Observations from Game 1 Spurs victory over the Heat

Spurs fans have to be happy after Game 1, but we all know you can’t project out the entire series after one game. The NBA playoffs are all about adjustments as we saw in the Indiana series, and now we’ll see what Erik Spoelstra has planned for game 2.

– We’ve all seen Miami come back again and again after a tough loss, so we should expect to see some adjustments for Game 2. That said, San Antonio is much more experienced and consistent that the Pacers. They anticipate adjustments and can respond in kind. The Spurs will be tough to beat if they play like they did last night and start hitting their threes. That said, Lebron mysteriously stayed away from the post last night. Let’s see if Spoelstra adjusts the offensive game plan.

– Fatigue was a factor for Miami. Of course that has a lot to do with the Indiana series, but the Spurs know how to run a defense ragged. The aggressive Miami defense that often destroyed the Pacers in the half-court wasn’t as effective against an efficient Spurs team that had only four turnovers. It’s not a good sign that he had to ask Spoelstra for a breather at the end of the third quarter.

– Lebron played well last night, but he certainly wasn’t in “beast mode” against this defense. The Spurs clogged the lane and dared Lebron to dish to his teammates. They’re happy to watch Chris Bosh launch threes, especially in crunch time. We’ll see whether Lebron can find a way to take control. This series looks like a great challenge for him.

– If Lebron, Wade and Bosh all play well, Miami can beat anyone any night of the week. But Wade and Bosh have been inconsistent, and that creates huge problems for Miami. The Miami bench has also been erratic. Shane Battier was on fire last year, but this year he’s basically been benched in favor of Mike Miller, who is a huge liability on defense. Meanwhile, the Spurs are more disciplined, efficient and experienced. They’re also deep, and even though Spoelstra has established himself as a very good coach, Gregg Popovich is the best in the business. Tony Parker is clearly on his game, and Tim Duncan continues to play at a high level. Manu Ginobili has yet to get hot.

– Basically, the Heat have to play well to win this one. That may sound obvious, but the point is they can’t expect the other team to self-destruct at times in the face of their defense. Indiana played a great series and almost beat Miami, but they’re still young and erratic, and their offense would disappear at times. Frank Vogel did a great job, but he had no clue when to call a timeout against the Heat onslaught. Popovich doesn’t make those mistakes. He knows how to control a game and stop a run.

So let’s see how Miami responds. If history is a judge, the Spurs will have their hands full in game 2, not that they won’t be ready.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Late trades punctuate crazy trade deadline

The trade deadline ended at 3 PM ET Thursday, but that doesn’t mean the news of just-completed trades is going to stop coming in. Here are a few deadline deals that broke just before or after the league cutoff.

Blazers acquire Gerald Wallace. (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)
The Bobcats get Dante Cunningham, Joel Przybilla and two first round picks. Since Przybilla’s deal is expiring, this is a salary dump for Charlotte. They’ll come away with Cunningham and two first rounders out of the deal. Wallace can play either forward spot, so he could play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum if the Blazers want to play small ball.

Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins to OKC for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Y! Sports)
Interesting trade for the Thunder, who are going to have trouble shooting the ball if they start Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha. They’ll have plenty of size down low and appear to be gearing up for a potential matchup with the Lakers and/or Spurs. Perkins is widely regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the league and Ibaka is no slouch either. The C’s must feel like they have plenty of size with Shaq and Glen Davis, who usually finishes games for Doc Rivers. Green will back up Paul Pierce and/or Kevin Garnett. Krstic is a serviceable center as well, and there are rumors that Boston will be looking to add Troy Murphy if he clears waivers.

Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic. (Marc Stein, ESPN)
Brooks was thought to be a cornerstone of Houston’s youth movement, but one temper tantrum and one suspension later and he’s on his way to the Suns for Dragic, who was thought to be the point guard of the future in Phoenix once Steve Nash moved on. But Dragic’s three-point shot has disappeared (28% this year after 39% last season) and his numbers are down as a result. If he gets back to form, the 24-year-old could be a steal — and the Rockets got a first round pick to boot.

Rockets send Shane Battier to Memphis for Hasheem Thabeet. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports)
The Rockets get another first round pick as part of this deal. Thabeet isn’t ready for prime time, but maybe the Rockets still see potential in him. Battier’s contract is expiring and he obviously wasn’t in Houston’s long-term plans so they got what they could for him. The first round pick should be useful, even if Thabeet is not.

In another trade that “almost-was,” O.J. Mayo was going to be moved to the Pacers for Josh McRoberts and a first round pick, but the NBA didn’t receive the fax in time, so the trade was nullified. Insert Michael Heisley joke here.

Sans Yao Ming, Rockets blast sleepy Lakers


Well, the Lakers are on their way to the NBA Finals to face Cleveland and give us a legendary match-up, oh wait a second…Seems the Houston Rockets, sans Yao Ming, weren’t quite ready to give up the ghost on this series. At least for one night, they showed the Lakers that they were able to step up their game when necessary. Aaron Brooks scored a career-high 34 points and Shane Battier drained 5 threes’ to lead the charge right over the dumbstruck Lakers. As quoted by the Associated Press on ESPN.com, Battier had some valid observations after the game:

“I’m not surprised,” said Battier. “It almost sounds cliche, but we’re a resilient group. We talk about bouncing back. Through adversity, through lineup changes, through trades, through injuries, we’ve never quit and we’ve never stopped believing.”

It was a serious spanking applied to the Lakers, and it’s something the Lakers need every few games or so. I don’t think I’m going out on a ledge here by saying that despite the loss, the Rockets don’t have a prayer of beating the Lakers in this series. The only real weapon Houston had that the Lakers seemed unable to fully counter, Yao Ming, is out with a broken foot.

Besides, Yao Ming wasn’t the turning point anyway, it’s not like the Rockets had much of a chance even with him at 100%. Now that LA’s had this little slap in the face, they’re gonna get real mad, and the next game would be a triumph for the Rockets if they can even keep it respectable.

That’s just what the Lakers do. They get lazy and get beat, then remember why they’re the most dangerous team in the league and win. It’s a lack of focus that may get them in trouble in the Finals, but isn’t going to be enough to worry anybody until then.

Magic, Rockets steal Game 1’s on the road

By now you know that the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets each managed to win Game 1 on the road, but what you may not know is how exactly they managed to pull those wins out.

Orlando rode a 30-17 second quarter to an 18-point lead at halftime, and led by as many as 28 (65-27) with nine minutes to play in the third quarter before the Celtics finally showed up to play. Boston whittled the lead down to four with two minutes to play, but a timely drive by Rafer Alston and four straight free throws by J.J. Redick helped the Magic hold on for the win.

Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo each went 2 of 12 from the field, so most of the Celtics’ scoring was left to Paul Pierce who finished with 23 points on 7 of 18 shooting. Boston simply wasn’t sharp; it might have been fatigue or maybe it was just one of those nights. Dwight Howard finished with 16 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks, and the C’s simply didn’t have an answer for him inside. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Rafer Alston combined to shoot 17 of 45 (38%) from the field, so it’s not like Orlando was running on all cylinders, either.

Meanwhile, in L.A., the Rockets capitalized on the Lakers’ flat play. Yao Ming posted 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Ron Artest chipped in with 21 points and seven assists. But the key was the play of point guard Aaron Brooks, who outscored Derek Fisher (19 to eight) and came up with a pair of timely buckets in the fourth quarter. Along with Kyle Lowry, the Rockets have quickness in the backcourt that the Lakers can’t match unless they elect to play Shannon Brown and/or Jordan Farmar.

Shane Battier did a nice job defensively on Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 points but didn’t really get going until the Lakers were in scramble mode late in the game. He had seven points in the last 1:32, so without those makes, he was 12 of 29 (41%) for 25 points. Pau Gasol (14 points), Lamar Odom (9 points) and Andrew Bynum (10 points) all had relatively quiet games, which allowed the Rockets to spring the upset. In Artest, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes and Yao Ming, the Rockets have one of the best defensive front lines in the league, so they have the personnel to slow down the Laker big men.

Watch Battier’s hands when he defends Kobe’s jumper. He essentially sticks his hand right in Kobe’s face, almost as if he’s about to poke Kobe in the eye. This can be distracting to a shooter, though I’m sure Bryant has seen it time and time again. Battier has the quickness and strength to keep Bryant out of the lane (most of the time, anyway) and the Rockets know they have a chance against the Lakers if they can turn Kobe into more of a shooter and less of a scorer.

The NBA’s 68 worst contracts

The economy is really starting to take its toll on professional sports, and the NBA is no different. Bad contracts are bad even when the economy is pumping, but they really stand out in tough times like these. So I decided to look through the payrolls team-by-team to try to identify the worst contracts in the NBA. I expected to list 15-20 names, but I ended up scribbling down 68. That’s right, there are no fewer than 68 bad contracts in the NBA.

I didn’t include any of the players that are in the final year of their contracts because…well, what’s the point? They’ll be off the books in a few months anyway. Instead, I wanted to focus on those contracts that are going to haunt teams for years to come, so to be eligible, players have to have at least a year left on their current deals.

It’s tough to compare someone making superstar money to an average, everyday role player, so I split these 68 contracts up into three groups: the Overpaid Role Players, the Not-So-Super Stars and the Injury-Prones. I will rank them from least-worst to most-worst with the thinking that I wouldn’t trade the player for anyone further down the list but I would trade him for anyone previously mentioned. So, for example, if a guy is listed #7 within a particular group, I’m not trading him for anyone ranked #6-#1, but I would think seriously about moving him for a guy that is ranked #8+.

So let’s start with the role players and go from there…

(Note: In most cases, I don’t blame the player himself for his outrageous contract. The fault lies with the general manager that inked the guy to the deal. However, this rule goes out the window if the player has a history of only producing in his contract year – I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas.)

Read the rest after the jump...

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