Single page view By Scoop Jackson & Eric Neel
Page 2

Editor's note: Now that the conference finals are underway, Page 2's Eric Neel and Scoop Jackson yakked up a spirited conversation about what has happened, what's happening now and what will happen the rest of the way in the NBA playoffs. No names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Eric Neel: All right, let me begin with a bit of hyperbole offered in earnest: With these conference finals matchups, are we seeing (about to see) playoff ball at its highest level ... maybe ever?

I know I'm crazy just for asking, but am I crazy crazy?

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker
All signs still say the title goes through San Ant.

Scoop Jackson: E, you're on point like Bob Cousy in his prime. The four best teams made it through to the conference finals. Sorta like the NCAA's, where the top two teams made it to the finals.

Neel: Yeah, but I'm not talking about overall records. I'm talking about the details. I'm talking about stuff like Amare Stoudemire, who just might be the most terrifying force at full speed since the ghost of Michael Graham last showed up in Guy Lewis' nightmares, and who is a legit subject in any 2004-05 MVP discussions, maybe being not even the best frontcourt player on his own team.

And I say that even after seeing the Matrix come up stiffer than Keanu in Game 1 Sunday afternoon ...

Jackson: Amare is like the Shawn Kemp Remix, sans child support. Sunday against the Spurs was actually the game that proved to me that he could ball. I needed to see him do what he was doing against some serious D.

Forty-one and nine? He's all-world with me right now.

As far as Matrix, I'm not worried about him. If I'm Phoenix though, Q would be a big concern. He's been Swayze since game 83. Q's from the Crilla [Chicago] and he needs to get back to his roots like Common on "Be." He needs to get in Mano's grill, make him earn it. Because without Q ballin', I can't see Phoenix getting by San Antonio, especially after what I saw today.

Neel: Amen on Q. If Johnson's Reason 1 for Nash needing to step up the scoring in the semis, Richardson's Reason 1A.

I'll tell you what I'd like to see, even though I know it doesn't fit the Phoenix flow, is a handful of trips where Q makes like Quincy and gets "back on the block." He's good down there. His game hinges on confidence, and he could get some easies.

And he could lay some wood on Manu in the process.

And since you've invoked Rain Man, is it too early, historically, I mean, to start taking him back, start talking about how there was a time when he was just about unstoppable?

I'm just asking.

Speaking of misunderstood and underrated, what do you figure is the single best thing about the Spurs, who never seem to get their due?

Make like Curly, boil it down to "one thing" for me.

Jackson: The series is going seven games. And I hate to say it, but it may come down to coaching. Will Pop's experience in big games win over Beastie Boy's (Mike D) freestyle?

But I tell you, the fact that San Antonio beat Phoenix at their own game – scoring 43 in the fourth! – scared me. Was this game an indication or an aberration? Because if the Spurs can continue to score like that, the Suns can cancel Christmas. Feel me?

Neel: I think you hit on it right there. That's the one most fundamental and true Spurs thing: They'll be whatever you want them to be, and they'll be better at it than you are.

Remember that scene near the end of the first "Ghostbusters," when the guys are saying, "Clear your mind! Don't think of anything," and then Akroyd can't help but think of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, because the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man could never hurt him? It's like that with the Spurs, they're shape shifters. Phoenix wants to run, they'll run, and they'll run on D, too, mucking up the Suns' break while they're at it.



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