Tag:second-round playoffs
Posted on: May 10, 2011 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2011 12:32 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Bulls: Chess match to Thibs

Tom Thibodeau outsmarts Larry Drew (shocker) to help the Bulls take a 3-2 

Posted by Matt Moore





So many coaches shorten their rotations in the playoffs. The thought being "I can only trust the guys I know I can count on. Only the veterans. Only the guys who have played this year." It's painful to the point of absurdity and the downfall of too many coaches. But Tom Thibodeau, sorry, Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau did not get roped into such a tactic in Game 5 against the Hawks.


For most of the playoffs the key bench contributors for the Bulls have been C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver. The "Bench Mob" has gotten its fair share of run, but not like they did in Game 5. With Carlos Boozer turning in a very Carlos-Boozer-like performance (11 pts, 12 rebounds, 1700 blown defensive assignments, 1800 yells for plays that were largely the product of his point guard's brilliance),  Thibodeau turned to Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, a sophomore and a rookie, to close the game. The result was a burst of energy and defense which shut down the Hawks and gave the Bulls a 3-2 series lead and an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in Atlanta Thursday night. 


Gibson's impact was immediate and considerable. He established good position inside, caught, pump-faked and went up-and-under on Josh Smith, gathered a key offensive rebound, and made all five of his field goal attempts. If Gibson was the spark, Asik was the hammer. Asik made key play after key play, bringing the size and defensive strength to knock the Hawks back out of the paint.


It wasn't a bad performance by Noah and Boozer, it was just smart coaching by Tom Thibodeau to let the unit playing well keep playing well.  And it saved what could have been a disastrous performance from the Bulls. It showcases the Bulls' postseason in a nutshell.


The Bulls did not play well for most of the game, and again, a Hawks team that everyone thought would roll over for the top seed in the East put up a great fight, led by Jeff Teague. Derrick Rose, who had a typically brilliant offensive performance, struggled on defense against Jeff Teague who continues to be an emerging story for the Hawks' future.  It's almost as if Rose's All-Defensive Team votes may not have been well considered. But in the end, though less efficient than Teague, Rose outweighed Teague's performance and got the win. The recipe is simple. Give Rose support, any kind of support, from anyone, and the Bulls can win with defense and timely play.


There are so many things that could have led to either team having closed this series out 4-1 in this series were they different. In Game 5, we saw a significant one for both sides: Tom Thibodeau and Larry Drew. 
Posted on: May 10, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Kevin Garnett's last stand

On the brink of elimination, with his career's legacy on the line, and after a dreadful performance in Game 4, Kevin Garnett has to be the emotional and physical leader for the Celtics or face the reality that the game, and the Heat, have passed him by. 
Posted by Matt Moore





We didn't finish strong.  Lost and now am down 3-1.  Guys battled, but mental errors.  Had to have that one.  Now we gotta have the rest of these.  Heading to Miami in the am.  Tough loss.  Real tough loss. Gotta win 3 now.  All the pressure is on now.


via Kevin Garnett's blog

For one of the greatest players in NBA history, coming off of arguably his best game in the playoffs, "tough" probably doesn't begin to describe Game 4. In Game 3, Garnett dominated from start to finish, making Chris Bosh into shark bait.  In Game 4, he finished 1-10, Chris Bosh scored 20, Bosh out-rebounded him, and scored the key tip-in to seal the game for the Heat. And to top it all off, it was Garnett's indecision and lack of focus on the Celtics' final play in overtime that prevented Paul Pierce from getting to his sweet spot, forcing him to his left for a desperate fadeaway. 



From Celtics blog Reds Army:
It looks like KG started to run to set the pick a little earlier than he should... so he stopped.  Then Ray trying to create the misdirection hes talking about in the quote got tangled up with KG and actually picked him as KG was heading towards Paul.  By that time theres 4 seconds on the clock and Paul felt like he had to do something. Then the frustration boils over and Pierce gives the very demonstrative "what are you doing?" to KG and Ray....
via Your Morning Dump... Where "All the pressure is on now" - RedsArmy.com - The Voice Of Celtics Fans.

What's stunning is how much hinges on this series for the Celtics' career. Garnett is a Hall of Famer based off his individual accomplishments and his championship ring from 2008. But for all the grief the Heat received for their talk about multiple titles, the Celtics' Big 3 didn't come together for a single title. They know that multiple rings are what they need to be considered truly great, especially as Celtics. But for all their success, should the Heat knock Garnett and the Celtics out, they'll have only one ring.  Which is more than most players ever see, even the great ones. But the Celtics' level of success is determined by that higher standard. 

Furthermore, to lose like this, to the Heat, with the Celtics exposed as too old, too unathletic, too desperate to hold the line against the uber-talented Triad which had announced its championship intentions in the East, the Celtics' turf, is unbearable. Garnett has always been the fiercest competitor, the one barking, yelling, starting fights (if not finishing), and making the commitment on defense so many stars never could or would. But in this series, he's finding the Heat just a step quicker, just a bit faster, just a touch stronger.  

The Celtics' strength has always been greater than just its talent. They have been fueled by chemistry, by leadership, by commitment. But with the loss of Kendrick Perkins, that chemistry seems to have fractured. Instead of barking out orders in huddles and being the emotional nexus for the Celtics' intensity, we see Garnett struggling to face the reality: his time as the fiercest lion in the jungle may be over. 

The Celtics aren't dead yet. Despite the Heat finally closing out the Celtics, on the Boston floor, no less, the Celtics still have a pulse. Win Game 5, force it back to Boston, protect your homecourt, and you've got a Game 7. It's just a two game winning streak they need to tie the series. Garnett has to lead that final charge up the hill. It has to be him, relentless in the post, nailing the turnaround, suffocating Bosh, protecting teammates' defensive struggles with help rotations, barking out orders. Paul Pierce is an All-Time Celtic. Ray Allen is the tip of the spear for one of the most lethal shooting systems in the league. Rajon Rondo is playing heroic basketball with one arm. But it's got to be Garnett. This is his legacy that's on the line, and it's under attack thanks to the three players who copied he, Allen and Pierce's schematic and started celebrating before they had even faced the Celtics. With a lockout on the horizon that could possibly shorten or end his career, with the reality of the Celtics' inevitable need to blow it up and start over looming, with his physical fuse running out, Garnett will not have another shot at winning a title as a featured component. It's got to be him, and it's got to be now. 

This is Kevin Garnett's last stand. 
Posted on: May 10, 2011 4:17 am
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Posted on: May 10, 2011 4:14 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 2:49 pm
 

10 best plays from OKC's triple-OT win over Grizz

Posted by Royce Young



The Thunder and Grizzlies played and incredible, wild, unbelievable triple-overtime game in which Oklahoma City finally came out on top, 133-123 to even the series 2-2. In a game that lasted more than four hours, there were twists, turns, ups, downs, big plays, small plays, middle plays and about 50 other moments that you forgot about because they happened in the first quarter and that was so, so long ago.

But in a game of this magnitude that was played so well and so close, some moments separated themselves. Here are my top 10 plays from Game 4:

10. KD's stuffs on Z-Bo. This one is only No. 10 because it happened in the first half and in this game, who cares what happened in the first half? But it's too good of a cram to be ignored. Durant pledged to be more aggressive and attack the rim in this game. The proof is in the poster.

9. The review.
With the Thunder leading 107-101 with 1:20 remaining in the first overtime, James Harden made a terrific play on an O.J. Mayo 3, blocking it straight up in the air. Mayo went up for it and smartly threw it off the side of Harden's head out of bounds. The officials went to review the play and while replay confirmed it was off Harden, what was missed was that Mayo's right foot was clearly out of bounds before he jumped for the ball, making him ineligible to touch it.

Somehow this was missed on the review and the ball was awarded to the Grizzlies anyway.

8. Mayo pays off the Memphis break.
Following that big break, the Grizzlies needed to capitalize. Mayo found himself open for 3 and missed it, but Marc Gasol grabbed one of his 10 offensive rebounds and kicked it back to Mayo. This time, Ovinton J'Anthony didn't miss. Mayo canned a 3, bringing the Grizzlies to within three with a minute to play.

7. The scramble. With the game tied at 119-119 with 30 seconds remaining and Memphis in possession, the Grizzlies got a good look inside but Zach Randolph missed a chippy. Then Gasol missed a tip. Then Randolph missed another layup. The ball bounced around, was saved by Nick Collison, then saved again by Nick Collison before finally winding up in Harden's hands. Describing this wild scramble is just impossible. But it was pretty crazy and in the end, gave the Thunder a chance to win at the end of the second overtime.

6. Westbrook's step-back. Previous to that scramble, the Thunder trailed by two and in need of someone to step up. Westbrook, who had 40, got Gasol on him on a switch and deftly pulled off a tough step-back move and drilled a 20-foot jumper to knot the game at 119-119.

5. Vasquez does a crazy thing, part one. Greivis Vasquez was forced to step up for the Grizzlies because of Mike Conley fouling out and in the second overtime, appeared to have made maybe the play of the night. He drove hard at the rim and finished a difficult left-handed and-1 layup. At the time, it put Memphis up three, 117-114 with 1:22 left.

4. Harden's answer. The Thunder had their backs to the wall after Vasquez's big play. Westbrook attacked the rim, collapsed the entire Memphis defense around him and at the last second as he flew under the backboard, kicked out to an open Harden. With a defender flying at him and the shot clock about to go off, the Harden calmly knocked down a 3 and kept OKC alive.

3. Vasquez does a crazy thing, part two. To end the first overtime, the Grizzlies needed a miracle down 109-106. And Vasquez delivered. With Westbrook in his face, Vasquez launched an off-balance 3 with nine seconds left and swished it, somehow. A second overtime was forced and the Grizzlies once again, escaped the jaws of defeat for at least five more minutes.

2. Mike Conley, from deep.
So to even have this whole overtime party, it took an impossible 3-pointer from Conley at the end of regulation. Vasquez's shot was great, but Conley's was deeper and had Kendrick Perkins right in his face. Memphis was down 96-93 with 13 seconds left. Gasol had just blocked a Westbrook jumper and the Grizzlies race up the floor looking for a shot. Lionel Hollins smartly elected not to call a timeout which would've given the Thunder a chance to foul. Conley found some space and floated a high-arching shot over Perkins' big paw. It dropped and we were off to another hour of basketball.

1. KD does a dirty, dirty thing. Conley and Vasquez's shot were bigger and more improbable, but since the Thunder won and also because it was so very, very pretty, Kevin Durant gets the top spot with his shake-and-pop over Shane Battier to ice the game. OKC was up six with 30 seconds left and with the way the Thunder were having trouble closing Memphis, this wasn't over. But Durant ended all worries with a nasty jumper over Battier. Just lovely.
Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:12 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 3:34 am
 

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

Posted by Royce Young



Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went from a superduo to a chemistry question mark this postseason. The transition was amazing. Because of a couple questionable shots from Westbrook while Durant didn't get the ball in key stretches, there was speculation on whether the two could could co-exist. People wondered if they were fighting in the locker room, or if there was an alpha dog battle taking place.

Some have nicknamed Westbrook's erratic, seemingly selfish play "hero mode" in Oklahoma City, and that's kind of what it is. He tries to take over and ignores the other four guys on his team. That's fine sometimes when Kobe, Wade or LeBron does it. But since Westbrook has the two words "point guard" attached to his name, and Durant on his wing, he gets punished for it. Sometimes rightfully so, sometimes unfairly.

But in this game where the Thunder outlasted the Grizzlies 133-123 in a triple-overtime classic, it took Durant and Westbrook co-existing near perfectly for the Thunder to pull themselves out of an 18-point hole and even the series at 2-2.

Westbrook finished with 40 on 15-33 shooting and Durant checked in with 35 on 9-20. Westbrook was 10-11 from the line and Durant 16-18.

Some might look at those attempts from Westbrook and assume it was more of the same from him. They might assume he hogged the ball and froze Durant out. He sort of did, but he had to in this game. The Grizzlies weren't going to let Durant beat them. Memphis was putting it all on the already heavy-weighted shoulders of Westbrook, and daring him to answer.

The Thunder just looked awful the first 16 minutes. It was like the last 20 minutes of Game 3 somehow were transplanted into Game 4. The offense was pathetic, the defense was meh, and the team just wasn’t doing anything right. The Thunder turned it over seven times in the first quarter, shot 6-16 and then started the second quarter 0-7. It was looking like a disaster was brewing for the Thunder and that this series was inching closer to a conclusion.

As I watched it, I could only think one thing: OKC needs Russell Westbrook to go hero here. For all the criticism he’s endured, for all the discussion he’s generated and for all the negative stuff that’s been said about him, the Thunder desperately needed Westbrook to bail them out. It started when Daequan Cook hit two big 3s — which seem meaningless now, but at the time were HUGE — and then Westbrook started attacking. And attacking. And attacking. He scored nine points the last five minutes of the second and the Thunder got the message. They fell in step behind Westbrook and finally woke up.

That’s the thing: The Thunder has to have that Westbrook. He’s crucial. The challenge for him is realizing when and where to turn it on and off. Tonight, he turned it on just in time. Without that second quarter spark, we’re not all staying up until who knows when watching the craziest playoff game this year.

Now, some of the negative side to the argument started creeping back in late in the fourth when Westbrook took a questionable long jumper, turned it over and then was blocked by Marc Gasol with a few seconds left. Durant took only one shot the entire fourth, but it seemed excusable to a degree because Westbrook was coming up big. Like I said, though, finding that “off” switch was tough for him because he had carried the Thunder to that point, and to hand it off was difficult.

Same story in the overtimes. Westbrook was the offensive focus for the Thunder and Durant played second banana. I’d have to re-watch but on first look, it just seemed like the Grizzlies intended to take away Durant and force Westbrook’s hand. If Westbrook wasn’t up to the challenge, OKC loses this game in the first OT. But he stepped up and didn’t settle for bad shots. He attacked and, in some cases, created. He did almost everything right and the result was a major Thunder win.

The Grizzlies know how to play Durant. Again, they want it to be on Westbrook. But you can only hold a player of Durant's caliber down so long. Eventually he's going to shake loose. And he did, scoring six straight points to ice Memphis in the third overtime.

OKC has to have Durant and Westbrook working together, feeding off each other. Durant is a pretty remarkable star in that he's fine slinking back while Westbrook takes over. He may not love it on the inside, but nothing on his exterior says he has a problem with it. The Thunder's tandem came up big for them in Game 4. They had to. They learned a little from Game 3's transgressions and did a bit better. Or, at least, just enough.

Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:11 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 3:46 am
 

Playoff Fix: Less shots or better shots for Rose

The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks return to Chicago for a pivotal game 5 in a series tied 2-2. Posted by Ben Golliver.
derrick-rose-scape


One Big Thing:  It's been beaten to death, but there isn't a bigger story than Derrick Rose's shot-taking. 27, 27, 27, 32: That's the number of field goal attempts Rose has jacked in the first four games of this series. He's a really nice guy, the best player on the court and being guarded by Jeff Teague, so it's tough to put him on blast. By taking 32 shots in Game 4, he became only the third player in this year's playoffs -- joining Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook -- to fire 30+ times. So we can't even call this the "Kobe Zone" any more. All jokes aside, 12-for-32 from the field is almost guaranteed to result in a loss, and Rose faces the same old choices in Game 5: less shots or better shots. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is advocating for better shots, as he wants Rose to continue to get to the rim and the free throw line. 

The X-Factor: Chicago's bench has been called one of the best in the league and the group contributed 34 points in Game 3. Unfortunately, that production took a nosedive in Game 4, scoring just 14 points on a combined 5-16 shooting. Kyle Korver was a major culprit, shooting 1-8 from the field and going 0-5 from deep after shooting 1-9 in Game 2 as well. In that context, Rose's 32 attempts in Game 4 don't look all that bad. Korver had a bounceback game in Game 3 and the Bulls would love to see another one of those in Game 5. 

The Adjustment: Hawks forward Josh Smith played like a different man in Game 4, tallying 23 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists, and finally displaying some of the game-changing athleticism that was being wasted earlier in the series as he stood passively on the perimeter and hucked jumpers. So far during this series, Smith has averaged six boards a game in Chicago and 14.5 boards a game in Atlanta. Whatever the difference was -- whether the Hawks crowd got to him, whether he's twisting an intensity knob to "11" on a 1-10 scale or whether he's chugging a special home-brewed energy drink prior to tip -- Smith needs to make sure that impact carries over to the United Center on Tuesday. Atlanta's other big men have their hands full with Joakim Noah and Smith has shown he can be a difference-maker in this series if he gets loose.

The Sticking Point: If you're still having trouble believing the Hawks are for real, even this deep into the second round, you're not alone. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Jamal Crawford with the perfect summary of their season: "We've shown we can play with anybody, and some nights we can play with nobody." The Hawks aren't the only ones concerned about not showing up, however. The Chicago Tribune notes that Bulls forward Taj Gibson says the Bulls can't solely rely on their homecourt advantage to take Game 5. That both teams are worried about laying a goose egg would be troubling if the concern wasn't legit. The Hawks have rolled over twice and the Bulls got surprised once in the United Center and then came out flat in Game 4. The last 72 hours have seen the tenor of the rest of the playoffs get super duper serious: The Lakers were eliminated, the Heat nabbed a crucial, series-changing win in Boston and the Grizzlies and Thunder battled to three overtimes on Monday night. It's on both the Hawks and the Bulls to prove they can reach those heights. The clock is ticking.
Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:00 am
 

NBA Playoffs: Grizzlies, Thunder go the distance

Memphis, OKC have a classic on the Mississippi. 
Posted by Matt Moore

These playoffs could be better. We just don't know how. 

Memphis and Oklahoma City went to triple-overtime Monday night/Tuesday morning in the Thunder's desperation victory to tie the series. Here's where it lands in history:


Neither team had any quit in them, and the only reason it didn't go to a fourth overtime was foul trouble, when Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo fouled out in the second overtime, leaving Memphis physically exhausted. Russell Westbrook managed to play through two overtimes with five fouls. Otherwise, we'd still be waiting for the two teamt to finish. It was one of the wildest games in a wild playoffs that have been anything but predictable. As Shane Battier said postgame:
"If Elvis had risen from halfcourt and hit the game-winner, I wouldn't have been surprised."

OKC won because of superior play, athletes, and a few more drawn fouls thanks to terrible perimeter defense from the Grizzlies. But the eighth seed in the playoffs forced what many consider a title favorite to triple overtime without their highest paid player, down their best two guards, after blowing a huge first half lead and coming back from a sizeable second-half deficit. 

Not bad for an 8th seed.
Posted on: May 10, 2011 1:43 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 2:05 am
 

NBA Playoffs: Heat finally close one out

The Heat haven't closed all year. They closed out Boston in Game 4 to take a 3-1 advantage. 
Posted by Matt Moore




After a season of clutch failures, of questions about Chris Bosh, of being plagued by the talk that they are simply not mentally focused enough to win the title, Miami simply shut everyone up. 
LeBron James closed. His last shot was a miss, rebounded and tipped in by Chris Bosh. Other than that? James nailed a huge three in Paul Pierce's grill, got inside for a runner, and then made a key pass to get Bosh a dunk. He was a monster down the stretch, despite a key turnover that opened the door for a Pierce game winner which he missed. 

The Heat closed. And they may have closed out another NBA superpower. The Celtics had seemed like the superior mental team right up until the last regular season meeting between the two. And, after the Game 3 meltdown, there was a sense that maybe the Heat of the regular season had returned. But the Heat washed all that away and the Celtics once again looked like a team that was simply too old to run with the Triad. 

Mental focus and intensity were the biggest weaknesses for the Heat in the regular season. But they finally stepped up when they needed to, much like the Celtics were known to. With a 3-1 series advantage, the Heat clearly look like the better team.

Public sentiment means LeBron can't count on anyone providing credit. But it should be noted that he and Paul Pierce had yet another epic game in a career-long battle. They went back and forth at each other all night, and in the end, Pierce missed an elbow jumper from the left instead of his favorite spot, the right. There was miscommunication on the play, and the screen for Pierce never came. James stuck with Pierce and the game winner missed. Meanwhile, for James it was all speed, all aggression.

The Heat have always had the talent. That's obvious. But they never looked like a mentally tough team. But on Monday night, they may have gone through the baptism of fire they needed. They closed. 

And they are finally in a position to put the Celtics ghosts that have haunted them to bed. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com