Like us to subscribe
In Game 6, Kevin Durant started out hot from the field, hitting a three-pointer and an and-one before picking up his second personal foul four minutes into the game.
At that point, he was 2-2 on field goals, and the Memphis Grizzles looked like they could be in trouble. Durant, however, finished the game 3-14 for 11 points.
As the two-time leading scorer of the NBA, he needs to have more than fourteen shot attempts per game. Granted, Durant's shot was not falling. And granted, he was being defended very well by Shane Battier down the stretch.
Regardless, the Oklahoma City Thunder need Durant to be their closer. He can hit any shot from anywhere and is also a threat to get to the line. Take a look at Game 5 of the Nuggets series: the Thunder trailed by nine points with four minutes to go before Durant took over and brought them back. A combination of three-pointers, aggressive drives to the basket and assists to open teammates sealed the Nuggets' end as the Thunder rallied to take a 100-97 series-clinching victory.
Now take a look at the Grizzles in Game 6: they fed the ball to their best player, Zach Randolph, several times down the stretch, and it paid off in the form of 12-point win.
Durant? He didn't even touch the ball on several late-game possessions and had only two shots. He needs to demand the ball from Westbrook and work hard to get the ball in good spots (aka not outside the three-point line every time) late in the game. It worked against Denver, and it gives the Thunder the best chance of beating the Grizzles in Game 7.
If Durant fails to do so, he runs the risk of having to watch Z-Bo and Dirk battle it out in the Western Conference Finals from his couch.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday if you are a fan of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The schedule begins with the first Game 7 of the postseason in Oklahoma City. Those rowdy fans will be hoping for a better game out of their star, Kevin Durant while the Memphis faithful are banking on Zach Randolph delivering in the clutch again. Later in the evening LeBron James follows his pal Dwyane Wade home to Chicago to kick off their series against another local kid, Derrick Rose.
Game 7 of the Thunder vs. Grizzlies tips off at 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:300 p.m. PT on ABC. The Thunder will need to hit their outside shots to win this game and fight the Grizzlies to at least a draw on the boards. The Grizzlies need a few of their role players to step up and help Randolph get the win and continue their amazing run from the eighth seed. (Rick Kamla and Steve Kerr video preview of Game 7.)
The Bulls vs. Heat starts at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on TNT. For the Bulls this series is all about getting points from Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and any other player not named Rose. Derrick's offense can't carry this team against the Heat. For Miami, the balance between Wade and James is fantastic. If they can get a couple solid scoring games from Chris Bosh they could roll through the series. (Game 1 video preview from NBA.com)
As predicted, the best player on the floor during this series will not be the 2010-11 NBA MVP.
MIAMI, FL - MAY 11: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on May 11, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Memphis Grizzlies took care of their home court business with a great defensive effort in the second half to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and force the first Game 7 of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The Thunder scored just 29 points in after the break and Kevin Durant went 1-9 against a determined Grizzlies defense that left him little space to work. These two evenly matched teams now head back to Oklahoma City for a Game 7 on Sunday that promises to be a war.
The difference between the the Thunder and Grizzlies is how they get their points and the edge goes to Memphis. The Thunder have the two best perimeter players in the series in Durant and Russell Westbrook and their third best player, James Harden, is a wing as well. In the three Thunder wins they shot 38 percent from the three-point line (22-58) while in the three losses they went 23 percent (14-60).
With Kendrick Perkins on the floor, the Grizzlies defense can cheat off and focus on stopping Westbrook's penetration without leaving shooters open while on the perimeter the combination of Shane Battier and Tony Allen have fought through screens and worked their tails off to deny Durant the ball in good position.
Memphis, as we saw in the fourth quarter of Game 6, relies on scoring in the paint and running the offense through the post. Despite all the changes and evolution of the NBA game, a team with two post players who can score, pass and rebound is always going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
Game 7 promises to be an all out war between these two physical and determined young teams. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT on Sunday on ABC. (Rick Kamla and Steve Kerr video preview of Game 7.)
Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) celebrates after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series on Friday, May 13, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn. Randolph led the Grizzlies with 30 points as they won 95-83 to even the series 3-3. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
The best series of the 2011 NBA Playoffs resumes Friday with the schedule calling for Game 6 of the Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. A tired Grizzlies team was run out of the gym in OKC in Wednesday's Game 5 and there's every reason to believe the same will happen to the Thunder in Game 6.
Memphis hasn't exactly been the most difficult place to play over the last few years, but that city has really stepped up for the playoffs and fully embraced a couple of the NBA's more unique characters. Zach Randolph bounced around from Portland to New York to Los Angeles before finally finding a home in Tennessee. Tony Allen is as unlovable as they come but is a folk hero to the good people of Memphis.
That combination of home town support from a city dealing with devastating Mississippi River flooding and the mental toughness of Lionel Hollin's team should provide a bounce back performance in Friday's Game 6 of this fascinating and scintillating NBA Playoff series. The inside advantages of a rested Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will once again be too much for OKC to handle.
Tip off for Game 6 of Grizzlies vs. Thunder is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT on ESPN. (Video preview from Dick Stockton and Mike Fratello provided by NBA.com.) The Thunder lead the series 3-2 and can advance to the Western Conference Finals with a win.
A Memphis Grizzlies fan holds a Marc Gasol poster during the first half of Game 4 between the Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder in a second-round NBA basketball series Monday, May 9, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
The Chicago Bulls defeated the Atlanta Hawks 93-73 and clinched their Eastern Conference Semifinals series 4-2, just as predicted. The Bulls now advance to the 2011 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals to face LeBron James and the Miami Heat. That should be a good series and one that we will preview in depth at a later time. The key for the Bulls, however, is the version of Derrick Rose that led his team to a Game 6 win over the Hawks.
This was by far Derrick Rose's best performance on Thursday night in Atlanta. Individually, he scored 44 points and shot just under 60 percent in Game 3, but by sharing the ball (12 assists) and getting his teammates involved the Chicago offense as a whole had it's best game of the playoffs.
Defense is of course, the hallmark of the Bulls and they will face their toughest test yet in the Miami Heat, but they will defend LeBron and Wade and Bosh as well as anyone can. The question for Chicago is how many points can their offense generate. That isn't a matter of Derrick Rose hitting shots or not. Chicago has to find a way to keep all of its players involved offensively so they are putting pressure on the Heat defense from multiple points of attack.
In Game 6 versus the Hawks they had five players in double figures. Rose took only 14 field goal attempts, the fewest shots he's taken in the playoffs, but had his second-most efficient scoring game. As a team, the Bulls averaged a respectable 22 assists per game in the regular season but saw that drop to 17 in the playoffs. They had 34 against the Hawks in Game 6. It's not a perfect measure, but a team with under 20 assists generally isn't moving the ball well enough to beat a good team.
Rose is only 22-years-old and is a perfect combination of humility, desire and talent. I would fully expect his game to evolve as he gets more experience and of the two great games he had in the Hawks series, let's would hope it's Game 6 that's the model for his career. Save the Game 3, 44-point heroics for the rare occasion. That's what a winning point guard needs to bring.
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 12: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls reacts after drawing a foul from the Atlanta Hawks with Joakim Noah #13, Carlos Boozer #5 and Keith Bogans #6 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder series has been by far the most compelling match up of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. We've already seen the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs eliminated in a "changing of the guard" kind of "get rid of the old, dead weight" sort of way. The two big name teams that are left -- the Mavericks and the Heat -- are good stories but they lack the luster of a fresh faces.
Watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook battle each other for shots and witnessing the emergence of Zach Randolph as a winner is far more invigorating to the NBA fan than another LeBron James story.
Unlike the Chicago Bulls series with the Atlanta Hawks, this duel out west features far more than Derrick Rose's individual brilliance mixed in with selfish shot selection. In that series there's a clearly defined pattern with the Bulls winning when they show up defensively and the Hawks winning when they manage to score over 100 points.
In the Thunder vs. Grizzlies series we've see a bit of everything so far and that promises a fantastic conclusion to a match up that seems destined for a Game 7 classic.
In Game 1 the Memphis bigs dominated offensively which seemed to shock the Thunder as if they have no idea that Zach Randolph AND Marc Gasol were both offensive threats. In Game 2 the Thunder bounced back with hot outside shooting and a faster pace. In Game 3 Westbrooks' poor decision making doomed OKC to a blown fourth quarter lead.
The Game 4 triple-overtime classic was simply a battle of attrition won by the team with three young stars. The combination of playing on the road with only one day's rest gave us the Game 5 blowout and leaves us with the Thunder holding a 3-2 lead in the series. It's a lead that historically heavily favors the Thunder but in this case all signs point to another Grizzlies comeback.
We know that the Grizzlies are a mentally tough team so there's no worries about them being depressed by the blowout loss. They actually benefit from the blowout since they were able to rest their players and head back home for Game 6 on Friday with a fresh start physically.
Zach Randolph is due for a strong game and most importantly, the Grizzlies defense seems to have figured out the Thunder to a large degree. They will pack the paint against Westbrooks' penetration and stick tight to Durant. That forces the Thunder to put an extra shooter in the game to space the floor which hurts them defensively. If the Thunder win, they will need to shoot over 45 percent from long range which they did in Games 2 and 5.
Mostly though, this series will come down to the better coached team that can score in the paint and is more mature and mentally ready. That favors the Grizzlies beating the Thunder in a Game 7 that should be fantastic. Make sure you free up your Sunday afternoon to watch that one.
Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, talks with forward Zach Randolph (50) during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series on Monday, May 9, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
The Atlanta Hawks will host the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of their 2011 NBA Playoff Eastern Conference semifinals series on Thursday evening. The schedule shows the Hawks down 3-2 to the Bulls which makes this a true "must win" game. This series has taken on a predictable pattern with the Bulls defense and Derrick Rose's offense carrying Chicago to it's three wins and the Hawks outside shooting from Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford the key for Atlanta's two victories.
In their three wins the Bulls defense held Atlanta to under 83 points per game while giving up over 100 points in both losses. Chicago's offense isn't good enough to carry the team through a bad defensive game despite Rose's individual flashes of brilliance.
Another key stat to look at is rebounding. In Chicago's three wins they are plus-36 in total rebounds. In the two Atlanta wins the rebounds are dead even.
The Bulls have the ability to close out this series if they bring their effort and intensity on the defensive end of the floor. For Atlanta, they are going to need hot outside shooting from their guards and an over-the-top effort on the glass to overcome the Bulls interior advantages.
Game 6 of Bulls vs. Hawks starts at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on ESPN. (NBA.com video preview with Steve Kerr and Marv Albert.)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 10: Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks is surrounded by (L-R) Loul Deng #9, Omer Asik #3 and Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 10, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hawks 95-83. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The 2011 NBA Playoff schedule for Wednesday picks up with the two series that managed to both give us overtime in their Game 4 meetings. The Oklahoma City Thunder are back home hosting Memphis after out-lasting the Grizzlies in a triple-OT classic. The Boston Celtics head back to South Beach down 3-1 to the Miami Heat after LeBron James did what was said he couldn't do, and delivered in the clutch.
On Tuesday the Chicago Bulls took care of their Game 5 business by holding the Atlanta Hawks to just 83 points. Derrick Rose scored 33 points on 24 shots but as been the case in all their wins, it was the Bulls defense that's the story. The Hawks went just 1-12 from the three-point line and Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford combined for 17 points.
Heat vs. Celtics
The East Coast teams kick off the NBA Playoff schedule for Wednesday with Game 5 of the Heat vs. Celtics at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on TNT. The Heat are using their defense to dominate this series and will be helped by Rajon Rondo's elbow injury. Offensively, it's all about their Big Three scoring. When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 75 points or more, the Heat are 30-3. So much for all that hand wringing about lack of depth. (Video preview via NBA.com.)
Thunder vs. Grizzlies
The late game on Wednesday is a continuation of the best series in the 2011 Playoffs so far. The Grizzlies and Thunder and going at each other and OKC showed a lot of heart (and stamina) by winning the pivotal Game 4 triple-OT thriller to tie the series 2-2. Kevin Durant knew they couldn't afford to go down three games to one in a seven game series so he took the ball from Russell Westbrook and won the game.
The Thunder haven't exactly looked great but the team with the best player usually manages to win at some point. With only one day of rest after most of the starters played over 50 minutes, Game 5 of Thunder vs. Grizzlies tips off at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT. You don't want to miss this one. (Video preview via NBA.com.)
MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 09: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 9, 2011 in Memphis, Tennessee.The Thunder won in tripple overtime 133-123. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Are those guys still playing in Memphis? That was certainly quite a game Monday between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. Neither team played "great" but the Grizz made several huge shots and ASU's James Harden was huge. Fortunately, those guys have the day off and don't play again until Wednesday. Tuesday's schedule for the 2011 NBA Playoffs has the Chicago Bulls hosting the Atlanta Hawks in their series that's tied 2-2.
While the Grizzlies vs. Thunder series is full of mystery and hope and the Celtics vs. Heat at least has thrill of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Bulls vs. Hawks has been pretty straight forward and easy to figure out. When Derrick Rose shoots close to 60 percent the Bulls win. When Joe Johnson makes threes the Hawks win.
Johnson scored 34 and 24 points and went a combined 8-10 from three in Atlanta's two wins. In the Hawks losses Joe scored just 10 and 16 points and was 2-5 from three.
Derrick Rose had one great game in the series and the Bulls won big. He scored 44 points and shot close to 60 percent from the field. The Bulls defense is going to be good enough to win if Rose can score like that. Otherwise, if he's taking 27 shots and hitting less than 40 percent they will need to shut down both Johnson and Jamal Crawford. There's not much mystery here.
Game 5 of Bulls vs. Hawks starts at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on TNT (NBA.com video preview).
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 08: Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks drives against Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Before we get into the NBA Playoffs schedule for this fine Monday that features the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, let us take a moment to reflect on the sweep the Dallas Mavericks dropped on the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only did Dirk Nowitzki's Texas cowboys beat down Kobe Bryant's hated team in Phil Jackson's final playoff series, but the Lakers imploded and embarrassed themselves and their bandwagon fans with a series of cheap fouls.
Andrew Bynum should be suspended for five games to start the next season but won't mind of course, because he's never ready to start the season anyway due to knee issues. Who knows why Lamar Odom channeled his inner Robert Horry and body checked Dirk late in the game but there must be Kardashian involvement. We've now seen both the top-seeded Spurs go down in first round defeat to the eight seed and the Lakers swept out of the second round. Could these playoffs be going any better?
When you think of cheap plays, you normally think of the Boston Celtics. But they come out of the weekend looking heroic after the beat the Miami Heat in Game 3 on Saturday. Rajon Rondo coming back after his gruesome elbow injury was inspiring but it was Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that did a number of LeBron and Wade.
It still felt, however, more like the Heat were in one of their "too cool for school" modes and didn't give a playoff effort. I would expect LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to have that Heat team ready to play and win Game 4. The action starts at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on TNT (video preview via NBA.com).
Monday's NBA Playoff schedule also returns us to Memphis, the scene of this weekend's Grizzlies attack on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Those young Thunder managed to blow a 16-point lead when Westbrook channeled his inner Derrick Rose and stopped passing the ball.
The Thunder scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter and lost in OT. As good as Memphis is, that shouldn't happen. But no matter how good you are, no point guard can go one-on-five in the playoffs and except to win. Derrick Rose tried that mess again (12-32) and his Bulls lost to the Hawks.
Game 4 is in Memphis at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT (video preview via NBA.com). The Grizzlies lead the Thunder 2-1 in the series.
Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and James Harden (13) during the overtime period of Game 3 in a second-round NBA basketball series on Saturday, May 7, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn. Randolph led the Grizzlies with 21 points as they won 101-93 in overtime to take a 2-1 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers out there. But since 90 percent of our readers are of the male variety, here's wishing you fellas a Sunday filled with NBA Playoffs. We hope you are able to finish your obligations to mom and/or wife and get yourself where you belong, in front of the TV. It's time to see if Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks can sweep the Los Angeles Lakers and to find out if Derrick Rose can follow up his 44-point Game 3 performance when the Bulls take on the Hawks.
It might be a bit tricky for West Coast peeps if you have brunch plans with mom since Game 4 of the Mavericks vs. Lakers starts at 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT on ABC. Fortunately, Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki will have a good excuse to ditch their duties and show up to play ball. At this point the only thing the Lakers can hope to do to stop Dirk is beg his mom to keep him out of the game. They've had no answer for Nowitzki in this series and Kobe's allowed himself to be slowed by Jason Kidd.
The question for the Lakers is Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom who've seem to have lost their chemistry and mojo. The Lakers remain confident, however, as assistant coach Brian Shaw pointed out, "No team in these playoffs can beat us four times before we beat them four times. I still believe that. "
Derrick Rose had his best game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs in their last meeting. Rose put up 44 points and shot 59 percent from the field. That's after averaging under 40 percent for the entire playoffs and being a black hole on offense. I would still like to see Rose get more of his team involved and attack the Hawks with the pick and roll.
Happy Mothers Day, boys.
ATLANTA, GA: The Atlanta Hawks cheerleaders perform during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Chicago Bulls at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
With the Boston Celtics down 0-2 on LeBron James and the Miami Heat, Paul Pierce and the team knew that they would have to come out with their best effort in front of the home crowd. The Celtics delivered, scoring 27 points in the first quarter to take a 27-21 lead.
Shaquille O'Neal saw his first NBA action since April 3, when he played only five minutes before coming out of the game with a strained calf. Before that, Shaq hadn't seen the floor since February 1, making his appearance all the more welcome from the Boston faithful.
Shaq sure did look slow on the court, but made his presence known with a steal and a wild layup that, against all odds, went in the bucket for two points. He came up lame after making the layup, and doesn't look anything like the superstar of years past.
Pierce was particularly effective in the first quarter, scoring 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
The game is being broadcast on ABC, so tune in to catch the rest of the game.
The 2011 NBA Playoff schedule for Saturday features a couple of Game 3 dandies. The Boston Celtics are down 0-2 to the Miami Heat and desperately want to avoid the shame the Lakers feel after losing to the Mavericks going down three games to none. The OKC Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies are tied up at one all and the Thunder think they've solved Zach Randolph...we'll see about that.
5:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. PT on ESPN is the start time for Game 3 of the best series in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The Memphis Grizzlies will be hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder with the series tied 1-1 after the Grizzlies split on the road. The Thunder think they found an answer for Zach Randolph in Game 2 by squeezing him hard and bringing help when he put the floor on the deck. But Kevin Durant's Thunder also needed a 57.1 percent three-point shooting effort to get the win. Expect the Grizzlies defense to tighten up at home and win this game.
Game 3 of the Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat fires off at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5: p.m. PT on ABC. Shaq might be back for the Celtics but they are going to need more than the Big Green Monster to slow down LeBron James and Dywane Wade. Wade and James rolled through the elderly Celtics defense in the first two games of the series and took a 2-0 lead by winning both at home. The Celtics are (were?) a prideful team and should be able to pull out a Game 3 win.
MIAMI, FL - MAY 03: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks over Ray Allen #20 and Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Friday night in the NBA Playoffs featured what could be considered a changing of the guard. It was Derrick Rose who was jacking up shots and putting up big numbers while Kobe Bryant was sharing the ball but unable to close the deal in the fourth quarter.
The Los Angeles Lakers fell to 0-3 against the Dallas Mavericks after blowing a seven-point lead with under five minutes left in the game. Last season in the playoffs Kobe was able to rise up and hit those shots needed to win the game. It didn't matter who was defending him or how well, he just made shots when it mattered. Kobe had a nice line of 8-16 for 17 points but was just 2-6 in the fourth quarter of a do-or-die game.
On the other side, it was Dirk Nowitzki who has taken over as the best player in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Dirk was his unstoppable scoring self (32 points, 12-19) but added nine rebounds and an undeniable floor leadership and passion to his game. Gone is the silent German shooter. This Dirk is a stone cold killer who's desire to win is infectious to his Mavericks teammates.
Derrick Rose was the hero of Friday's NBA Playoff games with a fantastic 44-point performance against the Atlanta Hawks. He shot 59 percent from the field and got to the free throw line (8-9). It's odd though, to hear Rose described as "aggressive" by his coach since he's taken 27 shots in all three games of this series. The difference Friday was his shot was falling. If you are going to be a hero for taking and making a ton of shots you should be a goat for taking and missing a ton of shots which is what he's done in the postseason up to this game.
In the end, it was the Bulls perimeter defense and rebounding that made the defense in their win over the Hawks. Atlanta shot 47.1 percent from the field but were just 1-6 from the three-point line and scored just 82 points in the loss.
DALLAS, TX - MAY 6: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after hitting a three against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
Derrick Rose was averaging over 22 shots per game in the 2011 NBA Playoffs going into Friday night's Game 3 and was hitting on under 40 percent of his attempts. That's not a recipe for playoff success in the NBA and is a big reason why the Chicago Bulls were tied in their series with the Atlanta Hawks and why the Bulls were pushed hard by the Pacers.
However, if Rose is going to 16-27 from the field (59.3 percent) and score a game-high 44 points then the Bulls are virtually unstoppable. They rolled through the Atlanta Hawks 99-82 behind Rose's hot shooting and the Bulls customary defense to take a 2-1 series lead.
The real question for Chicago is if they are better off hoping Rose will have a good shooting game each night versus trying to get more of their players involved in the offense. If the Bulls are going to advance to the NBA Finals they will have to go through either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat. Those teams are too good defensively to let one player beat them in a playoff series. It would be a really good time for Chicago to start sharing the ball.
A 44-point game is great and Rose is a fantastic talent, but unless this performance was the start of a trend that has him shooting at a respectable rate it does not bode well for the Bulls chances in the next round.
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 06: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 6, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Down 0-2 in the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers need to find a magic elixir to rally back. Losing two games at home is difficult to come back from, but even moreso against a veteran, savvy squad such as Dallas.
Ron Artest has been rightfully suspended for his hard foul on J.J. Barea in the waning moments of the Lakers' Game 2 loss. With the loss of their starting small forward, Lamar Odom will have to move into the position and spread an already thin Los Angeles bench to new lengths.
Really, though, this has always been about Kobe. Bryant is the key to everything the Lakers set out to accomplish, and this is a very serious time for the superstar guard. At less than 100% due to various injuries, the reality of the situation must be setting in.
Kobe is always capable of delivering a legendary performance, and the Lakers will need several of them in this series to come back from such a big deficit. As long as Kobe and Gasol can get going, Los Angeles can win tonight and get the train back on the tracks.
Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls were able to pull out a 86-73 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday evening. After a day of rest, Rose looks to rebound from a mediocre performance in Game 3 on the road.
Rose was unable to find consistency on offense, firing up 27 shots and only making ten. While it's very clear that the Bulls team is content with a "live or die by the Rose" mentality, the young point guard has to continue to share the basketball (Rose picked up ten assists in Game 2).
While Rose has been given heat for his poor shooting in this series, his teammates need to step up. Carlos Boozer was supposed to be the second scoring option for Chicago, but he only scored 22 points combined in the first two games against Atlanta. For the Bulls to win this series, Boozer has to step into the limelight.
It might just have been a bad few days for Rose, who has shot a total of 21-54 from the field in the semifinals. Chicago fans are hoping he can increase his efficiency and lead the top-seeded Bulls back to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since Michael Jordan led the team to its last championship in 1997-98.
The Bulls vs. Hawks tips off at 7:00 PM Eastern time, and can be seen on ESPN.
The 2011 NBA Playoff schedule for Friday has two great match ups on tap. Well, at least one great match up (Bulls vs Hawks) and one huge drama known as the Los Angeles Lakers. With Ron Artest suspended for his insane (is there a better word?) hit on J.J. Barea at end of Game 2, the Lakers will start Lamar Odom.
With Odom starting the Lakers will lose a huge part of their depth. Already thin upfront, the three-man front court rotation of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will now be out the window. Matt Barnes might get some extra time but with the Lakers down 0-2 in the series, they aren't likely to use their bench unless they have to.
The three-man combination of Odom, Gasol and Bynum puts the Lakers best players on the floor which is a plus but it's a unit the team hasn't run with much at all in the last few years.
Odom can play some small forward on offense but defensively he can be a liability in most match ups. However, against the Mavericks it could work since Dallas is playing Shawn Marion at the three these days and he's not the speed threat he once was. Odom certainly has experience playing against Marion when he played the four in Phoenix.
The real problem comes if any of the Lakers bigs get in foul trouble. They can't tolerate Gasol or Odom playing less than 40 minutes and Bynum is always a mystery and has averaged under 30 minutes per game this season. He's not a big minutes guy.
The key for the Lakers will be Matt Barnes hitting shots and playing well and keeping Odom and Gasol on the floor.
For the Mavericks, it's about pace. They need to run at every opportunity and use some different match ups at the three to put pressure on Odom to defend on every possession. There's a huge opportunity for Dallas to use their depth and home court energy to wear down LA and win the game late.
Friday's Game 3 is at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs get back in action on Friday after the schedule gave us a much needed rest day. It was good to step back and clear the mind and it also gave us a chance to reflect and reveille in the dysfunctional mess that is the Los Angeles Lakers. With Ron Artest suspended and the entire team reacting to Andrew Bynum's trust issues, it certainly feels like Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson are losing their grasp on the defending champs. Don't think for a moment that in Arizona we're not watching that with a gleeful grin.
The Atlanta Hawks managed to steal a game in Chicago and bring the series home tied 1-1 with the Bulls. In the process of those first two games, Chicago's path to winning this series has become painfully obvious. They can't let the Hawks perimeter shooters get or stay hot. The only way the ATL beats the Bulls is if they rain down fire from the outside.
Offensively, Derrick Rose will continue his ball and shot domination which really is a shame. With the talent on that team, they really should be able to field a much more dynamic offensive attack. But rebounding and defense is what got the Bulls the best record in the regular season and they are not going to change that up now. They just better hope that if Rose is going to take 27 shots per game that he's making more than 10 of them. Allen Iverson got his team to the Finals using a similar strategy but the Bulls won't beat their next opponent shooting under 40 percent from the field. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. on ESPN.
Lakers internal drama aside, Friday night is our chance to see if the Mavericks can keep on rolling. They deserve as much credit for taking two road games as the Lakers deserve blame for losing them. But don't think that in the back of everyone's mind there's not an expectation that Kobe will find a way to jaw-thrust his way to a win. Cornered animals don't react well and Friday is do-or-die time for the Lakers playoff hopes. Friday's game is at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts late in the fourth quarter while taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 96-94. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
With the loss, the two-time defending champion Lakers are in a precarious position, down 0-2 in the Western Conference semifinals.
The real concern for Lakers fans is the mortality of Kobe. All of the injuries are finally making their mark on the superstar guard, who up until this point has defied all the odds every chance he had.
Kobe's play is slightly reminiscent of Brett Favre during his first season in Minnesota. The numbers were still good, but the results began to taper off. Kobe's not quite to the point of retirement, but Los Angeles fans must be quite concerned about their team at this point.
Even Dirk Nowitzki needs a day off and Thursday is the designated day of rest for the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The second round has been interesting and full of surprises so far so let's take this day off to look back and reflect on the four series and make sure we've got the schedule for the rest of playoffs down pat so we don't miss anything.
Thunder vs. Grizzlies
This series is tied 1-1 after the Memphis Grizzlies went in and shocked many people with their Game 1 win in Oklahoma City. The Thunder fired back in Game 2 with a tighter defensive plan on Zach Randolph and 57 percent shooting from three.
Things move back to Memphis for Game 3 and 4 which are set to fire off on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. PT and then again on Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT.
Lakers vs. Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks punched the Lakers in the mouth hard and took two games in Los Angeles. Dirk has been the best player in the second round of the playoffs and the Mavs defense has been solid and the role players outstanding. Kobe's been Kobe but Pau Gasol is a ghost and Ron Artest a flat out distraction.
Games 3 and 4 are in Dallas with Friday's game at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT and then again on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET/ 12:30 p.m. PT.
As painful as it is to say, the Miami Heat look like the strongest team in the NBA Playoffs. They put a beat down on the Celtics in the first two games in Miami and the new LeBron is setting picks and even playing in the post a bit more. Boston is beat up with Rajon Rondo dealing with back problems and Paul Pierce his annual foot/ankle/knee thing.
Boston hosts the next two games and like the Lakers, will be hoping their championship pedigree can help dig them out of an 0-2 hole. Game 3 is Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT and Game 4 is Monday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT.
The Bulls defense was lacking in the first game and their offense isn't good enough to out-score teams. In game two, Coach Thib's boys locked down the perimeter and held the Hawks to 33 percent shooting. The series is tied 1-1 heading back to the ATL.
Game 3 is scheduled for Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT and Game 4 is on for Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah reacts after a dunk during the fourth quarter in Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, May 4, 2011, in Chicago. The Bulls won 86-73 with Noah scoring 19 points. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The Chicago Bulls evened their NBA Playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks using the same formula that got them the best record in the NBA this season. They did it with defense and rebounding and just enough inefficient scoring from Derrick Rose. Rose, as he's done all postseason, took a ton of shots and missed far more than he made. Normally, that kind of volume shooting from a point guard is considered selfish, but the Bulls team defense and interior play once again covered the MVP's flawed game.
Time and time, Rose drove past his man and into help defense or simply pulled up in space against defenders that were sagged off. Rose, having all the reason in the world to be even more confident in his abilities, simply jacked up one shot after another. He went 10-27 from the field and scored 25 points. It's never a good sign when a player has fewer points than shot attempts.
Looking at all of Rose's shots in this game, he missed seven three-point attempts, three mid-range pull-up J's, and six times he drove into traffic and tossed up a hook shot or floater of some kind. Seven of the eight threes Rose took were shots taken against defenders who sagged off and gave him the space to fire away. One was a kick out from Boozer who was double teamed.
Derrick did have 10 assists in the game. Four came on pick and rolls, two were in transition off a rebound or steal, one was an entry pass to Boozer who sealed his man down low, one was a bail out three by Noah at the end of the clock and one was a pass to Deng cutting off a screen that shouldn't have been counted as an assist.
On the other end of the floor is where the Bulls shine. Under Coach of the Year and defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau, Chicago did what they failed to do in Game 1 and locked down Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford. The combo lit up the Bulls in Game 1 for 56 points and 7-9 from three.
In Game 2 the Bulls extended their perimeter defense and held Johnson and Crawford to just 2-5 from three and 27 points. The only Hawk player to have a good offensive game was Rose's opposite point guard, Jeff Teague who shot 50 percent and had 21 points. Half of Teague's shots came with Rose guarding him.
The Bulls defense is good enough to beat the Hawks in this series, but this Chicago team won't advance further with Rose playing an Allen Iverson-type selfish game. The Bulls shot just 39.3 percent in this game but out-rebounded the Hawks 58-39 and held Atlanta to just 33.8 percent from the field. If Atlanta can hold the Bulls to under 40 percent shooting, the Miami Heat will tear right through this Bulls team.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The newest playoff hero to NBA fans isn't Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant. The new king of the postseason is the guy who's been called "soft" and "choker" and now has waltzed into Los Angeles and delivered a hard core shocker to the Lakers and their fine fans. All Dirk Nowitzki has done in two playoff games is out-played his opposite power forward, Pau Gasol, and dominated Kobe Bryant in the battle for best player in the series.
Dirk is up on Gasol in both points and rebounds with a two-game total of 52 points and 21 rebounds versus just 28 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers Spanish star. More importantly, Nowitzki is shooting 52.6 percent from the field in the first two games of the playoff series while Gasol (45.5) and Bryant (46.9) are lagging behind.
Much of the focus on this shocking development is on the Lakers which is understandable since we all (myself included) expected Kobe's team to once again flip the switch and roll through the Mavericks in convincing fashion. The Lakers certainly have their issues. Andrew Bynum said something vague about "trust" issues and Ron Artest lost his marbles and most likely earned a suspension for this late game hit on J.J. Barea.
Not enough credit, however, is given to the Mavericks' role players. Tyson Chandler has negated much of Bynum's impact and Shawn Marion and J.J. Barea have stepped up as part of the Mavericks' bench advantage and was the difference-maker in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
The Lakers shot 2-20 from three-point range in Game 2 which was a huge factor as well. Having watched clips of all 20 of those shots, I counted 12 that were good, open looks that came within the offense. Drive and kicks or double teams down low where the ball was passed out and a Laker simply missed a good shot. And of the eight "bad" shots, four came within the finals minutes once the game was well out of reach. The Lakers weren't settling or taking forced shots. They took what the defense gave them and the right people took good shots...and missed.
The Mavericks essentially employed the same game plan that that Suns' used against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season when they packed the paint and double-teamed the post and forced Kobe and Artest to win games from the perimeter.
Last year the Lakers stepped up and hit those shots, so far this year they haven't. When good shooters are missing open shots, that's normally an energy and focus issue. We'll find out on Friday if that's something Phil Jackson is able to sort out.
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Bryant is going to need more help from his teammates in order to get a victory tonight in the Staples Center.
Andrew Bynum had an off day, scoring only eight points. The scary part, however, was his ghastly -16 on the +/- chart. If he's going to be a defensive liability against the Mavericks, Lamar Odom might see increased playing time as the power forward, sliding Pau Gasol to the center slot.
Both Odom and Gasol scored 15 points each in game one. Their production aside, Kobe can't do it alone. Bryant is raising his game to a very high level in the postseason, but so has Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs.
Out of all the performances on Monday, Ron Artest's was perhaps the most confusing. Scoring only two points in 31 minutes, Artest failed to assert himself offensively and made only one of his eight shot attempts.
Outside of Kobe, only two Lakers attempted ten or more shots (Gasol and Odom). The one man show rarely works in the NBA Playoffs, so the Lakers need to improve their team production in order to win this series against a very talented and experienced Mavericks team.
Both NBA Playoff series on Wednesday's schedule started in surprising fashion with both favored home teams dropping Game 1 against underdog opponents. The Los Angeles Lakers built a big lead against the Dallas Mavericks before reverting back to their overconfident, lackadaisical ways and falling behind 0-1 in the series. The Chicago Bulls were simply outplayed by the Atlanta Hawks in their Game 1 loss. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson dominated the back court match up against MVP Derrick Rose and the Kieth Bogans/Ronnie Brewer/Kyle Korver combo.
The Lakers have the experience, talent and history of bouncing back from a bad game and they certainly have no problem winning on the road. The Bulls, however, are going to need Derrick Rose to do more than be a volume shooter who's inefficiency is hurting his team. Rose is shooting 37.9 percent from the field in the playoffs and still taking nearly 20 shots per game. Time to pass the ball Derrick and get your teammates involved in the offense.
Game 2 of the Bulls vs. Hawks tips off at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on TNT. The Bulls won the front court battle with the Hawks playing their small line up with Al Horford at center. It's the Bulls perimeter defense that has to do a better job on Johnson and Crawford. Of course, what are the chances that Joe Johnson will go 5-5 from three again?
Game 2 of the Lakers and Mavericks starts at 10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 pm PT on TNT. All signs point to a Lakers blow out here. Pau Gasol must have learned his lesson from Game 1 and realized that he can't underestimate the Mavericks and only play 60 percent of the game at full effort.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
There's a tendency in the NBA media and with fans to gloom on to the new thing. That's how Derrick Rose won the 2010-11 MVP Award instead of Dwight Howard and it's why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have become the new darling children of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. But there's something to be said for experience and let's also not forget that on the hierarchy of NBA talent LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are still at the top of the mountain.
There's plenty of reasons to despise LeBron James for his "Decision" to "take his talents to South Beach" and play second fiddle to Dwyane Wade. But if you can look past all that and simply watch the game it's impossible not to be amazed by the damage these two can do on the court.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the other hand, have a lot of years left in front of them and especially in the case of Westbrook, a lot more basketball to learn. There may come a time in three or six years when Durant and Westbrook pass James and Wade as the best duo on the court, but for now it's not even close.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
On Tuesday night in NBA Playoff action both the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder won their Game 2 home contests. James and Wade combined for 63 points, fives assists and 15 rebounds against a Boston Celtics team many people picked to win a ring this year. Durant and Westbrook totaled 50 points, seven assists and seven rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies who many assumed would be home fishing by now.
The most important distinction between the two pairs of NBA stars was efficiency. Durant and Westbrook shot 17-48 (35.4%) versus 22-45 (48.9%) for James and Wade. It was just one game but it's a pretty telling reason why the Heat will advance to the conference finals while the Thunder are going to struggle to beat an eighth-seeded team missing one of their top players.
Hopefully folks can put the Heat hate aside long enough to appreciate the LeBron and Wade show. Special talents like this rarely take the floor together outside of All-Star games.
Derrick Rose, by all reports, will win the MVP award for the 2010-11 NBA season. Rose, 22, will be the youngest winner of the award and in the opinion of this writer, the worst choice since Steve Nash won the MVP for the 2005-06 season. For an Arizona writer who's watched Nash his entire time in Phoenix that is a high degree of blasphemy, but it is what it is. Nash's second MVP, at least, was justified by his prior playoff success and the poor competition for the award that season. There's no such excuse for Rose winning MVP in the 2010-11 season.
When Nash won his second MVP for leading the Phoenix Suns to a 54-win season with Amare Stoudemire on the shelf recovering from micro-fracture surgery, the league was still in awe of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. Nash's team that year, however, wasn't the best offense and certainly wasn't the best defense.
The Dallas Mavericks had more wins that year (60) and at 111.8 points per possession were the best offensive team. The San Antonio Spurs had the best defensive team and won 63 games. Dirk Nowitzki (25.1 points, 8.5 rebounds) or Tim Duncan (18.6 points, 11 rebounds) were both better choices that season although both were clearly flawed picks as well.
Nash won the MVP on the strength of leading the Suns to a shocking Western Conference Finals appearance the season prior and for turning Boris Diaw into a legit NBA threat (a feat even more remarkable with the benefit of hindsight).
(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Derrick Rose winning the MVP award for the 2010-11 NBA season is an even worse pick than Nash. Yes, he's an amazing individual player and as unstoppable as any guard we've seen with the ball in his hands in years. The Bulls finished the season with the best record in the NBA but that's where it stops. Unlike Dwight Howard, Rose doesn't dominate both ends of the floor and unlike Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, Rose hasn't done it in the playoffs (yet) and still has a one dimensional game.
Rose was the flashy choice and the easy choice but also a poor choice. Momentum started to build for Rose and his highlight reel plays reinforced his legend. Basketball, however, is a still a team game and for a 22-year-old point guard with the seventh-best assist rate in the league and the ninth-best Player Efficiency Rating to win the MVP is a mistake.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs have been nothing if not surprising. Monday's schedule showed us again that being a favorite with home court advantage means little if your team gets overconfident and too enamored with your press clippings. The Chicago Bulls got whooped by Jason Collins' Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Lakers built a big lead against Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks only to start the celebration too early and earn the loss. Three out of the four higher-seeded home teams have now lost their Round 2, Game 1 games.
The playoff schedule resumes Tuesday with the Miami Heat facing the Boston Celtics in a game that's far more about Shaq returning to the court than anything LeBron James or Dwyane Wade might do. Just kidding, Shaq isn't going to make a lick of difference in this game. The Oklahoma City Thunder, meanwhile, will find out if they've got an answer to the best story of the 2011 NBA Playoffs -- Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The evening starts on the East Coast with the Heat vs. Celtics at 7:00 p.m. ET/ 4:00 p.m. PT on TNT.
LeBron James has quietly been the best player in the playoffs (now that Chris Paul is home) and the Heat are playing the best playoff ball in the East. This game is all about the Celtics responding like champs instead of folding like chumps as they did in Game 1. Paul Pierce, we are talking about you.
The second game is the best of the night and the best series in the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The Thunder vs. Grizzlies tips off at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT.
The Thunder are not going to have an answer for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint, but to win they are going to need more offense from Serge Ibaka to make Zach defend at bit. Most importantly, Russell Westbrook needs to wake up and realize that his job on the floor is the distribute the ball and run the team and not to try and match Derrick Rose's shot attempts and point totals. Don't sleep on the Grizzlies bench though, they've been awesome.
Dwayne Wade was an absolute beast in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Wade dropped 38 points on the Boston Celtics, who had no answer for the Heat superstar.
Wade nailed 14 of 21 shots and 8 of 9 free throw attempts, leading Miami past Boston in a dominant display. LeBron James stepped aside to an extent and let his teammate lead the charge in game 1.
The play of the game, in my mind, was Dwyane Wade waiving off Coach Spoelstra's pleas for a time out just before half time, motioning his teammates to clear out and then banking in a tough shot over Ray Allen to give the Heat a 15 lead at the break. Although Boston played well early in the third and had a nice little run late in the fourth, it really felt like Miami had the game in hand from that moment on.
CelticsBlog urges Boston fans to keep a level head, and remember, it's only one game:
I thought that with a week to prepare the Celtics would be able to pick apart the Heat, but the didn't execute like they should have and Miami's talent won out for one game. If you think about it, we don't have any film of Dwyane Wade dominating against us with this current team. Now we do. Will it help? I hope so.
The second game of the series between Boston and Miami tips off at 4:00 p.m. Pacific time on TNT.
It's odd to think of either LeBron James or Derrick Rose as underrated although there are some who might make the case that either is overrated. The reality is that James, for all the hate he earned the old fashion way (being an ass off the court), is continuing to develop his game and in his eighth year as a pro finally looks like a mature basketball player. Rose is as flashy as they come and has carried his team to three playoff wins with his talent, but there are some holes in his game that get easily overlooked in favor of his shiny newness.
LeBron James talks with Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls after defeating the Bulls 96-94 in Game Five of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
LeBron James has seen his numbers decline through six playoff games with the Heat compared to his years in Cleveland but that's to be expected now that he's playing with a better supporting cast. Like other great NBA stars before him, LeBron has evolved his game from being the focal point of the entire team to being part of the unit. Kevin Garnett did it when he went to Boston and won a ring. Kobe Bryant does it with his teammates before he forgets about it and then eventually does it again.
We are seeing a different LeBron now who's not taking the most shots on his team and yet is still the most dynamic player on the court every night. James' post up game, long a source of criticism, has improved as well. In the 2011 NBA Playoffs he's posting up 10.4 percent of the time and converting 66.7 percent of his attempts according to Synergy Sports Tech data. Defensively, he held Paul Pierce in check in Game 1 of the Boston series and is the only player in the last five years to average over 23 points, six assists and nine rebounds per game in the playoffs.
Hate him all you want, LeJames is still The King but has somehow become underrated.
Derrick Rose on the other hand, is looking an awful lot like LeBron James in those early years in Cleveland. He's taken the most shots on his team during the playoffs by a margin of 32 attempts and he's at a career-low efficiency with just 37.1 percent from the field and 21.6 percent from three. Rose has 37 attempts from three despite the poor shooting compared to 22 for Luol Deng who's shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc. That's not good distribution from the point guard.
Part of Rose's high shot rate that has to do with the disappearance of Carlos Boozer who's failed to carry much of the offensive load as the second fiddle and inside threat he was supposed to be. However, it doesn't excuse Rose's assist percent (32.3) which is sixth among playoff point guards behind Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Jason Kidd and Andre Miller.
Rose got away with this style of play against the Pacers in the first round, but against a better team Rose is going to need to do far more than simply score the ball at a fairly inefficient rate.
For a guy who's likely to be named the league MVP for the 2010-11 season, it's a fairly disappointing playoffs for Rose so far...if you can get past the late game heroics.
In the NBA Playoffs two things have historically dictated which team will win a series. The team with the biggest star and the team with the playoff experience normally advances. The Memphis Grizzlies beating the OKC Thunder will be an exception to that rule but in the case of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls there's little doubt. Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose are simply too good and their opponents, the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks are lacking in playoff success.
The Bulls vs. Hawks series kicks off with Game 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. on TNT. Carlos Boozer has not played well in the playoffs so far and didn't exactly tear it up in the regular season either. There's no question that the Hawks biggest advantage in this series is Al Horford against Boozer. But the Bulls team defense will do a much (MUCH) better job than the Magic against Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson and without Kirk Hienrich, the Hawks have no shot at containing Derrick Rose.
Prediction: Bulls win the series 4-2
Kobe Bryant vs. Dirk Nowitzki is finally a reality after years of these two missing each other in the postseason. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Dirk can't hide or rest on defense against Pau Gasol and Shawn Marion isn't nearly as able to slow Kobe as he once was. The speedy Dallas guards -- Jason Terry and J.J. Barea -- will give the Lakers some problems but unlike the dysfunctional Portland offense, Phil Jackson will abuse those small guards in the post. Game 1 of this series tips at 10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT on TNT.
Prediction: Lakers over Mavs 4-2
A few months ago, the Boston Celtics traded their starting center, Kendrick Perkins, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for swingman Jeff Green. With the loss of their big man, Kevin Garnett needs to step up in a big way for the Boston Celtics against the Miami Heat.
Garnett is by no means a center, but he will be tasked with guarding Chris Bosh, a versatile power forward that has the potential to take over a game. Garnett's best effort will be required to give Boston a fighting chance in this series against the superpowered Heat.
Many NBA fans dislike Garnett for his fiery attitude and cheap shots, but those who cheer for the Celtics know that they wouldn't trade Garnett for anyone else.
Boston can't help but be wary about this matchup -- aging veterans will try to turn back the sands of time against three players in the prime of their careers. Though if anyone can stop the Miami Heat, it's the Celtics, who can just hope that LeBron James quits in the playoffs again.
Zach Randolph has matured as a basketball player, and the results are in: he is playing at a very high level, proving time and time again that his numbers are no fluke.
During the six games in the first round series against the San Antonio Spurs, Randolph scored 129 points, averaging 21.5. Through three quarters against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon, Randolph has dropped 26 points and scooped up 10 rebounds.
After years playing well but not quite breaking through, Randolph is finally showing the NBA world what he is capable of. He even made a three pointer against the Thunder.
Should Zach Randolph continue his performance during the NBA Playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies could be a surprise entrant into the Western Conference Finals. With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol helping out in a pivotal road game, the Grizz are up 13 points with a quarter to play in Game 1.
LeBron James is one of those guys with a short memory. That, or he's a fan of revisionist history. Either way, James spoke out the other day regarding the opinion that he quit against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs last year as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When asked whether he quit in the series last spring by ESPN, James called it "corny." That's funny, because here's what I remember: LeBron James standing on the perimeter, watching his teammates try to score in the waning moments of the series.
James played with a lackadaisical attitude, and for the world appeared to be content with losing. That's not acceptable from a man who was at one time considered the heir apparent to the Michael Jordan throne. It's not acceptable for fans who pay hundreds of dollars to sit in the nosebleeds. It's not acceptable at all.
This time, LeBron and his superfriends get to team up on the hardwood against the same team that embarrassed him in 2010. Will he show up or will Paul Pierce dominate? Can LeBron prove to the world that he's not a quitter? At this point, it may be too late -- but he really ought to try.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs have already given us quite the show. Virtually no one predicted the Hawks beating the Magic and literally no one outside of Memphis had the Grizzlies beating the Spurs. Even the sweeps in the first round were compelling series and as we move into Round 2 that trend should continue.
The schedule for Sunday includes Game 1 of the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies. Full schedule and my predictions for both series follow, so read on and get you morning knowledge on.
The Grizzlies vs. Thunder is the first game on Sunday's schedule with a 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT tip off time on ABC. The Thunder enter the series as the fourth seed in the West and a six point favorite to win Game 1. The Grizzlies, however, showed the world they are for real when they knocked off the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and they will continue to shock as they beat the Thunder as well in this series and advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Grizzlies showed us three things that makes them prime to continue their playoff run. They play great defense on the perimeter and rotate well. They have the ability to score inside and rebound from both their two big men. They are mentally tough.
The Thunder are a good team with one great player in Kevin Durant. But against the Denver Nuggets the flaws in Russell Westbrook's game were exposed and between Tony Allen and Mike Conley they will be able to contain him. Most importantly, the Thunder have very little scoring depth outside Durant and Westbrook which the smart Grizzlies defense will expose.
Kendrick Perkins will be forced to guard Marc Gasol who plays away from the rim which leaves either Serge Ibaka or Nick Collison having to deal with the monster that is Zach Randolph. The Spurs couldn't handle him and the Thunder are no better suited.
Prediction: Grizzlies series win, 4-2
The second game of the day is the long awaited meeting between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat at 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 PT on ABC. The Heat have home court advantage in this series thanks to their late season surge. That advantage should be enough to win the series.
LeBron James might be the most hated player in the league but he's still the best guy on the court every time he's on the floor. The Heat have a good answer for Kevin Garnett in Joel Anthony who is long and mobile and and while the Dwyane Wade vs. Ray Allen match up will be the key to the series, the advantage has to go to Wade.
The Celtics lost their edge when they traded Perkins for Jeff Green and unless Green suddenly becomes some kind of super player that we've not see from him in his green uniform (sorry), this series will turn Miami's way. It's time for the Celtics to step aside, we've seen enough from them. All the bitterness over The Decision aside, the better basketball team is in South Beach.
Prediction: Heat series win, 4-1
As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.
Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.
Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.
As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.
Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.
We'll email you a reset link.
If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.
You must be a member of SB Nation Arizona to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Arizona. You should read them.
You must be a member of SB Nation Arizona to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Arizona. You should read them.
Choose an available username to complete sign up.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.