Tag:Conference Semifinals
Posted on: April 30, 2011 7:49 pm

Carlisle: Caron Butler won't play against Lakers

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says forward Caron Butler won't play against the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver. caron-butler

Back in January, Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler underwent surgery to repair a ruptered right patellar tendon. Soon after, he started making noise about attempting a possible playoff return.

According to ESPNDallas.com, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said on Friday that a return will not take place during Dallas' second round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, which is set to begin on Monday.
"He is not going to play in this series," Carlisle told 103.3 FM ESPN's Galloway and Company, adding that Butler has yet to be cleared by a doctor.
Butler's absence puts added pressure on Shawn Marion, who must deal with the likes of Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes. Marion averaged 10.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists in Dallas' first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers

The Mavericks will also turn to reserve forward Peja Stojakovic, who provided some timeline three-point shooting.

Butler would have been a major difference-maker, given the talent and physicality of L.A.'s perimeter players. Marion did an excellent job of holding Blazers forward Gerald Wallace in check but he also benefited from the fact that Portland's other wing players -- Nicolas Batum, Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez -- aren't particularly physical or adept at getting to the free throw line. 

Odom, in particular, could become a nightmare match-up for the Mavericks.  
Posted on: April 30, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 7:48 pm

Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant's ankle still an issue

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson says All-Star guard Kobe Bryant is still suffering from a sprained ankle. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant turned his ankle in Game 4 of Los Angeles' first round series with the New Orleans Hornets. Even though he was able to play in Games 5 and 6 -- scoring 19 points and 24 points in the back-to-back wins -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson told the Los Angeles Times that the ankle will still be an issue heading into the team's second round series with the Dallas Mavericks. Game 1 against Dallas is set for Monday.
"It still affects him a lot," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant, who sat out of Saturday's practice. "This is not going to go away anytime soon so we're just going to have to be close to what he's doing and monitor it a lot. He'll have a limited amount of practice time and it's something he'll have to do."
""It's tender to the touch still," Jackson said of Bryant. "He's still limping when he walks. It's a limied amount of improvement."
Bryant, for his part, maintains that he is "fine".

The good news for Bryant and the Lakers is that the Mavericks do not have a dynamic, athletic presence in their starting backcourt. Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson just aren't the type of players who can regularly exploit Bryant in his limited capacity by beating him off the dribble or pushing the tempo hard. 

If there is a concern, it will likely be Mavericks reserve guard Jason Terry, who is significantly shorter than Bryant and quick off the dribble. Terry is an all-around offensive threat and will continue to serve as Dallas' closer. He will represent a tough cover for either Bryant or veteran point guard Derek Fisher

Here's video of Bryant's injury. 

Posted on: April 30, 2011 6:05 pm

Playoff Fix: No room to breathe with Heat-Celtics

Posted by Royce Young

One Big Thing: Does anyone else get the sense that Game 1 is really, really important in this series? Either way, a tone is getting set. Either the Heat make a statement that things have changed and they're ready for the Celtics or Boston makes one saying it's more of the status quo.

Heck, package it in even tighter than that. The first six minutes of this game could say a whole lot about it. There's going to be a real mental aspect to this series and every little play is going to feel extremely large. I still haven't wrapped my head around this just being the Eastern Conference Semifinals yet.

The X-Factor: It's Rajon Rondo. There's absolutely no doubt about it. Miami has no one to guard him and with him getting his feel and command back against the Knicks, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra likely haven't slept the last 72 hours. The good Rondo changes every little thing about this series. If he's keyed in, breaking down the Miami defense and distributing, it's hard to see how the Heat can guard Boston for 48 minutes.

The Adjustment: Would Spoelstra dare get creative with his matchups? Mario Chalmers was good in Game 5 for the Heat, but could we see a lot of Dwyane Wade on Rondo? Of course now you've got to account for Ray Allen, but I get the feeling Mike Bibby and Chalmers have a better chance chasing Allen off screens than they do slowing Rondo off the dribble.

The Sticking Point: The season series tilted 3-1 in Boston's favor with the one Miami win coming when Rondo was in his post-Perk funk and the Celtics slipping a bit as a team. Hard to really take too much from that. Except maybe that the Heat built some confidence. I mean, remember at All-Star Weekend when James Jones beat Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in the 3-point contest and said, "We finally beat you guys in something. " To that point, the Celtics were in their heads. Maybe just that simple regular season win has removed some of that doubt.

The Celtics conceded home court in this series with a poor finish. Not that Miami has a great advantage there (Fan Up, amirite?) but still, it's called "advantage" for a reason. Starting at home fresh off that win could be a big thing for the Heat. And with this first game, the first six minutes, heck the first possession being big, that could be the edge the Heat need to get started right.
Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:07 pm

Expert Picks: Western Conference Semifinals

Our CBSSports.com expert picks leaderboard and predictions for the second round in the West. 

Posted by EOB staff.  

The current standings after arguably the best first round in NBA playoffs history. 

Expert Scores
Expert Right Wrong Bonus Total
Matt Moore 6 2 2 14
Ben Golliver 6 2 1 13
Jamey Eisenberg 6 2 1 13
Ken Berger 6 2 0 12
Sergio Gonzalez 5 3 2 12
Royce Young 5 3 2 12

Here are our picks for the second round. 

Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:00 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 5:40 pm

Series Preview Grizzlies-Thunder: Lightning flash

Posted by Matt Moore

I. Intro

Well, that was exciting, wasn't it? The 8th seed without a single playoff win coming in knocking off the 1 seed with championship history? Great drama. But that's over with. And now the Grizzlies have to turn around and face a Thunder team that took care of its first-round opponent in impressive fashion and has had plenty of time to rest. And by "turn around," I mean literally turn around and head for the airport. After what was likely a pretty raucous celebration on Beale Street Friday night, the Grizzlies will head to Oklahoma City Saturday in advance of a noon tip Sunday. The Thunder will be the heavy favorites. They have the recognized names. They have more experience (slightly). And they're supposed to contend for a title. Basically, everything is stacked against the Grizzlies. 

What else is new?

II. What happened? A Look at the Season Series

Believe it or not, the Grizzlies went 3-1 against the Thunder this year. That's right, the Grizzlies beat the Thunder three to one this season, with a win coming even after the Kendrick Perkins' trade. Most notable was a February tilt where the Grizzlies had played in Memphis against the Lakers and lost the night before. On the second night of a back to back, Memphis went into OKC, in their first game without Rudy Gay (after suffering the shoulder injury vs. L.A. the night before, and beat the Thunder. Tony Allen scored 27 points in that game. Weird things happen.

The consistent themes in the season series were what you'd expect. Zach Randolph and Kevin Durant went off. For two teams that stress defense so much, this wasn't a slugfest. It was a moderate-pace series with high offensive production.  The Grizzlies had a 111.6 offensive efficiency against the Thunder in the four games. That's high. The Thunder haven't been a great defensive team this season and the Grizzlies took advantage of it. The one Grizzlies loss? Kevin Durant dropped 40. 

III. The Easy Stuff: Kevin Durant Will Get His

Kevin Durant is the NBA's scoring leader. So yeah, he's pretty good. And he's going to get his in this series. The Grizzlies will have a similar approach against him as they had against Manu Ginobili. Tony Allen and Shane Battier will both spend time on him. And it won't really matter.  Durant averaged 28.9 points against Allen, shooting 49 percent.  But against Battier, he scored "only" 23.4 points per game, still on 49 percent shooting. Durant is going to draw fouls on Tony Allen, he's going to blow past Shane Battier. He's the best pure scorer in the NBA right now, and he is relentless. The Grizzlies don't have the help defense to shut him down.  He'll get looks from the perimeter. He'll get to the line. He'll get buckets. The question will be if he can go off for 30+ consistently against tough individual defense, which will force the Grizzlies to bring help, opening up opportunities for his teammates. It's not a matter of whether Durant will dominate, it's how and how much. 

IV. Secret of the Series: Just How Good is Kendrick Perkins?

Very good, is the answer to that question. But Perkins is still coming back from serious knee surgery. And he's going to be facing an extremely tough matchup along with Serge Ibaka. Perkins will likely spend the most time against Marc Gasol. Perkins is known as the guy who stopped Dwight Howard, but Gasol is a different type player. Not as athletic or explosive, obviously, but a legit seven-footer with good touch inside and most importantly, a big, burly body that can hammer in the post. 

Serge Ibaka versus Zach Randolph is all sorts of interesting. Randolph struggles against extremely long defenders, which Ibaka definitely fits the bill. But Ibaka can get worked by good post moves, which Z-Bo has, oh, about a billion of. Randolph hooked-and-shook Antonio McDyess, Tim Duncan, and DeJuan Blair, but Ibaka's going to be a younger, tougher matchup. On the other end of it, though, Ibaka's amped-up, emotion-fueled play is going to get frustrated because Randolph? He just scores. By hook or by crook, the guy gets it done, and leaves you wondering how he did it. 

V. The Dinosaur Narrative: Memphis Can't Handle the Pressure

Are you kidding me? The Grizzlies just faced down the 1 seed Spurs. They walked into San Antonio, took Game 1, and haven't lost a home game yet. The only thing that made it a six-game series was a shot even Manu Ginobili deemed "lucky." This team isn't going to be intimidated by any environment, any stakes. After winning their first playoff game ever, then their first playoff game in Memphis? Shane Battier said they're playing with house money. There's zero pressure on the Grizzlies. But how they respond to that is by attacking. 

We're going to be seeing something in this series that should give the NBA and its Board of Governors pause. The crowds will be insane in both houses in this series, in small-market cities that many say don't deserve teams. That insanity is going to fuel cash registers through merchandise, concessions, and season ticket packages. Maybe take a look at how good teams with great fanbases can be instead of teams in high-cost-of-living areas. 

VI. The Line-Item Veto:

PG: Mike Conley held his own against a discombobulated Tony Parker. Russell Westbrook has a chip on his shoulder after a frustrating and disappointing series against the Nuggets. Westbrook will likely see Tony Allen quite a bit, while Conley will have Westbrook attack his dribble to create turnovers. This is a huge advantage for the Thunder... if  Westbrook gets his decision making right. 

SG: Tony Allen thinks he can do too much on offense. But he can produce, and did against the Thunder this year with his season high. Thabo Sefolosha isn't asked to do too much, and he doesn't. But he's a capable defender who will neutralize a lot of the Grizzlies' perimeter opportunities. James Harden and O.J. Mayo is a matchup of two USC guys who can score and who can disappear. That matchup is going to be way bigger than people think. A big swing-vote player in this series? Sam Young, who is really a G/F who can attack at times and then get lost in ISO offense (a more polished Tony Allen, really). 

SF: Durant. Durant Durant. Durant Durant Durant Durant. Kevin Durant. 

PF: Hey, Ibaka is a really fun player. Z-Bo is an All-Star worthy player who just took out the Spurs nearly on his own. Gotta give Z-Bo the nod here. 

C: Call it a wash. Perkins' technique and toughness versus Gasol's size and muscle. 

Bench: The Grizzlies, all of a sudden, have a pretty good bench. Nick Collison versus Darrell Arthur is going to be a fun one to watch, with Nazr Mohammed in there for good measure. Mayo is dangerous but has yet to really go off, though he's been more of a playmaker in the playoffs. The Thunder have a solid bench, but not enough to make this a clear advantage. It's close. 

Coaching: No one expected either of these interim coaches to make it this far, nor to be this good. They both get their teams, and connect with their players. They've both made impressive adjustments in the playoffs. They're both former players with the respect of their organizations, players, and fans. This will be a great matchup. 

VII. Conclusion

Everything points towards a long, tough series. The matchups are actually pretty even. The Thunder have some holes no one is focusing on, and the Grizzlies are really good at exploiting those. The Grizz are over their heads, but playing without pressure. They have some legit stars, but not like OKC does. It looks like it'll be a great series. 

But Memphis... can't possibly... do it again... can they? 

We're going Thunder in five, because of the first game being Sunday at noon, a little over 36 hours from the Grizzlies' biggest game in franchise history. That sets a tone for the series. But as to whether we feel good about it? Well, ask the Spurs. 
Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:21 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 4:03 pm

Expert Picks: Eastern Conference Semifinals

Our CBSSports.com expert picks leaderboard and predictions for the second round.

Posted by EOB staff. 

After one of the best first-rounds ever, here's where we stand, prior to Friday night's Grizzlies-Spurs game, which is irrelevant, since none of us picked the Grizzlies, because we're not prescient or insane, and no one even thought they'd make it to a seventh game. 

Expert Scores
Expert Right Wrong Bonus Total
Matt Moore 6 2 2 14
Ben Golliver 6 2 1 13
Jamey Eisenberg 6 2 1 13
Ken Berger 6 2 0 12
Sergio Gonzalez 5 3 2 12
Royce Young 5 3 2 12

And here's our picks for the Conference Semifinals in the East. We'll have full predictions later. 

Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 3:30 pm

Celtics-Heat: The X's and O's

How do the Heat and Celtics match up on both sides of the ball?
Posted by Matt Moore

It was inevitable, really. From the moment the Triad formed last summer, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have been eyeing one another. The dominant team in the East doesn't like any team acting like they're in the same league with the defending champs, much less a team that hadn't played a single game together saying they're going to win multiple NBA championships. A 3-1 advantage in the regular series gives Boston the mental edge, but the Heat took the lone meeting after the Celtics traded Perkins and destabilized their chemistry. 

Playoffs are hugely influenced by matchups. Here's a look at how various matchups land in favor of the Heat or the Celtics. 

PG: The Celtics of course have a natural, traditional point guard in Rajon Rondo, a pure point, while the Heat largely use Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers the same way the Lakers use Derek Fisher. James and Wade spend a majority of the time at point. 
When the Celtics have the ball: We don't have to talk much about this, right? I mean, Rajon Rondo is Rondo and Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers are not. Defensively, the Heat won't match up either of their point guards on Rondo. Either Wade or James will try to check him. It's a testament to Rondo's ability that neither is able to effectively handle him. Even against two of the faster players in the league, and two of the better defenders, Rondo simply outmaneuvers either one. James isn't fast enough and Wade struggles with Rondo's agility. Off the pick and roll, a hard trap isn't effective, thanks to how quickly Rondo can move the ball Garnett for the pick and pop or to the roll man. There's not a great solution outside of bringing help and hoping the perimeter shooters miss. You know, Ray Allen not being considerably reliable in terms of outside shooting, all-time 3-point shooting record holder that he is. 

When the Heat have the ball: On offense, when the Heat go to Wade or James running point, Rondo will attack whoever crosses the timeline with the ball in most instances. Rondo can get backed down by James in the post, but that's something LeBron seldom does. Likewise, Wade can cross him over, but then you're looking at a pull-up jumper which you live with. It's not that Rondo's a better player than James or Wade, those guys will get theirs (unless Wade's nightmares against Boston continue) but Rondo's physical versatility allows him to guard the other well enough to guide them into the teeth of the Celtics' help defense. 

Wings: Going traditional "SG and SF" designations are largely useless here. It's true that Wade is listed at guard and James at forward, but in reality, both operate on the perimeter and handle the ball, while not operating in traditional roles. James is too on-ball to be considered a true small forward, and Wade's versatility causes the same problems. So instead we'll look at it from the perspective of wings.

When the Celtics have the ball: The hardest part about guarding the Celtics is their consistency in running their offense. They'e not going to blow you away with new sets. But they run what they run to such precision that it's near impossible to stop them. The biggest problem is chasing Ray Allen through screens. Allen will usally cut baseline to baseline through closing screens. The result is Allen getting open for 3-pointers while the defender is still trying to recover from brutal off-ball screens by Glen Davis and KG, and the announcers saying "How can you leave Ray Allen wide open?!" as if the thought of defending the greatest pure shooter (limited to non-ball-handlers who just shoot 3-pointers, please leave your MJ/Kobe debates at home, kids) never crossed their mind. Wade will be assigned to try and get through, but his body isn't built for the wear and tear. Mario Chalmers might be a better cover here, as Bibby isn't tall enough to defend in the first place and would get murdered on the screens. Chalmers needs to study tape of what J.J. Redick has done to get through those screens and he can't afford to lose Allen, even on broken plays or rebounds. If you take your eyes off Allen for a second, that's three points. 

Pierce is considerably easier to guard from a strategic standpoing; he's coming right at you. The problem with Pierce is he just knows his moves so well. James has historically done a pretty good job on Pierce. But when James goes out, there's absolutely no one to guard Pierce. James Jones can't hang with him on the drive or the step back. Mike Miller may do a decent job, but again, that elbow jumper's tough and when he throws in the pump-fake, that's going to be trouble. Pierce is also very adept at finding the trailer 3-pointer, and when the defense collapses off Rondo, Pierce is open.  It's the basic Celtics problem. Pierce is a great offensive player on his own. When he's used off-ball, it becomes even harder to stop him. James and he nearly cancel each other out at both ends. 

When the Heat have the ball: When the ball rotates to whichever one is working off-ball, Allen will take Wade, with the requisite help coming weak-side.  Pierce will take James. Help will be quick on the drive in both instances, and since neither has figured out how to move off-ball outside of transition, the defense will focus on the ball-handler. The roll man's defender on the pick and roll will show hard, with the other low-post defender rolling to cut off the lane. If the ball-handler cuts back, a third defender will be there. Essentially, the Celtics are well prepared for whatever attack the Heat have shown. There will be times when the Heat get open looks off of their athletic ability to get past the defense for the drive and kick, usually a jump-pass. When those occur, the Heat have to knock them down. You can't waste open shots against the Celtics. 

Down Low:

When the Celtics have the ball: Kevin Garnett normally isn't a threat in the post. He doesn't have the muscle left to deal with the contact against most power forwards. Except Chris Bosh. He can pretty much do whatever he wants there. Bosh has to hold on his own, because the Heat can't afford to double in the post with the other weapons on the floor for Boston. The best option might be to give Joel Anthony a run on Garnett and risk the inevitable fouls. Anthony will struggle with Garnett at the elbow, but you've got to live with it somewhere. 

When the Heat have the ball: Bosh has played pretty aggressively in the playoffs and through the last month of the season. But against Garnett, it's just not a good matchup for him. Glen Davis is a better matchup for him, where Bosh's length will allow him to go to the mid-range. Off the pick and pop, Bosh has to have a quick trigger and good aim. Bosh has to completely change this dynamic for the Heat to win. 

Centers: The Heat have aging centers with diminished skills and a poorly coordinated young player with questionable decision making on offense. The Celtics have aging centers with diminished skills and a poorly coordinated young player with questionable decision making on offense. It's a wash. 

These matchups look like they favor Boston for a reason. But that's dependent on the Triad not being able to counter Boston's defense. If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are able to put in performances worthy of their reputations, the Heat can overwhelm Boston, especially without Perkins. From a strategic standpoint, the Heat are clearly the underdogs, but their whole approach has been to overcome with talent. They'll need to do the same to get to the Conference Finals. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com