Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Yes, this classic NBA commercial starring Rick Barry and Larry Bird lacks the slick digital effects and fast-paced, heart-stopping drama of Steve Nash's latest spot. But that doesn't make it any less awesome. In fact, it might be better. Larry Legend in Cliff Engle is really quite captivating.
(via Empty The Bench)�
Behind the boxscore, where CP3 is doing some legendary stuff
All three winners did what they were supposed to do.�
Predictions (I had each of Tuesday's losers moving on the second round), assumptions, and leanings aside; this is what we'd tell ourselves if this were any other year. If Tuesday night featured a triptych of lopsided pairings with an overbearing host taking down the underdog in an obvious fashion, as it was in any other season, we'd be stifling a yawn. Of course the home team is supposed to win out.
Seriously, let's just go with that old timey assumption for now. Pretend that it's any other year. Let's not bust out the shovel, just yet.
This wasn't even a quick game. 91 possessions, and yet the Hornets still put up 127 points. This means that, defensively, Dallas probably had the worst game of its season. In the playoffs. Good timing, gents.
Everything, EVERYTHING, failed for the Mavs defensively on Tuesday. Trapping Chris Paul well behind or within the three-point line (when has trapping a point guard in the NBA ever worked?) led to easy and open shots for Paul's teammates, Tyson Chandler was a beast on both ends once again, and Peja Stojakovic was taking and making tough shots all night.
32 points, 17 assists, five rebounds, three turnovers, and three steals for Paul. In a 91-possession game. I don't know how things will turn out, some 15 years from now, but it's quite possible we might have a "best ever" on our hands. Chortle all you want at that.
The most entertaining game of the evening by far, the Magic ran out to an early lead mainly because the Raptors could not contain Orlando on the perimeter, and a helping Rasho Nesterovic continually forgot that he was charged with guarding someone who is not human.
Toronto came back, however. When Jose Calderon picked up a third first half foul, the Raptors went to a zone defense, which flummoxed the Magic (as it has all year, for some reason) to the point where we had a nip and tuck game down the stretch.
With Dwight Howard scaring everyone, Hedo Turkoglu pulled off some late-game heroics, Chris Bosh couldn't respond (for whatever reason, I'll let you battle it out in the comment section), and the Magic squeaked out a win. Jose also picked up his second turnover in the month of April, to 71 assists.
Dwight Howard: 29 points, 20 rebounds, three blocks, just three turnovers. Ridiculous. Tell your friends what they're missing.
Most of what you'd want to hear from me is contained in this BDL Liveblog, save for my shock and horror at what is a scary-good Spurs team on the defensive end.
Holding the Suns to 99 points per 100 possessions is one thing, but 11 points in the third quarter? The Suns? Barely credible, even knowing San Antonio's history. Brilliant play from the defending champs.
The Phoenix bench is miserable. Leo Barbosa was scoreless in nearly 24 minutes, and while Boris Diaw made half of his eight shots, the four he missed came on the low block against Tony Parker, who you could throw a jump hook over. Pathetic. Meanwhile, Grant Hill is D-U-N, done.
Each of the three losers has a solid chance of tying things up and making life a best of three by the end of the weekend, but it will have to come against a trio of teams that is playing the best basketball of its respective seasons.
The Internets are alive: Raptors at Magic, Game 2
Scanning the blogs and beats following the Magic's 104-103 win over the Raptors in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals ...
Arsenalist: This one falls on Sam Mitchell. What is Mitchell's job? His job is supposed to be to use his basketball intellect to our advantage in these situations by drawing up a play that is likely to create a good shot, not a 20 footer for a power forward who's clearly winded after playing practically the entire game. Giving him the ball beyond the key and asking him to do a Kobe impersonation is unfair and setting him up to fail. When was the last time Amare Stoudamire, Dwight Howard or even the great Tim Duncan were given the ball on an isolation play 20 feet from the rim with 5 seconds left? If that’s the "play" you're going to call, there's not even a need for a timeout, just come out and freestyle like you've been doing all year, at least you'll catch the defense somewhat off-guard.
Ken Hornack, Daytona Beach: Bosh bounced back from a subpar showing in Game 1 on Sunday. While he finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds, only six of those points came after halftime. Of his missed jump shot in the closing seconds, he said, "I knew he (Howard) was going to back up. I knew I was going to have space. The time before, I drove to the basket and I didn't get a call. So I didn't want to put it in the referee's hands." ... "That's Chris' shot," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "He works on that shot every day. I have no problem (with that)."
Raptors Den: The story for the Raptors down the stretch was that Chris Bosh did not come up big, as the ball was in his hands three times in the final 45 seconds with Toronto trailing by only one.� What does he do? He turns the ball over to Keith Bogans after grabbing a rebound on the defensive end in possession one.� Possession two: Dwight Howard blocks his shot in the lane.� Possession three: (After a Carlos Delfino layup paired with a Keyon Dooling offensive foul gave the Raptors a chance to tie the series with 9.6 seconds to go) He misses yet again, this time off the mark from the top of the key.
Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun: Head coach Sam Mitchell announced that he will make a change in his starting lineup but refused to identify the change other than to tell a reporter, "You watched the game so use some common sense." One likely casualty is point guard T.J. Ford who, in the first two games of the series, now is 2-for-17 from the field and is being vastly outplayed by counterpart Jameer Nelson.
Bruce Arthur, National Post: Jason Kapono shot and competed like a $24-million player. Carlos Delfino played well, too. And both of them are better options than the 7-foot question mark. With Bargnani on the floor to start the game — and to be fair, with his teammates losing their damned minds under the pressure, again — Toronto was outscored 23-8, with a free throw pending. They can't afford that.
Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: While it might sound simple, the difference so far is that the Magic have Howard and the Raptors do not. They have a roster that resembles the United Nations with so many foreign players, but they also don't have Hedo Turkoglu, whose star is stretching from Orlando to his native Turkey.
John Denton, Florida Today: Emotions flared late in the second quarter when Turkoglu shoved Bosh hard to the floor on a breakaway layup. Turkoglu actually got one hand on the ball, but also shoved Bosh, causing him to hit the floor hard. Turkoglu, who exchanged words with Toronto coach Sam Mitchell, was whistled for a Flagrant 1 foul on the play. A Flagrant 2 foul would have resulted in an automatic ejection.
Games to pay attention to: Detroit's attention sparks ... eventually
Philadelphia at Detroit, Game 2
If we're dealing with a typical NBA team, reeling from what should be an embarrassing Game 1 loss at the hands of a team much, much lower on the talent totem poll, then you could probably pencil in an 89-point win for the Pistons tonight.
Sadly, we're not dealing with a typical NBA team. We're dealing with the Detroit Pistons, who could lose tonight and in Game 3 and then take a 19-point deficit into the fourth quarter of Game 4 before flipping that switch and starting a championship run. Or, they could lose out.
Usually this sort of unpredictability makes for a fascinating watch - who knew that the Hornets would be this good this soon, and where is Toronto/Orlando headed? - but Detroit's pell-mell nature is born of lethargy and elitism, two disturbing qualities for a supposedly blue-collar bunch.
Philly is a machine, not unlike the Chicago Bulls of recent years. They don't let much bother them, they look to get to the front of the rim and rarely get shook by large deficits. It's a credit to a coaching staff that had the guts to go with a younger rotation even when jobs for said coaching staff were on the line.
I would bank on the blowout win for Detroit tonight, but I've long looked a fool for expecting the Pistons to act their age, and the 76ers to fall off the face of the NBA world, so this is a pretty pointless bank.
Atlanta should feel more comfortable on the playoff stage tonight, in the midst of a rather anonymous Wednesday night game on NBA TV, the defense should get a little better, and more shots should fall. The Hawks will play better. Count on it.
Boston by 112.
The Lakers still have plenty of holes, though Phil Jackson has done a masterful job of making his team look damn near invincible all season, but they can be beaten.
The team is one of the league's best defensively, but poor effort stretched out over a quarter and a half can put Los Angeles behind the eight-ball. Something I'm sure that some of the team's season-ticket holders are used to.
On top of that, the Nuggets aren't the Hawks (fascinating insight, I know). Denver is a solid team that was built with championship aspirations. They can steal a win. They will have better spacing and work better on the boards with Linas Kleiza in the lineup, and they can play 48 minutes of stupid basketball and pull out the win. That cannot be discounted - bad perimeter shots and lunges for steals can be enough.
It's a one in ten chance, but there is a chance. All in all, this should still make for the best watch of the night.
The Internets are alive: Suns at Spurs, Game 2
Scanning the blogs and beats following the Spurs' 102-96 comeback win over the Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals ...
Scott Bordow, East Valley Tribune: Until the Phoenix Suns actually, you know, beat the San Antonio Spurs, can we stop all the nonsense we’ve heard the last few weeks? Like how Phoenix finally had San Antonio’s number after going 3-1 against the Spurs in the regular season. Or how Shaquille O’Neal was the antidote for Tim Duncan? And this quote, from coach Mike D’Antoni: "I think we’re the better team. Now we just have to go out and prove it." Oh, the Suns have proven something. They’re still inferior to the Spurs.
Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: The Suns were supposed to be the deeper, more balanced squad in this series. The theory is that if the Suns could do a manageable job on the Spurs' "Big Three," keeping at least one from a heavy impact, the Spurs could not score with the Suns. But with Grant Hill's injury and Leandro Barbosa's ineffectiveness against the Spurs, the Suns looked like the team struggling to find some weapons.
Mike Monroe, SA Express-News: With possession to start the second half because the Suns had won the opening tip, the Spurs got into the set immediately and worked it to perfection. Finley came off a pindown on the baseline for a wide-open 15-footer that hit nothing but net. After Kurt Thomas rebounded a Shaquille O'Neal miss, the Spurs ran a second play for Finley. This time he nailed a 20-footer from the right baseline. Suddenly, the Suns' defense had another shooter to be concerned about, and the Spurs had another option.
Buck Harvey, SA Express-News: ... with the Suns in the lead, with Nash on the floor, with the two-time MVP in control, the Suns came apart and spit up another chance. ... [But] Nash won't get blamed the way, say, Tracy McGrady does. Nash is small and Canadian and a nice guy. ... Afterward Mike D'Antoni said, "We looked like we panicked," and the "we" is the responsibility of the point guard. A veteran such as Nash, a great player such as Nash, is supposed to assume control in these tense playoff moments.
Jerry Brown, East Valley Tribune: Popovich went to his Hack-A-Shaq card late in the third quarter, when he had O’Neal fouled on three straight possessions. The third foul was almost comical, as O’Neal tried to elude the grasp of Brent Barry. O’Neal, however, made Popovich pay for the fouls, sinking five of six free throws in a 48-second stretch. "The results were not mixed at all," Popovich said. "He made the strategy look really stupid."
Bright Side of the Sun: This just in. The Spurs are officially the best rope-a-dope team in the NBA ever. They do it during the season. They've done it in the past two games with the Suns. There was Amare on fire in the first half. Almost nothing in the second half. He got rope-a-doped. You can complain all you want about the Suns folding, players disappearing, real or imaginary coaching mistakes, but a lot of comes down to that the Spurs are always a lot tougher than they look.
Mike Finger, SA Express-News: It was far-fetched enough to think these Suns — these Suns who have lost 14 of 18 playoff games to the Spurs, and who have lost those games in every way imaginable — could beat their nemesis in four games out of seven. But to win four out of five? After the punches to the gut the Spurs delivered them in consecutive games at the AT&T Center? Steve Kerr might as well try to trade for Bill Russell and see how that helps him.
The Internets are alive: Mavs at Hornets, Game 2
Scanning the blogs and beats following the Hornets' 127-103 win over the Mavericks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals ...
John DeShazier, Times-Picayune: The Hornets took whatever adjustments the Mavericks allegedly made after being undressed in Game 1, and they made Dallas look even more helpless in Game 2. Chris Paul followed a performance for the ages — the first player to debut with a 35-point, 10-assist game in the playoffs — with one that, arguably, was even better: 32 points and a franchise-playoff-record 17 assists. The Mavericks aren't in trouble. They're out of options, seemingly with no clue of what to do with New Orleans.
Showboating: I want to say that the Mavericks need to figure out how they are going to stop Chris Paul in Game 3, but I think now the Mavericks are beyond the point of being able to stop him. They went both small and big against him, even putting the 6'8" Devean George on him at one point, with little success. The Mavs were supposed to try to tire him out by making him play defense, but that clearly was not the case. Jason Kidd was able to back him down in the low post and find the cutter for layups on a few possessions, but that was about as hard as Paul had to work on defense all day.
Hornets247.com: As a team, the Hornets shot 60.8% for the game. For the game! Has that ever happened in the Playoffs before? There will probably be a lot of Mavs fans saying that the Hornets were just on fire, kinda like the Warriors last season. I'll agree with that to an extent, because guys like Mo Pete and Jannero Pargo were nailing shots that they often brick. However, methinks the Hornets great spacing and excellent ball movement also had a lot to do with the high shooting percentage. David West in particular seemed to get a bunch of wide open looks because the Mavs were sending big men out to help on CP. The Hornets also ran the ball pretty good, getting 29 points on the break compared to 13 for the Mavs. That didn't hurt the shooting percentage.
At The Hive: Untrappable. [That was] the thing everybody was talking about pre-game — Avery Johnson’s plan to trap CP a lot more in Game 2. A lot of that trapping happened in the first quarter, but Paul escaped virtually every single one via a quick spin move or fancy dribbling. I was somewhat surprised that Avery didn’t go the trap in later quarters, but with Paul passing out of it deftly, what else was he supposed to do? In the end, CP made sure that the trap hurt the Mavericks more than it hurt the Hornets.
Jeff Caplan, Star-Telegram: Mavs coach Avery Johnson, wearing his 1999 Spurs championship ring, seemed to counter each defensive adjustment he suggested after the game with how difficult Paul’s ability makes it to enforce those adjustments. "We've got to do a better job of trying to deny him the ball, but at the same, time he’s pretty quick," Johnson said. "The easiest thing to do for our guards is just deny him the ball. Just because you try to deny him the ball, he’s not going to stop and give in. He's very strong-minded and tough, and he’s quick to the ball."
Peter Finney, Times-Picayune: "Sitting there watching Chris develop into the best point guard in the league is amazing," [Byron] Scott said. "He's lifted his game to another level in the playoffs. That's what great players do. He's definitely one of the best in the league right now." Is there a way to defend him? "I'm sure there is," said Paul, smiling. "One thing I learned this season is you have to be aggressive. If I just sit back and let them trap me, then they've succeeded in what they're trying to do. So I have to pick my spots and let the other guys go for it."
Mike Fisher, Dallas Basketball: It can be argued that there is plenty of blame to go around. Does Dallas have the wrong coach, the wrong scheme, the wrong players? Is chemistry overrated, is experience overrated, is Jason Kidd (barely a whisper in the boxscore) overrated, is this team’s talent overrated by its architects, is it just somebody else’s time?
David Moore, Dallas Morning News: The Mavericks hope their experience will make a difference now that the series moves to American Airlines Center. But the way this series has begun, experience appears to be nothing more than a code word for old. Maybe the club can fly noted curmudgeon Wilford Brimley in for Game 3 to whip the crowd into a frenzy and pass out Quaker Oats for every 60-point half the Mavericks allow. They better have plenty of oats on hand.
FireAvery.com: It seems pretty obvious to me that Avery has completely lost this team. Nothing he says seems to have any effect on them. For the past three days Avery has said that they have to play better defense and then they come out with this type of performance. On TNT they showed a bit of Avery’s speech in the locker room. He ended by saying "Let's score about 10 points in the paint to start this quarter." The first basket of the quarter by the Mavs? A 16 foot jumper by Dirk.
Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: Only 12 times in NBA history has a team come back from a 2-0 hole to win a best-of-7 series. On the bright side, the Mavericks did it against Houston in 2005 after dropping two games at American Airlines Center in the first-round series. Also, the Hornets haven't won a game in Dallas since Jan. 24, 1998. But these are different bees. They sting hard.
Texas guards Augustin, Abrams declare for draft
Texas sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin will declare for the NBA draft and forgo his final two seasons of eligibility.
The Suns lost again and are down 0-2 to the Spurs. Mark Kriegel says Steve Nash's legacy could be on the line in these playoffs.
Spurs rally past Suns
Michael Finley talks to FSN after San Antonio's 102-96 playoff win over Phoenix. Finley helped key a third-quarter rally that gave the Spurs a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Visit ESPN.com for the complete story.
ESPN.com has launched many new basketball widgets that offer scores, stats, and news
No suspension for Wiz's Haywood on LeBron foul
Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood was so steamed over his lack of playing time in last year's playoffs series against the Cleveland Cavaliers that he left the court before the final game was over and removed the nameplate above his locker.
Report: Isiah barred from talking to Knicks players
Former Knicks coach Isiah Thomas has reportedfly been banned from having any contact with members of the team as part of his reassignment agreement with team president Donnie Walsh.
Celts' Garnett named NBA's top defensive player
Boston's Kevin Garnett won the NBA's defensive player of the year award Tuesday. He beat out Denver's Marcus Camby and Houston's Shane Battier.
Mississippi St. guard Gordon to enter NBA draft
Mississippi State point guard Jamont Gordon has decided to turn pro but won't hire an agent before the NBA draft.
Monday, April 21, 2008
EJ takes the crew on a fishing trip.
Steal of the Night: Thaddeus Young
Watch Thaddeus Young follow up his own steal with the slam on the other end as the Sixers upset the Pistons in Game 1 on Sunday.
Top 5 of Inside # 3: Detroit vs. Sixers Gm 1
The guys discuss Detroit's lack of focus and poor play over the Sixers in game 1.
Hawks-Celtics Post-Game Presser
Watch as Hawks and Celtics players and coaches address the media in their post-game press conference.
Behind the boxscore, where Detroit disappoints
Philadelphia 90, Detroit 86�
I'm not going to shovel dirt on the Pistons because a giggly Rasheed Wallace had the wrong angle and blew a short bank jumper. Detroit could win out, sweep in the next round, dispatch the Celtics and the Western champ after that and I wouldn't be surprised. Neither should you. This team is that good.
But all the signs are there. They were there while the Pistons were trashing the Bucks in the first round back in 2006. They were around even as Orlando barely gave Detroit a problem in the first round last year. The results barely matter - but the attitude and style of play does. Something within the Pistons was lacking even in those two first round wins, and whatever it was revealed itself as they lost in the conference finals both years.
Something was lacking yesterday, and you saw what happened. 0-1. To the Sixers, man. To a team that should have woken Detroit up with this game, a close loss for the Pistons that actually saw Detroit play its starters, work for the win, and ultimately fall short. Don't let them tell you differently - Detroit tried in that game, and lost.
They tried for parts of this loss, but Philadelphia tried for 48 minutes. Simple as that. Reggie Evans (who, all season long, has been in incredible shape) offered 11 points and 14 rebounds off the bench, great help defense (his major failing with the Nuggets in years past), while Willie Green continued his very un-Willie Green-like play with 17 points on 11 shots with just one turnover.
Again, Detroit could romp from here until the end of June. But the signs, the same things that popped up even as the wins piled up against Milwaukee and Orlando in 2005 and 2006, the signs are there. Bummer. This team should be trying to get to the Finals for the fourth straight season, and they might not even make the second round this year.
T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon combined to play exactly 48 minutes, dished 14 assists, and turned the ball over exactly zero times. That's remarkable. That doesn't happen a lot - maybe once or twice a year for even a good team with a great point guard and good backup - and there's a reason why I'm bringing it up. That's an accomplishment.
Also, the duo's inability to finish on jumpers, lay-ins, and chippies cost Toronto the game. Yeah, Toronto's defense was crummy early on, the team should have been quicker to recognize Dwight Howard's (25 points, 22 rebounds, five blocks, not fair) rhythm, Chris Bosh should have been smarter with his fouls, and Orlando hit some tough shots - but if Ford and Jose don't miss 16 of 20 shots, Toronto is right there.
Orlando won't shoot that well from long range again, but Rashard Lewis (who, I was told yesterday, is nigh on unstoppable in the latest version of NBA Live) will make up for Maurice Evans and Jameer Nelson's drop-off with improved play of his own. Orlando has it in them to make the Finals, and Toronto's only hope is what allowed them to down the Magic in years past: the Raptors have matchup advantages and are able to dominate the guard pairings.
Toronto isn't going to beat the Magic based off ability alone. The Raptors are going to have to run plays that the Magic, despite their best efforts, cannot stop. If that sounds annoyingly simple, then I apologize, but Toronto's pick and roll can down Orlando in four straight.
We knew it going in, the Nuggets played right up to stereotype, and lost a game they could have had.
Denver cannot win by trying to trump the Lakers offensively. Denver isn't good enough offensively. They have a batch of names that you recognize as being only worth a lick on the offensive end, but at the end of a game (in spite of 114 points), Denver isn't good enough offensively to hang with the Lakers, Suns, or Mavericks. They aren't efficient enough.
I didn't see this game with the volume on, so I don't know how much the ABC crew focused on the Kenyon Martin-guarding- Kobe Bryant sideshow, and it's a typical George Karl move. If it works, he's a genius. If it doesn't, the defender in question gets to play the martyr: "I thought Kenyon worked hard. Kobe is Kobe. Blah blah blah. Excuses, excuses. I wear funny ties."
You know what? I'd work hard guarding Kobe. You'd work hard guarding Kobe. We'd rise to the occasion, move our feet, and try to shut the guy down. It doesn't mean you let us guard Kobe.
Karl's done this before. Even with all-world defender Gary Payton on his team, he put Detlef Schrempf on Michael Jordan for the first three games of the 1996 NBA Finals, and the results were what you'd expect. Karl claimed that he didn't want Payton worn down on offense from all the effort it took to guard MJ. Fine. You know what? Let Detlef handle the shooting. Let Shawn Kemp shoot a little more. Let Hersey Hawkins bring the ball up. Sic GP on MJ.
These Nuggets don't have a GP, and J.R. Smith fouled out, but you can do a little better than Kenyon Martin.
Pau Gasol (36 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks) likes to finish, Kobe was Kobe (32 points after a slow start), and Lamar Odom had a terrific and active all-around game (17 points, 14 rebounds, six assists). The Lakers are hot stuff right now.
Boston held the Hawks to a pro-rated 94 points in a hundred possessions, and it's only going to get better from here on out. This is a Celtic team that was essentially resting for the bulk of March and April, they haven't played since Wednesday, they haven't played big minutes together in weeks, and they were still solid enough to come out and dominate defensively in spite of the extended break.
The Hawks will improve as well, and might carry a lead through the first half of Game 2, but it won't be nearly enough to make up for a Celtic team that the rest of the NBA should be scared witless about. �
Kevin Garnett, first playoff win in four years. Feels good, don't it?
NBA TV Daily: April 20
Check out all the highlights from Sunday's playoff action, including Philadelphia stunning Detroit in Game 1.
Check out Lamar Odom polishing off the give-and-go from Luke Walton on Sunday as the Lakers won their series opener vs. the Nuggets.
Nuggets-Lakers Post-Game Presser
Watch as Nuggets and Lakers players and coaches address the media in their post-game press conference.
The List: Top 10 Storylines of the Week
Check out the most significant storylines of the past week, including the New Orleans Hornets clinching a division title and Jason Kidd's 100th triple-double.
Post-Game Presser: Pierce and Garnett
Watch as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett address the press after the Hawks-Celtics game Sunday.
Hawks-Celtics Post-Game Presser
Watch as Hawks and Celtics players and coaches address the media in their post-game press conference.