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NBA Playoffs: A Peek at the First Round

   by Al McMordie - 04/20/2006

Teamwork and unselfish play are key ingredients to winning the NBA title, which is why we should all root for the San Antonio Spurs to repeat as champions. They are quiet, humble, hard working and team-oriented, which is what organized sports is all about. All right, so I'm biased, as I've been rooting for the Spurs since back in the days when the Iceman was dropping rainbow jumpers on helpless defenders.

However, the Spurs, as well as the Pistons in the East, are teams that do represent beautifully what basketball purists look for: Team-oriented play, no cry-babies, no whiners, just smart, fundamental basketball. Even Rasheed Wallace turned into a relatively fine NBA citizen after joining the Pistons. Winning and playing the game right is fun. And when was the last time you heard any of the Spurs complain about playing time, not enough shots, or get in trouble off the court? The organization wouldn't stand for it, nor would quiet leader Tim Duncan, who would take the trouble-maker aside and say shut-up and play.

Contrast those teams and what they stand for with what you saw with the Philadelphia 76ers this week. Coach Mo Cheeks was disgusted with the conduct (as he should have been) of Chris Webber and Allen Iverson. Iverson and Webber arrived for the final home game, Fan Appreciation Night, minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. tipoff! How embarrassing. "I had no idea it was Fan Appreciation Night," said Iverson. Geesh... Don't they have agents, or PR people working for them, to let them know what is going on? They have no trouble signing PR endorsement contracts and pocketing the cash, but when it comes to giving a little back on fan appreciation night...they just don't care? But you rarely see things like that from organizations that are on the ball, conduct themselves professionally and are focused on winning.

The Spurs/Kings series is going to be interesting. The Kings are not the same team that stumbled through the first half of the season. They are finally healthy, and are 23-14 since acquiring Ron Artest Jan. 25. Artest predicted the Kings would make the playoffs when the trade happened, which didn't look realistic at the time, and then he went out and delivered.

The Spurs won two of their three regular-season games with Sacramento but lost 97-87 in the teams' April 5 meeting, their only encounter since the Kings acquired Artest. In fact, the Kings are 3-0 ATS against the Spurs. Mike Bibby is a big-game player, and the Kings have a veteran team with Bonzi Wells, center Brad Miller and sixth man Shareef Abdur-Rahim. If you like totals, remember that the Spurs are 26-14 under the total at home.

The Bulls/Heat series offers an interesting strategic match-up. Chicago lacks anyone to rub elbows with Shaq, but they are a perimeter-oriented team that plays great defense. Chicago allows 42% shooting by opponents, best in the NBA. The Heat has struggled defending the perimeter this season. If the Heat is forced to help too much on the Bulls' driving guards, which was the case in the final meeting between the two teams, Miami could get caught giving up open jumpers. The Bulls have held Dwyane Wade to just 12.3 points a game this season, easily his lowest scoring average against any team this year.

Upsets happen in the playoffs from time to time, but it won't happen when the Bucks battle the Pistons. The Bucks (40-42) are a poor defensive team allowing .466 shooting by opponents, seventh worst in the NBA. Milwaukee has a soft frontcourt: Their 3.29 blocks per game is second-worst in the NBA! And whom do they face? An imposing frontcourt of Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Antonio McDyess. Milwaukee comes into the playoffs on a 3-6 SU/ATS run. Shall we get out the Motown broomsticks? Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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