It's not that they have more talent than everyone else (well, yes it is), it's that they have the confidence and flexibility to have more than one identity, and to know they're purty no matter what face they're showing.

All season, D'Antoni's talked about "this is who we are, this is what we do," with the Suns' running game, but if the Spurs have one major advantage over them, and everyone else, it's that they have no "one thing."

All of which is to say, Spurs in six.

All right, let's look ahead and to the East a bit. Are the Heat dead if Shaq is less than a monster? Do you believe in a town called Wade?

Dwyane Wade
Forget Shaq for a second. Dwyane Wade is the man, too.

Jackson: I believe in a town called Wade, but I believe in a city called Detroit.

I was the first (before Ben Wallace) to say Shaq was playing possum. Not that he's not hurt, but ... you know. But when I heard they drained 100 CCs of blood from his thigh 10 days ago, I was like, "OK, dude's hurt." If he's not 85 percent, they can't handle the champs. That's real.

As for Wade, I need to see him do against Tayshaun Prince what he's done against the Nets and Wizards. It's funny, I've been hearing everyone – including Chris Rock on the NBA Minute – say that D-Wade is better than any of Shaq's other backup singers, that he's better than Kobe or Penny were. With all due respect, is everyone smoking crack? D is sick, but just like Amare, until I see him do his thang against the best in big, big games, then I can't prop him like that. Not over those two. Not yet. I think D-Wade's got a lot of people caught up right now.

Neel: Well you can color me "caught up" then, and not just this year, but going back to the way he rose up in last year's playoffs, too.

Here's my thing: The Wizards had one job: Stop Wade, muscle him, slow him, hurt him somehow, jam him at all costs. Couldn't do it. Had nothing else to think about (apologies to Udonis Haslem) and they couldn't do it.

Can Detroit do it? Definitely. But that team relies more on Tayshaun's offense now than they did a year ago, and he's going to be one tired puppy after matching up with Wade all night.

Jackson: Big $$, I've got a question for you: Who's your X-factor player? In this round?

Neel: Give me Tony P in the West. I know he's too front and center to be a traditional X-factor, but I figure the series turns on him. Will he press and push and turn the corner on Nash, not just once but a hundred times? If he does, they win.

And in the East, my X is Arroyo. Which means I guess my X is really Larry Brown.

Jackson: Funny young Sith, is it me or does it seem that as a series get deeper TP begins to slip? After Game 3 in a series, Tony seems to get lost. Last year against the Lakers? Two years ago in the finals?

If he balls throughout this series the way he balled Sunday, you can remove the X factor from his name: He's the Mizan!

Meanwhile, Udonis is my X-Man. If he does his thing, which is going to be tough against 'Sheed and McDyess, then he's the difference maker in that series. There's your Michael Graham fan.

Neel: Time for some quick hitters.

Best back court: Detroit – only two-headed monster going.

Best front court: Phoenix – Mo Marion, Mo Marion.

Best coach in the crunch: Hubie Brown – Still, "Listen, what you have in Hubie Brown is ... "

Jackson: Best back court: Smoove and Rip – Between the two of them, you have everything you could ask for. To me, if they win again, they will have to be talked about as one of the most underrated tandems in NBA history.

Best front court: Shaq – If Big is over 80 percent in this series, he's a front court all by himself.


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