If you can allow for some shamelessly biased rooting from the ESPN.com NBA Power Rankings committee (of one), you might want to join in our nightly prayers for two first-round matchups that would be irresistible theatre.
Nets vs. Knicks in Round 1 is a showdown you already know we've been pining for.
The other one?
Lakers vs. Grizzlies.
For a few hours late last week, Jerry West's two teams were lined up to meet in the opening round of the playoffs. Only Memphis' first loss in eight games, in Houston on Saturday night, dropped the Grizz back to No. 6 in the Western Conference, with the Lakers still planted at No. 4.
No worries, though. Sixth in the West might be good enough for our purposes if the Lakers can climb to No. 3. Even if the Lakers wind up at No. 4, who's going to bet against Jerry's and Hubie's kids finishing above Dallas and meeting up with the four future Hall of Famers in a 4 vs. 5 series?
The Grizz, under Hubie Brown, are on a stunning 51-win pace. That's the same Grizz that had never won more than 23 games in a season before Jerry and Hubie arrived. The committee isn't backing the Grizz to win a first-round series on their first try, but they're still certainly capable of getting to 50 wins and finding themselves matched with The Logo's beloved Lakers in the franchise's first-ever trip to the playoffs.
Which is where the drama comes in. West couldn't even bear to be in the building when the Lakers he rebuilt -- by acquiring Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the same summer of 1996 -- were winning their first of three consecutive championships in 2000. Imagine West's torment should L.A. and Memphis wind up in the same series. Given his affections for Shaq and Kobe to this day, West could well opt to leave the country as soon as that series starts.
This and other playoff-themed wishes and observations will be addressed in my weekly chat Monday at 5 p.m. ... along with the mea culpas we're expecting from Indianapolis, where the Pacer People angry about their club's inability to dislodge Sacramento from the top spot in the Power Rankings had to have been hushed by Sunday's loss in Cleveland.
Team of the Week
Cleveland Cavaliers. It takes something special to top Detroit's run of five straight games holding the opposition under 70 points, plus the Rockets' recent surge. So what does Cleveland do? LeBron James and his gang delivered with two road wins and then a narrow victory at home Sunday over Indiana, denying the Pacers what would have been a league-best 50th victory. Paul Silas might be joining the conversation late, but he has to figure in the running for Coach of the Year now, after a run of six consecutive victories that has seemingly transformed the Cavs into the lock among the six teams vying for the last three playoff spots in the East.
Male of the Week
Damon Stoudamire. Actually, if any team should have bumped the Cavs from Team O' Week status, it's Portland. The Blazers sandwiched two victories over Minnesota around a home success over top-ranked Sacramento, and Stoudamire was a significant factor in each of the victories. He had 28 points in a home win over Minny, 20 points in the Sacramento game for team-high scoring honors again, and then a near triple-double (17 points, eight assists and six rebounds) in Sunday's win at Minny. All after submitting to a random drug test -- and incurring the wrath of his union -- when challenged by a Portland reporter to clear his name. A manly week, indeed.
E-Mail of the Week
- With the Celtics winning lately, Danny Ainge must feel like the owner from the movie "Major League." I just hope the players don't have a life-size cardboard cutout of Ainge in the locker room, where they remove a piece of his clothing each time they win.
New York, N.Y.
STEIN: It's been a while since we got one of these ... an analogy the committee would have liked to claim as its own. Good stuff, Kris. The Celts really do seem to be trying to spite their lottery-minded boss with every victory they post these days.
Speak of the Week
"I want to know what else I can't do so I can work it."
— Cleveland's LeBron James, whose Cavaliers are 9-0 in the past nine games he has scored at least 20 points, jabs reporters for saying over and over that his jumper wasn't NBA-ready.
Line of the Week
The committee felt sorry for Washington's Arenas, who scored 40 points while Tracy McGrady was scoring 62 points Wednesday and didn't even make his way into the evening's TV highlights. So here it is ... the most ignored 40-point showing of the season.
Stat of the Week
Only five times in the past 40 years have two players scored at least 60 and 40 points in the game. But you have to go back to 1962 for the last time it happened before McGrady and Arenas combined forces on Wednesday, and you can't even have this discussion without Wilt Chamberlain.
3/2004 Tracy McGrady 62, Gilbert Arenas 42
12/1962 Wilt Chamberlain 63, Elgin Baylor 51
11/1962 Wilt Chamberlain 61, Oscar Robertson 40
11/1962 Wilt Chamberlain 72, Jerry West 49
2/1962 Wilt Chamberlian 65, Bob Pettit 49
Stat of the Weak
We could have focused on the fact that T-Mac missed 10 of his last 11 shots and six of his final 14 free throws, costing him a chance to get well into the 70s, but instead we'll be positive and point out that his 62-point effort exceeded the output of four teams this season. That's right: Four times this season, an NBA team has failed to score as many points as McGrady lit up the Wiz for.
61 Timberwolves, 10/31/2003 at New Jersey
60 Nuggets, 11/04/2003 at Indiana
60 Raptors, 11/07/2003 at Washington
56 Raptors, 11/01/2003 at Minnesota