Tag:Conference Semifinals
Posted on: May 8, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 9:28 pm
 

Tyson Chandler: The man who ended an empire

There were dozens of reasons (that came in 3's) why the Mavericks were better than the Lakers. But the man in the middle gave Dallas the chance to down the champs.
Posted by Matt Moore



  There will be talk of Dirk Nowitzki's excellence. There will be talk of the outright barrage that Jason Terry helped lead, along with Peja Stojakovic and Jason Kidd from the perimeter. There will be time to talk about the Lakers' abject mental and emotional collapse. But we should take a moment and recognize that, while the 3-point bombs may have given the Mavericks the points to overcome the Lakers, it was a man who was cast off years ago who truly brought the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals. 

In the early months of 2010, Mark Cuban recognized the real problem with facing the Lakers. Sure, Kobe Bryant was going to hurt you and Pau Gasol's touch and post moves were going to seem overwhelming. The athletic talent is incredible. But the biggest advantage the Lakers have? Size and length. Pau Gasol, 7-0. Andrew Bynum, 7-0, Lamar Odom, 6-10. That's an absolutely humongous front line, even if only two of them are in the game at the same time. The advantage doesn't just come in first-shots or defending the rim, or offensive rebounds. It's in interrupting passing lanes and tipping in shots from six feet out. You could survive Kobe Bryant's perimeter onslaught. But the Lakers' massive size advantage could not be bested unless you brought in bigger and better players. 

Which is what Cuban did. Cuban first traded for Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler. When that didn't work out, the Mavericks' management team, with Donnie Nelson at the helm, acquired Tyson Chandler. And all of a sudden, the Mavericks' entire identity changed. You had to really watch this year to notice it, and not just get caught up in the "same ol' Mavericks" talk that permeates so much discussion.  The Mavericks were tougher inside, able to counter off the bench with Haywood. Dirk Nowitzki was no longer the tallest or most active defender. 

Against the Lakers. Pau Gasol got a healthy dose of Chandler. While Gasol's failures are a whole other discussion in and of themselves, Chandler's defense both man-up and on help were a huge part of why the Mavericks were able to contain the Lakers defensively. No longer able to overwhelm the Mavericks inside, despite a stellar series from Andrew Bynum (right up until the point he committed one of the most embarrassing flagrant fouls in NBA playoff history), the Lakers just kept chucking 3-pointers. And they were unable to hit anything that even resembled a shot. Seriously, most of us thought many of them were passes. 

The Lakers' problems go deep, and the Mavericks' successes even deeper. But Tyson Chandler not only helped negate the Lakers' biggest advantage, but even landed a few alley-oops. Chandler set the tone and brought the Mavericks a new attitude. It takes a lot of toughness to make the champs into wimps, to turn a dynasty to dust. After so many years as an after-thought, Tyson Chandler is the first line of defense for a team headed to the Conference Finals. 
Posted on: May 8, 2011 6:48 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 7:21 pm
 

The Mavs shoot the Lakers down from deep

Posted by Royce Young



One way to close out the two-time defending champions and leave no doubt of a historic collapse? Make everything.

That's pretty much what the Mavericks did to complete an unexpected sweep of the Lakers with a 122-86 destruction in Game 4. The story is, of course, the Lakers, along with Phil Jackson and the team's embarrassing, classless finish. Which is a shame because the Mavs shooting was something else. I still can't decide what was dirtier: Andrew Bynum's foul or Jason Terry's 3-point shooting. Because both were pretty sick.

Terry went 9-10 from deep, which tied an NBA playoff record (shared by Vince Carter, Ray Allen and Rex Chapman). Peja Stojakovic went 6-6 from 3 and, as a team, the Mavs tied an NBA playoff record with 20 makes from beyond the arc. In all, they shot 62.5 percent from 3 (20-32), with seven guys hitting at least one.

After the game, Terry was asked when he knew it was going to be a good day for him. Here's what he said: "When I woke up this morning. Mom's cooking. It's Mother's Day. I know she's here and I love and I thank God for her."

Here's how good it was for the Mavs on this day: Even Brian Cardinal was 1-1 from 3.

Now you've got to wonder... Were the Mavs just hot, or was the Lakers' perimeter defense that bad? It was both. Those two things worked hand-in-hand. The Lakers presented the Mavs' shooters a number of good looks, but the Dallas marksmen did the hard part -- they knocked them down.

Some days, it just gets rolling for you. Terry had it working, and tied the NBA record in just three quarters. Stojakovic was disciplined, taking only the wide open looks the Laker defense presented. And the entire team had a great offensive pace and look about it for four quarters. Cool, calm confidence and smooth execution. The drive-and-kick worked like clockwork as Mavs shooters -- Terry and Stojakovic specifically -- basically just waited for their next open shot.

But in a game that held quite a bit of pressure and anxiety, the fact the Mavs kept their heads clear and hands steady, and knocked down such a ridiculous rate from outside, says a lot about them. They weren't about to let any doubt creep in about a Laker comeback. They were going to snuff that out entirely. And they did it from outside.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 6:07 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 6:49 pm
 

Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom ejected for dirty hits

Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers were ejected for dirty plays late in Game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

If you thought Ron Artest's clothesline of J.J. Barea in Game 2 was the definition of disgracing yourself in defeat, think again.

The Los Angeles Lakers sank to a new low, as two starters were ejected as the team was swept out of the Western Conference semifinals in four games by the Dallas Mavericks.

First, it was forward Lamar Odom, who shoved Mavericks All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki near the three-point line. With the Mavericks leading 94-68 with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Odom leaned hard into Nowitzki as he looked to establish position near the arc. Nowitzki fell immediately to the ground and Odom was whistled for a flagrant foul and immediately ejected.

Here's a look at Odom's hit on Nowitzki.


That wasn't nearly the worst of it, though. The worst came less than a minute later. 

The cheapest play of the playoffs distinction goes to Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who delivered a forearm shiver to the chest of Barea, who was exposed in mid-air as he was attempting a runner. Bynum made no play whatsoever on the ball and was issued a flagrant foul and immediately ejected. He took his jersey off and stomped off the court, with Artest serving as his escort underneath a cascade of boos.

Here's a look at Bynum's dirty hit on Barea. 

For more on the Lakers disgrace, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger has you covered.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 3:34 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 10:40 am
 

Rondo, West expected to play Game 4 after MRIs

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers says Rajon Rondo and Delonte West will play in Game 4 following MRIs. Posted by Ben Golliver.
rajon-rondo-elbow

UPDATE: Rondo was given an X-ray, MRI and CT scan and all results were negative. He's being officially listed as questionable for Game 4.

During Saturday's Game 3 against the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics guards Rajon Rondo and Delonte West both went down with injury. For Rondo, it was a gruesome dislocated elbow  while West suffered a shoulder injury just before halftime.

Boston.com reports that both players underwent MRIs and that Celtics coach Doc Rivers expects both to be available to play in Monday night's Game 4, although he expressed a bit of apprehension regarding Rondo. 
"Right now we're going with they're all playing," said Rivers, who was including Shaquille O'Neal. "Hopefully we'll know something by the end of our film session. Obviously (Rondo's elbow) was far more painful today, a lot of swelling."
"If he can't help our team (Rondo won't play)," the coach said. "And if he can play, how well can he play and will he help or hurt our team? No. 1, we're not going to hurt the player and we're not going to do anything to hurt the team. It may not be until game time and the game until we find that out. Right now, that may be the case. I am optimstic about both, that they're going to play." 
Here's video of Rondo's gruesome injury which occurred after he got tangled up with Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.



If both Rondo and West are unable to go, look for the Celtics to activate reserve point guard Carlos Arroyo, who played for the Heat earlier this season.

For more on Rondo's heroic return, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger has you covered .
Posted on: May 8, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 11:19 am
 

Playoff Fix: Atlanta's easy way out

The Hawks don't really have to win Game 4 to be proud of their season, it's all gravy from here, really. But if they want to make this series go longer, they're going to have to make some serious changes. 
Posted by Matt Moore




One Big Thing:  The Atlanta Hawks aren't really on the hook for Gaem 4. They stole a game in Chicago, made a good effort in Game 2, and then Game 3 really did show that they're just outclassed. The Hawks will continue to face derision from media and fans, but the reality is that they did make progress this year. They won a game in the second round. Granted, based on this pattern of improvement, they're scheduled to win the title in 2088, but still. The Hawks can be blamed for their isolation offense, for their allowance of huge performances from stars, for Josh Smith shooting 3-pointers.  But they can't be blamed for the Bulls being better, which they are. How the Hawks choose to respond in Game 4 will say a lot about them. Again, they can fold, and you shouldn't think any worse of them. The Bulls are a much better team.  But if the Hawks come out and play with fire, once again pushing the top team in the East and forcing this series to go at least some distance, they'll show that at least they're not willing to go quietly. 

The X-Factor: It's tempting to throw any number of Hawks in here: Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, but since we know we can't count on them (Teague is the best bet, can you believe that?), let's go with a Bull: C.J. Watson.  As if Derrick Rose's onslaught wasn't enough, Watson came off the bench in Game 3 with 8 points and got to the line twice in just ten minutes. The Hawks have shown they can survive big performances from stars (Dwight Howard). But if the bench is going to keep up the production, they're must going to drown defensively. 

The Adjustment: Surely, Josh Smith will start to hear the boos and recognize that you can't, you just can't keep taking those long-range jumpers. The boos from his home crowd (which will undeniably be a little less homey in Game 4)! Smith keeps taking those shots, despite the opportunity to take Carlos Boozer off the dribble and how well the Hawks play when he becomes aggressive. At this point, the best bet for the Hawks is classical conditioning using the Hawks crowd as a reward system. Maybe they should set up a bell system to tell him when to drive. Pavlov's Dog doesn't seem like a crazy approach if it gets the job done. Smith has gutted his own offense with his decision making in the playoffs. 

The Sticking Point: Jeff Teague actually played really well. There was just no stopping Derrick Rose, especially with his mid-range jumper falling. If the same is in place in Game 4, the Hawks have no shot. It sounds simple, because it is. If Rose's mid-range jumper is falling, the Hawks are done and might as well not even make the flight to Chicago for Game 5. But if it's not, and they start attacking the basket themselves, Atlanta has an opportunity to get this series further down the road. 
Posted on: May 8, 2011 1:14 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 1:38 am
 

Playoff Fix: Lakers play for pride first

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

DALLAS LEADS 3-0

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

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

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

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

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

The question for Game 4 is really quite simple: Is Bryant still capable of willing the Lakers to victory?
Posted on: May 8, 2011 12:30 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 12:49 am
 

Miami Heat fizzle in nightmare Game 3 at Boston

The Miami Heat crash-landed in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.
dwyane-wade-fall


Game 3, in many ways, saw the Miami Heat's greatest fears realized ... and all of them on the same night. Chris Bosh didn't show up. The role players didn't play their roles. The questionable starting lineup was worse than usual. And neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade was capable of an explosive performance to carry all that dead weight.

With the 97-81 home win on Saturday, the Boston Celtics chipped into Miami's series lead, narrowing the gap to 2-1, and took a huge swipe at the Heat's building confidence.

The loss, apparently, is sending Heat coach Erik Spoelstra back to the drawing board. Asked by the Associated Press whether he would consider a starting lineup change, Spoelstra said, "I will evaluate everything, A to Z." Of course there's only two players to evaluate -- Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- and that process is sure to be an ugly one.  Bibby contributed just five missed shots, one assist and one turnover in 14 minutes, while Ilgauskas played just eight minutes on Saturday and is now just 2-9 on the series. 

Not much is expected from either player, but it doesn't help that their backups are playing solid basketball. Mario Chalmers had 17 points in Game 3 after being relatively ineffective in the first two. Joel Anthony, meanwhile, had a career night, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 33 minutes. In deciding whether to move one or both to the starting lineup, Spoelstra is balancing whether that would overly frontload his rotation. With such a short bench, Spoelstra needs any punch he can get from his second unit, and with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh already starting, the point guard and center aren't asked to do much more than knock down open shots and finish at the rim, respectively. 

Nevertheless, Miami found itself in an 18-7 hole early, and Boston began the third quarter on a 14-4 run. Those are major deficits, and are very difficult to overcome, especially on the road. 

Anthony, in particular, probably deserves the nod, given that he's already playing starter-type minutes. Spoelstra could then save Ilgauskas to match up with whatever minutes Shaquille O'Neal plays, allowing the two hulking veteran centers to cancel each other out. When it comes to Bibby, there's no easy answer: He's shooting an abominable 26.3% in the playoffs. There's no hiding that type of performance, especially against Boston's defense.

Bigger than the lineup issues was the predictable disappearance of Chris Bosh. Bosh was eaten alive by Kevin Garnett, who had a season-high 28 points and 18 rebounds. In contrast, Bosh tallied a season-low six points while grabbing just five rebounds. For a player that's battled back against criticism that he comes up small in big moments and is overly passive, he came up microscopic in a huge moment and was as passive as it gets. Bosh's Game 3 was a transcontinental pipeline to help give fuel to his haters.

No play better encapsulated Bosh's night than Rajon Rondo's miracle steal and dunk. After leaving earlier with a dislocated elbow that was popped back into place by Boston's training staff, Rondo caught Bosh napping. As Bosh went to track down a loose ball near halfcourt at half-speed, Rondo jumped him, picking Bosh cleanly before heading in for an uncontested dunk. The play began when Jeff Green over-played the passing lane to tip Bosh's lazy pass, and Bosh's effort to recover from that mistake lacked urgency and awareness. He has to do better. There's no excuse.



The struggles from Miami's role players and Bosh's wilting performance are a reminder that Miami isn't yet a monolith, or even a Goliath. They're a two-headed monster capable of playing a more athletic game than any other team in the league, but also one that over-relies on James and Wade to a precarious degree.

If there's a silver lining to Saturday's loss for the Heat, it's Rondo's injury. Without question, he will be limited for the remainder of the series and his ability to shoot the ball, which was already in question, will be virtually eliminated. Miami should be able to make the necessary defensive adjustments to capitalize on that fact: overplaying the passing lanes, pressuring Rondo as he brings the ball up the court, overplaying his right hand mercilessly and daring him to shoot from the perimeter.

In addition to Rondo's status, Miami still has plenty to bank on: homecourt advantage, the fact that Boston played with a do-or-die urgency that will be difficult to replicate multiple times, and, of course, the James/Wade combination. In other words, Saturday wasn't a knockout blow for the Heat, but it is gut check time. It's going to be a long haul to close the door on the Celtics, and it's surely going to take more than two guys to get it done.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 11:37 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 12:18 am
 

NBA Playoffs Heat-Celtics: Rondo is tough

Rajon Rondo returns from a dislocated elbow to help lead the Celtics to a Game 3 win vs. the Heat. How does it stack up versus history? Are we getting ahead of ourselves?
Posted by Matt Moore

Listen, I'm supposed to exaggerate this for you. I'm supposed to throw you comparisons to the "Flu Game," Willis Reed's return, or Isiah Thomas' ankle.  But I'd be doing you a disservice if I did. If I simplified what happened when Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow (here's a lovely image, warning, graphic) to those other performances, I'd be ignoring some relevant facts that make this at the same time more, and less, impressive than those other historic performances. 

Consider the following which takes some of the glory out of Rondo's performance: 

  • Rondo finished with six points, three rebounds, 11 assists, and five turnovers. That's a great number of assists, especially considering the time he was gone, but not herculean. It wasn't Jordan's 38-7-5. 
  • It wasn't in a championship game, like Willis Reed's or Isiah Thomas'. The fact that it came in a semifinals game, no matter the opponent, puts it at a level beneath. 
  • We won't know how big his performance was until after this season is over. If Rondo's gutsy strength is what makes the difference in the Celtics' drive to the title, then it becomes much bigger. Memorable, sure, but only if the Celtics succeed not only in this series, but the next two. 
  • Rondo will be credited with creating the Celtics' comeback. In reality, the Celtics were already leading by 10 after storming out of the gate at halftime when Rondo went down. This isn't to say that Rondo's injury didn't cause the Celtics to rally around their emotional core, or that he didn't help them to hold onto the lead with his leadership. It's just that to say the Celtics were doomed before Rondo valiantly returned is a falsehood. 

That said, give these elements some thought as well:

Rajon Rondo is the youngest member of the Celtics' starting five. He has been buried at times in this series and late in the season for his mental and emotional disappearing act. He has been called out for acting childish, particularly in regards to his reaction to the trade of Kendrick Perkins, his close friend. And in a game which the Celtics absolutely could not afford to lose, Rondo not only returned from an injury which, as a player with a bright future ahead of him, and considering the severity of the injury (he dislocated his freaking arm), he had no obligation to return from. But he came back, and when he did, he played with intensity and dedication. He was essentially one-armed for the majority of his playing time and continued to command the Celtics to cut the series deficit to 2-1. 

Michael Jordan? The flu is terrible, it's tough, and Jordan's game was better. But IV fluids and the body's natural fight against disease can allow adrenaline to overcome it. Rondo's physical ability to function through the use of his arm was impaired. Willis Reed returned and made little impact to the game. He primarily serves as an iconic image, his jog from the locker room the first such image in league history to be recorded in such a big game. Isiah Thomas? Well, no one likes Isiah Thomas at this point, and ankle injuries? Who hasn't gotten an ankle injury and played through it? 

Rondo dunked. With one arm, essentially. And afterwards, instead of basking in his own toughness, or acknowledging how much pain he was in. Instead of using a humble brag to capitalize on his image, he said this:



Rajon Rondo is moody, acerbic, tough to figure out, and can infuriate Celtics fans with his inconsistency. But in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, with the Celtics desperate for a hero (and getting several), Rajon Rondo became that savior. That's not an exaggeration or cliche. Rondo fought through an incredibly tough injury (he dislocated his freaking arm, popped it back in, then played through it, for crying out loud) and may have saved the Celtics' season. 

Toughness is a core value of the Boston Celtics. And when they needed it most, the enigmatic point guard showed up and led by example, through toughness. 

Game 4 is Monday. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com