NBA Playoffs Tuesday Night Viewing Guide: Saluting The People Really Making No Excuses

I know I'm projecting a bit here, but my sense is there are two things almost every NBA fan can agree on right now. (If not, please let me know respectfully in the comments). One is that Reggie Miller is a really, really bad color commentator, and whoever decided to put him in that spot HAS SOME EXPLAINING TO DO. 

(Sorry, I figured everyone raised their voice at the end of sentences JUST LIKE REGGIE MILLER).

The other? We're all tired of hearing about LeBron James' elbow.

Seriously, enough. His elbow hurts a bit. Fine. Didn't seem to affect him much in Game 1, so why should we blame his subpar Game 2 performance last night on it? We shouldn't. 

I realize that, to a large degree, it isn't LeBron's fault that his elbow issue is being shoved down our throat. Marv Albert, who I generally love, and Miller probably mentioned the elbow every third word, and it's not like LeBron can just push a button and get them to stop talking about it. I also realize that people will hold LeBron accountable for this, and that's probably not totally fair.

But at the same time, LeBron's bringing a ton of this on himself. Here's how SI's Chris Ballard, the respected author of the awesome book "The Art of a Beautiful Game," summarized James' pre-game press conference before Game 1 as follows:

Pregame, LeBron answered a half dozen elbow questions. Takeaway: It hurts but I'll be fine but... I still want you to talk about it.    

Of course, there's also the left-handed free throw in Game 5 of the Bulls series, which was just bizarre. The point is, LeBron has repeatedly used the "no excuses" phrase ... and then gone on to, well, make excuses. All he has to do is say, "I'm not answering any more questions about my elbow," and boom, this story goes away. Well, maybe not, but it certainly isn't shoved down our throats like this.

You know who really hasn't made any excuses in the playoffs this year? Here's an incomplete list.

  • Steve Nash. He overcame a hip injury to dominate last night's Game 1 against the Spurs
  • Tim Duncan. He keeps getting older, but he still finds a way to adapt.
  • Tony Parker. He came back from his foot injury earlier than expected and now looks great.
  • Manu Ginobili. Or maybe you aren't seeing what he's wearing on his nose.
  • The Utah Jazz. Two starters down, two contributors dealt for the luxury tax, and they keep coming at you.
  • Kobe Bryant. I hate to say it, but his finger is pretty messed up and he keeps fighting. 
  • Brandon Roy. He came back from knee surgery in eight days. Eight days!
  • Rasheed Wallace. Just kidding.

Those guys (except Wallace, of course) embody the phrase "no excuses." They have my respect. LeBron James? Not really. Stop fueling the fire and just play through the pain. Maybe then I'll respect you a bit.

Onto tonight!

81626_magic_hawks_basketball_medium

Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic: Game 1, 8:00 p.m., TNT

When we last saw them: The Magic were putting the finishing touches on a sweep of the Bobcats eight days ago, while the Hawks were rallying from an improbable 3-2 deficit to beat the upstart Bucks in seven.

Regular season: Orlando won the series 3-1. Their three wins came by 17, 32 and 18 points, respectively. The Hawks' win came by two points at the buzzer when Josh Smith did this.

Why Atlanta will win: Because Dwight Howard will get called for as many ticky-tack fouls as he got called for in the Charlotte series.

Why Orlando will win: Because Howard will stay on the floor, Jameer Nelson will shred Atlanta's point guards like Brandon Jennings did and Matt Barnes and company will shut down Joe Johnson

What will provide comedic relief? Mario West's random six-second cameos at the end of quarters. Hawks coach Mike Woodson literally deploys him for one defensive possession every game. 

Prediction for tonight: I actually think tonight is Atlanta's best chance to get a game in this series. The Magic are going to be rusty, having not played for eight games, and the Hawks played very recently. It tends to take teams a full game to shake off that rust, so I doubt we'll see Orlando's best effort tonight. Hawks 102, Magic 100. 

If the Hawks bring it, they can steal this game ...

Prediction for this series: ... but they have no chance in this series. Orlando's peaking right now, and they owned the Hawks in the regular season. Atlanta just doesn't match up well, and even with a competent coach, it'll be hard for them to overcome all these matchup problems. Magic in 5.

Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Game 2, 10:30 p.m., TNT

Game 1 in one sentence: The Jazz bench led them back in the fourth quarter, but Kobe Bryant was just a little too good down the stretch.

Problem the Jazz must solve to win: Carlos Boozer has got to play better defense. His defensive work in the fourth quarter, particularly on the weak side, was downright shameful. I'd say more, but NBA Playbook broke it down already, and I can't stomach even reading about how bad his defense was in Game 1.

Problem the Lakers must solve to win again: There's no reason Utah's cast of no-name bench players should dominate the Lakers as badly as they did in Game 1. The Lakers' bench needs to step it up. Seeing as they haven't all season, you shouldn't hold your breath.

Totally inconsequential thing I want to see happen: David Stern randomly deciding to turn this series into a bunch of 5k races instead of a basketball game. That way, Andrew Bynum would be in good shape. Here's what he told the Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times about his injury (via Dime).

"Cutting and jumping and landing and pushing off is where I feel it, but running in a straight line is not bad at all," he said.

In other words, as Ball Don't Lie's Dan Devine notes, Bynum is fine as long as he doesn't do anything you'd normally do in a basketball game. So here's my plea to David Stern: make this a running event instead. Everyone knows you favor the Lakers with everything already, so you might as well be honest with us about it.

Prediction: This would be a classic Lakers letdown game. I can smell them from a mile away. (Please don't be wrong). Jazz 103, Lakers 92.

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