Archive for May 4th, 2008

May 4: Lakers 109, Jazz 98

The AP reports: Kobe Bryant, celebrating what’s expected to be his first NBA MVP award, converted six of his franchise playoff-record 21 foul shots in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Utah Jazz 109-98 Sunday to begin the second round of the playoffs. Bryant finished with 38 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and the Lakers made it five straight victories to begin the postseason after winning eight of their last nine regular-season games to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference… The Lakers shot 38-of-46 from the foul line, while the Jazz went 22-of-30. The teams spent most of the final period going from one foul line to the other, with Los Angeles going 14-of-19 from the line and Utah 10-of-12. Twenty-four of the 60 personal fouls were called in the last 12 minutes… There were some other unexpected numbers. For one, the Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 58-41, with 25 of their rebounds at the offensive end. For another, Utah attempted 95 shots to match its regular-season high, but converted only 36 (37.9 percent). Stat Notes: The Lakers hit 5-of-10 threes, the Jazz just 4-of-19. Utah did dominate the glass, getting 58 rebounds to LA’s 41. Assists, turnovers and blocks were close.

For the Lakers, aside from Bryant, Pau Gasol (8-of-13) had 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks. Lamar Odom (5-of-12) had 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Sasha Vujacic on just 6 shots had 15 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. Vladimir Radmanovic scored 10.

For the Jazz, Mehmet Okur on 19 shots and 0-of-5 threes had 21 points, 19 rebounds and 3 assists. Carlos Boozer on 14 shots had 15 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists but 7 turnovers. Deron Williams shot just 5-of-18 for 14 points but he did rack up 9 rebounds and 9 assists. Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko and Kyle Korver each scored 11.

May 4: Celtics 99, Hawks 65

The AP reports: Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 22 points, and the Celtics turned back the pesky Hawks with a 99-65 victory Sunday in Game 7 of their playoff series to advance to the second round. Next up: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Game 1 is Tuesday night… The Celtics started the celebration early, holding the Hawks to 10 points in the second quarter and doubling their 18-point halftime lead in the third… Rajon Rondo, who missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the Game 6 loss that forced the series back to Boston, had 10 points and six assists, taking his lumps on a key play. Kendrick Perkins had 10 points and 10 rebounds before joining the rest of the starters on the bench in the formality of a fourth quarter, just like the Celtics did for much of the regular season. Stat Notes: The Celtics shot 47.6%, the Hawks a ridiculously awful 29.3%, hitting just 24 of 82 field goal attempts. Boston was off from outside, hitting just 3-of-18, while Atlanta hit 6-of-12. The Celtics got a few more free throws than the Hawks, and hit at a better percentage. Rebounding was even. The Celtics dished more assists.

The Celtics got 22 from Pierce, 18 from Garnett, 12 from Leon Powe, 10 with 6 assists from Rajon Rondo, and 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks from Kendrick Perkins.

For the Hawks, Joe Johnson (just 5-of-17) had 16 points and little else. Salim Stoudamire tossed in 10 pointless points. No other Hawks scored more than 8 points. Al Horford, with 8 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks, was Atlanta’s best player today. Josh Smith shot 3-of-11 for 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and more turnover than assists. Marvin Williams also shot 3-of-11.

The Boston Globe (Peter May) reports on the Pistons-76ers Game 6 in the first round of the playoffs: All those red seats at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia for Game 6 were not because the Pistons took control early and made the game a runaway. It was because only 14,130 bothered to show up for what turned out to be an elimination game, well shy of the arena’s 20,444 capacity. In fact, none of the three Philadelphia home playoff games sold out; the first two drew more than 18,000. Then again, those who did show up for Game 6 saw the second-biggest loss in franchise history in an elimination game and the worst at home. The biggest: the Celtics’ 120-87 thumping in Boston in Game 5 of the first round in 2002.

The Miami Herald (Barry Jackson) reports: As he passes the coaching reins to Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley plans to change his approach from when Stan Van Gundy was the coach. Reflecting in a quiet moment, Riley said, ”I distanced myself, I thought, a little too much [from Van Gundy], not in a meddling way. I really showed too much respect, too much distance and wanted to stay absolutely out of the picture because it was his show.” Although Riley wants to give Spoelstra a lot of space, “I think there has to be more contact between me and the head coach on a regular basis, meet once every month or every two weeks.” And Riley said he must ”have a more positive relationship” with his new coach: “I don’t think I ever gave Stan enough kudos because I never needed a pat on the back. When you’re in that position, you never expect one. That’s probably where I’ll come in more than I did the last time.”

The New York Times (Ray Glier) reports: For five years, ever since a rebuilding project started with General Manager Billy Knight in 2003, Atlanta Hawks fans have resented failed draft picks (Shelden Williams), the refusal to draft a top-shelf point guard (Chris Paul, Deron Williams), the signing of the swingman Joe Johnson to a five-year, $70 million contract, and the squabbling over finances by a cadre of 10 owners. So when the Hawks were thumped in the first two games of a best-of-seven Eastern Conference series by the Boston Celtics, a collapse of the Hawks’ rebuilding project did not seem far away. Mike Woodson, the coach, was already in jeopardy of losing his job. Given the ease with which the Celtics sliced up the Hawks, it seemed very likely that the roster would be examined closely. But the Hawks have had the last word against the doomsayers. Atlanta suddenly looks like a promising franchise because it has taken the Celtics, who had the N.B.A.’s best record this season, to Game 7 on Sunday in Boston.

Suns need more set plays

The East Valley Tribune (Scott Bordow) reports: Mike D’Antoni likes to say that the ball will find the open man. That may be true in the second quarter of a January game, but it doesn’t always happen in May and June when the game slows down and becomes a half-court affair. If there’s one prescient thing Amaré Stoudemire said in the last few days — his comments about playing better defense are laughable considering he may be the Suns’ most inattentive defender — it’s that Phoenix needs to establish priorities on offense, much like the Spurs do. San Antonio knows exactly what it wants to do in the closing minutes of games. Phoenix still relies too heavily on Steve Nash’s improvisational skills. The Suns have to identify their first, second and third options and stick with them. They may become more predictable, but they’ll also become more reliable.

Nuggets not rising yet

The Sacramento Bee (Scott Howard-Cooper) reports: The Nuggets have made their moves (trading for Allen Iverson) and not made their moves (Artest), and it hasn’t mattered. They are still going nowhere fast, unable to register as more than a ripple in the West by going 31-28 last season after acquiring Iverson and 50-32 in 2007-08 as the eighth and final playoff entrant and a combined 1-8 in the two postseasons. And that supposed spike in interest once Iverson arrived? The Nuggets were 17th in attendance his first full season. The team with the No. 3 (Iverson) and No. 4 (Carmelo Anthony) scorers in the league, and center Marcus Camby as 2006-07 Defensive Player of the Year, squeezed into the playoffs and got summarily dispatched. The Nuggets didn’t get swept because Artest remained a King. They would have lost to the Lakers anyway. But there was something deserving about getting embarrassed after scuttling a trade for the best hope for a Bryant matchup because they didn’t want to part with Kleiza.

Wizards season ends

The Washington Post (Ivan Carter) reports on the Wizards: It’s a team that left its fans bouncing between optimism and pessimism. The Wizards (43-39 in the regular season) lost 10 games by 20 points or more but beat the Boston Celtics three times and finished 7-1 on the road in a Southeast Division that produced three playoff teams. Along with the Detroit Pistons, the Wizards are the only Eastern Conference team to make the playoffs four straight seasons. Then again, they’ve been knocked out of the first round three straight years by the same team and its dominating, just-entering-his-prime superstar. “We believed in each other all year,” said veteran guard Antonio Daniels, who played the final two months with a wrist injury that will require surgery this summer. “No matter what the circumstances were throughout the season, we laid it on the line. Guys played extremely hard, with a lot of heart, and a lot of confidence. I’m very proud of this team and the coaching staff.” HIGH POINT: Consecutive wins over the league-leading Celtics in January. Wizards fans won’t forget the sight of all-star Antawn Jamison celebrating a stunning comeback win in Boston on Jan. 14 by bounding to midcourt while doing a little wiggle dance. LOW POINT: Watching LeBron James and the Cavaliers celebrate yet another series-clinching victory Friday night, something that is becoming a Washington tradition right up there with the cherry blossoms.

May 3: Hornets 101, Spurs 82

The AP reports: David West scored a career playoff-high 30 points to lead New Orleans to a 101-82 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series Saturday night. Chris Paul added 17 points, 13 assists and four steals for New Orleans, which trailed by as much as 11 in the first half but stormed into the lead for good in the third quarter… One reason they’re off to such a good start against San Antonio is the way they played defense on Spurs center Tim Duncan. Duncan had what he considered one of the worst games of his stellar career, going 1-of-9 from the field for a career playoff-low five points and only three rebounds. Tyson Chandler was Duncan’s primary defender, but the Hornets also swarmed Duncan with double teams throughout the game, forcing San Antonio to look for points from outside. The Spurs hit 12 3-pointers in the game, but also missed 19. The Hornets dominated the inside, outrebounding San Antonio 50-34 and outscoring the Spurs 46-26 in the paint. The Hornets also shot 50 percent, while the Spurs finished at 40.8 percent. Stat Notes: The Hornets shot 50%, the Spurs 40.8%. The Hornets took just 10 three-pointers, making 4, while the Spurs launched 31, hitting 12 (38.7%). Free throw attempts were fairly close, but the Spurs misssed plenty. The Hornets absolutely dominated the glass, getting 50 rebounds, the Spurs just 34. The Hornets had the assists edge, way fewer turnovers, and more steals.

For the Hornets, David West had 30 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals. Peja Stojakovic had 22 points. Chris Paul on 16 shots had 17 points, 13 assists and 4 steals. Tyson Chandler (4-of-7) had 10 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. Bonzi Wells scored 10.

For the Spurs, Tony Parker (9-of-17) had 23 points, 5 rebounds, and the same number of assists as turnovers (5). Manu Ginobili off the bench had 19 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Bruce Bowen (5-of-10, every shot was a three-point attempt) had one of his better offensive games with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Mike Finley scored 13. Tim Duncan, in the worst game InsideHoops has ever seen him play, shot 1-of-9 for 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block.

May 3: Pistons 91, Magic 73

The AP reports: The Detroit Pistons beat up Orlando physically and mentally. They shoved Dwight Howard out of his comfort zone and pushed the Magic’s buttons during heated exchanges, leading to Detroit’s 91-72 win Saturday night in Game 1 of their second-round series… The game got emotional at times, leading to technicals against Rasheed Wallace along with Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis… Howard had a relatively quiet night with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks after being the first player to score 20 points and grab 20 rebounds in three playoff games since Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1972… Detroit took control with a 19-3 run in the third quarter and after the Magic pulled within seven points, the Pistons put them away with a 17-4 burst to open the fourth quarter. Stat Notes: Neither team shot particularly well, but the Pistons at least managed 3-of-8 three-pointers, while the Magic hit an awful 2-of-15. Free throw attempts were similar, but the Magic missed half, going just 10-of-20. The Pistons had more rebounds, more assists, and half the turnovers.

For the Pistons, Chauncey Billups had 19 points and 7 assists. Richard Hamilton had 17 points and 6 rebounds. Tayshaun Prince (just 6-of-16) had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Jason Maxiell, who started in place of Antonio McDyess (10 points, 5 rebounds off bench) had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.

For the Magic, Rashard Lewis (20 shots, no free throws) had 18 points and 7 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu (16 shots) had 18 points and 7 rebounds. Dwight Howard had just 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. No other Magic players scored double-digits or did much of anything else.

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