Tag:2011 First Round
Posted on: April 27, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: April 27, 2011 1:08 am

Danny Granger: Joakim Noah is a 'dirty player'

Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger calls Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah a "dirty player." Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Chicago Bulls eliminated the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night but the Pacers did not go quietly into that good night.

No, Pacers forward Danny Granger, who opened the series by saying he thought the Boston Celtics were better than the Bulls, got in multiple shots at Bulls center Joakim Noah. Noah was involved in skirmishes with both Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough. McRoberts was ejected from Game 5 after retaliating to a Noah elbow.

Granger put it very bluntly to the Associated Press: "He's a dirty player, honestly."

ESPNChicago.com took down Granger's extended comments.
"He pulled a cowardly move," Granger said. "He cheap-shotted a couple of my teammates, and one gets thrown out ... 
"The refs never catch what he did ... it's cowardly. And I'm going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don't think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand."
Granger is developing a reputation for smack talk after he threatened violence against the Toronto Raptors back in March.

Look, to their credit, the Pacers were pretty much delusional throughout this series. They were convinced they could win, they played extraordinarily hard, they were badly outmatched and they didn't give up. It's a frustrating feeling to give it your all and still wind up short. 

Obviously, the frustration boiled over here. For Granger, the frustration runs particularly deep because he's a third tier superstar in a small market with no hope of attracting a running mate. He's stuck and he knows it. This is his destiny: being bullied by the league's best teams year after year.

Even given those circumstances, though, there's no excuse. Go out the bigger person with your head held high. Be remembered for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 12:24 am

Kobe Bryant dunks on Emeka Okafor video

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant throws down the dunk of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Posted by Ben Golliver.

We have a clear winner for the best dunk of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. During the second quarter of Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets, Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant elevated like it was 1999. 

With the Lakers trailing 44-40, Bryant collected a kick out pass from Lakers forward Pau Gasol at the top of the key. Hornets forward Trevor Ariza was caught out of position and Bryant attacked the paint at full speed. With none of New Orleans' bigs stepping up to stop his penetration, Bryant simply decided to go airborne. Hornets center Emeka Okafor, a shot-blocking specialist, attempted to contest Bryant's dunk attempt, but it was too little, too late. Bryant threw down a vicious one-handed slam over Okafor. 

Here's video of Bryant putting Okafor on the poster.

Entering the game, there was talk about whether Bryant would be able to be effective on his sprained left ankle. I guess we have our answer.

Update: In the third quarter, Bryant did it again, blowing by Ariza off the dribble to throw down a left-handed slam dunk over Hornets forward Carl Landry.

Here's video.

Posted on: April 26, 2011 11:08 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 12:09 am

Series in Review: Bulls-Pacers

Posted by Royce Young

The Bulls finally put away the pesky Indiana Pacers, 116-89, taking the series in five games. For once the Bulls looked like the dominant team they are, and handled the Pacers in virtually every way. Let's review:

Series MVP: Derrick Rose

No doubt about it. With his team needing him, he stepped up in a big way, on a sprained ankle, in Game 5 to drop 25 points in 30 minutes. That total included a barrage of 3s in the third to essentially sink the Pacers. He wasn't his usual, terrific self, shooting just 35 percent from the floor. And he took too many 3s (over seven a game). But Rose was deffinitely the difference in this series. The fact the Bulls got out in five despite poor contributions from the supporting cast is pretty impressive.

Best Play: Rose's block and layup

What an incredible flurry from Rose in Game 1. He had ESPN color man Jon Barry giggling manically throughout, and with good reason.

Best Moment: Korver's Game 1 3-point to seal it

Korver hit a number of big shots in this series, but his 3 in the final minute of Game 1 to give the Bulls the lead was just special. It was one of those playoff moments that Bulls' fans will remember for a long while. Rose had taken over, but in that big spot he made the right play and found his shooter open for 3. And Korver did his job.

Worst Moment: Josh McRoberts

McRoberts got away with an unprovoked elbow at Derrick Rose's head in Game 4, but the way he went after Joakim Noah in Game 5 was just ridiculous. It's one thing to take a shot at a guy, but to go for it a second time when he's backing away is pretty stupid. His last moment from the 2010-11 season wasn't a good one.

Worst Moment Runner-up: The attack of hippie camera dude

It has to be mentioned that Darren Collison was forced to miss the entire second half of Game 2 because he stepped on the foot of a cameraman on the baseline. What a shame that happened and potentially altered the outcome of that game.

Most Disappointing Player: Carlos Boozer

It's pretty bad when you could say the Bulls would've won this series with or without Boozer. He was that much of a non-factor. He had 17 points and 16 rebounds in Game 2, but even that was a bit of an aberration (he had 13 in the first half). Averaging just 12.0 points per game on 37 percent shooting isn't good enough for Boozer, especially if the Bulls want to challenge for a championship.

Most Surprising Moment: Kyle Korver made a layup

In Game 5. I swear, I saw it.

Making a Name: Paul George

The Pacer rookie got the assignment of guarding Rose down the stretch in each game, and he did pretty well. George has a little way to go offensively, but in terms of being an elite wing defender, he has potential. Frank Vogel spoke of George having some 17 deflections in Game 1, which is pretty impressive. A good wing defender is almost as valuable as a good wing scorer, and George may be that guy in the future for Indiana.

Theme of the Series: Missed opportunities

The Pacers had the chance to be up 1-0. Then they had a chance to even it at 1-1. Then they had a chance to cut it to 2-1. Of course, in the crunch, Indiana just couldn't execute. The Bulls were the better team easily, but the Pacers can certainly look back and think a bit on the "What if's" from this series.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 11:25 pm

Grading the series: Bulls top Pacers in 5

Posted by Royce Young


Derrick Rose: It was a bit of an up and down series for Rose. If you just gloss over the boxscore numbers, it looks like he did pretty well (28.3 points and 6.3 assists per game). But spanning Games 3 and 4, Rose really struggled shooting the ball (35 percent for the series). A bit too often, he settled for the 3 (over seven a game), and didn't really command the game the way you'd hope a future MVP would.

That said, he was pretty excellent in Game 5 and, overall, played a good series. He's the reason the Bulls got away from the Pacers in just five games. He battled through an ankle sprain to play his best game of the series. That said a lot about his toughness, and, behind him, his team finally turned in a solid, complete game of basketball. High marks overall for Rose.

Grade: B+

Tom Thibodeau: I think, quietly, Thibodeau managed this series extremely well. It was subtle because he didn't deviate much from the regular season plan, but one move I especially took note of was his decision to stick with Kurt Thomas in Game 1 down the stretch, instead of going to Carlos Boozer. That added toughness and grit from Thomas ended up landing the Bulls a big offensive rebound to seal the game. Thibodeau didn't push every correct button, but he stayed consistent to the gameplan that worked to win Chicago 62 games this season.

And in his first playoff series, he got out in five games. Not bad.

Grade: A-

The supporting cast: If you're looking for a word, it's inconsistent. Luol Deng was solid, averaging 17.3 ppg in the series. Joakim Noah was his usual self. Kyle Korver hit some big shots. But overall, Chicago's role players didn't step up consistently the way they did during the regular season. Taj Gibson was great in Game 5, but that was really the ony game he had an impact. Ronnie Brewer was a non-factor all five games, and Carlos Boozer was pretty much a disappointment.

Going forward, they need to be better. And I'm sure they know it.

Grade: C

Overall grade: There was definitely a good push by the Bulls in Game 5 to raise this mark. They played easily their best game, making shots, rebounding, playing defense and playing together. But, other than that, the other four games were a complete struggle versus the weakest team in the playoff field. I've gone over it ad nauseum, but Chicago was just a couple minutes away from losing an extra game, or two.

Alas, they won in five. A sweep would've been ideal, but it was clear early on that this Pacer team was ready to fight. And they did. Winning is the important part in the postseason, and the East's top seed is advancing unscathed.

Grade: B


Danny Granger: Indiana's star was pretty good overall. He hit some big shots, made some big plays and was probably the biggest reason the Pacers stole a game. But he's also a reason they didn't steal at least one more.

Granger's disappearance in crunch time in Games 1 and 2 ultimately doomed their chances of coming out of Chicago with a big win to start the series. That's partially his fault and partially a product of the stellar Bulls defense. He could've been better, but, keep in mind, he did have Luol Deng on him for five games.

Grade: B

Frank Vogel: Indiana's interim coach earned a job next season in my mind. He had his guys convinced they could win. He talked them up. He had them believing, which is the first job of an underdog coach. The Pacers never wavered and, really, Indiana's gameplan was rock solid throughout.

A few of his rotations were a bit curious and the fact the Pacers seemed to run away from Roy Hibbert was odd. But in Vogel's maiden voyage into the postseason, without even the actual head coaching position, he should win himself a new title for next season.

Grade: A

Homecourt advantage: Down 3-0, I realize some of the excitement and air is let out of your balloon. But to let the enemy fill up half your arena? That's pretty ridiculous. The Pacer fans that were there were loud and did their part, but the ones that sold off to Bulls' fans? Shame.

Grade: D+

Overall grade: The Pacers were in that great position of not having much expected of them. Winning even a game was seen as a big victory for them. Still, being so close to actually making this a series has to be a bit disappointing. Yes, they were completely overmatched by a more talented team. But a rebound here, a few more free throws or a good stop there and this Game 5 isn't ending their season.

A great effort from them though. You can't fault that. They played the NBA's best regular season team tooth and nail for four games before running out of gas. It was admirable.

Grade: A-
Posted on: April 26, 2011 5:05 pm

Kobe refuses MRI and X-ray, likely to play

Posted by Royce Young

Kobe Bryant doesn't want to hear any bad news. So he's putting his fingers in his ears and saying "la la la la la."

After spraining his ankle in Game 4 against the Hornets, Bryant was expected to receive and X-ray and MRI to make sure there was no structural damage on it. Instead, Kobe said thanks but no thanks.

Via ESPN LA, Kobe refused both. He's likely to play according to Phil Jackson, but nobody knows what kind of damage there is to Kobe's ankle. Obviously the reason for it is, Kobe plans on playing no matter what his status is and he doesn't want some team doctor telling the front office he's risking further injury. So to avoid any chance of being held out, Kobe passed on both tests.

It's probably pretty stupid, but it's also very Kobe. Not only does it make him sound like a tough, play-through-anything player which is great PR, but it also speaks to what he really is -- a tough, play-through-anything player.

Kobe did not speak with reporters Monday or Tuesday, but Jackson acted like it was no doubt Bryant would play. "He's very hopeful," he said. As far as how healthy he is, Jackson said, "It will be a game-thing, who knows?"

With the Hornets evening the series at 2-2, Kobe doesn't feel like he can risk anything. Who knows how effective he'll be and if he'll guard Chris Paul again. I would think that would be difficult considering how quickly Paul can change directions.

But just having him on the floor is a boost to the team and everyone in the arena. He's making a statement to his guys right here. Doesn't matter what the MRI would've said. It could say I tore every ligament in my ankle. I'm playing. Whether or not that turns out to be a good decision is yet to be seen. But even a 60 percent Kobe is pretty much better than any replacement the Lakers would roll out there.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 2:24 pm

Vogel: Win tonight, win the series

Posted by Royce Young

No team has ever come back from three games to zero in NBA history. There's two sides of thought that sort of stat. That means a series is over if you get yourself in a 3-0 hole or that just means NBA history is waiting to be made.

Evidently, Pacer interim coach Frank Vogel is of the latter category.

He said today, "We feel like if we win this game tonight, we’ll win the series.”

Vogel is nothing if not bold, energetic and full of optimism. That's who he is and one of the reasons he's helped pull this Pacer team together and not only get to the postseason, but make a pretty good showing against the top-seeded Bulls.

It's not like he guaranteed victory or anything. He just expressed some confidence in his group. All of us on the outside pretty much know this series is over, but the Pacers still have at least one game to play. Don't try and tell them not to show up to the United Center tonight. They have a game and they intend to win.

I remember when the 2004 Red Sox pulled off their infamous comeback over the Yankees, first baseman Kevin Millar was walking around before Game 4 saying, "They better not let us win this game. They better not." It's all about mindset. And Millar and his group of "idiots" convinced themselves that if they could just get one, they could get three more.

And this shot of confidence from Vogel is of that same line of thinking. He's telling his guys, you win this one, you can win again. And again. Because let's face it: It's not like the Bulls have completely outclassed the Pacers. Really, Chicago is fairly lucky to even be where its at. If the Pacers were to pull off another stunner tonight, they'd be taking the series to a Game 6 at home with a chance to force a Game 7.

Plus they'd have momentum and added pressure placed on the Bulls. He knows what he's doing here. He's a motivator. He's trying to comvince his guys to believe this isn't over. Win just one more for me and we can do this! It sounds pretty stupid because again, history says it's not happening but at some point the NBA will find its 2004 Red Sox. Vogel is asking his guys to write some history with him. He's asking, "Why not us?"

Here's why not: Because the Bulls have Derrick Rose and Indiana doesn't. It's fun to talk about though, right?
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 2:24 pm

Pippen thinks Boozer is wasting fouls

Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen is not amused by Carlos Boozer's lack of hard fouls in the playoffs. 
Posted by Matt Moore

(image courtesy of Getty Images, EOB illustration )

Bulls fans are discovering the same thing Jazz fans have been saying for years. Yeah, Carlos Boozer is a great post player offensively with nice touch. But his defense is bad. Not "problematic" or "below-excellent." It's bad. He gets taken off the dribble, backed down in the post, worked over, inside and out, doesn't rotate well and has trouble closing. That's just who he is. The whole season he's been available, Tom Thibodeau has done a tremendous job covering for him with his system, to the point where it's unlikely to be the deciding factor in if the Bulls win the championship. But in a series that turned out to be much closer than expected, with the Bulls up 3-1 but still not able to come away with a convincing win against the Pacers, there are some questions about the Bulls' defense, and how tough if its. Especially when you start asking questions about why the Pacers are hammering Derrick Rose with hard fouls every time he enters the lane and Darren Collison skates through. And those questions aren't just coming from fans. 

They're coming from Hall of Fame Bulls. Scottie Pippen spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times about the fouls Boozer's leaving on the floor, and M.J.'s running mate isn't too pleased with how that's gone. 
‘‘They’ve all got two legs and two arms,’’ the six-time NBA champion said. ‘‘You’ve got Carlos Boozer out there who’s spending fouls and a lot of his fouls are not needed at the time that he’s giving them. Those could be hard fouls. Those could be fouls that you knock a [Darren] Collison to the floor, you knock a [Jeff] Foster to the floor.

‘‘Utilize your fouls and make them more valuable for you and your team.’’
via Bulls’ Derrick Rose likely to play despite sore ankle - Chicago Sun-Times .

Pippen's not so much with the watching of the Jazz the last few years, is he? That's not who Boozer is. Never has been, and at his age, never will be. 

Boozer's defense in this series actually hasn't been bad. His numbers in ISO and spot-up defense from Synergy Sports are actually pretty decent.   He's only been posted on defense four times, though he's given three scores in that frame. As long as the Bulls don't have to play anyone with dual posting threats, they should be fine. But Pippen's point remains. If the Pacers are going to take shots at Rose aimed to send a message, the Bulls' bigs have to respond in kind. Joakim Noah is clearly willing to do so, as is Kurt Thomas. But Boozer?

Well, Boozer's willing to yell a lot, if that helps. 

(Note: It does not.)
Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 2:08 pm

Is this panic time for the Los Angeles Lakers?

The New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers head into Game 5 tied at 2 games apiece. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Is it panic time for the Los Angeles Lakers? Not ... quite ... yet. But there are certainly reasons for it to feel that way, as their playoff series with the New Orleans Hornets is tied 2-2.

The biggest reason, of course, is Chris Paul's electric brilliance and will. Paul has engineered two wins so far this series, breaking down L.A.'s defense off the dribble and stubbornly carrying his team through Laker runs, imbuing a relatively weak supporting cast with confidence in the face of L.A.'s size and skill.

The second biggest reason is the status of Kobe Bryant's sprained ankle. As of Tuesday, Bryant was refusing tests on the ankle and saying that he would play in Game 5. Bryant has shown the ability to adjust his shot while playing on a bum ankle, but it's his lateral movement on defense that is of larger concern. The Lakers have used him to bump and bother Paul, sometimes in full-court manner, and a bad wheel makes that process infinitely more difficult and painful. Paul made it clear he was ready for war with Bryant in Game 4 and surely Bryant is up to the challenge. How will playing with pain affect his decision-making and shot selection? Will Lakers coach Phil Jackson adjust his minutes in any way, or use it as an excuse to pound the ball inside more often, particularly early?

Any time you're dealing with a superstar you struggle to stop, as well as an injury to your own superstar, it's enough to raise the blood pressure. But L.A. has won twice in this series already, still possesses home court advantage and can take solace in the fact that superhero efforts don't come along every night. 

Indeed, this series has been as much about players 4-10 as it has been about Paul vs. Bryant. During the Hornets wins, New Orleans' bench averaed 28.5 points per game (a figure propped up a bit by a monster Game 1). During Lakers wins, New Orleans' bench averaged 11 points per game. Hornets shooters -- Marco Belinelli, Willie Green and Jarrett Jack -- are the definition of "hot or not." They've proven to be inconsistent through four games. It's possible, if not probable, they could prove to be unreliable over the next three, despite Paul's best efforts to make their lives easy.

Similarly, L.A.'s bench has been up and down this series, although the peaks and valleys aren't as steep. In Hornets wins, the Lakers bench is averaging 19.5 points per game. In Lakers wins, L.A.'s bench is averaging 23.5 points per game. The headliner in those numbers is, of course, Lamar Odom, who presented New Orleans with a lot of problems in Games 2 and 3, but simply couldn't buy a basket in Game 4. Plus, he wasn't consistently assertive enough to make up for it at the free throw line, on defense, or on the glass. A return to form from Odom would go a long way to easing the burden on Bryant, and his ankle. It would also likely push New Orleans to the brink. 

And that's why it's not yet panic time. If the choice is between expecting Odom to bounce back at home and crossing your fingers that Belinelli, Green and/or Jack show up on the road, you'd pick "Option A" every time. So it's not yet panic time, but there's no longer any margin for error or room for excuses.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com