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Tag:Conference finals
Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 2:32 am
 

Heat-Bulls series grades

Posted by Royce Young



The Heat finished the Bulls in Game 5, 83-80, with an incredible Dirk-ish comeback to lock up their place in the NBA Finals. Time to pull out the red pen and make some marks.

MIAMI HEAT

LeBron James: I'm not going to fall into the "The real MVP showed up!" talk. Derrick Rose won the MVP for what he did during the 82 games in the regular season. If they were to hand out a playoffs MVP, LeBron, along with Dirk, would be right there to get it.

That said, LeBron was truly phenomenal in this series. In every single way. His numbers are stellar (25.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.6 apg) but really where he made the difference was his defense on Derrick Rose. That switch in the fourth quarters of Games 4 and 5 is really what ended this for the Heat. A dud in Game 1 is all that keeps this from being a perfect mark. Grade: A

Dwyane Wade: Maybe he wasn't totally healthy, but I don't think that's a worthy excuse. Wade seemed to check out of Game 4 for about 47 minutes and struggled again in Game 5. His numbers were very un-Dwyane Wade-ish (18.8 ppg on 40.5 percent shooting) but he did hit some big time shots in Games 4 and 5. That's just so very Dwyane Wade. Grade: B

Chris Bosh: Most saw the Bosh-Boozer showdown as a hinge to the series. And there's no doubt Bosh got the best of the matchup. He had two 30-point games, scored 22 on 12 shots in Game 4 and finished with 20-10 in the deciding game. I don't really think at any point in this series you could say that Bosh was a liability. He wasn't perfect defensively and wasn't always strong on the boards, but when Bosh plays like this, the Heat are really good. Grade: A-

Miami's role players: It was Udonis Haslem showing up out of nowhere in Games 2 and 3. Then it was Mike Miller in Game 4. All season long people waxed about how, at some point, the Heat were going to have to get contributions from players outside the Big Three if they were going to win. They were going to have to find their Robert Horry, their Derek Fisher, their Insert Solid Champion Role Player. And right on cue, Miller and Haslem stepped up and saved the day in the Eastern Finals. That's going to have to continue, but don't dog the Heat's role players anymore, because they stepped up. Grade: A

Erik Spoelstra: Spoelstra trusted his bench, made a few good adjustments and, really, managed the game pretty well. After Game 1's disaster, Spoelstra kept his message strong and kept his team right where it needed to be. Some of his decisions were a bit weird with what he was doing with his big men, but it worked out in the end because his group advanced. Grade: B+

CHICAGO BULLS

Derrick Rose: I feel like Rose deserves to be graded on a curve. He clearly was forced into half of his bad decisions because of the circumstances he was in. But shooting 35 percent for the series and turning it over 19 times in four games hurts. Plus, he missed crucial free throws in both Games 4 and 5. That's nobody's fault but his.

He took responsibility for the meltdown in Game 5 and it was good of him to do so. No doubt he was under an incredible amount of pressure to make every play for the Bulls. But in moments where he just needed to be himself and make a good play, he tried to make great ones. He pushed, pressed and didn't finish games. He's young, he'll grow from this. But this just wasn't his series. Grade: C

Luol Deng: Really, Deng did a pretty solid job adding secondary points for the Bulls. He averaged better than 17 points per game on good percentages and hit some pretty big shots. His defense on LeBron was good enough, I'd say. Because Chicago lost, it's obvious that he probably needed to be better, but, before the series, I think if you told people that Deng would average 17 points and seven rebounds for the series, they'd say he must've had a great set of games. Grade: B+

Carlos Boozer: In two games, Boozer was very good, on one end. In Games 3 and 4 he averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds. But for the series, he finished averaging 14.4 ppg and 10.2 rpg. That should tell you that he had three other meh games. His Game 5 was awful as he scored five points on 1-6 shooting. Not to mention his statuesque pick-and-roll defense in every game of the series. Grade: D+

Tom Thibodeau: It's hard to blame Thibodeau too much for the lack of offense for the Bulls, because that's kind of sort of been the way they've played all season long. They always relied on their defense, always counted on rebounding well and always hoped Rose would give them just enough to finish out games.

When their shooters got hot and a couple players scored the ball well, they could pile up some points. But to expect them to magically grow an offensive game in the Eastern Finals was unreasonable. Now that's probably as much of an indictment of Thibodeau as anything else because his team never had an offensive identity and that bit them hard in this series, but to put it all on him isn't really fair. Grade: B-

Composure: Missed free throws. Bad fouls. Dumb turnovers. Silly shots. Forced passes. All of it piled up to two blown leads in Games 4 and 5 for the Bulls, and it ultimately ended their season. Yes, it probably was as much a sign of their youth and inexperience, much like the Thunder. But you've got to just keep playing. Basketball is basketball, no matter the situation, no matter the pressure. The Bulls just tensed up at the worst moments. Grade: F
Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:23 am
 

LeBron James flops against Bulls video

LeBron James of the Miami Heat flops on video against the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Posted by Ben Golliver.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat did it again on Thursday night, closing out the Chicago Bulls in five games to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat went on an 18-3 run to close the game and James was sensational, scoring eight points in the final 2:06 of the fourth quarter and locking up Derrick Rose so bad that he could barely get off a shot attempt.

James was sensational, but only after he embarrassed himself first.  

With the Bulls leading 57-44, James pulled down a defensive rebound in traffic. Rose crashed in from the perimeter to take an upward swipe at the ball as James brought it down to the ground and James' body went flying backwards, as if Rose had hit him in the face. James grabbed at his face as if he had been poked in the eye and went down on one knee to collect himself as a foul was called on Rose. Rose stomped away from the play, frustrated at the whistle, and replays would clearly reveal why he was upset.

The reverse angle clearly showed that Rose's swipe did not contact the ball or James' head whatsoever. The upwards swipe had been completely unsuccessful: Rose has simply grasped at air. James' reaction, then, was totally staged, a simulation of contact that had never occurred.

To make matters worse, James' flop was accentuated by a smile and wink to the bench, a purposeful acknowledgement that he had duped the officials.

Here's video of James' flop courtesy of YouTube user BSORobertLittal11.




Flopping and simulating fouls has certainly become a trend in these NBA playoffs. Give James credit: Whatever he does on the basketball court, he does it better than just about everyone else. Unless retroactive fines and imposed in these situations, players with James' basketball intelligence and experience will no doubt be able to fool referees in real time, especially when the plays occur in congested areas of the court.

Still, this was a shame. It certainly doesn't take away from the magnitude of James and Miami making the Finals, but this type of action shouldn't have a place in the NBA game.
Posted on: May 26, 2011 3:33 pm
 

LiveChat: Heat-Bulls Conference Finals Game 5

Join us at 8:30 p.m. EST for Heat-Bulls Game 5 as Chicago tries to stave off elimination and force this thing to go back to Miami. Topics of discussion include:

  • Seriously, Derrick Rose? Seriously?
  • Mike Miller: Does he prove evolution is flawed and we don't need oppossable thumbs?
  • Is Kurt Thomas going to kill someone? Like Thibs if he doesn't get to play?
  • How awesome is the Billy Goat Tavern? For real?


 
Posted on: May 26, 2011 3:14 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Mavs-Thunder series grades

Posted by Royce Young



The Mavericks moved on to the NBA Finals with a five-game series win over the Thunder, topping OKC in the clincher 100-96. Let's grade.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Dirk Nowitzki: What can you possibly say about Dirk? The whole time I watched him drop jumpers and impossible leaners I thought, "This is just Dirk's time." His close to Game 4 was heroic and the clutch 3 he drilled in Game 5 won his team the series. He could not have been more fantastic and this was with defense from Nick Collison that almost everyone could agree was outstanding. Dirk was on another level in the Western Finals. And it's going to have to continue for him to reach his goal. Grade: A++

Jason Kidd: His numbers won't blow you away (9.6 ppg, 8.6 apg) but he managed the Mavs offense masterfully and played pretty solid defense on both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Kidd, at 38, was ready for every challenge thrown his way and stepped up in big moments for Dallas. He hit big shots, made extra passes, drove to the basket, created looks -- he was wonderful. And not to mention his all-world hands that knocked away countless passes and stripped the Thunder a number of times. He steal of Westbrook in Game 4 really might've been the playof the series. Grade: A

Rick Carlisle: I don't think anyone can necessarily cite any big move Carlisle made or any brilliant adjustment. But that's the thing -- he let his team be his team. He knew their strengths, their weaknesses. And he made sure they played their game. He did make a tweak in the way the Mavs defended Durant sending some doubles at him high, but really, Carlisle managed his rotations well, matched up against the Thunder and made Scott Brooks really rack his brain to make a move. Grade: A-

Crunch time execution: In the fourth quarter in this series, the Thunder actually outscored the Mavs 133-130. I find that very interesting. But in those last six minutes of the game, things changed. In Game 4, Dallas outscored the Thunder 17-2. In Game 5, 17-6. The Mavs knew how to finish, the Thunder didn't. Grade: A+

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Kevin Durant: I don't think anyone would say that Durant had an impressive series. He struggled at times getting looks, making shots and staying involved. But he was the entire focus of the Dallas defense as the Mavs doubled and locked down on him the entire series. He averaged 28.0 ppg on 43 percent shooting which is pretty impressive considering what the Mavs threw at him. He lacked a bit in the biggest moments in Games 4 and 5 though, which is something he'll be thinking about the next six months. Grade: B+

Russell Westbrook: Another series, another Russell Westbrook debate. Whether you like his style of point guard play or not, Westbrook was completely vital to OKC's success. His relentless attacking in Game 5 nearly was enough to push the Thunder to a sixth game. He averaged 23.6 ppg and 4.8 apg, but his turnovers (4.8 per game) were an issue. Grade: B

James Harden: I think the best player on the floor in Game 5 -- Dirk included -- was James Harden. The way he ran the pick-and-roll, created shots, made shots and basically dominated the game was something that should have Thunder fans giddy about next season. He was a bit inconsistent though as he only had two truly great games and three average ones. Consistency is the key for the bearded one. Grade: B-

Nick Collison: His numbers never impress you and his plus-minus wasn't even all that stellar in this series. But the work he put in against Dirk was outstanding. And that's even with Dirk having a series for the ages. That should just tell you how good Dirk was. But Collison worked like crazy, never gave an inch and challenged Dirk the entire way. He was OKC's most valuable player against the Grizzlies and really may deserve my made up one for the Thunder in this postseason. Grade: A+

Scott Brooks: A bumpy series for the Thunder's young coach. He was praised for his bold move to sit Westbrook in the fourth quarter of Game 2. He made another slick decision going super small in Game 5, which OKC almost rode to victory. But the little things seemed to sneak up on Brooks. He missed a couple good opportunities to go offense-for-defense at times. The team failed to execute plays out of timeouts. Of course the late-game execution was bad. He was stubborn with his starting five which may or may not have cost the Thunder this series. Brooks is a good coach. He fits this Thunder team well. But like the young team, he was brilliant at times and didn't quite cut it at other moments. Grade: C+
Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:35 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 5:07 am
 

Durant 'not happy at all' that Dirk advances

Dirk Nowitzki is getting a second chance at the NBA Finals, but Kevin Durant isn't happy about that. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Western Conference finals was set up as a battle between two of the league's most unguardable forwards: Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Long, coordinated, multi-talented and efficient, both players present nightmare matchups every time they step on the court. Nowitzki, 32, may very well be getting his last crack at an NBA title. Durant, 22, was taking his first real swing at a deep playoff run.

After just five games, the old head overcame the young gun.

Following Thursday's 100-96 Dallas win, Durant was asked what his feelings were about Nowitzki getting a second chance at the NBA Finals. Nowitzki's Mavericks lost a controversial 2006 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat and that was the only time in Nowitzki's 13-year career, prior to this year, that he had made the Finals. The Mavericks had been bounced in the first round in three of the last four seasons.

When faced with that question, most players would mumble some generic show of support for their competitor. Durant is not most players.

"I'm not happy at all," Durant said, shrugging and smiling. "I'm a competitor, man, I really didn't care about what he went through the last three or four years. I know that's been tough for him, you know. He lost three of the last four years in the first round. I'm sure he's happy now that he's going back to the Finals but I'm not happy for him at all because I wanted to be there. But it happens like that."

Here's video of Durant's answer to the question. 



In this Western Conference finals, the battle of the superstars was a clear win for Nowitzki. He averaged 33.8 points and 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists to Durant's 27.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. More importantly, though, Nowitzki shot 56.2% from the field while Durant shot just 43.4% and a measly 23.3% from deep. Nowitzki also got to the free throw line more and was huge late in Dallas' wins, particularly in the remarkable Game 4 comeback.

Nowitzki was the better of the superstars, but he also had the better, more tested team. Durant seems to understand that fact intimately. Will some people misinterpret his comments about Nowitzki as a sign of disrespect? It's possible. But they shouldn't. True competitors respect each other by respecting the game first, and that means focusing on the ultimate prize at all times, even in the midst of a disappointing defeat. 

After all these years -- more than a decade -- of heartbreak and frustration, Nowitzki surely knows where Durant is coming from.

Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:08 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:42 am
 

Playoff Fix: Can Heat eliminate Bulls in Chicago?

The Miami Heat will attempt to eliminate the Chicago Bulls from the Eastern Conference finals in Game 5 on Thursday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.



One Big Thing:  If a single play defines this series, it's either LeBron James defending Derrick Rose on the final possession of regulation in Game 4, forcing an errant jumper, or Dwyane Wade blocking a Rose runner in spectacular fashion in overtime. Both plays served as excellent reminders of the obvious: when the league's best players commit fully on the defensive end, there's not much anyone can do, not even the NBA MVP. James, Wade and company played excellent defense against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but they've ramped that up at least a full notch, maybe two, against Chicago. The Bulls are averaging just 84 points per game in the last three contests, and unless they get a monster outside shooting night like they had in Game 1 or a super-efficient, high-volume scoring night from Rose, there's not much hope.

The X-Factor: We're past the point of being able to highlight one Bulls reserve as a guy who could step up and make a difference. The Bench Mob got smoked in Game 4. All five Bulls reserved finished with a 0 or worse plus/minus ranking. Taj Gibson, who played just 10 minutes and didn't contribute anything except one rebound and a missed field goal, finished with an astonishing -21. That barely seems possible. At the same time, Miami only went three men deep with its bench yet all three finished with double digit positive numbers in the plus/minus column, none greater than a resurgent Mike Miller, who scored 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting and added nine rebounds, all while keeping thoughts of his ailing newborn daughter in the back of his mind. Miller was an unconscionable +32 in 26 minutes, forming the critical fifth piece in a James/Wade/Chris Bosh/Udonis Haslem lineup that could be the best five-man unit any time will put on the court during the 2011 playoffs. The X-Factor here is simple: The Bulls need to totally flip this script and reclaim their bench dominance, even without injured center Omer Asik. Remember, in Game 1 it was Chicago whose five reserves all finished with positive +/- numbers while all seven of Miami's reserves finished in the red.

The Adjustment: Miami Heat coach is done playing. No more messing around. In Game 4, he played a tight eight-man rotation despite the game going to overtime. He rode James, Bosh and Wade for a combined 133 minutes one game after the trio played 126 minutes combined in Game 3. Spoelstra left wing James Jones totally out of the action in both games and was able to do so because of solid contributions from Miller and Haslem. While Haslem only scored two points on five shots, he rebounded the ball well (nine boards) and played his typical winning brand of basketball. It's no accident that the Heat look great now that James, Wade and Bosh almost never leave the court. The fact that they are able to execute so well late in games speaks to their mental and physical fitness. In some cases, the best adjustments are the most obvious ones: play your stars, a lot.

The Sticking Point: If there's one area of concern for Miami, it's the lack of effectiveness so far in this series from Wade. He's been scintillating at times, using his crossover combinations and reserve spins to get into the lane at ease. His overall offensive numbers, though, are pretty rough. He's shooting less than 40% from the field, averaging just 18.3 points per game and dishing out just 2.3 assists. His scoring and passing numbers are way off his season and postseason averages. While there's been some speculation that he might be playing hurt, Wade has also been defended well by Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer. Perhaps even more importantly, both James and Bosh have emerged into more prominent roles during this series. Bosh, in particular, is getting lots of touches and looks because of the extra attention Chicago has paid James and Wade when they have the ball in their hands. A big night from the Chicago native Wade -- it would be his first of the series -- could send the Bulls packing into the offseason.
Posted on: May 26, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:34 am
 

Mavs close out Thunder with another late push

The Dallas Mavericks close out the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals thanks to some fourth quarter heroics. Posted by Ben Golliver.

dirk-happy

Watching the Dallas Mavericks -- who polished off the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 on Wednesday night to advance to the NBA Finals --  cruise through the 2011 playoffs, you would expect their fourth quarter scoring numbers to be out of this world good.

The Mavericks are now 12-3 in the postseason, after outlasting the Portland Trail Blazers, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers and out-executing the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavericks have done it with clutch plays on both ends, knocking down dagger three-pointers, forcing critical turnovers and getting to the free throw line with regularity.

Despite all that, the Mavericks have actually only won the fourth quarter scoring differential (including an overtime game against the Thunder) by an average of less than two points per game: 26.4 to 24.5. Their average scoring differential during the playoffs has been +7.9. The first glance at the numbers would suggest Dallas played only as well in the fourth quarter as it did in other quarters.

Sure, Portland's monstrous Game 4 fourth-quarter comeback is a major outlier here. Thanks to Brandon Roy's heroics, the fourth quarter differential numbers are skewed a bit. But even if you take that game out of the equation, Dallas wins the fourth quarter scoring by 3.5 points per game: 27.2 to 23.7. Almost all of that difference can be accounted for by the lopsided numbers in the Lakers series. Get this: The Blazers actually outscored the Mavericks in the fourth quarter over their six game series and the Thunder were outscored in the fourth quarter (and overtime) by just four points total in their five game series.

The numbers seem to suggest that Dallas wasn't any more extraordinary late in games than they were at other points. And yet the numbers feel so wrong. Time and again through this playoff run, the Mavericks have come up biggest at the most opportune times, often late in the fourth quarter, by owning the late-game play and launching comebacks of their own when necessary. It's somewhat expected from a veteran, focused group but still amazing how steady that late-game success has been.

The turning point of the Blazers series was the end of Game 2, when Dirk Nowitzki closed the game with 11 straight points, on an array of baskets and free throws that served as the announcement of his postseason dominance.

The Lakers series tipped in Game 1, when the Mavericks launched a massive comeback from a double-digit deficit, outscoring the Lakers 9-2 in the final 3:31 to steal the first game and set the tone for the series.

The Thunder series, of course, would never be the same after the Mavericks dug themselves all the way out of a 15 point hole on the road in Game 4 to force overtime, where they didn't hesitate to slam the door. 

The Mavericks were similarly ruthless on Wednesday, peeling off a 14-4 run in the final 4:18 to send the Thunder into their summer. As was the case against the Blazers and Lakers, it was a combination of timely offense, a bit of luck, some timely rebounds and steady defense that made the difference. The Thunder didn't roll over.

"This is as hard a game I've ever been involved with," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. 

In the closing minutes, Dallas turned to Nowitzki, who got to the line, and to an unlikely candidate in Shawn Marion. Marion had seven points in the game's final four minutes, including a huge run-out dunk that he finished emphatically while being fouled from behind by Kevin Durant. Marion ran out off of a broken play caused by a Nick Collison turnover to get that dunk. His steal was one of three the Mavericks came up with in the final 1:15 of the game, as a frenetic Russell Westbrook made two critical turnovers.  Marion also secured a loose ball late that he threw ahead to Jason Terry, who threw down a buzzer-beating dunk that set the American Airlines Center into a celebratory tizzy.

Those plays summarized this playoff run: excellent energy, perfect focus, right place, right time, back-breaking results.

"We went back big, the finishing group that has been our closing team for most of the years," Carlisle said. "Those guys delivered stops and were resourceful finding ways to get the ball in the basket."

"Resourceful" might be the perfect word, as the Mavericks' spectacular comebacks over the last month were obviously the result of some inconsistent play earlier in the game. And that's the huge elephant in the room here heading into the Finals: The Mavericks will likely face the Miami Heat, who have been closing games with ferocity throughout their playoff run as well. The Heat boast two scorers in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade who can create their own shots and are adept at getting to the free throw line late. James and Wade also aren't liable to wilt under pressure like the mismatched Blazers, lost Lakers and young Thunder each did. 

It's much easier to be resourceful when you're hungrier and better balanced team than your opponent. But will the Mavericks be able to enjoy a similar level of execution against the Heat? That could be the question that decides this year's NBA Finals.
Posted on: May 26, 2011 12:35 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 5:33 am
 

Westbrook storms off without shake after loss



Posted by Matt Moore

In 2009, LeBron James left the floor without shaking his opponent's hand after losing to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a humongous upset. For the MVP, it was a disappointing  act of classlessness in the eyes of many. Some felt that as a competitor, you never want to accept losing. Most, though, felt that sportsmanship dictated that you owe it to your opponent and say "Congratulations, good luck." James was killed for it in the press. Looking back, it may really have been the start of James' P.R. fall from grace. It is considered classless to just walk off the floor. 

Russell Westbrook just walked off the floor. Thirty-four second mark here:


 


Now, first of all, Jason Terry, I know you're excited. It's the Finals. Pull up once you see the clock. It's done. No need for the extra dunk. 

Moving on, Westbrook also declined to go to the podium after the game, with James Harden at the presser instead. Westbrook might have simply been too upset to make the presser. After a game where he scored 31 points (on 28 shots) and had eight rebounds, five assists with only three turnovers, he was obviously disappointed. Westbrook constantly soared for rebounds and pushed the ball to get buckets in transition. With Kevin Durant off for most of the game, Westbrook again tried to lead, with successes and failures. Westbrook also lost his emotional cool with a technical in the second half by shoving Jason Terry.

It's going to be a pivotal summer for Westbrook. He's shown tremendous ability and became an All-Star. But his immaturity and decision-making led people to question his role on the Thunder. A stellar performance by James Harden at the point guard position only complicates matters. Westbrook's going to have to decide what role his career is going to be defined by for the next several years, and he's going to have to grow up a bit to learn to control his emotion and harness it in a positive way.

And he's going to get killed in the press for not shaking his opponents' hand after another late-game collapse.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com