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Tag:2011 First Round
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:56 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:14 am
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: The trap of dominance

The Heat are rolling while the Bulls are struggling. But which is in a better position in the long run?
Posted by Matt Moore




Alright. We hate to bury the Sixers before the heart stops beating, because it's entirely possible they put together a much better effort in games 3 and 4 to even the series. But they certainly look outmatched in the first two meetings. The Sixers pushed the Heat a bit in the first meeting before the Heat responded with a fury. There was no such response in Game 2 , as the Heat clobbered them beyond all reason. And since this is a 2-7 matchup, even with the craziness of the opening weekend of the NBA, we can look ahead just a bit from the first round and ask the question.

Is this really what's best for the Heat? A total roll-over?

While the Lakers and Spurs are dropping their first playoff games to lower seeds and the Bulls are struggling through a much tougher series than the No. 1 seed should, the Miami Heat ran away from the Sixers. The Sixers hung tough for the first quarter and sustained a fourth quarter rally. Other than that? It's been nothing but the Triad show, and the Triad show has been impressive. A sweep seems more likely for the Heat than any alternative. So what does it mean? 

It means that, should the Bulls win two more games, and the Celtics three more, that the Heat will have two battle-tested teams between them and the Finals. But the Heat will be riding the same thing that carried them into the season: hype. It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that losing is better than winning. And it's not. Winning close is better than losing. The Bulls aren't doubting themselves right now. They're feeling good about being halfway out of the first round. Sure, there are things to work on. But the Bulls also had to work to get the two wins they've gotten in the first two games of the playoffs. And that's the result. They worked hard, and as a result, they don't have a loss in the playoffs. This isn't to say that the Heat haven't worked hard. Surely, blowing out the Sixers in such a way as to make the team quit and turn a playoff game into a horrendously boring affair by the middle of the third frame takes a bit of effort. But there's a difference between having to match a team who has the playoff gear, testing you, forcing you to scrap for every point and to rise comebacks, and playing up the score like it's a video game set on "easy." 

The Heat also can't determine who they play. They can't swap with the Bulls (though I'm sure the Bulls would take them up on that for a stretch). They can only beat the team in front of them with the best effort they can muster. And in that regard, they're outperforming the Bulls. But the Bulls will learn things emotionally and mentally against the Pacers. They'll find or remember the gear and intensity of a close playoff series. The Celtics will find the same in a tough series against the Knicks. The Heat? They'll start to buy into themselves, just like Orlando did last year and the Cavaliers before that. And if there's one thing that's shown to undo this team, it's the comfort of destroying softer teams and the stark contrast between those contests and the battles they'll face against great teams. 

The Heat could use a stiff test to show that they can close; like the Celtics and Bulls have. It's the bizarre situation where the Heat could finally benefit from not looking like the greatest team in the league. Typical. Even when the Heat win, they don't win. 




Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Pacers are drowning in the clutch against Chicago

Posted by Royce Young



Two games, two leads with five minutes left. In both Games 1 and 2, the Pacers had the top-seeded Bulls backed up to a wall in crunch time. Ask Frank Vogel honestly if he expected to be leading late in both games and he'd probably say yes. But I think he'd be lying.

There was a pretty clear difference in the Indiana offense in those last five minutes. Yes, the Bulls absolutely cranked up their defense. That must be mentioned. But there's no doubt that the Pacers had no idea where to go with the ball.

The bad part is, they have a go-to guy in Danny Granger. The problem there is two-fold, though. One, Granger had Luol Deng guarding him, who is absolutely one of the most gifted one-on-one defenders in the league, and two, because Granger himself had no idea how he was supposed to score.

Here's what Granger did those last five minutes on Monday: missed a 17-foot jumper, made two free throws, missed a 26-foot jumper. That's it. That's all the Pacers' best player did in the biggest moments of the game. His fault? Hardly. Granger is the type of player that is a product of the four other players on the floor with him. He doesn't isolate, he doesn't score well off the dribble and he doesn't really create his own shot. He's best coming off a screen or finding the ball on a kick-out. He's a very good scorer, but only within the flow of a game.

In terms of clutch stats for the season (clutch is defined as the last five minutes of a game within five points), Granger shot just 30 percent from the field, took fewer attempts overall, but actually took more from 3. That tells me that Granger was forced to force. As the main offensive weapon, he's looking to score. But, he can't seem to get a normal look, so he had to launch from 25 feet.

The last five minutes of Indiana's 104-99 Game 1 loss in which the Bulls outscored the Pacers 14-1 down the stretch, Granger was just 0-2 with both shots being 3-pointers. This is a big, big issue for the Pacers. Granger averaged 20.5 points a game on the season and very obviously needs the ball. But Monday, the Pacers were actually running through rookie Paul George late. The assumption there is simply that George had a weak defender in Kyle Korver on him. That's not the best reason to go away from your best player, though. Then again, maybe it was Indiana's best option.

Against a team like Chicago that is truly an elite defensive team, you can't expect to get the same shot you got in the second quarter in the last five minutes. The game gets more physical, defenders crank up their energy and the officials let the game go a bit more. That hurts Granger, and the Pacers. In Game 1, Indiana was outscored 18-8 the last five minutes. Monday, it was 17-12.

That's why any coach would tell you what a gift it is to have a player like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Pau, LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki. The ball has a place in those last five minutes, and, not only that, it's in reliable hands. We can talk about clutch stats all we want, but the reality is, scoring in those last five minutes is tough. Having a guy that can at least get a look is a starter. Having a guy that can make it is even better. Indiana's lacking both right now.

The real shame is that the Pacers had a legitimate chance to win both games. They can point at a lot of things -- namely rebounding -- but offensive execution in the clutch is probably what will be the focus.

This is a team that had a solid 7-3 post player, but avoids him late in games (Roy Hibbert's field goal attempts drop by nearly two a game the last five minutes of a close contest). This is a team that has one of the better scorers in the league but can't find him a shot outside of a 3-pointer. This is a team that can score well the first 43 minutes of a game, but just can't seem to figure out the last five.

If they can somehow climb over that mountain -- against the Bulls, much less -- the Pacers will threaten to scare Chicago a little more than they already have. But it's going to start with finding shots for Granger. Because he's not going to find them on his own.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:13 am
 

Bulls crush the Pacers on the glass... again

Posted by Royce Young



Coming in to Chicago's series with Indiana, the Bulls had a couple clear advantages. Defense. Talent. Coaching. Derrick Rose. One that most didn't necessarily see coming? Rebounding.

Whoa boy, have the Bulls dominated the boards in these first two games.

The Bulls outrebound Indiana 57-33 in Game 2 which included 20 offensive boards. This comes after Chicago pulled in 21 offensive boards in Game 1 and held a 49-34 edge. Let me do the math here ... that's a 106-67 rebounding edge in favor of the Bulls after two games. I wonder if Pacer coach Frank Vogel feels a little silly telling his team that they're a better rebounding team during a timeout in Game 1?

In both games, the Bulls have gotten quite the push from the eight-seed Pacers. And, in both games, the Chicago offense sputtered. Monday, the Bulls shot 38.6 percent and turned the ball over 22 times. Without the work on the glass in both these games, the Bulls are down 0-2. There's no doubt.

Carlos Boozer had 16 rebounds (five offensive) and Joakim Noah pulled in 10 (six offensive). On the other side, the Pacers didn't have anyone grab more than six.

My question is, why is this happening? The Pacers employ a 7-3 center and two high-energy power forwards. Why are they getting crushed on the glass so badly? A lot of it is really just effort. Noah doesn't grab every rebound, but his effort makes a difference every time the ball goes up. The way he battles for the ball every time creates deflections, tips and more opportunities for Chicago to recover a miss.

But there's really no good excuse for Roy Hibbert to only grab four rebounds. He played just 21 minutes, but still, you're 7-3. Seven or eight rebounds should almost just fall into your hands when you're that big. The Pacers have played well enough to steal two games in Chicago. When they go back and review what went right and what went wrong in Games 1 and 2, the coaching staff may spend an hour punching the wall because of rebounding. To get beat largely because you couldn't recover a couple extra misses has to be about as frustrating a thing as there is.

It's a credit to the Bulls, though. They don't quit. They haven't played anywhere near to as good as they're capable of in these first two games, and yet, because they did the little things -- like rebound -- they're right where they expected to be. It might have been a little tighter than originally planned, but up 2-0 heading to Indianapolis, I'm sure the Bulls are fine with it.

Posted on: April 18, 2011 11:13 pm
 

Darren Collison sprains ankle on cameraman

Posted by Royce Young

Pacer point guard Darren Collison sprained his ankle late in the second quarter of Game 2 against the Bulls and won't return. He came out for the second half and warmed up, but went back to the locker room, unable to go on the tweaked ankle.

That's big for the Pacers who really rely on Collison to run their offense, score the ball and defend Derrick Rose. Without him, A.J. Price is forced to step up and fill the void. He'll likely return for Game 3, but his official status is day-to-day.

But what's a real shame is how Collison injured his ankle. It actually didn't happen on the court. It happened on the baseline as he stepped on the foot of a cameraman sitting under the Indiana basket.

I understand the placement of camerapeople there and I don't have a better solution as to where to place them, but the fact players have been injured because of it is just plain stupid. Chris Paul actually re-injured his knee last season and was forced to miss most of the season because he stumbled over a cameraman on the baseline.

Players get injured. It happens. But for it to happen because some dude in khakis with a ponytail is sitting under the basket with a Nikon in his hands isn't a good reason for it to happen. There's really just no reason for players -- in a PLAYOFF game to boot -- to be hurt in a situation like that.

Should the camerapeople be moved? Yeah, probably. Just take them back another five feet or something. I don't know if that's even possible, but I just hate that the Pacers chances in a very important game were altered because of something like that.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 10:48 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:10 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: LeBron > Philly

LeBron James > Entire Philadelphia Starting 5
Posted by Matt Moore




LeBron James: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. 

Philadelphia 76ers starting five: 29 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists. 

And that's pretty much all you need to know. James matched the point totals of the entire Philly starting five, and he only played 38 minutes. James scored those 29 points on 19 shots. The Philadelphia starting five scored 29 points on 35 shots. James shot 10 free throws. Philly's starting five shot 8. 

Yeah, it was one of those. 94-73, Miami .

The totals for James are nothing absurd, which says a lot about a. the level of production from James and the other elite players in the league, and b. how truly horrendously awful the Sixers were against a Heat defense. That defense, by the way, that was made to look championship worthy by Philadelphia's never-ending stream of contested mid-range jumpers, blown layups and poor decisions. The Heat maintained position, brought help, and closed off everything inside for the Sixers, who died on the vine. 

James, meanwhile, rarely if ever saw help defense, bulldozed his way past it when it was brought, had the mid-range jumper game working, drew his usual number of fouls and created opportunities in transition. It was the kind of game you'd expect from James in the first round, and it absolutely choked the life out of the Sixers. Andre Iguodala still couldn't match his moves, Thaddeus Young couldn't stop his speed, Jodie Meeks couldn't hang with his size. James is a bad matchup for everyone in the league. He's especially bad for the Sixers. Check the shot chart:




For more on the game, check out the GameTracker.  

This was one of those nights where James had the jumper working. When he's at that level, there's just not much you can do. You have to play back because of his physical abilities, which the Sixers tried at different times, bringing help under the screen. And, when they did, James simply stepped back and nailed the pull-up. He had one ridiculous, unnecessary 3-pointer in the third that kind of sealed the deal, but really, he could simply dominate the game from where he wanted. There wasn't much to be done. 
Most notable were the Philadelphia guards trying to play a slow, grind-it-out game instead of pushing it in transition, backing off of fast-breaks and letting the Heat's defense even further entrench themselves. The Heat killed them, the Sixers killed themselves, and the combination of both means the Sixers can see their playoff pulse starting to fade. 

The 76ers offense probably won't miss as many layups, and easy ones, again (and, hopefully, Doug Collins will take the next mid-range jumpshooter and beat him with some sort of wooden club). But the message has been sent. The Heat are in total control of this series, and it'll take a drastic change in stratagem, lineups or emotion for Philadelphia to claw back in during the two-game set at home.

Otherwise, the Heat will have time to rest up before the next round begins. 
Posted on: April 18, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 9:46 pm
 

Lakers G Blake (chicken pox) returns to practice

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake returns to practice after contracting chicken pox. Posted by Ben Golliver. steve-blake

As you probably heard, New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul went off on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1, nearly posting a triple double, torching Derek Fisher down the stretch and carrying his team to a surprising upset victory.

Monday's update: help is on the way for Fisher. Reserve guard Steve Blake, who had been away from the team dealing with a case of adult chicken pox, returned to Lakers practice and is expected to play in Game 2 according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Lakers ... expect he'll return to play Game 2 on Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets, with Coach Phil Jackson saying, "He was right back on the level we want him to play." 
...
There were more pressing concerns, such as how Blake contracted chickenpox, a disease that mostly afflicts children.
"I have no idea. It's not like I went up to someone and shook someone's hands and they had spots all over them," Blake said. "You just don't know how you get something like that."
ESPNLA.com reported that Jackson also said he likes the idea of Blake guarding Paul.
"[Blake is] a really good alternative," Jackson said. "Chris outweighs him by about 30 pounds, but he's a really good alternative. We expect him to recover fully. Maybe I shouldn't say fully, but he looked good today. He didn't have stamina, but he looked good."
Paul, one of the most intelligent and versatile point guards in the league, is a tough guy to try to get your stamina back against. Jackson won't need to rush Blake back, though, with Fisher, Shannon Brown and All-Star Kobe Bryant comprising a solid three-guard rotation. Any minutes that Blake gives the Lakers in Game 2 will be an unexpected bonus, as most media observers had speculated that Blake could miss the entire first round series.

On the season, Blake is averaging 4.0 points and 2.2 assists in 20.0 minutes per game. He appeared in all but three regular season games for the Lakers.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 5:08 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 5:22 pm
 

Nate McMillan fined $35K for officiating comments

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan was fined $35,000 for comments he made about the officiating in Game 1 of his team's series against thenate-mcmillan Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Any time Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki goes 13-13 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to win Game 1 of a playoff series, you know there are going to be some upset people on the opposite sideline. That's exactly what happened on Saturday, as Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan vented some frustration at the officiating after his team lost to the Mavericks, 89-81.  that helped send Dallas to an 89-81 victory.

On Monday, the NBA fined McMillan for his comments about the officials -- about the 19-2 fourth quarter free throw disparity in particular -- and released the following statement. 
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan has been fined $35,000 for public comments about the officiating, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. 
McMillan made his comments following Portland’s 89-81 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on April 16. 
So what did McMillan actually say? Not much. 

The Oregonian transcribed his post-game statements, which were presented as surprise and frustration rather than rage.
"The free throws, I just don't get that," McMillan said. "It's hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it's called a little different. (The free throw difference was) 19-2 in the fourth quarter. And I felt like we were attacking and guys really didn't know how to play with the fouls that we're being called.
"A lot of touch fouls and I thought that (gave them) momentum and pretty much gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter," McMillan said. "This game was pretty much decided at the line in the fourth quarter." 
While McMillan's criticism wasn't that direct or heavy-handed, he surely knows that he shouldn't have said anything at all if he didn't want to hear from the league office in this strict post-Donaghy era. Did he make the comments intentionally? It's a good possibility, as Portland could play up to three more road games in this series and he surely doesn't want to see such a disparity again. 

Is it worth the find to send that message? And does anyone listen when a coach gripes like this? Who knows. But McMillan recently got a two-year contract extension, so he can afford it either way.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Series Reset: Sixers have a chance

We reset the Sixers-Heat series as Game 2 approaches. Can the Sixers get over the hump instead of just challenging?
Posted by Matt Moore

The Narrative: What, an Eastern favorite didn't need a game winner to close out their first game in the first round? Crazy talk!  The Heat just kind of took care of business after a shaky start and then busted down a Sixers charge. Feisty is probably the worse for the Sixers right now, but if you don't win, that doesn't translate to much. Game 1 pretty much established we're likely not going to see a blowout series, but also that the Sixers are outmatched.

The Hook: So what's that mean going forward? It means the Sixers have a chance. They're overmatched, yes, but not to the degree they can't be competitive in the series. The key for them is going to be effort. When you don't have the talent edge, you have to rely on a supreme effort. Without that, the Sixers are just trying to match up, which they can't. But with the Heat feeling confident, even after a close win in Game 1, there might be room for an upset. Getting a big head start again is key, just as much as keeping it. 

The Adjustment: Who to help? Chris Bosh kiled the Sixers in Game 1 with 25 points. So do you bring help on Bosh and leave yourself open to damage from Wade and James? Or do you sacrifice open looks for the Heat shooters? The answer is the latter, obviously. The best strategy against the Heat is to focus all the energy on whichever of the Triad is hot and hope the sub-par support players on the Heat choke themselves out. 

The X-Factor: Thadeus Young. Young was downright relentless in Game 1, and especially in the fourth quarter. The Heat primarily tried guarding him with Chris Bosh and James Jones. It did not work. As problematic as Andre Iguodala can be for the Heat, they may want to keep LeBron James on Young and stick Wade on Iguodala. 

The Sticking Point: According to Synergy Sports, the Sixers ran seven transition plays in the first quarter. They only had eight opportunities the rest of the game. If the Sixers want a chance to make this competitive, they have to keep pushing the ball. They can't count on turnovers, so it's going to take Jrue Holiday setting the tone. The Heat have no one to check Holiday without exposing themselves to significant risk, so the Sixers have to make them pay. If they let the Heat grind the game down and stretch it out, they're going to get worn down into four losses and an early exit. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com