I feel you Ray, I can hardly believe it either!
But it's true, the Celtics made it to round two sans the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. Will the run continue? Hard to say, but I have learned not to doubt the Green Machine.
I've also learned that collectively the Van Gundy's (Stan and Jeff) make a halfway decent announcer but a lousy coach.
I've gained a great deal of respect for guys named Vinny, despite Joe Pesci's horrible accent.
What other knowledge have I gained? Let's see...
My dad used to say there'll never be another dominant man in the middle like Moses Malone.
He was feared on the offensive and defensive end. Even when you tried to foul him somehow he still put the ball in the hoop. He was simply a brute on the glass. And young kid that I was I agreed.
Then came that kid out of LSU... he left a lot of grown men soaking in ice baths postgame. He also gave a lot of jobs to stadium maintenance workers.
Now we have Howard.
This "Superman's" only Kryptonite seems to be the free throw line, but even that has been steadily improving. Under the tutelage of Patrick Ewing, Dwight has developed an offensive game that is quickly catching up with his Defensive Player of the Year talents.
So far in the playoffs he's averaging 24 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks a game and he only seems to be getting better.
More than the physical presence of Kevin Garnett, I thought the Celtics would miss his mental toughness the most.
Whatever gene that is that most people have that accepts defeat KG doesn't have it. And through osmosis neither did last year’s championship Celtics.
Apparently the Beantown Bullies are out to show their just as mentally tough with Garnett in tailored suits on the bench.
Any team that can play seven extra periods of basketball with a severely short bench (using the term bench very liberally), get down by as many as 28 points and still have the energy to close the gap to five by the end is beyond tough.
In fact this loss may be the best thing to happen to the Celtics and the worst thing for the Magic.
As bad as the Celtics played (Rondo in particular, uncharacteristically) they only lost by five points.
As good as the Magic played, they only won by five. That can hurt the psyche of team, especially one led by easily rattled Van Gundy.
After all in nearly every game the Magic have played they've led by double digits. Subsequently they've also seen those leads evaporate in nearly every game as well.
With the fatigue of the grueling Bulls series finally behind them, it's hard to bet against the Celtics going forward.
Derrick Rose was absolutely brilliant in spots in the series against the Celtics.
The rookie stepped into the bright lights of the playoffs, a man unafraid. He increased his scoring from 16 points to nearly 20 a game; he also chipped in 3 extra rebounds a game.
Unfortunately his turnovers also went up and he did have some mental breakdowns late in games that hurt his team.
The good thing about this is the affect this experience will have on him and his teammates going into next season.
Pushing the defending champions to a game seven is a huge confidence boost. The fact they have a young team and young coach means they will only get better.
Ben Gordon showed he has ice water in his veins as he was absolutely clutch.
The vet Brad Miller showed the tires still have some tread left as he was solid off the bench.
Hinrich gained confidence and seems to have found his game.
Tyrus Thomas is becoming more of a polished offensive threat and still plays solid defense.
With Noah and Salmons both stepping up at key spots this team figures to be in the mix next year.
Count me in as a believer.
Although the Pistons were destined for a first round exit long before the Iverson/Billups swap, I have to admit, had he still been around for the Cavs series it might have at least been more competitive.
Detroit’s loss is Denver's game, as Billups has provided a steady hand for the former rudderless ship.
Not only does he play excellent on the ball defense, but he finds his teammates for easy looks. His court vision has on more than one occasion been the difference between a contested jumper and an easy lay-up.
Right now Billups has the Nuggets playing actively on the defensive end, running other teams out of the gym and taking quality shots.
Anybody that can get J.R. Smith to listen and Carmello Anthony to play defense is a force to be reckoned with.
Although, that distinction may not really be a compliment.
Before the Heat series, no one was really sure if the Hawks style of play translated into the postseason.
Teams tend to need a half court game in order to advance, a steady offensive contributor with at least one playmaker who can get others involved.
Bibby played the role of playmaker, but it was more offense by committee.
When it worked, it really worked. To the point that I'm sure the good people at ESPN had a very hard time picking one play for their "Top Ten".
Of course when it didn't work the Hawks looked flat out awful.
Much like watching an AND 1 tourney.
When those crazy passes and outrageous dunks hit the mark, even the most devout basketball purist cracks a smile. But when they don't, it just fuels fire to the "That's what's wrong with the game today..." argument.
As much as some (myself included) can't stand Atlanta Hawks basketball, there's no denying the ridiculous athleticism and talent on that roster.
If Bibby can hold it together this may be a longer run than Hawks fans were expecting
Andre Iguodala, the leader of the Sixers had a not too vague message for Ed Stefanski.
After a disappointing game six loss the Magic, a game in which the Sixers gave the ball up 17 times for 26 points, jacked up 20 three-pointers and made an endless array of "rookie mistakes" he was disgusted.
Calling out teammates, the coaching staff, the water boy and the towel guy post game, he made it clear that there needs to be some changes.
Samuel Dalembert was absolutely embarrassed in the middle. When its Dwight Howard doing the damage you tend to concede the point, but when it's a guy named Marcin Gortat?
You got to wonder if Dalembert ever had or ever will have the mettle to play center in the NBA or if he's just a tall guy.
Lou Williams showed just how young he is jacking up ill-advised threes one after another, amidst turning the ball over 4 times. Four is not all that bad for a starter, but it's horrible for a bench player.
But perhaps the worst part about it is Coach DiLeo allowing it to go on for as long as it did. You think Larry Brown wouldn't have yanked guys who were hurting the team at the first opportunity?
When the pressure is on, the cracks in a team’s veneer tend to show. The Sixers showed that while talented, they are still an unfinished product.
This is a team that could be very good or very middle of the pack, which is good enough to make the postseason but not enough to do any damage...
After the Mavs unceremoniously sent the Spurs fishing in five games, I tried to find the last time the Spurs had their ticket punched in the first round.
It was in the 2000 Playoffs against the Suns.
Nearly a decade since the last time the Spurs summer vacation started in May. Like their soft-spoken leader, the Spurs have been the model for excellence and consistency.
Maybe it was just the loss of Ginobli, but they almost never have the frail Spaniard for all of the postseason anyway.
In the Game five loss, Duncan dropped in 30 points and Parker handed out 12 dimes. Any other day of the week that's enough for a Spurs win, not this time.
In Game four Tony Parker cashed in 43 points and the Spurs still lost by nine.
All signs indicate that the combo of Duncan/Parker may not be enough anymore, but every time we count the Spurs out...
Many people had the Pistons and Cavs matching up in the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
Despite the fact that the Celtics at that time still had a healthy KG and still had confetti in their hair from the Championship Parade, Detroit was seen as a serious contender.
What a difference a year makes.
Don't let the final scores confuse you, any one that watched that series (and there were precious few that did) can tell you that the games were not that close.
Their first round sweep against the Cavs painted a very vivid picture of an inescapable truth:
These are not the 2004 Pistons.
These are really not even the 2008 Pistons.
Without Billups to give them a swift kick in the teeth when they start slacking off, they played this entire series and most of the regular season at half speed.
In the Eastern Conference that's enough to get to the postseason, but if you matched the Pistons against any of the other 15 participants in the playoffs, they'd lose each time.
The body language of most of the Piston players told you all you needed to know; they walked up court on offense, jogged on defense, ducked under picks. The effort was just not there.
Whether that's due to the coach or the players is Joe Dumars' headache this offseason. Too bad the coach decided to make an example of one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA; they could've used somebody to play hard in this series.
I'll be the first to admit; I didn't see this coming.
But just like a great pitcher can get embarrassed by a hot bat, a great point guard can look average against a hot team.
Which is all that happened in the Hornets five game exit from the postseason; they faced a team peaking at the right time.
Still the future is bright for New Orleans.
David West has become one of the top forwards in the league and although his numbers dipped slightly this postseason, one tends to believe he'll turn it around next year.
Same thing with even Paul himself as his numbers suffered at the hands of Billups and Anthony Carter's defense.
With the addition of a few more options on the offensive end, the Hornets could be seriously contending next year.
Joking around with a 7'6" man from China???
Playing hard and under control?
Have we all slipped into Bizzaro world?
Just when I was starting to get comfortable with the idea that Ron Artest was simply a bully with an NBA salary he turns around and shows me he is so much more.
He is a leader. The man seems to have buried his personal demons and combined his uncanny strength, athleticism and basketball IQ into a very good NBA player.
The only explosions fans in Houston are seeing this season is the sound of their own applause as Artest and Yao connect for a dunk.
The only meltdowns are by the other teams as Battier, Artest and Yao frustrate opposing players on a regular basis.
That stoned face expression of grim determination is still there, but now it's reserved only for the opposition.
Ron Artest has won over his teammates, the fans in Houston and even the particularly entrenched opinions of so-called experts.
And he has Houston winning games.
The debate raises its head every single season.
Ever since Deron went 3rd overall and Paul went 4th in the 2005 NBA draft the two have been linked, for better or worse.
Regardless of which side of the conversation you fall on it's easy to make your case either way.
But based solely on their play in the first round of the playoffs this year, the nod in my opinion goes to Williams.
The numbers are in Deron's favor he did average a solid 20 points and 10 assists per game, but more than that Deron was simply the better player.
He was more consistent. His shots came in the flow of the game and they were quality shots.
He was poised. Regardless of what the score was or the situation he executed the offense well and didn't allow LA to force him into stupid mistakes.
He was a leader. When his teammates couldn't capitalize off his dishes, he kept them in the game, didn't let them get down and looked for them again.
This is not to say Chris Paul didn't do some of the same things, it's just that Deron proved better at it.
Since I am required by federal law to mention his name in any written documentation regarding the Cleveland Cavilers I have thus fulfilled my requirement. Now on to my point:
Mo Williams will be the reason the Cavs end up back in the NBA Finals.
Since in all likelihood the Eastern Conference Finals will end up being a match between the Cavs and Celtics, the man who will affect the series most is not the current MVP.
Most teams have decided not to let No. 23 get anyone else involved. This means resisting the compelling urge to double and to force other players to beat you. This used to be a pretty good idea, until Mo came to town.
He torches teams that dare him to create his own shot and if a player doubles off him he knocks down the three with ease. He also is a solid passer as well and he flew mainly under the radar in the Detroit series.
That's likely to change in the Eastern Conference Finals.
And even though the State Farm endorser has the tough task of likely guarding one Paul Pierce, Mo Williams will have to get after the most underrated guard left in the postseason in Rando.
This is all of course moot if the Hawks pull off the upset.
How fitting is it one of the few pics I could find of Lamar Odom is him watching the opposing team score? Seems to be a running theme in the playoffs...
In the Utah series he could get away with it, because the Lakers were simply a better team, however these Rockets are not the Jazz.
Perhaps this has all been an outward protest of having to come off the bench.
Maybe he was never as good as most of us made him out to be. After all the track record of former Clippers is not all that great.
"What are you talking about?? Lamar had a double-double in Utah!! 17 and 10 is more than solid for a bench player!"
I agree but the knock on Odom has never been how he plays against lesser teams, it's been his inability to show up in big games and produce.
With only 8 shot attempts and 5 missed free throws in Game 1, Odom appears to be up to his old tricks.
But maybe I'm jumping the gun (as I have been known to do) since this is only Game 1. Time will tell...