Tag:2011 NBA Playoffs
Posted on: April 14, 2011 1:56 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Pacers-Bulls Preview: Very good, very average

Posted by Royce Young



I. Intro

I don't know why Danny Granger decided to open his mouth. For some reason, he decided to blurt out that he thinks the Bulls would be easier to beat in a seven-game series than the Celtics. I have no idea either.

Because maybe the best shot this young Indiana team had coming in against Chicago was the surprise attack. Maybe the Pacers sneak up on the Bulls, steal Game 1 and then at least make things interesting. Now there's none of that. The Bulls heard you Danny, and they'll be ready.

I don't think this series will be all that glamorous. It's a 62-win team versus a 37-win one. That's a large, large difference. This is a great team versus an average one. It is the postseason and sometimes fun things happen, but this is kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get situation. It's hard to picture any scenario other than the inevitable unless Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng get kidnapped by Larry Bird.

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Bulls took the season series 3-1, by an average margin of 11.5 points per game. Indiana's three losses through were under the Jim O'Brien regime. The one win was behind interim Frank Vogel, which came in overtime. Other than that Indiana win, the season series was entirely lopsided. Chicago won by 19, 13 and 21 with those three games never even really being as close as even that number indicates.

Here's the bad news for Indiana: In those four games, they shot just 38 percent from the floor. The Pacers struggled scoring the ball from everywhere. The paint was sealed, the 3-point line was covered and Indiana's go-to guys never got clean looks. In their win, it was all about a surprising big night from Tyler Hansbrough. Not encouaging.

III. The Easy Stuff: Derrick Rose is good

Do I really need to sit here and tell you that Derrick Rose is good, that he's the best and most important player in this series and that if he plays even close to what he's capable of, the Bulls will cruise? Yeah, I probably do.

Derrick Rose is good, he's the best and most important player in this series and if he plays even close to what he's capable of, the Bulls will cruise.

It's easy to label Rose something like an "X-factor" but that's almost disrespectful. He is The Factor. He changes everything. Indiana has absolutely no one qualified to guard him and can't match him in crunch time. If these games stay close, the Bulls have a clear go-to scorer. Indiana has some decent players, but nothing the caliber of Rose.

IV. Secret of the Series: Can Indiana score?

Under Vogel, the Pacers have tried to become more of an up-tempo, high volume shooting team. They want to get up around 90 attempts a game. Under O'Brien, they tried to grind it out defensively and while they had some early success, couldn't sustain. Now, they want to run you.

That's of course interesting because they're going up against the premier defensive team in the NBA. The Bulls rank first in basically every defensive category, most important of which is defensive efficiency where they allow just 100.3 points per 100 possessions. (That's awesome. )

The Pacers are technically a better defensive team than offensive one (rank 12th in defensive efficiency, 23rd in offensive), but that's not the point. They want to try to score more than 100. Under Vogel, they consistently topped the century mark. In games they did that, the Pacers won a lot more. In wins, Indiana averaged 107.8 points per game. In losses, 93.2. That's a major difference.

Indiana is looking to outscore the Bulls, which of course isn't the best strategy, but it's probably the only one. I mean, what else are you going to do, beat the Bulls at their own game?

V. The Dinosaur Narrative : “Chicago can't win now because they haven't won before”

I keep hearing people ask this question. The Rose led Bulls haven't ever won a playoff series; how can they win the whole thing? I kind of think that's a dumb question. Mainly because, Chicago will get their series win pretty easily over Indiana. So that'll be out of the way and the Bulls can get their hand stamped and move on.

But this inexperience card is one people love to play. Obviously the Pacers are far more untested in terms of playoff basketball, but the issue is whether or not these young Bulls will feel the pressure of being top dog coming in. I don't think so. Rose has already proven he elevates his game in the postseason, Tom Thibodeau has a championship ring and there are a number of quality veterans on the Bulls roster.

It's stressful having expectations on you, no doubt. The Bulls haven't gone deep into the postseason yet. But they're going to get part of it out of the way to start with and the Pacers are just going to be a small bump in the road.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Darren Collison has become a pretty solid point guard in the mold of Chris Paul. He creates, slashes and scores on his own. The Bulls have Derrick Rose. This isn't even close.

SG: The ugliest, least important matchup is definitely found in the 2-guard hold. Keith Bogans, a defensive specialist, versus Paul George, an athletic but extremely raw rookie. Not exactly marquee, this one.

SF: I think Danny Granger versus Luol Deng is one of the more underrated head-to-heads in the entire opening round. Obviously Indiana's success hinges largely on Granger and Deng is a terrific defender. Plus, Deng can score the ball. In the previous four meetings, Deng has gotten the best of Granger so I see no reason why not to go with him here.

PF: Tyler Hansbrough has been pretty good the last two months. He's high energy, high effort and has a decent little mid-range game. Clearly Carlos Boozer is better, but I think this matchup is a bit closer than it appears.

C: If the good Roy Hibbert shows up, he's a tough matchup for Joakim Noah. The good Hibbert can score, rebound, block shots and control a game from the post. But if it's the bad Hibbert, Noah will eat him alive. That's what Noah tends to do with people. He's a terrific post defender. But Hibbert has a lot of size on him and Indiana needs one edge in these matchups, so I'll give it to Hibbert.

Bench: Neither is overwhelmingly good, but I like Chicago's because of players like Kurt Thomas, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik. All make nightly impacts for Chicago. Indiana has some guys that can Heat up off the pine like Brandon Rush, Mike Dunleavy and James Posey, plus Josh McRoberts who has been a surprise, but the Bulls have depth in their depth.

Coach: Both are rookies, but one is more of a rookie than the other. Thibodeau will likely be this season's Coach of the Year and has transformed the Bulls into one of the elite defensive teams in the league. Vogel has done an admirable job with the Pacers, but not even his organization sees him as head coaching material moving forward. A clear edge for Chicago.

VII. Conclusion

The Pacers are a pretty good "We're just happy to be here!" team. With only 37 wins, they shouldn't even be in the final 16, but here they are. They know they're up against a favorite and know deep down the goal would be to win two games. This postseason would be an overwhelming success if they were able to pull that off.

But I have a hard time seeing it. Almost every matchup favors the Bulls as well as style of play. Indiana will play them hard and probably play them pretty close, but this has sweep written all over it. The Pacers won't do any sneaking up because of Granger's bulletin board material, so their best shot at stealing a game is gone. However, I'd like to think the Pacers will be excited enough to pull one off at home, just to treat the Indy fans. Prediction: Bulls in five.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

The Chicago Bulls will take on the Indiana Pacers in this Central Division playoff matchup. Will Derrick Rose help lead the Bulls to a championship? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger preview this playoff matchup. 

Posted on: April 14, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Sixers-Heat Preview: It's another tequila sunrise

The 2011 NBA Eastern Conference First-Round Playoffs roll on as we take a look at Sixers-Heat
Posted by Matt Moore



I. Intro

The Sixers are a nice story. They really are. Doug Collins pulled this team up by the bootstraps and once it got done punching itself in the face, it came together. They're a solid defensive team with some speed and youth at key positions. Pesky might be the word. 

The Heat are the big story. We've seen them show flashes of brilliance, but those all came in-between prolonged periods of malaise and incoherence. Everyone wants to see if this team has that extra gear. It's assumed with great playoff teams. But this team doesn't have that experience, not together. How are they going to react to when the games start to matter? Will the sleeping giant awaken, or will the playoffs just prove to be yet another challenge the heat fail to pass with flying colors?

The Sixers are swamped in matchups thanks to the talent on the Heat , which is going to make tactical decisions that much more important. The Heat need to look great to get some confidence. The Sixers just need to hang. 

II. What Happened: A Look at the Season Series

The Heat crushed them. I mean, killed them. It was a slaughter. The Heat averaged a 109.2 offensive efficiency and allowed just a 98.3. That's pretty impressive for the Heat/terrible for the Sixers on both sides of the ball. They outscored the Sixers by an average of 10.3 points, and shot 47 percent. 

There is some context, though, here. The Sixers had a horrific start to the season, and two of the games in the season series were during that span. The third game was in late March when the Heat were at their strongest and the Sixers were cooling down.  So we haven't really seen the Heat play the Sixers except when the Sixers were a mess. Philadelphia did manage its closest efficiency differential in the second game, when they were starting to figure things out, losing by just nine. All in all, the Heat definitely have the upper hand in this matchup, but the first glance doesn't tell you everything you need to know. 

III. The Easy Stuff: Dwyane Wade is a problem

Wade averaged 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists this season overall. Against Philadelphia, he averaged 30.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists. That's a one-man wrecking crew. The Sixers have no one to guard him, in reality. Not without going into a flex-big lineup with both Iguodala and Young on the floor, but that rotation hasn't played much together this season. The Sixers did use that lineup in the three games agianst the Heat, but that was really where Wade killed them. 

Looking at the Game Flows from Popcornmachine.net , the Sixers had their worst problems with Wade when Lou Williams was guarding him. This is problematic, as Williams is their truest shooting guard with any scoring impact. Jodie Meeks on the other hand held Wade to his two lowest-impact quarters. Even rookie Evan Turner did decent work against him. Andres Nocioni should not see any floor time in this series, but you probably knew that. He will. 

Wade's a stellar player, but his biggest game was a 39 point effort in March. In that game, his two biggest quarters were the 2nd and 4th, where he dropped 37 of his 39 points. In those two quarters, Meeks played just under eight minutes total. Meeks needs to be central part of the Sixers' defensive design or Wade's going to slice them into little tiny pieces and eat them with Sriracha. 

III. Secret of the Series: Help, (the Sixers) need somebody, help, not just any body

According to Synergy Sports, in the Sixers' best effort against the Heat, Philadelphia brought help or committed to the ball handler on the pick and role 22 of 29 times, or 76 percent. In their other losses, the Sixers only brought help 29 of 52 times, or 56 percent of the time.  In the Sixers' best effort against Miami, the Heat ran 28 Isolation plays, versus 34 combined in the other two games. You getting the pattern? This sounds simple, make the Heat get out of their offense, right? 

But what it means is that the Sixers need to commit to help defense, even if it exposes them to open jumpers. If they bring help on pick and rolls and on James and Wade in Isolation, that means there will be jump-passes to wide open threes from Mike Bibby, James Jones, Mike Miller, and Mario Chalmers. Fine. You live with that. The Sixers don't need to have a Celtics-like commitment to defensie principles. If they make mistakes in over-helping that leaves them unable to rotate, that's fine. Just keep the Triad in front of them. Making mistakes are fine as long as they're the right mistakes. The Sixers' offense is going to struggle. There's just no way around it. The Sixers' best shot is making the game into a defensive grind, keeping it close or making a late run to make it close, then try and push for transition buckets off of Heat miscommunication. 

But to do that they have to bring help, a lot of of help. 


IV. The Dinosaur Narrative: "WILL LeBron James WILT IN THE PLAYOFFS AGAIN?"

Last year's playoff series still lingers in people's minds. They remember the way James appeared to capitulate to the Celtics, to abandon his team. So now he's been branded with this narrative. 

The Sixers are not the Celtics. And furthermore, it's not like James has never won a playoff series. He's got a strong history of success in the playoffs, albeit without the "biggest" of series, which is always the last one you play. But trying to extrapolate James' struggles against the best defense in the NBA over the past three years into a narrative about his relative success is overblown. We're not talking Tracy McGrady, here. James has done his fair share of blowing first-round teams off the map, and the Sixers are likely to be next.  V. The Line-Item Veto: Who has control in each matchup? Quick, line by line. Ex. SG: Dwyane Wade versus Jodie Meeks isn't really fair. Meks has good length but Wade is just... Wade.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each matchup?

PG: This could be Jrue Holiday's coming-out party. Bibby's not nearly fast enough to stick him, and Chalmers isn't aware enough to watch him off-ball. Problem will arise when the Heat go no-point, and he has to defend Wade. Doug Collins will be making a lot of subs in this series. 

SG: We already talked about how Meeks can have an impact on this series. But c'mon. It's Dwyane freaking Wade and he dropped 30 per game on this team. 

SF: Andre Igoudala seems like a really nice guy, doesn't he? Great leader for Team USA this weekend. /whistles ... It's LeBron.

PF: Split. Bosh is better offensively, but Elton Brand may eat him alive on the boards. If Brand goes way-back-machine mode, the Heat may have to send help. That starts trouble for the Heat, even as mediocre as the Sixers are from the perimeter (15th in 3-point percentage). 

C: Doesn't this feel like a matchup where both teams fans are going to look at the other center and go "Man, I wish we had that guy!" only neither center is really good? Hawes gets the edge here, but if Joel Anthony keeps playing like he has lately, he might get the push.

Bench: Sixers win this one strong. Thaddeus Young has been a sixth-man of the year candidate, and the Sixers have the fourth best bench in the league, according to Hoopsstats.com .

Coach:  Well, considering Doug Collins is a Coach of the Year candidate and Erik Spoelstra had to put a marker on his parkig spot to make sure no one took it before he was canned, I think we're going to give Collins the advantage here. 


VII. Conclusion

There's not a tougher series to peg. Know why? You know what to expect out of every team in the playoffs except Miami. Denver may be outmatched, but they'll bring it. The Pacers are out of their league, but they won't just roll over and die. The Celtics are in disarray, but you know they'll be mentally ready. Same with the Lakers. Miami? They could sink the Sixers' battleship in the first game and never let them recover. They could lose the first game. They could start strong then get lazy. There's just no way of predicting this team's effort game-to-game. 

I flipped on this prediction six times. I started out with your standard 2-2-2 6-game set. Then I went all wacky and went to a seven game series with fans and media talking about how terrible the Heat are, and could they lose in the first round. Then I walked it back to a sweep. Then back to a six-gamer. Then I thought maybe a gentleman's sweep (5 games, you give 'em one out of being polite). But I keep coming back to that Heat team that lost to mediocre team after mediocre team this season. Except Philly. Which either means the Sixers have no chance or they're due. I have absolute faith in Miami winnning. I just have no faith in them winning comfortably. Prediction: Heat in 6.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

Can the Philadelphia 76ers contend with the all-star talent on the Miami Heat when they face off in round 1 of the NBA Playoffs? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger breakdown this upcoming playoff matchup.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Knicks-Celtics preview: tomorrow meets today

A preview of the first round playoff series between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.

knicks-celtics

I. Intro: No. 6 seed New York Knicks (42-40) vs. No. 3 seed Boston Celtics (56-26)

This series is the undisputed darling of TV executives everywhere, featuring two storied franchises from major East Coast markets who will face each other when the favorite – Boston – appears to be at the peak of its vulnerability. There’s a past/present vs. future tension at play too, as the Celtics’ Big 3 looks to be approaching its final stand while the Knicks story is clearly still unfolding: Who will be the third star to team up with All-Star forwards Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony?

This one boils down to: "Digging deep for one last push" versus "We did it! we're in the playoffs!" That puts the pressure and expectations squarely on Boston's shoulders. 

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Celtics swept the season series, 4-0, averaging 107.8 points per game while allowing the Knicks just 101.3, making for a dominant 6.5 point average margin of victory. However, two of the games came before the trade deadline and one came on Wednesday night, in a meaningless game in which both team sat many key players.

This season, the Celtics have had their way on both ends of the court, averaging nearly 51% from the field in four meetings with the Knicks while out-rebounding New York, on average, 45-37. In general, the numbers from the season series aren't going to be comforting to Knicks fans, although Stoudemire did average 24 points and eight rebounds against the Celtics.

III. The Easy Stuff: Rajon Rondo is the X-Factor

What is going on with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo? Not since the Where’s Waldo? books have so many people spent so much time wondering about one man whose name ends in a vowel. 

It’s always been easier to talk about Rondo as a talented enigma, a brilliant loner who dances to his own beat. Lately, his numbers are off, Boston’s scoring is way down since the trade deadline and steady veterans like Ray Allen are left wondering why their touches have evaporated.  That combination has left Celtics fans queasy and concerned. No one ever really understood him and suddenly that feels like a huge problem.

In three appearances against New York this season, Rondo has been big: averaging 11.0 points, dishing 16.7 assists and grabbing 6.0 boards per game, while shooting 40.5% from the field.  If he manages 80% of that output, the Celtics should cruise.

IV. Secret of the Series: Will elite defense trump elite offense in the playoffs?

Clearly, this series is a match-up of opposing strengths and styles. Boston enters the series with the No. 2 defense in the league from an efficiency perspective, barely trailing the league-leading Chicago Bulls. The Knicks bring the No. 5 offense in the league to the table, and boast the second most efficient offense in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Miami Heat. The contrast in styles continues as Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni also has his team playing the fastest pace of any playoff team while the Celtics are the fourth slowest of the 16 teams to make the postseason.

One of the NBA’s long-held commandments – correct or not – is that defense almost always trumps offense in these situations. The problem for New York, a point that’s been pounded home relentlessly over the last few months, is that Knicks are extremely imbalanced because of their struggles on the defensive end of the court. The Knicks are the least efficient defensive team to make the playoffs and will struggle mightily to stop the Celtics, even though Boston has been a slightly below average offensive team on the season.

Sure, it’s possible that top-flight offense overcomes solid defense, but rarely does a team as indifferent to stops as New York make any noise in April or May.

V. The Dinosaur Narrative: “Trading Kendrick Perkins was a death sentence for Boston’s title hopes”

At least for one series, we should get a respite from all the hand-wringing over Boston president Danny Ainge’s decision to ship his long-time center to Oklahoma City for reserve forward Jeff Green. Against the Knicks, Perkins would be helpful as an off-ball defender and rebounder but the Celtics should be able to match-up and clean the boards just fine if they go to a smaller ball lineup given New York’s general indifference to rebounding (the Knicks have the lowest rebound rate of any playoff team).

As has been often pointed out, the post-trade problem for the Celtics has been their offense, anyway, and not their defense or rebounding. Who better to get back on track against than the Knicks, who allow 105.7 points per game (third most in the league) and openly admitted as recently as March that they aren’t all on the same page schematically since trading for Anthony?

The Perkins trade – and what Green does or doesn’t give you – will be a huge factor down the road in potential later-round match-ups against the Miami Heat and/or Chicago Bulls. Against the Knicks, though, it really should be an afterthought.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Struggling or not, zombie Rondo does far more, on both ends, than an aging Chauncey Billups.

SG: The overachieving, do-the-little-things-rookie making his first postseason appearance versus the NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter and a tested, tough veteran with more than 100 career playoff appearances? Ray Allen all day over Landry Fields.

SF: To see just how close Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul Pierce is, check their career playoff numbers. Anthony: 24.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists. Pierce: 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists. Anthony gets the nod, but barely.

PF: Stoudemire – brash, confident, offensively overwhelmingly -- vs. Garnett – brash, confident, defensively overwhelming – might be the best individual match-up in any first round playoff series. In these situations, it’s best to expect a push.  

C: Boston expects to get perpetually injured senior citizen Shaquille O’Neal back in time for the start of the first round and will pair him with Jermaine O’Neal and Nenad Krstic; the undersized Knicks turn to Jared Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf. It’s impossible to call anyone in this group on either side a winner.

Bench: Glen Davis, Glen Davis’ hijinks and Jeff Green should have the advantage over the make-do scraps on New York’s bench that survived the trade for Anthony that sent half the roster to Denver.

Coach: Players like to play for (read: score for) Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni while the Celtics have shown over the year a devotion to and respect for Doc Rivers rarely seen in the NBA. That, plus the ring, gives Doc the edge.

VII. Conclusion

Given how much the midseason trade for Anthony compromised New York’s depth, there’s a sense that the not yet fully formed Knicks are just happy to be in the postseason for the first time since 2003-2004. The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t playing their best basketball but they do enter the postseason with a greater urgency, given the age and mentality of their core players. The Garnett/ Pierce/ Allen/ Rondo core has defeated far better all-around teams than this year’s Knicks, and a B- or better performance from Boston should be enough to see the Celtics through to the second round and a likely dream match-up with the Miami Heat. Prediction: Celtics in 5.

VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview

Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics are prepared to square off against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Who will come out on top? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger preview this matchup.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:20 am
Edited on: April 14, 2011 9:27 am
 

Eastern Playoffs LiveChat today at 2 p.m. EST

We'll be chatting Eastern Conference Playoffs this afternoon at 2 p.m. EST. We'll break down each matchup and take your questions and comments. You should swing by and argue for why your team will win its series. I'm sure no one will disagree with you. Especially if you live in the Northeast. 2 p.m. EST here on EOB. 


Posted on: April 13, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 2:28 am
 

2011 NBA Playoff Matchups Set Wednesday

Final playoff positioning following Wednesday night's games. 
Posted by Matt Moore




All playoff matchups are set following Wednesday night's games. We've got our 16 teams seeded.
Eastern Conference:

The East is locked. For more analysis on the East, check out our discussion from Tuesday

1 Chicago vs. 8 Indiana
2 Miami vs. 7 Philadelphia
3 Boston vs. 6 New York
4 Orlando vs. 5 Atlanta


Western Conference

1 San Antonio vs. 8 Memphis
2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 7 New Orleans
3 Dallas vs. 6 Portland
4 Oklahoma City vs. 5 Denver

The Mavericks' win over the Hornets locked Oklahoma City into the 4 seed, they'll face Denver. A Lakers win over Sacramento gets them the 2. The Hornets loss doesn't really matter, since it all came down to Memphis. Memphis t anked against the Clippers to get to the 8 spot. Memphis to the 8. The Hornets wind up 7th. 

Meanwhile, the Spurs' tank squad lost to Phoenix . Chicago finishes with the best overall record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, including the Finals should they advance that far. Again, something that could come back to bite a tanking team. 

Some quick thoughts, as our series previews start tomorrow: 

Grizzlies-Spurs: Memphis may have made a brilliant manuever or doomed themselves. Manu Ginobili was injured Wednesday night, and if he's out, the Grizzlies might push the Spurs a bit. But they also ended the season in pathetic fashion, even for a tanking team. If that carries over, this could be over quickly. 

Hornets-Lakers: This is going to be short, violent, and brutal. I'll let you figure out how. Worst matchup for the underdog. 

Blazers-Mavericks: Portland fans wanted this matchup. We'll see if it works out for them. There are some good things here for Portland. If Dallas doesn't hit another gear, they could get rolled in the first round. Again. 

Nuggets-Thunder: This does not look like a great matchup on the surface for Denver. They'll have to get together and play the series of their lives, but against an inexperienced Thunder team, there's some possibility here. 

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