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Starting five (cont'd)

Posted: Tuesday May 3, 2005 11:27AM; Updated: Tuesday May 3, 2005 5:38PM
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The top seeds are legit

Amare Stoudemire
Amare Stoudemire averaged 22.8 points and nine rebounds in the Suns' first-round sweep of Memphis.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Granted, both No. 1 seeds, Miami and Phoenix, were playing teams that snuck into the playoffs. In the East, the Nets closed out the season by winning seven of their last eight games, while the Grizzlies had to hold off Minnesota in the West.

What they got were first-round matchups with two teams with a lot to prove. Consider this: When SI.com's experts provided their predictions prior to the playoffs, only one writer chose a top seed as eventual champion. Chris Mannix went with Phoenix, while the other seven went with either defending champion Detroit or San Antonio. After a first-round in which both No. 1 seeds had little trouble dispatching their opponents, our experts might want to reconsider their prognostications.

Sure, Detroit has looked good in improving to 3-1 against Philly and a brilliant Allen Iverson. San Antonio has picked up the slack for Duncan, who looked sluggish before his breakout in Game 4. But Miami and Phoenix played near-perfect basketball in the first round. Miami got a stellar showing from Dwyane Wade, who averaged 26 ppg as the Heat swept the series with an average margin of victory of 12.7 points. Phoenix, meanwhile, ran Memphis into the ground, with Amare Stoudemire dominating the paint and the guards ruling the perimeter, knocking down 42 3-pointers.

The kids are alright

Experience can go a long way in the postseason. But some of the playoffs' biggest performances have come from first-time participants.

Jason Terry -- who toiled away in Atlanta, where playoff hopes go to die -- has been one of the Mavs' biggest contributors. In the Mavs' win Saturday, Terry scored 32 points and hit the game-clinching 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to help Dallas even the series at 2-2. Monday night, Terry wasn't quite as trigger-happy. He warmed up in the fourth quarter of Dallas' victory and knocked down a key 3-pointer in the final minutes. Over the series, JT is scoring almost six points per game more than he did during the season, not bad for a playoff rookie.

In the Wizards-Bulls series, several playoff virgins are making the most of their increased exposure. Andres Nocioni is getting 15 more minutes per game and has nearly doubled his scoring, rebounding and assist averages in postseason play, thanks in large part to a 25-point, 18-rebound outburst in Game 1. Teammate Kirk Hinrich has averaged 20.5 points through the first four games, almost five points more per game. Even Washington's Juan Dixon got in the act Monday, scoring a career-high 35 points in just his fourth playoff game, proving experience can be overrated in the playoffs -- at least so far.

The war of words has begun

You see it every year. The playoffs come, the officiating tightens up, and coaches get frustrated. What ensues is back-and-forth posturing between coaches to get the officials on their side.

Adelman called out the Sonics for their physical play and even singled out Reggie Evans for his flopping skills, saying he "goes down when the air conditioning comes on."

Not to be outdone, Seattle coach Nate McMillan shot back, saying "Playoff basketball you don't play in skirts."

And in the Houston-Dallas series, Jeff Van Gundy's frustration got the best of him, and the league lashed out, handing down a $100,000 fine, the largest handed to a coach, for his questioning of the officials. Apparently, the protests didn't work for Van Gundy as several questionable calls went the Mavs' way in the Rockets' 103-100 Game 5 loss.

More important, Van Gundy seems to be in hot water with the league as David Stern hinted that serious sanctions could be coming Van Gundy's way. Expect the posturing to continue, though, as coaches have time to spare between games and media sessions to deal with.


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