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The Playoffs

It's playoff time and Dave and I finally got our wish; a playoff rematch of last year's heart breaker. It's Houston vs. Utah and I for one cannot wait. I absolutely revel in the fact that no one is giving the Rockets a chance this year. It's exactly what happened when the Rockets were on a 12 game winning streak and Yao went down, and we know how that went. Anyone saying they thought the Rockets would win 55 games, that is not a Rockets fan, is lying. And yet that's exactly what they did. A record that is one game better than Utah's, something that everyone seems to forget.

Tonight the Utah Jazz come into Toyota Center for Game 1 of the NBA first round series between the two.

The series will be played as such (ALL TIMES IN CST):

Gm. 1:Sat., April 19: at Houston, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Gm. 2:Mon., April 21: at Houston, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)

Gm. 3:Thu., April 24: at Utah, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)

Gm. 4:Sat., April 26: at Utah, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Gm. 5*:Tue., April 29: at Houston (TBD)

Gm. 6*:Fri., May 2: at Utah, (TBD)

Gm. 7*:Sun., May 4: at Houston, (TBD)

* if necessary

For some reason ESPN had the game at 9:30 CST until this morning, and I checked as well and the game is now set for 8:30 CST.

The match ups:

Point Guard:
Bobby Jackson, Aaron Brooks (Rafer Alston in Game 3) vs.
Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, and Jason Hart

Rafer Alston should be the starter here, and as much as he has killed me at times this year, he has impressed me as well. If he would simply stop having mental lapses in games and realize that he is a good, not great, passer, things will fully click. He's out for at least the first two games of the series and should return for Game 3 in Utah. Bobby Jackson will get the starts and probably run the game about 50/50 with Aaron Brooks. Brooks has been tutored well by Jackson and his game is very similar to Jackson's from about 5 years ago. That is a very good thing. Bobby has settled down his penetration as he is getting older, but his shot is still pretty solid and he can drive the lane, and will, when it is there.

Deron Williams is the only PG of consequence here, though Ronnie Price has run the offense well in the few games I've seen while D-Will was on the bench. Jason Hart hasn't been playing lately much and rightfully so. Williams recently hurt his tail bone on when Carmelo hit him hard with a flagrant foul and he hit the court. It did not seem to bother him too much against the Rockets the next game, but he sat out the second half (not reading anything into this) against the Spurs. Here is a list, in order, of the best points in the league: 1. Chris Paul 2. Steve Nash 3. Deron Williams 4. Not one of the Rockets, so you get the point.

Advantage: Utah Huge, but Houston decidedly will win the battle when D-Will is on the bench. Williams averages 37 minutes a game, expect that to go to 39 or 40 in the playoffs. So the Rockets need to take advantage for the 8 or 9 minutes he is sitting.

Shooting Guard:
Tracy McGrady and Luther Head vs.
Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and CJ Miles

Tracy McGrady needs to stop being Tracy and get back to being TMac. The TMac that averaged 30 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the playoffs before last season took him down to 28.8 PPG. TMac decidedly did not lose playoff games, the teams around him were very sub par or in the case of his first year in Houston, not the better team. That TMac drove the lane, destroyed a player for standing in front of him and did everything he could to win. Last year, and I know it's crazy sounding considering he had 29 points and 13 assists, in game 7 he simply did not take over when it counted. He shot only 4 shots in the entire 4th and played scared. Before that he was dominating. I'd rather have 4th quarter TMac then full game Tracy. Please come back!! Luther Head is the worst entry passer in the NBA, but his shooting can make up for it. As I said in a previous post, unless your name is Tracy McGrady then you should never pass to Chuck Hayes or Dikembe Mutumbo, period.

I must confess that I'm sure exactly how their rotation is run here. Kyle Korver gets a lot of minutes, as does Ronnie Brewer, but I bet both play Small Forward as well. Korver is a deadly shooter that was exactly what the team needed to turn back into the 90s Jazz and play the Hornacek to DWill Stockton and Boozer's Malone. Brewer is one of my favorite young players in the league, and CJ Miles should have gone to Texas and played with DJ, KD and Damion James. Both are good players, with Brewer having the ability to borderline great in about a year or 2. But this year, they are not a match for Tracy OR TMac.

Advantage: Houston, HUGE

Small Forward:
Shane Battier, occasionally Tracy McGrady and very rarely Carl Landry or Luis Scola
Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring

Shane Battier is bar none the defensive player of the year. Just because he does not have crazy eyes like KG does not mean KG is better this year. Yes, KG is a much better overall player, but is not always asked to D someone up. Shane is our go to defender, the guy asked to stop the other teams SG or SF. Unfortunately Shane doesn't have someone on the Jazz that he needs to stop that is a super star. Luckily though, the Jazz rely a lot of their extra scorers and Shane should be able to stop most of Kirilenko, Brewer and Korver's offense. Shane is banged up but it does not appear to be anything serious. The Rockets will get his peak effort this series, no doubt.

Kirilenko and Harpring are guys I love to hate, but every team in the league would love to have them in the fold. They play suffocating defense and are just dirty enough to get under the skin of other players, but not actually be considered dirty players. That's a tough line to tippy toe, but they do it fantastically. Kirilenko is the better scorer, but Harprings offense is underrated.

Advantage: This is a tough one, but I have to with Rockets, but only because when Tracy plays SF this puts it in Houston's favor, though his minutes at the three are way down. Shane is the better overall defender because he plays hard every second of the game, the same cannot be said of Kirilenko as he can have full game lapses where he disappears. Harpring is all out energy, but is not a starter in the league. Kirelenko can be one of the better offensive 3s in the game, but again disappears too much for my liking.

Power Forward
Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Mike Harris (also Chuck Hayes) vs.
Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap

Luis Scola has emerged as a very good power forward. His motor is non-stop and there are only two downfalls to his game. 1. He travels a little too much, though he is called for it repeatedly even when he doesn't actually break the rule and 2. Because his energy level is so high, he picks up 1-2 ticky tack fouls a game and 1-2 phantom fouls because officials inexplicably will call anything on the guy that is more active. Carl Landry has been down a bit as of late, but I fully expect to see him step it up on the large stage that is the playoffs. The pick and roll came back pretty strongly in a few games lately and I expect that to continue. The PF depth on the Rockets is incredible. Even if Luis Landry gets in foul trouble, Chuck Hayes can come in and is one of the few guys in the league that can actually play good defense on Boozer.

Carlos Boozer is a stabber of a blind guy in the back kind of guy. I still firmly believe he has no business being in Utah. Now to get off my soap box, the NBA is a business and that saga is over. Boozer has turned into a very good all around player, though he absolutely can have lapses on the defensive end. His offense more than makes up for that and against the Rockets he rarely misses his high arcing jumper. From reading a few things, it seems that he misses it more against other teams. I'm not sure why that is, but I guess some players just have teams they excel against. I am starting to hate him on Karl Malone type proportions, and that's a really big compliment to his game since he's not a dirty player in any way (like that a-hole Malone inarguably was). Millsap is a good player that plays with energy. He is not, however, even in the same class as Luis Scola, no matter how many Jazz fans try to compare the two. My guess is that some team is going to way overpay him when he becomes a free agent and he'll be another cautionary tale to GMs.

Advantage: Utah, but it's not nearly as big as some people are trying to make it out to be. There is not some huge front court advantage as I repeatedly read about, but there is an advantage.

Mount Mutumbo and Chuck Hayes vs.
Mehmet Okur and Jaron Collins

Mutumbo has tailed off a bit as of late, but really thrives on attention. The playoffs are just the kind of attention grabber he needs to step his game back up. Unfortunately the Jazz don't really have a center, they have a tall guy that plays center like a Small Forward. That means we will see a lot of Chuck Hayes at the 5. Chuck will frustrate Okur on the defensive end, and will frustrate Rockets fans on the offensive end. Not because he's not a relatively competent player on that end, but because Luther Head and Rafer Alston continually give him the ball in the wrong spots.

Mehmet Okur is a good player, he's not nearly as good as the Jazz offense makes him look, but lucky for him, that is the offense that he gets to be a part of. His 7 rebounds a game seem to me to come because other teams forget about him, but that's really a credit to his game. Jaron Collins is awful, plain and simple awful.

Advantage: Jazz I guess? Neither team is inspiring, and just the hole that Yao leaves gives this to the Jazz.

Coaching: Adelman's offense vs. Sloan's offense, but JVGs defense vs. Sloan's "defense". Personally I hate Jerry Sloan and think his offensive is just to out-thug the other team. Adelman's offensive is a thing of beauty, and when the Rockets run it, the efficiency is incredible. This will boil down to how well Adelman can get Tracy to be TMac and how effective the Rockets defense is on the Jazz pick and roll.

Advantage: Adelman, very slightly. Both have gone to the finals twice, but Adelman's offense doesn't call for an illegal "pick and roll" to work (And while it is less so with Boozer and D-Will than it has been in the past, they move a great deal). Adelman also has a .614 winning percentage to Sloan's .603, not to mention a .507 playoff winning percentage to Sloan's .497.

Offense: Next year this will go to the Rockets, this year it is decidedly in Utah's favor. There was an ESPN poll on this and 23.2% said that the Rockets had the better offense. That's just awful, be a homer, but don't be stupid. That leads to the next category:

Defense: In every possible way, and 7 times on Sunday, the Rockets win this. They have the best individual defender in Shane Battier and play better zone and better man to man. It's not close. Yet for some reason, the question on ESPN has had 41.6% of the votes go the way of the Jazz. That is one of the dumbest votes I've ever seen. Even Jerry Sloan would tell you that his team's defense isn't even on the planet as the Rockets defense.

Bench: This should go to the Rockets, but is a lot closer with Yao out and Mutumbo or Chuck Hayes having to start. And I'm assuming Rafer comes back sooner than later. I still believe the Rockets have the advantage.

So given all of that, what does it tell me? It tells me that whichever team wants this more will win, and every advantage helps. The piece that puts it over the top for the Rockets is Home Court Advantage for me.

Rockets in 7, get ready for an epic series!

Let's go Rockets!!!!!

Stay tuned to see exactly what the bet between The Dream Shake and My Utah Jazz is.