Ten Questions: Jazz-Warriors
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Well, well, well, what do we have here? An eighth seed in the Conference Semis no less? It's happened only twice before, you know, first with the Nuggets in 1994 and next with the Knicks in 1999. Want to know who the Nuggets ran into after they bum rushed the top-seeded Sonics out of the First Round? C'mon, three guesses. Nope, nope, yep, you've got it -- the Jazz. That series went seven with the Jazz prevailing 91-81 in the clincher. The seven games featured an overtime game, a double OT game and two games decided by three points or fewer.

Will we get a tense, exciting, thrilling series like the last time Utah met the No. 8 seed in the Conference Semis? We can only hope. Let's take a gander at 10 Questions for the Jazz-Warriors series.


1. HOW LONG CAN NELLIE BE A GENIUS?

Part of being a genius (and I would know) is being far ahead of the curve. Another part is an acute intellectual superiority. In the opening series against his old squad, Warriors coach Don Nelson worked both angles to perfection. Using his intimate knowledge of the Mavericks' personnel and their weaknesses, specifically Dirk Nowitzki, Nelson countered with a quick, strong, athletic lineup to neutralize the Mavs.

While we may refer to Nellie as a genius, the Contra Costa Times thinks Nellie's a magician and gets backup from Steve Kerr:

"'The personnel fits what Nellie likes to do, especially after the trade,' said former Chicago Bulls guard Steve Kerr, now an NBA analyst for TNT. 'Nellie's always liked a lineup that's fast and athletic and versatile.

"'Once the trade was made, he had a roster full of guys who were 6-5 to 6-8. They could all handle (the ball). They could all shoot. It's a perfect roster to complement his coaching style and vice versa.'"

Compliments about managing your complements are always nice, but can Nellie figure out a way to stop a Utah team so predictably efficient it's running the same offense for the better part of two decades? See question No. 2.

2. HAVEN'T WE HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE?

In 1959, Miles Davis and John Coltrane teammed up to create one of the greatest recordings in the history of humankind, Kind of Blue. If we tapped Wynton Marsalis and Joshua Redman to re-create that album, would it have the same vibe, the same feel, the same influence?

Of course not. It would be a variation on a theme.

I feel the same way about the emerging point guard-power forward dynamic in Utah. Karl Malone and John Stockton worked the pick-and-roll to perfection. Plenty of Malone's 36,374 points with the Jazz originated from many of the 15,806 assists Stockton dished out.

Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are no Malone and Stockton ... yet. But it's clear the Jazz had such a duo in mind when they signed Boozer in 2004 and drafted Williams in 2006. With Boozer finally healthy, these two have the Jazz swinging again.

3. WHICH WARRIOR WILL GET THE MEMO?

Horrific in the first three games of the series with Houston (6-for-35 from the field), Mehmet Okur became a force to be reckoned with in three of the final four games, going for 16 points in Game 4, 19 in Game 6 and 16 in Game 7. Most important for the Jazz, Okur began to extend the Rockets' D by hitting half his threes (6-for-12) in his last two games.

The Warriors know something about neutralizing big guys (see also: Nowitzki, Dirk) who love to make their living lurking on the perimeter. Question is, who gets to check Memo and fly at him when he sets up shop behind the three-point line on the left wing.

We're thinking Stephen Jackson, who harassed Nowitzki, gets the call for that assignment.

4. CAN STEPHEN JACKSON CONTROL HIMSELF?

Most coaches will take Stephen Jackson's competitive fire. Most coaches, however, wish Jackson wouldn't throw fuel onto that fire during games. Twice ejected in the Mavs' series -- the Warriors lost both -- Jackson was the most valuable Warrior not named Baron in the Dallas series.

But to be valuable you need to be available. Art Spander says Jackson's working on sticking around:

"'I'm not going to say I don't think about what the media says about me,' conceded Jackson. 'But at the same time, the only way I can control that or to get people to think the correct thoughts is by me going out and conducting myself as a leader, conducting myself as an NBA player.

"'Conducting myself like the person I have been.'"

Yes, he must be this instead of the knucklehead he can be at times.

5. IS AK A-OK NOW?

Which Andrei Kirilenko will the Jazz get in this series? The one who infamously wept after playing only 16 minutes in Game 1 or the guy who was all over the place making things miserable for the Rockets in Game 6?

The Jazz, obviously, need the latter. Frankly, they waited for the old AK, the guy who can turn in a quintuple-five (five points, boards, assists, blocks and steals) game, all season long. He came close to doing it in Game 6 (14 points, five boards, four assists, three steals and five blocks). While the Jazz can win without him being brilliant (he had only eight points and two boards in Game 7), it's clear they can't be good when he's very bad.

6. HOW COOL IS BARON'S BEARD?

No, seriously. How cool is Baron's beard? Very, if you ask us. Reminds us of a certain point guard who has two championship rings on his fingers.

Ah, yes, Clyde.


Like Clyde back in the day, B-Diddy's rockin' the beard.
Walter Iooss Jr, Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images


Right now, Knicks fans must have tears in their eyes because Baron has been both Walt Frazier and Willis Reed in the series against Dallas.

Davis gutted out Game 6 on a balky hammy (injured, like Willis), but he's played more like Frazier did in that famous Game 7 where Reed hobbled out on the court. Reed may have made his first two shots of the game, but it was Frazier who had 36 points and 19 dimes; 36 and 19. That's not fair.

Helping the Warriors move to the Conference Finals would give Baron double the cult status in Oak-town.

7. POINT GUARDS, WHICH ONE IS BETTER?

You have one who has all the talent in the world, but can't stay healthy. The other one is in his second season, but first postseason action ever.

SI.com's Marty Burns called up the scouts to see what they had to say about the Davis-Williams matchup:

"If Golden State is going to win this series, then Baron Davis has got to outplay Williams. It won't be easy. Williams might be my favorite young player in the NBA. I see him as a potential 10-time All-Star, maybe even an MVP candidate someday. He's the closest thing to a Jason Kidd-type player we've seen in a long time, and he isn't somebody who's going to be bullied by Baron.

"I'm not saying that Baron isn't capable of outplaying Williams. If Baron is right and focused, he can be as good as he wants to be. Obviously he hasn't been the most disciplined guy in the world, but when he's focused in short stretches he has the ability to be a dominant player -- and he has to be dominant for them to win the series. I'd say it's more important for Baron to outplay Deron than vice versa: For the Warriors to win, Baron has to unequivocally outplay Deron."

Interesting. Then again, that's how it played out against Dallas as Davis, if there was such a thing, the MVP of the First Round.

8. WHICH HAND IS BOOZER'S STRONG HAND?

I ask this question, and I'll give you a minute to think about it: Which hand is Carlos Boozer's strong hand? Right or left?

Waiting ...

He's right handed. But why do you ask, Rob? Because, have you seen a player in this postseason, heck, the NBA, who can go as well to his right as he does with his left as Boozer does? Which right-handed player finishes as well with his left hand -- flushing in dudes' grilles -- as well as Boozer.

Waiting ...

Boozer's ambidexterity causes problems on the block because he can go either way. Shade him to his right, he'll go left. He has no weak hand down low. That's tough, and good for the Jazz.

9. WHO HAS THE HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE?

According the schedule, the Jazz will have four games in Utah* (*if necessary), while the Warriors* will have three (*if necessary). But we're not talking about amount of home games, we're talking about which arena will rock harder: Energy Solutions in Salt Laker or Oracle in Oakland.

Everyone could see how the fans had an effect in Oakland. With the lights low and every fan clad in yellow "We Believe" t-shirts, we heard the Double-O was as loud as any NBA arena, including ARCO in Sacramento. Dallas looked unnerved as the Mavs went 0-3 at Oracle. When the series gets to Oakland for Game 3, you can expect the joint to be jumpin'.

But wait. We had some NBAE employees in Utah for Game 6 of the Jazz's series with Houston and they said Energy Solutions (formerly the Delta Center) was as loud as any arena they had been too.

So, which group of fans will bring the noise? Sounds like both.

10. HOW LONG CAN GOLDEN STATE RIDE THE EMOTION?

As much as the Warriors' First Round triumph was classic, historic and shockingly exhilarating for the Warriors and their faithful, we have to coldly and cruelly say: that's history, gents.

For a team that seemed to live for the moment against Dallas, you can't point back to the Mavs series and say you did it. You did, but you have another formidable task in front of you. Unlike the Mavs, who started Devean George in Game 1, the Jazz will not change anything for you. Heck, save for the personnel, they haven't changed anything in nearly 20 years. You think Jerry Sloan and Co. will look at you and say, "I think we'll throw Matt Harpring in the starting lineup..."

That ain't happening. What you see is what you get with the Jazz. The Warriors better be ready for it.

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