Commentary, news, analysis and reader-driven discussions focusing on this year's NBA playoffs.
By Kelly Dwyer, SI.com
*Despite an iffy shooting touch (3 of 11 from the field, missing seven of eight from long range), Jason Kidd was comfortable in his usual role as the spark behind New Jersey’s offense. His 10 rebounds helped start the break; his 15 assists led to easy finishes for a Nets team that sometimes struggles to score; and he managed to hit a few clutch shots down the stretch of the Jersey win. And yet, it was his porous defense that allowed Toronto to stick around. Going under screens and fishing for steals, Kidd could only watch as T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon finished with a combined 34 points and 10 assists in 48 minutes. It's been Kidd’s modus operandi all season –- he's played some of the best point guard defense we’ve seen this season, and some of the worst. We're guessing the former shows up in Game 2 on Tuesday.
*Though Chris Duhon saw some token minutes (three points, four assists in 15 minutes), Chicago coach Scott Skiles deserves major credit for staying away from his Woobies on the Chicago bench, and going to Ben Gordon and Thabo Sefalosha as his main guards, with Kirk Hinrich out with foul trouble on Saturday. Gordon (24 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds on Saturday) proved last winter, with Hinrich struggling, that he could handle the point guard reins; and Sefalosha made Dwyane Wade’s life a living hell for the bulk of Thabo’s 17 minutes.
*Houston's Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes are the finest defensive forward tandem in the NBA. I'd put them ahead of Chicago's Luol Deng and P.J. Brown and San Antonio's forward tandem of Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan (Duncan guards the pivotmen more often than "center" Francisco Elson, anyway). It's not always about shutting down the All-Stars or blocking heaps of shots; these forwards thrive in covering up the mistakes of others (zoning up in transition D when Yao Ming and/or a Houston guard stuck on the baseline lags behind), help in the half-court, rebounding and charge-taking. Even with Yao (first half) and Tracy McGrady (second half) taking turns playing the offensive hero in Saturday’s Rockets win, it was the play of this forward duo that won the game for Houston. Utah averaged 101.5 points per game in the regular season, and only managed 75 on Saturday night.
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