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Tag:2011 NBA Playoffs
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:31 pm
 

Series Reset: Season on the line for Blazers

The Trail Blazers hope to avoid going down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks as the series shifts to Portland. Posted by Ben Golliver.
blazers-game-3

The Narrative: 

Dirk Nowitzki did it again in Game 2, scoring the last 11 Mavericks points as Dallas blew the Portland Trail Blazers out of the water down the stretch for the second time in as many games. Portland's defense was a step slow or a step out of place all night, and Dallas carved it up late, scoring 28 points in the final period. Dallas's depth advantage was crucial, as Portland played a six-man rotation (plus 19 combined minutes for Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez) while Dallas got minutes and contributions from nine guys. As a result, the veteran Mavericks have looked more cohesive and more energetic on both ends, and have simply dominated the late-game scenarios. 

Portland is reeling: trailing 0-2 in the series, trying to tamp down drama caused by an emotional and frustrated Roy  and, more than anything, still searching for a way to stop Nowitzki with the game on the line. The Blazers walked off the court following Game 2 with an air of frustration and exhaustion. Will they show up re-energized for Game 3? If not, the prospect of an embarrassing and unexpected sweep lingers. That would represent a step backwards for this club, and could lead to some serious roster re-tooling over the next 12 months. In other words, everyone currently on the team that wants to remain on this team should have a bit of extra motivation.

The Hook: 

Portland's hopes for turning things around and avoiding what would be an insurmountable 0-3 deficit start with their return to the Rose Garden. The Blazers were 30-11 at home this year, including two wins over the Mavericks. They swept their last seven home games against Western Conference playoff teams (Nuggets, Mavericks, Spurs, Thunder, Mavericks, Lakers, Grizzlies). Many of the wins featured strong late-game play, particularly on the defensive end, something the Blazers haven't yet shown in this series. 

The buzzword is energy, though, the kind Portland brought early in Game 2 but which disappeared in the second half. Forward Gerald Wallace, guard Wesley Matthews and reserve forward Nicolas Batum all have shown the ability to up their game by feeding off the home crowd. They'll need to, as none of those guys has convincingly won their match-ups yet in this series. 

The Adjustment: 

As mentioned, the Blazers went 7-0 in their final seven home games against Western Conference playoff teams. In those games, Portland won by an average margin of five points, yet shot the same field goal percentage (46%)  as their opponents, shot worse from the three-point line (35.8% to 38.5%) and averaged just two more trips to the free throw line. Was this a matter of Portland's vaunted offensive rebounding carrying the day? Nope. The Blazers were out-rebounded, on average, 41-38 and gave up more offensive rebounds than they corralled. 

So if the Blazers were shooting worse, rebounding less and getting to the free throw line just two extra times per game, how did they manage to win all seven games by such a wide margin? Turnovers. 

Portland's slow-down pace and focus on ball control gave Portland a +2.6 turnover differential on the season (Portland averaged 12.4 turnovers while its opponents averaged 15.0). During the closing 7-0 stretch, that already strong differential doubled to +5.2 (Portland averaged 9.4 turnovers while its opponents averaged 14.6). 

Blazers coach Nate McMillan likes to call possessions "bullets". Dallas tied its season-low by committing just six turnovers in Game 2. The best way for Portland to keep pace with Dallas's offensive-efficiency machine is to have a significantly larger magazine in Game 3 -- just as they did to close the season against the West's best teams. 

The X-Factor: 

One player who is both capable of creating turnovers and cashing in on them is Fernandez, who has done nothing of note yet in this series, averaging 3.5 points and making just one three-pointer over the first two games. Fernandez, frankly, has been a disappointment in his third season. Other than selling a few t-shirts with his inane three-goggles routine, it's been all bad. His outside shooting has fallen off a cliff (a career-low 32.1% from deep) and he's failed to show any meaningful progression in other aspects of his offensive game. 

Still, while he's not blowing anyone away this season, Fernandez does play significantly better at home, where he averages 10.0 points, shoots 39.3% from the field and 35.1% from deep. On the road, those numbers slide to 7.2 points, 34.6% from the field and 28.9% from three-point range. He also plays five more minutes a game at home, a sign that his energy level and impact is greater, as Blazers coach Nate McMillan is a bit of a juggler when it comes to managing his second unit.

Dallas's bench outscored Portland's 39-11 in Game 2, and most of the talk surrounding those numbers has centered on Roy, who brought it upon himself by expressing dismay at his lack of playing time in Game 2. But Roy represents only one-half of Portland's bench problem. Fernandez, obviously, is the other. To win Game 3, the Blazers will need Fernandez to help put a dent in that bench scoring differential, or they are left to pray for a monster night from Roy. The dream scenario is for both to happen on the same night.

The Sticking Point: 

Portland faces such an uphill battle because Dallas's scoring balance has stretched Portland past its breaking point. With Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic providing more than enough from the outside to complement Dirk Nowitzki, the Blazers defense has looked a bit like someone playing wack-a-mole for the first time. The sleeping giant remains guard Jason Terry, who has taken on more of a play-making role while averaging 10 points per game in the series, six below his season average. If Portland begins to throw more double teams at Nowitzki -- which would make sense, given his dominance -- Terry is the likely No. 2 man to step up late for Dallas. And he's more than capable of winning a tight game with his jumper.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Series Reset: It's now or next year for Indiana

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative:
So close. I mean so, so close for the Pacers. They would probably trade T.J. Ford and a bag of money to be bringing back a tied series to Indianpolis, but they weren't far off from holding a 2-0 lead. Instead, things are exactly where we expected. Down 2-0 to the superior Bulls, it's pretty obvious that the Pacers have to win this game. It would be a pretty substantial victory for Indiana to take one playoff win with them to the offseason, but this feels like a sweep if it doesn't happen tonight.

The Hook: Will Darren Collison play? He's a game-time decision as it stands now, but if Indiana wants any legitimate shot, they need a healthy Collison. He adds so much and not just in terms of solid point guard play. Collison is a scorer, a creator, a defender and a leader for the Pacers.

He's not the type of player that will take over a game by any means, but it's more a function of process of elimination for the Pacers. Subtract Collison and that means it's all A.J. Price, all the time. Indiana's just not winning if that happens.

The Adjustment:
Here's something: rebound the darn ball. The Bulls have completely crushed Indiana on the glass in the first two games. The Bulls haven't been that great offensively, but because of 41 offensive rebounds, the Bulls have had plenty of extra opportunities to let Derrick Rose kill the Pacers. I don't see an adjustment coming for Indiana in this department mainly because the Pacers just don't have the horses inside to compete on the boards with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.

The Bulls are much better than the Pacers already but any time a team is getting 20 offensive boards in a game, it's near impossible to win. And yet there the Pacers were in both games. If they can keep the rebounding margin to 10 and limit the Bulls on the offensive glass, maybe there's a chance.

The X-Factor: The Pacers are going to be searching for one tonight. That's the best way underdogs win is because someone unexpected elevates their game and has a big night. In Game 1, the Pacers almost pulled off the win because of Tyler Hansbrough. But he was a non-factor in Game 2.

Who is the prime candidate to possibly make a difference tonight? How about Roy Hibbert, who has been a bit inconsistent so far in this series? The Pacers want to beat you by outshooting you on the perimeter, but what makes them pretty solid is when Hibbert has things working inside. He's good enough to score on Noah one-on-one, but he hasn't been able to get going and the Pacers sort of stopped looking for him in both games. Indiana has failed to execute late and the best medicine for that are easy baskets and Hibbert can give you those.

I'll throw out Paul George as a potential impact player too just because he's done well defending Rose in stretches. And with the way the Bulls are operating, if you can stop Rose, you can win.

The Sticking Point:
It's really hard to get past the fact that it just feels like Indiana missed its opportunity. The Bulls aren't going to continue to coast for long. They are plain and simple much better than the Pacers. And they have Derrick Rose, which is quite the trump card in itself.

Lose tonight and it's time to start thinking about the draft. You're not digging yourself out of a 2-0 hole most likely anyway, but you're definitely not coming out of a 3-0 one against Rose and Tom Thibodeau. If the Pacers have any thought to try and get back to Chicago for one more game, they have to take this one. Just doesn't feel very likely though.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Series Reset: Sixers are at the plank

Can the Sixers make this a series or is Miami just too much for Philadelphia? First two games don't paint a rosy picture for the Sixers.
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative:  It doesn't take a genius to tell you this is a must-win for Philadelphia. A loss and you can fold up the tents, carnies, the circus is leaving town. That's pretty obvious. There are things less likely than the Sixers charging back from an 0-3 deficit to even make the Heat sweat (see what I did there?). They just happen to include a colossal burrito devouring all life on earth and people on the internet learning to live in peace and harmony. It ain't happening. Philly had some things going right in Game 1, but Game 2 came along and sucked all hope in to a vaccumous black hole of defensive rotations and LeBron James dunking all the time. But, they'll be in front of the home crowd, as underwhelming as they may be, and this is their best chance to surprise some people and put the series into a little bit of doubt. We've seen nothing from Philadelphia to suggest that, should they lose this game, their spirit won't be crushed and the brooms won't be brought to the table. 

The Hook : Chris Bosh went off in Game 1. LeBron James dominated in Game 2. Is it Dwyane Wade's turn? Jodie Meeks has done a surprisingly good job in this series chasing Wade, from baseline to baseline, through screens, and contesting as much as possible. Wade's still having a good series because he's a very good player, but Meeks has done pretty well. In a game where you have to think the Sixers will start doubling Bosh and James, more, Wade may have a monster game. There's going to have to be help from the corners to James on the drive and Bosh in the post, and while it would be great to think the Sixers would bring help from a non-Big-3 defender, they haven't shown a willingness to be so brash as to leave one of the supporting players wide open much. They did some of that early in Game 1, when, if you'll notice, they were winning, but got away from it when the Heat started to overload one side with the Triad. If Bosh and James are willing passers, Wade's going to have a good chance at getting free, and that's when the havoc starts. 

The Adjustment: Before we got started, a key to this series was Philadelphia's ability to force the Miami offense out of the pick and roll and into more ISO sets. If they can slow the Heat down and put them in ISO, Miami may try and do too much individually and they choke themselves out on bad fadeaways and blown layups. Instead, in Game 2, the Heat had a 3-1 ratio of Pick and Roll to ISO sets. The Sixers must  shut down the pick and roll and force the Heat into ISO or spot-up situations. There are some teams you can't do this against, they'll just keep hammering you with the P'n'R. The Heat, though, will succumb to the effort and go solo if you make it too difficult for them to run. Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights, and Elton Brand have to show effectively on the ball handler to back him off or at least wheel him back enough for help to rotate over, and then they must recover against Bosh in the pick and pop for the mid-range. If it sounds like a lot for Philly to do? Well, that's why they're the underdog and the seventh seed. 

The X-Factor: Evan Turner? The No.2 overall pick who didn't even play down the stretch for Philly in favor of the always-terrible Andres Nocioni had some big plays in Game 2. Yes it was a blowout, but looking at what the Sixers accomplished with Turner in to stretch the floor, you have to wonder if Turner doesn't deserve more run. Putting in a point-forward lineup with Turner, Iguodala, and Young to work the inside and outside might be creative enough to counter the Triad for a spell. So far, Doug Collins hasn't used such a lineup much, but when he has, it's been effective. There's no reason not to try it in Game 3 or 4, after all, it's time to throw the kitchen-sink at them. 

The Sticking Point: Miami is better. They are just way better in every matchup, because of the brute strength of the Triad covering up the weaknesses of the others. Usually I'm an advocate that a few key adjustments can turn the series. But Philly threw a lot of their arsenal at the Heat in Game 1, and in Game 2, were totally steamrolled by a Heat team that expected them. It's really hard to see how Philly's going to get out of this hole. 
Posted on: April 21, 2011 12:56 pm
 

Collison a game-time decision for Pacers

Posted by Royce Young

Darren Collison is a game-time decision for the Pacers after participating in the morning shootaround according to the Chicago Tribune.

Collison sprained his ankle stepped on the foot of a cameraman in the first half of Game 2. He came out of the locker room and tried to warm up for the second half but was forced to shut it down for the night.

His presence is very much needed for the Pacers as they head to Indianpolis down 0-2. The Pacers don't have a lot of solid depth behind him and as one of their primary scorers as well as primary creator, Collison is vital in getting the Pacer offense in gear.

The Pacer are climbing an uphill battle regardless of if Collison plays or not, but without him, things are much more difficult. Indiana has come close in both the games in Chicago, but if the Pacers are to actually make a series of this, they'll need a healthy Collison.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:32 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:09 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: Bynum big in Game 2

The Los Angeles Lakers evened their first round series with the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.
hornets-lakers

Championship teams can beat you at their game, and they can beat you at your game, too.


The Los Angeles Lakers looked like a genuine contender for the first time in a few weeks on Wednesday, downing the New Orleans Hornets in fairly ugly fashion, 87-79, to even their first-round series, 1-1. Only the Portland Trail Blazers played at a slower pace than New Orleans this season, and the out-gunned Hornets are happy to muck around in a low-scoring, sloppy setting when facing the longer, more athletic and more talented Lakers. With Kobe Bryant having an off night -- 11 points on 3-10 shooting -- and Pau Gasol continuing to do his Invisible Man routine -- eight points and five rebounds -- Wednesday was the rare night. If was a night in which Andrew Bynum became L.A.'s headliner. 

The biggest man on the court was the obvious difference-maker, showing up huge in the box score and the game plan. And Bynum's contributions were especially valuable on a night when both teams combined to commit 29 turnovers, and were whistled for 42 fouls that led to 54 free throws.

For a center, owning the paint comes down to finishing at the rim and clearing the defensive glass in traffic. That was Bynum's Modus operandi in Game 2, after proving in Game 1 that no one on the Hornets' undersized roster can really handle his strength and bulk in the post. 

On Wednesday, the Lakers smartly exploited that fact, turning to Bynum regularly in the halfcourt set. Bynum scored 17 points on 8-11 shooting and had Emeka Okafor in early foul trouble again. Bynum was also the reason that many New Orleans possessions went one shot and done, as he gathered in 10 defensive rebounds and helped hold the New Orleans' bigs (Okafor, Carl Landry, Aaron Gray, Jason Smith, D.J. Mbenga, Jason Smith) to just five combined offensive boards in 93 minutes. 

Bynum showed comfort away from the basket on both ends, too. On offense, he stepped out to hit a few jumpers of varied length. If developed, that's a dimension to his game that could make him lethal. On defense, meanwhile, he ran regularly at Hornets point guard Chris Paul, especially late, contesting shots and walling off the court. Taking up space, but doing it with a bit of grace. His ability to step out when needed, and then return to the boards, impacted a number of scrums and, by the fourth quarter, it was clear that the Hornets bigs were worn down and simply not competing as hard as he was. Bynum's defensive numbers -- two blocks and one steal -- don't do his impact justice. 

Pro Basketball Talk quoted  Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Bynum's night.
“We know that [Bynum] is the one that plays well against this team because of his size,” Phil Jackson said after the game. “He really carries things pretty well, so we’re confident in him having a good game … we think he can play at an even higher level than this.”
Jackson's right. Bynum is still scratching the surface of his potential, mostly because he's so far down the normal offensive pecking order. Bynum scored 20+ points just once this season. Could he average 20 points per game next year if he was on a team that needed him to be the go-to scoring option, and he stayed healthy enough to play big minutes? I don't see why not.

That team isn't yet the Lakers, but it could be in a few years. Bynum's evident maturity -- there's a lot less pouting these days -- makes imagining his future a tantalizing project. How much higher a level can Bynum reach? Who knows. But he looked like the NBA's best center not named Dwight Howard on Wednesday. If he continues to play at this level, pencil the Lakers into the Western Conference Finals.

Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:39 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 3:51 am
 

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Bring the walls up

Manu was fine. The Spurs' defense? It was great.
Posted by Matt Moore




The popular story will be Manu Ginobili. Ginobili, returning from an elbow injury, scoring a game-high 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds! Hero! In reality, Ginobili had a decent 17 points on 13 shots, but had five turnovers. There was some rust there. And if we want to look at the change that improved from Game 1 to Game 2, it wasn't the offensive output from Ginobili. It wasn't their offense at all.

Game 1 was a slower, methodical affair, with a pace of 89 possessions versus 95 in Game 2. But the efficiencies were higher on both sides. Basically, the Grizzlies benefited from a slower, more efficient game. Game 2 was an ugly, brutal affair. Even when the Grizzlies were able to convert turnovers at a higher rate than in Game 1, things bogged down on offense for Memphis. Particularly inside. 

In Game 1, the Spurs' largely went one-on-one in defense, trying to rely on their individual defenders to prevent cuts and open shots. The result was largely Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph killing them softly. In Game 2, the Spurs shifted their strategy completely. Instead, the Spurs sent everyone to collapse once the ball entered the paint. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for just 23 points on 23 shots Wednesday night. In the block, the Spurs would wait until either post player made their move to the paint, then bring an aggressive double, swiping at the ball from a wing. Often, Richard Jefferson did the job. Instead of swinging baseline and nailing hooks or fadeaways as they did in Game 1, the two found themselves turning the ball over, or unable to get a clean shot. When the two beasts inside turned face-up to the basket, three defenders would close to shut off any chance of a clean shot, even with the size advantages. 

San Antonio also threw a whole world of effort at denying the entry pass. By keeping the ball out of the block, the Grizzlies tried more interior passing. That didn't work. The result was a slew of awkward possessions, most often resulting in a poor pull-up jumper by a wing. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Sam Young, O.J. Mayo and Shane Battier combined for 59 shots in Game 2, versus just 37 in Game 1. The Spurs set the tone, the wings would have to beat them in Game 2, and Memphis couldn't get it done. 

Matt Bonner was the one weak point the Grizzlies actually attacked, and Darrell Arthur finished 4-5 for 8 points, mostly from destroying Bonner. But, again, the Grizzlies didn't commit to exposing Bonner, and the result means Bonner hangs around to hit threes on the other end. 

The Spurs set the tone in Game 2, playing the kind of defense they haven't all year. Memphis was more than happy to play into it. Going forward, the shot distribution between the paint and the wing is going to go a long way in determining if Memphis can make this a series.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:39 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 3:51 am
 

NBA Playoffs Spurs-Grizzlies: Bring the walls up

Manu was fine. The Spurs' defense? It was great.
Posted by Matt Moore




The popular story will be Manu Ginobili. Ginobili, returning from an elbow injury, scoring a game-high 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds! Hero! In reality, Ginobili had a decent 17 points on 13 shots, but had five turnovers. There was some rust there. And if we want to look at the change that improved from Game 1 to Game 2, it wasn't the offensive output from Ginobili. It wasn't their offense at all.

Game 1 was a slower, methodical affair, with a pace of 89 possessions versus 95 in Game 2. But the efficiencies were higher on both sides. Basically, the Grizzlies benefited from a slower, more efficient game. Game 2 was an ugly, brutal affair. Even when the Grizzlies were able to convert turnovers at a higher rate than in Game 1, things bogged down on offense for Memphis. Particularly inside. 

In Game 1, the Spurs' largely went one-on-one in defense, trying to rely on their individual defenders to prevent cuts and open shots. The result was largely Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph killing them softly. In Game 2, the Spurs shifted their strategy completely. Instead, the Spurs sent everyone to collapse once the ball entered the paint. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for just 23 points on 23 shots Wednesday night. In the block, the Spurs would wait until either post player made their move to the paint, then bring an aggressive double, swiping at the ball from a wing. Often, Richard Jefferson did the job. Instead of swinging baseline and nailing hooks or fadeaways as they did in Game 1, the two found themselves turning the ball over, or unable to get a clean shot. When the two beasts inside turned face-up to the basket, three defenders would close to shut off any chance of a clean shot, even with the size advantages. 

San Antonio also threw a whole world of effort at denying the entry pass. By keeping the ball out of the block, the Grizzlies tried more interior passing. That didn't work. The result was a slew of awkward possessions, most often resulting in a poor pull-up jumper by a wing. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Sam Young, O.J. Mayo and Shane Battier combined for 59 shots in Game 2, versus just 37 in Game 1. The Spurs set the tone, the wings would have to beat them in Game 2, and Memphis couldn't get it done. 

Matt Bonner was the one weak point the Grizzlies actually attacked, and Darrell Arthur finished 4-5 for 8 points, mostly from destroying Bonner. But, again, the Grizzlies didn't commit to exposing Bonner, and the result means Bonner hangs around to hit threes on the other end. 

The Spurs set the tone in Game 2, playing the kind of defense they haven't all year. Memphis was more than happy to play into it. Going forward, the shot distribution between the paint and the wing is going to go a long way in determining if Memphis can make this a series.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Playoffs Thunder-Nuggets: What worked vs. Durant?

Kevin Durant dropped 41 points in Game 1. Is there anything Denver can do to slow down Durantula? 
Posted by Matt Moore




So Kevin Durant had a pretty good Game 1. 41 points on 13-22 shooting, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists . You know, not bad. It was one of those games where you just have no idea how to guard Durant. Nailing heavily-contested pull-up threes, getting free off a pick and rising up, knocking down shot after shot after shot. It was a stunning performance, and proof that Durant probably should have had higher consideration for the MVP this season. It was assumed that Denver would have no way of guarding him, but few expected it to be that bad. 

Still, Denver has to come up with something in Game 2. Usually, in these types of situations, a team will opt to let the superstar beat them and focus on shutting down everyone else. Except, in Game 1, Durant and Westbrook combined for close to 70 percent of the Thunder's total offensive output, and they still won. So if they're going to try and at least make Durant's success marginally less efficient, they have to come up with a plan. After rewatching some things using Synergy Sports, there are some patterns.

The Nuggets tried everything against Durant. Here's a list of players who defended Durant at one point or another, and this doesn't even count switches off the pick-and-roll: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Al Harrington, Kenyon Martin, and Raymond Felton. Nothing worked, but some things worked less than others. The objective isn't to stop Durant. It's simply to put him in a position to have to make the toughest shot possible, consistently. Here they are in reverse order of effectiveness.

Kenyon Martin: This was a single possession for a reason. Martin is a big, and has no chance of sticking with Durant. He showed hard, Durant went around. Game over. 

Raymond Felton: The idea's not bad, right? Try and guard Durant on the perimeter with a guard who can apply ball pressure. Durant easily posted him and scored over him. Felton simply doesn't have the size to combat Durant's frame. That one's a non-starter. 

Al Harrington: Similar to Kenyon Martin, but not as much of an issue. Still, Harrington was frozen when Durant blew by him, once off a pick, once in isolation. Harrington, again, seems  like a good plan. A bigger forward to body KD, with some length and a little bit of quickness to hang on the step back. But this just goes to show you Durant's underrated speed. One pump and Durant blew by him. Harrington's a bad defender, which is obviously an issue, but even physically, he doesn't hang. 

Danilo Gallinari: So close. Gallinari very nearly had Durant a few times. His spacing in ISO was solid, he played him well into help defense, and Gallo's big enough to handle Durant in the post. The issue comes in off-ball movement. Gallinari gets caught looking to find the ball, and in that tiny time frame, Durant would create just enough room to catch-and-shoot. Twice Durant came off the screen so fast Gallo was still catching up to the strong side by the time Durant had peeled into the lane. Gallo might be able to guard Durant in three to four years. But, right now, he doesn't have the awareness to stick with him.

Wilson Chandler: This is the guy. Chandler gave up points to Durant. You know why? Because he's Kevin Durant. But of Durant's nine misses, four can be attributed to Chandler's defensive effort. Three are thanks to Durant just missing, and two were good help defense. On Chandler's first possession guarding Durant on a shot opportunity, he jumped the passing lane and nearly created a steal. The Thunder recovered the ball on a scramble, but Durant was forced to shoot a last-second heave with Nene closing. Miss. Chandler has the explosion to catch Durant enough on the step back, as he did in the second quarter, forcing a bad, backboard-only miss. And twice, Chandler recovered off the pick-and-roll and blocked Durant's jumper, which is nearly impossible. Chandler keeps his positioning, plays hard to Durant's shooting hand, stays with him off-ball, and in a big, big adjustment, overplays him to drive him to help defense. It makes it hard for the back screen to close right, the front screen remains open for the supporting defense to help. If you're not going to trap, this is what has to happen consistently. Durant shot 15 free throws. Chandler only granted four of those, despite being the primary defender. 

This isn't a roadmap to slowing Durant. There isn't one, unless you are able to physically put him under water. But the Nuggets do have things they can do to try and make it as hard as possible for KD. Bringing more aggressive traps is a really dangerous maneuver considering the guards Oklahoma City has, and they have the finishers for the easy dish in Perkins and Ibaka. But that, combined with primarily sticking with Wilson Chandler may be Denver's best bet. At some point, though, you're dealing with what happened to Chandler multiple times. Great spacing, good contest, tight defense, and Kevin Durant just hits the shot.


Because he's incredible. 

And that's what incredible does. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com