Sorry Bulls Blog

Special apologies to Matt from bullsblog, because I totally forgot to update his stats in the KnickerBlogger bracket tournament. I have no excuse for this oversight. It’s not like Matt has given me some extra hits for mentioning my blog not once, or twice, but three times in a row. And it certainly isn’t because he said this in his column the other day:

With apologies to Knickerblogger, I hate the Knicks. Like, a lot.

Matt only made one mistake in his first round picks, predicting a minor upset in Miami. Other than that his picks were right on target, earning him 7 points, good enough to be tied for second place. I’ll edit the previous post to reflect Matt’s participation.

Round 1: 2004 NBA Bloggers Bracket

Thanks to the stubborn Hornets, Round 1 is finally over. Here are the updated standings for the KnickerBlogger 2004 Bloggers Bracket:

Blog	IND	NJ	DET	MIA	MIN	LAL	SAS	SAC	PTS
Me 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
Jon 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 7
Ron 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 7
Matt 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 7
Michael 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 7
Kevin 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 6
Scott 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 6
Tim 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 6

Alone in first place is yours truly. Being spineless has paid off for me so far, because I didn’t think there would be any upsets in the first round. Jon and Michael had Dallas bumping off Sacramento, while Ron showed his home team pride by sticking with the Hornets. Three contestants thought there would be 2 upsets, with the popular upsets being Memphis & Dallas.

Interesting enough, the bottom 5 guys not only have the Lakers (down 0-1) upsetting the Spurs in this round, but they have the boys in yellow & purple taking the trophy back home to L.A. If the Lakers lose, there will be a big divide between those two groups. Nobody has the Pistons (1-0) nor the T-wolves (0-1) getting upset this round. However I will be affected if Minnesota’s playoff hopes end against the Kings, since I have them making the Finals.


This morning while groggily watching ESPN, I heard the Miami coach Stan Van Gundy at a press conference say something to the effect of it being ludicrous that the Heat had any kind of advantage being at home. (I was a bit too tired to remember the quote in it’s entirety). This is just baffling to me, because Stan watched every second of a series where the home team won every game. Not only that, but the Heat have been a 71% team at home this year, better than the NBA average (about 60%-65%). They are riding a 16 game home win streak, and he doesn’t think his team has any advantage at home?

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s doing it as a psych job for his players (“don’t get lazy at home!”), and not because he really believes it.

East Coast vs West Coast

[Note: No rappers were hurt in the writing of this blog.]

If you’re a long time reader, you already know I picked the East to win it all. In fact I was the only one out of the 8 participants in my playoff bracket contest to choose an East team. At the time I didn’t do a whole lot of analysis to see if the top East team is really as good as their left coast counterparts. So the question I have for this entry is: Does the East have a chance to win the NBA Championship?

First let’s look at the top East teams: Indiana, Detroit, & NJ. What I did is look at how they fared against all the West playoff teams. This way I can see if there is some kind of disparity between the top teams in the East & West. Let’s start with defending Eastern champs, and my current least favorite team, the Nets. New Jersey was pitiful against the West’s best (no rhyme intended), going 5-11. The Nets were 3-5 at home, and 2-6 on the road. They were swept (2 games series) by the Spurs, Grizzlies, Lakers, and Mavs, and raised the broom once against Denver. One excuse could be that the Nets had a lot of injuries during the regular season. However this isn’t enough evidence to overturn 5 years of Western dominance in this case. At this point the Nets don’t look like a contender. You would only need the Nets to be .500 or better, since they are playing against the best, not the whole league.

Let’s look at the team that will play (and hopefully beat) the Nets, the Detroit Pistons. Detroit did fairly well against the Pacifickers (no that didn’t pass my spellchecker), with a repsectable 8-8. The were swept by two of the better teams, the Spurs and the T-Wolves. However they did a little dusting (2-0) against the weaker Memphis & the Nuggets. At home they were an encouraging 6-2, but were reversibly bad on the road at 2-6.

As for my hopefuls (now that the boys in orange & blue are hitting the links), the Pacers did very well at 9-7. They were 6-2 at home, and a little better that the other two Eastern hopefuls 3-5 on the road. They didn’t beat the Kings in their two games, but swept Dallas and Denver. That’s right if you were paying attention, the Nuggets got swept by all 3 of these teams.

Not coincidentally, all three of the Eastern teams are very good defensively, with only the Spurs (#1) being better. Unfortunately only the Pacers have an offense ranking in the top half (#8). This is encouraging for fans that want to see a close Finals. I really think it will be an evenly fought contest this year, and if the Pacers do make it, I think they have a very good chance of winning the championship.

NBA First Round – Necessary?

I received an interesting & at first cryptic email today. The entire email was:

Houston. #6. 1995.

Need I say more?

The email was from Page 23’s Kevin Pelton. It took me a second to realize what this meant. It was in reference to my last entry where I wrote:

Off the top of my head I can’t think of a team past seed #5 that went two rounds other than the strike season Knicks.

I had been too busy (read: lazy) to actually research which low seeds have gotten far in the playoffs. Luckily I have readers astute enough to do my work for me. Of course Kevin’s point is made even more poignant by the fact that the 6th seed Rockets not only went past two rounds, but they were the champs as well.

The Rockets playoff team was a bit different than the one that earned them the 6th seed in the West. Midseason they traded Otis Thrope for Clyde Drexler. Drexler only played 35 games for the Rockets during the regular season. Similarly the 8th seeded 99 Knicks went through some changes as well. The newly acquired Camby and Sprewell were still trying to find their identities on the fly, especially in the playoffs when Ewing went down with his injured Achilles. The strike didn’t give them a chance to jell during the season, and who knows what their record would have been had they played the full 82 games.

If we wanted to take 20 years worth of data, let’s go back to 1983. Since then (and excluding 1999) there have been 5 teams that were either the 6th, or 7th seed to go at least as far as the Conference Championships (no 8th seeds have made it that far). The aforementioned Rockets, the ’94 Pacers, the ’89 Bulls, the 87′ Sonics, and the ’84 Suns. All of those teams were 6th seeds, except for the 7th seed Sonics.

In 20 years, there is a 4% chance that one of those teams (#6-#8) will make the conference finals, and and a .8% chance that one of them will make the finals and win it all. If you think I’m tilting the tables in my favor my excluding the strike season Knicks, the chances go up to 5%, 1.7% (to make the Finals), and .8% to win it all. Another thing to consider for the furture is the possibility of a first round upset is now lower with the expanded series (7 games from 5).

In other tournaments like March Madness, the NFL playoffs, and the World Cup, teams have better opportunities for upsets because it only requires one win to move on. The longer series gives the favorites a better chance at winning.

Sunday’s two games underscores the point between the first and second round games. The early game, a first rounder between the Heat and Hornets, meant little to me. It wasn’t because it wasn’t exciting, because tempers were flaring all over the court. One reason was that I couldn’t imagine either of these teams beating Indy in 7 games, and then the winner of Detroit/NJ on the road. The other was that it game 6 of the series. The Hornets were fighting for their lives, but Miami wasn’t. The other tournaments I mentioned above are all single elimination. Each game is important for both teams, not just the one with their backs against the wall. Tthe longer series makes each individual game less important as well.

The second round matchup between the Lakers & Spurs was another story. Since both of these teams have won the last 5 titles, I felt that the winner could possibly go all the way. The Lakers were the early season favorites, with their new additions of Payton & Malone. It was a GREAT game to watch. Even though it was only one game, it was the first of the series, and an upset on the Spurs floor would have tilted the series in the Lakers favor. That the winner of this series still has to face the winner of Minnesota/Sacramento to just reach the Finals is an awesome thought.

To conclude, really low seeds (7th & 8th) have virtually no chance of getting far in the playoffs. You can’t eliminate the first round altogether, because as pointed out by Kevin, 5th & 6th seeds do have a (very slim) chance of making a magical run. I can’t think of a playoff format that would make the first round more exciting without going to single elimination, or even a quick best of 3. The NBA will never allow such a hit on their wallets, even if it would make the game more exciting for their fans.

No Need To Adjust Your Monitors

Sorry folks, but I’ve been busy as all hell with personal stuff. I have two friends leaving the state, a friend making a trip to the hospital, a wedding and a birthday party all this week. Give your plain old seats a whole new look and charm with a banquet tablecloths that perfectly goes with your party theme and decor I’ll try to get some stuff finished, but it seems like I might get something out tomorrow, and maybe nothing until Monday.

Thank goodness the NBA has given everyone some days off with what they call the first round of the playoffs. I mean seriously, the only underdog that might win their series is the Hornets who are tied 2-2 in their series so far. 4 teams have already moved on to the next round, and 3 others are up 3-1. Is it me, or does this smack of the greatest scam of all time? How many millions is the NBA making from having about 40 extra games played with packed arenas and almost prime time television? All for what? The 5% chance that a 6th, 7th, or 8th seed might upset a better team, just to most be crushed in the next round anyway? Off the top of my head I can’t think of a team past seed #5 that went two rounds other than the strike season Knicks. So can anyone tell me what’s the point of the first round?

Game 4: Nets 100 Knicks 94

I’m less upset at the sweep of the Knicks than the Nets then I thought I would be. I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this since the end of the regular season. Most of my dealing with the loss came after game 3, when an 0-3 series meant the end for the Knicks.

That being said, I’m relatively happy with how the last game went. I would have liked to see more of Sweetney or DerMarr, but Lenny gave enough minutes to Frank Williams to keep me going. Williams played well, better than his 11 points, 4 assists, and 5 fouls line in the box score. He played 31 minutes at PG, and allowed Marbury to shift to SG, keeping Shandon Anderson (18 minutes) on the bench. The worst part of his game was his lack of confidence in his shooting. Twice he passed the ball instead of taking the open shot. Other than that, he played solidly, including his man to man defense on Jason Kidd.

Williams showed his temper again, this time shoving Richard Jefferson after a rebound. The replay showed Jefferson pushing Williams with his arm to try to get the rebound. The play didn’t cost the Knicks any points, and the Knicks PG got away with showing his toughness without hurting his team. Unfortunately his days as a Knick are probably numbered, due to the team already having their best player at PG and Isaiah’s willingness to pull his finger on a deal.

Nazr Mohammed was a disappointment. His Achilles heel, personal fouls, kept him on the bench for extended periods of time. If he doesn’t make an attempt to improve his defense in the offseason, and reduce the number of fouls he commits he’ll never be worth anything more than a backup center. Despite having 4 fouls, he put up decent numbers in games 1 and 3. His disappearing act in games 2 & 4 (10 fouls, 7 points, & 9 rebs total) hurt the Knicks. The inconsistency is as maddening as his ying & yang skill set. He’s can be a force on the offensive end. His post up game is solid, and is rebounding is spectacular. On the other end of the court, his defense is atrocious, both as a one on one defender and as a help defender. Right now all he is good for is to come off the bench and provide punch on the offensive end.

Nothing to Say

I came in this morning and the guy next to me just about summed up the Knicks game yesterday. “I won’t bring it up today,” he said. I agree with that sentiment. There are a million things a Knick fan could whine about, but in reality they just lost. The Nets were a better team, and the shorthanded Knicks just don’t have a chance at taking the series. I may have something to say when it’s all over, and things are in better perpsective.

I’m hoping that Wilkens will give some of the youngsters plenty of time in game 4. The Knicks aren’t going to come back from 0-3, and the best thing they can do is give Sweetney, Williams, and Johnson plenty of time. Maybe even Baker as well & see what he can do. We know what everyone else is capable of. I don’t need to see Deke, Shandon “5 for 22” Anderson, or Nazr “12 PFs” Mohammed anymore.

Stay tuned though. This weekend I’m going to witness the NFL draft first hand, and I have a column half written about my idea of how the NBA should handle the playoffs/lottery. I’ll probably have something to say on the continuing NBA playoffs, and analysis about the Knicks going into the new season.