of the season.

Mystery Men for the series
Pistons -- Ben Wallace: Healthy? The Pistons sure hope so.
Magic -- Pat Garrity: Option No. 2 in the offense?

Series X-Factor
Help wanted. Can anyone complement McGrady? Could Chauncey Billups or Richard Hamilton become the go-to guy in the playoffs? (Detroit News)

Western Conference: Minnesota (4) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (5), Game 1: 4/20 3 ET, ABC
See above paragraphs next to Phil Jackson's photo.

Mystery Men for the series
Wolves -- Troy Hudson: Welcome to the playoffs, Mr. Hudson. Now, can you make the good decisions when every possession is like gold?
Lakers -- Anyone besides Shaq or Kobe: Will a complementary playoff hero please step forward?

Series X-Factor
Psychology. The Wolves have five consecutive first-round losses and the three-time world champs staring them in the face. I'm sure Phil Jackson will have something to say to the press during the series as well.

Eastern Conference: Philadelphia (4) vs. New Orleans (5), Game 1: 4/20 8 ET, TNT
Allen Iverson and the Sixers get the home-court advantage, but the Hornets will be no pushover. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Mystery Men for the series
Sixers -- Derrick Coleman: Has been great for the Sixers this season, but will his injured left (shooting) hand hold up?
Hornets -- Jamal Mashburn: After a stellar postseason in 2001, he missed most of last year's playoffs with vertigo. Is he good to go this year?

Series X-Factor
Home-court advantage. The Hornets have one of the best home records in the East at 29-12. If they can steal one win in Philly. The Sixers though not as long in the frontcourt, are tougher than the Hornets.


Here's hoping they get more news regarding the Charlotte expansion team soon, because it sounds like they're bored in Carolina right now. Here's a piece comparing Michael Jordan to ... Jose Canseco? (Charlotte Observer)

Meanwhile, can anyone spare a dime for MJ? (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Rob Peterson,

Wendesday, April 16

Last Call as the Regular Season Comes to a Close

Do I know what this game means? Yeah, I know what this game means to me and the Timberwolves!
(David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)
Well, here we are, last call for the 2002-03 NBA regular season. We have 16 teams that will continue on with dates for the playoffs and 13 that will go home hoping those lottery ping-pong balls will bounce their way.

Yet, the playoff fates of many teams rest on what happens tonight. Many observers can't remember when so many positions were up for grabs on the final night of the season. The West is more settled, with five of the eight seeds solidified. But in the East, the jockeying continues as five seeds remain unclaimed.

The most intriguing of all races, however, continues to be the sprint for the No. 4 seed in the West.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies, 8 p.m. ET
If the Wolves want home-court advantage for the first time in their history, they must beat the Grizzlies tonight. If they can't do that, they'll need to rely on the kindness of strangers to help them become No. 4. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Portland Trail Blazers at L.A. Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET
Portland can claim the No. 4 seed if it wins and Minnesota loses, giving the Blazers home-court. (The Oregonian)

L.A. Lakers at Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Lakers, sitting as the No. 6 seed before Wednesday's game, could become the No. 5 seed in the West if they beat the Warriors and the Blazers lose. If the Lakers finish sixth (they would face the Mavericks), they're worried about some of the peripherals. (L.A. Daily News)

Detroit Pistons at Boston Celtics, 7 p.m. ET
Two playoff teams who are locked into their seedings. The Pistons have the No. 1 seed, the Celtics will be No. 6. One writer expects a mellower meeting between the two this time. The question remains, however, of whom the Celtics will meet in the first round. (Detroit News, Boston Herald)

New Jersey Nets at Indiana Pacers, 8 p.m. ET
Could Boston meet the Pacers in the first round? If the Pacers beat the Nets tonight, it will be a Pacers-Celtics first round series. The Nets get the winner of the Orlando-Milwaukee game in a first-round series.

Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Could the No. 3 seed be the Sixers? If the Sixers win and the Pacers lose, then it will be a clash between to ancient rivals in the first round. The Sixers find themselves having to win, thanks to their Tuesday night crash in Chicago. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Meanwhile, some guy named Michael Jordan will be playing in his last NBA game. Rumor has it, the press will cover it. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Atlanta Hawks at New Orleans Hornets, 8:30 p.m. ET
New Orleans could get home-court advantage in the first round if the Sixers lose and the Hornets take care of the Hawks. Still, the Hornets feel prepared for whomever they may face. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks, 8 p.m. ET
The East's battle for the No. 7 (or No. 8) seed. This may turn out to be one of the more -- ahem -- "interesting" games of the evening. Orlando has gone on record saying that it will rest players. Some Bucks, like Sam Cassell, would like the night off. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The winner will earn the No. 7 seed and face the Nets in the first round. The loser will get the Pistons.

Meanwhile, who knew the Bucks would get the better of the Glenn Robinson-Toni Kukoc trade?

Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs, 8:30 p.m. ET
The results of this game have been rendered moot. The Spurs are the West's No. 1 seed, the Mavs will be No. 3. We're just waiting to see who finishes with the sixth seed.

Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, look a playoff preview at regular season prices. If you think this game will be an intense preview of their first-round matchup, you're not thinking. I hope the Jazz packed for a long stay in the California capital.

Finally, GM Glen Grunwald went all Howard Beale on his team after Wednesday night's loss to the Heat in the Raptors' season finale. Beale, the anchorman who goes nuts on the air in the movie "Network," famously intoned: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore."

(An aside. Unfortunately, Grunwald's speech brought back some painful memories as it sounded like the one delivered by my date on prom night.)

Rob Peterson,

Tuesday, April 15

They're No. 1, Others Still Waiting for Their Numbers

David Robinson and the Spurs are No. 1 again.
(Kent Horner/NBAE/Getty Images)
Click and Roll would like to congratulate the Detroit Pistons and the San Antonio Spurs for clinching the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences.

Coupled with the Nets' 13-point loss to the Hornets, the Pistons clinched home-court after nipping the Cavs 89-88 on Monday.

As one Detroit paper's headline noted, the Pistons were happy about getting the home court advantage. Well, we'd hope so. (Detroit News)

Though one has to wonder how much the home-court advantage helps in the East. Two non-playoff teams, Atlanta (26-15) and Chicago (26-14), will finish with better home records than three playoff teams, Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee, all of whom have 24-16 home records as of Tuesday.

At 30-11, the Pistons have the third-best home record of the East's playoff teams. Still, it's a nice psychological advantage to know, that if the series does go to seven games, the seventh game is in your building. Detroit will face the loser of Wednesday night's game between the Magic and Bucks.

In the West, the top three seeds are set, as the Spurs clinched home-court advantage for as far as they go in the playoffs with a 91-83 win over the Jazz. And we can safely assume the Spurs are thrilled with their playoff lot as well, though the headline in the story didn't tell us so. (San Antonio Express-News)

With the Spurs locked in the top spot, the Kings, by virtue of their Pacific Division title, will be the No. 2 seed. Dallas, which hadn't been out of first place all season until April 8, will be the No. 3 seed.

Last night's results determined two of the West's first round playoff matchups. The Spurs will meet the Suns, who beat the Spurs on Sunday to clinch a playoff berth. The Kings will meet the Jazz, whom Sacramento booted from last year's playoffs in four games. The Mavs have yet to find out who they will face, but as of Tuesday morning, they would face the Lakers. (Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers could finish anywhere from the No. 4 seed (if they win their two remaining games and Minnesota and Portland lose theirs) to No. 6. So there is still much to settle in the middle of the West.

L.A. will take part in one of four games tonight that have playoff implications. Let's take a look:

Denver Nuggets (17-63) at Los Angeles Lakers (48-32), 10 p.m. ET
One game behind the Blazers for the No. 5 spot, the Lakers need to win both games and the Blazers need to lose one of their last two to pass Portland for the fifth seed in the West. The Lakers can still get the fifth seed if they go 1-1 in their final two games, but the Blazers would need to lose their final two games. (L.A. Daily News)

Phoenix Suns (44-36) at Portland Trail Blazers (49-31), 10 p.m. ET
While we know the Suns will play the Spurs in the first round, the Blazers are currently the West's fifth seed. Like the Lakers, Portland can finish anywhere from No. 4 to No. 6 in the West. Two wins and a Minnesota and an L.A. loss will give Portland the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first-round. At 26-14, Portland has the worst home record of any of the West's playoff teams. Another question, if the Blazers do get the No. 4 seed, will the players celebrate it? (The Oregonian)

Indiana Pacers (46-34) at New York Knicks (37-44), 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV
The Pacers sit in the East's fourth spot, one-half game ahead of the New Orleans Hornets. A win over the lottery-bound Knicks would clinch at least the No. 4 spot (by virtue of their 3-1 season record against the Hornets) and home-court advantage in the first round. The Pacers could leap to third if they win their final two games and the Sixers lose their final two. (Indianapolis Star)

Philadelphia 76ers (47-33) at Chicago Bulls (29-52), 8:30 p.m. ET
At the No. 3 seed, the Sixers still have a chance to claim the Atlantic Division crown and the East's No. 2 seed if they win their final two games and the Nets drop their Wednesday night game in Indiana. Still, Tuesday won't be easy as the Bulls are good at home and the Sixers may be distracted once again. (Philadephia Inquirer)


Here's the best headline from Monday night: Nets' inability to score costly in loss to Hornets. Ya think?

As with many national NBA writers, the opinions on who should win what award have been arriving fast and furious. Here's one man's opinion. (CBS Sportsline)

And another man's. (

Here's someone's opinion on the least of the league. We have two words for this: me-ow! (

In case you hadn't heard, it was Michael Jordan's last home game as a Wizard. Also, it seems like everyone in Washington is cranky. (Washington Post)

The Rockets' will play their last game at Compaq Center (né The Summit) tonight. The Rockets are moving into the Houston Arena next season. (The logo looks a little like someone removed a slice of cake.) (Houston Chronicle)

Rob Peterson,

Monday, April 14

We Have the 16 Teams; Now, Where to Put Them?

A candid photo from a Blazers practice? Nope. Here the Blazers celebrate Rasheed Wallace's game-winning three on Sunday.
(Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)
Did you have a good weekend? We hope so. We know Orlando, Milwaukee and Phoenix did. Alas, for the Wizards, the Rockets, the Sonics and the Warriors, this was a lost weekend as "standings squeeze" crushed the playoff hopes of these four teams.

For the Magic, a win over the Pacers did the trick on Friday. For the Bucks, it was a win over Toronto. Those wins booted the Wizards from the postseason, and led some players to speak freely regarding MJ's tenure as a Wizards player. (Newark Star-Ledger)

In Phoenix, it's been a good week, let alone a good weekend. The Suns have won four in a row, including a 16-point pasting Friday of Golden State, which knocked the Warriors out of the playoffs and a 92-85 win over the Spurs, which put the Suns as the West's final playoff squad and kept the Rockets out.

Do potential first-round opponents need to worry about the Suns? Tim Duncan thinks so. (Arizona Republic)

Duncan needn't worry about the Suns yet. No one should worry about the postseason right now, except maybe the Mavericks. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

That's because none of the first-round matchups have been set. The top seeds in both conferences lay unclaimed. The Spurs hold a one-game lead over the Mavericks with each team having two to play, including the season finale against each other on Wednesday.

In the East, the Pistons, who clinched their second consecutive Central Division title on Sunday, and the Atlantic Division-leading Nets have identical 49-31 records. Alas, Detroit's 49-31 is better than New Jersey's as the Pistons hold the tiebreaker by taking two of three games against the Nets and the Pistons want something more than a measly division title. (Detroit News)

If they can't secure the East's top seed, the Nets probably wouldn't mind seeing the Celtics slip to the No. 7 seed, as New Jersey won the season series 3-1 and eliminated Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Still, there are distractions, as Dikembe Mutombo continues to complain about his limited minutes. (Newark Star-Ledger)

In the West, the Timberwolves find themselves in an enviable position: possible home-court advantage in the first round. The Wolves have never held the home court in the playoffs, and thanks to Wally Szczerbiak's 44 points in Sunday's win over the Bulls, all the Wolves need to do is beat the Grizzlies in Memphis on Wednesday to nail down the No. 4 seed. One writer cleverly called it: "Win and go home." (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Whom the Wolves will play in the first round is still up for debate. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

The Blazers made their case with an exciting 101-99 win over the Lakers on national television yesterday. Could the Blazers be dangerous on the playoff stage? Sure they could, as they make opposing coaches scratch their heads on occasion. (The Oregonian)

And although the Lakers could be facing anyone else, they're still focused on picking on the Kings. (Sacramento Bee)


Ray Allen wants to work as the Sonics' assistant GM this summer. (Tacoma Tribune)

See what happens when one guy owns everything? (New York Times)

Everything isn't well between the Jazz's greatest player and the man who pays the bills. (Deseret News)

For some, home is where the heart is and in the immortal words of '80s arena rockers, Journey, the road is no place to raise a family (of young professional basketball players). I added the last part. (Daily Herald)

Uh oh, no one wants to be fed to the Raptors fans. ( Toronto Sun)

Finally, the East competing with the West is a tall order, namely because that the West's power forwards and centers tower over those in the East. Still, there are those in the East who believe their conference can compete. By the end of June, we'll see if that's true. (Philadelphia Daily News)

Rob Peterson,