Viewer's Guide: What to watch on Sunday
- Saturday's quadruple-header will be in the books by the time there's a need for this guide to Sunday's quadruple-header, and here's an early toast to all those who make it through the weekend with at least an extended glimpse at each of the eight Game 1s.
In fact, all those folks who finished the weekend having watched all eight games can hereby take Monday off. Tell your bosses that ESPN said it was okay.
But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here. This is a guide for Sunday, not Monday. So let's take a look at the final four first round games and try to tell you something you didn't already know:
No. 6 Pacers at
No. 3 Nets
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET TNT
Who's the favorite? The Nets are, because they have better top-level players (Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson) and were eight wins better in the regular season, but the Pacers won the season series 2-1 and are convinced in their own minds that they can beat anybody in the East except Detroit.
Why watch? Because when he's on top of his game, Kidd is as pleasurable a playmaker to watch as anyone except Steve Nash. You'll also want to see how long will it take Carter to get up after he gets knocked down, and whether Pacers coach Rick Carlisle goes into a panic the first time his team pushes rather than walks the ball up-court.
Key matchup: Jermaine O'Neal vs. Jason Collins. The beauty of this one won't lie in the statistics, at least not for Collins. It'll show in the way Collins is able to keep O'Neal away from the basket and coax him into making mistakes.
X-factor: When he's got things working, Stephen Jackson can ignite an offense better than anyone else in this series except Carter. He typically has at least one unconscious performance in each series, but he can also be a human turnover machine.
Little-known fact: Carlisle was once a Nets assistant coach, and he even played five games for New Jersey in 1989-90. . . . Nets coach Lawrence Frank went to college at Indiana University, where he was the team manager under Bobby Knight, later moving to Marquette under current Pacers assistant Kevin O'Neill.Sunday: Pacers-Nets | Lakers-Suns | Bucks-Pistons | Grizzlies-Mavericks
No. 7 Lakers at
No. 2 Suns
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET Who's the favorite? Phil Jackson has never lost a first-round series in his career, so you'd think it would be him. But it isn't Phil's Lakers, it's Mike D'Antoni's Suns, who will dictate the style of play no matter who their opponent is but will have to contain Kobe Bryant to some degree to make it to the second round.
Why watch? Because if Kobe doesn't score 81 again, he still might score 64 -- which would break the NBA single-game postseason record set by Michael Jordan some 20 years ago against Boston. Bryant's career playoff high of 49 was set five years ago at Sacramento, and he averaged 42.5 against Phoenix this season, so he's due.
Key matchup: Tim Thomas vs. Lamar Odom. We haven't seen Thomas in the playoffs since he was knocked on his keister by New Jersey's Jason Collins two years ago and then called out his Knicks teammates for not sticking up for him. Thomas is in a contract year now, and the last time he was in a similar situation he reached the Eastern Conference finals with Milwaukee. He'd have to flirt with a triple-double in each game to match what Odom typically does.
X-factor: Boris Diaw. The Suns' point center is about to make Jackson extremely jealous. If he had a center that passed this well in his triangle offense, he might just be favored to eclipse Red Auerbach's record for NBA championships this year. Diaw will start opposite Kwame Brown, who surged over the final month of the season.
Little-known facts: Since Steve Nash's arrival, Phoenix has won seven of eight games between the teams, although the Lakers won the most recent one (with Nash and Raja Bell sitting out) to clinch a playoff berth. . . . Bryant finished the regular season with 2,862 points, the seventh highest total in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain holds the record of 4,029 in 1961-62). . . . Lakers forward Jim Jackson was released by Phoenix on March 10.Sunday: Pacers-Nets | Lakers-Suns | Bucks-Pistons | Grizzlies-Mavericks
No. 8 Bucks at
No. 1 Pistons
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET TNT Who's the favorite? The Pistons, and with good reason. They have been to the last two NBA Finals, finished with the NBA's best record and won a franchise record 64 games, and they use their poise and experience to control the fourth quarter almost every time they need to. Detroit won the season series 3-1.
Why watch? No disrespect to the Pistons, but the best shooter (Michael Redd), the quickest player (T.J. Ford), the best big man prospect (Andrew Bogut) and the guy with the most championship rings (Toni Kukoc) are all playing for the underdog Bucks. If that doesn't give you enough reason to tune in, then try checking out how many Milwaukee players are wearing tights.
Best matchup: Redd vs. Richard Hamilton. The absence of Ray Allen from this year's postseason leaves Redd as the best pure shooter in the playoffs, and he really lights it up when he faces Detroit (he shot 74 percent from 3-point range and averaged 30.0 points against the Pistons this season). Hamilton is to mid-range shooting what Redd is to long-distance shooting, and they're both virtually automatic from the line.
X-factor: Charlie Bell. Of all the players who will come off the bench in this series, only one is capable of changing the game with his both his offense and his sneaky-quick defense. That player is the little-known Bell, who played collegiately at Michigan State and spent three seasons in the Spanish and Italian Leagues.
Little-known facts: Detroit coach Flip Saunders, who has a career record of 11-23 in first-round playoff games, was a head coach in Wisconsin for five years during the early '90s with LaCrosse of the CBA. . . . The Bucks haven't played on a Thursday all year, and there are no Thursday games in this series.Sunday: Pacers-Nets | Lakers-Suns | Bucks-Pistons | Grizzlies-Mavericks
No. 5 Grizzlies at
No. 4 Mavericks
Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET TNT Who's the favorite? Let's put it this way: On the phone earlier this month, the one team Grizzlies president Jerry West said he wasn't looking forward to playing was the Mavericks, who present several tough matchups for Memphis. But West also said he liked how his team was flying under the radar, and liked his chances this year a lot better than he did in 2004 and 2005.
Why watch? Because these aren't the same Grizzlies who got swept in the first round the past two seasons. They now have Bobby Jackson, with 68 career playoff games behind him, coming off the bench along with Mike Miller, which should negate the bench advantage the Mavs have against virtually every opponent they play.
Best matchup: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Anybody. We say anybody because everybody would be painting with too broad a brush. But make no mistake, there will be plenty of different defenders who will take a shot at slowing down the big German, who averaged nearly 28 points against Memphis in the teams' four regular-season meetings.
X-factor: Pau Gasol. He isn't quick enough on his feet to adequately defend Nowitzki, so the Grizzlies will use him elsewhere to keep him out of foul trouble. The big Spaniard averaged 23.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists against Dallas this season. He's a tougher competitor than he looks, but he's also entering this series listed as day-to-day with a sore left foot.
Little known facts: Dallas has an all-time record of 36-7 against the Grizzlies, including 3-1 this season and 4-0 a year ago. Memphis had lost nine straight at Dallas until winning there on Nov. 26 behind 36 points and 15 rebounds from Gasol. . . . Underperforming Dallas center Erick Dampier may be cheered more loudly in Memphis than in Dallas. He grew up in nearby Mississippi.
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
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