It's not too late. Play Drive to the Finals Now!

By Jeff Dengate

Previous Expert Picks

May 10 - Two games tonight. Where to start?

Well, the initial thought is you could pick Dwyane Wade here, the thinking being that the Heat are at home and absolutely must get the win to avoid going to Jersey down two games.

But I'm not convinced the Heat are going to lose this series. The Nets looked great. The Heat didn't. That exact scenario is unlikely to repeat itself. Factor in that Richard Jefferson could be out and suddenly the matchup looks to be more of a toss up.

Today's Expert Pick
Player: Chris Kaman, L.A. Clippers
Opponent: Phoenix
Regular Season Averages
While I'm up in the air about who will advance, my thinking is that neither team can get past Detroit in the next round (of course, at this point I'm assuming Detroit actually does what is expected and eliminates the Cavaliers). That means the players from the winning team of this series are going to have to be used against the Pistons in the next round, where there will only be one game each night. You're going to want to save a minimum of two or three of those Pistons for The Finals, so you'll have to pick some Heat/Nets players.

Only Wade, Shaquille O'Neal, Jefferson, Jason Kidd and Nenad Krstic (remember, Carter is off our charts) averaged better than a 20 PRA in the regular season. In four games vs. the Heat, Krstic plummeted to 14.3 and he only put up a 12 in 26 minutes of Game 1, despite Shaq being saddled with foul trouble. So, scrap Krstic and save Wade, Shaq, Kidd and Jefferson for a little bit later. Of course, if the Nets, again, soundly thump the Heat at home, we panic and take Wade or Shaq in Game 3, saving the other for Game 4 should the Heat lose three straight.

That said, let's give it another night to see how it plays out.

As for tonight, we're turning our attention to the other game -- the Suns and Clippers. L.A.'s given up more than 100 points in four of the five contests between the teams this season, including the 130 from Game 1. Phoenix has won three of those contests. So, it seems that the Clippers, while decidely having an advantage (Read: inside game) if they could find a way to slow the pace, are unable to do just that. What that means is two things:

Kaman should see more action in the post in Game 2.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
1. The Clippers are going to lose this series. There's little chance they're going to beat the Suns at their own game over a best-of-seven. It's not just the Suns the Clips have troubles with, either; In the regular season, L.A. was 6-22 when the opposition put up 100-plus points.

2. The Clippers players have the ability to put up some big numbers because the Suns, while scoring in bunches, also get scored on in bunches. That's just fine and dandy, so long as the final score tilts in your favor. Against the Suns, it usually doesn't.

So, with that thinking we stay away from those Suns players who we didn't blow picks on in the first round -- Damn you Lakers for toying with us and making us waste Nash and Marion! -- and focus on the Clips.

Sam Cassell is a scratch, having been used two nights ago by John Schuhmann. Let's look at our remaining options:

Player '05-06 PRA (Gms) PRA vs. Suns (Gms) Gm 1 PRA
Elton Brand 37.35 (79) 37.5 (4) 52
Corey Maggette 25.16 (32) 32.0 (2) 26
Chris Kaman 22.58 (78) 24.5 (4) 15
Cuttino Mobley 22.14 (79) 20.0 (4) 7

Before you start salivating over Elton Brand's numbers, realize he's going to have his way with the Suns the duration of this series. Let patience win out. You can post a 40 with him almost any night.

The feeling I'm getting here is that Mike Dunleavy and Co. are going to work extra hard at slowing the pace of this game. You do that simply by pounding the ball into the post rather than taking outside shots which result in long rebounds and transition opportunities for your opponent.

Who is likely to benefit most from such a scheme? Chris Kaman. And I'm not just saying that because he's a fellow Chippewa. The seven-footer runs the floor well when needed, can wipe the glass for 10-plus boards and has the hands and footwork necessary to drop in 15-17 points when delivered the ball.

Sure, the pick is hardly a 54 or 58 beauty, the likes of which I've delivered in recent weeks, but that's not what this pick is all about. Many days between now and when we crown a champ on the floor and here on, you'll have to minimize bad selections while picking and choosing when a guy might pop a solid performance.

Kaman is in just such a situation, after having a string of ho-hum outings that followed up a solid Playoffs debut in Game 1 vs. Denver.

Tonight's Kaman's night to shine. Fire Up Chips, er, Clips!