The Pulse: NBA, NHL playoffs; interleague play

Updated: May 24, 2006, 12:48 PM ET
Friday, May 19

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions

1. Cavs and Mavs to the NBA's conference finals?
2. Does SportsNation like interleague play?
3. Who starts fast in the NHL Western Conference finals?


Will the Pistons survive elimination?
Both Cleveland and Dallas have a chance to close out the defending champions in their respective conference and SportsNation like both to get it done and advance to the conference finals.

The Cavaliers get SN's vote in the Eastern Conference, where they hold a 3-2 lead over Detroit and play Game 6 at home. Out in the Western Conference, the Mavericks have the defending champs from San Antonio on the ropes and well over half of 'Nation voters think the Spurs are headed home for the summer.

  • Who will win the Eastern Conference finals?
    55% Cavaliers
    45% Pistons

  • Who will win the Western Conference finals?
    60% Mavericks
    40% Spurs

    Let's face it guys, this is a great story with LeBron beating the unbeatable Pistons but it will NOT happen. The Pistons are too damn good! It is as simple as that!
    Colt (Houston, TX)

    The Pistons will win tonight at home and will win the series. LeBron, better luck next year.
    Rob (Hartford)

    Game 6 is the biggest game ever for the Cavs franchise. They must win because they will lose a Game 7 in Detroit!
    Kyle (Hawaii)

    I never doubt Mr. Fundamental, Tim Duncan, and his Spurs squad.
    Alex (Atlanta)

    You can expect Dirk to listen to extra David Hasseshof music before the game, come out and take out his pent-up aggression on the Spurs, go for 45 and the Mavs win.
    DC (Altoona, PA)

    Mavs BETTER win Game 6 or the Spurs will advance in Game 7. I love how people are writing off the last two teams to win titles. Pistons and Spurs advance!
    Pops (LA)


    Joe Torre's fired up for the Subway Series.
    Interleague play begins Friday night in Major League baseball and while there are some intriguing matchups on the schedule it seems not everyone is fired up about it, at least not some managers.

    Yankees skipper Joe Torre has made it clear he's not looking forward to facing crosstown rivals the Mets and it seems White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't much care that his team is hosting the Cubs. As for the fans, an overwhelming majority of the 'Nation still enjoys the uniqueness of interleague play.

  • Do you like interleague play?
    80% Yes
    20% No

    Diehard A's fan here and I am praying to God that Barry Bonds doesn't tie or break the record against them this weekend. Do it against a different team, please!
    Wes (North CA)

    Stud: MLB interleague schedule starts today. Classic North Side vs South side duel in Chi-town.
    Dan (Bmore)

    "**** the Cubs! I don't care about the Cubs!" -- Ozzie Guillen. Greatest. Quote. Ever.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    How could Joe Torre not say he's excited for the Subway Series? He's knows how the press is and how much this means to New Yorkers. Family-and-Friends trashing talking is on the table.
    Albi (Manhattan)

    I'm about sick of the Subway Series. Mets-Yankees just isn't as exciting as it once was.
    Jon (Malvern)


    Are Chris Pronger and the Oilers tired?
    Edmonton and Anaheim face off Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Anaheim after just a one-day turnaround for the Oilers since closing out San Jose in the second round, but SportsNation still likes Edmonton to get the upper hand with the first win in the series.

  • Who will win Game 1 of the Western Conference finals?
    71% Mighty Ducks
    29% Oilers

    Good luck to the Oilers tonight. Only one day off after Game 6 is a tough schedule quirk for them.
    Andrew (Toronto)

    Oilers are in way over their heads. They are just riding the "we beat the Red Wings" wave.
    Keith (Grand Rapids)

    If the Ducks can come out strong in game one, I think they might be able to battle to a series win. They need to get to Roloson early and often. He is NOT THAT GOOD!!
    Chris (Providence, RI)

    Nobody beats a team that was first coached by Emilio Estevez and counts Pluto in it's fandom. Go Ducks.
    Mickey (Anaheim)

    With TV ratings as low as possible and four small markets in the final four, who doesn't love the cap-manufactured parity in the NHL!? I hate Bettman. Ruined it for all of the big markets.
    Ted (Philly)


    Thursday's Big Questions

    1. How far can the Cavaliers really advance?
    2. What's in store in the NHL's conference finals?


    LeBron's eyeing the conference finals
    LeBron James and the Cavaliers have the Pistons, defending Eastern Conference champions, in a stunning 3-2 hole in the second round of the NBA playoffs, but can the Cavs finish them off?

    SportsNation says yes. Sort of. The same percentage of voters thinks the Cavs are on their way to the East finals as thinks the Pistons will come back to win the series in seven games, but that's where the optimism ends. Only one quarter of fans think King James and his court will get any further than the conference finals.

  • How far will the Cavaliers go in the playoffs?
    38% Advance to Eastern Conference finals
    38% Lose to Pistons
    14% Advance to NBA Finals
    11% Win NBA Championship

    I think we have underestimated how good Lebron makes the rest of his team. I'm not sure what I'm watching here, but I'm enjoying every second of it.
    Tim (Indy)

    If Donyell can contribute 14 points and 13 boards, and Big Z can give 13 points, 10 boards, and 6 blocks again then LeBron, the Cavs, and Big Z's beard can make it to the Eastern Conference finals.
    David (Maryville, Tenn.)

    If the Cavs lose Game 6, they'll lose Game 7. I think the pressure will crack the supporting cast of Lebron.
    Tim (Pittsburgh)

    All I care about is we are one win away from the dream Dwyane vs. LeBron matchup in the Eastern Conference finals. Now THAT will be entertainment.

    Phil (Cleveland)

    It's just like the twilight zone, like it's inexplicable how it's even happening, it's like bench guys are dropping 30 or something, and it's not like LeBron is going for 50 every night, it's just kind of happening
    Chris (Boston via Paris)

    Looks like Detroit is going for the choker's hat trick. First the Red Wings, now the Pistons looking to bow out early and the Tigers on top of the AL ready to break some Motown hearts later this summer.
    Jon (Malvern)


    Ilya Bryzgalov has Ducks fans quacking.
    The NHL conference finals are set and SportsNation is torn.

    Carolina and Buffalo square off in the Eastern Conference, Anaheim and Edmonton in the West, and SN voters are having a hard time choosing which teams will make the Stanley Cup finals. The Ducks get a little more than half of the vote out west and the Hurricanes have a slightly smaller majority over the Sabres.

    Between the pipes, 'Nation voters think Carolina rookie goalie Cam Ward is the most important netminder to his team's chances, while fellow rookie and conference finals nemesis Ryan Miller of the Sabres is least important in the minds of SportsNation.

  • Which team will win the NHL Eastern Conference finals?
    53% Carolina Hurricanes
    47% Buffalo Sabres

  • Which team will win the NHL Western Conference finals?
    56% Anaheim Mighty Ducks 44% Edmonton Oilers

  • Which goalie is most important to his team's chances of reaching the Stanley Cup finals?
    42% Cam Ward, Hurricanes 25% Ilya Bryzgalov, Anaheim 20% Dwayne Roloson, Edmonton 13% Ryan Miller, Buffalo

    Oilers in six over the Ducks! 'Canes in seven over Buffalo!
    Mac (Canada)

    Ducks over Oilers in 7, Beauchemin with the GWG!
    Jason (Chicago)

    Carolina 'Canes fans: Biggest. Bandwagon. Ever. I lived in NC when they played in Greensboro and would go to games with about 3,000 other people. Good seats still available was an understatement.
    Chris (Providence, RI)

    STUD: Oilers fans for cheering so loud during the U.S. anthem that you could barely hear the singer, after Sharks fans booed 'O Canada' in Game 5
    Andrew (Toronto)

    When in doubt, root for the NHL teams with the louder crowds: Edmonton and Buffalo. I don't think Anaheim has realized they're in the conference finals yet, but they'll just bang their Thunderstix anyway.
    Chris (Connecticut)

    Think NBC is cheering about the Edmonton win? This might be the most exciting playoffs in a long time, but the ratings are going to be dismal.
    Steve (Stafford Springs, CT)


    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Which team wins between the Suns and Clippers?
    2. Are the Heat the team to beat out East?
    3. Was Russ Springer wrong for hitting Barry Bonds?


    Nash and Cassell will battle in Game 6.
    These are the kind of headlines Raja Bell wanted to make in the playoffs.

    Thanks to some late heroics by Bell to extend the game, the Suns own a 3-2 series lead on the Clippers after pulling out a double-overtime win on Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning on the East Coast). As a result of the big win, a majority of voters expect Phoenix, only recently on the verge of elimination against the Lakers, to advance to the conference finals against either the Mavericks or Spurs. Of course, voters aren't expecting the Clippers to go quietly in Game 6.

    Over in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons and Cavaliers play a monumental Game 5 on Wednesday, but the Heat are already kicking back and resting up for the next round after dispatching the Nets. On the strength of that 4-1 series win and Detroit's struggles against Cleveland, the Heat appear to be gaining on the Pistons as SportsNation's pick to advance from the East.

  • 67% Phoenix Suns will advance to the Western Conference finals
  • 76% Los Angeles Clippers will push the Suns to Game 7

  • Which team will win the Eastern Conference?
    47% Detroit Pistons
    35% Miami Heat
    18% Cleveland Cavaliers

    I hope this Clippers-Suns series goes seven games. The whole East Coast may take a dive in productivity, but so far this series has been surprisingly awesome. Give me more!
    Keith (Pennsylvania)

    For some reason, I really, really want the Clippers to win. What could be cooler than the Clippers in the conference finals?
    George (Detroit)

    I still think the Clippers win back at home in Game 6. They have been dominant with Elton Brand in the middle, and Sam Cassell won't let them lose so easily.
    Vik (Fort Myers, Fla.)

    The Clippers still have a chance because they're going home, and the Suns can't do anything with Elton Brand. Nor do they play defense, so the Clips still have a chance AND they've proven they can win in Phoenix.
    Charles (Pittsburgh)

    Dwyane Wade will win at least one MVP within the next three years. The man knows how to control and/or take over a game.
    Nick (Washington, D.C.)

    Game 1 served as a wake-up call for the Heat. Can you really win anything with Vinsanity? I'm not so sure you can.
    Chris (Connecticut)

    The Heat look just good enough to take one, and only one, game from the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals. I trust Cleveland more than I trust Miami right now.
    Steve (Stafford Springs, Conn.)

    Both new Jersey teams got dispatched early in the second round. Now their fans can go back to not caring.
    Jonathan (Buffalo)


    Still no 714 for Bonds.
    Steve the security guy wasn't there (as far as we know), but Tuesday's game between the Astros and Giants sure looked like another Springer was involved. Veteran relief pitcher Russ Springer went after Barry Bonds from the mound, throwing inside at Bonds on four consecutive pitches before finally hitting him in the back with a fifth pitch. Warned after the first pitch, Springer was ejected from the game after hitting Bonds but left to a standing ovation from the home crowd in Houston. SportsNation says there's no way that would have happened if Springer had gone after anyone but Bonds, but not many folks have a big problem with his actions.

  • 95% Houston crowd wouldn't have cheered Russ Springer if he had been ejected for hitting someone other than Barry Bonds.

  • 40% It was wrong for Springer to throw at Bonds.
  • 28% I'd feel embarrassed for my favorite team if a pitcher did the same thing.
  • 24% It's never appropriate for a pitcher to intentionally hit a batter.

    Kudos to Russ Springer for doing what a lot of us would like to do to Bonds. Maybe just aim a bit lower though.
    Jarron (Cleveland)

    How many Russ Springer jerseys do you think get sold today? I'm betting an all-time high.
    David (Maryville, Tenn.)

    Just wondering if you thought just maybe, perhaps, possibly that Russ Springer may have been throwing at Bonds last night? Way to be subtle, Russ. I think it took him five pitches to get the job done because he was trying to find a spot to plunk BB that wasn't covered in body armor.
    DC (Altoona, Pa.)


    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. What will happen in the Cavaliers-Pistons series?
    2. Is Larry Brown's legacy tarnished?
    3. Is Doug Flutie a Hall of Famer?


    Rasheed definitely makes himself heard.
    Guaran-'Sheed victory? Not so much.

    Rasheed Wallace guaranteed a Pistons victory in Game 4 of their playoff series with the Cavaliers, then rolled his ankle and watched from the bench during crunch time of a 74-72 Cavs win that tied the series at two games apiece. Most of SportsNation still thinks Detroit will eventually win the series but two straight Cleveland victories have put at least some doubt in SN's collective mind.

    In New York, Larry Brown appears to be on his way out of town after one extremely disappointing season as head coach of the Knicks. His team won only 23 games in 2005-06 and Brown feuded openly in the media with guard Stephon Marbury, leading better than 40 percent of SN voters to say Brown has tarnished a legacy that includes over 1,000 NBA wins and championships in both the NBA and NCAA.

  • What will be the outcome of the Cavaliers-Pistons series?
    49% Pistons in six
    23% Cavaliers in seven
    22% Pistons in seven
    6% Cavaliers in six

  • Do this year's failures tarnish Larry Brown's coaching legacy?
    59% No
    41% Yes

    The Cavs really played like a team and will knock the Pistons out because of it.
    Jake (Ohio)

    I still think Pistons will win but Rasheed was a big dud! Not so much for the guarantee, but for only scoring seven points (3-of-13 shooting) and for having three big turnovers! To add more salt to the wound, he was on the bench during crunch time.
    Steve (NY)

    I hope 'Sheed doesn't bet along with his guarantees. He would lose more cash than Barkley.
    Brian (Newburyport, MA)

    Everyone will praise King James, but how about the Cavs D! Pistons scored 210 points in Games 1 and 2, then 149 points in Games 3 and 4. Pistons went scoreless for nearly eight minutes from the third quarter into the fourth? Job well done, Cavs.
    Bill (SAC)

    Dear Pistons: Please don't go all Red Wings on us. Thanks. Sincerely, Detroit Sports Fans
    Tom (Parkville, MD)

    Larry Brown, all-time Dud. After the glorious Detroit championship, he's thrown an Olympic squad under the bus and made the Knicks WORSE! Now he's getting fired. 'Bout time.
    Mike W. (Rochester, NY)

    Do you think Larry Brown will try to move back in as Pistons coach before Game 5 just like he tried to leave in the middle of last years playoffs?
    Ted (Pittsburgh)

    Larry Brown had this planned all along. He knows erratic Isiah is. Even if he did horrible he knew he was getting paid anyway. Very clever, Larry.
    Nick (DC)


    Should Canada count?
    Doug Flutie announced his retirement Monday after a 21-year career that spanned 12 NFL seasons, a stint in the USFL and eight seasons in the Canadian Football League. All told, he threw for more than 50,000 yards in his pro football career and tossed 369 touchdown passes.

    The majority of that came in Canada, where Flutie was a six-time MVP, won three Grey Cup titles and threw for over 40,000 yards as a member of the British Columbia Lions, Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts. But should that be considered when debating Flutie's Hall of Fame worthiness? Since more than half of SportsNation thinks Flutie is a Hall of Famer we're going to to ahead and say yes.

  • Does Doug Flutie deserve to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
    57% Yes
    43% No

    It's the PRO Football Hall of Fame. Didn't Doug Flutie play 21 years of professional football? While his total numbers don't quite stack up to Warren Moon's, he deserves to be in the Hall.
    Dan (Pinellas Park, FL)

    I went to BC, am 5-foot-6 and pretty much worship the ground Flutie walks on. That being said, even I think he probably shouldn't make the Hall.
    Troy (Gainesville, FL)

    Sad to see him go. Class guy. Fun to watch. And yes, he should be considered. Threw for over 6,000 yards in ONE season, not to mention other HOF-worthy stats that put him at LEAST in the conversation. Moon's stats counted towards his induction, so should Flutie's
    Jake (VA Beach)

    Under that criteria, should Kurt Warner be a Hall of Famer? He was an Arena League legend and won an NFL MVP, but I don't see him getting in so Flutie really has no chance.
    Charles (SuperBurgh)

    I hear they're going to put a box of Flutie Flakes right next to Jimmy Johnson's hair in canton!
    Mike W. (Rochester, NY)


    Monday's Big Questions

    1. What will happen in the conference semis?
    2. Do you prefer LeBron over Kobe?
    3. Are Dusty Baker's days numbered in Chicago?


    Lebron was truly King on Saturday.
    LeBron James did not have his best offensive output of the playoffs last Saturday against the Pistons, but he inspired his team with timely production to pull Cleveland to within 2-1 in the series and ruin Detroit's plans for a sweep. Despite that, unofficial Pistons spokesman Rasheed Wallace guaranteed his team would win the series in five games. Does SportsNation agree?

    It seems so, with 64 percent of voters agreeing with 'Sheed about the second round and nearly everyone picking the Pistons to come out of the Eastern Conference in SportsNation's revised playoff predictions. The Mavericks are SN's favorite to come out of the West despite Dirk Nowitzki's ankle injury, and better than a quarter of 'Nation citizens are rooting for the Mavs to go all the way.

    After comparing LeBron's performance over the weekend to Kobe Bryant's questionable performance in Game 7 of the first round against the Suns there is no doubt SportsNation would rather have King James wearing it's favorite team's colors. And amid the chaos in New York, more than half of SN thinks neither incumbent Larry Brown or GM Isiah Thomas should coach the Knicks next season.

  • Do you agree with Rasheed Wallace's guarantee that the Pistons will win their series vs. Cleveland in five games?
    64% Yes, he's exactly right
    31% No, but they will win in six or seven games
    6% No, the Cavaliers will come back to win the series

  • Which Eastern Conference team will reach the NBA Finals?
    81% Detroit Pistons
    14% Miami Heat
    4% Cleveland Cavaliers
    1% New Jersey Nets

  • Which Western Conference team will reach the NBA Finals?
    56% Dallas Mavericks
    31% San Antonio Spurs
    7% Los Angeles Clippers
    6% Phoenix Suns

  • Which remaining team are you rooting for to win it all?
    26% Dallas Mavericks
    19% Detroit Pistons
    13% San Antonio Spurs
    11% Phoenix Suns
    11% Miami Heat
    10% Cleveland Cavaliers
    10% Los Angeles Clippers
    2% New Jersey Nets

  • Who would you rather have on your favorite team?
    78% LeBron James
    22% Kobe Bryant

  • Who should coach the Knicks in 2006-07?
    53% Someone else
    33% Larry Brown
    14% Isiah Thomas

    Has anyone noticed that the media can't find a way to praise Lebron without bashing Kobe!?
    Kito (NJ)

    Stud: My man crush... LeBron!!! He was everywhere. And for the first time in a while I actually witnesses him playing defense along with getting a triple double. Playoff series don't really start until someone wins on the road.
    Phil (Cleveland)

    'Sheed can't fire up his team after they took an L against a team their supposed to beat. I'm sorry but the Pistons know they should've swept the Cavs.
    John (NY)

    Dirk is the man. Awesome play at the end of the game to get inside position on Bowen and jump twice on a bad ankle to get that put-back winner.
    Steve (Ithaca)

    Experts 1, Heat 3. Shaq won't lose to the Nets
    Mike (Philly)

    Stud: Devin Harris. Had 24 points in the Game 3 win and would you believe the Mavs won because of his DEFENSE!
    Alex (Atlanta)


    SN thinks Dusty is on his way out.
    The heat is on in Chicago with the Cubs continuing to struggle and Dusty Baker's seat is getting rather warm. His team is 15-22 and already 8.5 games behind in the National League Central and fans and media alike are growing restless. Most are calling for Cubs GM Jim Hendry to decide Dusty's future one way or the other in the very near future, and SportsNation doesn't think it will turn out well for Baker.

  • Will Dusty Baker finish the season as manager of the Cubs?
    53% No
    47% Yes

    When are the Cubs going to pull the plug on Dusty Baker?
    Dan (Pinellas Park, FL)

    Maddux is back in the wayback machine, but now the relief pitching is as broken as everything else on the Cubs.
    Troy (Gainesville, FL)

    The Cubs suffer the earliest season sweep ever versus the Padres? Wait 'til next year...
    Steve (Stafford Springs, CT)

    Holy cow, the Cubs look like they died and went down to the minors without Derrek Lee.
    Scott (South Bend)

    What's with the Cubbies? It seems like they've crashed and burned and called it quits in mid-May.
    Nate (Madison)


    Missed an edition of The Pulse? Click here to check out the archive!