The King's Back

Cavaliers guard Eric Snow was put on the spot: Who are the top five guards in NBA history?

``Point guards?'' he asked. ``Let me see. My daddy tells me Oscar Robertson, so I got to say him. Magic (Johnson), Isiah (Thomas). How many is that?''


``John Stockton, Jason Kidd,'' he said Saturday. ``Arguably.''

There is no debate who will have the best point guard when Cleveland, finally back to playing after a playoff pause following its opening sweep of Washington, begins its Eastern Conference semifinal against New Jersey on Sunday.

Oddsmakers have made Cleveland -6 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 188 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey +6 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

While the sixth-seeded Nets may not stack up with second-seeded Cavaliers across the board, Kidd gives them a big edge in at least one area.

``He's going to be tough,'' Snow said.

A 13-year veteran, Kidd is playing some of the best ball of his career. In New Jersey's first-round win over Toronto, Kidd averaged 14.0 points, 13.2 assists and 10 rebounds, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Johnson as the only players to average a triple-double in a series more than once. Kidd also did it in 2002 in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston.

He may need another one for the Nets to knock off LeBron James and the second-seeded Cavaliers.

``In order for them to win he has to play well,'' James said. ``We know that and they know that. They needed every last one of those triple-doubles in that (Toronto) series. You don't get an opportunity to see that in a lifetime, a guy average a triple-double in a series.

``He's one of those special guys.''

And in Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, the Nets have two other stars of concern for the Cavaliers, whose first playoff sweep in 37 years was helped by the Wizards not having Gilbert Arenas or Caron Butler. The two All-Stars were hurt, leaving Antawn Jamison as Cleveland's only real worry.

New Jersey's Big 3 are healthy - and hungry.

After a regular season filled with injuries, trade rumors and, for a while, possibly missing the playoffs, the Nets are pushing forward in a postseason they hope to prolong by a few more weeks.

``We've been a confident group throughout,'' said Jefferson, who missed 24 games with an ankle injury which required surgery. ``We stuck together, we've been through a lot of adversity. Even throughout all the stuff going on, we've handled it like professionals.

``We just wanted to play hard every single night. We got healthy played well at the end of the season and now we're doing all right.''

Same goes for Cleveland, which won two of three meetings with New Jersey during the regular season.

For a few months, the Cavaliers seemed on cruise control, playing hard only when they had to - or when they felt like it. But there was a renewed energy and focus in the first round, a springtime awakening of sorts.

James was his typical self, averaging 27.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists on a sore left ankle. But while the resident superstar did his thing, the rest of the Cavs stepped up big as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden all raised their production against an undermanned squad.

The Nets won't be such a pushover.

``They're a good team with a lot of experience,'' Ilgauskas said. ``I don't think their (regular season) record (41-41) was a good indicator. They are a better team than that. They have three really good players and their other guys do their jobs. We'll have our hands full.''

Cleveland's defensive focus will be on slowing down Kidd, if that's even possible. The Nets love to get out and run, making it extra important for the Cavaliers to rebound at both ends of the floor. They dominated the glass against Washington, getting 50 more boards over the four-game span.

``Our shot selection has to be good because if we take uncontested jump shots early in our offense, they're just going to get if off the boards and go,'' Ilgauskas said. ``In the regular season we got beat a lot of times when we took bad shots and they just ran out.''

With Kidd, their captain, leading the way.

Snow's job, at times, will be to keep Kidd reeled in. Toronto's guards wanted to do that, and they're summer vacation are booked, courtesy of Mr. Triple-Double.

``You come into this league and all you hear is, 'He can't shoot, he can't do this and that,''' Snow said. ``But he makes everyone better. He gets a triple-double like it's easy. It's not easy.''

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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