Tag:2011 First Round
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:33 am
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NBA Playoffs Blazers-Mavericks: no Portland bench

The Dallas Mavericks held serve at home, and head to Portland with a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
blazers-mavs-game-two


We said it in the series preview, and we noted it again in Tuesday's reset : the Portland Trail Blazers are not the team many thought they were and they're not the team they were as recently as a year or two ago. They're simply not deep. That point was made abundantly clear during Portland's 101-89 Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Depth in the NBA can vanish in the blink of an eye, and the Blazers represent that truism to the fullest. Over the last 18 months, Portland has: watched Greg Oden, Jeff Pendergraph and Elliot Williams go down to season-ending knee injuries; traded Martell Webster for a draft pick that became unused rookie Luke Babbitt; traded Jerryd Bayless for a draft pick; traded two rotations players in Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw in a consolidation trade for Marcus Camby; and traded two rotation players in Dante Cunningham and Joel Przybilla for Gerald Wallace

Add that up: eight players that saw minutes, plus Williams, are out with just two players coming back in return. That's six lost bodies -- players whose roster spots have been filled by unused rookies (Babbitt and Armon Johnson), D-Leaguers (Earl Barron and Chris Johnson) and one free agent signing (Wesley Matthews). That qualifies as an overhaul.

Portland's management can still argue that the trades improved Portland's top-end talent. Indeed, Camby and Wallace have been mainstays down the stretch for Portland, while Matthews has been a valued addition. All three are playoff starters. But the series of moves and the injuries -- including dual knee surgeries for Brandon Roy -- have decimated Portland's depth, leaving coach Nate McMillan with just one reserve player that he can regularly turn to and expect meaningful contributions from: Nicolas Batum

During Game 2, Portland's lack of depth was so tragic that it was almost comical. Aside from Batum's 10 points in 25 minutes, Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills combined to shoot 0-4 in 23 minutes, scoring just one combined point, grabbing four combined rebounds and dishing three combined assists. This on a night when aging Mavericks forward Peja Stojakovic outscored Portland's entire bench (including Batum) by himself and added five rebounds to boot. The falloff from starters to second unit for Portland was like a Mt. Hood cliff rather than a Pacific Ocean sand dune.

The lack of bench production -- and, frankly, energy and confidence -- led McMillan to play starters LaMarcus Aldridge (44 minutes), Marcus Camby (36 minutes), Andre Miller (39 minutes) and Wesley Matthews (36 minutes) more minutes than they played in Game 1, while the only starter who didn't take on extra burn was Gerald Wallace, who still played 38 minutes (down from 39). Before the game we wondered when in this series Portland's rotation would tighten even further than it already had. Immediately was the answer.

While the Blazers didn't look tired down the stretch, they certainly weren't the aggressors and often looked overwhelmed. With the score 90-84 with 3:57 to go in the game, Dallas began an 11-5 run. Scratch that: Dirk Nowitzki began an 11-5 run, as he scored Dallas's last 11 points after Stojakovich's outside shooting and J.J. Barea's forays into the paint destroyed Portland's defensive confidence and shape earlier in the final period. 

All Portland had to show in response to Nowitzki's barrage, which included a dagger jumper and a boatload of free throws, was a pair of Andre Miller free throws and a desperation Miller three-pointer. Aldridge, who had been beaten up all night by Dallas's interior defenders, scored his last point with 5:53 left in the game, a sure sign that Portland did not do what it needed to do from a late-game execution perspective. 

McMillan corrected his one big rotation error from Game 1 -- overplaying Roy, especially in the fourth quarter -- but the result was ultimately the same. His team was badly outplayed in the final six minutes. His starters looked overwhelmed and a half-step late on defense, and alternated between "unsure" and "forcing it" on offense. That's generally what happens when a team with eight or nine quality, productive players faces a team with six or seven.

The eternal optimists in Portland -- and there are many -- can take solace in the fact that Fernandez, Mills and Roy may get a boost from the Rose Garden crowd during Games 3 and 4. Fernandez, in particular, is notorious for playing better and more energetically at home. On the season, he averaged 10 points per game, shot 39.3% from the field and 35.1% from three-point land at home. Meanwhile, he averaged 7.2 points, shot 34.6% from the field and shot 28.9% from deep on the road. 

The pessimists, though, will say that Portland's bench simply can't play worse than it did Tuesday.

The realists will conclude that Portland's bench will likely play better -- because it can't play any worse -- but that it must play much, much better if Portland is to stand a chance at making this a true series against a deep, talented, balanced and motivated Mavericks squad. 
Posted on: April 19, 2011 11:54 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 12:11 am
 

NBA Playoffs Knicks-Celtics: Rondo goes nova

Rajon Rondo scores a career-high 30 points in Celtics' win over the Knicks. Tough shots? Hardly. Light speed layups all night long. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Rajon Rondo's not a scorer, supposedly. He's a distributor and a defender, but not a scorer. He's scored 30 points or more in a game three times in his career . He had never scored 30 points in the playoffs until Tuesday night, when he dropped 30 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals in the Celtics' Melo-overcoming win .

Usually, when a player drops a 30-point line in the playoffs, it means someone hit a barrage of three-pointers, or had the pull-up mid-range jumper moving. But then, most times in the playoffs, a player isn't facing Toney Douglas in Mike D'Antoni's system. Rondo's attack was not a perimeter barrage. Take a look. 



For more on Tuesday night's Knicks-Celtics Game 2, check out our GameTracker

That nice square right in the center of the paint? That represents 20 of his 30 points. Rondo had a parade of layups in the first quarter, with Douglas at one point literally running the opposite direction on a break. Well, maybe parade isn't a fair term. A parade only passes through once, not five times. Rondo did have seven assists as well, putting in close to half the Celtics' total offense by himself either scoring or producing. 

Rondo's speed looked back to where it was early in the season, a gear that was mostly missing during the last half of the year. Post-game, Rondo told TNT the rest in between games helps. That could be a huge factor going forward, not just in this round, but in future rounds should the Celtics advance. Considering how close these first two games have been, and how close the Celtics have come to falling to the Knicks in both contests, Rondo's production is crucial. 

Just another point guard leading the way for his team in the 2011 playoffs with brilliant play after brilliant play. 
Posted on: April 19, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:01 am
 

Carmelo does his best LeBron impression in defeat

Carmlo Anthony does his best LeBron James impression during a loss to the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.
carmelo-knicks-2

Stop me if this sounds familiar: A do-everything forward carries a cast of castoffs against a more talented opponent, knocking down shots from everywhere, pounding the glass when necessary and reading the defense brilliantly once the defense over-commits to stopping him. For years, that was the LeBron James biography in Cleveland, a series of spectacular and single-handed postseason performances that wound up just short due to the incompetency of his teammates.

With Amar'e Stoudemire nursing a sore back and Chauncey Billups out with a knee injury, the newest Knick, forward Carmelo Anthony, suddenly found himself in James' shoes. Facing the Boston Celtics in a must-win Game 2, Anthony found himself putting the likes of Roger Mason, Shawne Williams, Bill Walker and Anthony Carter on his back, turning in an eye-popping line of 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Those are numbers, according to Basketball-Reference, that haven't been put up in a playoff game in more than 25 years.  (James is the only other player to go 40/10/5 in the last two years in the playoffs.)

Anthony scored in every way that you can score: knocking down threes, knocking down threes with a hand in his face, knocking down threes after being bumped, finishing at the rim, finishing at the rim in traffic, hitting the elbow jumper, hitting the elbow jumper with a hand in his face and, most importantly, he got to the free throw line (where he shot 10-11), something he had failed to do with any regularity in Game 1. Immediately, his shooting performance drew comparisons to Knicks legend Bernard King, and for once the reference wasn't a gross overstatement. 




The rebounds piled up because someone had to step up in Stoudemire's absence and Anthony wasn't going to wait around to see if any of his teammates were up to the challenge. In the end, the Knicks rebounded exceptionally well, killing Boston on the glass, 53-37, and grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. 

It was Anthony's passing, though, that will be the overlooked part of his masterpiece. Much like James has for years, Anthony threw some great, well-timed looks to cutting teammates once Boston started sending hard double teams his way. With just under six minutes, Anthony notched his last assist to Jared Jeffries, for a lay-up that put the Knicks up 86-84 and made the upset possibility feel very real.

Unfortunately, just like James, Anthony trusted his teammates just a little too much in the critical game-deciding sequence. Trailing 94-93 with 13 seconds to play, Anthony tried to force another pass to Jeffries after Celtics forwards Paul Pierce and Glen Davis double-teamed him. Unfortunately, Jared Jeffries is Jared Jeffries, and he bumped the ball underneath the hoop as Celtics forward Kevin Garnett converged. The pair hit the deck, Garnett emerged with the ball and Boston called timeout. The Knicks never even got off a potential game-winning attempt.

Here's a look at the sequence.



The Knicks now fall behind the Celtics 2-0 in the series after dropping Game 2, 96-93. Stoudemire's status is uncertain, Billups is heading for an MRI and Anthony's royal effort was wasted. Despite the fact that the first two games both game down to the final seconds, it's difficult to imagine the Celtics failing to advance. James knows that feeling well.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 9:02 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 10:34 pm
 

Amar'e Stoudemire leaves Game 2 with back spasms

New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire left Game 2 against the Boston Celtics with back spasms and did not return. Posted by Ben Golliver. amare-stoudemire

New York Knicks All-Star forward Amar'e Stoudemire leads his team in rebounds, blocks and is its second-leading scorer while also serving as its heart, soul and mouthpiece. Unfortunately, Stoudemire was confined to the bench for the entire second half of Game 2 of a first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics due to back spasms.

Stoudemire, who signed with the Knicks last summer, has been the popular face of the franchise, leading New York to the playoffs for the first time since 2003-2004 and to a winning record for the first time since 2000-2001. At the 3:21 mark of the second quarter, though, Stoudemire called mercy, and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni motioned for his team to foul to stop the game action so that he could remove Stoudemire from the game. At the time of his injury, the Knicks trailed the Celtics, 38-37.

Stoudemire left the court to receive treatment and he was initially listed as "questionable" to return. During third quarter, that diagnosis changed to "out" for the remainder of the game. 

Following the game, the New York Post reported that Stoudemire "doesn't know'' whether he will be able to play during Friday's Game 3 but is hopeful."  The paper also noted that Stoudemire has "never had back spasms before" and that Stoudemire first starting feeling pain when he was "dunking in warmups."

The loss of Stoudemire comes just hours after Knicks guard Chauncey Billups said he will undergo an MRI on his left knee after a strain kept him out of Game 2 action. It goes without saying that losing either Stoudemire or Billups -- let alone both -- would be crippling for New York's chances to advance against the favored Celtics, who already lead the series, 1-0. Stoudemire, especially, is irreplaceable, as no one else on New York's roster can approximate his combination of athleticism, strength and overall skill.

It's worth noting that Stoudemire was incredibly durable this season, appearing in 78 games and playing 36.8 minutes per night. He finished the season with averages of 25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 5:57 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:14 pm
 

Knicks PG Billups (knee) to undergo MRI

New York Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups will undergo an MRI on his left knee. Posted by Ben Golliver.

On Sunday, we noted that New York Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups left Game 1 with a left knee strain, an injury that kept him out of practice on Monday and will officially keep him out of Game 2 on Tuesday night. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported that "Billups says when he took off on his left leg, it 'buckled. ... It just kind of gave out on me.'" 

CSNNE.com reports that Billups will undergo an MRI on his knee on Wednesday. "Of course there's concern," Billups told CSNNE.com. "Tomorrow, hopefully I'll have a better idea of what's going on."

The MSG Network also reported that Billups "is walking MUCH better, feels better but told me he'll have an MRI tomorrow in NY." Earlier Tuesday, ESPNNY.com reported that the Knicks said Billups would not undergo an MRI. It's unclear what changed their mind.

In Billups' place, the Knicks will turn to Toney Douglas, a second-year guard out of Florida State who is averaging 10.6 points and 3.0 assists this year.

Here's another look at the play in which Billups sustained his injury.

Posted on: April 19, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:27 pm
 

Series Reset: Can Portland bounce back?

We reset the Blazers-Mavericks series with Game 2 ready to tip Tuesday night. Can Portland bounce back in the Big D? Posted by Ben Golliver.

blazers-mavs1


The Narrative:

Dirk Nowitzki's big fourth quarter -- including 13-13 from the free throw line -- did Portland in during Game 1. Blazers coach Nate McMillan was left to gripe about the officiating afterwards, earning himself a big fine from the league office. On Tuesday, though, it was Dallas's turn to be up in arms about the referees, as longtime franchise nemisis, Danny Crawford, is set to be the Game 2 crew chief. As ESPNDallas.com points out , the Mavericks are just 2-16 in playoff games that Crawford has officated. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has refused to comment (so far).

The Hook:

Game 1 did not play out as expected : Nowitzki struggled from the field, Jason Kidd exploded for a season-high and both Jason Terry and Gerald Wallace were virtually invisible. About the only things that went according to plan were LaMarcus Aldridge's continued dominance of his Mavs defenders (27 points and six rebounds) and the lackluster shooting from Portland's guards (Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews and Rudy Fernandez combined to shoot 4-13, and Portland shot 2-16 overall from three-point land). If there's a big concern for Portland, it's that shooting. The slow-tempo Blazers had to love that neither team cracked 90 points in Game 1, but desperately need a third scoring option to emerge to take pressure off of Aldridge and point guard Andre Miller

That person figures to be Gerald Wallace, who was out-of-sync in Game 1, and had trouble finding space and touches as Dallas's defense packed it in. Wallace has talked about the need for upping the tempo , but what he really means is that Portland needs to win the turnover battle (each team had 13 in game one) and convert some easy buckets in transition. Wallace is a star in the open court and a few runouts off of steals or one-man fast breaks off of defensive rebounds can change momentum in a hurry. 

The Adjustment:

The must-watch strategic decision will be how many minutes Blazers guard Brandon Roy plays. For most of the last month, Roy's playing time has hovered between 15 and 20 minutes as he's been tasked with being a facilitator off Portland's bench. In Game 1, though, McMillan chose to ride Roy for virtually all of the fourth quarter. The move didn't work. Roy's production -- 1-7 shooting -- was in line with his recent struggles (he shot 33% in April). Meanwhile, Portland's starting two guard, Wesley Matthews, sat watching on the bench without ever impacting the game. While Matthews is wise and mature beyond his years, he's still a second-year player with consistency issues; McMillan's Game 1 rotation sent a fairly clear message that he didn't feel that Matthews could be counted upon at that moment. Was that a one-time thing? If so, how will Matthews respond? 

Does McMillan re-think that decision and go back to using Matthews down the stretch? It's something he's done for most of the spring and which has paid dividends in big games, like when Matthews picked Manu Ginobili to help set up a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the San Antonio Spurs in March. Or, does he decide to ride or die with Roy, a player who has had playoff success but who has also admitted that his struggles are "mental"? No one can know for certain, and it's unclear whether McMillan is planning that decision in advance or waiting to see how the early stages of Game 2 play out.

The X-Factor:

Terry, Dallas's second-leading scorer during the regular season at 15.8 points per game, continues his struggles against the Blazers. He reached his season average just once in four regular season games against Portland and scored just 10 points in Game 1, with five of those coming on late free throws. That Terry would only attempt five shots in 27 minutes is eye-opening, but it's also a product of Kidd frequently calling his own number. Kidd was red hot in Game 1 -- going off for six three-pointers and 24 points -- and that's not a performance we'll likely see in back-to-back games. With J.J. Barea also struggling and Rodrigue Beaubois set to be a game-time decision, Terry simply must produce for Dallas. Otherwise, the offense will be imbalanced and Nowitzki will be swarmed liked mad. 

The Sticking Point:

With so many veterans playing big minutes and so little production coming from each team's bench in Game 1, a major sticking point to watch for the rest of the series is whether both coaches tighten their rotations, applying even more pressure on their stars and elder statesmen. McMillan is playing just eight guys while Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle played nine. How McMillan divvies up playing time for Aldridge (who played 41 minutes), center Marcus Camby (29 minutes) Andre Miller (34 minutes) and Gerald Wallace (39 minutes) will be the place to start. It's quite possible all four of those players see more time in Game 2, pending foul trouble of course. For Dallas, unless Barea steps up, the temptation will be to ride Nowitzki (39 minutes), Kidd (34 minutes) and Tyson Chandler (32 minutes) even harder as well. 

Who, if anyone, breaks first under the strain of additional playing time? And at what point in the series does it happen?
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Series Reset: Knicks cope without Billups

We reset the Knicks-Celtics series with Game 2 on tap for Tuesday night. Is New York in trouble without Chauncey Billups? Posted by Ben Golliver.
ray-allen-winner

The Narrative:

A breathtaking Game 1 came down to a pair of potential game-winning threes : Celtics guard Ray Allen made his, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony didn't. The result was disappointing for Knicks fans, but the level of effort wasn't. Amar'e Stoudemire got his numbers, the bench showed up and a more efficient night from Anthony would have meant a Game 1 win. For Boston, point guard Rajon Rondo didn't shoot particularly well but he did put together a near triple-double, which is a good sign for the Celtics, as they are only going as far as Rondo pilots them.

The Hook:

One huge Game 1 sticking point that shakes things up for Game 2: the availability of Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups, who went down with a knee injury late and isn't expected to play on Tuesday. Knicks guard Toney Douglas, a second-year player out of Florida State, is expected to start in Billups' place, and will have his hands full checking Rondo. The numbers on Douglas do offer some hope. The Knicks play better when he's on the court than when he's off, although that's generally come against second-unit players. He's also upped his production during the nine games he started this season (he averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 assists as a starter, compared to 10.6 points and 3.0 assists overall). The issue, as Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni pointed out to SI.com , is how many minutes Douglas will be required to play. It could be a lot. The next guy on the depth chart is aging vet Anthony Carter, who shot 1-4 in 14 minutes during Game 1. In case you were wondering, Douglas averaged 7.5 points and 3.3 assists against the Celtics during the regular season.

The Adjustment:

carmelo-shot-chart One look at Carmelo Anthony's shot chart to the right tells you everything you need to know about what New York hopes to do differently on Tuesday. The breakdown: 5-18 from the field, 2-8 on three-pointers, 4-15 overall on jumpers, just three shots in the paint and a paltry four free throw attempts.

Anthony, one of the league's premier all-around scorers, simply must do better. Attacking Boston's solid interior defense isn't an easy proposition but there really is no alternative. Unless Anthony is able to get to the free throw line, New York will be hoping and praying that its bench shows up big for the second night in a row, a possibility made more difficult by Douglas's move to the starting lineup. 

The X-Factor:

Brilliantly laid out in video form at Posting and Toasting, Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal had a monster Game 1 defensively, blocking four shots and contesting countless others, while looking very agile in Boston's halfcourt defense. On top of all that, he made all six of his shot attempts in 23 minutes. That's the definition of quality minutes from the man tabbed to pick up the slack in Shaquille O'Neal's absence. Can he repeat, or at least approximate, that performance in Game 2?

The Sticking Point:

While all five Boston starters scored in double figures during Game 1, the bench was pretty bad. Delonte West, Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green and Glen Davis combined to shoot 4-15, scoring just eight points and grabbing eight rebounds in a combined 59 minutes. Boston doesn't need all of those guys to step up; really, they'd probably settle for just one. Asking Jeff Green to be that guy feels like a stretch these days, so let's tab Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who started some trash talking  prior to Game 1. Davis has to do a better job than his 1-8 night, since he's being asked to give big minutes behind O'Neal. He's too talented to lay an egg like that twice in a row.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 10:19 am
 

Arron Afflalo out for the Nuggets Wednesday

Posted by Royce Young

The Nuggets will still be missing one of their key parts Wednesday night in Game 2 versus the Thunder as guard Arron Afflalo will miss another game because of a pulled hamstring.

"Zero (percent chance)," he told The Denver Post. "It hasn't even been 10 days yet (of rest). I've made a mistake three times (by coming back). It's not even being cautious, it's just not healed. I've tried to come back in the regular season. I'm trying to get past that marker."

Afflalo not only is a good offensive weapon for Denver, but he's another body and long defender to throw at Kevin Durant. Durant of course lit the Nuggets up for 41 in Game 1.

Game 3 is still a question mark and for Afflalo to say zero percent makes me think he's in serious doubt for this series entirely. Hamstring injuries aren't something to mess with and they are extremely easy to set yourself back on. Afflalo, like he said, has already had that happen.

George Karl will likely stick with his starting five of Wilson Chandler at shooting guard, but he hinted a bit at starting both Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson together in the backcourt. Karl likes to play those two down the stretch in games anyway, so maybe with the way things went in Game 1, he'll think about making that change.
 
 
 
 
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