(SB Nation Arizona, Seth Pollack) The San Antonio Spurs are clearly the class of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. They breezed through the Utah Jazz and swept their first round series in one of the two games on the schedule Monday night. The Spurs are showing a potent combination of veteran execution with an infusion of young athletes. We can't wait to see them face the Thunder (if OKC can get by the Lakers).
In the other game on Monday's schedule, the Los Angeles Clippers took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies. Overall, Memphis is the better team but they don't play well enough as a unit to overcome the star power of Chris Paul. The series heads back to Tennessee for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Here's a look at the four games on Tuesday's 2012 NBA Playoff schedule. All four games feature a team with a 3-1 lead trying to close out their series:
The sooner this one is over, the better. We have to give the Magic credit for winning a game and forcing overtime in another. They've played hard but just can't compete with the Pacers. Indiana, for their part, should have been more dominant in the series which doesn't bode well for them moving forward.
Joe Johnson has been a virtual non-factor in this series which is not want you need from a guy making max-player money. The Hawks have some interesting decisions to making in the offseason, which will likely start very soon.
The 76ers are really showing something here and if they can close out the banged up Bulls on the road, they will have a lot of momentum heading into the next round. They are clearly the surprise of the playoffs so far.
The Lakers let one go on the road in the high altitude of Denver, but they won't let that happen again. The Nuggets simply can't run fast enough to make the Lakers bigs tired.
Although NBA free agency doesn't start until July 10, 2012...it's apparently not too soon to start speculating about free agents and future acquisitions. A couple of interesting (or not) rumors surfaced involving the Phoenix Suns today--one involving arguably the greatest player to ever don a Suns jersey, and another about some guy in Cleveland.
Apparently, at least according to one writer, the Phoenix Suns are "in the lead" to eventually sign 6'6" Cleveland Cavaliers guard Alonzo Gee to a multi-year deal worth approximately $4 million per year. How credible is this information? Who knows...but even though there's another couple of months until free agency officially kicks off, it would make sense that the Suns' front office is at least exploring all their options.
All indications in Phoenix are the Suns will make Steve Nash a limited offer and he’ll move on. It makes sense as the Suns will have $23 million in salary cap room and they’ve gone as far as they can go. The Suns were always a player destination, and this will test whether they still are under the frugal Robert Sarver management. Many believe Nash instead of chasing a title with a contender for a lesser salary will go back to Canada and the Raptors for a three-year deal and help bring their young players along.
Again, who knows how much, if any, of this has any substance to it. I personally can't imagine Steve Nash leaving Phoenix to go and NOT chase a title in Toronto. I understand the whole home-town thing, but let's not forget that Nash has already spent the majority of his professional career in Phoenix and is probably more committed to this city than he would be to Toronto.
I could understand Nash leaving Phoenix for Miami or New York to give himself a better chance of winning a championship before he eventually retires...but Toronto? I just don't see it. Phoenix is probably just as much of a home town to Steve as any place in Canada would be at this point. Not to mention, while he grew up in Victoria, B.C., he was actually born in Johannesburg, South Africa for what it's worth.
The boys at SB are talking mock draft even as the NBA playoffs are still happening, which, I suppose is what Mr. Babby should be doing as well. Tom Z has the Phoenix Suns taking Austin Rivers at #13. His logic?:
Part of Robert Sarver's campaign to begin trolling various members of the Boston Celtics franchise.
What do we know about Rivers? Well, if you are like me, you may not have paid attention to those smug Duke Blue Devils throughout the season. So here is what Draft Express had to say:
Standing 6-4 with a wiry frame that he's added some bulk to since his days at Winter Park High School, Rivers is a bit undersized for a NBA shooting guard, but compensates with a 6'7 wingspan. Athletically, the 19 year-old guard lacks elite strength and explosiveness as a leaper in traffic, but has very good quickness and fluidity, which he maximizes with the timing of his first step and ball-handling skills...His swagger, skill level, and scoring ability were unmistakable, even early on, but scouts also got an eyeful of his average decision-making, poor body language in the face of adversity and bouts with inefficiency from the perimeter...Rivers has the potential to be a terrific scoring threat in the NBA, even if the rest of his game still needs to be rounded out.
A very young, under-sized 2? HM. Call me skeptical. Could he be converted into a PG like his father? Some thoughts:
1. Why would the Suns, especially if Nash goes elsewhere, pick up a very young SG in the draft? Unless they had plans to make a run at Deron Williams (or other), you'd be looking at Sebastian Telfair running the point for the next few years?
2. Having some young depth and a scoring threat at the 2 IS a necessity. Assuming Shannon Brown leaves, which I am 98% sure he does for phat contract on a rich, crappy team. But would a 20 year old who is by most accounts, considered fairly "raw" be ready to play 15 minutes a game? Of course the Suns could sign a stop gap for a year.
3. Some say that Celtic coach Doc Rivers really really wants his boy on his team. But will it be his team next season. I suppose much is riding on how deep the Celts go in the playoffs. It's an aging team that is most likely headed towards the dreaded rebuilding phase of life. If Rivers stays, perhaps they look to make a deal to grab Austin, ahead of the Suns or ask for a Rajon Rondo-draft and trade. Hell, maybe they send over the Rondo for the rights to Rivers. Have fun with that exploration.
The 2012 NBA Playoff schedule was full this weekend. We had our first series end in a sweep and surprisingly, it was the Dallas Mavericks getting the early boot at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The New York Knicks dug deep and avoided the same fate by beating the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets extended their series with the Lakers with a home win.
In both cases, however, the favorite (Heat and Lakers) lead their series 3-1 so it's only a matter of time. The same 3-1 situation goes for the Boston Celtics who beat up the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers who survived overtime with the Orlando Magic. The San Antonio Spurs lead the Utah Jazz 3-0 and will go for the sweep Monday night.
The only surprise series is the 3-1 lead the Philadelphia 76ers hold over the severely banged up Chicago Bulls. Credit the 76ers Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for providing much-needed scoring. Oh, and the Grizzlies are finding the Clippers to be much stiffer competition than expected.
Here's what's on the NBA Playoff schedule for Monday:
San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on TNT
The Jazz are going to lose this series, it's only a matter of protecting home court and avoiding the embarrassing sweep. History would have us believe the Spurs will drop this one and win at home, but then again, this Spurs team might be the best we've seen in a long time.
It's not entirely clear if the Clippers are better than we thought or if the Grizzlies are worse. Regardless, the Clips are up 2-1 in this series which making this game pivotal. It's hard to imagine the loser tonight moving on.