April 30, 2009
Six straight Eastern Conference Finals. Two NBA Finals. One NBA Championship. One NBA Finals MVP Award.
Chauncey Billups has been around the postseason block a time or two, a fact which Chris Paul, the league’s premier player at the point guard position, was made painfully aware of during the Denver Nuggets’ lopsided whipping of his New Orleans Hornets in Round 1.
Billups outsmarted, outplayed, outbullied, out-everything’ed Paul from start to finish; some might think that says more about where Paul is at his postseason career, but the somewhat surprising beatdown imparted by Billups actually says a lot more about where he’s at: that swagger is back.
That chip on his shoulder is back. That drive to prove himself, the same drive which fueled his career resurgence in Detroit and enabled him to be the point man for one of the league’s most successful teams of the past decade, is back.
Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks better be ready.
Cast off by the Pistons in the name of starting over and wiping their books clean of his contract, Billups has undoubtedly relished his new responsibility of turning a ragtag, but talented, group of freestylers into a cohesive unit that’s truly in it to win it. And these Nuggets are indeed dangerous right now. They’re certainly no shoo-in to oust the suddenly hot Mavericks, and eliminating the Lakers would obviously be no small task. They are, however, at least capable of running the Western Conference table, and if they do it’ll be because of their 32-year-old point guard.
Hey, very few expected his Detroit Pistons to stampede their way to that NBA Finals win over Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton & Co… but these things happen (however, admittedly, unlikely).
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves and is a discredit to Billups’ magnificent series against the Hornets. Carmelo Anthony was (very) good, but Billups, floor general, was the difference-maker. Over five games, he averaged 22.6 points on 48% FG, made 19-29 triple tries (an insane 65%), shot 36-38 from the free-throw line (95%), and posted pers of 7.4 assists, 4 boards, 1 steal, and just 1.2 turnovers.
We’re fans of Chris Paul here at ETB, so I’ll do him the solid of not bothering to contrast his stats with Billups’. You know what happened.
Pistons fans saw the playoff assassin they’d come to know Billups as fade in recent seasons. He was embarassed two years ago by then-Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Daniel Gibson in the Eastern Conference Finals, which should not have happened under any circumstances, and was outplayed last year against the Celtics by a Rajon Rondo who was not the same kind of impact player he is now.
The clutch three-pointers weren’t falling as frequently, he’d looked like he’d lost a step next to the younger, quicker Rondo and Gibson, and to some, it looked like he’d maybe lost his edge. And maybe he had grown too comfortable playing alongside his Piston teammates.
No such problem anymore. Chauncey Billups has his playoff mojo back, and something tells me he’ll be exercising it to its fullest extent in Round 2 on yet another All-Star point guard in Jason Kidd. In other words, bet on Billups.
Chauncey Billups Photo Credit: Icon SMI