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Tag:second-round playoffs
Posted on: May 5, 2011 2:38 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: Lakers coming apart

Lakers begin tearing at each other, down 2-0 to Dallas. But can they respond?
Posted by Matt Moore




After the Lakers' 93-81 loss to the Mavericks, going down 2-0, Andrew Bynum said that the Lakers have "trust issues."  Magic Johnson, a member of the Lakers' front office, the biggest Lakers booster you'll find, is talking about chances being slim and the Lakers pointing fingers. Kobe Bryant was the voice of reason post-game, talking about how the trust issues are on defensive communication, and how everyone is "tripping" when they just need to go win a game. 

But there is trouble in the land of the champs. And the fact remains that the Lakers are no longer trying to avoid the edge of the cliffs. They're hearing the gravel bounce off the canyon walls below.  This is not something the Lakers are used to, even with a history of malaise and unimpressive performances relative to their capability. 

The Lakers have gone to seven with a Rockets team without Yao, six with a Thunder team with no experience, and had long series with the Nuggets and Suns. But 0-2, dropping both games in Staples, headed back to an amped up Dallas arena is a whole other hole to climb out of. 

The "trust issues' comment is interesting. Chemistry is a huge part of championship teams. But the Lakers have never seemed to have great chemistry. Kobe trusts Gasol only as far as Gasol's success takes him.  Lamar Odom is constantly in need of coddling and his reality show furthers the perception he's not plugged in. Andrew Bynum's injury issues for such a young player puts him aside. Against the Mavericks, the Lakers haven't shown any committment to strategy. They just rolled up on both ends and expected their talent and experience to come through. It didn't, and now the Lakers have to win four out of the next five games.  The Lakers notoriously coast through parts of the season, and now it's bitten themin a big way. 

But to say that these issues are all just the Lakers coming apart is to ignore how the Mavericks have attacked them.  The Mavericks beefed up their roster in the place the Lakers feel safest at, size down low. Brendan Haywood became a backup center. Tyson Chandler became the starter, and the combination meant Dirk Nowitzki could just focus on being the most versatile seven-foot power forward in the league. Against the Lakers, Nowitzki is hitting all of his usual ridiculous shots, attacking the rim, and doing a decent job defending Pau Gasol, who has shrunk from the moment like never before. The Mavericks' use of Shawn Marion was supposed to be an after thought, but Marion's length has allowed him to stick with Bryant as Kobe's athleticism and explosivness degrade with age. Jason Kidd is Derek Fisher's superior, and the Mavericks have shooters upon shooters on the perimeter. 

Now the Lakers are really a wounded animal, and have to figure out how to best a team that is playing with more confidence than any opponent they've faced. 

What have we seen from this Lakers core in the past as we look ahead to Games 3 and 4 in Dallas? The Lakers usually respond only when they absolutely have to. You could argue that they didn't have to yet, that they can even drop another game in Dallas before executing a backdoor sweep. But that would mean that Kobe Bryant's assertions are correct, that the Lakers don't have to adjust to Dallas, they just have to play better. The Lakers aren't struggling through like the Bulls, who seem like a better team playing down to their oppponent. The Lakers are losing to what looks like a better team in every phase of the game. And unless they come up with a considerable flip switch, they're going to ruin the storybook ending for Phil Jackson and the second Lakers' threepeat. It sounds impossible, but Dallas has set the level the Lakers have to respond to. 

So far, they've done nothing but burst under the pressure. 
Posted on: May 5, 2011 1:26 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:39 am
 

Ron Artest ejected for clothesline on J.J. Barea

Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest was ejected for clotheslining Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea. Posted by Ben Golliver.

This right here is the definition of losing without dignity.

In the closing seconds of a 93-81 Game 2 loss, Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest clotheslined Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea for no apparent reason. 

The Lakers were in a soft full court press, down by 11 points with 24 seconds remaining, when Artest came over to double team Barea with Lamar Odom. Rather than play defense, Artest reached his right arm out, fully extended, and grabbed Barea in the face, causing his head to snap backwards.

Artest was whistled for a technical foul for the play, his second of the game, and promptly ejected. There's a good chance the NBA league office will review the play and a possibility that further action could be taken against Artest, including the possibility of a fine and/or suspension.

Here's a look at the video of Artest's technical foul and ejection.



After the game, Lakers.com reported: "Phil Jackson said there was a 'good chance' Artest could be suspended for his late T on Barea; obviously, he hopes not."

Although there's no rational explanation for Artest's action, one possible motivating factor: Barea had been cutting up the Lakers down the stretch, finishing with 12 points and four assists in 17 minutes off of Dallas' bench. Barea scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers are now down 0-2 in the series, having lost both games in front of their home crowd at Staples Center.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 1:26 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:50 am
 

Lakers are up against history now

Posted by Royce Young



The Lakers have dug themselves quite the little hole here. Down 0-2 to the Mavericks and the series has yet to go to Dallas. Not very good times for the back-to-back champs.

Here's an interesting bit of NBA history though: Only three teams in NBA history have ever come back to win a series after dropping the first two at home. The 1969 Lakers who came back against the Warriors, the 1994 Rockets who came back against the Suns and wouldn't you know it, the 2005 Mavs who came back against the Rockets.

Fourteen teams have gone down 0-2 at home and three have come back. That's a percentage of 21.4. That's actually better than the overall number of being down 0-2 in a series. In NBA history, teams that fall behind 0-2 period have went on to lose 94.3 percent of the time. Only 14 of 245 teams have come back from 2-0 in a best-of-seven series.

So what I'm trying to tell you is again, the Lakers have dug quite the little hole. The last time the Lakers dropped both at home was 1976-77, when they fell behind to the eventual champion Portland Trail Blazers.

Fans at Staples Center booed lustily, left early and basically gave up on the Lakers as the Mavericks held a double-digit lead for most of the fourth quarter. A comeback in Game 2 was out of the question but I think all of us agree: The Lakers aren't done until they've lost that fourth game.

Maybe the wounds from the Mavericks collapse against the Heat in the 2006 Finals are still a bit fresh. The conspiracy theorists are already lining up Danny Crawford for Game 3 in Dallas. And of course, we're talking the Lakers. You know, that team with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson? It just seems that this isn't how it ends for them. It's hard to get past it.

But history is telling us different. Charles Barkley said on TNT after Game 2 that the Lakers are done. They very well may be, but the Mavs know it can be done. They're the most recent and one of three to ever do it. It can happen. Though it's hard to ignore how much better the Mavs have looked and the fact these Lakers have shown a number of holes, starting the last few weeks of the regular season.

It's 2-0 and Dallas is entirely in the driver's seat. The Mavs have complete control. Game 3 will really swing things because all it takes is a win and the Lakers are back in it. But if Dallas can take down the Lakers a third straight time, well, history smiles even more favorably there -- no team has ever come back from 3-0.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:55 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:11 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Bulls: Noah makes good

Joakim Noah provides the spark for the Bulls in Game 2. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The Bulls can't win if Derrick Rose plays poorly (he can play "not great" as he did Wednesday night, despite what the point total and narratives will tell you, just not badly). But more prevalent in Game 2 was this: the Bulls can't lose if Joakim Noah plays great. 

19 points on 6-8 shooting, 14 rebounds, 7 offensive, 3 steals and 1 block. That's a great line. And it doesn't even cover how big of an impact he had versus the Hawks. 50 percent of the Bulls' offensive rebounds were snagged by Noah. On a night when the Bulls' offense was only slightly less woeful than the Hawks', those seven extra possessions, full of putbacks and resets, were vital. Basically, if you can't produce efficiency with the possessions provided, create more possessions. 

Most notable was his dominance over Al Horford. Horford is generally regarded as the better player. He's more versatile, has better range, is more efficient and a better passer. But in terms of those key plays which make your team that little bit better than the other in key areas, Noah dragged Horford out behind the shed and taught him a thing or two. Which is odd since they both learned about those things at the same university. If Noah's going to get at those key rebounds at that rate over Horford and Josh Smith, the Bulls will simply grind the Hawks into wood shavings, as they did in Game 2. 

Noah's not particularly versatile, but he had the full array going on Wednesday, including the lefty hook early for the first points for the Bulls. It's that production that puts the Bulls at a level just high enough to overcome an inefficient game from Rose and a terrible game from pretty much every other Bull offensively. Noah struggled in the regular season with injury and the first round with energy. But his biggest performances coincide with the Bulls' strongest wins. The Bulls' win over the Hawks in Game 2 wasn't pretty. It was just very Noah. 
Posted on: May 4, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 12:58 am
 

Ugly for ATL in Game 2 but things are pretty good

Posted by Royce Young



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

Hey, at least we got a split.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Pierce is 'day to day' with Achilles strain

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

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

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

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

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

Playoff Fix: Chicago needs to find itself again

Posted by Royce Young



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

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

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

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

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

And they better. The Bulls weren't any better than in their series against Indiana, and facing a team like the Hawks, Chicago wasn't ready. Something tells me the Bulls will be prepard tonight, though, and get back in the series.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 2:54 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Zach Randolph comes up small in Game 2

Memphis forward Zach Randolph was missing in action when the Grizzlies needed him the most. Posted by Ben Golliver. zach-struggle

Things were finally starting to look up for Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph. He has battled a bad rep for years, and flown under the radar for most of his NBA career. Despite being one of the league's most productive big men, he's been named an All-Star just once and has been long been known for his run-ins with the law rather than the merits of his game.

That's changed in the past few weeks, as the Grizzlies launched a stunning upset over the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, and stole Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Randolph even got a nice write-up in the New York Times

Unfortunately, those good times came to a halt for Randolph on Tuesday night, as the Grizzlies fell to the Thunder, 111-102, in Game 2, and Randolph uncharacteristically struggled mightily from the field.

First, some perspective. Randolph was the No. 19 NBA scorer this season, averaging 20.1 points per game.  His 50.3 field goal percentage was good for No. 27 in the league, a rank that doesn't really do him justice given how much of his scoring comes from his perimeter game. When the Thunder told CBSSports.com's Royce Young that Randolph was the best power forward in the league, they might have been exaggerating, but it wasn't an insane statement. In fact, Dirk Nowitzki is the only other premier power forward with comparable numbers that's still playing in the NBA playoffs.

Randolph's value as a player is tied directly to his elite consistency. Randolph scored in double figures in 72 of his 75 appearances for Memphis during the regular season, and only grabbed less than eight rebounds seven times on the year. More or less, you knew what he was giving you. He was the bedrock.

As Young writes, Randolph was ably held in check in Game 2 by the Thunder defense. Randolph scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds -- getting his numbers -- but he did so in super-inefficient fashion. 

Indeed, Randolph shot just 2-for-13 on the night. That 15 percent shooting clip was Randolph's second worst of the entire 2010-2011 campaign. Only a 2-14 performance in a February 7 loss to the Lakers was worse.

Here's a chart that reinforces how consistent Randolph is. Rather than looking at scoring, it's a look at his game-by-game field goal percentage. You don't need to a magnifying glass to see his Game 2 performance, on the far right, sticking out like a sore thumb.

zach-fg.jpg

As the chart shows, Randolph failed to shoot 30 percent, a good cut-off point for an awful night, just five times this season, including Game 2. 

Randolph is in some good company there. For comparison's sake, Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Thunder star Kevin Durant each failed to shoot 30 percent five times on the season as well. The same goes for the NBA's MVP, Derrick Rose and Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade

Who was better among the NBA's elite scorers? Nowitzki only slipped below 30% three times. Same thing for Heat All-Star forward LeBron James.

So the Thunder are smart to be wary about their ability to repeat their defensive performance on Randolph. In reality, he had a once-every-40-games off night, and won't likely repeat that ugly performance during the rest of the Western Conference semifinals.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com