"Oh what night. Remember back to '06 and '07, Phoenix beat L.A. and now it's time for revenge. Oh my Kobe, what a night." The Four Seasons never saw that remake coming. And I don't think the Jazz saw a Lakers series sweep coming either. This playoff round has been the round of sweeps: Phoenix over San Antonio, Orlando over Atlanta and now the Lakers over the Jazz. The only one left to be decided is the Cleveland and Boston battle royale. That's exactly what it is going to be. Rajon Rondo leading the Boston camp and Lebron James rallying the Cleveland troops. And with Steve Nash taking elbows and taking names, the 2010 NBA playoffs are looking more like a battlefield. I am loving every minute of it. Let's take a trip down memory lane to playoffs past, talk about the present and the possible future of former Raptors Coach, Sam Mitchell.
The Ghosts of Playoffs Past
So now we know the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers are dancing in Western Conference final. Both teams will have 6 days of rest and time to reflect and recharge for game one of the next round in Los Angeles. No chance of the Lakers hosting a tea party either. The 2006 and 2007 playoffs are forever etched in their minds, especially Kobe's. Do you remember how ticked off he got after the Suns beat them in the 2007 playoffs? Kobe demanded to be traded citing a lack of support. But now he has he has a solid team around him and he's not carrying the load anymore. I wasn't thinking it so much at the time but the Lakers made a good move stealing Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies in February 2008. Look at last night. Gasol had 33 points, 14 rebounds and combined with Kobe for more than half the Lakers points against the Jazz. So Kobe is happy now.
But so is Steve Nash. He also has bad memories of the 2007 playoffs. Not versus the Lakers, but the San Antonio Spurs. Remember how Nash ran into Tony Parker and got his nose smashed? He leaves the game momentarily to get patched up (it really looked like masking tape floating on top of his nose to me) and returns in full force to knock down a three pointer. Maybe it's that Canadian hockey-fighter thing in him somewhere but no one can accuse him of not being focused. He still proves he can take what the Spurs dish him in the 2010 series when Tim Duncan drives to the basket and clips Nash in the eye with his elbow. While Nash is out getting a few quick stitches, the Spurs let loose a little but Nash (as a good conductor always does) waves the Phoenix ensemble back into form and just dominates the fourth quarter. I would say based on how hot Phoenix is playing right now they have the advantage going into their next series with the Lakers. But I think the Lakers are too deep, still too sore from 2006, 2007 and too hungry. It's not just one guy conducting the orchestra. It's the pieces of that orchestra that keep stepping up and winning games for the Lakers. It will be close but the Lakers will take this round.
"And in this corner, Rajon Rondo..."
Do we need to talk about the Orlando and Atlanta series? Not really. Except to say the Orlando Magic beat the inevitable losers the Atlanta Hawks. I am not saying the Hawks are a bunch of losers before you barrage me with emails, just that the Hawks didn't really stand a chance against the Magic. Done. Let's move on to see who will meet the Magic in the Eastern Conference Final.
Man, what a series this has turned to to be. Sure, on paper the Celtics looked good but I don't think anyone expected them to be this good. Not even the Cavs. Remember when the Boston Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen back in 2007? (That's seems to be the year of active discussion today). Were you like me thinking who are they going to get to compliment these two? Rajon Rondo was really just working on his game then and now he's leading a team of future Hall of Famers and having nights with 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists like this series with the Cavs. And what are the Cavs really doing to shut him down other than throwing Anthony Parker at him? It worked once but now the Cavs seem to be getting stuck. In their last game, the Celtics scored 23 fast break points on the Cavs' seven. This shows the Cavs are losing the transition battle and not getting back into their defensive positions quick enough when the Celtics grab rebounds and haul it up court. If the Celtics win tonight they will likely break the cycle of series wins going back and forth between them and the Cavs and possibly take this series. As long as they keep the Cavs uncomfortable offensively and the Cavs don't figure out a way to shut down the RaRa Rondo train.
Sam Mitchell coaching in Philadelphia?
Possibly. The former Raptors coach has met with the Philadelphia 76ers to talk about a coaching job. They are looking at his four seasons with the Raptors and his NBA Coach of the Year accolades as reference points. So how do you feel as a Raptors fan when you hear this? Think about it. Your team may possibly lose Bosh and begin riding on the emotional roller coaster of rebuilding and the Philadelphia 76ers are doing the same and may acquire a former Raptors coach. Hmmmm. Before you get too excited, they are also looking at Avery Johnson, Doug Collins, Bill Lambeer, Phoenix Assistant Coach Dan Majerle and Portland Assistant Coach Monty Williams. A good coach can make or break a team. Philadelphia would be an interesting place if Sam Mitchell got the nod.