Archive for April, 2010

Brian T. Smith of The Columbian reports:

Early Brandon Roy return an inspiration for Blazers

Brandon Roy returned. And the Trail Blazers were back.

Lifted by the late addition of Roy to the active roster, Portland regained the form that had eluded the team during two consecutive blowout defeats.

Scrappy, energetic, resilient play — traits that carried the Blazers through an injury-plagued regular season — was evident from the opening tip.

Portland rode a wave of resurgence to down the Phoenix Suns 96-87 Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Blazers evened the best-of-seven playoff series at 2-2.

Roy played more than 26 minutes as he took the court for the first time in the series, after recovering faster than expected from right knee surgery that was supposed to keep him sidelined through the first round.

Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette reports:

You hear the Charlotte Bobcats trail the Orlando Magic three games to none in their Eastern Conference best-of-seven first-round playoff series and you figure perennial All-Stars Dwight Howard and Vince Carter have been unstoppable.

Well, not at all.

Despite quiet Howard, Carter production, Magic controlling Bobcats

While Howard and Carter have struggled mightily, particularly on offense, but a solid Orlando defensive effort and sharpshooting from point guard Jameer Nelson and forward Rashard Lewis are the biggest reasons the Magic is one win away from eliminating Charlotte.

Certainly, Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton is surprised by the turn of events. When asked after Saturday’s 90-86 home loss if he thought the Bobcats would be down three games to none with Howard and Carter doing so poorly, Felton offered:

“I’d say no way. But they’ve had other guys step up.”

Battling the Thunder in the first round of the Playoffs, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were fine early on, but the Thunder are looking more convincing by the game, and pounded Los Angeles in Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2.

The AP reports:

Bryant, Lakers not in panic despite surge by Thunder

Kobe Bryant and his veteran teammates see no reason to panic after a surprising surge by the youngest team in the NBA, with most of Oklahoma City’s players making their first postseason appearance. ”It’s not rocket science,” said Bryant, limited to 12 points in the 110-89 loss in Game 4. ”We had a tough battle, we’ve got adjustments to make and we have a team that’s playing extremely well right now that we have to deal with. ”It’s not something where we lose swagger. They defended their home court. Now, it’s our turn. Simple as that.” …

”We didn’t envision ourselves in this situation but it’s where we are, and that doesn’t change anything about the way that you should approach the next game,” Derek Fisher said. ”If we were up 3-1, we would still want to go back and win Tuesday night’s game. ”That’s what our focus is right now, is making the necessary adjustments to put ourselves in position to win Tuesday night’s game and kind of get the series back in our favor.”  …

”It happens. The playoffs, it’s tough,” Bryant said. ”You go through games where you play extremely well and then you get busted up pretty well, and then you’re on to the next one. It’s such an up and down thing, especially when you’re playing against great competition. It’s just part of the playoffs.”

Despite a slow start, the Celtics made a comeback and looked to be in good shape until Dwyane Wade decided to go bonkers in the second half, keeping the Heat alive!

The AP reports:

Game 4: Wade scores 46, Heat beat Celtics 101-92 and stay alive

Undeterred by talk that this might have been his final home game in Miami, Dwyane Wade set franchise playoff records by scoring 46 points, 30 in the second half, and the Heat kept their season alive by beating the Celtics 101-92 on Sunday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

The Celtics still lead 3-1, and get a second shot at the clincher on Tuesday in Boston.

But Wade gave the Heat hope.

Quentin Richardson scored 20 points and Michael Beasley added 15 for the Heat, who wasted an 18-point first-half lead before digging deep to extend the season.

Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 23 points. Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 12 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 16 and Ray Allen added 15 for Boston, which was bidding for its first 4-0 sweep of a series since 1986.

Not so fast.

Wade scored 19 points in the final quarter alone.

Game 4: Thunder pound Lakers 110-89

This was a beating! The Thunder whooped the defending champions in convincing fashion. Could the Lakers actually be in trouble? Maybe this one goes seven games.

The AP reports:

Thunder pound Lakers 110-89

Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Russell Westbrook added 18 points and eight rebounds, and the Thunder evened the first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 110-89 victory in Game 4 on Saturday night…

For the second straight game, the Thunder capitalized on a significant edge at the foul line and on the boards despite the presence of the Lakers’ 7-foot tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum…

Bynum had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Gasol also had 13 points to lead Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant had 12 points after spending the entire first quarter deferring to his teammates and the whole fourth quarter on the bench with three other L.A. starters…

Oklahoma City held a 50-43 rebounding edge and shot 20 more free throws—finishing 42 of 48—while leading by as many as 29.

Playing without center Andrew Bogut, the Milwaukee Bucks looked to be in trouble, and still are, but they stepped up strong to the plate Saturday and rocked Atlanta.

The AP reports:

Salmons scores 22, Bucks roll over Hawks

John Salmons scored 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and the Milwaukee Bucks never let up after a hot start in a 107-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

The Bucks shot 68 percent in the first quarter and 51 percent for the game following a three-day layoff and were never seriously threatened after building a 19-point, first-half lead.

Atlanta still leads the series 2-1 after two double-digit victories at home, when the Bucks looked overmatched without the injured Andrew Bogut.

But veteran Kurt Thomas had eight points, 13 rebounds and four stitches, rookie Brandon Jennings added 13 points and Milwaukee proved that the Hawks may have to “Fear the Deer” after all.

Joe Johnson scored 25 for Atlanta. Game 4 is Monday night in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee led by as many as 28 in the fourth as the Hawks shot 39 percent for the game, and only once did Atlanta appear poised to make a run.

Brandon Roy shocked the world, returned much earlier than expected for the Trail Blazers, and helped inspire them to victory!

The AP reports:

Roy returns, Blazers down Suns 96-87

Brandon Roy was activated Saturday, then helped Portland to a 96-87 victory that evened the first-round series at two games apiece.

Eight days removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Roy made his surprising return to the court to the strains of the theme from “Rocky” blaring from the Rose Garden sound system, then went on hit a key 3-pointer late in the game that shifted the momentum squarely in the Trail Blazers’ favor…

LaMarcus Aldridge, who had been double-teamed all series long without Roy, benefited the most from his return, with 31 points and 11 rebounds…

Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 26 points…

The Blazers caught on in Game 4, limiting Richardson to 15 points. Nash also had 15 points and eight assists.

Game 3: Nelson, Magic beat Bobcats 90-86

The Charlotte Bobcats have heart, but they’re in big trouble!

The AP reports:

Nelson, Magic beat Bobcats 90-86

No Dwight Howard, no problem for the Magic, who got 32 points from sudden star Jameer Nelson to overcome another frustrating, foul-filled game by their big man in a 90-86 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday.

Spoiling Charlotte’s return to the playoff stage after an eight-year absence, the Magic took a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round series despite being without Howard for the final 3:32 after he fouled out…

For the third straight game and two days after Orlando was assessed $70,000 in fines for complaining about the officiating, Howard played about half the game, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks…

Stephen Jackson scored 19 points, but was 6 of 18 from the field and missed a key 3-pointer in the final minute for the cold-shooting Bobcats, who face the prospect of a first-round sweep in their first playoff appearance…

Gerald Wallace added 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting for Charlotte. Raymond Felton also scored 13, but shot 5 of 14 and again couldn’t contain Nelson.

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News reports:

Manu Ginobili will not play in Worlds this summer

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili made it official on Friday: He will sit out this summer’s FIBA World Championships in Turkey.

The captain of Argentina’s 2004 Olympic championship team said the need to be healthy for Spurs training camp in October, combined with his pending fatherhood, outweighed his loyalty to the national team.

“Everybody knows I love playing for the national team,” he said. “But this year was kind of different. It’s been two years since I can do a good preseason — the one before because of the surgery; the last one because of the (stress) fracture.

“My body kind of needs it, and I want to play the (2012) Olympics, so I decided to pass on this one.

“Besides, there’s another little factor here: My wife is going to have twins in a month. Those are the times you don’t want to miss. Both, one next to the other, makes me take this tough decision.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports:

Bill Walker says Knicks veterans were not leaders

Bill Walker, one of this past season’s pleasant revelations, said he believes one of the reasons for the Knicks’ 29-53 record was a lack of leadership in the locker room.

Walker, who came over from the Celtics in the Nate Robinson trade on Feb. 18, told The Post it was jarring to see none of the veterans step up in the leadership department after he spent two seasons in Boston with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

The 6-foot-6 Walker is expected to be part of the Knicks’ future. The swingman’s contract for next season becomes guaranteed on Aug. 1, and he likely is a keeper unless they need an extra $800,000 in cap space. The Knicks must round out their roster with minimum-wage players if they are to fit one or two superstars under the salary cap.

The AP reports:

Pierce at Buzzer, Celtics beat Heat

Paul Pierce’s 21-footer at the buzzer Friday night gave Boston a 100-98 win over Miami in Game 3 of the teams’ Eastern Conference first-round series. The Celtics lead 3-0, and will try for a sweep in Miami on Sunday afternoon…

Game tied at 98, less than 20 seconds left, the Heat had exactly what it wanted—the ball in Dwyane Wade’s hands. The 2006 NBA finals MVP tried a straightaway 3-pointer and missed with 14 seconds left, which is where the game and perhaps the season slipped away from Miami. Wade crumpled to the court in a heap, his left calf cramping for the second time in the final quarter…

Pierce finished with 32 points and Ray Allen added 25 for the Celtics, who got 17 from Rajon Rondo and 16 from Kevin Garnett.

Wade finished with 34 points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Heat, who rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take the lead. Michael Beasley scored 16 points, Wright scored 15 and Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers each scored 10 for the Heat.

The AP reports:

Ginobili, Spurs take 2-1 series lead over Mavs

Blood dripped from Manu Ginobili’s nose. He had caught an elbow from Dirk Nowitzki, then disappeared into the locker room while leaving a trail of red blotches behind him on the tunnel floor.

He didn’t know yet his nose was broken. That diagnosis would have to wait.

Ginobili still had work to do, so he patched up his gushing nose with a bandage and came back late in the third, then scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 94-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night…

Dirk Nowitzki made good on his vow after the Game 2 loss to hit the looks he got last time, scoring 35 points…

But Caron Butler never left the bench in the second half on Friday as coach Rick Carlisle instead went instead with Barea in the backcourt…

Aside from Game 4, Sunday is also when Duncan turns 34—but so far in this series, he’s looked practically ageless. He scored 25 points for the second straight game, and has the Spurs in position to possibly celebrate a commanding lead in this series if they can win on his birthday.

Tony Parker had 23 points off the bench while continuing to thrive in the sixth man role that Ginobili held for so many years.

The AP reports:

Millsap explodes, Jazz beat Nuggets

Paul Millsap led a surge early in the second quarter that got Utah back into Game 3 after a disastrous start, then the Jazz took control of the game and their Western Conference playoff series with a 105-93 victory Friday night.

“That’s what we do, especially coming off the bench,” said Millsap, who finished with career highs of 22 points and 19 rebounds…

Millsap’s 18 points in the second quarter gave the Jazz a chance to recover after Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams struggled early. Once Williams and Boozer got going, the Nuggets never recovered in their first road playoff game of the series.

Utah limited Denver’s Carmelo Anthony to 25 points and flustered him into five fouls. He also had just four free throw attempts after taking 19 while scoring a combined 74 points in the series’ first two games.

Anthony and Chauncey Billups, who also scored 25 points, were the only Denver players to score in double figures.

Manu Ginobili suffered a nasal fracture in the third quarter of tonight’s Spurs-Mavericks game. X-rays taken at the AT&T Center confirmed the injury.

Tomorrow Ginobili will be re-examined by Spurs team physicians at which time he will undergo a CT scan. Additional details will be announced after this examination.

Judging Flip Saunders as Wizards coach

Mike Jones of CSN Washington reports:

Judging Flip Saunders as Wizards coach

A winner everywhere he’s been, Saunders was supposed to come in and take the Wizards from the middle of the playoff pack to the ranks of the league’s elite. But, like his talented roster, he came up short. It’s difficult to give Saunders’ coaching this season a precise grade because there were so many derisive elements involved this season.  He – like his players – talked about the need to set egos aside and sacrifice for the greater good, but when things got going, Saunders couldn’t get the Wizards to play together.

Saunders was heralded as an offensive genius, but we never really saw him work his magic on the Wizards. Because he wanted to give Arenas, Butler, Jamison and Haywood time to get used to play together again, Saunders didn’t make them run much of his system. Over-estimating his players, he admittedly let them freestyle while they got back into the groove. But they never got there. The player that suffered the most was Butler, who often looked lost in the system. Was that because Saunders didn’t use him effectively, or was it a result of a lack of focus on Butler’s part, or his bad chemistry with Arenas?  It turned out not making Arenas play within a system was a terrible decision because he wasn’t capable of running the show and balancing scoring with distributing. And so, the Wizards’ never clicked.

How much of it was Saunders’ fault, though? With the agendas that the Wizards had, would the coach have had any success if he did direct them to play within his system? By December, Saunders was publically criticizing his players for terrible shot selection and not playing together, “In all my years of coaching…I have never had to yell at a player for taking bad shots…until this year,” said Saunders, who also stressed improved ball movement.

Lakers must keep feeding Gasol

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Lakers must keep feeding Gasol

It probably could be argued that Pau Gasol has been the best Laker in the postseason.

He had been averaging a double-double in the first two games, 22 points and 12.5 rebounds. He had been making 53.6% of his shots.

And yet, the Lakers went away from Gasol in the fourth quarter of their 101-96 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round opener at the Ford Center.

“We tend to settle sometimes a little too much,” Gasol said. “We have to create penetration. We have to take advantage of our size.

Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post reports:

Deron Williams not afraid of being trapped

The new-look, super-trapping Nuggets were in EnergySolutions Arena this morning, going over last-minute preparations on their game plan for tonight’s Game 3.

The plan is simple: Don’t let Deron Williams go berserk.

To keep that from happening, the Nuggets are expected to press and trap Williams to get the ball out of his hands, forcing someone else to beat them.

Williams, however, shrugs off the Nuggets’ much-hyped new strategy, saying he and the Jazz can handle it.

“Just find the open guy,” Williams said. “If they want to trap me and take me out of the game, we have plenty of guys on this team that can score the basketball. Especially when it’ll be four-on-three, because two people are going to be on me.”

The San Antonio Spurs announced today that they have recalled guard/forward Alonzo Gee and guard Curtis Jerrells from the Austin Toros, the NBA Development League team owned and operated by the Spurs.

Gee, who was named D-League Rookie of the Year and All NBA D-League Second Team, appeared in 36 games for the Toros this season and averaged 21.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 38.2 minutes. In six playoff games he averaged 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.16 blocks in 38.7 minutes.  Gee also appeared in 11 games for the Washington Wizards where he averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 16.5 minutes.

Jerrells appeared in 50 games this season with the Austin Toros and averaged 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 40.2 minutes and was named All NBA D-League Third Team. He was selected as the NBA Development League Performer of the Week twice this season, most recently for games played during the week of March 15 when he averaged 32.7 points, 6.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds.  Jerrells also appeared in five preseason games for San Antonio, averaging 3.6 points and 1.8 assists in 14.8 minutes.

Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Kyle Korver steers Kyrylo Fesenko away from techno music

Kyle Korver confirmed he encouraged Kyrylo Fesenko to switch from listening to thumping European techno to something softer in the hopes it would help Fesenko better focus now that he’s starting at center in Mehmet Okur’s absence.

“I told him to chill out and find some new music,” Korver said. “Before the game, he’s like, ‘Kyle, I think I am too mellow right now. I need to get more excited.’ I was like, ‘Once the game starts, you’ll be fine, believe me.’ ”

Not only does Fesenko regularly play his techno at louder than loud volumes, he often sings along too, Korver said.

The AP reports:

David Stern is fed up with NBA coaches criticizing referees and said he would not back down from penalizing them. In fact, in his perfect world, he could impose steeper penalties.

“I wish I had it to do all over again, starting 20 years ago; I’d be suspending Phil and Pat Riley for the games they play in the media,” Stern said Thursday before the Lakers and Oklahoma City played Game 3 in their first-round series.

“As you guys know, our referees go out there and knock themselves out and do the best job they can. But we’ve got coaches who will do whatever it takes to try to work them publicly. What that does is erode fan confidence.

“So our coaches should be quiet because this is a good business that makes them good livings and supports a lot of families, and if they don’t like it they should go get a job someplace else.”

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