In Game 2, we saw the series we hoped we would get. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics put in huge performances in a back and forth affair that featured tremendous individual efforts on both sides of the green and yellow divide. Unfortunately, this meant that one team was going to be left with a disappointing waste of a phenomenal game under the biggest of circumstances.
When the Lakers made a strong start to the second half, it looked like it would be Ray Allen’s phenomenal shooting performance that would be for naught. But after the buzzer sounded, Andrew Bynum finished as the player who unfortunately had to watch his best work go unrewarded.
Kobe Bryant? 21 points on 20 shots.Pau Gasol? Four field goal attempts in the second half, despite leading all Lakers with 25 points. No huge veteran play from Derek Fisher. No X-Factor play from Shannon Brown.
But Andrew Bynum showed up to play. Bynum had arguably his most important game as a Laker. He was dominant. The drop hook, working. Tenacious on the glass. Seven blocks to go with 21 points and six boards. And it wasn’t just the numbers. He was the answer for the Lakers on possession after possession, battling and battling and forcing the Celtics to recoil from the sheer force of his aggression. It was the kind of performance we’ve been waiting to see from Bynum as he constantly forced us to second guess him with his work ethic and injury history. That he accomplished all this on a torn ligament in his knee is simultaneously impressive and depressing. That he accomplished it in the loss is just depressing.
But there was of course a flip side to the bad news. The victors had their share of heroes, chief among them the cyborg Ray Allen (who we told you about earlier) and Rajon Rondo, returning to the triple double hall with 19-12-10 and 2 steals for good measure. It should be noted it took Rondo 18 points to score 19, but hey, a triple double is a triple double. (Unless it involves turnovers, in which case it’s a cruel joke.)
Rondo’s postseason was summed up perfectly on a possession late where repeated Glen Davis misses resulted in another loose ball. Rondo snatched it out of the air for another huge offensive rebound and immediately went up for a putback. It was exemplary of Rondo’s approach tonight, which was playing the numbers game. He gambled that going to the rim was better than not going to the rim and if he kept going, good things would happen. What’s odd is that his arguable biggest shot was a pull-up jumper late that seemed to dagger the Lakers’ hearts.
So now the series is tied, and the Lakers are faced with an interesting double edged sword. Frustrated because they gave up homecourt advantage and wasted a huge effort from Bynum. Comforted because it took two phenomenal efforts from Rondo and Allen to put it away in a tight one.
The battle rages on.
The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team, but they didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are and what players on the roster should be part of that team moving forward.
Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.
The Bulls are telling teams they plan to hold on to him, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.
And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.
“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.
What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, he’s locked up under contract until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max before the TV deal money kicked in), why would they trade him?
Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.
The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall. =
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.