Will Knicks, Magic, Blazers even series?
Five writers tackle five questions on Tuesday's games (NYK-BOS, ATL-ORL, POR-DAL)
Can the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers tie their respective series on Tuesday night? Going down 2-0 in a playoff series is normally the kiss of death, and those three teams have no interest in finding out whether that holds true in this postseason as they try to battle back against the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks.
We asked five writers five multiple-choice questions about what happened in Game 1 and what will happen in Game 2. Now that they've put down their No. 2 pencils, you can see their answers here:
1. What's the best five-word summary of Knicks-Celtics Game 1?
A. Opportunity lost for the Knicks
B. Great win for the Celtics
C. Good sign for Knicks fans
D. The refs decided the game
E. [Write your own headline here]
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: A. Opportunity lost for the Knicks. New Yorkers can whine about the officiating all they want. That doesn't excuse or explain cold Carmelo Anthony's awful decision to dribble the air out of the ball before jacking up a contested 25-footer with seconds remaining. Amare Stoudemire was the reason the Knicks had a chance. Why was he a spectator during winning time?
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: A. Opportunity lost for the Knicks. The lost opportunity of winning a road game becomes more painful with Chauncey Billups likely missing at least one game. The Knicks could use a cushion to soften the blow of temporarily (one hopes) losing their point guard.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: A. Opportunity lost for the Knicks. This isn't the popular view among Knicks fans, but that was a missed opportunity that will haunt my team all summer, if they lose the series. Save for the invisible offensive foul on Carmelo, the game was mostly well-officiated. The Knicks almost had a huge win, and now they don't. That hurts like a Kevin Garnett shot to the groin.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: A. Opportunity lost for the Knicks. We're talking about a heated rivalry. The Knicks could have delivered a big blow to the wily veterans in hostile territory. Instead they got a terrible look from Melo, and now Boston will do what they usually do, ride the momentum. And if you're a Knick fan, you still aren't sure that trade was a good idea.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: E. Celtics owe basketball gods big. Other than a brief second-half stretch, this was as listless and uninspired as Boston's offense has been all season. They collectively decided to stop moving off the ball for some reason, and, predictably, this anti-strategy didn't work. Ray Allen's shot was great, but the win was about as bad as you can get and still be a win.
2. What's the best five-word summary of Hawks-Magic Game 1?
A. Great win for the Hawks
B. Dismal support for D12's 46
C. Speed bump on Orlando's path
D. Bulls are licking their chops
E. [Write your own headline here]
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: B. Dismal support for D12's 46. When the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year drops 46 on 23 shots, it should be an easy win. Too bad Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson combined for only 10 points and imitated traffic cones on the defensive end of the floor.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: A. Great win for the Hawks. The Hawks had won two games on the road against teams above .500 in the last four months of the season. For their third such win to come in the playoffs on a night when Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson combined to score 73 points is a genuine achievement regardless of how inept the other seven Magic players looked.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: D. Bulls are licking their chops. But you could also headline that one, "An end of an era." I wondered if the Magic's shaky regular season was an aberration, but after Game 1, it doesn't look that way. They might pull out the series, but that's the end of the Magic road, and you have to wonder if D-Ho is heading out the door.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: B. Dismal support for D12's 46. It's been the story all season long. Dwight knows it, Magic fans know it, and now the rest of the nation got the chance to see it. When your next best scoring option is Jameer Nelson then you know you have problems. It's time for the Magic to shoot 50 percent from deep or go home.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: E. Hawks defy statistics with jumpers. Because they're (justifiably) afraid of the guy with huge shoulder muscles on the Magic, the Hawks are shifting their offense out of the paint, and Saturday they connected on an unusually high percentage of their long shots. If they're lucky, they could take a couple more games this way, but shooting comes and goes (as the Magic can tell you).
3. What's the best five-word summary of Blazers-Mavs Game 1?
A. Dirk and J-Kidd are ageless
B. Trail Blazers blew that one
C. How 'bout that FT disparity?
D. Neither team could crack 90
E. [Write your own headline here]
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: C. How 'bout that FT disparity? Give the Mavericks credit for attacking in the fourth quarter to earn those 19 free throws. Portland coach Nate McMillan did, but he had a problem with the Blazers getting only one whistle in their favor in the fourth quarter. After the NBA hit him with a big fine on Monday, we'll find out in Game 2 whether McMillan's $35,000 was money well spent.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: A. Dirk and J-Kidd are ageless. If Dirk Nowitzki shows his age, it's only on the glass. If Jason Kidd isn't ageless then his timing is exquisite. He hadn't scored 24 points in a game in more than a year and, with the rest of the Mavericks (Dirk included) making just 18 of 52 field goals, Dallas probably doesn't win without his atypical shot-making onslaught.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: A. Dirk and J-Kidd are ageless. Hat tip to Dirk and J-Kidd. But the free throws also leave a sour taste. Combined with the late-game shenanigans in Boston and OKC, it's a shame that a great weekend of hoops was stained -- yet again -- with questions about the refs.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: E. Dirk will not go quietly. Before I saw the former MVP take over with relative ease down the stretch, I thought Portland was underrated and primed to steal this series. Jason Kidd had a huge game, but you could feel heroic desperation from Dirk in the fourth. This guy is tired of getting knocked out.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: C. How 'bout that FT disparity? The officiating may not have been as one-sided as it was in Chicago, Miami or San Antonio, but it was definitely close. Dirk took twice as many free throws per field-goal attempt than his average, and Portland shot half as many free throws as Dallas overall even though the Blazers attempted double their shots at the rim. Yikes all around.
4. What do you expect in the East on Tuesday?
A. Celtics, Magic win at home
B. Knicks, Hawks win on road
C. Celtics win but Magic lose
D. Celtics lose but Magic win
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: A. Celtics, Magic win at home. Chauncey Billups will either be gimpy or in a suit, so it's tough to envision the Knicks pulling even in that series. The Magic (29-12 at home in the regular season) won't let a sub-.500 road team leave Orlando with a 2-0 lead.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: A. Celtics, Magic win at home. There was little either Boston or Orlando did in their first games that makes one absolutely convinced they'll win Game 2 but both teams were, over the course of the season, better than their opposition and are playing at home. So I expect the most likely paired outcome.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: A. Celtics, Magic win at home. I'll be shocked if the Magic don't bounce back. As far as the Knicks go, let's just say their chances are a lot better when Chauncey Billups is on the court.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: C. Celtics win but Magic lose. The Magic are now 1-4 against the Hawks. The question is, does anybody but Dwight care to respond? After limping into to the playoffs, the Celtics got some swagger back in Monday night's win. I think both series could go seven.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: A. Celtics, Magic win at home. I'm not sure it's possible for the Celtics to be worse offensively than they were Sunday, and I think the shooting in the Hawks-Magic game will level out so the Magic hit more and the Hawks hit fewer. Hopefully the officiating has nothing to do with either outcome. Celtics fans are not proud of the Paul Pierce flop, I assure you.
5. What do you expect in the West on Tuesday?
A. Mavs win, take 2-0 lead
B. Blazers win, tie series 1-1
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: B. Blazers win, tie series 1-1. The pick here was Portland in six, which was made in anticipation that the Mavs would split the first two at home, just like they did last season with the Spurs. The Mavs went 1-9 in their last 10 regular-season games against West playoff teams. That makes a 2-0 start to the postseason seem unlikely.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: I thought Portland, outside of free throws allowed, played really well in Dallas on Saturday night. Dallas, outside of Nowitzki getting to the line (eminently repeatable) and The Jason Kidd Scoring Explosion (not), didn't play especially well given their home-court advantage. Since neither result would surprise me in the least (heck, a Rudy Fernandez/J.J. Barea fourth-quarter shootout wouldn't surprise me that much), my expectations are mixed.
Caleb Hellerman, KnickerBlogger: B. Blazers win, tie series 1-1. I like the Mavs to win the series. All in all they've been underrated; they won 57 games and would have cracked 60 if Dirk hadn't missed a month. But they're not at their best right now, and I look for the desperate Blazers to win a hard-fought, low-scoring game.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: B. Blazers win, tie series 1-1. I have no problem picking the Blazers in Game 2. They controlled the tempo in Dallas, and it is unlikely that Kidd will confuse himself with Reggie Miller two games in a row. Look for Portland to clamp down and finish what they started through three quarters on Sunday.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: A. Mavs win, take 2-0 lead. This is maybe the hardest series to predict, but Saturday's win seemed invigorating for Dallas, so I'm guessing they'll ride its home crowd to a second. Still, it's tough to ignore how close Portland was on Saturday despite going 2-16 from three and getting essentially nothing from Brandon Roy or Wesley Matthews.
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