1. Dwyane Wade sat out against the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday night to nurse a sore knee. Should the Miami Heat risk fatigue and their health in pursuit of the consecutive wins streak record?
SANDY DOVER: This is an easy answer: NO. The streak in and of itself isn’t the end goal, and no one plans for a streak – only to win as many games as possible. The only time a superstar should play through injury is when they are counted on to either make the playoffs, or to stay in the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs are a team that routinely rests its players as necessary, so that they can play healthy when the stakes are the highest. No trophies are given to streaks.
VINNIE GOODWILL: Regardless of what’s happened between now and the end of the regular season, the Heat have made their point. What the streak illustrates is when Wade is healthy, the other players’ roles become more clearly defined – and nobody’s beating them. That fact is known whether the streak ends now or two weeks from now. Wade needs to be at peak efficiency, and brotha looks close enough to it right now.
J.R. GAMBLE: Dwyane Wade’s knees are more resilient than Wendy Williams, but older than Cicely Tyson. Risk is part of the game, and Wade’s been winning most of his life. He’s no new jack. He has two chips. He’s an immortal. How much better are those knees going to get? Wade may never get a chance to be a part of a streak like this again. It really should be his call at this point.
RICHARD BOADU: What?!?! No! The 16 games the Heat need to win in the playoffs for the NBA title are far more important than the 33-game winning streak in the regular season. Unless he’s in the playoffs, he shouldn’t be playing hurt and he should be resting up to get ready to repeat.
MAURICE BOBB: As a fan, I’d love to see D. Wade strap up those ridiculous Li Ning’s and go after the streak record. But I’m not the Miami Heat, and he ain’t freakin’ Seabiscuit. If the Heat want to repeat, they’ll need Flash in the playoffs because as great as ’Bron is, he is often the big time closer of games. Wade’s knees are on some old-man shit, but his will to win is as strong as ever. So I say go when he can go and rest when he needs to rest.
2. Kenyon Martin is under the impression that the Clippers style won’t translate to playoff wins. What’s keeping Lob City from becoming a legit championship contender?
SANDY: Kenyon Martin is likely coming from a place of bitterness that he had to wait this long to play , and that the Clippers didn’t fetch him for almost an entire season. Nevertheless, he could be right, but we don’t actually know what is possible, as the Clippers are evolving every 20 games or so. Man cannot live on lobs alone, and neither can the Clippers.
VINNIE: For as much as I love Lob City, recent champs all have had a player with the ability to get good shots and double-teams 15 feet and in. Miami (LBJ), Dallas (Dirk), Lakers (Kobe, Gasol, Bynum). Can you depend on Blake to score consistently against a set defense, or for Vinny Del Negro to show he can actually coach when it counts? Not sure if Kenyon knew all of that, but his overall point is well-taken.
GAMBLE: The Clippers can move the crowd, but they’re not closing. Martin may be bitter, but he’s got a point. What he meant to say is they aren’t champions. The Clippers are a dope array of talent, but not a well-oiled machine. Many teams have assembled sexy rosters and fell short. It often depends on the era. LA’s new top-shottas are championship caliber, but a buzz saw called The Miami Heat will run through them.
BOADU: The fact that Kenyon Martin is no longer with the Clippers is what is holding them back. Sike! The pure fact is that even though the Clippers have Chris Paul they still don’t have a halfcourt offense. The Lob City play is cute in the regular season, but come playoff time, you need a consistent halfcourt set. Also, the Clippers are soft. They’re the cool kid that never got picked on growing up, but they are easy to push around if you test them.
BOBB: The Clips have been grindin’ all year long with their brilliant aerial show and J. Crossover’s ankle-breakin’ iso’s are definitely worth the price of admission, but I have to agree with K-Mart. The only player I really trust in the clutch is CP3. That dude is more of a monster than the Loch Ness, so I can never truly count out a team with him at the point. But Blake’s jumper ain’t the quicker-picker-upper like Bounty, so he’s not cleanin’ it up with the game on the line. I wish Trina’s ex- was wrong, but he’s so right he should be able to pass GO and collect $200.
3. The Denver Nuggets streak is at 15 games now. We know they can kick it with the Best of The West, but who becomes their finisher and takes the last shot in the waning moments of a playoff tilt?
SANDY: The finisher is likely going to be the man who massages the ball the most coming down-court – Tywon Lawson. He’s a capable shot-maker; he has the best feel of the ball coming down with it, and is an underrated scorer and playmaker, even with a team filled with them. At any given moment, his quickness, penetration skills and shooting make him the most likely to finish with the Nuggets.
VINNIE: I like Lawson, but if teams blitz him because of his lack of size, he won’t have the chance to make those shots or decisions. It’ll have to come from somewhere else, like someone big (No, not you JaVale). I need someone to see over the top of the defense because driving lanes will be scarce. Iggy has playoff experience and has hit a game-winner in the playoffs. You wanna be the man? Here’s your chance.
GAMBLE: Denver’s offense isn’t really designed for one person to take the “clutch playoff shots.” The prevailing NBA philosophy is that each team needs a specific closer, but George Karl’s never been conventional. Gun-to-dome, he’d probably want Gallinari in a three-point situation. Ty Lawson for penetration, quick two’s and drawing fouls.
BOADU: I don’t know who takes the last shot, but I know this: no one makes it. The fact that this question is being asked proves that the Nuggets don’t have a finisher. They are a lot like the ’12 Grizzlies. I’d assume the final play would either go to Ty Lawson or Andre Iguodala, but I have about as much faith in one of them making the final shot as I had in LeBron before he grew a pair.
BOBB: Denver is why I love watching basketball. They don’t have a superstar on the squad, but they are racking up dubs like nobody’s business. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree that Ty Lawson is the finisher for the Nuggs. He’s got heart; he’s got game; and he’s proven that he can hit the big shot with the game on the line. George Karl is one helluva coach, so when it’s winning time, he’ll rely more on play-calling than just putting the ball in one guy’s hands FTW.
4. Manu Ginobili had a senior moment earlier this week. He doubled down on Al Jefferson and left a wide-open three-point shooter at the end of the game. This was his apology, via San Antonio Express-News: “I don’t know what I was thinking to completely black out,” Ginobili said. “A terrible mistake. I’m disappointed. I’m sorry I let my teammates down. We could have lost the game and, hopefully, I don’t do it ever again. Today we won it but in a playoff game it could have been even elimination. I’m very sorry and it was an awful distraction.”
Can the Spurs survive and advance if Manu is playing like Bill Cosby?
SANDY: The brain fart is as common as a baseline jumper in the NBA. Manu isn’t mistake-laden and will make the right play 99 percent of the time. The real question is whether their mistake-light basketball will even make much of a difference against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, their foes of the last two seasons.
VINNIE: The Spurs have benefitted from a crazy brain fart – in the NBA Finals, no less – ( Sheed, we’re talking about you, big fella) but the problem with the Spurs won’t be making mistakes like these; it’ll be the lack of making game-changing plays down the stretch against OKC that’ll lead to their undoing. To beat OKC, you’ve gotta be more than solid; you have to be spectacular and at this stage, the Spurs are no longer that in seven games vs. an equal opponent.
GAMBLE: Even Jesus Shuttlesworth missed a shot or two. In the past, Ginobili has done it big with regularity. If he played in the ’80s, his nickname would be Spanish Fly. He’s lost a step along the way, but he hasn’t lost his marbles. People expect way too much of an aging Spurs team. Last season’s playoff nose-dive wasn’t by accident.
BOADU: Yes, the Spurs can survive. No one is perfect and we can play the ‘what if’ game all day, but the attention to detail in the playoffs is sharper than a laser. The Spurs are number one in the West and they still won the game despite Manu’s senior moment. We’re making a bigger deal out of this than we really need too.
BOBB: One mistake does not a scrub make. Ginobili’s won it all, so he knows how to mentally lock in when he needs to. And we’ve all seen him, literally, bring the Spurs back to life in the waning minutes of games. Hell, we’ve seen dude catch bats when everyone else was shook like little girls. The only worry I’d have about Mr. Euro Step is whether or not he’ll be healthy.
5. Pau Gasol’s downward spiral has been disheartening to watch. Can he redeem himself over these final weeks of the season and slide back into the Lakers’ rotation without ruining their chemistry?
SANDY: The downward spiral isn’t an erosion of his skills – it’s just been a matter of wear-and-tear and bad coaching. If Mike Brown was still there, and even if Phil Jackson came aboard, he still would’ve needed the rest. The only difference is that Mike D’Antoni made a banged-up Gasol look even worse byremoving him from his sweet spots. That would’ve been like if 2007-08 Dwyane Wade was solely placed in the post with his torn shoulder – he would’ve looked atrocious, too. Gasol will be fine when (if?) he returns to the post; he’s gotten lots of good, hearty rest.
VINNIE: Seems like the Lakers have been doing this without much help from the sidelines, so “maybe, just maybe” (Chris Rock voice), Mike D’Antoni can earn his money and integrate Pau into the flow with a handful of games left. Gasol isn’t Juwan-Howard-old; he had a balky knee. Now he should be rejuvenated to come back and fit in, but stay away from the darn three-point line and get on the block. Then, the Lakers might have something other than a first-round exit.
GAMBLE: Chemistry is overrated. Pau Gasol is a pro. We know the trade rumors pound on his ego like a Dwight Howard power dunk. People need to stop babying the big boy and kick him in the butt. If he has any pride left, he will do whatever the Lakers ask of him for this final run. Then, if riding “The Buss Company” under the bright Hollywood lights is truly this miserable experience, he can go play in Toronto or something.
BOADU: Depends on which Pau is playing. The confident Pau was actually making strides, fitting in the Lakers rotation nicely. The unconfident Pau was just plain Charles Barkley turrible. It’s all up to Mike D’Antoni, though. If he puts Pau in a position to win, the Lakers chemistry should be fine, but if Mike D gets an ego erection, as he’s prone to, then the Lakers are doomed.
BOBB: I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I’m sick of Mr. Pringles trying to Stephon Marbury Pau Gasol. Sure, I’ve made jokes about Gasol being Gasoft; who hasn’t? But the Spaniard can still play. For me, the onus is on D’Antoni’s no-coaching ass to utilize Pau the right way when he comes back. Pau is one of the reasons the Lakers looked good on paper at the beginning of the year. Two seven-footers down low? Come on, son. That needs to happen and it needs to happen with the quickness. The Lakers have nothing to lose at this point, so eff chemistry. Put a winning combo on the floor, roll the dice and see what they hittin’ for.