Archive for April 17th, 2011

By Scott Spangler

After Chauncey Billups was led off the floor with a knee injury, Toney Douglas hit a wing three to break an 82-all deadlock with 37.8 on the clock.

Kevin Garnett proceeded to flush a perfect inbound lob from Rajon Rondo. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni,  obviously frustrated at the play, quickly called for a timeout to draw up a play for the most important possession of the evening. I like to think he wanted to huddle with his troops because ANY bucket taking less than two seconds is absolutely unacceptable by D’Antoni standards.

Carmelo Anthony was then called for an offensive foul. New York still up one, but that one hurt. Twenty-one seconds to play.

Another defensive foul on Melo, a kick ball call, and then Ray Allen launches one from deep… Boston by two with 11.6 remaining.

That is how this one would end, 87-85 Celtics. Carmelo would put a three up for the win, but the shot barely caught iron.

Boston got away with one. The Knicks played well enough to win. In fact, they should have taken this one. Sloppy execution down the stretch did NY in tonight. That and rebounding, once again.

Lost in the defeat was the brilliant performance by Amare Stoudemire. He grabbed 11 boards, even made what seemed at the time to be timely defensive stops - including one gorgeous block at the rim on Ray Allen.

But it was Allen who saved Boston today with 11 points in the fourth, including the game winner.

By Scott Spangler

The New Orleans Hornets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-100 Sunday to take Game 1 of their first round series. Much could be attributed to the play of Hornets center Aaron Gray off the bench. Twenty minutes, 5 for 5 from the floor, and more than holding his own against that Laker front line.

Few plays bigger than Gray’s righty floater in the lane halfway through the fourth quarter. This following a dunk follow by Lakers guard Shannon Brown to cut the New Orleans lead to three.

Gray was later helped off the floor by teammates after what looked to be a pretty nasty ankle injury. Hard to believe it, but the condition of this particular ankle could be key to how this series goes from here. Yes, the ankle belonging to Aaron Gray.

Until the final 10 minutes, Kobe was doing all the heavy lifting for L.A. Then it was Ron Artest getting in on the act, hitting the offensive glass hard and coming away with a loose ball or two.

Once Hornets coach Monty Williams decided to go back to the three-guard lineup at the 8-minute mark of the fourth, the Lakers went after whichever Hornet guard found himself pinned down behind Artest. First Jarret Jack, then Willie Green.

L.A. did not get the production they have come to expect from guys named Bynum and Gasol. Certainly to be talking points for Phil Jackson and perhaps Kobe Bryant.

The story today would be Chris Paul. His final stat line (33 pt, 14 asst, 7 reb, 4 stl) doesn’t really do the performance justice. For every Kobe answer late in Game 1, Paul had one more.

New Orleans guards accounted for 66 of the team’s 109 total points, and knocked down 64 percent from the floor off 45 attempts.

Derrick Fisher is often criticized about his defense. He does seem to have his share of troubles with smaller guards who can score the ball. Hard for me to put all of this at Fisher’s feet. This looked like one of those days for Chris Paul. He had it all working.

This leads me to believe we see more Kobe matching up with CP3 going forward. Phil won’t say as much, and it wouldn’t be an exclusive thing, but in spots I would expect this sort of adjustment.

I still feel L.A. takes this series. They will find that gear, I believe. But after one game in a best-of-seven, the Hornets do have their attention.

Nate McMillan not a happy camper

By Scott Spangler

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan was visibly upset after his team dropped Game 1 in Dallas to the Mavericks Saturday night. After seeing the Mavericks shoot six more free throws in the fourth quarter than the Blazers did the entire contest, McMillan voiced his displeasure.

“The free throws, I just don’t get that,” McMillan said. “It’s hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it’s called a little different. And I felt like we were attacking and guys really didn’t know how to play with the fouls that we’re being called.”

Look, this is what a coach is supposed to do. Despite the rumblings out of that locker room or Portland, Nate would not be doing his job if he failed to lay into officiating fresh off this loss. Basically, this is Phil Jackson 101.

After watching the game last night, it was apparent the Mavericks had to change things up after going nearly 11 minutes without scoring. This is a team well-known for “settling” late in games. Dallas is a perimeter-oriented bunch, and they were playing right into Portland’s hands.

Dirk Nowitzki proceeded to force the issue. He drove the ball from the right baseline, got a call. Then another. When it was all over, Dirk ended up attempting (and hitting) 13 free throws.

Nate McMillan’s club would shoot only twice from the line in the fourth quarter compared to 19 for the Mavs. Whether you are of the opinion the calls were questionable or not, the discrepancy certainly affected the outcome.

“A lot of touch fouls and I thought that turned momentum and pretty much gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter,” McMillan said. “This game was pretty much decided at the line in the fourth quarter.”

Again, this is the game coaches must play in the playoffs. Was Nate legitimately irritated with the fouls? No doubt, he was. But this is a series. And any coach worth his salt realizes the media is a tool to campaign, to plant a seed. He realizes it might be the difference in a pivotal call late Tuesday night.

Expect a softening of his stance between now and then, but not too much. The message is out there and it lingers. NBA officials are human and while they may think to themselves, this sort of talk will not affect how a game should be called, more often than not it seems there is overcompensation the other way. Call me crazy, but that’s how I see it.

Should Dallas be be outshot by 15 attempts in Game Two, I would expect to hear some of the same out of Rick Carlisle.

By Scott Spangler

Gasol

While this was a historic day for Memphis with the Grizzlies getting their first playoff win in franchise history, this should in no way suggest the Spurs are in trouble. Not just yet. After today, San Antonio is 3-6 in their last 9 playoff openers. Of the previous eight encounters, they went on to advance to the conference semis in all but one.

Admittedly, I was shocked to see San Antonio drop this one after shooting 47 free throws. It could have been the 6 for 17 fourth quarter shooting that did the Spurs in today. Their defense, not to be confused with that of their championship reign, also played a part. Memphis got to the line quite a bit themselves. More than anything, they really did damage in the paint, especially down the stretch.

Then again, that is what the Grizzlies do. Zach Randolph and Gasol from the foul line down - the bread and butter that sustains this club.

Pop and his staff have adjustments to make. Knowing them, those items shall be addressed in short order. Still, problems do occur with a guard-heavy lineup when perimeter looks aren’t falling - and even more so when the opponent is equipped to attack the rim.

Perhaps the most important adjustment being Manu Ginobili in the lineup Wednesday. He was certainly missed this afternoon.

The AP reports:

Grizzlies stun No. 1 Spurs for first playoff win

The Memphis Grizzlies own the first upset of the NBA playoffs, and they made history in the process.

Zach Randolph had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Shane Battier hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left, and the eighth-seeded Grizzlies won the first playoff game in franchise history, 101-98 over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday…

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points, but they sorely missed All-Star Manu Ginobili, who continued to rest his sprained right elbow. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Ginobili begged to play, and it’s safe bet the All-Star won’t have to convince Popovich for Game 2 on Wednesday…

Gasol had 24 points and nine rebounds. Conley scored 15 points and had 10 assists, and O.J. Mayo had 13 points off the bench.

Tim Duncan had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who lost their sixth straight playoff series opener.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports:

Dwyane Wade misses practice with migraine, uncertain for Game 2

Dwyane Wade missed the Miami Heat’s practice Sunday with a migraine, leaving his status for Monday’s Game 2 of the Heat’s series with the Philadelphia 76ers in question.

Wade has battled migraines at various times during his career and in January missed a game because of symptoms. That bout left him with light sensitivity for several days. He needed tinted goggles in a game in New York because of it but still scored 34 points in a loss to the Knicks.

The headache started to bother Wade before Saturday’s Game 1, a 97-89 Miami victory, in which Wade finished with just 17 points and battled rare foul trouble.

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

Tom Enlund of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Scott Skiles says Bucks lacked leadership this season

By now, we all now that the Bucks were a solid defensive team this season but one that was offensively challenged.

And, we’re well aware of the rash of injuries that hampered the team all season.

But it’s also the intangibles that contribute greatly to the success or failure of a team. Things like having a strong leadership presence among the players and a cohesive team chemistry. Those were two key areas in which the Bucks came up short this season.

“It’s fair to say we did not have good leadership on our team this year,” said coach Scott Skiles.  “But that’s something you can’t manufacture. You can’t just say that guy is a leader.

“I guarantee you’d be shocked in all pro sports, when you’re on the inside of something like this and you know the league and players and coaches, and somebody in the media will say, ‘That guy’s the leader of that team’. Often times, it’s so far from the truth that it’s ridiculous.

“You can’t manufacture that. It just naturally happens. Some people are just natural leaders. Other people can cultivate it some themselves. And then you need both. If you have good leadership on the team you also need guys that will follow the leader. Chemistry and all those things are very fragile things.”

John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:

Four months since assuming ownership of the New Orleans Hornets, the NBA continues to work toward resolving issues it hopes will make the franchise more attractive to a local buyer.

Although the league has not had discussions with any potential local owner or groups, NBA Commissioner David Stern said during his annual pre-playoff conference call Friday they continue to receive inquires from people expressing interest.

“When people call and express an interest,`we say ‘terrific, we’ll take you to a game, take you to a meal, and put you in the queue, so we can be ready to talk to you when we are ready for this asset to be sold,’ ’’ Stern said. “We’re not pursuing local ownership at this time.

“The direction that Jac Sperling and Hugh Weber are taking is to make this team desirable for local ownership, or ownership that intends on keeping it in New Orleans.’’

The NBA purchased the Hornets from George Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest in December for an estimated $300 million.

The AP reports:

Dirk scores 28, Mavs beat Blazers 89-81 in Game 1

Dirk Nowitzki knows how to take over a game when the Dallas Mavericks need him the most, and Jason Kidd can still make some big shots.

Nowitzki scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and the 38-year-old Kidd had a playoff career-best six 3-pointers among his 24 points as Dallas defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 89-81 Saturday night in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference series…

Nowitzki scored 12 consecutive points in the game-turning spurt in the closing minutes when Dallas tied the game and eventually went ahead to stay. In the opener of his 11th consecutive postseason appearance with the Mavs, the perennial All-Star made all 13 of his free throws—all in the fourth quarter…

LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points for Portland and Andre Miller had 18.

The AP reports:

Dwight Howard scores 46 but Hawks beat Magic in Game 1, 103-93

Joe Johnson scored 25 points, Jamal Crawford finished with 23 and Atlanta beat Orlando 103-93 in Game 1 of their playoff series on Saturday, overcoming a monster night by Dwight Howard.

Atlanta was eliminated by Orlando in last year’s playoffs in the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA history, but this one was much different. The Hawks led by as many as 18 points while running multiple bodies at Howard all night, and the rest of the Magic failed to step up…

Howard tied a career high with 46 points, to go along with 19 rebounds. Jameer Nelson had 27 points but no other Orlando player reached double figures.

The Hawks had five players with at least 13 points, earning their fourth straight victory against the Magic and erasing the sting of a six-game losing streak to close the regular season. Al Horford scored 16, Josh Smith had 15 points and eight rebounds and Kirk Hinrich added 13 points.

The AP reports:

Heat beat 76ers in Game 1, 97-89

Chris Bosh had 25 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James added 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Wade scored five of his 17 points in the final 1:34 as the Heat held off a huge Philadelphia comeback try and beat the 76ers 97-89 in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

“The only number that matters right now is 1-0,” Wade said. “That’s all it’s about.”

Game 2 is Monday night.

Thaddeus Young had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, while Jrue Holiday added 19 and Elton Brand finished with 17. It was the second time in 22 days that Philadelphia blew a big second-quarter lead in Miami: On March 25, the 76ers led by 16, and on Saturday, the margin was 14…

The 76ers scored 12 straight points in the fourth quarter, closing to 88-87 — but never getting the lead back. Bosh made two free throws and Wade hit a tough bank shot to give Miami a five-point edge. And after Young scored Philadelphia’s final points with 1:24 left, Wade sealed it with a pair of foul shots 14 seconds later.

The AP reports:

Rose scores 39, Bulls beat Pacers 104-99 in Game 1

Derrick Rose scored 39 points and found Kyle Korver for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 48 seconds left, helping top-seeded Chicago stage a late rally to beat the Pacers 104-99 in their playoff opener on Saturday.

“We knew it was going to be a hard game,” Rose said. “From the beginning I guess we weren’t prepared for it. Next time I think we’ll be ready.” …

Rose again showed why he is an MVP favorite even though he was off target. He missed each of his nine 3-point attempts but made 19 of 21 at the foul line and finished with six rebounds and six assists.

Luol Deng added 18 points and Korver finished with 13, no shot bigger than that 3…

Granger led Indiana with 24 points, and Tyler Hansbrough shook off an elbow from Kurt Thomas to finish with 22. Darren Collison scored 17, but had just two in the second half, and the Pacers came up just short in their first playoff game in five years.

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