Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"NBA playoffs day 3 summary"

Chauncey Billups is the most clutch outside shooter in the NBA.

There, I said it. After watching Billups stop cold another late-game surge by Orlando Monday to seal a 98-90 victory for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, I am convinced.

No player in the NBA makes more big 3-pointers than Billups. His ability to drill contested triples when his team needs points is reminiscent of Reggie Miller. The only difference, of course, is in the position the two play. Miller ran off screens, caught the ball in rhythm and went straight into his shooting motion. For the most part, Billups has to create his 3-point attempts, which isn't easy considering he stands a modest 6 feet, 3 inches.

Billups is able to create space from his defender despite everyone in the building knowing he's going to shoot from behind the arc. That is one reason he's so special. The other, obviously, is that he sinks the difficult shots, which have a tendency to rip out the opponent's heart.

Monday was just another day at The Palace for Mr. Big Shot, as he's appropriately called. After Orlando cut a 15-point deficit to seven in just over two minutes midway through the final quarter, Billups hit a 28-foot triple over the arm of an outstretched defender to extend Detroit's lead back to 10 points. Later, following an Orlando basket that narrowed the margin to six with just over a minute to play, Billups showed off his versatility, driving to the basket, drawing a foul and making a twisting left-handed layup.

After the free throw, the game was as good as over.

Billups had done it again.

Everybody knows about Gilbert "Hibachi" Arenas and Kobe Bryant. Their heroics are shown on sports highlight shows - and even non-sports news shows - over and over. Billups, on the other hand, doesn't get the exposure simply because often times his shots aren't as dramatic as Arenas' 30-footers at the buzzer or Bryant's made shots while falling out of bounds.

But Billups is the most consistently clutch of the three - and of anyone else in the NBA. Dwyane Wade may be the best at getting to the free throw line. Tim Duncan may be the most clutch post threat late in a game. When it comes to hitting a big shot for three points, however, Billups is the man.

I'm sure we'll see a lot more "clutchness" from him as the playoffs continue.

Other insights
Don't count Utah out in its series against the Houston Rockets.

Yes, the Jazz trail 2-0 now after falling 98-90 in Houston Monday night. But now they're headed home. And almost nobody is better at home than the Jazz. Utah finished the regular season an impressive 31-10 at home. It will be very difficult to beat there.

Expect the home fans to spark Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams, who have struggled the first two games. Utah will win at least one of the next two games, but if Houston is able to steal a game, it should close out this series on its home floor in Game 5.


An interesting side note. We've had three days of the playoffs, and on two of the days there have been identical scores in games. On Saturday, the first two games - New Jersey over Toronto and Chicago over Miami - were 96-91. On Sunday, three of the scores were nearly identical: 95-87, 95-89 and 97-85. Finally, on Monday both games were decided by a 98-90 score.

One other thing to notice about those scores: Teams are scoring under 100 points. Seven of the nine highest scoring teams this season are in the playoffs - and they all averaged 100-plus points during the regular season. The decreased point totals in the playoffs is just another pieces of evidence that teams simply exert more energy on defense in the postseason.

Tuesday's must-see game
Miami at Chicago, 8 p.m. EST, TNT
This will be a battle. The teams fought back and forth in the opener before Chicago pulled it out in the final minutes. I expect the opposite in this one. It will be close all the way, but Shaquille O'Neal will stay on the floor for the Heat, creating more space for Dwyane Wade, who will be the hero for Miami.

I'm out. Enjoy Chris Bosh’s dominance and Vince Carter getting booed.

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