The Endless Enigma; Round 3 Preview

#1 Miami versus #2 Detroit
Miami is #2 in offensive efficiency and #6 in defensive efficiency
Detroit is #17 in offensive efficiency and #3 in defensive efficiency

Well, we've been waiting for this one for quite a while. Media favourite versus the underappreciated. Shaq looks for revenge against the last team he played while in Los Angeles. The Pistons take on the guy they could've drafted, even though people don't seem to notice that they already had Chauncey and Rip at the time... moving on. The two best teams in the East (at least while Artest isn't playing) duke it out. Damon Jones and Christian Laettner face their old team... well, not that one so much. But you get the idea. Here are a few stats that stand out from the Won-Lost profiles on 82games.

Miami is only 14-10 against teams that are ranked "Good" in Points Against. This is a clip of 58%, while they won 74% of their other games. Similarly, Miami is only 10-13 against teams that are ranked "Good" in defensive eFG%. This is a clip of 43%, while they won 83% of their other games. As for the Pistons, not a lot stands out. The best one with a good sample size is that Detroit is 22-9 against teams that are ranked "Good" in Points For. This is a clip of 71%, while they won 64% of their other games. Not big, but still the one that stands out the most. Perhaps it's a sign that the Pistons can take on any type of opponent? Let's take a look at the matchups.

Center: Shaq, Mourning and Doleac versus Ben, Rasheed (part time) and Elden
There's a big deal being made about Elden being a "Shaq stopper" or something, but I don't think he's going to get a lot of time. He'll come in and use up 3 or 4 fouls on Shaq and maybe hit a jumper, but that's about it. Shaq's going to get his, we know this. Even if he's not 100%, he's still going to get his. As long as Ben and Rasheed do a decent job of staying out of foul trouble, a la last year, they should be alright. Also, while Shaq's still quite good in the area, the Pistons are still better defenders in the lane. So, advantage Heat, but only on offense.

Power Forward: Haslem and Laettner versus Rasheed and McDyess
This matchup is kind of funny. Haslem and Laettner are great shooters and compliment Shaq well. Rasheed and McDyess are great from fifteen feet in and compliment the Piston offense well. On offense, the Pistons only have a slight advantage. Defensively... there's a gigantic advantage for the team in blue. Haslem is too small and Laettner is too slow. Rasheed and McDyess are big, quick and good shot blockers. Yeah... yeah. This isn't Heat advantage over Nets or anything, but it is at least Rocket centres over Maverick centres-esque. Advantage Pistons.

Small Forward and Shooting Guard: E. Jones, Wade and Butler (maybe ?) versus Tayshaun, Rip and Lindsey
These are grouped because Jones/Wade and Tayshaun/Rip will be alternating on who each guards between each other fairly often. Jones won't be able to guard Tayshaun (similar to how he wasn't able to guard Jamison last round) and Wade won't be running around on Rip all game, so I suspect they switch up sometimes. Wade will wind up on Chauncey as well, but I don't suspect that happens a whole lot. So, I'll focus on these. Basically, the Heat will have trouble guarding the Piston starters no matter who is on them. On the other side, Hamilton on Wade will be the only matchup that doesn't favour the Pistons on the other end. Tayshaun's shown that he can defend Jones and Wade very well during the regular season and I don't believe he'll let up here. Advantage Pistons.

Point Guard: D. Jones and Dooling versus Chauncey, Lindsey (part time) and Arroyo
Here we have another spot that's favourable for the team in blue. Jones and Dooling can't guard Chauncey... that's pretty much all that matters. Hunter will spend more time at SG and Arroyo will probably only play 6-8 minutes a game, so what they do while he's in won't be overly important. Bottom line is, Chauncey won't be stopped when he doesn't want to be in this series, much like last series. Advantage Pistons.

Overall, while the Heat are very talented, they shouldn't be able to take out the Pistons. The 2004 Pistons beat a somewhat similar team in the 2004 Lakers last year and while Wade is better than Kobe and 2005 Shaq is better than 2004 Shaq, I don't think the outcome will be much different. I suspect my favourite team makes it to their second straight NBA Finals before the fourth game in Miami.

Surprise positive showing: Pretty much everyone in this series is well defined already... something more fitting would be more like "better showing than last round" and I'm going to go with... there's no one to pick! Darn. Pretty much everyone on both of these teams played great last round.
Surprise negative showing: Eddie Jones. He's going to get torched multiple teams this series, even if he does have the Jungle Karma.
Series winner and game count: Pistons in six.

#1 Phoenix versus #2 San Antonio
Phoenix is #1 in offensive efficiency and #16 in defensive efficiency
San Antonio is #9 in offensive efficiency and #1 in defensive efficiency

Out west, another one versus two matchup. I was really going back and forth in my head before deciding who would be victorious in this one. Both teams are overly talented and go with much different philosophies, as we know. Like above, we travel again to the Won-Lost profiles.

San Antonio is only 17-11 against teams with a "Good" offensive eFG%. That's not really an "only", but is is far down from the others. That's a clip of 67%, while they won at 75% the rest of the time. Like the Pistons, their stuff is slight. Another thing that points out that they're good all around. As for the Suns, Phoenix is 17-12 against teams ranked "Good" in Net Points. That's a clip of 59%, whereas they win at 85% the rest of the time. If you'll recall, the Spurs were the best team in the league for Net Points. That makes me wonder. I mean, granted, most teams aren't going to be success against teams with high net points. But a 26% difference? That's fairly major. Now for the positions.

Center: Stoudemire and Hunter versus Rasho and Nazr.
Dampier couldn't defend at Amare at all, but these two will. Granted, he's been so hot it's going to be tough to do much, but they'll do better. I'd suggest that they could power him out down low, but Dampier couldn't do that either, so I wouldn't count on it. I'd mention Hunter, but his PT will be quite limited. Advantage Phoenix.

Power Forward: Marion and McCarty versus Duncan and Horry.
Hard to say. Duncan's the best player in the league, but Marion did a great job against Nowitzki last round. McCarty and Horry won't do much, so I'll leave them out. Duncan's going to work Marion more in the post, which could be troubling for Phoenix. Marion's on fire right now, but... Duncan's on permanent fire. Seriously! Advantage San Antonio.

Small Forward: Johnson and Jackson (part time) versus Bowen and Robinson
Johnson's supposed to be back, but whether he's 100% is up in the air. It is an eye injury, so it's not like he's going to be slowed or anything. He might be a little afraid to go to the hole, but it's not like he went there a lot anyway. He ought to be just fine... except for that Bowen is guarding him. Bowen ought to do a pretty good job of shutting him and the other JJ down. Robinson won't get much PT and if he does, he'll just run into foul trouble... but that's no big deal. Advantage San Antonio.

Shooting Guard: Q and Jackson (part time) versus Manu and Barry
I'd go in depth here, but Manu's just been on an absolute tear as of late. Q and the older JJ will get their treys, but it won't be enough to counter Manu and Barry... mainly Manu. Advantage San Antonio.

Point Guard: Nash and Barbosa versus Parker and Udrih
I don't know what's up with Parker. I can understand him not shooting too well in the first round, what with having to deal with Miller and Boykins. But having that continue against Ridnour and Daniels? I like the guys, Daniels more, but they aren't good defenders by any stretch. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was a funk and he'll snap out of it, but even if he does Nash is right there. As we know, my countryman is on fire. Almost had two straight triple doubles to end the series against Dallas and it's not like Terry can play a lot of D, but it's still quite impressive. Nash is going to roll again, whether Parker is on or not. Advantage Phoenix.

Ooh, this is tough. My gut tells me San Antonio, just because they're a good choice to pick in just about any series, but my head tells me that nobody in the West can stop Phoenix. I'm positive the series is going to seven, anyway. I'm so torn on this, I decided to flip a coin. I haven't been this torn on a subject since first deciding who was a bigger chucker between Walker and BD (Walker won). After the coin flipped, it landed on Spurs. So, there you have it.

Surprise positive showing: Joe Johnson, since people will be clamoring about his eye.
Surprise negative showing: Brent Barry. I doubt Manu comes off the bench at all during this series, so Barry may be next to useless.
Series winner and game count: Spurs in seven.


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