As we enter the toughest part of our schedule, a period in which we could suffer a catastrophic collapse, it's time to look ahead to the playoffs. It's too tempting. However, I want to briefly touch on my experience as a prestigious and honored guest on a sports talk show.
Lee and I were on 1560 The Game on Tuesday with David Nuno and Raheel Ramzanali. Among other things, Lee, David, and Raheel talked about potential playoff matchups while I sat there trying to fit in. I quickly alienated myself while we were discussing players who could be potentially better than Tracy McGrady (on the air). Raheel mentioned Chris Paul, D-Wade, Kobe, etc. I threw out Danny Granger. Nuno quickly changed the subject before I could cite my Granger man-crush as a plausible reason for mentioning him. He probably feared that I was fixing to put Novak on there as well. If only I had mastered the art of fast-talking, I could have explained myself before being cut off. Taking note, I tried to do it again later, but picked the wrong name to experiment with. After a brief discussion, I tried to interject, "But where would Brian Bogusevic fit in the Astros' lineup?" Instead, it came out, "Buhwher Bowhosayvih in the lineup?" Slightly embarrassed, I took a quick rehabilitation breath and attempted my question once more.
But in all seriousness, I had a great time on the air and would (hopefully) love to do it again, and while I could probably improve my amateur radio skills to Lee's level (amateur 2.0), there are worse things to gripe over than being on the air with two professionals who had just finished talking with Sage Rosenfels. First Sage, then us - what a huge step forward for The Dream Shake and for 1560! But again, David and Raheel were fun to talk with, and I appreciated the hospitality they gave to Lee and myself.
Enough with the sentimental gestures - this isn't Scrubs. Let's get to the playoff discussion.
I'm going to leave L.A. off this list and pray we don't fall to the eighth seed. I could probably dive deeper into this, but I'm a bit rushed today, so here's what I've got:
Dallas: Record against: 2-1
Keep in mind: while the Mavericks are currently the eighth best team in the Western Conference, they are also a mere 3 games behind...us. And we're the third seed. Go figure. But I would love to play the Mavericks. We match up pretty well against them, and if Jet Terry can keep quiet for a game or two, the series should be an easy win. Our speed at the point guard position easily trumps the defensive ability of Jason Kidd, and Josh Howard would become obsolete with White Pills on him. My only concerns would be Terry and, of course, Dirk. However, Luis Scola has played so well of late, Dirk may not even be our biggest fear. Stuns me to say so, but it's true. A healthy Terry has the potential to hurt us more than Dirk. That said, Nowitzki is a former MVP and could easily prove me wrong. But do I like this matchup? Hell yes.
Denver: Record against: 3-1
That record (3-1), for some reason, seems deceiving to me. I can see how we would match up well against Denver, but Chauncey is an experience playoff veteran, and Nene, if motivated, can give Yao problems inside. I would also, as Nuno said off-air, fear the altitude changes that have given us trouble in the past (Utah series, anyone?). When this team is healthy, a starting lineup consisting of Billups, Melo, Martin, and Nene, with Kleiza and J.R. Smith coming off the bench, looks pretty strong. That said, the Nuggets have consistently had mental breakdowns on the court, and on many ocassions in our latest matchup, they just stopped hustling. Facing Denver with home-court would certainly be do-able, as Denver is on par with us as far as home vs. road records go. In that respect, I would be accepting of a first round series with the Nuggets. Otherwise, it could get very interesting.
Phoenix: Record against: 2-0
Please? PLEASE? Oh, how I would love to play Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. For one, we'd most likely have home court. Secondly, the Suns are without Amar'e Stoudemire. And thirdly, we would be treated to a Yao vs. Shaq marathon. I wouldn't miss a game. It would be a classic series, and I'd be confident in our chances. Steve Nash is a great player and scored at will against us in our last contest, but it was clear that his defense was lacking against Aaron Brooks. I think Brooks and Lowry could easily have big series' against Nash. And when our point guard play is at a high level, the Rockets tend to do very well. Rawn would guard J-Rich, and Shane would rotate off of Barbosa and Grant Hill. On top of all that, we'd get fantastic coverage from Phoenix Stan over at Bright Side of the Sun. I may seem a little too optimistic with Phoenix, but consider it a best-case scenario.
New Orleans:Record against: 1-1
I want nothing to do with Chris Paul in the playoffs, especially with our recent struggles guarding the point guard position. The Hornets, while they are a decent matchup for us, are a team that is just as hungry to win in the playoffs, and I think that a healthy David West, Paul, Chandler, and Peja could be extremely dangerous. But in short, I'd rather not mess with CP3. He's that good.
Utah: Record against: 2-1
Not to go against everything that we believe in, but...Utah is good? Dare I say it? They're a good team. Especially at home. At the rate they are winning, they'll most likely jump us in the standings, which would give them home-court. That would be a devastating matchup for us. Sad but true. We match up horribly against them, as the strengths of their offense don't match the strengths of our defense. Their ability to rebound and the outside shooting talent of their forwards and center make it hard for us to guard them as well. While playing Utah would not be a last hurrah by any means, it would be the toughest road to the second round. Even more so than San Antonio.
Portland: Record against: 1-1
The Trail Blazers put some of the most promising talent in the NBA on the court night in and night out, with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldrige, Rudy Fernandez, Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw, and the oft-underrated Steve Blake, and they have a pretty deep bench. With that said, I would like to play Portland. They're young and inexperienced in the playoffs, and are even worse than us on the road. On top of that, Oden may not play, and I'm not convinced that Joel Pryzbilla can hold down Yao for four or more games. Artest and Battier can be effective against Roy, and Scola has actually done a good job defending Aldridge in games past. While we have better options as far as first-round opponents go, I wouldn't mind playing the Blazers at all.
San Antonio: Record against: 1-1
I haven't really seen enough of San Antonio yet to judge our chances against them. Obviously, they've been playing excellent basketball, and are obviously the most experienced team in the field. They've added Roger Mason to their arsenal, and Matt Bonner has played extremely well since he was put into the starting lineup. We played SA so early in the season that it's tough to determine how we would fare against them. That, and each of our teams have significantly improved as the season has gone on. Our remaining March schedule includes two games against the Spurs. We'll know a lot more about each team by the time April rolls around. But generally speaking, it's pretty safe to say that we'd like to avoid playing the Spurs.