Aaaaannd we're back! Finally, basketball. It's been a long five days, ain't it? Well, not for me, really. Thank the FSM for the French Open, where there's enough drama going on (like a nice huge plate of an upset special) to help prevent my lapsing into a lack-of-sports-action comatose. But then again, no one watches tennis nowadays (especially in America, or so I heard), so I can surmise that we've all been left hovering here at Pounding the Rock reading FanShots or trying our darned best to apply as a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee.
Fear not, losers, for loser-ing is back! Bring out your best Laker insults, or bust your brains trying to determine the over/under on Stan Van Gundy's playoff weight. Argue whether Shaq is the real Superman or an oven-baked Shrek, and even debate on whether Rashard Lewis is the highest-paid role player ever who also happens to have the biggest house among all role players. There are plenty of story lines in this series to chew on and spit back out. Don't forget to wear your hard hat, though, because it's gonna be a war out there and you might get hit with a few F-bombs, like FAT F*CK, for starters. Put up with the loser cadence, soldier. David Stern may take our bored lives, but he will never take OUR FREEDOOOOM!!!
On a more serious note, an honest-to-goodness loser preview after the jump.
Have you ever thought about what a REAL loser thread looks like? Probably not. That's why I'm here, to finally unleash the full potential of a loser thread. How, you wonder? Well of course, there's no other way but to blast out a list of... yep, you guessed it right, losers! (cue that Beck song right here)
This also affords me a perfect segue into a hack recap of the 2009 playoffs. Wouldn't it be nice to reminisce about what happened for the past few months of crazy basketball? Yeah, I know. Again, that's what I'm here for. God, I'm so bored and lonely. But let me tell you the common denominator for all the playoff series that have been played: there is always, always, always a loser. I'm a genius, I know.
Since nobody seems to care about whatever happened in the earlier rounds (I'm sure no one does here at PtR, lest I get my ass kicked attempting to dig it up), I'll just breeze through pictures of losers (like me, and the people who will be reading and participating in this thread) for us to reminisce for a sec, before they are completely erased from PtR's collective consciousness.
Atlanta vs. Miami
Loser: Miami - DWade evokes shades of LeBron's future playoff exit, valiantly carrying his team of scrubs to seven games before falling to Josh Smith's back-ass-ward behavior and a rejuvenated Mini Me.
DWade: "Psst... Udonis! Quit yer crying, they're looking at us!"
Orlando vs. Philadelphia
Loser: Philly 76ers, A.I. (After Iverson) - Thanks, Elton Brand. You were a really big help this season. Let's do this again next year. I heard Eddie Jordan's a fun guy to be with, not unlike that other, more famous Jordan dude who's so darn competitive.
"C...can't...s..see... m..must...be...the end."
Cleveland vs. Detroit
Loser: Detroit - Nice knowing 'ya, 'Sheed. Care to try on this Spurs uniform and see how it fits?
Boston vs. Chicago
Loser: Chicago - Possibly the greatest 1st round playoff series ever. Aside from going the full 7 montys, it also featured 5 overtimes, 4 of which were played in a span of 2 double overtime games (follow the math?). Derrick Rose played out of his mind before people found out the real score (pun intended) on his SATs, while Rajon Rondo assaulted Brad Miller and almost got away with murder. Good times. It was also amusing to see KG growl on the sidelines like the true idiot that he is. Not-so-good times.
Ben Gordon thinking: "Psh. Scal's still a better cheerleader than this idiot."
Los Angeles vs. Utah
Denver vs. New Orleans
Loser: New Orleans - Ladies and genteels, the whiny little bastard known as Chris Paul has finally been put in his rightful place - on the rear end (pun intended, again) of the greatest ass-kicking in playoff history. (yeah, 58 points if my arithmetic is still up to speed)
Uh, Dirk... I think you just got PAULwned!
Houston vs. Portland
Loser: Portland - Chalk this one up to youth. And probably karma for sending Darius Miles' knees to the insurance agent. Not that Darius Miles didn't deserve some punishment for his doucheness, really.
Oden: (giggles) Mr. Fisher, please, stop tickling me in that part!
San Antonio vs. Dallas
I don't think I can use "San Antonio Spurs" and "loser" in the same sentence. Whoops, I just did. Let me put it this way:
Is that a cheerleader? Yep, I am so banned.
Cleveland vs. Atlanta
Loser: Not-lanta - A banged up bird squad willingly flies away, at the King's behest. Tyranny reigns all over the Eastern Conference.
Three tries to guess who farted.
(clue: he'tried to hide it, but failed miserably)
Boston vs. Orlando
Loser: Boston - Another pretty exciting series involving the Cloverboys. Glen "Big Baby" Davis finally grew up to become "Bigger Baby", even hitting a buzzer-beater to win Game 4. Bet he grabbed five Big Macs to celebrate after that one. Dwight Howard also had a coming-of-age experience by calling out his coach, and then carrying his team to a monumental Game 7 victory on the road. By the way, in case you didn't notice, that was a serious sentence, seriously.
Paul Pierce thinking: "Shit, I need to motivate my teammates, but how?"
Paul Pierce screaming: "Oh god! My knee! My bum knee that gave out in last year's finals is giving out again, oh god!!!"
Denver vs. Dallas
Loser(s): Dallas, Mark Cuban, K-Mart's mother, Dirk's pseudo-girlfriend, Jason "The Jet and The Most Hated Maverick" Terry - What a cathartic experience for Spurs fans after that 1st round debacle. But hey, I like Dirk. Bless his German heart.
Los Angeles vs. Houston
Loser(s): Houston AND Los Angeles - Yeah, you read that right. Another gem of a series that showed the Rockets' heart and grit. Yao Ming went down with another case of gigantism. Shane Battier got bloodied and Ron Artest stayed on his best behavior. Aaron Brooks ably matched T-Mac's entire career in just seven playoff games. How about LA? Well... they sucked for letting this go the distance. Also, Kobe is a psychopath.
Los Angeles vs. Denver
Loser: Denver - Much has been said in the past loser threads about this Nuggets team, and I think I can't contribute anything new anymore. Except maybe J.R. Smith is a Frodo Douchebaggins. J.R. Smith is a meathead. J.R. Smith is an asshat. J.R. Smith is a buttmunch. Wow, these synonyms for douchebag are really useful.
Cleveland vs. Orlando
Loser: Cleveland - Immediately off the top of my head, [start of Cavs bashing] Mo Williams is a f*cktard for guaranteeing a series victory. LeBron is a sore loser who thinks he's a winner, ergo, he's delusional and must be sent to a doctor to have brain surgery. Mike Brown couldn't come up with a decent offense to save his faux pas eyeglasses. Heck, Big Z was so soft, even Tony Parker could've posted him up and gotten the offensive rebound and putback all at the same time. If the word flopper was human, his name would be Anderson Varejao. [end of Cavs bashing] To end on a good note, hey Danny Ferry, good luck next season.
Witness - the final remains of this puppet, never to be seen again. (we seriously hope)
(Thanks LatinD for the pic)
(Disclaimer: If you want some serious but also enjoyable Finals analyses, just visit our neighbors at Silver Screen and Roll for Los Angeles, or Third Quarter Collapse for Orlando. They're doing some really marvelous stuff over there. Otherwise, read on.)
So... you want your Finals preview like you want by-the-minute tweets from Ashton Kutcher, eh? For starters, you can check out the general take of the PtR masses in our Finals poll. As for me, a lot of the experts point to the Lakers as the victor, but again, after what they did to LeBron, I couldn't count out the Magic. Here's an argument-counter argument-counter counter argument chart that should have you confused.
|Why Orlando/Los Angeles should win…||Or not…||But then again…|
|The Magic are riding on a serious wave of momentum after dethroning last year's champs and vanquishing the myth of King James.||Momentum? Whatever. A KG-less Boston took Orlando to seven games, and Cleveland was a LeBron-and-scrubs team from the very beginning. Impressive, I guess. Also, Lakers have their own momentum after blowing out Denver on the road.
||Lakers have been prone to take games off this season, until maybe that Nuggets series, so they are definitely vulnerable. Orlando is also playing the underdog/written off card quite well.
|Orlando's pick-and-roll and subsequent three-point bombings will kill LA, just like how it killed the other teams.||LA has the personnel (i.e. length and athleticism) in Odom and Ariza to stifle Orlando's big forwards and disrupt the Magic's bread-and-butter pick-and-roll plays.||LA has been bad at pick-and-roll defense since the Shaq-Kobe era. Maybe good at times this year, but certainly not consistent enough.|
|Los Angeles is a soft team and will suffer the same fate as they had a year ago||I don't actually think of Rashard, Hedo and Rafer as "hard-nosed" and capable of pushing the Lakers around. Plus, that Houston series might've actually toughened these Lakers.||Dwight Howard may be able to out-tough everyone in LA, and that alone can affect the Lakers' play. (whoa, it rhymes)
|Los Angeles has the best player in this series, who also happens to be the best closer in the game.||Well, last time I checked LeBron was the best player in the ECF and still lost. Having the best player certainly isn't a guarantee.||Will Kobe really allow another championship opportunity slip through? I doubt it. A better supporting cast than LeBron's also helps.|
|Phil Jackson, he of the 9 championship rings, will outcoach the "Master of Panic", SVG||Dialing back again last year, wasn't Doc Rivers also a first-time Finals coach?||Like Kobe aching for a title without Shaq, I think PJ's still focused on getting that elusive one-for-the-second-thumb that will break his tie with Auerbach, and therefore he will attempt to pull out all the stops.|
|You know what? Orlando's bench might actually be deeper if Jameer Nelson returns, or at the very least, more useful than LA's so-called bench mob.||Throwing Jameer back in the mix just might ruin everything. Rafer Alston coming off the bench, playing less than 30 minutes and still contribute? Puh-leaze.||If the Nelson risk pays off, Orlando's rotation would be scary good.|
|Homecourt advantage is the best thing ever since fire was discovered.||Orlando's a darn pretty good road team.||And so is LA. Did that make any sense?|
|Orlando can throw two good defenders at Kobe in Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus||In the Houston series, Kobe had to go through that Shane Bloodier and crazy Ron Artest. Aren't those guys better defenders than Lee and Pietrus?||All the beating from previous playoff games might have worn Kobe down, even if just a bit.|
|Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should make Dwight Howard work harder defensively and prevent him from concentrating on help defense as well.||That is, if Howard doesn't get Pau and Bynum in foul trouble first.||Two able seven-footers are still better than one.|
This could go on and on and there are many more angles to it, and I know people might disagree with some of the points presented. Maybe what I'm trying to get at is, this is still not a sure thing for the Lakers, unlike what the so-called experts are proclaiming. Orlando is really capable of an "upset", but I also wouldn't be surprised if L.A., just like Cleveland, will be the ones down by a game from the get-go. Lastly, here are some final thoughts on the series:
Lamar Odom - All I know is that if this guy's head is screwed on straight and plays with passion and determined aggression night in and night out, he's at the very least a borderline All-Star. I wouldn't go as far to proclaim like some asshat named Bill Simmons that the Lakers' chances depend entirely on Odom. Maybe him playing well will affect if LA wins handily or will find itself more often in tight late-game situations. Otherwise, with Bynum less than 100%, a consistently productive Odom should be a huge boost. I especially like his length from a defensive standpoint.
- Andrew Bynum - Here's Bynum's statline compared to Trevor Ariza's during the Game 6 closeout against the Nuggets:
|Trevor Ariza, SF||22||7-9||3-4||0-0||1||3||4||0||1||0||2||4||17||+17|
|Andrew Bynum, C||22||1-6||0-0||0-0||1||0||1||1||1||1||1||3||2||+16|
What am I getting at? Nothing really. Just wanted to make a case for the Spurs FO to chase Ariza in free agency. Or maybe I wanted to point out how much Bynum sucks nowadays. Poor kid. But imagine if he suddenly returns to the productive level that he was at earlier in the season. After last season's loss to Boston, the Lakers were left to ponder if having Andrew around would've helped. Now, even with Bynum back, I still doubt his ability to contribute in a significant way, aside from just being another big body armed with 6 fouls. This Magic team plays small and plays fast, I wonder if Bynum can keep up with the way he's been playing lately. If he does return to form, it might be over even before Stan Fat Gundy sings. I doubt Andrew will, so Orlando still has a real chance.
- Jameer Nelson - He's the real All-Star rather than Mo Williams. It's common knowledge that he was huge during the two regular season meetings between the teams, and I also remember vividly how he torched our Spurs during the season. Agh. Admit it, this little nutcracker has improved a lot. Honestly though, if I were SVG I wouldn't want to risk the current team chemistry and play this guy. But if he's somehow at 80% of where he was before he got injured, and would get comfortable easily coming off the bench for spot duty, it'd be a good gamble. Defensively, however, can he keep up or is it best to just use Anthony "the JV 1.2" Johnson more for defensive purposes?
- Referees - It's hard to figure out what kind of refs will show up for each game, given their recent unpredictability in this year's POs. I'm pretty sure though that PJ and SVG will waste no time in gaining even the smallest of favors from the refs, just to get the slightest advantage.
Jameer: "Are you like, a dance instructor or something?"
After reading all of that, please keep in mind that my penchant for game insights is just as superior as an Ewok's and as shallow as Kevin Garnett's tears. I'll leave the rest of the discussion up to you smart asses.
Wow, I just realized that I actually wrote something sane. It blew my mind. Okay enough with that then. Before we proceed to our joyous commenting and NBA finals celebrity-watching, I already identified the loser in you so you wouldn't have to feel confused over-analyzing if you're a loser or not.