Tag:second-round playoffs
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Kobe Bryant predicts series win over Mavericks

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he thinks Los Angeles can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-fail

The Los Angeles Lakers' season could end as soon as Sunday night. Down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks with Game 4 in American Airlines Center, the Lakers will look to keep hople alive their season after three straight games featuring fourth quarter meltdowns. There has been plenty of blame to go around, 

While no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant not only still has hope, he's predicting a series victory.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," Bryant said after totaling 17 points and six assists in Game 3. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
We shouldn't expect less from Bryant, one of the league's most confident and decorated players. He isn't going to fold in the face of adversity, at least not publicly. With Games 4 and 6 still to be played in Dallas, however, L.A. faces an extremely tall order. It's better to go down with your head up, I suppose.

What happens in the very likely event that the Lakers aren't able to make good on Bryant's prediction? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explores that subject, saying that trades, possibly including some big names, are likely in L.A.'s future.

The New York Times notes that Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees with that assessment.
“If the Lakers lose this game, you’re going to have to blow it up,” Magic Johnson, the former Lakers great, said on ESPN. “This team has been together too long. It’s time for major changes for the Lakers.”
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:41 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 10:02 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Thunder: The collapsers



Posted by Matt Moore

If a team falls apart multiple times, they have a reputation as choke artists, collapsers, mentally weak. If a team creates those implosions on a regular basis, the onus is always put on the other team for failing to close. Welcome to the life of the Memphis Grizzlies after a drive past the Oklahoma City Thunder's 16-point lead into overtime, and on to a victory, gave them a 2-1 advantage in the series. Memphis won't get the credit for it. Sure, OKC will get the blame, but the reality is that there may be no better demolition team in the NBA right now than the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Thunder were the better team for the vast majority of Game 3. That's not home cookin'. It was a product of smart, crisp basketball on offense from the Thunder. And it came through brilliant shooting and ball movement, and physical, bordering on brutal, defense, especially inside. Zach Randolph was scoring, but needing a shot for every point, racking up turnovers, and was extremely frustrated. Marc Gasol couldn't get any of his touch shots to fall. Russell Westbrook's mid-range was falling. It was doom for the Grizzlies, who looked outclassed. 

Then, after building a solid structure of basketball for 3.5 quarters, the Grizzlies swept the legs of the structure out from within, and the Thunder collapsed under their own weight. Those legs were based on the play of Russell Westbrook, and what took them out was most surprising of all, O.J. Mayo

Mayo didn't have a great game. He couldn't get the runner to fall, wasn't hot from the perimeter. He shot just 30 percent from the field. Mayo's known as a pure scorer. Yet when called on to stop Westbrook and provide a spark, he brought the effort. That effort is what carried Memphis into the playoffs and it sparked the Grizzlies on Saturday. But Mayo couldn't do it alone. No, in coming back from 16 down, Mayo and the Grizzlies got a great contribution from... Russell Westbrook. 

Westbrook has the speed to blow by Mayo. He has the strength to back him down. Mayo too often gambles on the perimeter pass and hedges too hard on the screen-and-roll. Westbrook elected to dribble right into Mayo, and force mid-range contested jumper after mid-range contested jumper. Kevin Durant, who had been totally en fuego, was ignored just long enough for the fire to die out. The result was Durant's miss on a last-possession pull-up jumper, and Durant being unable to rediscover his shot.

Durant's last made field goal came with 7:43 to go in the fourth. He had three shots in the remainder of regulation, including the last possession... another Scott Brooks' special. Durant was 10-18 at 7:43. He would finish on an 0-6 run, thanks to the best defense Tony Allen has played all series. He played the passing lane hard, snatched steals, and on the other end, got out in transition. Allen drew fouls, but didn't hit layups. He missed free throws, but got one of two each time. The same kind of grind that got Memphis here. 

The Thunder will look at their defense, at their offense, at their composure. Scott Brooks needs to examine why James Harden, who may honestly be the best distributor OKC has with Westbrook playing as he is, isn't getting time in key situations. He may also question why Westbrook isn't getting the off-ball movement from other Thunder players to get him away from his poor decisions on pull-ups. The Grizzlies played terribly for most of the game. Zach Randolph was inefficient and frustrated. They shot 38 percent from the field, and allowed Serge Ibaka to score 14 points. And they won. 

So OKC goes back to the drawing board, having given up a 16-point lead to go down 2-1 with a scary Game 4 up next. The Thunder were minutes away from cementing themselves as the team in control of the series, possibly on their way to the Western Conference Finals. Instead, the house that Presti built imploded in on itself, another victim of the same thing that left the Spurs Palace in ruins: the other team just wanted it more. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Gasol says he needs to 'snap out of it'

Posted by Royce Young



It was obvious to Phil Jackson early on. I've seen Phil get animated, but during a break in the first half last night against the Mavericks, Jackson went right after Pau Gasol, even giving him a little bump in the chest with his fist. Later, Jackson zeroed in on Gasol again, giving him what some would call, a "butt-chewing."

Gasol got the message. His play didn't necessarily reflect it, but he says he got the message, according to Yahoo! Sports:

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

That's not good news for a team down 0-3. Also not good because Andrew Bynum was vocal after Game 2 about "trust issues." The Lakers are clearly having problems right now and most will point directly at Gasol. He's a player as responsible for their back-to-back titles as anyone, but within the triangle offense, it's almost as Pau goes, the Lakers go.

In this series, he's averaging just 13 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting. For the playoffs, the numbers are virtually the same. Against the Hornets, Gasol was a disappointment, but L.A. advanced because, well, they were playing Chris Paul and four dudes that stumbled in from Mardi Gras.

But against the Mavericks, it's another story. Not only is Gasol not contributing to the Laker offense, Dirk Nowitzki is torching him. According to ESPN State and Info, 27 of Dirk's 32 came with Gasol "on" him. (I put "on" in quotes because there were a few times where Gasol was decidedly not on him.) For the series, Nowitzki is shooting 19-25 from the floor for 42 points when Gasol checks him. That's ridiculous on Dirk's behalf and inexcusable on Gasol's.

Gasol's shimmering reputation as one of the most gifted big men in the league is taking a serious tarnishing right now. He's the focus of a lot of negativity. Andrew Bynum was visibly keyed in and aggressive all night. Gasol gave away an easy Jason Terry dunk at one point because he was barely holding on to the ball. Jackson claimed that was the play he first singled Gasol out on, but it's much more than that.

It speaks to the respect we all have for Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers that we haven't completely ruled them out from being the first team ever to come back from 0-3. (Or maybe that speaks to the Mavs. I don't know.) They aren't out of it until the buzzer sounds and Dallas has more points than them in a clinching fourth win. But if they have any dreams of getting there, any dreams of winning a third consecutive title, Gasol must absolutely snap out of it.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:25 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Playoff Fix: The Celtics' line in the sand

The Celtics need someone to step up in a big way, and for Shaq to make an impact, and to create more turnovers, and... you get the idea. 
Posted by Matt Moore




One Big Thing: The time for equal contributions has past. The Celtics need a hero. Someone has to step up and lead the way for Boston, because for the first time, Ubuntu may be outmatched. Offensive distribution and suffocating defense are both great plans in 99 percent of all matchups, but for whatever reason, the Heat have stormed the barricades in this series. Now the Celtics are going to have to fight them out and, to do so, someone's going to have to set the example. Whether that's Paul Pierce having a game befitting his status as one of the greatest true Celtics ever, a bully-in-the-schoolyard rampage by Kevin Garnett, or Rajon Rondo getting back to being the brilliant distributor and triple-double machine he can be, someone's going to have to put in a special type game. It's not that the other Celtics can't contribute. It's that they have been and the Celtics are still losing. It's time for someone on Boston to make a statement that says "We're still here, and we're not going down like this."

The X-Factor: Shaquille O'Neal is expected to play Saturday for the first time in the playoffs and what feels like the first time in a decade. O'Neal isn't going to save the Celtics. But he can come out and set the tone. In reality, O'Neal's no longer the defender or rebounder he once was. But he can, surprisingly, score. And there's no one on the Heat that can handle his girth. O'Neal's going to take more possessions than he really needs to, but if he can bring out the old bull in a china shop act for a few drop hooks, that could get the crowd, the energy, and the momentum on the Celtics side. O'Neal can't lead the Celtics through the gate. He can bust the gate open with his backside, though. 

The Adjustment: The Celtics' defensive principles all revolve around position. Get to the spot before your man does. Get a hand up where he wants the ball to go. Contest, contest, contest. But with the Heat having turned the ball over on less than 15 percent of all possessions in this series, the time may have come to start attacking the ball. The Celtics need to disrupt the Heat's offense and get easy buckets of their own. In short, things have got to come a little easier for the Celtics and be a little more frustrating for the Heat. 

The Sticking Point: The Heat are doing it. They're winning with huge contributions from the Triad, playing great defense, and getting the wins. We've yet to see a Heat team really close when down in the 4th to a great team, but the Heat are starting to change the narrative about them in regards to their ability to step up in big situations. Game 3 in Boston will be the stiffest test yet. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:40 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: The Panic Button

The Lakers have never had a reason to panic, until now. 
Posted by Matt Moore




There's never a good time to panic. It does you no good to freak out, and the only way to solve a problem that would call for such behavior is to behave in the exact opposite manner; with poise and control.  And for a championship team like the Lakers, there's no such thing as a panic button. They've been victorious too often, overcome too many challenges, risen up and simply been better in too many series. They don't know what the panic button looks like. 

But maybe they should after Game 3's stunning loss to the Mavericks, to go down 0-3. Maybe then they'd have some level of urgency in their play, some level of commitment to closing games. The Lakers we're witnessing are in many ways the ultimate embodiment of the team we've seen for years in L.A. . They assume they'll be better simply by having the talent. Victory is assured once they step on the floor, even if Ron Artest doesn't step on said floor. Instead, they've found themselves on the brink, as Dallas has surged ahead in every fourth quarter of this series. And what does Kobe Bryant say after the game?

“I might be sick in the head … because I still think we’re going to win the series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts.”

Bryant said he wasn't discouraged after the game. In the same calm, cool, collected manner, he exuded confidence bordering on arrogance, even after he started 5-5... and finished 3-11, with a key turnover late that may or may not have been Pau Gasol's fault. Bryant's not concerned because when he's had the manpower, he's never failed. 2005-2007? He could blame the roster. Not this one. This one is on the mindset, and that reflects its leader. So why is Bryant so calm, cool, and collected?
Because he can be. Because if any team can come back from an 0-3 deficit for the first time in league history, it's the Lakers, and if any team could cough it up, it's the Mavericks. It seems absurd that it has come to this, but it here we are. Bryant remains indignant to the idea that the Lakers should be concerned. After Game 2, Bryant told reporters that everyone was "trippin'" because they acted like no one had ever won two games before. In reality, they were talking about winning two games on the road after blowing your first two at home. Bryant never wavered from the script after Game 3, talking about mental mistakes like this was a game against Minnesota in February. There's maintaining your composure, and there's refusing to acknowledge your situation. 

There was discussion that the Lakers played "desperate" in Game 3, but we saw the same lazy rotations, the same deviation from effective strategy, the same failure to secure key plays. They are who they've been: a team with extremely talented players with superior physical attributes that doesn't respond when challenged. In years past, the Lakers would respond right when they had to in order to avoid hitting the panic button. 

Panicking won't help the Lakers win Game 4, or four straight, which is what they must do. But coming to terms with their situation may be the only way for the Lakers to really see where they've landed. There's a time for patience, confidence and even arrogance. 

That time has come and gone. If the Lakers can win this series, it will be the ultimate validator of their overconfidence. If they cannot, it will be the final verdict on a core that won two titles and yet infuriated its fans and too often played with the flame. 

Eventually you get burned. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:30 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:28 am
 

Mavericks stick to formula, go up 3-0 on Lakers

The Dallas Mavericks continue to play their game, taking a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
jet-flying

No team in the NBA playoffs is playing better than the Dallas Mavericks right now. 

After watching the Mavericks handle the Los Angeles Lakers, 98-92, to take an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series, there's really no argument. 

We talk all the time about teams "imposing their will" or "imposing their style of play". But, usually, that boils down to one of two things. 1) The bigger team pounds the paint against the smaller team. 2) The more athletic team overwhelms the less athletic team. In both cases, the end result jumps out of the boxscore, usually in the form of things like a rebounding advantage or points in the paint for the bigger team, or fast break points or points off turnovers for the more athletic team. 

While the Mavericks' dominance of Los Angeles hasn't come from interior bruising or from open court cruising, it's been a sight to behold. Consider this: Los Angeles outscored Dallas 56-20 in the paint and neither team got out to run much, with the two teams combining for just 15 points (Dallas had 11) on the break.

The secrets to Dallas' success read like chapters from an old-school textbook: move the ball, outplay your opponent's bench, and maintain composure in crucial situations. Dallas clicked on all three of those cylinders during Friday night's Game 3, and for the third time in the three games. It has them on the verge of upsetting the heavily favored Lakers. Incredibly, it also has them on the verge of a sweep.

With forward Ron Artest sidelined due to a suspension, the Lakers were forced to play a bigger lineup that often featured Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on the court at the same time. That lineup is a touch slower than L.A.'s usual starting lineup that features Artest, Gasol and Bynum, and quite a bit slower than the Artest-Odom-Gasol trio that the Lakers often turn to late in games. Dallas exploited this fact mercilessly, making the extra pass around the perimeter time and time again. "One of the things [Artest's absence] hurt was our rotations to the three-point line," Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted after the game. "Covering that. It's a little bit tough for our bigger guys to get to that point."

Lakers guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant were left to chase the ball as best they could. Odom and Gasol gave good effort closing out to shooters, particularly in the second half, but it simply wasn't enough. The Mavericks -- Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic in particular -- didn't shoot the ball all that well early, but the open looks added up. The final perimeter numbers more than made up for L.A.'s dominance inside: 12-29 from three-point land, with the Mavericks outscoring the Lakers from deep, 36-9. The most telling stat: 22 assists on 31 field goals, an extraordinary number.

Stojakovic got things going in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 15 points. More than anyone, his night encapsulated what's made the Mavericks so unstoppable of late. Despite starting 1-5 from three-point land, he continued plugging away, throwing in two daggers late to pull Dallas back into a game that Los Angeles once again thought it had won. 

Following Game 2, we pointed out just how deadly the Mavericks bench has been, and Stojakovic's heroics expanded on that trend. Dallas' reserves outscored L.A.'s in a 42-15 landslide, with Jason Terry leading the way with 23 points. It's worth noting that those numbers are skewed a bit by Artest's absence because Odom scored 18 in a starting role. Still, the Mavericks' depth advantage is clear as day, as is their collective poise. Not only can coach Rick Carlisle go nine deep, he can do so confidently. His reserves are rising to the moment rather than shrinking from it.

That depth advantage played huge down the stretch, where L.A. crumbled for the third time in three games. All five Lakers starters played 35+ minutes and they showed both mental and physical fatigue in the closing minutes. This time, the biggest culprit was Derek Fisher, who committed a huge foul to send Jason Terry to the free throw line (where he made it a two possession game) and then immediately threw the ball away on an inbounds pass on the next possession. Fisher wasn't the only scapegoat. Nowitzki was allowed to hit a number of open looks, something that can't happen on a night when he scores 32 points and continues to display MVP form.  The Orange County Register quoted Bryant: "Dumbest defensive mistakes I've seen us make all year." Those mistakes proved fatal. 

On the other end, Kobe Bryant threw a pass off Pau Gasol's back and the Lakers as a whole forgot to pound the ball to Bynum late in the game, despite a monster 21-point and 10-rebound performance from their center. All of that ugliness led Jackson to summarize it simply: "They finished better than we did, and they deserved to win it."

Game 3 was played at a Finals level intensity. Despite L.A.'s mistakes, this wasn't a meltdown akin to Game 1. Instead, this was about the Mavericks methodically playing their own game, possession after possession, missed shot or made, and not giving in to the pressure or L.A.'s increasing desperation. 

Put it all together and it's fair to make this bold statement: The Mavericks had the look of a champion on Friday night.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:58 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 1:26 am
 

Playoff Fix: Adjustment bureau in Memphis

Posted by Royce Young



One Big Thing: The adjustment Scott Brooks and his coaching staff made for the Grizzlies in Game 2 was almost jarring. The Grizzlies went from a dominant inside force to a more perimeter-oriented attack. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph went from combining for 54 points to compiling just 28 together. Nothing came easy for the duo, as Gasol went 3-9 and Randolph 2-13, including 0-5 in the second half.

The Thunder were a dominant team after the Kendrick Perkins trade because of their interior defense. That was missing in Game 1 as the Grizzlies dominated the flow, feel and pace of the game. It's all about that battle again in Game 3.

The X-Factor: The Thunder won Game 2 behind two X-factors: 1) Big-time bench scoring from Eric Maynor and James Harden, and 2) excellent interior defense from Nick Collison. Harden, you can count on again to be a scoring weapon off the bench. He was the top scoring sixth man since the All-Star break. But, Maynor, I'm not sure you can bank on giving 15 points and 3-4 from 3 again. And again, Collison was excellent covering Randolph in the post.

The Grizzlies though, need to find some help again off the bench. O.J. Mayo gave good minutes as a reserve in Game 2, but the Grizzlies missed quality bench minutes. Greivis Vasquez was a non-factor. Darrell Arthur didn't give much. Someone has to find some baskets for Memphis in the second unit. Gasol and Randolph will be better, but the Grizzlies have to find extra points from somewhere.

The Adjustment: How does Lionel Hollins adjust to find space for Randolph and Gasol. The high pick-and-roll was snuffed out in Game 2 by the Thunder and OKC's defenders gave Randolph no space. The obvious adjustment is more minutes for O.J. Mayo, as he's one of the few players that can space the floor. The Grizzlies were last in 3-point attempts, and makes, this season. The Thunder dared them to take and make them in Game 2. Memphis didn't respond.

Either the Grizzlies change their game and look for more outside, or they just try and power through the Thunder's interior adjustment. That's basically where we're at right now. These teams have had three days off to think about it all. Lots of time to adjust adapt and work. Let's see what they come up with.

The Sticking Point: Obviously this game is big. Though, I think it's more important for the Grizzlies, who I see as shouldering more of the pressure. The Thunder looked very good in Game 2 and made the opening loss seem a bit like an aberration. So the Grizzlies need to re-establish and handle their home floor. Drop this one and the Thunder immediately have the home court back.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were good in Game 2, but not great. Again, the Thunder's role guys stepped up. This one is going to come down to which duo outperfoms the other. Is it Gasol and Randolph or Durant and Westbrook? The Thunder see a big opportunity to ride some momentum and take control of this series here. But the Grizzlies have been terrific at home. Something's got to give here. And that's why this is going to be one terrific game.
Posted on: May 6, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 1:08 am
 

Derrick Rose and the definition of unstoppable

Derrick Rose in Game 3? Unstoppable.
Posted by Matt Moore




This wasn't the Knicks. Golden State's truly disastrous defense wasn't at work here. Sure, the Atlanta Hawks played badly in Game 3, mostly on account of their own penchant for bad offense encouraged by a defensive performance from the Bulls that was reflective of their regular season performance. But the Hawks are not a bad defensive team, and in reality, are only in the semifinals because of that defense. 

But Derrick Rose? The MVP? Derrick Rose was unstoppable Wednesday night.  

It takes a lot to be unstoppable in the NBA. Players can show and recover as far out as halfcourt. Doubles are constant, welcomed, and efficient when executed correctly. And you're talking about players, often with up to ten inches of height advantage and even more length contesting at the rim (though Rose is certainly taller than many guards).  There a way to stop 99% of all NBA players, even the elite ones. 

And even if the Hawks hadn't been a step slow on defense Wednesday, it wouldn't have mattered. Derrick Rose could not, would not be stopped. Take, for example, the floater. 

Rose's floater is right  there. Al Horford and Josh Smith have gone to block it probably a dozen times in this series, and at least four of those came Wednesday night. But his quick release combined with his absurd athleticism means you have to not only get crazy vertical, but you have to time it within a few nanoseconds, otherwise it's up, it's high, it's off glass, and it's in. But the killer for the Hawks Wednesday night was the jumper got going. 

Observe: 



What are you going to do if Rose is hitting 10-18 on jumpers? You can't close on him, he gets to the rim faster than your rotation, and can explode to get airborne from nearly the elbow.  You have to hope he misses. Instead, Rose buried the Hawks with more range shots than layups.  The Hawks clearly weren't expecting it and, with his quick release, there wasn't any way for them to close. Rose's jumper isn't always going to be there. But it's going to be there on nights like Game 3, and when it is, the Bulls, for all their offensive weaknesses (which are numerous), are a juggernaut. 

The Hawks could have played better on offense, with better passing, less dribbling, the same things we always say about them. They could have hit the glass harder, gotten better bench production, got out in transition more. And it probably wouldn't have changed the final result, only the margin of victory. 

When Derrick Rose plays like he did Wednesday night, he's not only the Most Valuable Player. He's unstoppable. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com