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Tag:2011 second-round playoffs
Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 11:47 pm
 

The Bulls looked exactly the same vs. the Hawks

Posted by Royce Young



Even after the Bulls dispatched the 37-win Pacers in five games, something just didn't look right. Maybe it was because three of the wins were so close to loses. Maybe it's because they lost once. Maybe it's because we expected more from the league's best regular season team.

We all expected a different Chicago team. I know I did. I tried to put my finger on it for five games against the Pacers, but something was just missing in that Indiana series. I figured it started to get sorted out in the Game 5 blowout clincher. And with a few days off, I figured the Bulls would be completely prepared for the Hawks.

Wrong.

The Hawks dominated early, starting the game on an 11-0 run before withstanding a strong surge by the Bulls in the third to win 103-95 and take a 1-0 series lead. Just like that, the Hawks snatched homecourt advantage from the Bulls and may have taken a little of their confidence with it too.

Because one team looked like the No. 1 seed and it wasn't the one in home whites. Derrick Rose was, well, awful. He went just 11-27 from the floor, for 24 points (no free throw attempts). The Chicago defense was carved up by solid floor spacing and good Atlanta shooting. Joe Johnson had maybe the best game in his playoff career; scoring 34 on 12-18 from the field (including an impressive 5-8 from midrange). The Hawks shot 51 percent, won the rebounding battle, turned it over just 10 times and made their free throws. A total recipe for a road win.

But, back to the Bulls. I'm the type of person that really hesitates on ever hitting the panic button. And it's still in another room for me right now in regard to the Bulls. But it's hard not to at least be alarmed about Chicago. Because they didn't improve. They didn't adjust. They didn't correct the issues that plagued them against Indiana.

They relied entirely too much on Rose's playmaking ability and appeared to almost assume they could stop the Hawks offense. It was like they didn't realize that Atlanta is actually pretty good. The energy and effort was there. It was more about a lack of preparation, execution and shot-making. The Bulls failed in all three areas.

The Pacers seemed to diagram out a good way to beat the Bulls: control tempo, funnel Rose into contested jumpers, try and keep him off the free throw line and force them to execute good offense in the halfcourt in big moments. Force the Bulls into relying entirely on Rose's ability, and take away Chicago's key advantages. The Pacers did well for the most part there, but they couldn't finish. They didn't have the horses to get to the end.

The Hawks, though, have players. They've got talent. Between Johnson, Al Horford, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith, the Hawks can ball. Remember how not having Kirk Hinrich was seen as a big blow? All Jeff Teague did was score 10 points and dish out five assists with only one turnover. The Hawks were ready. And they took it to the Bulls.

By no means is this series over. Just like the favored Thunder who dropped Game 1 at home to Memphis Sunday, things can turn around quickly. But what this means is that Chicago has a very, very important game Wednesday night. Immediately the Bulls have put themselves into a must-win situation. Lose Wednesday and that panic button gets a whole lot bigger, and I might not be able to keep myself from punching it.

Tom Thibodeau was presented his 2010-11 Coach of the Year award before the game Monday night. It's time for him to really earn it. The Bulls have to move past the issues from the Indiana series. They've got to make some adjustments. In Game 1 versus Atlanta, there weren't any from the opening round. And the Bulls paid for it.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 12:10 am
 

Derrick Rose tweaks ankle, will get X-Rays

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose tweaked his left ankle during Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick got some good news on Monday: He will reportedly be named the NBA's MVP on Tuesday. 

Rose got some bad news too: He tweaked his left ankle in the closing seconds of Monday night's Game 1 loss to the Atlanta when he stepped on Hawks guard Jamal Crawford's foot.

With the Bulls trailing 103-95, Rose gave chase near midcourt, attempting to pressure the ball as the final seconds ticked down. Crawford retreated to center court and Rose's left foot came down on Crawford's right foot. Rose immediately reacted as if in pain and he was surrounded by teammates and members of the coaching staff on the court as the buzzer sounded. He eventually walked off the court under his own power.

ESPNChicago.com reported after the game that Rose will undergo X-rays on the ankle and could get an MRI as well.
Rose said he'll get an X-ray on Monday and perhaps an MRI on Tuesday. "Don't know [what happened], just came over, tried to steal the ball," Rose said. "Twisted it somehow."
Rose said he'll get treatment "from morning to night, and then you go home, the same thing. I've got a machine I take home with me, and I just ice my foot the whole day."
Rose turned the same ankle back on April 24 during Game 4 of Chicago's first round series against the Indiana Pacers. He underwent an MRI on his ankle, which came back negative, and he didn't miss any time. On the year, Rose appeared in 81 of Chicago's 82 games.

The Hawks held on to take a 1-0 series lead, winning 103-95. Unfortunately for Rose and the Bulls, it's a quick turnaround prior to Game 2, which is scheduled for Wednesday night in the United Center. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday night in Atlanta.

Rose finished with 24 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals in 41 minutes.

Here's video of Rose's ankle injury.



Further updates with post-game quotes as soon as they become available.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Boozer likely to play in Game 1 versus Hawks

Posted by Royce Young

Word broke over the weekend that Carlos Boozer's seemingly minor turf toe injury actually included a torn ligament, which put his status for Game 1 tonight against the Hawks in question.

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Boozer is going to try and play.

Chicago survived with Boozer on the bench with a number of different injuries during the regular season and made it through the Pacers in five despite limited production. But they need him. They need him if they're going to make a real run at the title. Not just on the court, but healthy and productive. Ligament damage in a toe could be really devastating in that regard.

Kurt Thomas, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson have done admirable jobs filling in behind Boozer and Chicago's frontcourt depth with provide some ease, but still, we're talking about an $80 million player here. The Bulls need him and they need him healthy. It's definitely something to keep an eye on.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Hawks-Bulls Preview: Wings will be clipped

Posted by Royce Young

I. Intro:  No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks (44-38) vs. No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls (62-20)

It's not really the matchup we all anticipated, but that doesn't change anything. So it's not Dwight Howard versus the Bulls frontcourt, but the Hawks present Chicago an interesting matchup. Really, I get the feeling this series could surprise a bit and be really good.

A challenge for the Hawks though will be to forget about the Orlando series and re-focus here. Because that was a big win for them. They were humilated last year and obviously played with an edge. They need that same kind of motivation and edge to hold down Derrick Rose and the Bulls.

II. What Happened:  A look at the season series

The Bulls took the season series 2-1 over the Hawks with one close loss and two blowout wins. The Hawks scored 14 fewer points a game against the Bulls, were crushed on the glass, shot low percentages and couldn't stop the Bulls. The win the Hawks picked up came because they were able to slow the Bulls down and beat them in an ugly, grind-it-out game.

III. Secret of the Series: Transition

The Bulls play very good defense. The Hawks halfcourt offense can sometimes be bad. Solution? Run.

The Hawks have a bunch of talent and athleticism, especially in their bigs, that can get out in the open floor and run against the Bulls. Josh Smith is terrific in transition. Al Horford runs well. Players like Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford can find secondary opportunities off of fast breaks. Running is a big thing for the Hawks to try and do because it's hard to see them beating the Bulls four times using halfcourt offense.

The Bulls though are very good at controlling pace and keeping teams from running. Obviously Tom Thibodeau knows the Hawks want to run as much as possible and that will be a focus.

IV. The Line-Item Veto:  Who wins each match-up?

PG: The Bulls obviously had the edge in this department before Kirk Hinrich's injury, but now it's pretty wide. Jeff Teague will start for the Hawks in Game 1 and might be handling duties the entire series. Either way, the Bulls have a giant edge at point guard. Hinrich is a pesky on-ball defender and Rose would've had to work. His life just got easier. Huge advantage, Bulls. 

SG: This is kind of the opposite of the point guard matchup. Joe Johnson is the main offensive option for Atlanta and Keith Bogans' job is to lock him down. But for Chicago, not only is Bogans healthy, but he's totally capable of limiting Johnson. The Hawks have an edge, but it's not wide. Advantage, Hawks.

SF: Assuming the Hawks stick with the same starting five used against Orlando, Josh Smith will be here against Luol Deng. Obviously Smith has a big size advantage, but Deng is super long and will take Smith out on the perimeter. A lot will come down to if Smith does the same or uses his head and goes inside on Deng. Too close to call for me, so this is a push. 

PF: Carlos Boozer will try to give it a go in Game 1 and will face off in the series against Al Horford. This will be a terrific head-to-head with two big bodies that score well in the post. Definitely a good one to watch. Horford is more consistent and is playing better, so Atlanta has the edge here. Advantage, Hawks. 

C: Again, this will be Jason Collison versus Joakim Noah is things stay the same for Atlanta. If Larry Drew changes things up, he'll have Horford against his old Florida buddy and Marvin Williams at small forard with Smith at power forward. Under the assumption though Collins starts here, Noah has the edge. He played like the animal he is against Indiana and his athleticism could give Collins trouble on the glass. Advantage, Bulls. 

Bench: This is where the Hawks make their move. Jamal Crawford has been an absolute weapon off the bench for Atlanta and even Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia chipped in big time against Orlando. The Bulls bench lacked against Indiana other than Kyle Korver. Chicago doesn't look for offense as much as Atlanta does off the bench, but still, the Hawks should win this area easily every game. Advantage, Hawks. 

Coach: Larry Drew did a nice job in Round 1. Tom Thibodeau has emerged as a pretty incredible strategist and game coach. This feels like series that will be more just about matchups than anything else and Drew has the opportunities to use his team's versatility to move things around. But Thibodeau is the superior here. Advantage, Bulls. 

V. Conclusion

The Hawks can win this series. I'm convinced. They have the athletes, the scorers and the confidence to hang right in with the Bulls. Especially after the shaky play Chicago showed in the opening round. The Bulls are the better team, no doubt. They have a better system, won the season series handily and have Derrick Rose. But the Hawks have some talent. Don't overlook them.

That said, it's hard to picture it actually happening. The Bulls are just going to swallow the Hawks in the halfcourt. Atlanta averaged just 80 points per game against the Bulls in the regular season and had one of the worst offenses in the league. Like I said, transition is key, but the Bulls aren't dumb. They know that. The Hawks have the talent to steal one here or there, but the Bulls take this in six.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 1:51 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Mavericks-Lakers preview: The first time

A preview of the first round playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-kidd

I. Intro: No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. No. 2 seed Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)

For the first time in the Dirk Nowitzki era, these two long-time Western Conference powers will face off in the playoffs. The Mavericks arrive in the Western Conference semifinals after knocking out the Blazers in six games. The Lakers are here by virtue of dispatching the New Orleans Hornets in six games.  Both teams are among the oldest in the league, sporting cores that have been through playoff fires together. (Obviously the Mavericks have been burned a bit worse than the Lakers). 

The Lakers and Mavericks were similarly effective during the regular season, winning 57 games and putting up very, very similar efficiency numbers. The Lakers were No. 7 on offense and No. 6 on defense while the Mavericks were No. 8 on offense and No. 7 on defense. The teams even played exactly the same pace during the regular season, slightly below league average.

The Lakers, however, were a marginally better rebounding team and a significantly better team when it comes to taking care of the ball. Dallas enjoyed one major advantage: they lead the league in assist rate, meaning that no one scores a greater percentage of their points directly from passes. That offensive balance is key as the Mavericks generally have four scoring options on the court at all times and do a nice job of maximizing those players' skills. 

The difference between these two even-on-paper teams could very well wind up being L.A.'s star talent. The combination of Kobe Bryant / Pau Gasol / Andrew Bynum / Lamar Odom is a vicious four-headed monster for Nowitzki to fight off with a supporting cast that is a fairly motley crew at this stage of their careers.  

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Lakers took the season series, 2-1, with all three games taking place since New Year's Day. Both Lakers victories came in March. The most recent one was a chippy 110-82 blowout victory at Staples Center that saw multiple ejections, including forward Matt Barnes for throwing Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts to the ground. 

The teams split in Texas, where Dallas took a high-scoring 109-100 affair in January while the Lakers won a March grinder, 96-91.

L.A.'s homecourt advantage is a factor here, but both teams are equally capable of stealing a game in this series. Not only did these teams have identical regular season records, they were also very similar in their home/road split. The Lakers were 30-11 at home and 27-14 on the road; The Mavericks were 29-12 at home and a league-best 28-13 on the road. Both teams won on the road at least once during their first round series, including dual Game 6 close-out victories on the road. 

III. Secret of the Series: Foul trouble

A critical determining factor in this series could be foul trouble, as the Lakers succeeded in pounding the paint over the course of their first round series against the Hornets. While Dallas has better bigs than New Orleans by a long shot, they aren't particularly deep in the front court. Center Tyson Chandler was regularly in foul trouble against Portland, a factor the Blazers weren't able to fully exploit because their own front court lacks depth and size. 

The Lakers, on the other hand, are perfectly suited to making Chandler pay if he gets two or three quick ones. Gasol, Bynum and Odom are all capable scorers and Bryant can get into the paint when necessary too. If Chandler is able to stay on the court, the Mavericks stand a chance. If not, they'll be hard-pressed to rebound on both ends and prevent second chance points, and it will put an even greater burden on Nowitzki. Expect the Lakers to attack this positional weakness much more aggressively and directly than they did in round one.  

IV. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Jason Kidd's three-point shooting and overall offensive orchestry was a major difference-maker in Dallas' series victory over Portland. Derek Fisher will gladly serve as the underdog in this match-up as long as he doesn't have to guard Hornets point guard Chris Paul again. Advantage: Mavericks. 

SG: Despite all the talk about his ankle, Kobe Bryant surely looks healthy enough to enjoy great success here. The Mavericks are extremely weak at the two-guard spot, something they did well to overcome in their opening round series. DeShawn Stevenson and a ready-to-go Roddy Beaubois will set the table for sixth man Jason Terry, who came on strong late in the Portland series, but none are equipped to defend Bryant. Huge advantage: Lakers. 

SF: Shawn Marion was perhaps Dallas' most pleasant surprise in round one as he neutralized Portland's potential X-factor, Gerald Wallace, while also chipping in on the boards and with some scoring production. Ron Artest probably hasn't hit his stride yet but we're entering the part of the calendar when he is at his best, making everyone's life miserable and making heady hustle plays. Marion was good for 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in round one; Artest put up 11.8 and 5.0. Artest could very well end up winning out. For now, call this one a push. 

PF: Just as Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the must-watch first round matchups, so too will be Nowitzki vs. Pau Gasol. There's no question about who played better in round one. Nowitzki carried the Mavericks by averaging 27.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while Gasol once again warded off criticism for his passive play. If there's a silver lining for Gasol, it's that he will have plenty of help from Artest, Lamar Odom and company in defending Nowitzki. Still, he will have his hands full. Advantage: Mavericks.

C: The Lakers should win the pivot. Andrew Bynum was dominant against the Hornets, putting up 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds while also blocking nearly two shots per game. Tyson Chandler isn't asked to score much, but he did rebound effectively against the Blazers, including a monster 20-rebound performance to help secure a Game 5 victory.  The key issue, as mentioned above, will be his ability to stay out of foul trouble. His back-up, Brendan Haywood, doesn't stand a chance in this series. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench: This match-up pits this year's Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, versus a perennial candidate for that award, in Terry. Both present defensive problems for their opponents but Odom is a particularly tough cover for the Mavericks. The burden will likely fall to Marion, who will have to wrestle with Artest and then track Odom all over the court. That's a lot for one man to bear. Dallas' reserves don't stand much of a chance of helping ease that load, either. The Lakers will continue to use Shannon Brown and Steve Blake to make life easier for Derek Fisher while the return of Beaubois could provide a much-needed athleticism and energy spark off of Dallas' bench, as J.J. Barea didn't get much done in round one. Terry aside, L.A.'s backcourt is a touch more proven and cohesive. Overall, slight advantage: Lakers.

Coach: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle did an excellent job of making the necessary adjustments in round one but he had the deeper and more talented team on both sides of the ball. He will be on the other side of that equation in round two and that will make his life, and the adjustments, significantly more difficult. Meanwhile, Lakers coach Phil Jackson still has more rings than anyone can count and was able to pull L.A. through some stretches of sporadic play to knock off a feisty Hornets team. He's still got it. Advantage: Lakers.

V. Conclusion

The Lakers aren't playing perfectly but, in sum, are simply a cut above the Mavericks from a talent perspective. They've got multiple options to throw at Nowitzki, no other clear match-up disadvantages, multiple stars in Bryant and Odom that should be able to operate with impunity and a third in Bynum who could swing the series if he continues to show the unstoppable size/skill combination that he flashed in round one. The Mavericks are confident, capable of getting hot and smartly get to the line late in games, especially at home. Ultimately, that probably won't be enough. Prediction: Lakers in 6.

Posted on: May 1, 2011 8:00 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 8:22 pm
 

Heat F James Jones delivers big against Celtics

Miami Heat forward James Jones came up huge in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver. james-jones-happy

It's not often that a player who averages 5.9 points per game off the bench finds his way into the headlines following his team's biggest game of the season. But that's life on Sunday for Miami Heat forward James Jones.

The Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 99-90 to take Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. It was a major win from a momentum and confidence-building standpoint, as the Heat struggled mightily during the regular season against the Celtics. Afterwards, the post-game praise from two of the game's greats went to Jones' performance off the bench.

"J.J. probably had the best game of anybody," Heat forward LeBron James told the Associated Press on a night when Dwyane Wade scored 38 points. 

"James Jones' 25 points off the bench was key for the Miami Heat, as was their execution of the drive-and-kick offense," NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson added on Twitter.

Like his Heat team as a whole, Jones struggled against the Celtics during the regular season, scoring just 15 points combined in Miami's four games against Boston, shooting 4-for-12 from the field. In characteristic fashion, all 12 of Jones' attempts during the regular season were three-pointers, as his role as the weakside corner three-point specialist is clearly defined. His job is to make defenses pay for over-committing on James and Wade. Knock down the shots when they're open. but no freelancing, under any circumstances.

On Sunday, Jones played that part to a T, shooting 5-7 from deep on his way to 25 points, and exceeding the number of field goals made and points he registered in all four regular season games against the Celtics combined. Jones' 25 points were not only a season-high, they were also the most points the journeyman forward has scored since he hit 25 for the Phoenix Suns more than four years ago, on Jan. 7, 2007. The AFP notes that Jones' 25 points was a franchise record for points scored off the bench during a playoff game.

Jones also single-handedly outscored Boston's bench, 25-23. That was particularly huge, given that most analysts agree that Boston is the significantly deeper team in this series.

His Game 1 shot chart is beautiful and it comes with no surprises. All seven of James' attempts came from deep, meaning Jones has now taken 19 three-pointers and zero two-pointers against the Celtics in five games this season. This chart simply reinforces the idea that there is something to be said for singular brilliance. it doesn't take an all-around game to be a game-changer in the playoffs.

Take a look.

james-jones
Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 7:38 pm
 

History says not to panic about the Celtics yet

Posted by Royce Young



Saturday, May 1, 2010. The Boston Celtics drop Game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 after a dominant second half in which the Cavs outscored Boston 58-39.

I remember all the reaction after it. LeBron has done it. The Cavs are different. These Celtics are vulnerable. The guard is changing. I remember all the chatter, all the reaction, after Game 1. And what happened next? The Celtics went on to finish LeBron, and the Cavs as we know them, off in six games.

Now. I'm not at all inclined to say the same fate is awaiting LeBron and his new team after their 99-90 win over the Celtics in Game 1 Sunday. And yes, I'm the same dude that just got through writing about how Game 1 could decide this series in the end. (Tone, statement, momentum and all that Jazz was my thinking there.) And I'm not saying it won't.

But let's pump the brakes on thinking at all that the Celtics are overmatched here. Maybe before we all say, "Looks like the Heat are the superior team after all," we let Game 2 happen. This was played on Miami's home floor, remember. And they still have to replicate this three more times to get past Boston.

LeBron's Cavs weren't able to do that. The Celtics are masters of adjustment, and will have a little something different Tuesday. The goal for any road team in the first two games is to win one and claim homecourt advantage. And that opportunity is still there for the Celtics.

A big reason LeBron made the switch to join Dwyane Wade is precisely what happened Sunday against the Celtics. He had a great deal of help, and the Heat were able to put it to the Celtics on both ends. Rajon Rondo didn't control the game and save for some spectacular-but-normal-for-him shooting from Ray Allen, Boston stayed close. Other than that, the Boston offense stalled. The Celtics didn't get to the free throw line (just 18 attempts), shot just 42.7 percent and only had three players in double-figures. Rondo's line -- eight points and seven assists -- really says it all.

It also says to me that the Celtics didn't play their best game. It does feel like there has been a shift in this matchup from the control Boston had in the first three meetings. It does feel like the Heat have found some confidence and swagger against the Celtics. But it also doesn't feel like this series is even close to over. You know that, and I'm insulting your intelligence by telling you, but I feel like I need to say it.

I picked the Heat to win in seven games, and my mind hasn't really changed much from that. The Heat held serve on their end because of 38 from Wade, 22 from LeBron and 25 from... James Jones? See, just that part alone should make Celtics fans feel a bit better. That's not happening again.

Again, I said myself how important this game was. Much more so for the Heat. Lose Game 1 and whoa boy, are they hearing about it. Lose Game 1 and now the Celtics are playing with house money. Lose Game 1, and it's very likely the Heat are in a hole that, mentally, they can't get out of.

They didn't though. They took care of business. But I think the Heat would admit, the Celtics can, and will, play better. It's a four-point game and the Heat scored the first point. I can promise you, Doc Rivers isn't panicking. Neither is Paul Pierce, Allen or Kevin Garnett.

But Game 2 is where the Heat are going to have to make their money. LeBron's Cavs conceded in that situation last year, and it ended up costing them. Boston took its talents to South Beach with a hope to win two, but with a goal to take just one. That opportunity is still there. And it comes down to Tuesday night. After that, maybe we'll be able to draw a real conclusion or two.
Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:57 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Turnover differential bigger deal than Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was careless in Game 1, but don't overlook a different story about turnovers. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook commits a lot of turnovers. So many, in fact, that he led the league with 3.9 turnovers per game. But like many highly-skilled, high-usage players, looking only at Westbrook's turnover numbers doesn't tell a very clear story; his relentlessly attacking style means that he commits a high number of turnovers in both wins and losses alike. 

On Sunday, Westbrook committed seven turnovers in Game 1 of Oklahoma City's Western Conference Semifinals series, a 114-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the second time in six games this post-season that he's committed seven turnovers, and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is the only player in this year's playoffs to commit more in a game. 

Turnovers are bound to play a major part of this series, as Memphis led the league in forcing turnovers, watching the opponents cough up the ball 16.7 times per game. But pinning the Game 1 loss on Westbrook's lack of ball control doesn't tell the full story. 

Here come some numbers. The Thunder was 31-13 (70.4 percent winning percentage) when Westbrook committed four turnovers or less, and 28-16 (63.6 percent) when he committed more than four turnovers this season. The Thunder was also 11-7 (61.1 percent) when Westbrook committed six or more turnovers. Somewhat amazingly, the Thunder was 8-4 (66.7 percent) when Westbrook committed seven or more turnovers this season, including a win in Game 2 of Oklahoma City's first round series against the Denver Nuggets. To summarize: The Thunder played better when Westbrook took very good care of the ball, but they weren't sunk by any means if he was all over the place. Thanks to their tempo, offensive efficiency and ability to get to the free throw line, the Thunder was able to win more often than not regardless of how many miscues Westbrook committed.

Bigger than Westbrook's struggles with his ball-handling in Game 1 was the fact that the Grizzlies did an excellent job of taking care of the ball. As a team, Memphis turned the ball over just eight times, giving them a +10 differential against the Thunder in Game 1. That's an excellent recipe for success: Memphis was 10-1 during the regular season when they committed fewer than 10 turnovers. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City was 5-9 in games in which they didn't force at least 10 turnovers. 

Above, we noted that Westbrook's turnovers don't have a direct relationship with Oklahoma City's winning percentage. The team's turnover differential is another matter. The Thunder, who are now 59-29 including the postseason, have a winning percentage of 67 percent. 

Take a look at the chart below. If you break down those wins and losses by turnover differential, you can see that Oklahoma City fared very well when they won the turnover battle by a wide margin. They fared well when they won the turnover battle by a little, or kept it even. And, they played surprisingly well when they committed less than a handful more turnovers than their opponent.

That column on the far right, though, sticks out like a sore thumb and it shouldn't be surprising. In games in which the Thunder committed five or more turnovers than their opponent, their record was just 7-11 (38.9 winning percentage). Game 1 against the Grizzlies, obviously, falls in that category due to the -10.

okc-turnovers
What are the takeaways here? 

First, scapegoating Westbrook is too simple. He needs to do better (and he definitely needs to shoot better, going just 9-for-23 from the field), and his turnovers matter, but they don't directly impact OKC's chances of winning as you might assume. Simply put, if OKC's defense is creating turnovers, Westbrook's errors are a minor factor.  

Second, give credit where credit is due ... to the Grizzlies for protecting the rock. They're especially deadly when they wreak havoc defensively and protect the ball. It's not easy to play gambling, tough-minded defense on one end and under-control, efficient offense on the other. That's what Memphis has been doing in the playoffs, particularly in its last two games.

Third, if OKC can avoid getting clobbered in the turnover differential category -- as they did for a vast majority of the season -- they stand a very good chance of being able to bounce back from a loss that cost them homecourt advantage. The Thunder doesn't need to win the turnover game to win the series, they just need to keep it close, much closer than they did in Game 1.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com