Tag:2011 WC Playoffs
Posted on: April 27, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: April 27, 2011 2:10 am
 

Lakers hit their form in Game 5 win over Hornets

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 series lead. Posted by Ben Golliver.



The Los Angeles Lakers have come and gone multiple times already this series, but they were back again on Tuesday night, polishing off the New Orleans Hornets, 106-90, to take a 3-2 series lead.  

The Game 5 headlines will go to Kobe Bryant's dunks, as well they should. On two separate occasions, Bryant displayed the aggression, athleticism, agility and opportunism that turned him into a Jordanesque global icon. First, he banged hard on Hornets center Emeka Okafor; then, he cruised past Hornets forward Carl Landry for a crafty lefty flush.  

Dunks aside, this was L.A.'s most impressive performance of the series, because they took a very solid punch from the Hornets and didn't flinch. The Hornets came out firing and didn't look back. They got big nights from all the guys they've needed to get points from; Trevor Ariza (22 points) and Marco Belinelli (21 points) in particular. More important than the output was the efficiency: New Orleans hit nearly half of their three-point tries and shot 49.3% from the field. Aside from some shaky foul shooting, the Hornets were about as good as they could have hoped to be on a night when Chris Paul (20 points and 12 assists) was merely excellent rather than transcendent.

The Lakers clearly rose to the challenge, inviting the back-and-forth, up-and-down exchanges. All five Lakers starters scored in double figures, as did Lamar Odom ... and those numbers were representative. Bryant got a bit of extra rest for his sprained left ankle in the first half, and it was a team effort to fill in the gaps. The ball was moving, the big men were finally pounding the rim regularly, and Ron Artest and Derek Fisher were doing enough to stretch the floor. This was the Lakers starting unit -- on both ends -- that strikes fear in people's hearts. They dominated the rebounds 42-25 -- as they should -- and won the battle for second chance points by an astonishing 22-2.

Perhaps the biggest win for L.A., though, was Bryant's playing time. Given the Lakers' double-digit lead late, and Jackson's early rotation tweak, Bryant played just 28 minutes. If his ankle was an issue, and it certainly didn't seem like it when he was looking down on Okafor, Bryant leaves Game 5 not only with the highlight reel dunks, but also with a bit of extra rest that's precious this time of year.

The Lakers are playing on their own timeline, clearly indifferent to outside expectations or pressure. They've flipped switches on and off at will over the last week. Will they show up to Game 6 on Thursday to lay the hammer down? Does Paul have one final Magic act up his sleeve? 

Those remain open, good questions. But L.A.'s Game 5 performance served as a not-so-gentle reminder that it will take a minor miracle for the Hornets to send them to an early offseason.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 12:24 am
 

Kobe Bryant dunks on Emeka Okafor video

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant throws down the dunk of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Posted by Ben Golliver.

We have a clear winner for the best dunk of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. During the second quarter of Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets, Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant elevated like it was 1999. 

With the Lakers trailing 44-40, Bryant collected a kick out pass from Lakers forward Pau Gasol at the top of the key. Hornets forward Trevor Ariza was caught out of position and Bryant attacked the paint at full speed. With none of New Orleans' bigs stepping up to stop his penetration, Bryant simply decided to go airborne. Hornets center Emeka Okafor, a shot-blocking specialist, attempted to contest Bryant's dunk attempt, but it was too little, too late. Bryant threw down a vicious one-handed slam over Okafor. 

Here's video of Bryant putting Okafor on the poster.



Entering the game, there was talk about whether Bryant would be able to be effective on his sprained left ankle. I guess we have our answer.

Update: In the third quarter, Bryant did it again, blowing by Ariza off the dribble to throw down a left-handed slam dunk over Hornets forward Carl Landry.

Here's video.

Posted on: April 26, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Kobe refuses MRI and X-ray, likely to play

Posted by Royce Young

Kobe Bryant doesn't want to hear any bad news. So he's putting his fingers in his ears and saying "la la la la la."

After spraining his ankle in Game 4 against the Hornets, Bryant was expected to receive and X-ray and MRI to make sure there was no structural damage on it. Instead, Kobe said thanks but no thanks.

Via ESPN LA, Kobe refused both. He's likely to play according to Phil Jackson, but nobody knows what kind of damage there is to Kobe's ankle. Obviously the reason for it is, Kobe plans on playing no matter what his status is and he doesn't want some team doctor telling the front office he's risking further injury. So to avoid any chance of being held out, Kobe passed on both tests.

It's probably pretty stupid, but it's also very Kobe. Not only does it make him sound like a tough, play-through-anything player which is great PR, but it also speaks to what he really is -- a tough, play-through-anything player.

Kobe did not speak with reporters Monday or Tuesday, but Jackson acted like it was no doubt Bryant would play. "He's very hopeful," he said. As far as how healthy he is, Jackson said, "It will be a game-thing, who knows?"

With the Hornets evening the series at 2-2, Kobe doesn't feel like he can risk anything. Who knows how effective he'll be and if he'll guard Chris Paul again. I would think that would be difficult considering how quickly Paul can change directions.

But just having him on the floor is a boost to the team and everyone in the arena. He's making a statement to his guys right here. Doesn't matter what the MRI would've said. It could say I tore every ligament in my ankle. I'm playing. Whether or not that turns out to be a good decision is yet to be seen. But even a 60 percent Kobe is pretty much better than any replacement the Lakers would roll out there.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 2:08 pm
 

Is this panic time for the Los Angeles Lakers?

The New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers head into Game 5 tied at 2 games apiece. Posted by Ben Golliver.
hornets-beat-la


Is it panic time for the Los Angeles Lakers? Not ... quite ... yet. But there are certainly reasons for it to feel that way, as their playoff series with the New Orleans Hornets is tied 2-2.

The biggest reason, of course, is Chris Paul's electric brilliance and will. Paul has engineered two wins so far this series, breaking down L.A.'s defense off the dribble and stubbornly carrying his team through Laker runs, imbuing a relatively weak supporting cast with confidence in the face of L.A.'s size and skill.

The second biggest reason is the status of Kobe Bryant's sprained ankle. As of Tuesday, Bryant was refusing tests on the ankle and saying that he would play in Game 5. Bryant has shown the ability to adjust his shot while playing on a bum ankle, but it's his lateral movement on defense that is of larger concern. The Lakers have used him to bump and bother Paul, sometimes in full-court manner, and a bad wheel makes that process infinitely more difficult and painful. Paul made it clear he was ready for war with Bryant in Game 4 and surely Bryant is up to the challenge. How will playing with pain affect his decision-making and shot selection? Will Lakers coach Phil Jackson adjust his minutes in any way, or use it as an excuse to pound the ball inside more often, particularly early?

Any time you're dealing with a superstar you struggle to stop, as well as an injury to your own superstar, it's enough to raise the blood pressure. But L.A. has won twice in this series already, still possesses home court advantage and can take solace in the fact that superhero efforts don't come along every night. 

Indeed, this series has been as much about players 4-10 as it has been about Paul vs. Bryant. During the Hornets wins, New Orleans' bench averaed 28.5 points per game (a figure propped up a bit by a monster Game 1). During Lakers wins, New Orleans' bench averaged 11 points per game. Hornets shooters -- Marco Belinelli, Willie Green and Jarrett Jack -- are the definition of "hot or not." They've proven to be inconsistent through four games. It's possible, if not probable, they could prove to be unreliable over the next three, despite Paul's best efforts to make their lives easy.

Similarly, L.A.'s bench has been up and down this series, although the peaks and valleys aren't as steep. In Hornets wins, the Lakers bench is averaging 19.5 points per game. In Lakers wins, L.A.'s bench is averaging 23.5 points per game. The headliner in those numbers is, of course, Lamar Odom, who presented New Orleans with a lot of problems in Games 2 and 3, but simply couldn't buy a basket in Game 4. Plus, he wasn't consistently assertive enough to make up for it at the free throw line, on defense, or on the glass. A return to form from Odom would go a long way to easing the burden on Bryant, and his ankle. It would also likely push New Orleans to the brink. 

And that's why it's not yet panic time. If the choice is between expecting Odom to bounce back at home and crossing your fingers that Belinelli, Green and/or Jack show up on the road, you'd pick "Option A" every time. So it's not yet panic time, but there's no longer any margin for error or room for excuses.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:53 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:24 am
 

Chandler's rebounding gives Mavs series lead

The Dallas Mavericks took a 3-2 series lead by dominating the boards in Game 5 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
tyson-chandler


Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy fell back to Earth after back-to-back sterling performances in Games 3 and 4, and his team didn't stand much of a chance in Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks. While Dallas's two go-to scorers -- Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry -- combined for 45 points, Game 5's hero was Tyson Chandler.

Entering the series, Chandler and his Portland counterpart, Marcus Camby, were viewed as essentially a toss-up. Both players are long, agile defense-first centers who concentrate on rebounding and generally provide scoring only in an auxiliary role. Through four games, Chandler was averaging 4.0 points and 7.5 rebounds with Camby averaging 3.8 points and 10.3 rebounds. Pretty similar, especially considering that Chandler was limited pretty severely by foul trouble in Game 3.

But Game 5 was a totally different beast, as Chandler finished with 14 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, including a whopping 13 offensive boards. (Camby finished with four points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes.)  Aside from being an offensive threat by finishing around the rim and getting to the free throw line, Chandler's dominance of the offensive glass saved the Mavericks.

Mavs.com reported that Chandler's 13 offensive rebounds in a playoff game is the first time that mark has been reached in nearly 16 years; since Shaquille O'Neal had 14 way back in May 1995. How did he do it? He had more offensive rebounds than the entire Portland team, which is quite the accomplishment because the Blazers finished third in offensive rebound rate this season.

Chandler's big night wouldn't have been possible without some horrific outside shooting by his teammates. The Mavs shot 3-17 (17.6%!) from deep, tying a season-low for made three-pointers. In other words, there were plenty of opportunities.

Besides the prerequisites needed for a big rebounding night -- high energy level and plenty of minutes -- Chandler used his unique skillset to his full advantage. He relied on his rebounding intuition and versatility to track long rebounds off of missed jumpers, clear out to the free throw line in some cases, often batting the balls back to his teammates to extend the possession. He got physical with Portland's lithe bigs when necessary. 

Chandler also regularly fed off the home crowd while still playing within himself, careful not to ride too high on his success to the detriment of the team. The fact that he took just four shots -- missing only one -- on his way to 14 points is nearly as remarkable as his rebounding numbers. He resisted the temptation to go to far, to let his numbers go to his head, to do anything except what was needed of him on this night. 

Dallas was able to keep the turnover differential even in Game 5 -- a crucial factor in defeating the slow-down, ball-control Blazers -- and they shot 16 more free throws than Portland. Chandler's offensive rebounding helped the Mavericks win the second chance points battle 17-8. Had Chandler's teammates shot better from the field, that margin could have been much, much larger.

In the end, it didn't need to be. Chandler helped the Mavericks dictate their tempo, control the pace of the game, and force Portland to work longer and harder on defense than they are capable of. The result was a win that was even more dominant than the 11-point margin of victory suggests.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 3:51 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Series Reset: Mavericks back on home turf

The Mavericks look to regain control of the series in Dallas after the Trail Blazers escaped Portland with two wins. Posted by Ben Golliver.

roy-crowd

The Narrative: 

Brandon Roy and the Portland Trail Blazers left the Rose Garden court as heroes, having defeated the Dallas Mavericks in both Games 3 and 4, and evening their first-round playoff series at two games apiece. While Roy was able to breathe new life into Portland's season, which seemed on the brink after Games 1 and 2 in Dallas, his monumental fourth quarter explosion in Game 4 didn't change the fact that Portland still needs to steal a game in Dallas if they want to advance to the second round for the first time since 1999-2000.

The Hook: 

The eye-popping boxscore numbers from Game 4: 10 total free throw attempts for Dallas, four free throw attempts for Dirk Nowitzki, three fourth-quarter points for Nowitzki. You can be sure that all of those will look quite different in Game 5. The Mavericks inexplicably went away from their All-Star forward down the stretch and there's no way Nowitzki, who dominated the fourth quarters in Games 1 and 2, will let that happen again. 

The scary thing for Portland is that Nowitzki, despite leading Dallas with 26.5 points per game in the series, hasn't yet found his stroke. He's shooting just 41.3% from the field after shooting 51.7% on the season. Credit the Blazers defense for making him work but Nowitzki has also simply missed some shots. In a tipping-point Game 5, all eyes in Texas will be on Nowitzki to deliver his biggest performance of the series. 

The Adjustment: 

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle took the blame for the Game 4 loss, admitting that he didn't make the proper adjustments down the stretch to stop Roy's 18-point fourth quarter tear. Carlisle was content to let Roy operate in single-coverage and Shawn Marion didn't stand a chance. CSNNW.com thoughtfully argues that Roy can't expect that same treatment in Game 5.
But if I were coaching the Trail Blazers I'd be real sure I didn't even think about loading up on a bunch of Brandon Roy isolations for tonight. We've seen that in the playoffs before and it wasn't sustainable, even with Roy at his all-star best. 
That's what makes tonight's game so intriguing. I think Roy may have gotten enough confidence back to play well for the rest of the playoffs. But I'm also sure he's done enough now that Dallas will game-plan for him, which obviously, in spite of what they say, they had not been doing.
They will double-team him, pressure his ball-handling and get physical with him. He won't have it easy.
Portland has largely been carried by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, but they have also needed every last Roy basket in Games 3 and 4 to pull off the wins. Dallas has no choice but to adjust to better contain Roy. Which of Portland's auxiliary options -- Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews or Rudy Fernandez -- is ready to step up?

The X-Factor: 

This series will almost certainly be decided on turnovers. Prior to Game 3, we noted that the Portland Trail Blazers were 7-0 in their last seven games at home against Western Conference playoff teams and enjoyed a +5.2 turnover differential in those seven games. That number is now 9-0 following Games 3 and 4, in which the Blazers were +7 (16-9) in Game 3 and +4 (14-10) in Game 4.

Unfortunately for Portland, those numbers are flipped on the road in recent months. Going back to Jan. 1, 2011 (including Games 1 and 2), the Blazers are 1-7 against Western Conference playoff teams on the road, with the only win coming against the San Antonio Spurs when coach Gregg Popovich decided to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. In those games, Portland has been outscored by an average margin of 94-88. Portland has shot slightly worse from the field (45.9% to 45.0%) and from deep (35.4% to 32.8%) while keeping the rebounding battle even at 39 boards per game. However, the Blazers are -1 in these games when it comes to turnover differential, averaging 12.3 turnovers per game while their opponents committed just 11.3. 

That represents a six-turnover swing in differential from Portland's success at home. It's difficult to see Portland winning on the road unless that trend can be halted.

The Sticking Point: 

Are there fissures developing in the Big D? Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle called on his fans to step up. Mavericks center called on Carlisle to step up his coaching game. At the end of the regular season, guards Jason Terry and J.J. Barea got into a bit of a sideline tiff. Terry also shoved down Lakers guard Steve Blake during a blowout loss, sparking a minor melee between the teams.

The question from all of that: Are these isolated incidents or evidence of some cracking under pressure, whether its from this series or the weight of previous failures? The final whistle following the Game 4 collapse had barely sounded before the "Same old Mavericks" line of thinking was circulating again. Despite the distractions, this remains a heady veteran group led by Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. Game 5 is the time for them to respond; the prospect of Portland playing a close-out Game 6 at the Rose Garden is surely daunting.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:50 pm
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Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:16 am
 

NBA Playoffs: The insatiable, unstoppable CP3

CP3 again. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Among the pack of top free agents in the NBA who love to hang with each other, who have shared toasts and fireworks and locker space, Chris Paul stands apart. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, the list goes on. Those players are friendly. They came into the league at the same time, have the same priorities, the same approach. But Paul, as friendly as he is with those players, is different in one simple regard. 

He wants to win more. 

This isn't to say that the others don't want to win. These are competitors on the highest level. But there is a gap. The only player that rivals Paul is Wade, the only player among them with a championship ring, a testament to that will. But even Wade has his businesses, the commercials, the distractions with the Heat, the culture of branding that he operates in. Again, this isn't an indictment. Wade has proven time and time again, just as James and the rest (no matter what popular sentiment has determined) that he will deliver in the key moments, spend the extra time, fight through the injuries, do what it takes to get a win. 

But Paul? 

Paul wants it just a little bit more. 

It's in his DNA. He's arguably the only player in the league with the competitiveness level of Kobe Bryant. So to see him slashing, dashing, and breaking Bryant's ankles has a certain level of appropriateness to it, even if the Lakers remain a significant favorite to win this series. Paul's history of intensity dates back to college, and the physical lengths he would go to in order to win a game. In the NBA, he's been, when healthy, the consensus best point guard in the league (bearing in mind that Derrick Rose is about as far from a pure point as it gets. Rose is his own thing, Bulls fans, let's not make everything about Rose, as awesome as he is.).  He's also struggled through years with subpar casts, but this year, with the team's future in New Orleans in doubt, he's maintained. 

There were questions this season, to be sure. Paul told Ken Berger that he was looking at longevity this season, that that was weighing on his mind. It led us to discuss the possibility Paul was holding back for the playoffs. 

Yeah, about that. 

On Sunday night, Paul dropped a triple-double, his second in four games of this series. Paul joins Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Mookie Blaylock, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd, and Baron Davis in the list of players to drop multiple triple-doubles in one series. Paul's second half line? 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. Are you kidding me? You have to be kidding me. This cannot be real life. This is not reality. This is some mistifying fantasy where a player comes out and does that to the defending champs. It was brilliant. It was exceptional. 

It was a perfect example of the lengths Paul will go to in order to win. Trevor Ariza noted after the game that he had six rebounds. The Hornets' big man, Emeka Okafor had 6 rebounds. Chris Paul had 13 rebounds, against the tallest and longest frontcourt in the National Basketball Association in a pivotal playoff game where he was also scoring and running the offense. Oh, and he had two steals. There was nothing more you could ask for from Paul. How often do you really get to say that about a player? That you cand identify what he gave as absolutely everything. Put it another way, which isn't really fair, I'll admit off the bat. How often have you really, truly said that about what you felt LeBron James' maximum effort could be. 

The Lakers certainly played their part in this. But the effort from Kobe Bryant in Game 3 to slow Paul was unable to overcome CP3 in Game 4. To be fair, a seven nation army couldn't hold Paul back in Game 4. The range-game, the whip-pass, the drive and drop, the floater, it was the entire range. Chris Paul doesn't wind up with exceptional games in February, he saves his best for when his team needs it most. Down 2-1 in front of a desperate crowd on the verge of losing the Hornets as a part of their community, Paul answered.  We talk a lot about great players, about what makes a player the kind you remember five, ten, fifteen years after their days are over. CP3's performance Sunday night? It fit that description perfectly. 

The Hornets have tied the series with the champs, with Aaron Gray and Carl Landry as key contributors. Paul has shown once again why he is without question the best pure point in the league. The Lakers may very well advance in the playoffs from this series. But if they do so, they'll have to fight Chris Paul to the very last second to get that fourth win. And even then they'll know what we all know, what we've seen. 

Chris Paul just wants it a little bit more. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com