I dropped the ball over the weekend and failed to find time to recap Friday and Saturday’s NBA Playoff action. I’ll do my best to get you caught up on the big stories.
Friday, Day 7.
Game 3 in Philadelphia was another disaster for the Chicago Bulls as Joakim Noah went down to an ugly ankle injury. The Bulls just can’t catch a break. Noah is unquestionably Chicago’s 2nd best player and the heart and soul of that team. After he went down, the Bulls looked emotionally spent and the Sixers took over and outscored the Bulls by 14 in the 4th quarter.
In Boston, Rajon Rondo returned from his one game suspension to pace the Celtics with yet another triple double. The Celtics didn’t look sharp until they took a double-digit lead late in the 4th quarter and then squandered that lead when Atlanta closed the game on a 15-4 run forcing overtime. In overtime, the Celtics regrouped and outscored the Hawks 10-4 in the extra period, but back to the end of regulation…
The Hawks had possession with 30+ seconds remaining in a tie game. The Hawks had what I thought was a nice possession. They moved the ball, used the clock, and opted for ball movement over an isolation play. Unfortunately, the shot didn’t fall. Boston, on the other hand, opted to have Paul Pierce dribble around in circles 25 feet from the basket until only a few seconds remained and then hoist a contested fade away jumper. Shockingly (feel the sarcasm?), it didn’t fall. Why NBA teams call for isolation plays in critical moments instead of breaking down a defense with ball movement is beyond me. Make the defense work. This is why I love the Spurs.
In Game 3 in Denver, the Nuggets were finally successful in running the Lakers into submission. JaVale McGee resembled a legitimate basketball player and Los Angeles simply had no answer for the Nuggets backcourt duo of Ty Lawson and Andre Miller. Also, neither team shot over 40%, so it wasn’t exactly a pretty display of basketball.
Saturday, Day 8
I’m sorry to say I was out of the house throughout the entirety of the Pacers Game 4 overtime victory that saw them blow a 19 point lead with eight minutes to go in the 4th. However, it’s nice to see the Magic cares. It’d be easy for this team to pack it in and look ahead to next season. I doubt anyone would judge them if they did. The Magic has been put through the ringer by their star player, their coach, and management. They’ve dealt with persistent questions ranging from Dwight Howard’s possible departure to Stan Van Gundy getting fired to Howard pushing to get Van Gundy fired. All of which was not the players’ fault, and yet, they probably suffered the most. So good for them for giving the Pacers all they could handle on Saturday. Maybe Dwight Howard could learn a thing or two about effort and commitment.
In Los Angeles, the Clippers converted only five of six free throws over the final 12 seconds and still managed to escape with a win thanks to Chris Conley’s bizarre decision to sssslllloooooowwwllllyyyyy walk up the court with his team down one and only six seconds on the clock. Conley dribbled past half court and looked to get the ball to Rudy Gay (whose gigantic back-to-back 3’s got Memphis within one) when he should have attacked the rim instead. The Clippers defense wasn’t settled and it’s likely Conley either gets a relatively easy layup or fouled had he been aggressive. Instead he forced the ball to Gay who had no choice but to throw up a contested, off balance jumper. Seriously, it’s amazing how teams fail to execute in the final seconds.
In Dallas, the defending champs had a win within their grasp before James Harden snatched it away. Don’t blame the Mavericks, though. Based on their play in the 4th quarter, I’m almost certain they thought defending the rim was illegal. Oklahoma City had so many uncontested shots in the paint that I stopped counting when I ran out of fingers and toes. It was pitiful. What’s worse, instead of being disappointed or dejected after the game, the Mavericks were mostly throwing out excuses as if they never had a chance to compete because management didn’t give them enough weapons. While this is true, the players simply wanted a convenient excuse because two weeks ago Dirk and Jason Terry were talking about “still being the champions.” Uh, yeah, right, champions always quit. Congrats to Dallas for the worst title defense I’ve seen in years.
In Utah, the Spurs once again proved they’re too much for the Jazz. Utah played extremely well for most of three quarters and the Spurs played just okay. And still, the Jazz struggled to even get a lead. Matt Bonner’s buzzer-beating three just before the half was an emotional blow to the young Jazz. They never really recovered. The effort has been there for Utah but the talent is still a few years away.