Tag: 2010 playoffs

NBA Playoffs: San Antonio will not be deterred, finished of Dallas in six


Nowitzki_floor.jpgWith the Dallas Mavericks down, the Denver Nuggets on the brink, the Phoenix Suns decidedly mortal, and the Utah Jazz dinged up, the San Antonio Spurs would like to respectfully enter their name for consideration as the non-LA team to beat in the West. They looked every bit of it in their resilient game (and series) against the Mavs, and though the Spurs surrendered a 22-point lead and let Dallas back into the game, San Antonio is clearly a team ready to roll through the playoffs.

Dallas deserves tremendous credit for clawing back into the final game of the series despite shooting blanks in the first quarter, and their trademarked ability to make a game out of what should have been a lopsided contest turned in a bit of an instant classic. It didn’t come down to game-winners or overtime, but the Mavs turned things around in the second half and made this a hell of a basketball game. The series may not have gone to seven games, but it unfolded as advertised: both teams were highly competitive, evenly matched, and played each other spectacularly. San Antonio just executed a bit better, fought a little harder, and protected their home court with a bit more tenacity.

As much as Game 6 featured the usual suspects — Dirk Nowitzki finished with 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting, Manu Ginobili had 26, and Tim Duncan had a solid 17 and 10 — the most prominent storyline featured each team’s up-and-coming guard: the Spurs’ George Hill and the Mavs’ Rodrigue Beaubois.

Hill was pegged as a potential difference-maker in the series, especially with Tony Parker a bit less reliable than usual. Hill started the series off slowly, scoring just seven points on 22.2% shooting in the first two games combined, but quickly became a vital source of scoring for the Spurs in Game 3 and beyond. He finished off his terrific series with 21 points and six rebounds in Game 6.

“Down the stretch we had our chances and you have to tip your hat to George Hill, he was the x-factor in the entire series,” Nowitzki said. “You live with Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan making plays, but George used his freedom and made amazing plays. You have to give him credit, he is going to be a good player in this league.”

Opposite Hill was the Mavs’ dynamic rookie, Rodrigue Beaubois. Rick Carlisle turned to Beaubois in the second quarter when things looked darkest for the Mavs, and in his desperation Carlisle unearthed Dallas’ buried treasure. Beaubois’ ability to penetrate and score around the Spurs’ defenders provided more than a spark, he was nearly a savior. All of a sudden the Mavs were within 13 at halftime despite only scoring eight points in the first quarter, and Rodrigue’s play was a huge part of that.

His strong performance continued through the third quarter, as Beaubois’ quickness clearly caused problems for the Spurs’ perimeter defenders. Rodrigue’s only roadblock — as has been the case throughout this series — was his own coach, as Rick Carlisle inexplicably left Beaubois on the bench for the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. San Antonio smelled blood in the water as the Mavs failed to score on a few consecutive possessions, and what had been a neck-and-neck game was suddenly a decent lead for the Spurs.

“I was kind of happy because it took away another scorer that was playing well,” George Hill said of Rick Carlisle’s decision to sit Beaubois. “That’s how it goes. People are going to go with people they’re very comfortable with. I think Beaubois did a really great job of giving them a spark,” Hill said. “I think that at the end of the day we made plays that we really needed to close it out.”

Carlisle’s rotations throughout the series could certainly qualify as curious, and some of his decisions have been more successful than others. In Game 3, Carlisle opted to sit Caron Butler for the entire second half and Shawn Marion for most of it, in favor of running a three-guard lineup including Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and J.J. Barea. It worked…for a spell. But when the three guards tired out from extended burn in the second half and the zone defense broke down, the Spurs were able to pull out a victory. In Game 5, Carlisle gave Erick Dampier, who had started in every game in the series to that point, a DNP-CD. Brendan Haywood started and shined in his place, and the Mavs looked ready to compete until the very end.

Then in Game 6, Carlisle abandoned his “roll with what works” mantra to grant a fourth quarter stint to Jason Terry, who has a history of fourth quarter heroics but had struggled in this particular game (JET finished 1-for-7 and just two points). Although the Mavs still managed to keep the game relatively competitive, there’s no question they could have used Beaubois’ ability to drive in order to put added pressure on the Spurs’ defense. Dirk Nowitzki was able to keep Dallas afloat, but even a superstar like Dirk has his limits.

In this case, Dirk could only score 33 points, while every other Maverick not named Beaubois or Caron Butler (who was fantastic in his career-high follow-up, and finished with 25 points on 50% shooting) struggled to score. Nowitzki, Butler, and Beaubois scored 74 of the Mavs’ 87 points, which is unacceptable given the considerable talent on the Mavs’ roster.

This isn’t to deny any credit to the Spurs, who took the game by the throat whenever they were given the opportunity. Ginobili and Hill hit some huge shots to prevent the Mavs from riding their momentum to a win, and Tony Parker (10 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) was no slouch. The Spurs just played like the better team in this series, probably because they were. Seven seed or not, a healthy San Antonio team is a force to be reckoned with, and though Dallas fought hard and provided a worthy foil, this was no upset.     

NBA Playoffs: LeBron's hurt elbow is a delightful joke


Make no mistake, LeBron’s elbow strain, while not serious, is pretty serious. Not necessarily in the degree of the injury, but certainly in its potential magnitude. The Orlando Magic are a tough out even for a fully healthy Cleveland team, and the Boston Celtics aren’t exactly slouching these days, either. That makes LeBron’s elbow an item of super serious interest, even if he only suffered a minor strain while shattering the hopes and dreams of the Chicago Bulls.

But LeBron James’ elbow’s Twitter account? Well that’s just jolly good fun. It’s the best place to get COMPLETELY 100% TRUE coverage of LeBron from an insider’s perspective, and where else are you going to read about James’ affinity for Ring Pops or what his doctors smell like?

How his elbow knows what doctors smell like is beyond me, but as far as I’m concerned, the MVP’s elbow is infallible. Except, y’know, for the strain and bone bruise thing. 

NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers set to dominate, so enjoy the Bulls while you can

Leave a comment

What do the Chicago Bulls need to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers?

A miracle. Hijinx. Steroids. Food poisoning for LeBron. Flubber. Possession by a basketball-playing demon. Stink bombs in the Cavs’ locker room. A magic lamp.

Oh, and on top of all that, they need to play nearly perfect basketball from top to bottom.

Honestly, if the Bulls win a single game I’d be mildly impressed. If they take two games, it would be a serious accomplishment. If they win three games, some shenanigans must be involved. If they win the series, I will eat my own foot. This is the Cavs’ series to lose, but there’s just not even a remote chance they’ll actually lose it. I wouldn’t even count on them misplacing it for awhile.

LeBron James is just too good, and the team Danny Ferry has constructed is finally worthy of James’ talents. Not only is LeBron playing alongside more talented players than ever before (Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal, Mo Williams), but the pieces have fit together in particularly impressive fashion. It’ll be nice for the Cavs to have an additional first round adjustment period to work Shaq back into the mix, but Cleveland is entirely too good to even let Chicago smell a victory.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy Derrick Rose while you still can. Despite Derrick’s incredible athleticism, breathtaking style, and startlingly high ceiling, he’s a commodity that’s taken for granted in the NBA. He has a decent rep, but he still gets lost in the superstar shuffle. Rose may not be fully evolved just yet, but he’s still an fascinating player and an incredibly entertaining watch. You’ll have plenty of time to stargaze with LeBron, so don’t glaze over Rose’s performance in this series.

That’s what you should really be looking for from the Bulls: entertainment. This team plays hard, and the resolve they showed to force their way into the playoffs was certainly admirable Appreciate Joakim Noah’s coverage of the pick-and-roll, or his effort on the glass. Pay attention to Luol Deng’s defense, and try to find signs of a dependable scoring game. Laugh at Jannero Pargo. Watch Brad Miller be Brad Miller. Point at Vinny Del Negro’s hair. Nod in approval at Kirk Hinrich’s game. Try to figure out Taj Gibson’s future.

Just make sure you do all of that quickly, because the Cavs are already getting their brooms ready. If I was a betting man, I’m taking Cleveland in four.