Tag:2011 Conference Finals
Posted on: May 24, 2011 1:56 pm

The 2.5 stars jokes bother Chris Bosh a little

Posted by Royce Young

The easy joke to make about Chris Bosh this season is that he's no star. That the Heat have a Big Two and he's just the outsider with a really small head and a giant mouthpiece.

He's heard all of that all season long. He heard it when Carlos Boozer made a comment saying the Heat have two stars. And Bosh has put together maybe his best string of games all season so far against the Bulls, going for 30 in Game 1 and 34 in Game 3. He's averaging 24.7 points per game so far in the series along with 7.3 rebounds.

Bosh went on WQAM in Miami and was asked about the "2.5 stars" jokes that have been made and if Carlos Boozer made him made.

“He didn’t piss me off. It wasn’t like I was just thinking of that quote the whole time. It didn’t do much for me. It did motivate me at times, but it wasn’t the main source. I get inspiration from everywhere and that wasn’t the main thing.”

He was then asked if it bothers him people say the Heat have just two stars.

“I’m not going to lie it gets under my skin a little bit. I always say okay I never asked to be the “Big Three,” and it’s like okay a joke is a joke. Come on I am trying my best? The fact that it was hard. It made it hard to not get offended. It’s like I’m working over here. All I wanted to do was win and that was early. Now you just don’t care.”

Bosh has always been portrayed as a bit of a sensitive guy. Call him soft, "fake tough" or whatever else, he doesn't exactly have a reputation like Kevin Garnett.

Against Boston in Game 3, he admitted that his nerves maybe got to him a bit and that he was rattled. That sort of stuff doesn't really help the reputation, Chris.

But in this series, when his team needs him most, he's producing. Is that because he's extra motivated? Who knows. If it really works like that maybe LeBron needs to say the Heat have just one star so that Dwyane Wade gets jumpstarted a bit.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 9:09 am

Playoff Fix: Running of the Bulls

The Bulls need to run, rebound and stop LeBron James to tie the Eastern Conference Finals in Game 4. Piece of cake!

Posted by Matt Moore

One Big Thing: Both coaches are 100 percent dead set on making this series about speed, despite how good the transition defense is. The Bulls talked a lot about getting out and running in Game 3. They made good on that promise to a degree, scoring 16 points on 8-10 shooting in transition. But the Heat also wound up with 10 points on the fast break, meaning the Bulls' halfcourt offense would have to put in work. It of course couldn't, and we've got a 2-1 Miami advantage. With Omer Asik dealing with an injury issue, the Bulls have the luxury of smaller lineups to try and get up and down the floor. The idea was to get Carlos Boozer involoved in transition. But Boozer is very much a halfcourt offense guy. He's no longer a spring chicken, doesn't have great athleticism, and loves a jumpshot. So him being involved on the break is a little odd. Better to get Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah going as finishers off the attention Derrick Rose draws than aim for transition jumpers from Boozer. What's worse is this feels like a desperation adjustment from the Bulls. "We can't create offense in the halfcourt, grind-it-out way our play style suggests, so we'll just try and make up for it with 'easy' baskets." Maybe the Bulls do get out and run in Game 4, opening up opportunities for their shooters from ther perimeter using transition spacing. But it's hard to see how the Bulls are going to even the series without getting some more halfcourt offense help.

The X-Factor: C.J. Watson has been on a tight leash in this series, but he matches up rather well with the Heat defense. Watson has good outside shooting, can play on or off-ball, plays decent defense, and on the perimeter, can pump-fake and drive with a decent floater. Watson doesn't get much time because, well, Derrick Rose lives and breathes. But Watson could make a difference if played in tandem with Rose more, giving Rose a speedy backcourt partner who can space the floor. It means issues with rotations should Rose get tired, but at this point, we all know Thibodeau will be driving him into the ground regardless. Watson could make a difference if he can put in a double-figure socring performance with any efficiency.

The  Adjustment: Miami continues to struggle keeping the Bulls off the offensive glass, but they're chipping away at it. Udonis Haslem has made a huge impact, but also the Heat have run the Bulls off the three-point line, which has decreased the number of long rebounds. Still, the Bulls' best way to get back in this series is to get points off follows. Boozer was the big getter in Game 3, nabbing seven offensive boards. That's containable. If Chris Bosh can keep Boozer off the offensive glass and the Heat can keep up what they've been doing as the series goes along, they might take away the rebounding advantage. Do that and without an outlier shooting performance, the Bulls are sunk.

The Sticking Point: All the talk coming into the series was "Who's going to check Derrick Rose?" Well, the Heat have shown they have a pretty good plan for doing that with multiple guys, though the Heat expect Rose to break out at some point.  But here's a bigger one. "How do the Bulls defend LeBron at the end of games?" The Bulls threw multiple defenders at James all night in Game 3, hoping to put him in a slump. He wound up with ten assists, throwing pinpoint laser passes to open teammates. Then, when they Bulls peeled off to try and stop the other Heat players killing them, James stepped up and took advantage of the ISO situation. It has to be extremely frustrating for Luol Deng who has played phenomenal defense in this series for 3. 75 quarters each game, only to have James simply overcome it in that last bit of the game. The Bulls have to at some point make a statement, "LeBron James will not beat us in the fourth quarter." That has risky consequences, but nothing riskier than putting the possibility of a 3-1 hole for the Bulls in James' hand down the stretch, not with the way he's been closing out games.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 3:04 am

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Thunder: Marion vs.Durant

Shawn Marion shut down Durant and the scoring champ made things worse with his decision making.

Posted by Matt Moore

Shawn Marion finished Game 4 with four rebounds, 4 steals, and a block on the defensive end. In the final six minutes of play counting overtime, Marion had 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. Nearly half of his impact came during the Mavericks' furious comeback to win Game 4 and take a 3-1 series lead. Lost in the Thunder collapse, Dirk Nowitzki's brilliance, Jason Kidd's ice-cold dagger and did we mention Dirk was awesome? Those two steals and that block?

They were all on Kevin Durant.

Everything was set for Durant to step up and be the hero for the Thunder. He'd been aggressive since the start, complimenting his perimeter game with slashes to the rim and no-regard dunks. The Thunder needed him with the offense completely unraveling, and all he had to do was get by a 33-year-old player best known for his time on a no-defense high-octane offense in the mid-00's but who had been a pest in these Western Conference Finals.

But Marion attacked. He attacked his dribble, forcing Durant to pull up, then reaching in and ripping the ball away from Durant, and he attacked his shot, constantly contesting Durant's three-pointers and blocking his would-be game winner.  Marion challenged the young scoring champ and in the biggest moment of his career... Durant failed. 

This isn't to pile on Durant, who was clearly devastated, is a phenomenal player, and has the brightest future imaginable ahead of him. It's to maintain consistency. Were this LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose, we would be obligated to point out the obvious: Durant failed at being the go-to player when his team needed him most.  It's one thing for your shot to be off, that's going to happen. All you can do is focus on the fact you got the best look possible and move on. But Durant didn't do that. He opted for off-balance fadeaways 3-pointers, including a 40-foot pull-up with three more seconds left on the clock. 

There's no Russell Westbrook to blame here. Kevin Durant wanted the ball, he got it. He didn't deliver.

Meanwhile, it was the veteran Marion, once again getting none of the credit, doing nearly all of the work, and shutting down the heir apparent. Nothing will be given Kevin Durant. If he wants to be the next NBA legend, he's going to have to take his legacy in his own hands. On Monday night, he fumbled it into the gutter along with the rest of the Thunder team.

Game 5 is Wednesday.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 5:59 am

NBA Playoffs: It's Dirk Nowitzki's Universe

Dirk Nowitzki owns everything as Mavs drop Thunder in comeback win in Game 4 of Western Conference Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore

I swear, there was one shot where he wasn't even trying to hit it. He pump-faked, got Collison in the air for the zillionth time, and threw up a sideways shot. He was aiming, but it wasn't a shot you think about hitting, beyond pure instinct. The ball went up and forward. It went straight through the net. It was unbelievable. If it was anyone else, I would think it was luck. But I know better. At this point, we all know better, we all know Dirk.

It was only a shred of Dirk Nowitzki's incredible performance in Game 4 against the Thunder as the Mavericks kicked in the doors of the Thunderground Resistance who were celebrating victory up 15 with five minutes to go, and walked out with a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals. Nowitzki scored 12 of the Mavericks' 17-2 run in the fourth quarter, and took over in the way that they write about in books. It was the kind of performance you tell your kids about. That's cliche, right? But that's just how legendary it was. There was so much of a narrative in this game for Nowitzki, in fact, that mirrors his career arc.

In the first half, the Thunder could not miss, hitting their first nine shots. It looked every part a blowout. But Nowitzki balanced the Mavericks, provided the consistent, calming effect you need to weather a storm against a young emotional team like the Thunder. Nowitzki had 22 in the first half ... on just seven shots. The model of efficiency, and it helped the Mavericks cut a nine point deficit at the half to just four. In the third quarter, the Thunder defense stepped up on Nowitzki. Instead of going to work and committing to his shot, Nowitzki tried to get his teammates opportunities, constantly passing out of the double. He was trying to be the team player, not trying to force things. Honestly, his defensive and rebounding work was subpar Monday night, and the Thunder constantly grabbed offensive rebounds and found open dunks underneath. But, still, the Mavericks hung around.

Then with five minutes to go, down 15, Dirk went to work. It's the kind of thing you hope for your hero, your legend, to do if you're a fan. No "grab the ball at half court and try and cross him over." No, Nowitzki went to the post. When Collison denied, Nowitzki reposted. And when he got him to the elbow, there was no "NICK COLLISON: DIRK STOPPER" film playing at the Cineplex. It was just the German Shake And Bake show. 

Down 10 with 3:14 to go, it was a top of the key, pump-fake-drive-and-pull-up from the left elbow, forcing Collison to go full-speed then put on the brakes. How does a 7-foot lanky 32-year-old get to his pull-up so fast? At the 1:30 mark? Nowitzki went to the same move. Top of the key pump-fake-and-go, except when Collison anticipated it and jumped to the elbow, Nowitzki pivoted to the middle, then kicked back on a fadeaway. It's an impossible shot. It's an incredible shot. It should not have gone in any sane world. Swish.

You can say a player puts a team on his back, but with the Mavericks facing an insurmountable deficit, the Mavericks' franchise player was there. The man who has led them to so many wins, and yet been so often overlooked in his career, came up ... no, did not come up ... took over the game and put the Mavericks one home game away of winning the Western Conference.

It was supposed to be the Lakers' three-peat. It was supposed to be the rise of the young Thunder. Instead it's Nowitzki's universe. And we're all just watching Dirk work.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 7:41 pm

LiveChat: Thunder-Mavericks WCF Game 4

Join us at 9 p.m. EST for a livechat for the Thunder and Mavericks Game 4. Here's a brief list of things we bet won't come up at all. 

Fun starts at 9 p.m. EST.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 9:22 am
Edited on: May 23, 2011 11:42 am

Playoff Fix: Do the Thunder have the horses?

The Western Conference Finals have become about offense. Do the Thunder have enough to overcome the Mavs and even the series?

Posted by Matt Moore

One Big Thing: The Eastern Conference Finals are a slugfest. The Western Conference Finals are a trackmeet. In Game 3, the Thunder tried to get into a war of attrition with a team running circles on them. The result was either going to be Oklahoma City landing body blows which completely disable Dallas or OKC getting run over like the Mavericks were a stampede. Moo. The Thunder like to pride themselves on being a great defensive unit, only,  the thing is, they're not. They were 13th in defensive efficiency in the regular season, and have the worst defensive efficiency of the four Conference Finalists, just worse than Dallas. The Thunder can't actually stop anyone, which causes a much bigger problem against the best offense in the playoffs (Dallas) than it did against, say, Memphis. 

The Thunder were one-for-seven-hundred-thousand (that's just a guesstimate, it could have been more) behind the arc in Game 3 and couldn't get anything to fall. The reality is that were it not for the Thunder's uncanny ability to draw foul after foul with their relentless drives to the basket, Game 3 would have been much more out of hand than it was. The big thing for the Thunder has to be getting their offense on track. You can't bring a knife to a gunfight. The Thunder can't bring a bottle rocket to a heavy artillery battle. The offense has to come unplugged.

The X-Factor: Jose Juan Barea is just killing the Thunder in tiny ways. Barea's biggest contribution comes on his probe dribble, looping under the basket and testing the defense. It creates a collapsing effect by the Thunder defense which leaves shooters open on the perimeter. With the kind of perimeter passers the Mavs have, that means open looks for great shooters, and buckets on buckets. Even in the pick and roll, Barea is hurting Oklahoma City. In Game 3,the Mavs put James Harden on Barea to body him, but Barea is so fast he's able to get too much separation on the pick and roll. Throw in the fact Barea's jumper is falling consistently and you have a huge problem for the Thunder. They can survive Jason Terry, especially with Terry struggling in the series. Can't survive lil' Jub Jub Barea also having a huge series. 

The Adjustment: The Mavericks have managed to go through three games of this series without using the zone they've tested out in the past. The aggressive strength of the Dallas wing defenders has helped them get a leg up in the series. With the Mavericks looking for the knock-out punch in Game 4, now might be the time to use it for Rick Carlisle. If he can keep the Thunder out of the paint, forcing them to be a jump-shooting team, there's a better than 50-50 chance the Thunder won't be able to get the offense they need to even the series. It's a risk, but not a greater one than allowing James Harden and Russell Westbrook an unimpeded path to the rim and free throw line on every possession. The Thunder's confidence is shaken, now may be the time for a defensive tweak to put them on the ropes. 

The Sticking Point: For all the ways the Mavericks have run away with parts of this series, it's been close and the series is still just 2-1 with a chance for OKC to pull even Monday night. The Thunder have been right there down the stretch and just haven't been able to get the stops. That's key. Late comebacks are going to be diffifcult in this series due to the high octane offense on both sides and poor defense as mentioned above. Teams can hold the lead because the opponent can't get stops. Which means it's critical for the Thunder to come out and correct the problems with energy and execution in the first quarter of Game 3. The Thunder have to get off to a hot start and develop their own lead, forcing the Mavericks to play from behind. Do that, and they can grind their way to a win at the free throw line. Get discombobulated again and OKC is going to be staring up from a pretty deep hole going back to Dallas for a possible close-out game for the Mavericks.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 12:47 am
Edited on: May 23, 2011 1:12 am

Three keys for Chicago to extend East finals

The Chicago Bulls dropped Game 3 against the Miami Heat, falling behind in the Eastern Conference finals 2-1. What needs to change for the Bulls to extend this series? Posted by Ben Golliver.


The Miami Heat not only won Game 3 on Sunday night, they took full control of their Eastern Conference finals series against the Chicago Bulls. In prevailing 96-85, Miami showed it was capable of playing defense as well as Chicago has played it all season and that it could find new ways to pick apart the Bulls with their three-headed monster attack. In turn, forward Chris Bosh delivered a game-high 34 points.

The Heat's win clearly sets up Game 4 as the swing game. Should Chicago prevail, this series is almost certainly going seven games. But if Miami should hold court at home? The Bulls would be faced with the prospect of winning three straight in an elimination scenario. Good luck with that.

Here's three things that need to happen for the pendulum of momentum to swing back the other way.

1. Derrick Rose needs to find his rhythm

Following Game 1, the post-game talk centered around how well Luol Deng and Chicago's team defense were able to contain LeBron James. In Game 3, especially during the second half, the same points apply for how Miami handled Derrick Rose. Clearly, he was frustrated and forced off of his game.

The Heat committed lots of bodies to the cause, doubling Rose, stepping into his driving lanes and remaining very active in the passing lanes as well. In handling the double teams, Rose said: "I've been trying to beat it with the pass, I have to be more aggressive."

Yes and no. While LeBron James helped seal the win by picking off a Rose crosscourt pass and taking it to the house over Kyle Korver, Rose also committed multiple turnovers by driving too hard into traffic, either losing control of the ball or getting hit with a player control foul. It's a bit of a paradox, but he needs to be both more aggressive and less aggressive simultaneously (if that's possible).

A return to controlled, timely aggression is probably the best way to put it. 

Here's a look at James' steal and finish in transition.

2. Backcourt scoring desperately needed

Rose's reads would be easier and his drives to the bucket more effective and productive if he was getting anything -- anything at all -- from his backcourt mates. Chicago guards not named Rose combined for 13 points on 5-14 shooting. Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson also combined to attempt just four three-pointers in 63 minutes.

If you're wondering why there's no room in the paint, look no further than the fact that Luol Deng is the only player on the entire roster that approximates a floor-spacer right now. Like a football team with no deep threat option, the Bulls haven't made the Heat pay for overloading. It was the same story in Game 2: Deng took seven three-pointers while Bogans, Korver, Brewer and Watson combined to shoot 2-10 from deep. 

If those numbers don't change in a meaningful way, it doesn't matter how well Chicago plays defense. They're toast.

3. Energy differential

Both teams competed incredibly hard on Sunday night, and Chicago was hampered by the fact that Joakim Noah's activity level was hampered by early foul trouble, throwing their rotation off. Coaches always talk about who has the "edge," though, and in small ways it was Miami. Most obviously, it was the play of Bosh, who came out aggressive and never looked back, sizing up open shots and seizing the opportunity to take his defenders off the dribble. 

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau pointed to his team's failures to defend Bosh as a prime reason for the loss. In particular, he didn't like how his team closed out on Bosh once Miami's other players had attacked the paint. "We gave him too much space. We didn't challenge his shot properly. We didn't give the appropriate help ... You have to protect the paint and then get back out. I don't think we did that... We've got to get up and challenge their shots better. Rebounding was good, challenging their shots wasn't."

Carlos Boozer, Bosh's match-up, was no statistical slouch either, dumping in 26 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. But Bosh was simply a more impactful player in the fourth quarter, scoring eight straight points to help push Miami out of Chicago's reach.

The Bulls never gave up, but they didn't have enough activity, especially offensively, to pull the game back within reach.

"Our will wasn't there tonight," Rose concluded. It will need to be there in Game 4 or Miami can book its NBA Finals tickets. 
Posted on: May 22, 2011 9:05 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 5:14 am

Joakim Noah caught using gay slur towards fan

Did Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah get caught uttering the same slur that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined for? Posted by Ben Golliver.

During Sunday night's telecast of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah appeared to direct profane language, and possibly a gay slur, toward someone seated behind the Bulls bench.

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Back in April, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was caught on a television broadcast using similar language toward an NBA official and was eventually fined $100,000 by the NBA league office.

The exchange occurred after Noah was whistled for his second foul with more than six minutes remaining in the first quarter. Noah was whistled for an over the back call after attempting to tap in a Carlos Boozer miss. Noah came from behind Heat forward LeBron James to tap the ball near the cylinder and made contact with his body. After briefly arguing the call, Noah headed straight for the Bulls bench and began barking at someone seated behind him and to his right.

Noah then appeared to yell a string of profanities and finished with what appears to be the exact phrase that Bryant was fined for using. The only difference: Noah was not addressing one of the officials.

The Associated Press reported immediately after Game 3 that Noah "is acknowledging saying 'something' toward a fan" and that the NBA "declined immediate comment" on the incident. 

Jamey Eisenberg reports for CBSSports.com that Noah issued an apology on Sunday night after Game 3.
"I just got caught up," Noah said after the Heat beat the Bulls 96-85 to take a 2-1 series lead. "I didn't mean any disrespect. ... A fan said something, and I said something back. I apologize."

When asked if he expects to be fined, Noah said, "I don't know what's going to happen."
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that Noah expanded a bit at Chicago's Monday morning shootaround.
"Yesterday, I made some comments that were pretty disrespectful. After I picked up my second foul, I said some things. I was pretty upset about it, and I said some things that I shouldn't have said. I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. It wasn't right, and I'm going to deal with the consequences."
Berger also reports that Bulls forward Taj Gibson said Noah was the target of a stream of abuse from an intoxicated fan.
"The guy just kept going. I know the crowd looked at the guy too, like, 'Come on man, leave him alone. It's over.' But the guy just kept going. ... It was the usual, but in that circumstances, it was heavy because he was really loud. And he was a big guy, too. He was intoxicated. When I saw him, I was surprised, because he just kept going and going. Normally a fan may say a couple of things and then sit down. But he just kept going and going, and it was Joakim the whole time."
In a video statement released on Bulls.com on Monday, Noah said he was ready to "deal with the consequences."
"Yesterday I made some comments that were pretty disrespectful after I picked up a second foul. I came out of the game and a fan said something to me and I was really upset about it. I said some things I shouldn't have said. I don't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. It wasn't right and I'm going to deal with the consequences. But right now what's really frustrating is that we have a game to worry about and I don't want to be a distraction to the team. I think all of our focus and all of our energy has to be on that right now."
Immediately after the incident, NBA analysts and media members took to Twitter to predict that Noah would be fined by the NBA league office. "Because the NBA fined Kobe, you think they'll have to fine Noah," CNBC's Darren Rovell tweeted. "But it's really the luck of the draw whether you're caught on TV."

"No question he said exactly what Kobe said," SI.com's Zach Lowe added. "Get that $100k ready, Joakim."

Here's video of Noah's profanity-laced exchange.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com