Tag:2011 First Round
Posted on: April 23, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 1:31 am
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Series Reset: Another must-win for Portland

After taking a must-win Game 3, the Trail Blazers need to do it again in Game 4 to even their series with the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

mavs-whining

The Narrative: 

With the backs against the wall, The Portland Trail Blazers managed to hold off the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3. The Blazers overcame a hot night from Jason Terry thanks to an insane first half from Wesley Matthews, steady production from LaMarcus Aldridge and an energy boost from Brandon Roy, who made Portland's first significant contributions off the bench in the series. Roy's 16 points put to rest an emotional 72 hours, and left Roy looking relieved and perhaps rejuvenated.

The only problem for Portland? They rely heavily on their home crowd, and therefore need to get up for Game 4 as if it's another must-win. Should Dallas take a 3-1 series lead back to Texas -- where Portland didn't win in the regular season and struggled down the stretch in Games 1 and 2 -- this one would be all but over.

The Hook: 

Statistically, the two teams were virtually even in Game 3, save Portland's dominance in turnover differential, where the Blazers forced 16 turnovers and cashed them in for 16 points. Portland had trouble generating enough offense to keep pace with Dirk Nowitzki and company in the series' first two games. By limiting Dallas's possessions and knocking down shots in transition, the Blazers solved that problem.

Many of Dallas's turnovers were mental errors, though, and those aren't particularly likely to happen again in such volume in Game 4. That will put added pressure on Portland's defense to get stops down the stretch. Game 4 could easily hinge on whether or not the Blazers are able to sustain their defensive energy late into the game.

The Adjustment: 

The strategic and match-up adjustments figure to be minor by this point in the series, although one player will certainly need to make some changes: Tyson Chandler. Much to the dismay of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the Dallas coaching staff, the central spoke of their team defense was only able to stay on the court for 15 minutes before fouling out in Game 3. Chandler was dinged with cheap calls almost as soon as he stepped on the court, and, multiple times, he was visibly upset during the game. Smartly, though, he no-commented after the game. Setting moving high screens was a specific problem area that should be fairly easily eliminated, but the Blazers figure to feed LaMarcus Aldridge early and often. Chandler will need to respond with textbook defense, as the boisterous Rose Garden crowd is known for its ability to lean on officials. Brendan Haywood doesn't stand much chance in this series, so Chandler's ability to stay on the floor is critical.

The X-Factor: 

While various role players have stepped up for both teams through three games -- Roy and Peja Stojakovic being the two prime examples -- Game 4 goes back to the superstars, especially Dirk Nowitzki. The big German has been pretty unstoppable in all three games, but he left some points on the table on Thursday, shooting 10-21, and uncharacteristically missing three free throws. Aldridge has drawn primary defensive responsibility on him and he's done a nice job, but Nowitzki can certainly exploit Portland's other defenders to a greater degree than he did in Game 3. He also figures to get to the free throw line more than seven times in Game 4. 

The Sticking Point: 

In his post-game comments Thursday, Nowitzki said he felt like the Mavericks had taken Portland's best shot without being phased. He may very well be right, as Portland will need some serious luck if they hope to repeat their 8-14 performance from deep. The Blazers are a band of streak shooters and, finally, they were hitting. Wesley Matthews seemingly couldn't miss in the first half; knocking down four early three-pointers to get Portland's home crowd going, and helping push the Blazers to an early lead. 

Dallas will surely adjust to that success by crowding and harassing Matthews as much as possible, and if you take away Matthews' huge night, Portland's shooting numbers fall back to earth pretty quickly. Someone else will need to step up -- Roy or forward Nicolas Batum -- to stretch the floor and create room for Aldridge and forward Gerald Wallace. If not, the Blazers risk reverting to their struggles in Games 1 and 2. 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:42 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 12:58 am
 

NBA Playoffs: Lakers restore order over Hornets

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home court advantage. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-ariza

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets, 100-86, in a Friday night game that played out exactly like pre-series expectations dictated. On offense and defense, both teams played according to form ... bad news for the plucky Hornets who must play way over their heads to keep up with the Lakers. 

Lakers Offense

In Friday's Series Reset, we made the fairly obvious prediction that Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant would make a major return to form after an off-night in Game 2. It happened. Bryant scored 30 points on 10-20 shooting, soloing a bit too much, but still hitting a wide variety of circus shots and more than half of his three-point attempts. Trevor Ariza put up a game fight, but Bryant got where he needed to get, including the free throw line, where he hit a number of second half shots that helped stave off any late Hornets push.

Pau Gasol got off to a bit of a slow start but he fought through the war of attrition, tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds and surprising everyone in the building by knocking down a corner three. The force of his fist pump afterwards revealed the level of frustration he'd been feeling throughout the series to this point. More than anything, Gasol just out-worked his struggles. He hit the glass hard, especially on the offensive end, and played a nice two-man game with Andrew Bynum, who was also a force with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Hornets Offense

There's nothing here for them to hang their heads about, but the non-existent bench did them in once again. In the reset, we talked about the importance of either Willie Green or Jarrett Jack stepping up. The pair combined for two points on 1-10 shooting. The Hornets' starters simply can't play five-on-eight against the deeper Lakers.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul was very good, but not otherworldly. And, in this series, very good simply won't cut it. His 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds made life easier for everyone around him, but all five Hornets starters finished at -10 or less for the game while all five Lakers starters finished +11 or greater. That's a fairly straightforward butt-kicking, and it was one that Paul, who was paid plenty of attention again, was hopeless to overcome.

Lakers Defense

L.A. did a nice job of containing Paul again, but more than anything they simply played a fundamentally sound strategic game. They didn't allow the Hornets out in transition for easy baskets. They did a decide job of clearing the defensive glass. 

And, most importantly, they took their chances with the Hornets' role players beating them from outside. The Hornets are merely an average three-point shooting team, and the 1-7 from deep by Marco Belinelli killed New Orleans' offensive efficiency. No one else really tried to bomb from deep. 

Hornets Defense

As in Game 2, Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry tried to stand up to the Lakers' bigs, but with little effect. The Okafor/Landry pair actually outscored Bynum/Gasol, 38-31, boosted in part by Landry's 11-12 from the free throw line. The numbers are a bit deceptive, though, as Lamar Odom chipped in 13 points and the Lakers' bigs combined to shoot 17-32 despite Gasol's early struggles. 

Bynum was a wrecking ball early, scoring around the rim at will and tossing in a beauty of a lefty jump hook. He had 12 points in the first 18 minutes, and that was pretty much that. 

L.A.'s length and depth, along with Bryant's attack, made the difference on Friday night. In other words, the Lakers firmly restored order after slipping up in Game 1.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 6:53 pm
 

NBA hits Jeff Foster with 2 flagrant fouls

The NBA investigating hard fouls by Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Foster and upgraded them to flagrants. Posted by Matt Moore and Ben Golliver

Update: The NBA has retroactively assessed Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Foster with two flagrant 1 fouls according to ESPN.com.
The NBA upgraded two hits Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster leveled against the Chicago Bulls during Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series on Thursday, making them both flagrant 1 fouls.
Flagrant 1 fouls are less serious than Flagrant 2 fouls and the ruling will not require Foster to sit out Game 4.

Original Post: Jeff Foster nailed Derrick Rose with an elbow in Game 3 between the Pacers and Bulls Thursday night, and ESPN reports the league is investigating the collision to see if further punishment is necessary. 
The NBA is reviewing two hits Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster leveled against the Chicago Bulls during Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series on Thursday, according to a league spokesman. "Whatever they want to do," Foster said with a shrug as he walked to the locker room Friday afternoon. He was unaware of the league review.
via 2011 NBA Playoffs: NBA reviewing hits by Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster - ESPN Chicago.

The foul was clearly intentional. Wouldn't you intentionally foul Rose at some point if he was continuously slicing past your defense with no regard for anything? But the problem with the foul was the contact of Foster's elbow into Rose's face. And that wasn't clearly intentional. It's apparent Foster was aiming to make contact with his elbow to Rose, but it's not certain that Foster was trying to hit Rose in the face. 


 

So Foster probably will recieve some sort of punishment, based on how little of a play on the ball he made, and even had he missed the head, he would have clotheslined Rose. The biggest reason he'll get tagged, though? It's a superstar in a major market. Not all hard playoff fouls are created equal and the call to protect the presumptive MVP will be considerably greater than it will be for other players. 

The league is also taking a look at a foul from Foster on Luol Deng in the same quarter. Popular guy, Jeff. 

One thing you can count on? There will be other, harder fouls than this in the playoffs that won't receive as much fan or league attention. 
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Series Reset: Can the Lakers regain home court?

We reset the Hornets-Lakers series with Game 3 set to tip Friday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.

bynum-gasol


The Narrative:

The Los Angeles Lakers showed up on Wednesday, evening their first round playoff series with the upstart, over-achieving New Orleans Hornets at one game apiece. The way Game 2 unfolded is how most thought this series would play out, with the Lakers pounding the ball to center Andrew Bynum and the Hornets helpless to stop him. Contributions from Ron Artest and Lamar Odom made up for off nights from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, which goes to show the gap in talent between the two sides. L.A.'s top two players can have off nights -- a combined 5-20 shooting and 19 points -- yet the Lakers can still roll fairly easily. On the flip side, if Chris Paul isn't excellent, the Hornets don't have a chance. 

Despite that talent gap, the Hornets stole homecourt advantage in Game 1 and now it's incumbent upon them to protect it as the series shifts to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4.

The Hook:

Game 3 has all the makings for a frustrated and vengeful Kobe Bryant -- bent on making amends for his Game 2 performance -- looking to set the tone early. The Lakers used Bryant and a host of other defenders against Paul in Game 2. The extra attention limited Paul to 20 points and nine assists, numbers that Lakers coach would be thrilled to see again in Game 3.

Aside from Bryant's impact on both ends, look for some force-feeding to Gasol as well. The Lakers can't afford to continue to get marginal production from their talented big man. The undersized, but strong, Carl Landry has played him well and scored on the other end; It's time for Gasol to take back ownership of that match-up.

The Adjustment:

Andrew Bynum fouled out in Game 2, but not before playing 32 minutes, shooting 8-11, putting up a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double. In the process, he looked like the NBA's second best center. The big adjustment here is whether the officials will treat him differently on the road. How often do we see aggressive big men hampered by early whistles in road playoff games? How often do we see them respond with frustration rather than precision? Keeping Bynum on the floor and actively engaged will be crucial for L.A. to take back the home court.

The X-Factor:

After being held to under 80 points in Game 2, it's incumbent upon New Orleans' role players to provide an additional scoring punch. One guy to watch is guard Willie Green, who took just six shots in 12 minutes and wasn't much of a factor. If not Green, then Jarrett Jack, who was big in Game 1. Unfortunately for New Orleans, both Green and Jack had better scoring numbers on the road than at home this season, and neither got loose in any of the Hornets' four regular season losses to the Lakers. That could be a problem.

The Sticking Point:

The Achilles heel for New Orleans in Game 2 was their defensive rebounding, as the Lakers grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and won the battle of the boards overall, 44-36. There's really no easy solution other than five-man effort on the glass, given the personnel available to them. L.A. brought the effort on the offensive glass in Game 2, something they don't always do consistently. Both Games 1 and 2 were played at New Orleans' preferred slow pace, but second-chance opportunities and extended possessions ruin that comfort zone in a heartbeat. If I'm Hornets coach Monty Williams, I'm drilling the "keep our boards clean" point home during the pre-game talk.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 3:56 am
 

Sixers-Heat Game 3 Reactions

Reactions from around the web to Sixers-Heat Game 3.

Posted by Matt Moore
The Heat’s big three demand so much attention and warrant extra bodies to keep them bottled up in the half court. It’s a distraction that spreads the opposing defense thin once the ball goes up, inviting other Heat players to slide into the paint from the weakside. Standing at 7-foot-3, Zydrunas Ilgauskas grabbed eight offensive rebounds simply by positioning himself in the pockets under the basket and playing volleyball near the rim.

“Z probably jumps two inches off the ground,” Heat center Chris Bosh said after the game. “But he has such long arms and his tip game is great. We just wanted to give ourselves second chances.”
via Heat at Sixers, Game 3: Five things we saw - Heat Index Blog - ESPN.

We're seeing this same effective across several series. The Bulls are slaughtering the Pacers on the offensive glass because Indiana has to send three defenders at Rose on any given possession. The result is that there are often several players out of possession trying to force a Rose miss. If he makes it, they're doomed. If he misses, there's two Bulls in position for a putback or a reset for Rose to drive again, and once again, they're doomed. The Sixers faced this problem in triplicate, resulting in the Heat's sub-par bigs cleaning up. Stopping these elite players when they're driving is tough enough. But having to do it and grab the carom is nearly impossible, and that's what we're seeing. Even the Celtics are struggling with it agianst the Knicks. Granted, the Celtics have been a bad offensive rebounding team all season, but Amar'e and Melo are creating even more issues. 
Like I previously mentioned, Brand's mid-range game was on point tonight. It was so refreshing to see him get those attempts off that were missing from his repertoire in Game 2. Although he worked wonders on offense, he was giving Chris Bosh way too much room on the defensive end. Bosh missed his first few attempts, but came back strong and took advantage of all the leeway Brand so graciously gift wrapped for him. He did a much better job on the glass than he did in the previous two games, putting 11 of them on the stat sheet. Impressive number, but his defensive rebounding percentage wasn't exactly encourageable (4.3% if I did the calculations right - I probably didn't).
via Heat Turn it On in the Fourth, Sixers a Game Away from Elimination - Liberty Ballers.

 Brand's defensive lapses were certainly disappointing, but against Bosh, it really is a mismatch. Bosh has to be guarded not only by a player big enough to disrupt him, but long enough to contest his shots. Brand's got decent bulk, but has lost weight to reduce wear and tear on his body. He's simply not long enough to stick Bosh in the mid-post. Bosh's best performance in a three-game set has come at the right time, and he deserves a world of credit for putting the Heat in the next round, once they wrap up this series. 
Throughout, the Heat absorbed, absorbed, absorbed. And when they saw it was time, they conquered the moment, and ultimately, the Sixers, 100-94, to take a commanding, 3-0 lead with a chance to close it out on Sunday at 1 p.m.

So exhausted were the Sixers that a 75-73 lead after three quarters quickly evaporated as they missed eight of their first 10 shots to help Miami forge a 90-80 lead.
via Valiant Sixers fall to Heat in Game 3 | Philadelphia Daily News | 04/21/2011.

Whereas the Bulls are sprinting past the Pacers to the finish, the Heat are simply grinding teams down to their nubs. Both have their advantages in a playoff setting. The Sixers threw the kitchen sink at the Heat in the first and third games, but each time, the Heat have simply maintained, and outlasted. It's a stirring show of consistency which has been sorely lacking from Miami all year. 

The Sixers' strength was their depth, but needing a win so badly, the Sixers shortened their rotation and put their best players on the floor for the majority of the game. And in the end, the Heat simply had more fuel. Kick on the afterburners, and fly on by. The Sixers really did just need one more star player to give them the extra ammo. Without it, they're in an 0-3 hole. 
Dwyane Wade made a significant adjustment by getting the ball on the move. That changed everything about the 76ers’ defense, and also changed Wade’s scoring average in the series. He also pushed through a jammed shoulder. This was his moment.
via Heat 100, 76ers 94 – Miami Heat – Sun-Sentinel.

If you want something really to be scared of? The biggest thing that's shown up in this series has been the return of Dwyane Wade's speed. That looked to be gone in the regular season. It looks back. That's frightening. Three times in the second half, the Sixers sent two defenders to try and slow Wade's dribble. Wade found James. What are you going to do? 

Which is pretty much what Philadelphia's been asking since the series started. 
Posted on: April 22, 2011 3:28 am
 

Pacers-Bulls Game 3 Reactions

Reactions from around the web to Game 3 of Pacers-Bulls. 
Posted by Matt Moore




George, for one, believes he can continue to keep Rose in check.

"He got a good estimation of what I can do defensively," said George, who has hit 4-of-18 shots in the series. "It seems like it's in the back of his mind sometimes when he wants to drive. He's not as decisive as he was in Game I, I believe. Hopefully my length will continue to bother him."

Still, Rose had the last word with his game-winning layup, doing what the Pacers have failed to do throughout the series: close out a game.
via Pacers' George thinks he's bothering Rose - Chicago Bulls Blog - ESPN Chicago.

Other than the obnoxious style of this post (yes, let's bring up the shooting percentage of the defensive stopper rookie when talking about defense), the quote's got some umph to it. Rose did struggle tonight. He hit the game winner, because he's awesome and that's what he does, but he also had an absolutely terrible game. 23 points on 18 shots, 5 turnovers. It was the way those turnovers came that were most perplexing. And George is right, here, Rose was less aggressive than he has been in this series. But that's partially due to the fact that the Pacers sent two and sometimes three players at Rose in half-court traps. They, naturally, abandoned that strategy on the final possesion, likely fearing getting Korver'd again. And if I were George, I wouldn't want to speak confidently after Rose destroyed his team in consecutive games, then had a bad game and still wound up sending them into an 0-3 hole. Just doesn't seem smart. 
Noting Chicago's history of traveling in large numbers, Pacers coach Frank Vogel asked the fans to support the team, joking that metal detectors would keep Bulls fans out of the building.
via Rose's late drive lifts Bulls to 3-0 lead on Pacers - NBA - CBSSports.com.

That's... uh... Coach? Is that what you meant? Because that does not come out right at all. Turns out, her's what Vogel actually said.  
"We need to fill the building with blue and gold," said Vogel, who joked that the Pacers have a plan to keep Bulls fans away.

"We're going to have metal detectors out there to scan the metal people are bringing in the building, but people who are wearing red ... they're not going to get through the metal detectors, either."
via Pacers return home down 0-2 vs Bulls - USATODAY.com.

So that doesn't sound so bad. That sounds a whole lot different from how it's tabbed in the beginning. Because one is a joke about not letting people wearing red in, and the other is about people wearing red not being allowed in because those people are armed. Which would look really bad, especially for the coach of Indiana. That said, how disheartening is it to have a playoff game in your own building and the arena is split between your fans and the visiting team. That will go away if the Pacers can build on their success. But in terms of tryin to get that advantage that comes with a home playoff game, the energy's got to be sucked out a little bit when Rose is fouled and the crowd cheers.
And I thought this was the first time in a while that Joakim Noah looked like his old self again. The rebounding has been there all-along, but tonight Joakim was a real threat in the half-court set, willing to drive and launch the tornado. And while the Bulls won't get another true ballhandler to help Rose, an active Noah can fill that role admirably for a big man.
via Slightly different story, but same ending: Defense, physical play, and another close Bulls victory - Blog a Bull.
It's baffling that Hibbert isn't more aggressive. Hibbert's actually done really well against Noah when he's elected to give the effort in going at him. But instead he takes a step back. And if you take a step back against Joakim Noah, he'll own you, your house, your block, your zipcode and county. Noah's relentless and he's starting to get his legs back under him from injury moment by moment. The stronger he gets, the tougher the Bulls are low. He even hit a mid-range jumper. If he gets back to full strength, the Bulls are a whole other animal because he can cover for Boozer's weaknesses. Speaking of Hibbert...
The starting frontline wasn’t as effective, combining for 6-24 shooting for 16 points and 12 rebounds. Roy Hibbert continued to have trouble settling into any kind of rhythm, and Tyler Hansbrough once again had trouble getting his midrange jumper to start falling again. Hansbrough did make some solid plays down the stretch, grabbing 4 of his 5 rebounds on the offensive glass.
via Chicago Bulls 88, Indiana Pacers 84: Pacers Play Tough Yet Again, But It's Still Not Enough to Avoid 3-0 Hole - Indy Cornrows.


Hibbert's problem is largely asserting himself into position, and maintaining it. Instead, he'll start a game strong, then totally vanish into the background for the rest of the game. Hibbert can neutralize the Bulls' biggest advantage in this series, or rather, could have, but simply chose to fade. Take the last Pacers possession for example. Hibbert drifted to 16 feet for a spot-up J, instead of attacking the glass for a tip-in. That's the difference in this series. It's not fair to put it all on one player, but in reality, Hibbert could have been the difference maker, and instead was just part of the scenery. 
Ultimately, once again, in the midst of what is, and always was, probably an un-winnable series in terms of talent, Game 3 showed shades of what Pacers fans should be excited about in the years to come. The Bulls as a cohesive team are so far beyond where the Pacers are right now that talking about the clutch stuff, the times when good teams loaded with talent truly separate themselves from those middling squads with some guts, isn’t all that relevant here.

Derrick did what no one on the Pacer is able to do. Granger isn’t capable of that stuff. And everyone else on this roster is so incapable of it that mentioning them by name isn’t even necessary.
via Pacers Drop Game 3 But Validate Playoff Berth.

They key for the Pacers is that they have a bunch of guys they hope will become that player, but no clear option A. And usually option A.'s are pretty apparent. Darren Collison seems like he might be able to, but it would take a pretty big jump. Danny Granger is no longer the young, developing raw player he once was. Hibbert we've covered. Tyler Hansbrough? No. So even though the Pacers have a great core, they miss that star player. Ask the Rockets how that works out long-term. 
Here was a scene from the postgame locker room that captured the essence of a team still fighting through an ungainly adolescence. Roy Hibbert, who just hasn't taken advantage of a good matchup with Joakim Noah in this series, stood in the corner and groused about how he wasn't getting the ball often enough in the low post.

Next to him, veteran Dahntay Jones sat in his chair and, overhearing Hibbert, shook his head.

"He's young,'' he said. "He'll learn. They'll all learn. It's a progression. But we've grown a lot these last few weeks.''

The lesson is, you can't complain about a lack of low-post touches when you shoot a mushy 3-for-12 and take zero free throws. Hibbert is the most likable personality on this team and has shown flashes, but he's got to be tougher if this team is going to break through in the years to come.
via Close might have to be good enough | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com.

Dahntay Jones showed the kind of aggression Hibbert has needed this entire series, and didn't see time until tonight. He was the biggest reason the Pacers took the lead in the second half. You have to wonder why it took Vogel so long to go to a defensive wing with experience when he's been so willing to feed George to the wolves. Meanwhile, Hibbert wanting the ball is great. But he has to be more aggressive when he gets it. That 25 percent from the field is largely due to his hesitation in the post, waitin for help to come and Noah or Thomas to adjust. It can't be that hard for him to score. Dude's 7-2 for crying out loud. 
Rose can play better. But he can’t close better.

On a 4-for-18 night when his jumpshot wasn’t falling, when even his drives were rolling off the rim, he got to the free-throw line. And he made 13 of 15 foul shots.

‘‘Derrick’s going to work the game,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s not going to get discouraged. He missed some good looks, but you can count on him late. He went into an attack mode. He kept driving. He got to the line. He’s a tough competitor. He’s going to do whatever we need him to do.’’
via Another strong finish by Derrick Rose leaves Pacers frustrated - Chicago Sun-Times.

 Rose is eventually going to get worn down taking these hits and going to the rim over and over again. It's happened to every great player. He'll adjust and still be a great player, a transcendent one. But until then, even when Rose has a terrible game, you can count on his ability to get to the line. And if they don't foul him?

Series, blouses. 



Posted on: April 22, 2011 12:29 am
Edited on: April 22, 2011 12:49 am
 

NBA Playoffs Sixers-Heat: Too much Triad

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are good at basketball. Heat lead 3-0. The end. 
Posted by Matt Moore




It was a noble effort. It really was. The Philadelphia 76ers came out, again, on fire, and outscored the Heat by eight in the opening frame. They flirted with the lead all night after surrendering it in the second. But down the stretch, there simply wasn't enough. Too much Wade. Too much LeBron. Too much Heat. 

The Sixers got 20 points and 8 assists from Jrue Holiday. They got 21 points and 11 boards from Elton Brand. Spencer Hawes had 12 points. Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand, and Andre Iguodala each played 40 minutes, as coach Doug Collins shortened the rotation to try and put everything on the floor to get that one win. But the Sixers just couldn't stop Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. 

It sounds trite to point to the Triad as the reason for the Heat's win, but it holds here, as it did in Game 2. Like we said in the reset, Dwyane Wade was due for a breakout. He broke out. 32 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks. James also dominated, with 24 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal. Bosh added 19. That's 75 percent of the Heat's offense from the Triad. The Heat's defense, however, wasn't on point Thursday night, giving up a 113 defensive efficiency. But they slowed the game down again, converted on the rare transition opportunities, and attacked, attacked, attacked. The Heat had 48 points in the paint, compared to just 34 from the Sixers. The Heat didn't go for the homerun three much. They just attacked the rim relentlessly. 22 free throw attempts for Wade and James. The Sixers just couldn't keep up. 

The Heat have showed a lot in this series. It was a favorable matchup, but they also havn't shown the lack of focus they displayed in the regular season. Closing out the Sixers is remarkably different from trying to close out the Celtics -- their presumed second-round opponent -- but they have to start somewhere. And they're starting by looking like they're about to sweep Philadelphia back into the sea. Rest and recovery is important for a team as shallow as they are. They certainly look like they'll have an opportunity if the can finish the job in Game 4. 

Oh, and LeBron did this. 




Doug Collins put everything out to try and get the win. The Sixers were just outmatched. Some matchup problems have created issues for the Bulls and Celtics. The Sixers have posed no such threat. 

Oh, and all three teams have yet to lose a game in the playoffs. 

For Philly, it's got to be confusing. They only turned the ball over six times, and turned Miami over twice as much. They shot a decent 44 percent from the field. They shot 43 percent from three. They got contributions from unlikely sources, Jrue Holiday had a breakout, and they had a lead, again. It just wasn't enough. There was just no way to stop the Triad. 



"I'm 60 years old. I'm a moral person, but I don't like moral victories." 
Posted on: April 21, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 12:12 am
 

Bulls take 3-0 lead, but not on Rose's shoulders

Posted by Royce Young



It's a lesson every team learns at some point in the postseason. Your star simply cannot do it all. Someone else has to step up. It's just about the oldest playoff adage.

For the Bulls, Luol Deng was a no-brainer. But Kyle Korver? Kyle Korver is now the Bulls big shot taker and maker?

Korver knocked down two more massive 3s late in Chicago's 88-84 Game 3 win over the Pacers. During the three games, Korver is 7-8 from deep. In big moments, the Bulls space out, let Derrick Rose isolate and look for a kickout to Korver. Who would've thought that would be Chicago's best crunch-time option?

But without Korver (12) and Deng's (21) secondary scoring, the Bulls are long gone in this one. I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- Derrick Rose stunk. He went just 4-18 from the floor and 2-6 from 3. Once again, he attacked the rim mercilessly which got him to the line 15 times. Thirteen of those trips were makes, and he finished with 23 points, but Rose was far from excellent.

Rose's game will be overlooked because a) the Bulls won and b) he made the game-winning shot with 15 seconds left. But he just wasn't very good in this game. There's no way around it. Not only was he missing shots, but he turned the ball over five times and only had two assists. Fawn over his layup to win it if you will, but, please realize, Derrick Rose is not the reason Chicago won this game.

Really, it was kind of a solid explanation as to why some were anti-MVP with Rose. It wasn't at all about Rose's game as much as it was about Chicago's stifling defense. The Pacers, who are a solid scoring outfit, notched only 84 points on 37.9 percent shooting, including 1-10 from 3. This is a Pacer team that loves to fire the 3, and the fact they only made one says something about Chicago's perimeter defense.

Here's a small secret though: Rose has not shot the ball very well at all so far this postseason. He's shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and 4-20 from 3. Take away his free throw dominance and he goes from apparently dominating the series to being incredibly average. On top of that, his assist-to-turnover is 14 to 14. Not very good.

That sounds like a dig at Rose, but it's not intended to be. Without him, the Bulls aren't up 3-0. Not even close. But let's not get overly worked up about Rose's first-round performance here. He hit a big, late-game shot in Game 3, and scored 75 points in the first two games. He's been pretty good.

But the Bulls are winning because the Pacers have no idea how to execute in the fourth quarter, they can't rebound, Korver has been huge, and, tonight, Luol Deng stepped up. Keep in mind that this is a 37-win Pacer team against the best record in the NBA. Yes, the Bulls lead 3-0, but it's just by a combined 15 points. By no means is this panic talk from me, because I definitely don't believe in that stuff, especially when you're winning, but I don't think the Bulls or Rose would tell you they're happy about how these first three games have gone. I think they all expected more.

At the same time, it could be a good sign. To get major, key crunch-time performances from players not named Derrick is huge for Chicago. Especially when you picture a series versus Orlando or Miami. Korver is notorious for coming back to Earth after a great stretch of games, but just having that threat on the floor is big for Chicago. And, if Deng shows up like this consistently, between Rose and the defense, the Bulls will be fine.

Which is all that matters really. The Bulls have never claimed it to be pretty. They just give you results.
 
 
 
 
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