Archive for April 28th, 2008

First round playoff notes

April 28 notes on the 2008 NBA Playoffs:

- No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win a playoff series.

- Eight teams have come back to win a series after falling behind 3-1. The most recent such comeback occurred in the 2006 postseason when the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.

- Nineteen teams have recovered from 2-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series, including two last postseason. The Utah Jazz defeated the Houston Rockets 4-3 in their first round series after dropping the first two games, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals after falling behind 2-0.

- The Lakers, who can sweep the Denver Nuggets tonight in Game 4 (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT), have forced Carmelo Anthony to shoot .353 (24-of-68) from the field during the first three games. Anthony shot .492 from the field during the regular season … Kobe Bryant became the first Nuggets opponent to score at least 30 points in consecutive playoff games since Utah’s Karl Malone did so during the Western Conference Semifinals in 1994. Allen Iverson became the first Nuggets player to score 30 or more points in consecutive playoff games since Alex English did so against Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals in 1988.

- The Orlando Magic, which owns a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto Raptors, can close out its first series win since the 1996 Eastern Conference Semifinals tonight at home in Game 5 (7:30 pm. ET, NBA TV) … The Magic’s Dwight Howard has been a force on both ends of the court this series, averaging 23.0 points, 17.5 rebounds and four blocks. The last player to average at least 23 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks in a best-of-seven series was San Antonio’s Tim Duncan (24.2 ppg, 17.0 rpg, and 5.3 bpg) in the 2003 Finals.

- Atlanta Hawk rookie Al Horford, whose team is trailing the Boston Celtics 2-1 in their first-round series, is averaging 15.3 points, 11 rebounds and 3.7 assists through the first three games. The last rookie to average a double-double in a best-of-seven series was Memphis’ Drew Gooden (14.0 ppg, 12.7 rpg) in the first round of the 2003 playoffs. Game 4 is tonight in Atlanta (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

- The New Orleans Hornets defeated the Dallas Mavericks 97-84 yesterday to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. It marked the first time since January 1998, when they played in Charlotte, that the Hornets defeated the Mavericks on the road to snap a 14-game skid in Dallas. Game 5 is tomorrow in New Orleans (7 p.m. ET, TNT).

- The Detroit Pistons knotted their first-round series at 2-2 by defeating the Sixers in Philadelphia yesterday 93-84. Game 5 is tomorrow in Detroit (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV). All time in best-of-seven series that are tied 2-2, the home team is 103-36 in Game 5. The team that wins Game 5 has gone on to win 116 of 139 series (.835).

- NBA News

Apr. 28: Hawks 97, Celtics 92

The AP reports: Forget about a Boston sweep. The Hawks are headed back to Beantown all tied up with the mighty Celtics. Joe Johnson scored 35 points—20 in the fourth quarter—and Josh Smith added 28 points and seven blocks for Atlanta, which surprised the Celtics again 97-92 on Monday night to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece… The credit for this Atlanta stunner goes largely to Johnson, who took control in the final quarter. After Smith’s jumper put the Hawks ahead to stay 81-79, Johnson scored nine straight points to keep the Celtics on the ropes… Josh Smith set an Atlanta playoff record with seven blocks, the last of them a key swat on Garnett after he backed down in the lane, looking for the easy shot, with just over 3 minutes left… The Hawks led 51-48 at halftime, only to put themselves in another hole with a dismal third quarter. Standing around on offense and doing little to create shots, Atlanta was 6-of-17 from the field, missed all seven of its 3-point attempts and turned it over seven times, giving Boston plenty of easy baskets. Stat Notes: The Hawks shot 47.8%, the Celtics 41.2%, though Boston took 85 shots while Atlanta only took 67. And the Celtics rocked from outside, nailing 12-of-23 three-pointers, while the Hawks were just 4-of-18. But Atlanta hit 29-of-33 free throws, Boston just 10-of-18, and that was the difference. Rebounds were almost even, and the Celtics dished more assists. For the Hawks, Joe Johnson (14-of-24) had 35 points and 6 assists (but 4 turnovers). Josh Smith (8-of-16, 12-of-13 free throws) had 28 points, 6 rebounds and 7 blocks. Mike Bibby (5-of-8) had 18 points and more turnovers than assists. Al Horford shot badly for 4 points but grabbed 13 rebounds. For the Celtics, Ray Allen (8-of-14) had 21 points and 4 assists. Kevin Garnett needed 21 shots for 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 steals. Paul Pierce (5-of-14) had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Rajon Rondo needed 16 shots for his 14 points and 12 assists.

Apr. 28: Magic 102, Raptors 92

The AP reports: Dwight Howard had 21 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks—his third 20-20 game in the series—and the Magic advanced to second round for the first time in 12 years by beating the Toronto Raptors 102-92 in Game 5 on Monday night… Chris Bosh, who posted career playoff highs of 39 points and 15 rebounds at Toronto on Saturday, had 16 points and nine rebounds Monday. Howard frustrated him down low into 7-of-19 shooting, and Bosh picked up a third-quarter technical foul after the Magic star muscled past him for a layup. T.J. Ford and Carlos Delfino both scored 14 points for the Raptors, while Jason Kapono had 13 and Jose Calderon 12. Delfino added seven rebounds and Ford had five assists… Keyon Dooling’s free throw after the technical on Bosh put the Magic ahead 73-66 with just under a minute left in the third quarter, and Orlando kept that cushion until midway through the fourth. Delfino hit a jumper and Bosh made two free throws in four trips to the line, plus a hook shot over Howard, to draw the Raptors within 84-82. Stat Notes: Neither team shot particularly well and both teams struggled from three-point range. And both teams shot around 82% from the free throw line, though the Magic got more opportunities. A huge factor was rebounding: Magic 55 boards, Raptors only 37. Assists were almost even. The Magic threw the ball away more than the Raptors. As for individual players, for the Magic: Dwight Howard on just 12 shots had 21 points, 21 rebounds and 3 blocks. Jameer Nelson scored 19. Rashard Lewis had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Hedo Turko shot just 4-of-13 but with his 12 points also came 8 rebounds and 9 assists. For the Raptors, Chris Bosh took 19 shots for just 16 points, plus 9 rebounds. Five other Raptors scored between 11 and 14 points.

The Charlotte Bobcats will make a major announcement in a press conference on Tuesday, around 1 p.m. ET.  It’ll be to name their new head coach, Larry Brown.

A nomad who bounces around to a different team seemingly every 15 minutes, Brown is a perfect coach to properly mold a team. The issue is if he’ll stick around.

Brown will have to figure out exactly how Raymond Felton should be used, how to properly mix and match Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace, help Emeka Okafor continus his development, and help Adam Morrison make the most of his talent.

It’ll be fun seeing his effect on the squad. Terrific hire by Michael Jordan’s Bobcats.

Miami Heat President and Head Coach Pat Riley has stepped down as Head Coach of the Miami Heat, but will continue to serve as team President. Former Assistant Coach/Director of Scouting Erik Spoelstra has been elevated to head coach. Spoelstra becomes the sixth head coach in franchise history.

Here’s Dwyane Wade reaction to the coaching change: “I am excited about the future of our organization….as head coach - Pat Riley has instilled in me values that enabled me to win a championship in just three seasons. I’ve seen him do the necessary things to make us winners and I believe that with his focus on being president and his commitment to the team - we will once again become a contender…I believe in Coach Spo and have complete confidence that our team will succeed with him at the helm.”

And here’s what Alonzo Mourning said: “A big reason for coming to Miami was to help Coach Riley build a winning team and franchise…we’ve experienced many rough times together on the road to the 2006 championship, and those experiences made the winning that much more gratifying. I admire Coach Riley and his accomplishments and I am also proud of Spo, who will now step into this position to take the organization back to our winning ways.”

Riley right to step down as coach

Heat coach Pat Riley, probably realizing that it’s no fun coaching a team that gets destroyed by 70 points a night, is making the wise move to just be team president. Former assistant coach/director of scouting Erik Spoelstra is now head coach. It’s not surprising that the new coach came from within, as Spoelstra obviously has Riley’s respect, knows the players and the team’s secrets. And until Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion get a lot more help around them the team has plenty of rebuilding to to.

“The game of basketball is a game about talent,” said Riley. “While we are always looking for NBA talent to perform on the court, the most important talent that you may find has to perform on the bench, in the locker room, on the practice court, late at night, watching film, motivating and executing all the responsibilities of a head coach. I believe Erik Spoelstra is one of the most talented young coaches to come around in a long time. This game is now about younger coaches who are technologically skilled, innovative and bring fresh new ideas. That’s what we feel we are getting with Erik Spoelstra. He’s a man that was born to coach.”

More info about Spoelstra is here.

Apr. 27: Hornets 97, Mavs 84

The AP reports: David West bounced back from a miserable Game 3 with a determined effort in Game 4, scoring 10 points in an early second half rally that sent the Hornets surging past the Mavericks 97-84 on Sunday night, giving them a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. West had 24 points and nine rebounds, Chris Paul had 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and the Hornets ended an 0-for-14 drought in Dallas that dated to January 1998. Now they’re headed to New Orleans, hoping to win Game 5 on Tuesday night and avoid coming back to Big D until next season. The Mavericks are on the brink of a second straight first-round exit… Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Terry scored 20 points, but they didn’t get much help. Josh Howard was 3-for-16 and Kidd had only three points, three assists and four rebounds before getting ejected with 7:16 left for a flagrant foul on Jannero Pargo. The exodus in the aisles came soon after, even before Hornets coach Byron Scott pulled his starters… Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points and Julian Wright added 11, including a tremendous dunk off a midcourt steal of Jerry Stackhouse, a play that emphasized the difference in the age and agility of these teams… Even with Pargo running the offense instead of Paul, the Hornets went on a 15-2 run to regain the lead, with Wright’s big dunk coming in that spurt. Stat Notes: The Hornets shot 50%, the Mavs just 36%. The Hornets hit 4-of-10 three-pointers, the Mavs just 8-of-25. The Mavs had a slight rebounding edge, assists were tied and both teams barely committed any turnovers. For the Hornets, West had 24 points and 9 rebounds. Stojakovic, hitting three of the team’s four three-pointers, had 19 points and 5 rebounds. Chris Paul had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Morris Peterson, Jannero Pargo and Julian Wright (5-of-6) all scored double-digits. For the Mavs, Nowitzki needed 18 shots to get his 22 points and 13 rebounds. Jason Terry took 16 shots to get 20 points and little else. Brandon Bass took 12 shots to get 12 points and 9 rebounds. No other Mavs reached double-digits. Jason Kidd, playing just 29 minutes, shot 1-of-6 for 3 points and little else.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sekou Smith) reports: There’s no question Kevin Garnett’s relentless verbal barrage has energized the Hawks’ retaliatory talents. “That’s all he does is talk. He talks probably every play,” Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said Sunday when asked about Garnett’s running dialogue. When asked if Garnett was asking for suggestions about dinner hot spots around town, Johnson just smiled. “A lot of times he talks to himself,” Johnson said. “It’s crazy.”

The Palm Beach Post (Chris Perkins) reports: The big picture for Miami should be going into training camp in 2009, about 18 months from now, with a team just a tweak or two away from winning the title. That’s possible with the talent that could be available at the trade deadline. Elton Brand and Corey Maggette of the Los Angeles Clippers could have expiring contracts going into next season and therefore be trade-deadline bargains. The same could be true for Sacramento forward Ron Artest and Washington guard Gilbert Arenas. And New Orleans guard Jannero Pargo, Philadelphia guard Andre Miller and swingman Andre Iguodala, Portland sharpshooter James Jones, and Toronto guard Carlos Delfino, to name a few.

Bucks will have all new assistants

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Tom Enlund) on Friday reported: None of the Milwaukee Bucks assistant coaches from this past season will be a part of new coach Scott Skiles’ staff next season. Skiles confirmed Friday that Tony Brown, Brian James, Jim Todd, and Jarinn Akana – all assistant coaches under Larry Krystowiak – had been informed that they would not be retained for next season. This was James’ third season with the Bucks while Brown and Akana were in the first season. Todd was in the first season of his third tenure with the team.

Usefulness of the minor league

The Sacramento Bee (Scott Howard-Cooper) reports: Seven seasons after the NBA started the D-League as a training ground for all levels, from management and referees to players and coaches, the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs remain the only franchises to run their own affiliate. No matter how logical it seems for the development of first-round picks and other well-regarded hopefuls, the 28 other organizations, including the Kings, share assignments and have no authority to dictate the critical decisions of hiring coaches, distribution of minutes or the style of play. “I think it is a big advantage (for L.A. and San Antonio),” Timberwolves general manager Jim Stack said. “They’re running all their stuff. They can kind of control it how they want to control it, where we may be able to influence it, but we don’t control it. There’s that level of difference between those two things.” … That 29 of the free agents have been signed this season indicates the D-League is serving a purpose for players who would otherwise be scattered around smaller minor leagues and overseas. But the unmistakable trend of the parent clubs keeping top young players in the NBA, even with limited minutes, rather than sending them down, raises speculation that some front offices don’t trust the affiliate.

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