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Tag:2011 First Round
Posted on: April 25, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 4:10 pm
 

Series Reset: A first chance to close for OKC

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative: Most would agree, the series is over. Now it's just about how it will wrap up. Teams leading 3-0 in a playoff series are 57-37 all-time. Meaning that most end in sweeps, but a decent amount do go 5. After that, the percentages really dip.

So that's where this series stands. Most didn't see it being in this place when it started, or especially after a hotly-contested Game 1 in Oklahoma City. But the Thunder have displayed almost an air of dominance the last two games, completely stifling the Nuggets' high powered offensive attack. Game 3 was close by the end, but if Kendrick Perkins doesn't make a bonehead pass, OKC wins by a comfortable margin.

It's just obvious that this is a horrendous matchup for the Nuggets. Not only do they struggle guarding the Thunder, but offensively, they can't find an edge. Two of their best scorers in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have gone missing in action as OKC's defensive scheme has limited their open looks and chances to drive to the rim.

A series is never over until its over -- the Boston Red Sox taught us that -- but it's a long, long shot for the Nuggets. They're playing for pride tonight. But it's a big moment for the young Thunder. This is their first chance to close a series. That's always a tough game to win. And sometimes that pressure can affect things.

The Hook: Nobody likes to concede a series on their home floor. Nobody likes to get swept. If you don't think there's still a good amount of motivation there for the Nuggets, well, you're wrong. This team already came back with its back to the wall after the Carmelo Anthony deal and proved there's not any quit in them. They're going to come out and fight.

Again, it comes back to if the Thunder can seize the opportunity and close out an opponent in their first crack at it. Winning the decisive game is the toughest one. You're playing a desperate team that's going to pull out every stop to stay alive. And this Thunder group is young and hasn't ever presented itself with this opportunity. The Thunder took control of Game 3 which was the one that swung the series entirely in their favor which was a big step. Closing out is the next, and much more difficult one.

The Adjustment:
The Nuggets just have to figure out a way to score against the Thunder. Thus far, it's been a struggle. OKC has bottled up everything the Nuggets prefer to do offensively and held their head under water. There aren't any open jumpers. No open looks from 3. Nothing easy in the paint. Not a lot of opportunity to run.

Somehow Denver has to find chances for easy points. It's been well documented that the Nuggets don't have a closing, go-to scorer to rely upon. Well, they aren't getting one in the next 10 hours, so they've got to figure something out. It's time to get Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler involved in the offense. It's time to figure out a way to score in the second half. That's on George Karl more than anyone else.

The X-Factor: How about an easy, obvious one? Free throw shooting. You could make a case the Nuggets gave away Games 1 and 3 at the free throw line (15 misses in Game 3). There's really no reason to miss out on those opportunities. As difficult as it is to score on the Thunder, giving away open 15-foot looks with no one guarding you is really inexcusable.

The Sticking Point: I don't get the sense the Nuggets are ready to quit. There are a lot of prideful veterans on that team that are more than ready to put up a fight and make it hard on OKC. But at the same time, it just seems that Denver is entirely overmatched. Not only are the Thunder better, but almost every matchup leans their way. It's been proven over and over again the last five meetings between these teams stretching back into the regular season.

Denver can win this one but it'll happen for two reasons: Either the Nuggets play a perfect game and get big contributions from Gallinari, Chandler and J.R. Smith or the Thunder wilt a bit under the pressure of closing out a series. Otherwise, if everything holds form, the Thunder's walking out of Denver with the series.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:50 pm
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Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Officially, Rose is listed as questionable

Posted by Royce Young

He's going to play. I'm pretty convinced of that. Mainly because he says he will. But officially, the Bulls have listed Derrick Rose as questionable.

“It’s not broke, so I’m definitely playing,” Rose told reporters.

Rose turned his left ankle in the second quarter of Game 3 on a drive to the bucket. He briefly went to the locker room but returned to the game to start the second half. He wore a walking boot the past couple days and had an MRI, which was negative.

Today at practice though, Rose showed up without the walking boot, instead wearing flip-flops. I would take that as a good sign. He didn't practice but said he would definitely be getting a painkilling shot.

Really the only "questionable" about it is how healthy Rose will be Tuesday. He probably won't be 100 percent but obviously a 75 percent Derrick Rose is pretty darn good. The Bulls are back in Chicago after dropping Game 4 to the Pacers and have a chance to close the series out. Though the Bulls lead 3-1, this game is dangerous. If Rose isn't healthy and the Bulls somehow were to drop another to the Pacers, this series would go back to Indiana with a chance for the Pacers to force a Game 7.

And on top of that, that's less rest for Rose.

So the Bulls are taking Tuesday's game seriously. If, and that's a big if, Rose isn't able to go, the load will fall to C.J. Watson. Don't think the Bulls want that.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 2:18 pm
 

OKC is suffocating the league's top offense

Posted by Royce Young


In just about every way you could measure it, the Nuggets had the league’s best offense this season. They led the league in points per game (107.5) and offensive efficiency (109.5). In terms of eFG% they were second at 52.56 percent. They topped the league also in free throw rate (36.7).

But in the three games versus the Thunder? That offense hasn’t been anything close to what it was.

In the three games thus far, the Nuggets are averaging just 95.3 points per game. Their overall field goal percentage is down almost six percent, their offensive efficiency is just 98.76 and while their free throw attempts have held firm, they’re making way less.

Stop and think about that. The top offense in the entire league is scoring more than 10 points fewer per 100 possessions. In a game where things are getting slowed down to around 90 possessions a game, that means the Nuggets offense is simply being suffocated.

The Thunder reestablished themselves as a good defensive team after the Kendrick Perkins trade but this is just ridiculous. The Nuggets were universally praised for their ball movement and team play after the Carmelo Anthony trade but against OKC in these three games, they just haven’t found any sort of rhythm. Really the best they looked was the opening minutes of Game 1 where they started 7-7 from the field. After that, they’re shooting close to under 40 percent.

What’s been the big deal? Why have the Thunder stifled Denver’s high-powered, balanced attack? I think it’s pretty simple. OKC has done two things: slowed the Nuggets down and let them run their offense.

What do I mean by the second one? I think it’s been a subtle plan by the Thunder to allow the Nuggets to try and run their usual stuff. The Nuggets love to work inside-out and run weakside screens to free up shooters, while also using penetration to score at the rim. The Thunder haven’t necessarily tried to shut that down. The reason being because Oklahoma City knows it can stop what the Nuggets are good at.

Look at the numbers. Denver has attempted 80 shots at the rim in these three games (26.6 per game). By comparison, OKC has taken only 56. Denver has taken 25 shots in the paint (OKC 26). Where Denver isn’t getting shots is in the mid-range where its only taken 64.

So OKC is letting Denver get shots inside, but here’s the interesting part: the Nuggets are shooting just 58 percent at the rim and only 28 percent inside the paint. Absolutely nothing is easy for them right now. Between Serge Ibaka’s giant paw swinging at everything tossed up inside and Kendrick Perkins’ pushing people down everywhere, scoring in the paint is not easy versus the Thunder.

Perkins' foul on Wilson Chandler to start Game 2 said it all. You won’t walk to the rim against us. During the regular season, Denver shot 60 percent at the rim and 38 percent inside the paint. In terms of mid-range, the Nuggets haven’t been that much off their normal numbers. The 3-point line though, is another story. During the series so far, the Nuggets are shooting just 30.9 percent from 3. From the non-corner spots, just 29 percent. And like I said, this is a team that loves its 3-point shot.

What’s been so impressive is how the Thunder have been able to plug the paint and contest everything inside, while also recovering on shooters. That’s the gift of Perk, really. He handles Nene one-on-one and everyone else stays home on their shooter. Look at Ty Lawson. He hit 10-11 from deep in a game the last week of the season. So far this series, he’s only taken four 3-pointers. Danilo Gallinari is just 3-9. Raymond Felton, 2-10. Even with his little streak to end Game 3, J.R. Smith is only 4-13.

Like I said, the Thunder have sort of embraced what the Nuggets do well and just stopped them from doing it well. Scott Brooks saw that the matchups favored his team and instead of trying to outsmart George Karl with some genius adjustment, he just put his guys out there to stop Denver from what it does.

The Thunder’s defense is the reason this series is 3-0. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won Game 1. The defense took 2 and 3 pretty much entirely. I re-watched the fourth quarter from Game 3 and it’s just unbelievable how confused the Nuggets look in trying to run their offense. There is just no open man to be found anywhere. Everything is contested. Everything comes after three or four perimeter passes that lead no where.

OKC held Denver without a point for almost five minutes in Game 3. And quietly on the other end scored a basket here and made a free throw there. The lead suddenly was eight with four minutes to go. That’s what good defense does and that’s the reason people talk about it winning things. And right now, the Thunder’s playing the kind of defense that can win things.

Posted on: April 25, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 11:42 am
 

Tony Allen says Ginobili's faking elbow injury

Posted by Royce Young

Tony Allen may be taking this "Hustle, Grit and Grind" thing a bit too far. He's a tough player and we all know that, but that doesn't mean you question others toughness or even if their injuries are real.

In fact, that's exactly what he did with Manu Ginobili's elbow injury.

"It's for the birds," Allen told the San Antonio Express-News . "Everybody is banged up. You don't see me running to my PR guy telling him about an injury."

Ginobili of course missed Game 1 entirely because of a sprained elbow and he's worn a clunky brace on it the last two. His production has suffered just a bit, most notably at the free throw line where he's only 19-27. During the regular season Ginobili shot 87 percent from the line.

When asked about Allen's accusation that he was faking it, Ginobili didn't really know how to respond. "That's his opinion," Ginobili told reporters. "I really don't care. I would love to not play with that brace. In previous years, we've had some pretty good runs without an elbow brace."

I don't really know what Allen's motive here is but calling Ginobili an injury faker seems pretty serious. Especially since Ginobili is most definitely not faking an injury. The fact he missed a crucial Game 1 kind of says it all.

In the two games he's played, Ginobili scored 17 and 23 points, but on just 10-25 combined shooting.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:16 am
 

NBA Playoffs: The insatiable, unstoppable CP3

CP3 again. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Among the pack of top free agents in the NBA who love to hang with each other, who have shared toasts and fireworks and locker space, Chris Paul stands apart. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, the list goes on. Those players are friendly. They came into the league at the same time, have the same priorities, the same approach. But Paul, as friendly as he is with those players, is different in one simple regard. 

He wants to win more. 

This isn't to say that the others don't want to win. These are competitors on the highest level. But there is a gap. The only player that rivals Paul is Wade, the only player among them with a championship ring, a testament to that will. But even Wade has his businesses, the commercials, the distractions with the Heat, the culture of branding that he operates in. Again, this isn't an indictment. Wade has proven time and time again, just as James and the rest (no matter what popular sentiment has determined) that he will deliver in the key moments, spend the extra time, fight through the injuries, do what it takes to get a win. 

But Paul? 

Paul wants it just a little bit more. 

It's in his DNA. He's arguably the only player in the league with the competitiveness level of Kobe Bryant. So to see him slashing, dashing, and breaking Bryant's ankles has a certain level of appropriateness to it, even if the Lakers remain a significant favorite to win this series. Paul's history of intensity dates back to college, and the physical lengths he would go to in order to win a game. In the NBA, he's been, when healthy, the consensus best point guard in the league (bearing in mind that Derrick Rose is about as far from a pure point as it gets. Rose is his own thing, Bulls fans, let's not make everything about Rose, as awesome as he is.).  He's also struggled through years with subpar casts, but this year, with the team's future in New Orleans in doubt, he's maintained. 

There were questions this season, to be sure. Paul told Ken Berger that he was looking at longevity this season, that that was weighing on his mind. It led us to discuss the possibility Paul was holding back for the playoffs. 

Yeah, about that. 

On Sunday night, Paul dropped a triple-double, his second in four games of this series. Paul joins Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Mookie Blaylock, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd, and Baron Davis in the list of players to drop multiple triple-doubles in one series. Paul's second half line? 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. Are you kidding me? You have to be kidding me. This cannot be real life. This is not reality. This is some mistifying fantasy where a player comes out and does that to the defending champs. It was brilliant. It was exceptional. 

It was a perfect example of the lengths Paul will go to in order to win. Trevor Ariza noted after the game that he had six rebounds. The Hornets' big man, Emeka Okafor had 6 rebounds. Chris Paul had 13 rebounds, against the tallest and longest frontcourt in the National Basketball Association in a pivotal playoff game where he was also scoring and running the offense. Oh, and he had two steals. There was nothing more you could ask for from Paul. How often do you really get to say that about a player? That you cand identify what he gave as absolutely everything. Put it another way, which isn't really fair, I'll admit off the bat. How often have you really, truly said that about what you felt LeBron James' maximum effort could be. 

The Lakers certainly played their part in this. But the effort from Kobe Bryant in Game 3 to slow Paul was unable to overcome CP3 in Game 4. To be fair, a seven nation army couldn't hold Paul back in Game 4. The range-game, the whip-pass, the drive and drop, the floater, it was the entire range. Chris Paul doesn't wind up with exceptional games in February, he saves his best for when his team needs it most. Down 2-1 in front of a desperate crowd on the verge of losing the Hornets as a part of their community, Paul answered.  We talk a lot about great players, about what makes a player the kind you remember five, ten, fifteen years after their days are over. CP3's performance Sunday night? It fit that description perfectly. 

The Hornets have tied the series with the champs, with Aaron Gray and Carl Landry as key contributors. Paul has shown once again why he is without question the best pure point in the league. The Lakers may very well advance in the playoffs from this series. But if they do so, they'll have to fight Chris Paul to the very last second to get that fourth win. And even then they'll know what we all know, what we've seen. 

Chris Paul just wants it a little bit more. 
Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:22 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 1:36 am
 

Chris Paul: 'I'd hit my mama too' interview video

New Orleans point guard Chris Paul jokes that he would hit his mother if she was on the court playing against him after he led the Hornets to a Game 4 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver.

What a ridiculous night for New Orleans All-Star point guard Chris Paul. He crossed up Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant hard. He led the Hornets to a huge Game 4 win over the Lakers to even the series at two games apiece by dropping a line that hasn't been put up in the last 20 postseasons: 27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists.

When it all was all said and done though, Paul played the role of stand-up comedian in his post-game interview. Asked by TNT's Cheryl Miller about his back-and-forth with Bryant on the court, which included a hard foul on a Bryant lay-up attempt, Paul let loose with a punchline that's sure to be repeated ad nauseam over the next few days. 

"He'd do me the same way," Paul said. "You know, it's all in fun but this is our livelihood. I don't care if my mama was out on the court I'd hit her too." 

Here's the video.



Mrs. Paul wasn't CP3's only foil in this clip. Teammate Trevor Ariza snuck up behind Paul to give him a bear hug from behind, which Paul greeted with a "pause" on national television before carrying on with the interview like nothing happened.

One way or another, politically correct or not, this guy was non-stop entertainment on Sunday night.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:22 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 1:32 am
 

Kobe Bryant on crutches after spraining ankle

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant injured his left ankle against the New Orleans Hornets in Game 4. Posted by Ben Golliver.

During the closing minutes of Game 4 against New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant tweaked his left ankle while defending Hornets guard Willie Green.

Bryant, who had battled left ankle problems earlier this season, appeaered to badly roll his left ankle as Green attacked the paint. Bryant's momentum carried him into Green and he was whistled for a foul. After consulting with Lakers coach Phil Jackson and the team's training staff, Bryant re-entered the game and finished out the stretch.

The Hornets pulled out the Game 4 win, 93-88.

Following the game, Yahoo! Sports reported: "Kobe has crutches and lakers say they're considering MRI on injured ankle. Kobe acknowledged concern about what he called a left foot, not ankle, injury but expects to play in Game 5."

The Orange County Register added: "The Lakers likely will have Bryant undergo an MRI exam and X-ray Monday. They are calling it a sprained ankle for now."

Here's video of the injury. 



More details on Bryant's condition as they become available.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com