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Tag:2011 EC Conference Semifinals
Posted on: May 4, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 12:58 am
 

Ugly for ATL in Game 2 but things are pretty good

Posted by Royce Young



At some point during the fourth quarter, I think the Hawks looked up at the scoreboard in the United Center and realized what we were all thinking.

Hey, at least we got a split.

Because Wednesday night's Game 2 was a complete reversal of good shooting fortune for the Hawks. Unless you're a Bulls fan, that was not a fun 48 minutes of basketball. Both teams shot under 40 percent, with the Hawks clocking in at a paltry 33.8 from the field. The Atlanta bench, which is typically a major weapon, went a combined 3-11 for 13 points (11 coming from Jamal Crawford).

The Bulls got back to their style of basketball, grinding out a win behind excellent perimeter defense, stellar rebounding and just enough from Derrick Rose and his rag-tag bunch of scorers. Not that Chicago looked dominant by any means, because there's still certainly some vulnerability there, but it was a more routine Bulls win. It's exactly what the doctor ordered for Game 2 to even the series.

But the Hawks can walk out of the United Center tonight thinking one thing: mission accomplished. Taking one game is a huge coup, and because they won, the Hawks actually have a shot. Like really, they have a chance in this series. I'm not kidding. This series, much like the Memphis-OKC one, has a real look of seven games written all over it.

The question is how to replicate Game 1 and forget Game 2. The Bulls were obviously much better, and suffocated the Atlanta offense while killing on the glass (58-39 edge). Rose was average (10-27, 24 points, eight turnovers), Carlos Boozer was a non-factor once again and the entire team shot the ball horribly. And yet the Bulls won by 13. It's exactly the way Tom Thibodeau draws it up.

Joe Johnson returned to the Joe Johnson we are all familiar with in postseason play (16 points, 7-15 shooting) He forced things, tried to take over in awkward moments and wasn't able to free himself from the terrific on-ball defense of Luol Deng. But because of Johnson's struggles and Al Horford's rough game (3-12, six points), the Hawks watched as unproven second-year point guard Jeff Teague stepped up in a big way.

Teague's effort in the first two games of this series is probably the second best thing the Hawks are taking back with them to Atlanta (a win being the first). Teague went for 21 on 7-14 shooting Wednesday and played 40 minutes against Chicago's pressure defense without a turnover. In these two games filling in for Kirk Hinrich, Teague has just one turnover. In Game 2, he outplayed the guy that was just handed the MVP trophy by David Stern before the game.

That, along with the snatching of homecourt in Game 1, means the Hawks have a chance. I know, I have to keep saying it to almost convince myself. But with the way that Indiana series went for Chicago, and then the stinker in the opening game against the Hawks, it just feels like the Bulls aren't themselves right now. It feels like they're vulnerable. They're better than they're playing, but it doesn't matter right now. The Hawks have the upper-hand in this series.

Atlanta closed in a few different times on Chicago in the fourth quarter but never approached getting over the hump and taking the lead. While a 2-0 lead would basically be more shocking than the contract Joe Johnson got in the offseason, one win in of itself is big.

It's easy to lose sight of things like that, especially when a team plays as unimaginative as the Hawks did Wednesday. But any road team's goal in the opening two games is to take one and therefore, homecourt. The Hawks accomplished that. And may have found a pretty good point guard in the meantime.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 3:24 pm
 

Paul Pierce is 'day to day' with Achilles strain

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce is dealing with an Achilles injury. Posted by Ben Golliver. paul-pierce-game2

Here's the injury added to the insult of the Boston Celtics dropping both Games 1 and 2 to the Miami Heat in Florida: Forward Paul Pierce says he is "day to day" with an Achilles injury according to WEEI.com.
Paul Pierce strained his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter of Game 2 and had to go back to the locker room for a stretch. He returned soon after and scored 13 points in the Celtics’ 102-91 loss. “It’s day to day right now,” Pierce said. “We’ll see how it feels the next couple of days.” 
Pierce said he wasn’t sure how the injury happened, but it was a problem for him. “When you strain your Achilles, every step is like a slight little pain,” he said. “It actually loosened up as I got back in there and it didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.”
Is this just another sign that the aging Celtics can't keep up with the three-ring athletic circus that is the Miami Heat? Is this an early excuse seed-planting in the event Boston bows out of the playoffs in ugly fashion?  I'm not sure on either count. It's still too early to tell.

One thing is clear though: The Celtics need more from Pierce. His averages so far against Miami: 16 points, six rebounds, 1.5 assists just aren't going to be enough to get it done with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade going off as they have been. 

Pierce needs to get to the free throw line with more regularity and also hope that his 44% shooting in the series so far heads back towards the 49.7% mark he posted during the regular season. 

Posted on: May 4, 2011 3:06 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 3:29 am
 

Playoff Fix: Chicago needs to find itself again

Posted by Royce Young



One Big Thing: So... things didn't go exactly as planned for Chicago in Game 1. The Bulls looked average at best, relying far too heavily on Derrick Rose while just assuming their defense could contain the Hawks. Wrong on both accounts. Atlanta executed down the stretch, while Chicago didn't, and the result is a shocking 1-0 lead for the Hawks.

The question now: Is Rose healthy after re-tweaking his ankle in the final seconds of Game 1? He practiced and, reportedly, there was no swelling. He should be good. But how effective he can be in a game has yet to be seen.

The X-Factor: The Chicago bench has to show a pulse. The Hawks second unit absolutely destroyed the Bulls role players. Granted, it's not really fair when Jamal Crawford is part of the group, but even guys like Jason Collins stepped up big. Chicago got little to none of that from its backups. Someone, whether it's Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer or Taj Gibson, has to show a heartbeat.

The Adjustment: If we're all being honest with ourselves, we saw a Hawks team that knocked down a bunch of outside jumpers. Can they do it again? The Magic asked the same question, and Atlanta answered in buckets. Of course, the Bulls are a better defensive team, so locking down and sealing off the perimeter is probably the focus. Allowing good shooters to get open looks all over the floor is a recipe for failure, and the Hawks made the Bulls pay.

The Sticking Point: The Bulls absolutely can't afford to drop this second game. The Hawks are already guaranteed a split, which is what they went to Chicago hoping for. But, if Atlanta wins Game 2, they've got a firm stranglehold on the series. It will take another steady performance from Jeff Teague and more great shot-making from Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson. Not that the Hawks aren't capable of it, but you can safely assume the Bulls will ratchet things up a bit.

And they better. The Bulls weren't any better than in their series against Indiana, and facing a team like the Hawks, Chicago wasn't ready. Something tells me the Bulls will be prepard tonight, though, and get back in the series.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 12:10 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 12:28 am
 

Dwyane Wade turns Kevin Garnett around backwards

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade turns Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett around backwards with a eurostep. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The story of the first two games in this year's Eastern Conference semifinals has been Miami's athletic prowess stomping all over Boston's team-oriented, tough-minded approach.

If you're looking for a signature play from the first two games, both Miami victories, you need look no further than Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade's eurostep blow-by of Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett during Tuesday night's 102-91 win. Wade approached Garnett with a full head of steam in transition on a two-on-two fast break with LeBron James to his right. Garnett was back and in solid defensive position, back-pedaling to stall the play a bit as Wade approached.

As Wade his the three-point line he angled into the paint, lunging forward as if to drive hard to his dominant right hand. Garnett bit on the move and Wade perfectly executed the crossover second step, shifting his entire body weight back to the left. Garnett had no idea what just hit him, and continued to turn towards the middle, before realizing his error. As he spun full circle to attempt to contest the shot, Garnett lashed out with his left arm, contacting Wade as he rose to scoop in a right-handed lay-up. 

The most remarkable part of the move? Wade took just 2.1 seconds to go from the three-point line to the rim.

Here's a look at the video of the must-see highlight from Tuesday night.



That play was the story of the first two games in a nutshell. Garnett, back on his heels, reacting as Wade carefully picked his path, executed too flawlessly and too quickly for one of the league's premier defenders to keep up. 

Not to be overlooked in the video is LeBron James' reaction. James is full of intensity, confidence and exuberance, as if the carefully-laid Big 3 plan had come to fruition right before his eyes. 
Posted on: May 3, 2011 1:12 pm
 

Shaq a game-time decision for Game 2

Posted by Royce Young

Doc Rivers already said Shaquille O'Neal will be ready for Game 3 against the Heat, but there's a chance he'll go tonight, reports WEEI. Shaq is being dubbed a "game-time decision" right now.

"He looked great yesterday," Rivers told reporters. "He went through the whole practice. He was phenomenal actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal. Then by the end of the practice he was struggling walking. We’ll see but I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, were not sure but I doubt it."

Shaq has yet to play in the postseason and hasn't seen meaningful minutes since February. He made a brief return in April, but only made it a few trips up and down the floor before straining his calf.

Shaq has been practicing however and even scrimmaged some. As Rivers pointed out above, the team is really encouraged with the way he performed and looked. Whether he's able to hold up in an actual game though, is yet to be seen.

The Celtics and Heat play Game 2 tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 2:54 pm
 

No swelling, X-rays negative on Rose's ankle

Posted by Royce Young

Not that it matters, because Derrick Rose was playing regardless what it said, but the X-rays on his tweaked left ankle came back negative.

No MRI is planned. Officially, he's listed as day-to-day. It was also reported that there was no swelling in Rose's ankle and he practiced without a hitch today.

Rose tweaked his previously sprained ankle in the last five seconds of Monday's Game 1 loss to the Hawks when he stepped on Jamal Crawford'd foot. Just an unlucky play at about the worst possible time. Not only did the Bulls lose, but as the final seconds ticked off, Rose was sent limping off the court. Double ouch.

He'll play in Game 2, no doubt. But don't think this is insignificant. Once you sprain an ankle, the ligaments loosen up and the structure is weakened. So the chances of re-tweaking or re-rolling it are always good. Rose was mostly healthy in Game 1, but struggled shooting the ball going 11-27 for 24 points. We'll just have to wait and see his effectiveness in the next one.

Game 2 versus the Hawks is Wednesday.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 3:21 am
Edited on: May 3, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Playoff Fix: Celtics look to flip momentum

The Boston Celtics look to even their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.  

pierce-game-1

MIAMI LEADS 1-0


One Big Thing:  Game 1 win was all about the Big Mo: Momentum. It was the perfect, confidence-boosting start for the Heat. Their dominant, level-headed performance in a physical game went a long way in answering questions about whether they'd fall apart or get bullied in the big moment. The Heat's bench production -- spearheaded by James Jones -- proved they're capable of playing a full 48-minute game against Boston. Game 2 should serve as a hinge on the series. If Miami can repeat -- or approximate -- their Game 1 performance, Boston will be facing an inordinate amount of pressure when the series returns to Massachusetts. If Boston manages to even things up, all of Miami's old doubts -- Are we deep enough? Are we tough enough? Can we win on the road? -- will arise again.

 The X-Factor:  Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has been identified as the single X-Factor in the Eastern Conference playoffs since back in early April. That's only more true now that the Celtics are staring at the potential of an 0-2 deficit. In Game 1, Rondo was limited by foul trouble and shot poorly, finishing with eight points on 3-for-10 shooting. The Celtics never need him to be a go-to scoring threat, but he should dominate his match-up against the likes of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers. But sometimes it's as simple as staying on the court. Rondo played just 32 minutes, making it difficult for Boston to establish its offensive rhythm and dictate tempo, especially given the emotionally charged Game 1 atmosphere and the fact that Dwyane Wade was having a Supermanlike game for the Heat. 

The Adjustment:  I hate to make this one about the officials, but the biggest adjustment will be in how these two teams are treated by the zebras. In Game 1, four technical fouls and a flagrant foul were dished out, but the league office stepped in after the fact to downgrade and rescind some of the harsher in-game rulings. Boston, clearly, is hoping the game is whistled a bit more loosely, so that there isn't a repeat of Paul Pierce's needless ejection. 

The Sticking Point:  Will Wade fall back to Earth? And, if so, how far will he fall? He was dominant with the ball and with his play-making. He set up LeBron James beautifully on multiple occasions while making Ray Allen's life miserable. This is where the whack-a-mole Magic of the Big 3 comes into play. Should the Celtics devote more attention to Wade, they'll be opening doors for James, who had an off night by his standards, scoring 22 points on 19 shots, and Chris Bosh, who was big on the glass but provided little scoring pop. Miami needed every last Wade bucket on Game 1. He did his part. Who's up next?


Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 11:47 pm
 

The Bulls looked exactly the same vs. the Hawks

Posted by Royce Young



Even after the Bulls dispatched the 37-win Pacers in five games, something just didn't look right. Maybe it was because three of the wins were so close to loses. Maybe it's because they lost once. Maybe it's because we expected more from the league's best regular season team.

We all expected a different Chicago team. I know I did. I tried to put my finger on it for five games against the Pacers, but something was just missing in that Indiana series. I figured it started to get sorted out in the Game 5 blowout clincher. And with a few days off, I figured the Bulls would be completely prepared for the Hawks.

Wrong.

The Hawks dominated early, starting the game on an 11-0 run before withstanding a strong surge by the Bulls in the third to win 103-95 and take a 1-0 series lead. Just like that, the Hawks snatched homecourt advantage from the Bulls and may have taken a little of their confidence with it too.

Because one team looked like the No. 1 seed and it wasn't the one in home whites. Derrick Rose was, well, awful. He went just 11-27 from the floor, for 24 points (no free throw attempts). The Chicago defense was carved up by solid floor spacing and good Atlanta shooting. Joe Johnson had maybe the best game in his playoff career; scoring 34 on 12-18 from the field (including an impressive 5-8 from midrange). The Hawks shot 51 percent, won the rebounding battle, turned it over just 10 times and made their free throws. A total recipe for a road win.

But, back to the Bulls. I'm the type of person that really hesitates on ever hitting the panic button. And it's still in another room for me right now in regard to the Bulls. But it's hard not to at least be alarmed about Chicago. Because they didn't improve. They didn't adjust. They didn't correct the issues that plagued them against Indiana.

They relied entirely too much on Rose's playmaking ability and appeared to almost assume they could stop the Hawks offense. It was like they didn't realize that Atlanta is actually pretty good. The energy and effort was there. It was more about a lack of preparation, execution and shot-making. The Bulls failed in all three areas.

The Pacers seemed to diagram out a good way to beat the Bulls: control tempo, funnel Rose into contested jumpers, try and keep him off the free throw line and force them to execute good offense in the halfcourt in big moments. Force the Bulls into relying entirely on Rose's ability, and take away Chicago's key advantages. The Pacers did well for the most part there, but they couldn't finish. They didn't have the horses to get to the end.

The Hawks, though, have players. They've got talent. Between Johnson, Al Horford, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith, the Hawks can ball. Remember how not having Kirk Hinrich was seen as a big blow? All Jeff Teague did was score 10 points and dish out five assists with only one turnover. The Hawks were ready. And they took it to the Bulls.

By no means is this series over. Just like the favored Thunder who dropped Game 1 at home to Memphis Sunday, things can turn around quickly. But what this means is that Chicago has a very, very important game Wednesday night. Immediately the Bulls have put themselves into a must-win situation. Lose Wednesday and that panic button gets a whole lot bigger, and I might not be able to keep myself from punching it.

Tom Thibodeau was presented his 2010-11 Coach of the Year award before the game Monday night. It's time for him to really earn it. The Bulls have to move past the issues from the Indiana series. They've got to make some adjustments. In Game 1 versus Atlanta, there weren't any from the opening round. And the Bulls paid for it.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com