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Talking points

Shaq, Clippers' harmony among hot playoff topics

Posted: Thursday April 27, 2006 11:54AM; Updated: Thursday April 27, 2006 2:14PM
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After an inconsistent season, Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley have combined for 18 points a game for the Spurs in the playoffs.
After an inconsistent season, Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley have combined for 18 points a game for the Spurs in the playoffs.
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The first five days of the playoffs have brought few surprises, outside of Brent Barry's high-bounce corner jumper actually making it into the basket in Game 2 of the San Antonio-Sacramento series. Nine times out of 10 ... make that 19 times out of 20, that shot doesn't go in. Had the Kings defeated the Spurs without the suspended Ron Artest, now that would've been a big surprise.

Here's a five-pack of thoughts that are on my mind while we wait to see if Miami's Udonis Haslem practices better dental hygiene in Game 3 on Thursday night.

The contrast between San Antonio and Detroit

From Day One these teams have been my pick to make it to the Finals, and nothing has changed. But it's fascinating the degree to which San Antonio, the champion, changed its team over the summer, while Detroit elected to play with a pat hand.

Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley, two offseason pickups, are playing key roles for the Spurs. And Barry, whose Hail Mary three got the Spurs into overtime in Game 2, was on the trading block during the season. Since then, he's played some of the best basketball of his career.

The Pistons, meanwhile, just keep rolling along, as predictable as an Artest screwup. Unlike most coaches, Flip Saunders will not be shrinking his rotation in the postseason. It's been pre-shrunk. Pencil in his starting five, insert Antonio McDyess for offense, Lindsey Hunter for defense and Maurice Evans (the one new face from last season) for a little of both.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' putrid offense in Game 2

OK, LeBron James had a wonderful Game 1, a playoff debut for the ages. But that doesn't mean the Cavs should abandon all thought of offensive structure, just hand it to LeBron and say, "Here, see what you can do." That's what they did during Washington's 89-84 Game 2 victory, and it was ugly to behold. James took "only" 25 shots, but most of them were forced, the result of his simply getting the ball 30 feet from the basket and trying to create something. James still has to lead the way -- obviously -- but more sophistication will be needed if the Cavs are to prevail.