Posted: Monday May 1, 2006 1:31PM; Updated: Monday May 1, 2006 4:38PM
Gary Payton's fast-running mouth has Dwyane Wade and the Heat in a whirlpool of dysfunction against the Bulls.
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That was about as good a week of postseason basketball as you could ask for. Although it made barely a blip on the national radar, set up as it was against a weekend-long amateur football draft, it allows us the chance to fill your screen up with some new champs and chumps.
New Jersey Nets-Indiana Pacers
Champ: Vince Carter Though he often appears disinterested in losses, Carter contributed mightily to both New Jersey wins in this series. Attacking the lethargic StephenJackson, Carter has put up MVP-caliber statistics without having to play much defense: 29.2 points, five assists and 7.2 rebounds per game over the first four contests, and only five turnovers in the postseason.
Chump: Stephen Jackson Just a pitiful playoff run for the all-around athlete who was supposed to make Ron Artest's departure a wee bit more passable. Jackson has turned the ball over 12 times and has nine assists. Though he stands about 6-foot-9, he hauls in only 4.5 rebounds in 38-plus minutes and is only contributing 14.5 points in spite of dozens of isolation sets run for him. Even worse, Jackson turns an already-slow series into absolutely drudgery when he gets the ball -- holding it for 10 seconds in the triple threat position before deciding to launch a fadeaway jumper.
Ruminations: It's been a bugaboo all season for New Jersey, and even if they do dispatch Indiana in the first round, their rebounding issues probably won't be going away anytime soon. Carter's 7.2 caroms a game lead the team, but the Nets are being outrebounded by about 5.5 boards per game. Few have contributed less than Clifford Robinson (to absolutely nobody's surprise), who has 2.2 rebounds in nearly 23 minutes a game.
Cleveland Cavs-Washington Wizards
Champs/Chumps: LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas If you look at Sunday's box score, you'll notice that LeBron went for 38 points, six rebounds and five assists in the loss, while Gilbert nearly matched him with 34 points, five rebounds and six assists. It looks like a shootout, but we should know better. Arenas was lousy in the first half of Game 4, missing eight of nine shots, and LeBron acted like a 6-8 Steve Kerr for the bulk of the second half. They couldn't reignite the shootout that marked Game 3. And the problem with Game 3's shootout is that it was marred by Arenas' missing a wide-open game-winner in the game's final seconds, after LBJ had thrown in the actual game-winner after being afforded (by our count) 37 pivot feet.
That said, when Arenas and James are on, there has been no better individual matchup in these playoffs. Better yet, Gilbert is 24 and LeBron just 21. They'll have their chances to do it again.