The All-Time Tournament: Western Conference Round 1
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs (8) Phoenix Suns
Game 1: Lakers 108-107
Game 2: Lakers 116-98
Game 3: Lakers 118-104
Game 4: Suns 110-108
Game 5: Lakers 118-99
*Photo via Bleachereport
(Lakers win series 4-1)
There are a few things that should be considered during this simulation:
-These aren’t real players—just a bunch of numbers being crunched, analytics, and super scientific stuff that I punch into a supercomputer and translate from binary code.
-Said analytics (see also: super scientific binary code) do not have emotions or feelings (at least we haven’t discovered it yet).
-There are intangibles that simply cannot be taken into account when simulating these games. Like if the Bulls somehow play the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the simulator won’t take into account the hate MJ had for Detroit (just as it didn’t account for the Paul Pierce-LeBron James mutual hatred
All this being said, how much fun do you think Supercomputer Magic Johnson is having? He can dish and dish until his heart’s content. A lob to Shaq. No look to a cutting Kobe that turns into a nasty tomahawk dunk as Amare bails out so as not to be on a poster.
Speaking of point guards, I love looking back on the 1996-97 and 97-98 Phoenix Suns rosters and seeing the same three point guards on this particular all-time team. Nash was a young raw point guard that saw sparse minutes while playing behind Kevin Johnson (in the final years of his career) and Jason Kidd just entering his prime. There has never been a collection of great point guards like this on one team before. I’m also reminded that Kidd is only one year older than Nash. It feels like there should be a larger gap given 1997 Steve Nash, was still five or six seasons away from his prime. The things you notice when researching an all-time tournament, I guess.
Series MVP: Shaquille O’Neal
It was over when…: …the Suns lost game one by a point (thanks to a tip in by Shaq at the buzzer). Considering the talent gap between the two teams, the margin for error was miniscule for the Suns so they couldn’t afford to leave a winnable game like that on the table. Also done in by a poor performance by Charles Barkley in game five (11 points and six rebounds).
(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) ThunderSonics
Game 1: ThunderSonics 102-93
Game 2: ThunderSonics 118-96
Game 3: Rockets 108-99
Game 4: ThunderSonics 92-81
Game 5: Rockets 98-89
Game 6: ThunderSonics 114-105
(ThunderSonics win series 4-2)
I don’t know if this should be considered an upset or not, but since the higher seed was defeated, I suppose we’ll count it as one.
The Rockets were doomed in this series thanks to a poor rebounding display from players not named Olajuwon. Save Dwight in game three, the supporting cast failed to have one player grab double digit rebounds in the entire series which might not be a problem if your team doesn’t consist of Dwight Howard and two multiple all-stars 7”4” or taller. Rebounding shouldn’t be a question with a roster like Houston’s, but it was a question that failed to be answered.
Heading into this tournament, I thought that Houston has a shot, albeit small, to maybe beat the Lakers in round two. Why couldn’t the Rockets rotate Yao, Howard, Hakeem, and Sampson on Shaq and, by doing so, stay fresh and have plenty of fouls to use. There could’ve been a throwback to the early 2000’s with Kobe and TMac going point for point down to the wire in the fourth quarter. Harden telling Jerry West that he was going to not just beat West, but when it was over, spray paint a beard onto the NBA logo (only to blow it against West because…defense).So instead, we get to see what a ThunderSonics-Lakers series shakes out. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, if you’re reading this right now and you’re rapper Ice Cube, you don’t even need to change up the song “Today Was a Good Day” very much. The Lakers beat the ThunderSonics works just as easily as The Lakers beat the Supersonics. So maybe next time you’re in the recording studio, switch it up and rerecord the song. Maybe name drop OTGBasketball.com? You’d be doing us a big favor. Consider it.
Series MVP: Kevin Durant
It was over when…: Who is the coach of the Rockets? Is it Rudy Tomjanovich? It would seem implausible that he would both be the coach and a player. But, I guess this entire tournament idea is implausible. So let’s say it was Rudy T. The series was over when Rudy T decided that Yao Ming was only going to see around 7 minutes of action per game. This seems like a poor decision in retrospect.
(3) Golden State Warriors vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers
*Photo Boston Herald
Game 1: Warriors 112-110
Game 2: Warriors 112-98
Game 3: Warriors 125-109
Game 4: Warriors 104-90
(Warriors win series 4-0)
Forget the Lakers-Suns series, this was the unofficial 1-8 matchup. The only way someone from this Trailblazers team would even start on the Warriors is if you bent the rules (like we did with the Houston Rockets) and slide Bill Walton to the power forward position. There was a wide talent gap between the two teams and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Warriors won convincingly.
Wilt set the tone for the Warriors by averaging 24.5 ppg and 15.5 rpg and ended up one block short of a triple-double in game four. The numbers are even more amazing considering that he probably spent most of the series trying to grasp the idea that there is now a three point shot and his team is littered with players who take the shot. I’m disappointed that Cyber Wilt (there’s a nickname that takes on a whole new meaning) didn’t attempt at least one three. Real Wilt would’ve absolutely taken them—in excess. There isn’t a question in my mind. You’ve heard of the story of how Wilt wanted to lead the league in assists just to prove he could regardless of how it affected his team? Well, brother do I have news for you…Wilt would’ve tried to lead the league in three point shots made just to prove he could and it would’ve been legendary.
Series MVP: Wilt Chamberlain
The series was over when…: …When the Blazers decided to try throwing Kiki Vandeweghe on Chamberlain late in the fourth quarter of game four. If you look at the scores in the series up until that point, you’ll see it was over before that but I wanted to make a special note that Portland (in a simulation, mind you) waved a white flag.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) Dallas Mavericks
*Photo via Dallas News
Game 1: Mavericks 104-99
Game 2: Spurs 115-106
Game 3: Spurs 112-100
Game 4: Spurs 116-97
Game 5: Spurs 108-90
(Spurs win series 4-1)
Before I looked at the boxscore, it would be fair to assume that Greg Popovich decided to rest all of the starters in game one. It would’ve been the most Popovich move in the history of Gregg Popovich. I don’t think the program takes wacky resting patterns into account though. So you have no reason for that game one loss, Spurs. Derek Harper and Dirk Nowitzki both chalked up double-doubles in the lone Dallas victory in the series.
MVP: Tim Duncan
It was over when…: Both Tim Duncan and David Robinson averaged 20-10 for the series and set up an intriguing second round matchup with Wilt’s Warriors. Look, the Spurs have made believers out of the doubters for the last 15 years but I believe their run will end during the second round. I’m predicting a Golden State series win in six games (note: I have not simulated the second round yet). I think the inside (Chamberlain) and outside (Splash Brothers, Mullin, Barry) game of Golden State is too good for the Spurs to handle. Which means the Warriors would meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals because…
…I’m picking the Lakers hold off the ThunderSonics and I think it’s over quickly (although if I do the simulated series 10 times, I bet the ThunderSonics win three). Shawn Kemp and Jack Sikma did an admirable job but, as I said when I introduced this tournament, the Lakers and Celtics seem on a collision course in the Finals and I believe the only team that poses a threat to derail that matchup is Golden State.
Let me touch on the Eastern Conference before we finish up…
Chicago and Philly is probably the most balanced series in the second round. If Moses Malone keeps his torrid pace from the first round (averaging 18 rebounds per game) and continues to be an efficient scorer (50% at 25.8 points per game), the Sixers have a great shot at beating the Bulls. Of course, the Bulls were able to match Kareem in round one because of the combined efforts of Joakim Noah and Artis Gilmore. If any series in the second round goes seven games, I’ll put my money on this one. But if the matchup is close, you never bet against Jordan. Bulls over Sixers in seven.
Finally, the Celtics should beat the Pistons. It won’t be a clean sweep like they had against the Cavaliers but providing Grant Hill doesn’t improve on his near triple-double average from the first round and Dennis Rodman doesn’t exceed his 20 rebounds per game, this series isn’t going more than five or six games. In a perfect world, Kevin Garnett takes a swing and connects on Bill Laimbeer, but this goes back the beginning of this post and how the supercomputer doesn’t account for intangibles such as Laimbeer being a jackass. So, ho hum the Celtics will win in five.