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LAST DANCE
Posted by Jeff Dengate on May 13, 2005 11:30 p.m. ET

WIZARDS MISS A BEAT

Washington, thanks for the dance. But the time has come for somebody else to cut in.

The Wizards had their best shot at a victory in this series with Shaquille O'Neal sidelined and could pull within a game of the Heat, but couldn't capitalize.
-- [Miami Herald, Reg. req'd]

Miami was fired up after the gutsy road win without the big fella.
-- [Miami Herald, Reg. req'd]

Last night marked the first-ever playoff game Shaquille O'Neal has missed.
-- [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

With a 3-0 series lead and history on its side -- no NBA team has ever rallied from such a deficit -- the Heat would be wise to sit him for Game 4, as well.
-- [Washington Times]

If the Flash, Zo and the reserves step up like they did last night, Shaq can get a much needed breather.
-- [Washington Times]

So he's no longer playing like Erick Dampier.
-- [New York Daily News]

The Diesel will need all 18 wheels when the sign reading, "Detroit, Next Exit," rolls into view.
-- [Palm Beach Post]

REGGIE STILL IN STEP

The Pistons, however, aren't looking to Miami, yet.
-- [New York Times, Reg. req'd]

The team was forced to watch Game 2, seeing first-hand how they let the game slip away.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

The loss shouldn't cause Pistons' fans to panic.
-- [Detroit News]

As the series shifts to Conseco Fieldhouse, take solace in the fact the Pacers have struggled in the playoffs at home thus far and the Pistons took two games there during the regular season.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

But, if you're the Pistons, you can't afford to let Indiana take another game or two. You'd like to end Reggie's last dance as soon as possible and not be worn out when the trip to Miami arrives.
-- [New York Post]

THE HURT IS ... ON
Posted by Jeff Dengate on May 12, 2005 12:30 p.m. ET

IF WE HAD A COVER ...

Move over SI, there's a new jinx in town. Could a Click and Roll mention prove as costly as an appearance on the ill-fated cover? Well, let's not be so hasty to put ourselves in such esteemed company, but we must admit there's a certain trend around these parts lately.

Just yesterday we were thinking -- not quite as drastically as some folks -- that the Suns' series with the Mavericks could be a cakewalk.
-- [Arizona Republic]

And I believe we said something about the Pistons being too much for the Pacers to handle.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

That's not to mention us calling Reggie Miller "old", saying he was too tired to chase Rip Hamilton.
-- [Detroit News]

Our apologies to Phoenix and Detroit. Losing at home and handing home court advantage over to the lower seed is painful enough, but we should ask Joe Johnson about real pain.

It was also only yesteday we mentioned J.J. being one of the guys to burn the Mavs if they focused on stopping Amare Stoudemire. Well, rather than bouncing in threes, Johnson was last seen bouncing his melon off the hardwood.
-- [Arizona Republic]

And yesterday isn't the first time we may or may not have had something to do with troubles in the desert.

Phoenix rolled into 2005 atop the NBA standings and were the first team to rack up 30 wins. We thought it an impressive enough performance.
-- [NBA.com]

Then came a loss to Utah. And an injury to Steve Nash. And five more losses.
-- [NBA.com]

The injuries to Nash and Johnson aren't the first time our plaudits preceded an injury.

Remember Andrei Kirilenko's sprained right knee which forced him to sit for 26 games? Only days before, we stopped the season after a mere week to all but hand him the MVP trophy.
-- [NBA.com]

Oops. We're still screening calls from Russia that pop up on our caller ID.

MUST-WIN TIME FOR WIZARDS, SONICS

Keeping with the bad news theme, the Wizards will find it more difficult to deal with their big opponent ...
-- [New York Times, Reg. req'd]

... "an insecure supermodel trapped in an NBA supernova's body."
-- [Washington Post, Reg. req'd]

Meanwhile, in Seattle, the bad news is Vlad Radmanovic doesn't figure in the relief plans for Seattle.
-- [The News Tribune]

And Rashard Lewis' outside game is nowhere to be found.
-- [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

But the club is hoping to make a few changes and turn things around at home.
-- [The News Tribune]

The Wizards and Sonics better hope to get good news by night's end because both teams must win tonight, unless they plan to do what no NBA team has ever done: rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

INDY, DALLAS DONE?
Posted by Jeff Dengate on May 11, 2005 1:30 p.m. ET

Last night, the Wizards and Sonics tumbled into a rather deep hole, getting behind 2-0 in their series with Miami and San Antonio, respectively. The Pacers and Mavericks are hoping to avoid a similar fate in their Game 2's tonight.

While I won't go so far as to say the teams "have no chance" ...
-- [San Francisco Chronicle]

I will say it's not looking good for either team. Here's why you can expect Indiana and Dallas to put up a valiant fight, but why the teams may come up short in the end:

PACE TOO QUICK FOR REGGIE

While Reggie Miller has led the Pacers into this, his last, playoff appearance, Indiana may have met its match in the defending champion Pistons. Miller's been forced to contend with a not-nearly-40-year-old version of himself.
-- [New York Times, Reg. req'd]

And he's not able to do it on his own.
-- [Detroit News]

So, as the Pacers look for any adjustments to avoid a repeat of their Game 1 trouncing, the bad news for them is the Pistons are looking for ways they, too, can improve.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

One of those improvements is to get Tayshaun Prince more involved.
-- [Detroit News]

And Chauncey Billups, who has been sharing the ball before looking to get his own shots, may be more aggressive.
-- [Detroit News]

Then there's the supposed weak bench that experts say will prevent the Pistons from repeating as Champions. Larry Brown held true to his word about getting the reserves involved.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

You don't think, if this series turns in to a rout, Brown would go down his bench as far as Hooper, do you?
-- [Detroit Free Press]

BIG TROUBLE FOR BIG D

First, there was the whole issue of having to stand around and watch former teammate Steve Nash accept his NBA Most Valuable Player trophy. Then, the Mavericks, seemingly, stood around and watched Nash lead his new team up and down the court in a lopsided game.
-- [Suns.com]

The Suns made the vow to run, and not even the Mavericks, who refined the formula in recent years, could keep up with Phoenix.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Reg. req'd]

Not to mention find a way to stop Amare Stoudemire.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

Erick Dampier, the self-proclaimed best center not named Shaq, has been a non-factor on Stoudemire.
-- [Arizona Republic]

To the extent he's drawn strong criticism from his German teammate.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Reg. req'd]

But if Dallas focuses on stopping Amare, guys like Joe Johnson are going to have a field day from beyond the arc.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Reg. req'd]

Which would have Mike D'Antoni yet another step removed from eating steaks and dreaming of an NBA Finals appearance.
-- [Denver Post]

RUB SOME DIRT ON IT
Posted by Jeff Dengate on May 10, 2005 12:30 p.m. ET

IT'S ONLY ONE GAME

Ouch! You'd believe that's all Dallas, Indiana, Seattle and Washington can be thinking after getting spanked by a combined 81 points in their respective Conference Semifinals openers. But those four teams are going back to the drawing board, chalking it up as only one loss. Here's a look at how the teams plan to rebound in Game 2.

How do the Wizards plan to recover?
-- [Washington Times]

It helps to have Antawn Jamison in the lineup.
-- [Washington Post, Reg. req'd]

And it helps to have a good luck charm.
-- [Washington Times]

Meanwhile, Seattle needs health on its side, too. Vlad Radmanovic is out for the series and Ray Allen will have a noticeable limp, thanks to, as he claims, Bruce Bowen.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

While Ray's busy talking, he's not listening to his mother.
-- [The News Tribune]

It might not Ray's ankle that will limit him in this series, but rather that place in his head occupied by Bowen.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

So, with the injuries, the Sonics now turn to Plan B.
-- [Seattle Times, Reg. req'd]

Plan B for the Indiana Pacers may involve a nap. Could they have simply been tired after a seven-game series with Boston?
-- [Indianapolis Star]

Stephen Jackson isn't worried about the rough start. After all, it's only one game.
-- [Detroit News]

Which is also the way the Pacers started the first around at Boston.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

So, Carlisle will circle the wagons and have the team ready for Game 2.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

In Dallas, any production out of Erick Dampier would be nice.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

The return of Keith Van Horn could help, as well.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

It's definitely important to keep your coach on the sidelines -- and on his feet.
-- [Arizona Republic]

But ultimately, the Mavericks need to find a way to stop this guy.
-- [Arizona Republic]

WE KNOW DRAMA

There's never a shortage of drama come playoff time, and this year's race for the Larry O'Brien trophy proves no different.

First there was Jeff Van Gundy suggesting bias against Yao Ming by the officiating crews. Van Gundy, however, apologized and the case has been closed.
-- [Houston Chronicle]

When Van Gundy said "official" he really didn't mean "referee."
-- [New York Daily News]

With the issue behind him and Van Gundy's team out of the playoff race ...
-- [Boston Globe]

... we now turn to a different debate, that of who should've been MVP: Phoenix's Steve Nash or runner-up Shaquille O'Neal. Here's what others are saying about the two:

One columnist thinks Nash may not have won on merits alone.
-- [Miami Herald, Reg. req'd]

Whoa, not so fast, says one scribe who takes LeBatard to task.
-- [New York Post]

Meanwhile north of the border, they're celebrating their countryman's accomplishment.
-- [Toronto Sun]

More from our friends to the north.
-- [Toronto Star, Reg. req'd]

In a race decided by the narrowest of margins, Shaq was equally deserving of the award.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

For now, we'll have to wait and see who's more valuable to their teams, a debate to possibly be settled over seven games in The Finals.
-- [Washington Post, Reg. req'd]

ROUND TWO UNDERWAY
Posted by Jeff Dengate on May 9, 2005 1 p.m. ET

In the two series beginning tonight, all the talk is going to surround two events: the unfortunate situation which unfolded in Detroit on that November night and Steve Nash's departure from Dallas.
-- [NBA.com]

But forget about all that, there's more to these series than just revisiting those old stories. There's some serious basketball being played.

These series are a study in contrast: offense vs. defense. Detroit and Indiana will use every second of the clock, control the ball and work from the defensive end, resulting in a lower scoring affair. On the flip side, Dallas and Phoenix toss the hot potato up and down the court all night, in a virtual footrace as if the first team to 125 wins.

PISTONS-PACERS

Let's start in Detroit, scene of tonight's Game 1.

With the teams putting the early season's incident behind them ...
-- [New York Times, Reg. req'd]

... and the building being secured ...
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Let this Central Division rivalry resume.
-- [Detroit News]

This is the series these teams wanted, a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

Which promises to be fiercely competitive.
-- [Detroit News]

Always competitive, Reggie is still on the move looking to get off a shot. Maybe when he finally hangs 'em up, he'll share a secret or two with his young counterpart.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

But that will have to wait.
-- [Detroit News]

Jermaine O'Neal isn't waiting for his shoulder to heal.
-- [Detroit News]

He's no "mama's boy from Compton."
-- [Detroit News]

Although the Pistons are favored, don't count the Pacers out of this unpredictable series.
-- [Detroit News]

And don't count out the possibility of Larry Brown digging deeper into his stash of reserves.
-- [Oakland Press]

SUNS-MAVERICKS

Out west, the story will be told: Steve Nash goes against former teammates, friends.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get serious.

This Mavericks-Suns series is loaded with good storylines.
-- [East Valley Tribune]

Case in point: Nash's recently acquired hardware.
-- [NBA.com]

I know I said I was done but once more with the old friends thing ... Nash's pal finished a distant third in the voting.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Reg. req'd]

If Nash were still in Dallas, could he have won the award? David Moore doesn't think so.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

So, when the teams take the court, how will the old friends greet each other?
-- [Arizona Republic]

Don't be surprised if the Suns are a little rusty.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Reg. req'd]

If they are, Avery Johnson will have his team ready to take control early ...
-- [USA Today]

Led by the man who will frequently hear comparisons to the point guard he replaced.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

Expect the Suns to try to run Dallas out of the gym, as Bryan Colangelo prophesized in July when he signed Nash and Quentin Richardson.
-- [Arizona Republic]

So, can the Mavericks slow the Suns? The question Amare Stoudemire would like to know is how does Dallas plan to stop him?
-- [Arizona Republic]

Not many teams have found a way to slow Phoenix this season, and Dallas may be no different.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Reg. req'd]

A dapper O'Neal registered his first-ever "did not dress" after 164 playoff games.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Dallas' Michael Finley on playing against former teammate Steve Nash in Round 2:

"As much as I like Steve and love him as a teammate and friend, it's business when you get in between the lines. So I didn't want to be too happy and jolly and hugging and kissing him before the game. Maybe between him and Dirk."
-- [Dallas Morning News]

2004-05 ARCHIVE
May 16 -- Conf. Semifinals
May 5 -- Round 1
Apr. 29 -- Playoffs 2005 Begin
Apr. 19 -- Giving It All Away
Apr. 12 -- Playoff Bound
Apr. 5 -- Draw the Curtain
Mar. 29 -- Battling for Position
Mar. 22 -- Gone a Long Time?
Mar. 15 -- Deja View
Mar. 8 -- Top to Bottom
Mar. 1 -- Dynamic Duos
Feb. 25 -- Much Adieu About
Feb. 16-20 -- All-Star Blog
Feb. 15 -- Random House
Feb. 9 -- Reserves, Deserves
Feb. 1 -- All-Starters
Jan. 25 -- South by Southwest
Jan. 19 -- My Kind of Town
Jan. 11 -- 'S Wonderful
Jan. 4 -- Points Well Taken
Dec. 29 -- New Year's Wishes
Dec. 21 -- A Wonderful Life
Dec. 14 -- How Good is Good?
Dec. 7 -- Getting Medieval
Nov. 30 -- LeBron vs. Dwyane
Nov. 23 -- Playing Good Ball
Nov. 16 -- SuperbSonics
Nov. 9 -- Hitting the Blue Note
Nov. 3 -- Bling, Bang, Boom
2003-04 -- Archive