Tag:2011 WC Conference Semifinals
Posted on: May 8, 2011 1:14 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 1:38 am
 

Playoff Fix: Lakers play for pride first

The Los Angeles Lakers look to avoid the sweep, trailing the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals. Posted by Ben Golliver.
kobe-fish

DALLAS LEADS 3-0

One Big Thing: Getting swept out of the playoffs is the ultimate shot to the pride for an NBA team defending its title. For the Lakers, as cocky and proud as NBA champions get, losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday would amount to a crisis of character, and that's why the major protagonists, coach Phil Jackson and guard Kobe Bryant, are so adamant in their denials that it will happen. Getting swept would ruin a lot of storylines: Jackson riding off into the sunset and Bryant as Jordan redux, not to mention spoiling the three-peat. Game 4, then, is about pride first. While Bryant still believes the Lakers can take the series, first they must save some face.

The X-Factor: The return of Ron Artest from his one-game suspension for clotheslining could be a really good thing, or a really bad thing. On one hand, his presence should shore up L.A.'s perimeter defense, which was out of position and slow to close out to Dallas' shooters in Game 3. On the other, he's been inconsistent throughout the playoffs and forces Lamar Odom back to the bench following the one decent offensive game he's played in the series. The Lakers badly need "fully locked in and making plays" Artest, but have only had "distant look in his eyes, what's he going to do next?" Artest for the last week or two. He's as prideful as anyone on the roster, though, so perhaps he has a last stand left in him.

The Adjustment: Kobe Bryant's "Hero Mode" has its faults, but this is the rare occasion when he needs to do more offensively, a lot more. Bryant was overly deferential in Game 3, scoring just 17 points on 16 shots. He tallied six assists, the most he had put up since Game 4 against the Hornets, but he came up empty late in the game. L.A. simply looked lost and discombobulated down the stretch and while a ball-hogging Bryant doesn't necessarily correct that problem, it at least gives the team a direction. This is a legacy game for Bryant, in that a no-show becomes a fairly big stain on the resume while a big night, win or lose, would help him save some face.  

The Sticking Point:
 The biggest issue for Bryant has been his transformation, almost overnight, into a one-dimensional jumpshooter. A man who as recently as a few weeks ago was arguably the toughest cover in the league (at least top five) has seen vast swatches of his game evaporate. Consider this: Bryant is 31-for-65 from the field against the Mavericks in the first three games of this series. According to Hoopdata.com, Bryant is a combined 3-8 on shots from inside 10 feet. In other words, a full 88% of his attempts are mid-range jumpshots or further! By comparison, that number was a much more reasonable 60% during the regular season.

Bryant's free throw attempts are down too: He's averaging less than four attempts per game against the Mavericks after taking more than seven per game during the regular season. Given that L.A. has yet to top 94 points in the series, you'd like to see the opposite effect. If the team is struggling to score, Bryant should be driving more aggressively. 

The question for Game 4 is really quite simple: Is Bryant still capable of willing the Lakers to victory?
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:59 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 10:34 pm
 

Russell Westbrook and the evolving blame-game

Posted by Royce Young



Russell Westbrook was playing a fantastic game. One that was bringing his critics back around. One that was reminding people was an incredible talent he is at just 22 years old and in his third year as a pro. He was creating, dishing, scoring and finishing.

He had the Thunder cooking the Grizzlies, taking them up to a 16-point lead as he racked up assists and played a solid, controlled game. Oklahoma City looked downright dominant and appeared to be cruising to a 2-1 series lead and regaining the homecourt advantage.

But things felt apart in a big way the final six minutes of the fourth quarter. Spanning to overtime, where OKC lost 101-93, the Thunder went eight minutes without a basket, missed 11 straight shots and scored just 17 points the final 17 minutes, including overtime.

Most everyone with a Twitter account, a blog or even a voice pinned it all directly on the shoulders of Westbrook. Most saw it being his fault for stopping the ball, for not getting it to Kevin Durant, for killing the Thunder's chances to win this game. And you haven't heard the last of it. It's just going to get worse the more people stew on this game.

From my eyes, though, I just didn't see it that way. I'm evidently very much in the minority, but I just refuse to place the blame on Westbrook for Game 3's incredible meltdown.

Does he deserve a big slice of blame? Definitely. Probably one right out of the middle of the pie. With lots of icing. He didn’t do the things those last six minutes that he had done up to that point. The first 42 minutes, he was fantastic. Setting up teammates, scoring in rhythm, making good decisions — it was beautiful. But with the Thunder trying to hang on a lead, a lot of that flew right out the door.

Not entirely because of Westbrook, though. Again, he’s absolutely got blood on his hands. He might even be holding the knife. He entered the fourth quarter with 12 assists and finished the game with that number. That’s all on him.

But I have to stop short of joining the bash party and piling on Westbrook's game.

What the Thunder looked like those last few minutes was a team up by a touchdown and content to just run the ball three times into an eight-man front and punt. They wound the clock down with a lot of dribbling, then brought Kevin Durant to the top of the key and tried to isolate him there. But, because of great ball-denial and the fact Durant didn’t position well enough to actually receive the ball, Westbrook was basically left with a ticking time bomb in his hands. The play was a dud and he was left standing there having to make a play with five on the shot clock.

Where Westbrook failed was that he then put his nose down and tried to just make a play on his own. It was all up to him after the initial, one-option play crumbled, but he still could have drawn the defense and dished. He could've gone all the way to the rim. He settled instead for jumpers — mostly good looks too, I’d say — that he didn’t make. The offense went entirely stale, the ball stopped and nobody moved. Is that Westbrook’s fault? Or is it a product of the play call coming from the sideline? That’s the question I’m asking right now.

Everyone is griping that Durant didn’t see the ball much in those moments, but again, he was in no position to score. The Thunder basically ran the same stuff that killed Denver in Game 5 where Durant took over and started etching his name into playoff lore. Difference here was Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler weren’t on Durant. Tony Allen is terrific in ball denial and can stop Durant’s dribble. Durant just doesn’t have the ability to put the ball on the floor more than twice and get a good shot over Allen. It’s not happening.

But at any point did you really see a time where Durant was open and Westbrook truly looked him off? What I saw was Durant hovering around the 3-point line with his hand up, not moving. I mean with four on the shot clock, what do you want Westbrook to do? Kick it out there and let his buddy fire from 30 feet? Why does KD deserve the ball if he’s 30 feet from the basket, not moving and covered? How is that Westbrook being a bad point guard?

I know I’ve seen Westbrook succeed in exactly what he tried to do Saturday at least 20 times during the regular season. I’ve seen him take over when the other options (or this case, option) was locked down. It’s the great luxury the Thunder have had all season long, and the reason this team won 55 games.

Because, let’s face it, it’s not like Durant was absolutely pouring it on the Grizzlies and Westbrook was waving him off. Durant finished the game just 2-11 from the floor and I’m not sure he got a clean look in the bunch. What people tell me about that though, is that’s somehow Westbrook’s fault. You’ve got to get him in a better position to score! You’ve got to set up teammates! You’ve got to create better looks! True, yes. But what do you want Westbrook to do — shoot and make Durant's shots for him too?

At some point, it’s about Durant getting himself open. If you’re open, Russ will find you. Those last five minutes, nobody was. I won't blame Westbrook for that. I blame horrific team offense and questionable play-calling from Brooks. Not just Westbrook playing hero and trying to start some alpha dog battle, as most would make you think.

Prepare for a comparison you’re going to hate, but I want to say it: If Dwyane Wade did exactly what Westbrook did in this game, would everyone freak out? I realize Westbrook isn’t Wade, but he is an All-Star and averaging better than 20 points a game this season. But if Wade tried to take over and LeBron was left standing with a hand up on the 3-point line, would we all yell, curse his name and place an incredible amount of blame on him? Or would we just say, "Hey, Wade's a great scorer and he's capable of taking over too." That's my point here. It's not like this was Royal Ivey trying to make something happen.

Why the Thunder quit running the offense late in the fourth is beyond me. Maybe it was indeed Westbrook, but it really appeared to be more a product of the Thunder trying to kill clock, get the ball to Durant and let him finish. It’s a good plan in principle, but it didn’t work. The cutting, moving, screening and slashing disappeared. And Westbrook is left to pick up the pieces and rescue each bad possession by making a play.

It's pretty unfair to single out Westbrook here simply because No. 35 is on the floor with him. Should the ball go there first? Yes. And if you re-watch, that was the design every time.

But once that option is shut down, you go to Plan B, which, in the Thunder's case, is a pretty good one. A lot of the criticism I see for Westbrook stems almost entirely from "Don't you see Kevin Durant over there!" and other sentences like that. I understand the idea there, but it's not really fair to me. Why does Derrick Rose get a free pass from dominating the ball and taking bad shots? Only because Durant isn’t on his team? That’s what people always tell me but it’s not like Rose is playing with two janitors, a ball boy and some hobo picked up from Navy Pier. Rose gets excused because he's a great offensive player. And so is Russell Westbrook.

It's the curse of being a scoring point guard. If someone were curling off a screen and doinking shots while Durant stood idly by, I don't think we'd say nearly as much about it.

Could he have done better? Obviously. The Thunder dropped a crucial Game 3 because the offense left early. Westbrook is the commander of that offense and he's got to do better. But blaming him only? Comparing him to Stephon Marbury? That's just, well, stupid.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Kobe Bryant predicts series win over Mavericks

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he thinks Los Angeles can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-fail

The Los Angeles Lakers' season could end as soon as Sunday night. Down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks with Game 4 in American Airlines Center, the Lakers will look to keep hople alive their season after three straight games featuring fourth quarter meltdowns. There has been plenty of blame to go around, 

While no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant not only still has hope, he's predicting a series victory.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," Bryant said after totaling 17 points and six assists in Game 3. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
We shouldn't expect less from Bryant, one of the league's most confident and decorated players. He isn't going to fold in the face of adversity, at least not publicly. With Games 4 and 6 still to be played in Dallas, however, L.A. faces an extremely tall order. It's better to go down with your head up, I suppose.

What happens in the very likely event that the Lakers aren't able to make good on Bryant's prediction? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explores that subject, saying that trades, possibly including some big names, are likely in L.A.'s future.

The New York Times notes that Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees with that assessment.
“If the Lakers lose this game, you’re going to have to blow it up,” Magic Johnson, the former Lakers great, said on ESPN. “This team has been together too long. It’s time for major changes for the Lakers.”
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:41 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 10:02 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Thunder: The collapsers



Posted by Matt Moore

If a team falls apart multiple times, they have a reputation as choke artists, collapsers, mentally weak. If a team creates those implosions on a regular basis, the onus is always put on the other team for failing to close. Welcome to the life of the Memphis Grizzlies after a drive past the Oklahoma City Thunder's 16-point lead into overtime, and on to a victory, gave them a 2-1 advantage in the series. Memphis won't get the credit for it. Sure, OKC will get the blame, but the reality is that there may be no better demolition team in the NBA right now than the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Thunder were the better team for the vast majority of Game 3. That's not home cookin'. It was a product of smart, crisp basketball on offense from the Thunder. And it came through brilliant shooting and ball movement, and physical, bordering on brutal, defense, especially inside. Zach Randolph was scoring, but needing a shot for every point, racking up turnovers, and was extremely frustrated. Marc Gasol couldn't get any of his touch shots to fall. Russell Westbrook's mid-range was falling. It was doom for the Grizzlies, who looked outclassed. 

Then, after building a solid structure of basketball for 3.5 quarters, the Grizzlies swept the legs of the structure out from within, and the Thunder collapsed under their own weight. Those legs were based on the play of Russell Westbrook, and what took them out was most surprising of all, O.J. Mayo

Mayo didn't have a great game. He couldn't get the runner to fall, wasn't hot from the perimeter. He shot just 30 percent from the field. Mayo's known as a pure scorer. Yet when called on to stop Westbrook and provide a spark, he brought the effort. That effort is what carried Memphis into the playoffs and it sparked the Grizzlies on Saturday. But Mayo couldn't do it alone. No, in coming back from 16 down, Mayo and the Grizzlies got a great contribution from... Russell Westbrook. 

Westbrook has the speed to blow by Mayo. He has the strength to back him down. Mayo too often gambles on the perimeter pass and hedges too hard on the screen-and-roll. Westbrook elected to dribble right into Mayo, and force mid-range contested jumper after mid-range contested jumper. Kevin Durant, who had been totally en fuego, was ignored just long enough for the fire to die out. The result was Durant's miss on a last-possession pull-up jumper, and Durant being unable to rediscover his shot.

Durant's last made field goal came with 7:43 to go in the fourth. He had three shots in the remainder of regulation, including the last possession... another Scott Brooks' special. Durant was 10-18 at 7:43. He would finish on an 0-6 run, thanks to the best defense Tony Allen has played all series. He played the passing lane hard, snatched steals, and on the other end, got out in transition. Allen drew fouls, but didn't hit layups. He missed free throws, but got one of two each time. The same kind of grind that got Memphis here. 

The Thunder will look at their defense, at their offense, at their composure. Scott Brooks needs to examine why James Harden, who may honestly be the best distributor OKC has with Westbrook playing as he is, isn't getting time in key situations. He may also question why Westbrook isn't getting the off-ball movement from other Thunder players to get him away from his poor decisions on pull-ups. The Grizzlies played terribly for most of the game. Zach Randolph was inefficient and frustrated. They shot 38 percent from the field, and allowed Serge Ibaka to score 14 points. And they won. 

So OKC goes back to the drawing board, having given up a 16-point lead to go down 2-1 with a scary Game 4 up next. The Thunder were minutes away from cementing themselves as the team in control of the series, possibly on their way to the Western Conference Finals. Instead, the house that Presti built imploded in on itself, another victim of the same thing that left the Spurs Palace in ruins: the other team just wanted it more. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Gasol says he needs to 'snap out of it'

Posted by Royce Young



It was obvious to Phil Jackson early on. I've seen Phil get animated, but during a break in the first half last night against the Mavericks, Jackson went right after Pau Gasol, even giving him a little bump in the chest with his fist. Later, Jackson zeroed in on Gasol again, giving him what some would call, a "butt-chewing."

Gasol got the message. His play didn't necessarily reflect it, but he says he got the message, according to Yahoo! Sports:

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

That's not good news for a team down 0-3. Also not good because Andrew Bynum was vocal after Game 2 about "trust issues." The Lakers are clearly having problems right now and most will point directly at Gasol. He's a player as responsible for their back-to-back titles as anyone, but within the triangle offense, it's almost as Pau goes, the Lakers go.

In this series, he's averaging just 13 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting. For the playoffs, the numbers are virtually the same. Against the Hornets, Gasol was a disappointment, but L.A. advanced because, well, they were playing Chris Paul and four dudes that stumbled in from Mardi Gras.

But against the Mavericks, it's another story. Not only is Gasol not contributing to the Laker offense, Dirk Nowitzki is torching him. According to ESPN State and Info, 27 of Dirk's 32 came with Gasol "on" him. (I put "on" in quotes because there were a few times where Gasol was decidedly not on him.) For the series, Nowitzki is shooting 19-25 from the floor for 42 points when Gasol checks him. That's ridiculous on Dirk's behalf and inexcusable on Gasol's.

Gasol's shimmering reputation as one of the most gifted big men in the league is taking a serious tarnishing right now. He's the focus of a lot of negativity. Andrew Bynum was visibly keyed in and aggressive all night. Gasol gave away an easy Jason Terry dunk at one point because he was barely holding on to the ball. Jackson claimed that was the play he first singled Gasol out on, but it's much more than that.

It speaks to the respect we all have for Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers that we haven't completely ruled them out from being the first team ever to come back from 0-3. (Or maybe that speaks to the Mavs. I don't know.) They aren't out of it until the buzzer sounds and Dallas has more points than them in a clinching fourth win. But if they have any dreams of getting there, any dreams of winning a third consecutive title, Gasol must absolutely snap out of it.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:40 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: The Panic Button

The Lakers have never had a reason to panic, until now. 
Posted by Matt Moore




There's never a good time to panic. It does you no good to freak out, and the only way to solve a problem that would call for such behavior is to behave in the exact opposite manner; with poise and control.  And for a championship team like the Lakers, there's no such thing as a panic button. They've been victorious too often, overcome too many challenges, risen up and simply been better in too many series. They don't know what the panic button looks like. 

But maybe they should after Game 3's stunning loss to the Mavericks, to go down 0-3. Maybe then they'd have some level of urgency in their play, some level of commitment to closing games. The Lakers we're witnessing are in many ways the ultimate embodiment of the team we've seen for years in L.A. . They assume they'll be better simply by having the talent. Victory is assured once they step on the floor, even if Ron Artest doesn't step on said floor. Instead, they've found themselves on the brink, as Dallas has surged ahead in every fourth quarter of this series. And what does Kobe Bryant say after the game?

“I might be sick in the head … because I still think we’re going to win the series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts.”

Bryant said he wasn't discouraged after the game. In the same calm, cool, collected manner, he exuded confidence bordering on arrogance, even after he started 5-5... and finished 3-11, with a key turnover late that may or may not have been Pau Gasol's fault. Bryant's not concerned because when he's had the manpower, he's never failed. 2005-2007? He could blame the roster. Not this one. This one is on the mindset, and that reflects its leader. So why is Bryant so calm, cool, and collected?
Because he can be. Because if any team can come back from an 0-3 deficit for the first time in league history, it's the Lakers, and if any team could cough it up, it's the Mavericks. It seems absurd that it has come to this, but it here we are. Bryant remains indignant to the idea that the Lakers should be concerned. After Game 2, Bryant told reporters that everyone was "trippin'" because they acted like no one had ever won two games before. In reality, they were talking about winning two games on the road after blowing your first two at home. Bryant never wavered from the script after Game 3, talking about mental mistakes like this was a game against Minnesota in February. There's maintaining your composure, and there's refusing to acknowledge your situation. 

There was discussion that the Lakers played "desperate" in Game 3, but we saw the same lazy rotations, the same deviation from effective strategy, the same failure to secure key plays. They are who they've been: a team with extremely talented players with superior physical attributes that doesn't respond when challenged. In years past, the Lakers would respond right when they had to in order to avoid hitting the panic button. 

Panicking won't help the Lakers win Game 4, or four straight, which is what they must do. But coming to terms with their situation may be the only way for the Lakers to really see where they've landed. There's a time for patience, confidence and even arrogance. 

That time has come and gone. If the Lakers can win this series, it will be the ultimate validator of their overconfidence. If they cannot, it will be the final verdict on a core that won two titles and yet infuriated its fans and too often played with the flame. 

Eventually you get burned. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:30 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:28 am
 

Mavericks stick to formula, go up 3-0 on Lakers

The Dallas Mavericks continue to play their game, taking a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
jet-flying

No team in the NBA playoffs is playing better than the Dallas Mavericks right now. 

After watching the Mavericks handle the Los Angeles Lakers, 98-92, to take an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series, there's really no argument. 

We talk all the time about teams "imposing their will" or "imposing their style of play". But, usually, that boils down to one of two things. 1) The bigger team pounds the paint against the smaller team. 2) The more athletic team overwhelms the less athletic team. In both cases, the end result jumps out of the boxscore, usually in the form of things like a rebounding advantage or points in the paint for the bigger team, or fast break points or points off turnovers for the more athletic team. 

While the Mavericks' dominance of Los Angeles hasn't come from interior bruising or from open court cruising, it's been a sight to behold. Consider this: Los Angeles outscored Dallas 56-20 in the paint and neither team got out to run much, with the two teams combining for just 15 points (Dallas had 11) on the break.

The secrets to Dallas' success read like chapters from an old-school textbook: move the ball, outplay your opponent's bench, and maintain composure in crucial situations. Dallas clicked on all three of those cylinders during Friday night's Game 3, and for the third time in the three games. It has them on the verge of upsetting the heavily favored Lakers. Incredibly, it also has them on the verge of a sweep.

With forward Ron Artest sidelined due to a suspension, the Lakers were forced to play a bigger lineup that often featured Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on the court at the same time. That lineup is a touch slower than L.A.'s usual starting lineup that features Artest, Gasol and Bynum, and quite a bit slower than the Artest-Odom-Gasol trio that the Lakers often turn to late in games. Dallas exploited this fact mercilessly, making the extra pass around the perimeter time and time again. "One of the things [Artest's absence] hurt was our rotations to the three-point line," Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted after the game. "Covering that. It's a little bit tough for our bigger guys to get to that point."

Lakers guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant were left to chase the ball as best they could. Odom and Gasol gave good effort closing out to shooters, particularly in the second half, but it simply wasn't enough. The Mavericks -- Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic in particular -- didn't shoot the ball all that well early, but the open looks added up. The final perimeter numbers more than made up for L.A.'s dominance inside: 12-29 from three-point land, with the Mavericks outscoring the Lakers from deep, 36-9. The most telling stat: 22 assists on 31 field goals, an extraordinary number.

Stojakovic got things going in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 15 points. More than anyone, his night encapsulated what's made the Mavericks so unstoppable of late. Despite starting 1-5 from three-point land, he continued plugging away, throwing in two daggers late to pull Dallas back into a game that Los Angeles once again thought it had won. 

Following Game 2, we pointed out just how deadly the Mavericks bench has been, and Stojakovic's heroics expanded on that trend. Dallas' reserves outscored L.A.'s in a 42-15 landslide, with Jason Terry leading the way with 23 points. It's worth noting that those numbers are skewed a bit by Artest's absence because Odom scored 18 in a starting role. Still, the Mavericks' depth advantage is clear as day, as is their collective poise. Not only can coach Rick Carlisle go nine deep, he can do so confidently. His reserves are rising to the moment rather than shrinking from it.

That depth advantage played huge down the stretch, where L.A. crumbled for the third time in three games. All five Lakers starters played 35+ minutes and they showed both mental and physical fatigue in the closing minutes. This time, the biggest culprit was Derek Fisher, who committed a huge foul to send Jason Terry to the free throw line (where he made it a two possession game) and then immediately threw the ball away on an inbounds pass on the next possession. Fisher wasn't the only scapegoat. Nowitzki was allowed to hit a number of open looks, something that can't happen on a night when he scores 32 points and continues to display MVP form.  The Orange County Register quoted Bryant: "Dumbest defensive mistakes I've seen us make all year." Those mistakes proved fatal. 

On the other end, Kobe Bryant threw a pass off Pau Gasol's back and the Lakers as a whole forgot to pound the ball to Bynum late in the game, despite a monster 21-point and 10-rebound performance from their center. All of that ugliness led Jackson to summarize it simply: "They finished better than we did, and they deserved to win it."

Game 3 was played at a Finals level intensity. Despite L.A.'s mistakes, this wasn't a meltdown akin to Game 1. Instead, this was about the Mavericks methodically playing their own game, possession after possession, missed shot or made, and not giving in to the pressure or L.A.'s increasing desperation. 

Put it all together and it's fair to make this bold statement: The Mavericks had the look of a champion on Friday night.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:58 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 1:26 am
 

Playoff Fix: Adjustment bureau in Memphis

Posted by Royce Young



One Big Thing: The adjustment Scott Brooks and his coaching staff made for the Grizzlies in Game 2 was almost jarring. The Grizzlies went from a dominant inside force to a more perimeter-oriented attack. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph went from combining for 54 points to compiling just 28 together. Nothing came easy for the duo, as Gasol went 3-9 and Randolph 2-13, including 0-5 in the second half.

The Thunder were a dominant team after the Kendrick Perkins trade because of their interior defense. That was missing in Game 1 as the Grizzlies dominated the flow, feel and pace of the game. It's all about that battle again in Game 3.

The X-Factor: The Thunder won Game 2 behind two X-factors: 1) Big-time bench scoring from Eric Maynor and James Harden, and 2) excellent interior defense from Nick Collison. Harden, you can count on again to be a scoring weapon off the bench. He was the top scoring sixth man since the All-Star break. But, Maynor, I'm not sure you can bank on giving 15 points and 3-4 from 3 again. And again, Collison was excellent covering Randolph in the post.

The Grizzlies though, need to find some help again off the bench. O.J. Mayo gave good minutes as a reserve in Game 2, but the Grizzlies missed quality bench minutes. Greivis Vasquez was a non-factor. Darrell Arthur didn't give much. Someone has to find some baskets for Memphis in the second unit. Gasol and Randolph will be better, but the Grizzlies have to find extra points from somewhere.

The Adjustment: How does Lionel Hollins adjust to find space for Randolph and Gasol. The high pick-and-roll was snuffed out in Game 2 by the Thunder and OKC's defenders gave Randolph no space. The obvious adjustment is more minutes for O.J. Mayo, as he's one of the few players that can space the floor. The Grizzlies were last in 3-point attempts, and makes, this season. The Thunder dared them to take and make them in Game 2. Memphis didn't respond.

Either the Grizzlies change their game and look for more outside, or they just try and power through the Thunder's interior adjustment. That's basically where we're at right now. These teams have had three days off to think about it all. Lots of time to adjust adapt and work. Let's see what they come up with.

The Sticking Point: Obviously this game is big. Though, I think it's more important for the Grizzlies, who I see as shouldering more of the pressure. The Thunder looked very good in Game 2 and made the opening loss seem a bit like an aberration. So the Grizzlies need to re-establish and handle their home floor. Drop this one and the Thunder immediately have the home court back.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were good in Game 2, but not great. Again, the Thunder's role guys stepped up. This one is going to come down to which duo outperfoms the other. Is it Gasol and Randolph or Durant and Westbrook? The Thunder see a big opportunity to ride some momentum and take control of this series here. But the Grizzlies have been terrific at home. Something's got to give here. And that's why this is going to be one terrific game.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com