Get 'em, Lou

Thanks to lockout, the 2012 NBA Playoff Schedule is a bit wacky. We've already had two games played in the Eastern Conference Semifinals while in the West, Round 2 doesn't start until Monday and Tuesday. To get the schedules back on tract, we'll also be treated to back-to-back games in the Spurs vs. Clippers and Lakers vs. Thunder series while the Heat vs. Pacers and Celtics vs. 76ers will play a more normal playoff series.

Here's predictions for the four series and the schedules for the next games:

San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Game 1 Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT

The Spurs rolled through the first round and have been resting and practicing for ages. They will be as healthy as any team still playing and with their depth and versatility should have no problem taking care of the Clippers. Tony Parker will make Chris Paul work on the defensive end and wear him down and the Clippers don't have enough size to both San Antonio in the front court.

Prediction: Spurs in five

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Game 1 Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT

This series has the potential to go seven games. The Thunder has a huge advantage at the point guard spot while the Lakers still have the best two bigs in the game...sometimes. A lot of these games will be determined by how physical the officials allow Metta World Peace to be with Kevin Durant away from the ball. We've seen Durant limited at time when guys play him tough and deny the pass. The Lakers have the tools to win this series but we've not seen them play well enough as a team to think they will.

Prediction: Thunder in seven

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

Game 2 Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on ABC

The Heat already hold a 1-0 lead in this series but they will potentially be without Chris Bosh due to an abdominal strain. Indiana has a lot of weapons without Bosh, they should be able to focus their defense even more on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Heat are still the favorites but the Pacers can win this series.

Prediction: Pacers in seven

Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

Game 2 Monday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on TNT

The Celtics took the first game of this series, but the 76ers are far more athletic and younger. We already saw Ray Allen and Paul Pierce struggle through the first round and if the Sixers can extend this series by winning Game 2 on the road, they have a very good chance of winning in seven.

Prediction: Sixers in seven

What are your picks?

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This week we once again learned how difficult it is to come back from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven NBA series, something only eight teams have accomplished in NBA history. This year a whopping...

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How would Paul Millsap look in orange and purple?

Both LA teams were taken to the brink, but found a way to win their respective Game 7s and move on to the second round to face much tougher opponents.

On the other side of the coin, overachieving Utah and injury-affected Memphis lost their magic in the end and now the offseason planning starts. Each team must answer some organizational questions, and their moves may impact the Suns and therefore the Suns fans.

Utah has talented youngsters Enes Kanter (C) and Derrick Favors (PF) waiting in the wings behind long-time starters Al Jefferson (C) and Paul Millsap (PF). Utah's problem is long-term upside of the current roster, and contract extensions. With Jefferson and Millsap playing at the top of their game, the Jazz barely squeaked into the playoffs and were summarily swept out of them as quickly as possible.

Utah attempted to play Jefferson, Favors and Millsap together by moving Millsap to SF and shifting Gordon Hayward to SG down the stretch and in the playoffs, but that only worked to limited success. They rebounded great, but the defense and scoring were underwhelming. Millsap is too slow to defend SFs and Hayward too slow to defend SGs.

Jefferson and Millsap combine to make $23.6 million next season, but both become unrestricted free agents when the 2012-13 season ends. Both Millsap and Jefferson will want extensions, and both will certainly ask the Jazz to comply this summer.

Millsap's career numbers, per basketball-reference.com

Millsap-numbers_medium

But those extensions will just prolong the waiting game for Favors and Kanter - who were both picked highly in the draft and deserve a chance to play for a fringe playoff team. Favors seems to have the highest immediate upside, and given that Millsap is less effective at SF, it looks like it's time to trade Millsap for some talent on the wing (or for cap space that they can then spend on shooting-guard talent).

Utah's other problem is that starting PG Devin Harris also has only one year left on his contract. In fact, only Favors, Kanter, Hayward and Burks are under contract beyond the 2012-13 season. Utah very nearly had 2 more lottery picks this spring, but now have none. Their own was lost when they made the playoffs, and Golden State was just bad enough to keep theirs from going to the Jazz.

Despite losing those picks though, the Jazz are clearly in a youth movement. They are very talented with young players at 4 positions. Do they prolong the inevitable and fight for the playoffs again with Jefferson, Millsap and Harris? Or do they cut bait and go young? The Suns themselves pushed for the playoffs and came up just short. Would the Jazz try the same thing for the second year in a row?

The Suns don't have the young point guard to trade Utah in exchange for Millsap, though. But the Jazz somehow don't have a first-round pick this year either. They could trade Millsap to the Suns for cap relief in a one-sided trade, and then sign a point guard or a wing on the open market. Would you trade this spring's #13 pick for Millsap and the Jazz's lower lottery pick in 2013?

Of course, Millsap would need to be extended. Is he worth $8-9 million a year for 3-4 years? Because that's what he would expect.

As for the Grizzlies, their issue is money. They already extended Randolph, Gay, Conley and Gasol to big money. They can't possibly even match a reasonable midlevel offer to OJ Mayo this summer. Mayo is still only 24 and is just scratching the surface of his talent.

Mayo's career numbers, per basketball-reference.com

Mayo-numbers_medium

But is he worth a long-term contract to the Suns? And to beat out other bidders, the Suns would have to offer more than midlevel.

Is he worth, say, 4 years for $32-36 million ($8-9 million per season)? He's young and certainly a better scorer and passer than any wing player the Suns currently have, and could easily score 20 per game next to Nash and/or as a primary offensive option.

The Suns could sign him with their cap space. Or, is he worth a sign-and-trade involving fellow restricted free agent Robin Lopez? Here, we would be trading a good backup center for a good scoring guard. I know you can't have enough size, but the Jazz just proved this season that size is not good enough without scoring.

So, Suns fans, what say you on Millsap and/or O.J. Mayo?


Did you know George Karl is seventh all-time in career coaching wins? And he looks like John Lithgow.

The first game 7 of the NBA Playoffs is upon us as the Denver Nuggets have fought their way back from a 3-1 series deficit to push the Lakers to the brink, with the deciding game in Los Angeles tonight. In the past, the Nuggets have been easy to dislike, but many of their more objectionable characters (Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith) are gone. Since seeing the Lakers lose fills our hearts with joy, I have no problem fully supporting the Nuggets tonight.

In the other remaining Western Conference series, LA's Clippers have also blown a 3-1 series lead after dropping game 6 to the Grizzlies last night, 90-88. Game 7 will be back in Memphis Sunday, and a Grizzlies win would lead to a rematch of last season's first round Grizz upset of the Spurs.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the second round tips off tonight as the eighth seed Philadelphia 76ers, fresh off their surprising series win over the injury-riddled top seeded Bulls, meet the Boston Celtics in a matchup that was once one of the league's premier rivalries. No Larry Bird or Dr. J in this one, but the Celtics Old Three Big Three continues to deliver, and Celtics defense held the Hawks to 82 PPG in their first round series win.

Game times and more after the jump.

Tonight's games:

  • Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, 5PM MST, TNT
  • Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers, 7:30PM MST, TNT

Links and Stuff

  • Clips Nation: Grizzlies 90, Clippers 88 - Heading Back To Memphis
  • Kevin Garnett is playing the "I'm being disrespected" card, objecting to charges that he's a dirty player. Since we all know Garnett for his Channing Frye junk punching ways, I'm unmoved by his protestations. Kevin Garnett, The Superstar The NBA Forgot
  • Chris "Birdman" Andersen is under investigation for involvement in child pornography. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime, and his lawyer says he's the victim of extortion. I really hope he's not guilty of anything here. As much as I like joking about his freakish appearance, I'd hate to think he's capable of this. Andersen is on leave from the team and won't play tonight.
  • Everybody's favorite mental health care advocate, Metta World Peace, will return from his suspension tonight.
  • Lakers first year head coach Mike Brown's job is on the line, opines former Laker great and current ESPN commentator Magic Johnson. Said Magic, "Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game. There would be so much pressure on Jim Buss and the Laker organization to get rid of him."
  • George Karl coached in Seattle during Soundgarden's prime. The legendary Seattle band is back with this song from "The Avengers" soundtrack. It's not quite vintage Soundgarden, but the chorus is great. "Like the Suns we will live to rise again." At least that's how I hear it.



By the time I reached the end of my 1500-word odyssey on Suns advanced statsĀ from Thursday, I still could not get over the impact Channing Frye has seemed to make on the offensive side of the ball...

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