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Madness Isn't Limited to March

Shaq, in those two games in Chicago over the weekend, looked every bit of 34, if not older. At the moment, Jerry Buss must be laughing his head off at keeping Kobe and letting Shaq go. Buss was smart enough to cover his investment by bringing back Jackson, who might be doing the best work of his career. After playing one way all season, Jackson convinced Kobe that to beat the Suns he would have to change his game 180 degrees. And Kobe listened, then did it, turning himself into a teammate-embracing, pass-first big brother of a teammate. That's great playing, brought on by great coaching. Please don't compare Riley to Phil Jackson anymore. It's not close. If Miami loses this series, it will be yet another time that Riley gets bounced by a lower-seeded team.

The Bulls have no business winning Game 5 in Miami tonight, but they might.

The top-seeded Spurs have no business being tied 2-2 with Sacramento, but they are.

The top-seeded Pistons have no business allowing the Bucks 124 points and losing by 20, but they did.

Upsets almost never characterize the NBA playoffs but are threatening to do so this postseason. The theme seems to have carried over from March Madness. The first round of the playoffs has never been so wide open. When last night's action began, Dallas was the only team that still had a chance to score a sweep (over Memphis). Every other series is going at least five games.

If Ginobili can't shake Artest, the Spurs may need seven games to win that series. The Pistons, to steal an observation from ABC analyst and former all-star Mark Jackson, aren't as good as they think they are.

Shawn Marion needs to stop asking for respect and earn it by producing in the playoffs the same way he does in the regular season. And Steve Nash needs to make up for his many miscues in the fourth quarter of Game 4 by rallying his team the way an MVP should in Game 5, back in Phoenix.

Probably because it's early in the playoffs, we haven't yet heard the NBA accused of the dreaded "C" word -- conspiracy. Lakers haters have plenty of circumstantial evidence from Sunday's game to construct a case. As fabulous as Kobe was, tying the score in regulation and winning it in overtime with Jordanesque shots, it's regrettable that the Lakers were allowed to foul on the final play of regulation without being called for it, and even worse that Nash wasn't granted a timeout in the final six seconds of overtime.

The first round of the NBA ought to be best-of-five; what a sense of urgency there would be if a team only had to win three. But at least in this postseason, from the drama we've seen through the first week, it's possible that more really could be better.


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