Basketbawful is here. We can get through this together. Just take a few deep breaths, stretch, and prepare to be learn what you should be keeping track of during tonight's NBA playoff games. Oh, and you'll also get a math lesson from Chris Paul!
Orlando versus Detroit: Game 5
The guarantee. Jameer Nelson played the "Take The Pressure Off Of My Teammates" card by promising a Magic win in Game 5. First he said, "We're going to make adjustments, and we're going to go there and win." Then, once the media finished dogpiling on him, he said, "What am I supposed to do? Guarantee a loss? We've got to win the game. We have the confidence that we can do it. I believe it." This statement could end up going down in Orlando Magic history along with T-Mac's famous "It feels good to finally get out of the first round" comment. And against the same team, no less!
The delusion. Rashard Lewis did more than just make a guarantee. He just sent plain crazy. "For some reason, I feel we are still the better team. We just made too many mistakes at the end. It was our mistakes, nothing they did. They still got to beat us one more time." For his next trick, Rashard will paint a big, red target on his back...
The response. Said Tayshaun Prince: "He doesn't have anything to lose by saying that. One thing he's probably trying to do is spark his club." Wow. Tough words there, Tayshuan. That ranks at about a 1.7 on the Trashtalk-O-Meter. And it's only that high because I imagined Tayshaun saying it in a really snide voice.
The hammy. The big question for the Pistons: How's Chauncey Billups' cranky hamstring? According to PIstons strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander: "If you look at it from three or four days ago to today, it's night and day. Running good. Feeling good. He's had no setbacks and he comes in every morning feeling better." Meanwhile, Flip Saunders is being predictably noncommittal: "When he's ready to go, he's going to play." Thanks for clearing that up, Flip.
Washeed Wallace's intern. Wow. Downgraded from "Superman" to "supporting player's intern." It's been that kind of series so far for Dwight Howard, who scored only 8 points on 3-for-12 shooting in Game 4. His series averages - 15.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 12.5 rebounds and three blocks - are remarkable, maybe even amazing...but far from super. He's better power up on some yellow sun before Game 5.
Rip Hamilton. The Phantom of Auburn Hills has really stepped up his game since Billups went down, scoring 24 points in the Game 4 (when Chauncey first got hurt) and 32 in Game 5. It might be time for somebody like Maurice Evans to sweep the leg, because Rip is running his defenders into the ground.
San Antonio versus New Orleans: Game 5
Tempo. The Spurs are using their Anti-Phoenix Suns Defense against the Hornets: Take care of the ball, slow the game down to a crawl, and wait for the opponent to fall to pieces. And from midway through the third quarter of Game 3 through Game 4, it's worked to perfection. The Hornets need to force turnovers and pick up the pace in Game 5. They just need to pretend their running a race against somebody's grandpa...because that's pretty much what they're doing.
Composure. The Hornets looked rattled in Game 4. The Spurs haven't looked rattled since Manu brought big plate of meat into the team huddle. That should be Championship Lesson #1 for New Orleans.
Tyson Chandler. He made Tim Duncan disappear in Games 1 and 2, then he took Timmy's place in the Phantom Zone in Games 3 and (especially) 4. Will the real Tyson Chandler please stand up and block a shot or something?
Tim Duncan. He's the key. He's always the key. In Game 4, Timmah controlled the paint and the pace by scoring 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting and hauling down 15 rebounds. He also blocked 4 shots. When Duncan controls the game on both ends, the Spurs are nearly unstoppable. Short of, say, an elephant stampede or meteor storm.
David West. His Game 4 was both forgettable and regrettable: 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting. But that might actually be good news for the Hornets, since David has developed a habit of bouncing back from bad games.
Gregg Popovich versus Byron Scott. The series may be tied, but Pops is winning the coaching battle based mostly off of one major adjustment: Moving Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup. Thus far, Scott hasn't come up with an effective counter-adjustment. Can anybody say "Melvin Ely to the starting lineup"?!
Chris Paul. The kid is already learning a valuable lesson that all superstars must learn: You can't win it all by yourself. Speaking of CP3, here's a little math lesson from your shoulda-been MVP: "We're not down 0-3. It's 2-2. We'll go back up 3-2 with a win." I'm glad he was around to explain that.
Robert Horry. Will he play? Or will he just get a little garbage time? I hope it's the former, because as Reggie Miller put it, "'You don't put Robbert Horry in as a flower dressing!"