NBA Previews: Atlanta @ Cleveland & Boston @ Phoenix

Shyne IVContributor IIDecember 30, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 29:  Delonte West #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks against Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 29, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It is quite possible that this week there won’t be an NFL picks article, however fear not, the NFL Picks Challenge will still occur. Just make sure to have your picks in by Friday at midnight and we’re good to go peoples. Glad we got that out of the way. Now back to the business at hand. Two weeks ago, I mentioned that every week the readers and I would vote on the two best NBA games on the schedule for the week and that I would then proceed to preview those two games. Just like a great Eminem track, the fans have spoken to me this week and have asked for their games. But before we get to the games, who wants Power Rankings? You know you want them right?I mean, everybody loves Power Rankings! It’s like the walk off in battle in Zoolander, you might think that they are ridiculous but you can’t pull yourself away from watching and eventually you end up enjoying them. So play the song Beat It in your mind and race through my NBA Power Rankings. The rankings are divided into groups who are all identified by a lyric stemming from a song.

Artist: 98 Degrees
Song: Invisible Man
Lyric: “Baby to you all I am is the invisible man…”

30. NEW JERSEY (2-29)
29. MINNESOTA (7-25)
27. GOLDEN STATE (9-22)
26. INDIANA (9-21)

Artists: T.I. ft Chris Brown
Song: Don’t Matter
Lyric: “It don’t matter tonight….”

25. WASHINGTON (10-20)
24. DETROIT (11-20)
23. NEW YORK (12-19)
22. MILWAUKEE (12-17)
21. CHARLOTTE (12-17)
20. NEW ORLEANS (13-16)

Artist: Big Punisher
Song: You Ain’t A Killer
Lyric: “You ain’t a killer, you still learning how to walk from New York to Cali…”

18. LA CLIPPERS (13-17)
17. MEMPHIS (14-16)
16. TORONTO (15-17)
15. SACRAMENTO (14-16)
14. OKLAHOMA CITY (17-14)

Artist: Big Punisher
Song: You Ain’t A Killer
Lyric: “Any last regrets before you meet your maker?”

13. UTAH (17-13)
12. HOUSTON (19-13)
11. MIAMI (16-12)
10. SAN ANTONIO (18-11)

Artist: Joe Budden
Song: Blood on the Wall
Lyric: “Jay-Z, Saigon, Nas already killed’em, Tupac he ain’t alive but you ain’t kill’em”

9. DENVER (20-12)
8. PORTLAND (20-13)
7. ATLANTA (21-9)

Artist: Joe Budden
Song: Forgive Me
Lyric: “Seems the things yall never forget, I never remember…”

6. PHOENIX (20-12)
5. ORLANDO (22-8)
4. DALLAS (22-9)

Artist: LL Cool J, Method Man, Redman, DMX, Canibus (verse by Canibus)
Song: 4,3,2,1
Lyric: I’m the illest &%$# (rhymes with trigger) alive, watch me prove it, I snatch your crown with the head still attached to it..”
3. BOSTON (23-7)
2. LAKERS (25-6)
1.CLEVELAND (25-8)

Atlanta Hawks (21-9) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (25-8)

Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to Atlanta for what was a statement game for the young Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta tried as best as they could to contain LeBron James hoping that him having a bad night would translate into a win. The athletic forwards defended James well; his output last night: 14 points, 4 turnovers, 6-20 field goal shooting and 0-5 from three point range. Normally this should be sure fire way to defeat Cleveland, especially at home. But the Cavs did what every dude does after a break up: they went looking for a rebound. The Cavs owned the boards on this game (43-30 edge) which in turn allowed them to control the paint. Cleveland shot 49.8% from the field while scoring 50 points in the paint, all the while limiting Atlanta to 44.3 field goal shooting and 32 points in the paint on their way to a 95-84 road win. Needless to say, when both teams play again tonight, the Hawks will have to try and be more physical on the boards in order to limit the Cavs rebounding opportunities and also to get out on the fast break. Atlanta wants Josh Smith to get out in transition to finish hard at the basket; mind you that can’t happen if Atlanta fails to rebound.

If you remotely follow comic books, you are aware that Superman’s one great weakness is kryptonite. Because he knows that it’s the only thing that could kill him, he obviously tries to limit his contact with it and also has tried destroying all the kryptonite on the Earth. The point I’m trying to make here is that it is important to understand your weaknesses, and then find a way to combat them. In the Hawks case, they were exposed on the boards last night. However, they managed to expose the Cavaliers knack for turning the ball over. Indeed, the Cavs are 15th in the league in turnovers whereas the Hawks are #1 in the NBA in ball security. The problem last night though, was that the Cavs forced Atlanta to turn the ball over as well. Therefore, the turnover battle was fairly even (Cavs 18, Hawks 16) and Atlanta’s advantage there was nullified. So if Atlanta wants to win at the Quicken Loans Arena tonight, they will have to do a solid job on the boards, force turnovers and limit theirs. Tiny problem they might encounter though: LeBron James rarely has consecutive bad games (this qualifies as bad line for him: 14 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers, 6-20 field goal shooting against the Hawks last night). In other words, I’m picking the Cavaliers tonight. Pick: Cavs win 97-95.

Boston Celtics (23-7) @ Phoenix Suns (20-12)

In the movie How High, Mike Epps plays the role of a pimp named Powder who drops some knowledge on his assistant pimp: “My daddy was a pimp, my grand daddy was a pimp, my great grand daddy was a pimp. It’s in my bloodline. But you ain’t neva gonna be more than an assistant pimp; cuz yo daddy was an assistant pimp and yo grand daddy was an assistant pimp. That’s in yo bloodline”. And just like that, you understand the nature of the Phoenix Suns. This season, the Suns have defeated the Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Spurs so far. And yet, I cannot take them seriously as a contender. The reason is simple: this team has teased us before in recent years with a high win totals and big performances in statement games. However, when the games truly counted (you know, in the playoffs) the Suns eventually fizzled out and left their fans disappointed. While teams like the Lakers, Magic, Celtics and Cavs have made it least one trip to the Finals this decade, the Suns have only been able to manage trips to the Conference Finals.


So tonight, when Phoenix hosts a shorthanded Boston team (Paul Pierce is injured), I expect them to run and gun as usual, shoot a lot of threes (13-24 from three point range in first meeting in early November) and limit their turnovers. The Celtics however will pound the boards and try to muscle the Suns inside. In their November 6th game, the Celtics outscored the Suns 60-36 in terms of points in the paint. However, keep track of the fouls tonight. The Boston Celtics are 2-2 in their last four games, and teams have been getting to free throw line with more frequency as of late. In their last four games, Boston’s opponents have gotten to the line 25 times per game. So if Phoenix starts shooting free throws as well as three point bombs, expect Celtics announcer Tommy Heinsohn to blow a fuse on the air and start blaming the refs. I do think though that Phoenix will take care of business at home tonight. Please make sure to pay attention to the Stoudemire-Garnett match up. Always tons of trash talk when they go head to head, and Amar’e usually tries harder when playing against the likes of Duncan and Garnett.Quick fantasy note: Absolutely startRajon Rondo against Steve Nash. Trust me on this one. Needlesss to say, the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs are pimps, the Cavs and Magic are pimps in training and the Suns are assistant pimps. Pick: Suns win 112-107


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