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NBA conference finals
Yesterday, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Phoenix Suns 121-114 in an offense-oriented showdown. I have been a Suns fan since Charles Barkley joined the team for the 1992-1993 season, but I do not think they are going to win this series. As the Spurs showed yesterday, they can keep up with Phoenix offensively, but it is San Antonio's defense that will keep the Suns out of the NBA Finals.
Tonight, the Miami Heat and the Detroit Pistons tip off the Eastern Conference Finals. Last year, Detroit had no answer for Shaquille O'Neal, who was able to score at will. The rest of the Los Angeles Lakers did not play well, and O'Neal could not win the series by himself.
Much of the blame for the Lakers' defeat goes to Kobe Bryant. Bryant's selfishness prevented O'Neal from dominating the series like he should have. In Game 1, O'Neal hit 13 of 16 from the field and 8 of 12 from the free throw line for 34 points. Bryant hit only 10 of 27 shots and finished with 25 points. In Game 4, O'Neal hit 16 of 21 shots while Bryant hit 8 of 25. O'Neal's field goal percentage is 76% while Bryant's was an anemic 32%. When Detroit embarrassed Los Angeles in Game 5, Bryant shot 7-21 for 24 points while O'Neal shot 7-13 for 20 points.
The key to this series is whether O'Neal is recovered from the leg injury that caused him to miss a playoff game for the first time in his career. If O'Neal is healthy, the Pistons have no one (not even defensive specialist Ben Wallace, who is five inches shorter than O'Neal) who can stop him or even slow him down. If O'Neal is not healthy, Miami will be hard-pressed to win more than one game.
Even with a healthy O'Neal, I think the Pistons will take this series. Detroit's defense is too good and they can score just enough to keep up with Miami.