While some predict that the playoffs will eventually boil down to a Golden State-Cleveland rematch of a year ago, ESPN NBA Analyst Jalen Rose, who took media questions, including the MSR’s, during a playoff preview conference call, quickly pointed out that there is too much playoff basketball along the way to make an easy call.
Although Detroit is facing Cleveland, for example, he wouldn’t classify a Cavs cakewalk. “If I had to choose, I would say Cavs in six. But I’ll be going to the game with a Pistons hoodie on,” admitted the Detroit native. “I think that they [the Pistons] have what it takes to win a couple of games, especially if the Cavs aren’t making three-point shots.”
The Boston-Atlanta series could be a toss-up, said Rose. “The wild card is [Boston’s] Isaiah Thomas. If he can get crazy-hot, we know the Celtics are going to bring it defensively.” Atlanta’s strength is defense as well: “I feel like I’m giving them the edge,” noted the analyst.
He added that Charlotte in the East is “underwhelming” and likes how Indiana’s Paul George has bounced back. “I always felt like he was a top-10 player, a terrific two-way player after shattering his leg [two years ago] with Team USA,” continued Rose. “For him to come back and play the way he’s played…basically help[ed] lift an Indiana team to the Playoffs.”
The MSR asked Rose on any underwhelming or under-noticed story lines in this year’s playoffs. “One, where is Dwight Howard?” responded Rose on the enigmatic Houston Rockets center. His club, who qualified as the West’s eighth seed on the season’s final day plays top-seeded Golden State.
“From a player that obviously showed so much promise in Orlando, and then we know about what happened in LA and now to Houston, a perennial All-Star player. If his numbers continue, even just because of longevity, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame. Yet at the end of games, there are times where Clint Capela is actually finishing,” noted Rose.
“So I’m just kind of watching that dubious situation play out, especially going against the [Golden State] Warriors, a team that probably should win that series in five games,” predicted Rose.
He added a couple more: “The killer instinct of Steph Curry — I think [his] baby face smile…he still has what it takes to go out, lead a team to 73 victories, just snatched MVP as a defending world champion, and go into the final game needing eight threes, to get 400 and makes 10 [and] scores 40 plus in three quarters. He is not playing around.”
This also applies to San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, “a defensive-oriented player in a category of historically great offensive players that weren’t known for their defense,” said Rose.
“Those are the ones that initially stand out as story lines that people are not necessarily going to talk about,” concluded Rose.
Read more from Jalen Rose on the NBA playoffs, and other items, in future MSR articles.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.