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Celtics and Rockets stay alive on the road; Pacers win big to take series lead

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What a difference two games can make. Just last weekend, fans of the Celtics and Rockets were wondering if their teams were going to able to win a game in the playoffs. On the other side of things, Knicks and Thunder fans were already wondering who their next opponent would be. Chances are that both the Knicks and Thunder will advance to the next round (no team has lost a series after leading 3-0) but it’s certainly putting plenty of heat on the number 2 seeds. We’ll get to them. The Indiana Pacers looked great last night, dominating the Hawks during the 2nd quarter and never looking back en route to a 106-83 victory. It seems like the home team is just going to dominate every game in this series. So far in this series the average margin of victory is just over 17 points so all signs point to the Pacers winning big after game 7 in Indiana. Could the Pacers close out the series tomorrow? Absolutely but they need to perform like they did last night, playing more physical than Atlanta with the type of defense that was expected from the start. But once again, it’s impossible to predict what either of these two teams will do as the series heads back to Atlanta with the Hawks on the ropes.

Was being on the brink of elimination the best thing that could have happened to the Celtics? It certainly seems so. Led by Kevin Garnett, the Celtics showed lots of heart, forcing the Knicks to a poor shooting night as they win in New York 92-86 and send the series back to Boston for game 6. Even though Garnett led the way (16 pts, 18 reb) for Boston, it was still very much a team effort as four other Celtics scored in double digits of at least 16 points. The Celtics showed heart and team unity, something that being put on the brink of elimination can bring out in a team with experienced veterans. It wasn’t easy as the Knicks stormed out to an 11-0 run to start the game but after halftime, it was all Boston as they never gave up their lead. New York needs to certainly do a better job of shooting the ball, particularly from behind the arc where they finished 5 of 22. Knicks players were quoted after the game saying that they still felt they have control of the series and the math agrees. But even though New York only has to win one of the next two games, the momentum looks like it has shifted in Boston’s favor. I can’t wait for game 6.

Speaking of a must-watch game 6, the Rockets and Thunder will be going to war tomorrow night. I think that of the two teams making comebacks from being down 0-3, the Rockets have the best chance of making history. James Harden’s big shooting night led the way for Houston as they frustrated the Thunder offense to take the victory 107-100 and keep their season alive. The Rockets had a great game plan from the start, controlling the Thunder with their defense and combining a good inside-outside game on offense. Harden’s 31 points (7 of 9 from 3-point land) was clearly the spark to lead Houston but what impressed me the most was the Rockets’ ability to keep the home crowd out of the game. OKC has one of the best crowds in the league but just as they were about to get going, Houston made a big shot to counter. Even though Durant finished with a great stat line (36 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast) it was clear that he was frustrated for most the night. Serg Ibaka and Reggie Jackson helped Durant out but when the Thunder were closing in late in the 4th quarter, the Rockets made it very tough for the Thunder to get a good shot. Don’t even get me started on that terrible “hack-a-Asik” strategy.

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Heat and Knicks take 2-0 series lead; Warriors even series up against Nuggets

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My apologies for not making a post yesterday, both games were excellent and definitely worth some discussion but sometimes real life gets in the way. A few lingering thoughts about Monday night’s games: how about Joakim Noah just providing all kinds of life to that Bulls squad? Everyone knows about how much Noah matters to the Bulls’ defense but he’s clearly not 100% physically, not that it mattered to him that night. Noah made some great hustle plays (keeping the ball inbounds and the block on Lopez), proving that this Bulls team was not going to roll over after a disastrous performance in game 1. Things are tied up between Chicago and Brooklyn, all signs indicating that this will be a long series. One last time, how about Chris Paul down the stretch against the Grizzlies that night? It was the best moment of the playoffs so far. Alright, last night’s action:

The Heat certainly stayed hot, using a 12-0 run at the start of the 4th quarter to put away a Bucks team that hung around for most of the first three quarters. Easily noticeable was Wade’s health as it seems to be almost back to 100%, showcasing it on a couple of nasty dunks. The put back dunk was nice but I liked this one a bit more. That’s scary for the rest of the eastern conference because adding a fully healthy Wade to that arsenal just seems like doomsday for the rest of the conference. Elsewhere in the east, the Knicks used a strong second half to win 87-71 last night and take a 2-0 series lead over the Celtics. Melo was great once again, scoring 34 to lead the Knicks offense and spark the big 3rd quarter run that got New York the lead. The Celtics were never able to recover after the Knicks’ outburst in the 3rd quarter and once again, the scoring was abysmal for the Celtics. A low 19% from the field and only 23 points in the second half for Boston. It just seems hard for the Celtics to score but Boston fans will try to motivate their team as the series heads up there for the next game.

This Nuggets-Warriors series has been so entertaining, by far the most exciting out of all the other series so far. The first game was very close, coming down the last second and even though last night even turned into a comfortable win for the Warriors, it was still fun to watch. Golden State, powered by their shooting, won 131-117 on the road over the Nuggets to even the series at 1 a piece. Just watching what Stephen Curry (30 pts, 13 ast) did during the 2nd and 3rd quarters was enough to keep the casual sports fan from changing the channel. Every time Curry shot the ball, it looked like the hoop was twice as big for him, hitting nothing but net. Is he the best shooter in the game right now? If you thought the Denver crowd was great, wait until the series shifts to the Bay Area and their fans get going. I’m getting nightmares of the first round of the 2007 playoffs as I type this.

Side note: It was leaked yesterday that Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies would win Defensive Player of the Year but just a little while ago it was confirmed by the NBA. Congrats to Gasol and the rest of the Grizzlies organization.

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Looking back at a busy weekend in the NBA

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As much as a I tired, I could not get myself to watch the Pro Bowl. I watched a few snaps just to get a look at the Cowboys players but it was obvious that no one was trying from the start. Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the league, had a fumble from the first snap. So I spent most of my sports watching focused on the NBA and it was a good weekend, depending on what team you were supporting. The biggest news around the league was clearly the injury news of Rajon Rondo. The Celtics PG suffered a torn ACL and unfortunately for fans in the New England area, Rondo will be out for the remainder of the season. A lot of NBA fans around the country were taken back by the news because Rondo is a fun player to watch, plays a unique style and still manages to put up triple doubles like a well seasoned veteran.

Despite the devastating news about Rondo, the Celtics were able to rally around each other and defeat the Miami Heat in double OT. It was a game that had some pretty intense moments from the start. Social media was buzzing from information that had leaked about the Rondo injury but it wasn’t confirmed until after halftime and maybe the Celtics players that knew used it as fuel. Even though the Celtics beat the Heat because of tough team defense and clutch shooting, it felt a little like winning the battle and losing the war. How does a team overcome their best player having a season ending injury at the very apex of his career? And because of the age of the Celtics and it’s stars, the rumors will continue to mount about blowing up the team and starting a new era.

The other showcase game for the NBA was between the Thunder (best record in the league before the game) and Lakers, who were in desperation mode. The Lakers played well, at times looking like the team that everyone thought they would be. Kobe was once again 1 rebound away from a triple-double and once again had 14 assists; while unorthodox for time, it seems to be working for well for the Lakers. The Lakers have won two straight and are looking like a new team but watch out, they have a long road trip coming up that could very well define the entire season.

Other news around the Association: Melo dropped 42 points on the Hawks (making nine 3-pointers) as the Knicks continue to try and keep pace with the Heat atop the eastern conference. Blake Griffin lead the Clippers over the Blazers as they keep playing well without the star PG Paul. Oh yeah, my Mavs won last night as they continue to slowly but surely look better. 

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Wizards finally win; Rondo fights Kris Humphries and other headlines around the NBA

It’s only been a few weeks of NBA basketball but the Wizards were already beginning to be the butt of jokes around the league, starting at a horrendous 0-12 but they finally broke that streak as they got their first victory in a close game last night over the Trailblazers 84-82. My favorite pun about the Wizards being win-less was their name change to the “Lizards” because you know, their team only has Ls. Anyways, now that the Wizards have finally got their first victory the bigger question is, when will their NEXT win come? They have a few tough games in a row (at Knicks, Heat, at Hawks, Warriors) but then they go to New Orleans who still might be without their rookie sensation Anthony Davis. If the Wizards aren’t able to win that game, they’re looking at another tough stretch and it won’t be until the 3rd week of December until they face an opponent that they can compete against. Of course this is professional basketball and upsets do happen throughout the season but 1-21 is a really possibility for these Wizards. Keep an eye out for that.

The Brooklyn Nets were in Boston last night, taking on the Celtics in what could be seen as two of a few teams that can take down the Heat in the eastern conference. The game started out with some good basketball, both teams playing well but the Nets began to pull away in the second as just as the Celtics began to cut into the lead a fight/skirmish occurred between PG Rajon Rondo and F Kris Humphries. The incident occurred after Celtics forward Kevin Garnett took a hard from Humphries and Rondo (right next to the play under the basket) wasn’t too fond of the foul so he basically tried to retaliate in defense of his teammate. Were Rondo’s actions uncalled for? Yes and no. It was ok that he stood up for his teammate but Rondo was too aggressive and it resulted in himself and Humphries being ejected. Anyone who has played sports knows that sometimes in the heat of battle, tempers flare but this was an important game for Rondo as his assist streak was on the line. A little less emotional next time Rondo. Gerald Wallace of the Nets was a little too aggressive while trying to break up the fight so he also earned an ejection from the referees. Also, Paul Pierce got his ankles broken by Joe Johnson during the 4th quarter.

James Harden returned to OKC for the first time since the trade to the Rockets but his return was spoiled pretty quickly by the Thunders’ defense and Durant’s 37 points. Not only did Harden shoot bad (3-16) but he also had six of his shots blocked by his former team. While other teams seem to be taking the spotlight early this season (Knicks, Lakers, Nets etc.) i’m not surprised to see the Heat cruising along where they left off last season. This is their title to lose so we’ll see how other teams respond because when the Heat are next on a team’s schedule, it’s the biggest test of the season. The Heat are the best team so far, followed closely by three powerhouses in the western conference (Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder) and my fifth best team is…the Brooklyn Nets. Don’t get mad at me Moe, I know your Knicks are doing well to start the season but i’m going to wait until Stoudemire’s return and see how that goes before I include them in the NBA’s elite.

Quick reminder: NFL action tonight as the Saints visit the Falcons. If you’re not feeling that game there two good NBA games tonight as well (Spurs at Heat; Nuggets at Warriors) so there’s plenty to watch tonight for sports fans. Enjoy!

Here’s the fight:

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2012-2013 NBA season officially gets underway

Seems like the NBA season arrived out of nowhere. Maybe it’s just me as a Dallas fan, after not acquiring Deron Williams during the off season mixed with the Dirk injury, there really wasn’t anything to look forward this seasons. Not the case for the Miami Heat, who completed their championship season last night by raising their new banner and bringing out some shiny new rings. LeBron gets his ring and the “king with no ring” jokes can officially be buried and put to rest. Last night featured a nice opening slate of games for the league, leaving more headlines for everyone to talk about.

Things officially got going outside of the national spotlight between the Cavaliers and Wizards, two teams known for their young and talented players. Everyone knows these two teams won’t be talked about much when the postseason comes around but they played excellent basketball, particularly the Cavs. Cleveland’s two starting guards (Irving and Waiters) look like they have a great future but as great as they were, this game belonged to Anderson Varaajao. The Brazilian big man notched the biggest rebounding game of his career on his way to a near triple-double (9 pts, 23 reb, 9 ast) and led the Cavaliers to a 94-84 victory over the Wizards. The Wizards started off slow on offense, clearly missing their best player John Wall due to injury. Washington was able to cut the deficit in the 4th but down the stretch the Cavs looked to Irving (game high 29 pts) for the plays to seal the deal and take home the victory.

Down in South Beach, the Miami Heat continued their postseason success against the Boston Celtics in a heated game. Dwyane Wade led the scoring for the Heat (29 points) and they were able to show balance on offense and defense to take the victory over Boston 120-107. Things got chippy at the end of the game after the Celtics failed to rally and Rajon Rondo (20 pts, 7 reb, 13 ast) committed a flagrant foul on Wade, causing players from both teams to separate the two (pictured above) but it was nothing serious. Just two teams that aren’t particularly fond of each other playing a physical sport. Speaking of no love, i’m sure by now everyone else has seen Kevin Garnett give Ray Allen the cold shoulder when he approached the Celtics bench. More drama for a heated rivalry. LeBron James kept his momentum from last season but he did have to leave a couple of times during the second half due to cramping, nothing that Heat fans have the worry about.

Of course I saved the best for last just for Bryan. Just kidding, this game actually was the last to be played and caused the most noise around the league after it ended. In case you didn’t stay up for this one, a Dirk-less Mavericks (say that with a straight face) went into LA last night and ran around the new look “penciled in as the West champs” Lakers and defeated the star-studded team 99-91. The Mavs, looking  very different themselves, were led by Nick Collison (17 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast) but as evident with his stat line, it took a complete team effort by this depleted Dallas team. Six different Mavs players scored in double figures and they simply looked like they wanted it more, playing with much more urgency than the Lakers. Expectations are very high for this Laker team but if they’re going to reach the title game like most expect them to, they’re going to have to use Steve Nash (only 4 assists) much more effectively. Kobe and Gasol were able to get their points (combining for 45) but that isn’t going to matter if the team shoots 38% from the charity stripe.

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