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After Thursday evening’s NBA action, three more matchups wrapped up. The Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Atlanta Hawks will be moving on to round two, and the New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Orlando Magic (and soon-to-be free agent Dwight Howard) are going home.
No one really expected the Hornets or the Trail Blazers to move on, but certainly the Magic were the favorites to take their series, particularly given how thoroughly they smashed the Hawks in last year’s first round sweep.
Their loss this year is extra disconcerting because superstar center Dwight Howard has been hinting for a while now that he may not be pleased with the direction the Magic are heading in, and a first round loss definitely reinforces that it’s been the wrong direction lately. Orlando’s perplexing mid-season trade to re-acquire Hedo Turkoglu and acquire a useless Gilbert Arenas did not pan out. And now they owe both players a lot of cash.
So, fans in Orlando get to spend the summer worrying if the Magic front office has failed Dwight and encouraged him to step away from the franchise when he becomes a free agent in 2012. No one knows for sure what he will do, but the chances he stays have to be slim at this point. But that’s okay, because the Magic are already experienced in the art of losing a superstar center just entering the prime of his career.
In the second round of the NBA Playoffs, the Lakers will face the Mavericks and the Hawks will face the Chicago Bulls.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs featured three elimination games on Thursday and all three teams that had a chance to close out their first round series did so. Friday night we will see if that trend continues as the young Memphis Grizzlies get another chance at eliminating the mighty top seeded San Antonio Spurs.
You will recall that the Spurs were home for Game 5 down 3-1 to the Grizzlies and in the final seconds of the game needed to huge shots to tie things up in regulation. Tony Parker came alive in overtime and the Spurs pulled off yet another in a long line of miracle playoff comebacks. We've seen the impact these heartbreaking losses can have on teams that aren't mentally tough.
The Game 1 defeat in similar fashion destroyed the will of the Phoenix Suns in 2008. It will be very interesting to see if the Grizzlies do a better job of bouncing back. One positive sign that we never saw from the D'Antoni Suns was an immediate focus on the future. After the Game 5 defeat, coach Lionel Hollis talked about washing away that game and focusing on the future. He, and subsequently his players, didn't want to talk about what went wrong. Unfortunately, that's not something the Suns ever did. They always got stuck in the internal blame game and it killed them.
Game 6 of this wonderful series between the Spurs and Grizzlies tips off at 6:00 p.m. Arizona time on ESPN. Don't miss this one.
If you survived watching Wednesday's three elimination games and your heart is still in tact, and if you have no desire to watch the NFL Draft, then Thursday's NBA Playoff schedule is for you. While the NHL Playoffs first round action has been thrilling as well, nothing compares to and NBA elimination game in the playoffs. Thursday's schedule features the Portland Trail Blazers fighting for their playoff lives against Dallas; the Orlando Magic trying to avoid a humiliating defeat at the hands (beaks) of the Hawks; and the poor New Orleans Hornets who have no chance against the L.A. Lakers' playoff machine.
First up is Game 6 of the Orlando Magic vs. the Atlanta Hawks at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time on NBA TV. The Hawks are up 3-2 in the series and blew their first chance to eliminate the Magic on the road. Now they return home and hope that Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson can continue dominating their wing match ups. The Magic finally saw their long balls go through the hoop in Game 5 and they are praying that will continue for them. Dwight Howard's shoulders are only so big.
Next up is Game 6 of the the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the New Orleans Hornets at 5:00 p.m. Arizona time on TNT. The Lakers are up 3-2 in the series with Game 6 in New Orleans. Chris Paul has been the best player in the playoffs so far but the Lakers have won 10 of their last 12 chances to eliminate their playoff opponent. Kobe's big dunks in Game 5 proved he's healthy and when the Lakers smell blood, it's all but over.
Game 6 of the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Portland Trail Blazers is in Rip City at 10:30 p.m. Arizona time on TNT. The Mavericks took a 3-2 lead but haven't yet been able to win on the road in this series. It's highly likely that trend will continue tonight. Look for this series to go to a Game 7 back in Texas where the Mavericks should be able to close it out and finally face the Lakers and give us the first-ever Dirk vs. Kobe playoff series.
Three NBA Playoff elimination games on Wednesday's bracket schedule and wouldn't you know it, the San Antonio Spurs were the team that escaped defeat by once again calling upon their dark powers. Instead of Sean Elliot, Mike Finley or Tim Duncan (!) hitting a big three to save their hides, it was Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal. David Stern should be on the phone this morning calling for an investigation to determine if in fact the Spurs have sold their souls to the Devil.
Unlike the black and silver zombies of Texas, the Denver Nuggets were knocked off by Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant had a slow start but when it mattered most, he was incredible. All the man-child did was drop 41 points on the Nuggets. Boom! ASU Sun Devil alum James Harden had 12 in the game and hit a huge three in the final minutes.
The Thunder await the winner of the San Antonio vs. Memphis series. Game 6 is Friday in Memphis. It will be very interesting to see how the young Grizzlies respond to blowing a game they had in the bag. Many teams, including the Phoenix Suns, were not able to mentally recover. The Thunder would probably prefer to face the older Spurs even if it means giving up home court advantage. But an OKC - Memphis series would be a blast.
In the East, LeBron James referred to the Philadelphia 76ers as "breakfast" before the game and the slam definitely got the attention of the young and feisty team from Philly. Unfortunately, being pissed off wasn't enough to beat the Miami Heat and stay alive in the playoffs. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 26 points but it was 20 from Mario Chalmers that pushed them over the hump in the 97-91 win. The Sixers got Elton Brand 17 field goal attempts, the most on the team, but went away from him late and instead opted for jump shots.
The Heat now advance to face the well-rested Boston Celtics in their bracket match up. The series tips off Sunday. Here's the full schedule, with all times Arizona:
Game 1: Sun., May 1 in Miami, 12:30 p.m., ABC
Game 2: Tue., May 3 in Miami, Time TBD, TNT
Game 3: Sat., May 7 in Boston, 5:00 p.m., ABC
Game 4: Mon., May 9 in Boston, Time TBD, TNT
Game 5: Wed., May 11 in Miami, Time TBD, TNT
Game 6: Fri., May 13 in Boston, Time TBD, ESPN
Game 7: Mon., May 16 in Miami, 5:00 p.m., TNT
A few months ago, Boston would have been everyone's favorite, now it seems that Miami is the team to beat.
Three games are on the schedule for Wednesday evening NBA Playoff action. All three games have the potential of sending one of the teams home to play golf, watch the NHL Playoffs, attend the royal wedding, or go fishing. The elimination process claimed a victim (the Pacers) Tuesday night when the Chicago Bulls behind 25 points from Derrick Rose finally won a game with a big enough margin to avoid questions from moronic pundits.
In Wednesday's action it's the San Antonio Spurs facing a humiliating upset by the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Oklahoma City Thunder blew their chance to sweep the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 and now go home and try to finish their business. The Philadelphia 76ers needed two huge threes from Lou Williams and Jrue Holliday to avoid the sweep and now they get to go to the home of the best (worst) fans in the NBA, Miami. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and some other Heat "players" will try and close out the series and prepare for the Celtics.
The evening's first game features LeBron James' "Super Friends" team at 4:00 p.m. Arizona time on TNT. The 76ers have got to get more offense from Elton Brand and take advantage of his mismatch with whatever schlub of a center the Heat roll out. Brand is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game in this series. Good, but not good enough. Brand needs far more attempts than the 11.25 he's getting so far.
At 5:30 p.m. Arizona time on NBA TV the Memphis Grizzlies attempt to shock the known universe by beating the San Antonio Spurs in a one vs. eight upset. The formula for the Grizzlies is simple and shouldn't change tonight. They will look to take advantage of the aging Tim Duncan and his undersized, under-talented front court mates. Play solid defense on Manu Ginobili and get a close to even result from Tony Parker vs. Mike Conley and the Grizzlies can get it done. But don't count out the heart of an evil, soulless, black and silver former champion.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reportedly had a heated exchange during Game 4 that mostly likely consisted of Durant explaining to Westbrook that the point guard's job isn't to shoot the ball 30 times and to follow the advise of Charles Barkley who said, "Just pass the ball, dude." Game 5 starts at 9:30 p.m. on TNT and we full expect the Denver Nuggets to get run out of the gym.
There's plenty of playoff surprises in the NBA Playoffs so far in the first round action we've witnessed. The Indiana Pacers have pushed the Chicago Bulls in all four games. The top seeded San Antonio Spurs are down 3-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies who entered the playoffs without a franchise playoff win. After getting destroyed in their match up last year, the Atlanta Hawks were not supposed to be up 3-1 on the Orlando Magic. And the mighty Los Angeles Lakers find themselves ties to a New Orleans Hornets team they were supposed to steamroll.
But when look deeper at each situation the flaws exposed in postseason play were there from the beginning.
San Antonio got swept by the Phoenix Suns last season because their front line couldn't defend the pick and roll and were killed in the paint and on the glass -- by Phoenix. Tiago Splitter was thought to be the answer to the Spurs lack of quality bigs but he's taken longer to adapt to the NBA than some expected and hasn't been enough of a factor against the talent Memphis Grizzlies front court.
The Spurs added depth in their back court and on the wings and Richard Jefferson's improvement helped them secure the best regular season in the West but their front court flaws have exposed them as a regular season paper tiger. They kind of remind you of Phoenix Suns' teams from a few years back. All flash, no size.
The Oklahoma City Thunder failed to sweep the Denver Nuggets, which isn't a shock but with the game on the line it was Russell Westbrook jacking up threes instead of giving the ball to Kevin Durant. Hopefully, this is a lesson the young point guard has learned in a fairly harmless situation. Westbrook's lack of true point guard abilities have been exposed, however, and will likely be an issue in later rounds.
Many picked the Portland Trail Blazers to upset the three-seed Dallas Mavericks in that series but what we've learned about Portland is that without Brandon Roy having a rare hot game, their offense stagnates under the predictability of Nate McMillan's system. It's a shame really, that the Blazers with all that talent can't find a way to score as many points as they should.
The Orlando Magic being down 3-1 to the Atlanta Hawks isn't a huge surprise either. They've lost their identity as a great defensive team on the perimeter and simply haven't been able to stop Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford or Joe Johnson. Dwight Howard can't make up for all that on his own.
Probably the least surprising surprise is the Indiana Pacers pushing the Chicago Bulls in all four of their games. The Bulls lack of outside shooting has been exposed and the Pacers are better than most people gave them credit. In the end, this first round test will help the young Bulls. They are still my favorite to win the East.
The NBA Playoff schedule today features three games with two of the series at the brink of elimination and the Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly tied 2-2. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were expected to steam roll Chris Paul's New Orleans Hornets team who is missing David West. That didn't happen thanks mostly to Paul's individual brilliance which has out-shined anything Kobe could muster (so far). Derrick Rose will try and push his team to the next round while Dwight Howard is leading his team's fight for playoff survival.
The Orlando Magic return home down 3-1 in their series against the Atlanta Hawks. Dwight Howard's inside dominance against single coverage hasn't been enough as the Magic guards and wings lack the defensive talent to slow down Hawk's threats Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford. This game starts at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time on NBA TV.
Derrick Rose is expected to play despite an ankle sprain. The question the Chicago Bulls have to answer is if the rest of their guys can step up and not put the game in a position where Rose has to be the fourth quarter hero again. Carlos Boozer needs to play better or the Bulls should consider going back to Taj Gibson. The Pacers have shown plenty of fight but are simply out-matched by the Bulls. It's only a matter of time for Indiana down 3-1 in the series. Game tips at 5:00 p.m. Arizona time on TNT.
The Los Angeles Lakers return to Staple Center tied 2-2 in their series with the New Orleans Hornets for a game that starts at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time on TNT. Kobe Bryant is expected to play despite his ankle sprain but the bigger concern for the Lakers is slowing down Chris Paul. Paul put up a brilliant triple-double in Game 4 and has torched Los Angeles in this series. LA's inability to defend point guards continues to be their biggest weakness.
Derrick Caracter is a very large man. At 6-9 and 275 pounds the muscular 22-year-old rookie is not the kind of mean drunk you want to be dealing with on the job. That's exactly what reportedly happened to a pregnant waitress at an IHop in New Orleans at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning according to this story on NOLA.com.
Caracter was arrested for acting disorderly while drunk inside the pancake restaurant according to New Orleans police.
He "started grabbing and pulling" a pregnant waitress, prompting the manager to go outside and flag down a police officer, the police spokesperson said. The female officer tried to defuse the situation, Harper said, but Caracter remained obstinate. The officer arrested him.
The Laker's forward was booked on one count of battery for hitting the pregnant waitress, along with public intoxication and resisting arrest. The incident occurred near the Lakers' team hotel in between Game 3 and Game 4 of the Hornets - Lakers playoff series.
The second week of the NBA Playoff action and things are starting to get fun. Don't worry if you missed a few of the early games because the schedule is just now getting good. Monday features three Western Conference series that have all been both entertaining and on occasion surprising. The San Antonio Spurs kick things off in Memphis against the upstart eighth-seed Grizzlies. That's followed by the another round from the outstanding Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks battle. The evening schedule is capped off with a little Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder.
We sincerely hope you are able to leave work early or ignore your school assignments and find four or five hours to sit on the coach and enjoy some NBA Playoff action.
The Spurs are down 2-1 in their series against the Grizzlies. As predicted, San Antonio simply doesn't have the inside muscle to match up with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. And if Randolph is going to also hit game-winning threes then you have to wonder if destiny is on their side as well. This game starts at 5:00 p.m. Arizona time and will be broadcast on TNT.
The Blazers and Mavericks have each held home court and the series is back in Dallas for Monday's pivotal Game 5. Dallas has to be pissed about blowing a huge fourth quarter lead in Saturday's Game 4 at the Rose Garden. As brilliant as Brandon Roy was, they know their reputation of being playoff chokers is starting to be thrown around again. Dallas absolutely needs this game if they want to win the series. The game starts at 5:30 p.m. Arizona time on NBA TV.
The final game of the evening will be Oklahoma City's chance at sweeping the Denver Nuggets. The series might be 3-0 in favor of Kevin Durant's team, but that hasn't taken away from the excitement of this match up. Somehow it's hard to imagine George Karl letting his team be swept out of the playoffs on their home floor. 7:30 p.m. Arizona time on TNT is the scheduled tip for this one.
There aren't going to be many NBA fans outside of Lakers Nation sad to see the results of Sunday's Game 4 between Los Angeles and New Orleans. Not only did the the underdog Hornets tie the series 2-2, Kobe Bryant reportedly needed crutches to get from the locker room to the team bus. Chris Paul was an unstoppable forces and sent a message to all those quick to anoint Derrick Rose as the league's top point guard.
Paul scored 27 point and had 15 assists and 13 rebounds in the 93-88 win over the Lakers. Los Angeles got balanced scoring from all five of their starters but only had 18 points off the bench. For the Hornets the surprise scoring stars were former Laker Trevor Ariza (19 points) and Jarret Jack who had five. Jack's five points might not seem like much, but they included a huge shot with under 10 seconds in the game that pushed the game out of reach of the defending champions.
The Lakers have a recent history of letting their early playoff rounds go long. They needed six games to beat the up-start Oklahoma City Thunder last year in a tight series and the prior year it was Aaron Brooks and the Houston Rockets that pushed the Lakers to seven games.
This time could be different if Kobe Bryant's foot injury proves to be something that limits his play. All signs point to him playing in Game 5 but it's possible that he will be slowed by the injury. Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Dwight Howard put up big numbers but he simply can't do enough on his own to carry the Orlando Magic to a playoff win. Atlanta's game plan of not double-teaming the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year and MVP candidate is clearly effective as the Hawks took a decisive 3-1 lead in their NBA Playoff series with Sunday's 88-85 win.
Howard scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds but the Magic defense allowed the Hawks to shoot 46 percent from the field in Sunday's game. Howard can't be the only guy crashing the boards for the Magic but that seemed to be the case. Atlanta out-rebounded Orlando 44-42 and while the Hawks got 10 and 12 rebounds each from Josh Smith and Al Horford, the real difference on the glass was Joe Johnson who grabbed nine.
The Magic clearly missed former Suns' player Jason Richardson who sat out Game 4 due to a suspension. Richardson was involved in a Game 3 fracas with Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia that earned them both a league-imposed game off.
Former Arizona Wildcat Gilbert Arenas showed a small spark of the great player he once was as he went 9-18 from the field and scored 20 points but it wasn't enough. The big story for the Magic is their lack options at power forward and the inexplicable poor outside shooting. Orlando led the league in three-pointers made this season but went just 2-23 from downtown on Sunday.
Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday in Orlando. The Magic are going to need ex-Suns' Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu to step up big and help Howard to avoid the first round NBA Playoff upset.
This match up really wasn't fair to begin with for the New York Knicks who went into the postseason still trying to figure out how Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups could be function on the court. Take Billups out of the mix due to injury and through in a back strain for Stoudemire and all the media in the Big Apple couldn't will the Knicks to a win over the Boston Celtics.
Game 4, the final of the series, went about as expected. The Celitcs were able able to drop 101 points and shoot 49 percent against the porous Knicks defense. On the other end of the floor the Boston defense might not be as good as they were last season but they were certainly good enough to prevent any other Knicks player from stepping up and saving the day. The Celtics on 101-89 and are now guaranteed to get more rest than the Miami Heat who will at least play a fifth game against the 76ers.
Carmelo Anthony scored 32 points on 24 shots. Amare Stoudemire only was able to go 5-20 from the field against Kevin Garnett who had an effecient 26 points of his own.
The Knicks had a lot of work to do on their roster to make sure Stoudemire and Anthony aren't playing two-on-five basketball. As good as those guys are, that's not going to win many games in the postseason.
The Miami Heat looked like they were on their way to sweeping the Philadelphia 76ers out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs but Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams each hit huge three-points shots in the final minutes to give the 76ers the home win and make the series 3-1 Miami. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did exactly what super stars are supposed to do in the post season, they played big and scored 53 points but the young Sixers showed why the Philadelphia fans should be excited about the future.
The 76ers out-scored the Heat 9-0 in the final 1:35 to win the game 86-82. LeBron James had a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds. With his team down two points he caught the in-bounds pass and had a wide open chance at a game-winning three but passed that up to drive the lane. Andre Iguodala cut off the path to the basket and Elton Brand got a finger on the Jame's floater. The 76ers secured the rebound and rookie Evan Turner hit both free throws to seal the game.
The Philadelphia 76ers once again jumped out to a 28-16 first quarter lead before the Miami Heat woke up. The Heat defense ramped up the pressure and trapped the ball forcing five turnovers and scoring 12 fast break points. D-Wade had 14 of the Heat's 31 points in the second quarter and Miami took a one-point lead into the half.
The first half of the game featured each team dominating for 12 minutes but in the second half things were much more even. The third quarter was a tightly contested affair as neither side was able to find an offensive rhythm. Both teams shot 30 percent from the field.
That trend continued into the fourth and final quarter as the scrappy, young 76ers showed no signs of being ready to start their offseason. Big shot by Williams and Jrue Holiday, who the Phoenix Suns passed on in favor of Earl Clark, forced a Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday.
Mike D'Antoni is either an evil genius or a blathering idiot. Just hours before his New York Knicks team is set to take the Madison Square Garden floor against the Boston Celtics, he let loose with slam against point guard Rajon Rondo. The Knicks are down 0-3 first-round series against the Celtics and face the very real possibilities of being swept out of the NBA Playoffs on this Easter Sunday but that didn't keep D'Antoni from speaking his mind.
"I'd like to see him play on Minnesota and see how he does. ... They've got three Hall of Famers out there," D'Antoni said according to a tweet from CBS Sports Ken Berger.
During his tenure as coach of the Phoenix Suns we learned a lot about Mike D'Antoni. We know he's a brilliant offensive mind who's incredibly stubborn. We know he's a fiery guy who's never known for prudence when speaking and we know his players love playing for him. The one exception was Amar'e Stoudemire who slammed his former coach for not focusing on defense and then in an ironic turn of events if back playing for him again.
Knowing D'Antoni as we do, his statement to the media isn't a surprise. He was mostly likely deflecting attention from his struggling team and trying to "pull a Phil Jackson" and get in the head of the Celtic's point guard who torched his team in their last meeting.
Then again, maybe he was just speaking candidly and stating the obvious -- Rondo on the Minnesota Timberwolves would most certainly not be racking up the assists and playing as well as he does with the Celtics. Of course, the same can usually be said about almost any player in the league.
Kevin Durant dropped 26 points on the dysfunctional Denver Nuggets who are proving in the playoffs just how flawed their roster it. The Oklahoma City Thunder took a commanding 3-0 lead over the Nuggets with their first playoff road win since ripping the team from Seattle where it belongs.
The Nuggets put up a decent fight and had five players in double figures in the kind of balanced scoring that basketball purists love but the NBA Playoffs tended to punish. The Thunder got 71 of their 97 points from just three guys as Russell Westbrook (23 points, 8 assists, 9 rebounds) and Serge Ibaka (26 points, 16 rebounds) joined Durant as true playoff stars.
Former ASU Sun Devil stud, James Harden, chipped in 10 points off the bench as the Thunder's fourth-leading scorer. He and Ibaka, who was drafted with a Suns' pick traded away in the Kurt Thomas salary dump, will trade places throughout the Thunder playoff run as the third wheel. We'll see if that's enough to push the Thunder deep into the postseason, but for now it's clearly going to get the job done against the Nuggets.
Game 4 of this series is scheduled for Monday in Denver when the Nuggets will try and avoid the first round sweep.
Raise your hand if you guessed that the Memphis Grizzlies would be up 2-1 on the San Antonio Spurs. Keep your hand raised if you guessed that Zach Randolph would hit a huge three-point shot to secure the win and make that first sentence a reality. If your hand is still raised, slap yourself in the head for being a liar because no one could have predicted Saturday's turn over events and that's what makes the NBA Playoffs so great.
The Memphis Grizzlies secured their first home playoff win in franchise history by exposing the San Antonio Spurs front court weakness. In a strange turn over events, it seems that the 2010-11 Spurs look a lot like Suns' teams of old. They displayed a fantastic regular season offense but lack the size and interior toughness to compete against a bigger team in the playoffs.
As fans in Phoenix know all too well, you can't ever count the Spurs out of a playoff series but they should do look like they have their hands full with the Grizzlies bigs. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 42 points while holding Tim Duncan to 13.
Game 4 of this series comes Monday in Memphis and we don't have to ask which team Arizona sports fans are rooting for.
The Portland Trail Blazers were down 23 in the second half at home against the Dallas Mavericks. They were down 67-49 going into the fourth quarter and the Rose Garden crowd had every reason to be depressed. Then Brandon Roy put on his super man cape and did something no thought he was still capable off after multiple knee surgeries. Roy scored 18 points in the final period to lead his Blazers team to the win.
Roy's 24 points in 24 minutes off the bench has to rank right up there with one of the greatest playoff stories in recent memory. He went 9-13 on the game and in the fourth was isolated against former Phoenix Sun Shawn Marion. But even Marion's fantastic defense wasn't enough to slow down Roy's assault on the rim.
It's easy to blame the Mavericks for blowing the lead, but this one is all on Roy. All Mark Cuban can do is tip his hat and head back to Dallas for Game 5 and hope that Roy's performance was a one-time thing.
The Trail Blazers tied the series 2-2 with Game 5 coming on Monday.
Chicago had a chance to win their Round 1 series against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, but the Bulls weren't able to complete a fourth-straight comeback. Derrick Rose was held to 6-22 shooting and just 15 points but of course was a key part of a late surge. Rose left the game in the first quarter with an ankle sprain but was able to return. Between the Pacers focused defense and scrappy energy and Rose's injury they were able to limit him to a mere human performance.
The Pacers once again were up big late in the game and once again almost blew it. Indiana was up 16 with five minutes remaining before they were subject to a Rose-led surge that cut the lead to one. This time, however, they were able to stand up to the Bulls and get the win in the day's biggest margin of victory, 89-84.
The Bulls are up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 in Chicago on Tuesday. Good luck, Indiana!
NBA.com video recap of the Chicago Bulls win
Saturday provide another thrilling day of NBA Playoff action. The Saturday schedule featured four games with the largest margin of victory only five points and in true NBA playoff tradition, scoring was below 100 points in each of the games. There were unlikely heroics like a game-winning three from Zach Randolph and either an epic comeback or spectacular collapse depending on which team you root for.
Easter Sunday has another full slate of games and there's no reason to think we won't be treated to more of the same. So as we like to say, drop the ham and pick up the remote, there's sports on TV.
10:00 a.m., ABC: NBA, Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat lead this series 3-0, and they will go for the sweep today. The Heat have looked dominant during the three wins: don't expect the Big Three to slow down today with the incentive of several days of rest on the line.
12:30 p.m., ABC: NBA, Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks. After making a statement in a 113-96 Game 3 victory, the Celtics (like the Heat) are up 3-0 and will be looking to sweep. A few days of rest could be particularly beneficial to this veteran Celtics squad ahead of their (probable) second-round series against the Heat.
4:00 p.m., TNT: NBA, Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks pulled out a gutsy 88-84 win over the Magic in Friday's Game 3 to take control of the series 2-1, and they will try to put a stranglehold on the Magic with a win tonight. The Magic, meanwhile, can reclaim home-court and (literally) swing the momentum back into their court if they can steal this game in Atlanta.
6:30 p.m., TNT: NBA, Los Angeles Lakers @ New Orleans Hornets. The Lakers asserted their dominance in a 100-86 win over the Hornets on Friday, and they lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. The Hornets will need a big game from CP3 to even the series today.
The Celtics showed no mercy, rolling the Knicks 113-96 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Rajon Rondo bagged a triple-double, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce chipped in 32 and 38 respectively against a Knick defense that appeared to be in mid-season form (this not a compliment).
The Knicks woke up in the fourth, but the deficit was too much and New York’s big two weren’t enough. In his first game back from sitting out with back spasms, Amar’e Stoudemire finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting, Carmelo Anthony chipped in with fifteen points on an equally efficient 4-of-16 shooting. Celtics take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, and look to complete the sweep on Sunday in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden.
Hawks take a 2-1 series lead over the Magic in a chippy game that featured ex-Sun Jason Richardson sent to the showers a little early for getting into it will Zaza Patchulia.
As Dwight Howard drove to the basket, he was fouled by Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia. As they came back down to the floor, Howard alerted Pachulia to his displeasure by placing his forearm in Pachulia’s face.
Pachulia apparently used words to alert the Magic to his displeasure, irritating Jason Richardson. Both of them shared their displeasure with each other in a more physical way, Pachulia with a quasi-head butt to Richardson and Richardson with a slap/shove to Pachulia’s face.
Suns fans know J-Rich isn’t a trouble maker but will back up a teammate, this time it will possibly result in a game 4 suspension which doesn’t bode well for the Magic.
In other ex-Suns news: Hedo Turkoglu hit 3-of11 for nine points, Quentin Richardson also scored nine points but with a more efficient 3-of-3 shooting. Earl Clark was DNP-Coaches decision. Joe Johnson finished with 21 points, 5 assists.
Despite a heroic effort by Chris Paul, the defending Champs were just to much for the Hornets. Kobe Bryant ended up with 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, Pau Gasol woke up, which doesn’t bode well for the Hornets going forward.
The Lakers take a 2-1 series lead with the Hornets looking for a almost-must win on Sunday in New Orleans.
The 2011 NBA Playoff feature all of the Phoenix Suns old foes. The San Antonio Spurs are there in black and silver battling the Memphis Grizzlies for a Round 1 win. The Portland Trail Blazers, who fell victim to the Suns in 2010, are back at it against a rival from a couple years past, the Dallas Mavericks. And of course, there's the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Phoenix Suns have squared off with the Los Angeles Lakers more times than any other NBA team in the playoffs. In fact, the very first playoff series the Suns ever had featured these two teams in a 1970 best of seven series the Lakers won 4-3.
The Suns were led by Gail Goodrich, Paul Silas and Connie Hawkins. The Lakers featured Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt averaged 20.2 rebounds in that series and started a pattern of Laker big man domination that would repeat itself.
In the 80's it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the middle against the undersized Alvan Adams. In the 2000's it was Shaquille O'Neal owning the paint and of course, last year it was Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
The two teams have played a total of 38 playoffs games in 12 different series since that first in 1970. The Spurs are second on the Suns list of playoff foes with 10 series. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly to any of the long-suffering Suns fans, Phoenix is 24-38 against the Lakers in the playoffs and 4-8 in those 12 series.
Despite the clear advantage held by the Lakers, however, the two teams have long provided entertaining postseason basketball.
Last season's contrast in styles with the Suns playing zone and shooting the three ball was simply a continuation of the long history between these two squads. The record shows that in the end, size and defense matters and for the Suns this offseason those are the stated priorities of the team's new front office.
Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls took a 3-0 lead over the Indiana Pacers in Round 1 of the 2011 NBA Playoff match up. The Bulls have won all three games by a combined margin of just 13 points but those close margins ignore the fact that Chicago has the best end of game player to take the court in the playoffs since Michael Jordan was wearing number 23 in the same red and black uniform.
Mr. Kobe Bryant might disagree, but it's pretty hard to argue against Rose who has now won all three games in the final few minutes.
In Game 1 Rose hit a shot to tie the game with 1:27 left and then drew the defense and made a great pass to Kyle Kover for an open three that gave the Bulls the decisive lead. It looked like the scrappy Pacers might actually steal that road game just like the New Orleans Hornets did to Bryant's Lakers, but Rose would have none of that.
In Game 2 all he did was score 14 points in the fourth quarter and made a three-point play that gave his team the lead they would carry home. In Game 3 Rose did it again. He was 3-17 from the field with the game tied and less than 20 second remaining when he isolated at the top of the key with the entire Pacer defense focused on him. He drove left and hit a highly contested layup to put his team over the top.
When was the last time a single player closed three-straight playoff games like we've seen Rose do so far?
The 2011 NBA Playoffs are in full swing and boy have they gotten off to a great start. The schedule has featured Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James all demonstrating the value of elite players in the postseason. Each has carried their teams at respective times and Rose has single-handedly lifted the Chicago Bulls to late-game wins three times already with his ability to score against any and all defenders. If you were on the fence about Rose being the MVP, these performances should convince you.
Action was in full swing Thursday night with three games and the NBA Playoff schedule continues on Friday night with three more.
Thursday night's action saw the Miami Heat take a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers behind 32 points from Dwyane Wade. The Chicago Bulls used more late game heroics from Derrick Rose to also go up 3-0 over the Indiana Pacers in that series. Out west, the Portland Trail Blazers used their home court advantage to get a win over the Dallas Mavericks and make their series 2-1 in favor of Dirk Nowitzki's team.
Friday night will feature the first playoff game in years hosted by the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden as they try and get back in the series with the Boston Celtics who lead 2-0 in the Round 1 match up. That game is at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Orlando Magic will travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. The Hawks strategy of not double teaming Dwight Howard has so far led to big nights for the league's best center at a 1-1 tie in the series. Magic shooter, especially former Suns's player Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, need to step up and start making shots.
The final game Friday night takes the Los Angeles Lakers to New Orleans to face the Hornets in a series that many are surprised to find tied 1-1. Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant might not be the young guns anymore, but you better believe these two warriors are going to bring it.
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