while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
Talk about an ugly win for the Knicks. I actually didn’t watch most of the game as it happened live (caught the Darvish-Verlander showdown in person) but I did see the replay on NBATV earlier this morning. The Knicks won’t label this win as a “finesse” type but they can certainly pride themselves in being the better team with more effort. The Knicks played with urgency this time around, forcing the Pacers into bad shots late in the game to take the victory and send the series back to Indiana for another game. Tyson Chandler’s performance won’t show up in the stat line but his presence in the middle was key to slowing down Roy Hibbert and slowing down the Pacers’ ability to get inside and get points in the paint. Melo led the way for the Knicks as usual (28 points) but he was smarter about his game, picking his shots more carefully. And when the Knicks needed a bucket late, Melo was able to deliver with some key buckets in the 4th quarter. On the contrary, the Pacers were opposite of clutch in the 4th quarter. With chances to get back in striking distance, it was either a bad shot or a turnover for Indiana. Add that to the laundry list of problems for the Pacers last night: they didn’t shoot well from the field or free throw line and their bench only managed 10 points. Indiana needs to turn it around fast or this series is going the full length.
This was the series that I thought would go all the way. I mean, can’t we have at least one series go 7? San Antonio had other plans and they weren’t afraid to put the nail in the coffin when the opportunity presented itself. The Spurs made big plays late, fending off a Warriors rally to close out the series in 6 games and move on to the west finals. If there was any doubt that Gregg Poppovich is the best coach in the league i’d say that argument was put to rest after last night’s game. The Spurs coach had some brilliant changes late in the game, benching Tim Duncan (who played great) and trusting the bench to make the big plays. The other “big guns’” for the Spurs didn’t play well so it was the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter that made the clutch plays. I can’t for Sunday’s game 1 against the Grizzlies. As for the Warriors, it just wasn’t enough. They seemed to be worn down by the Spurs and late in the game the shots that normally went in, didn’t. Those same shots would’ve gone in earlier in the series and it’s what made this Warriors team so fun to watch. It’s goodbye for Curry and his crew but they definitely deserve a standing ovation. They were the most entertaining team in the postseason and have a bright future.
Side note: Phil Jackson is back in the headlines but this time it’s not for another coaching rumor. News broke that in Phil’s new book (“Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success“) he does in fact compare Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, with Jackson siding in the Jordan camp. I wonder how Bryan, biggest Kobe fan on this site, feels about it. There are also some other interesting points in the book that have been released.
Things are looking well for both the Pacers and Spurs, both teams looks lik they’re playing to their strengths. The Pacers are obviously in a better position with a 3-1 lead over the Knicks and as the series goes on, it’s pretty clear that the Pacers are a really bad match up for the Knicks. Last night it further cemented the Pacers’ dominance on defense and their ability to make the Knicks frustrated on both ends of the floor. Watching this series I can’t help but wonder: did game 2 of this series actually happen? After that game, I would’ve picked the series to go to the Knicks but ever since that game, the Pacers have shown that they are the superior team. The Knicks never led in last night’s game and a lot of that is because the supporting cast (Shumpert, Kidd, Martin) was nowhere to be found. Not to mention JR Smith’s complete disappearance. But that’s also credit to the Pacers’ defense and them forcing bad shots by the Knicks. Paul George played really well, helping his team out in all aspects of the game and frustrating Melo. Once again Melo had 0 points in the 4th (second straight game) and once again the Pacers out rebounded the Knicks by a large margin. The Knicks need to turn things around or this series will be over as it heads back to NYC for Thursday night’s game.
The Spurs looked like the hungrier team last night. Tony Parker led the way (25 pts, 10 reb) but it was clearly an all-around team effort to defeat the Warriors and win a crucial game 5. The ball movement looked good and the energy/hustle was clearly too much for the Warriors to handle. Fatigue was evident on Golden State’s side because everytime they tried to get back in the game, the Spurs made a play on either offense or defense to stop the comeback. The Warriors high-scoring back court (Curry and Thompson) was held in check all night, combining for only 13 points. The forwards for the Spurs (Duncan and Leonard) were great, combining for 31 ponts and 18 rebounds. I don’t feel energy will be a problem for the Warriors when they head back home but if they plan on sending the series back to San Antonio, their big shooting guard combo must come through. This is how most people think the Spurs can play, it’s the reason they had the best record in the western conference. More of that great team play from San Antonio and the series ends in 6.
Nice to see that we’re going to have two series in each conference go at least 5 or 6 games. Or at least that’s what I think we’ll see with both series that evened up last night. The Knicks bounced back nicely, dominating the 4th quarter to win big over the Pacers and square the series at 1 as it heads back to Indiana. What in the world happened to the Pacers last night? The Knicks were the better team for most of the night but in the 3rd quarter, the Pacers climbed back into the game and eventually took the lead for the first time all game. It only lasted a few minutes as New York went on a 34-6 run to put the game out of reach late in the 4th quarter. It looked like the Knicks just turned it on and the Pacers had no idea how to respond. Melo was great in the second half, scoring 22 of his game-leading 32 points for New York. It was clear that the Knicks were the more desperate team, going down 0-2 in a series spells doom for a team but I was just a little surprised at how easily they handled the Pacers. It’ll be interesting to see how Indiana responds when the series heads back to their place because they plyed so much better in Indiana during the last series. There’s going to be so many Knicks fans in the crowd, I just know it. By the way, shout out to Iman Shumpert for this nasty putback dunk during the 2nd quarter.
How about those Memphis Grizzlies? Better yet, where did this Conley play come from? Mike Conley’s big game (near triple-double) was the difference last night as the Grizzlies took down the Thunder 99-93 to even the series at 1 a piece. Conley always had that “potential breakout game” stamp on him and last night (26 pts, 10 reb, 9 ast) he was in a pretty even fight with Durant for the best player on the court. Durant had the better stat line overall (36 pts, 11 reb, 9 ast) but unfortunately for KD, the Thunder rely on him too much down the stretch. I liked the way Memphis played defense on him during crunch time, double teaming him at all times and basically saying “Durant is not beating us tonight” while daring anyone else on OKC to step up. Memphis just looks like a better team most of the time, finding different players to step up at various times throughout the game. Once again the Gasol-Randolph combination down low was very difficult for OKC to defend. Unless Durant has some over-the-top game in Memphis, I could see the Grizzlies winning the next 3 in a row to move on to the conference finals.
First of all, was there any doubt that LeBron James was awarded the MVP trophy for this season? I was more surprised that someone actually gave Carmelo Anthony a first place vote. Was that you Moe? LeBron was one first-place vote shy of being the unanimous decision. Congrats to LeBron as he joins an elite cast (Russell, Wilt, Kareem and Jordan) as they only players who have been awarded most valuable player in the regular season at least four times in their careers. Now that it’s out of the way, the Heat can focus on the next round as they take on a depleted but very tough Bulls team. On to Sunday’s action:
Things got going in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder were trying to maintain their momentum, after taking care of Houston in 6 last Friday. I really thought Houston would push the series to 7 but Durant and the rest of the Thunder team had other plans. The Grizzlies were coming into town so everyone, including OKC, knew it was going to be a tough test. Memphis came out playing well, keeping the game within reach and actually looking like the better team after 3 quarters. It was simply too much Kevin Durant (35 pts, 15 reb, 6 ast) for Memphis to handle, especially down the stretch. The Grizzlies weren’t able to hold on to their double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and during the final minutes made a few mistakes when they could have closed the Thunder out. Durant hit a clutch shot (stemming from a Fisher steal) with 11.1 seconds left in the game and the lead stayed with OKC until the final buzzer went off. Usually I think the underdog has to steal game 1 in order to win the series but with Westbrook’s injury, these teams are much more evenly matched and I think Memphis has a shot to push it to the limit. Cut down on the little mistakes and leads won’t melt away like they did for the Grizzlies.
Things shifted out east for the second game, as the Knicks were playing their first second-round playoff game since 2000. Back when Moe actually had hair. The crowd was rockin’ from the start, there to fully support the home team but it was the Pacers who were the tougher team that afternoon. Indiana simply out-muscled and out-worked New York, winning the game 102-95 and stealing home court in the process. The Knicks were within a point late in the 2nd quarter but after that, it was all Pacers for the entire second half. Melo had a nice stat line (27 pts, 11 reb) but needed 28 shots to get those points, clearly frustrated because of foul trouble during the 3rd quarter. Roy Hibbert’s game didn’t reflect in his stat line (maybe the 5 blk) because he looked good inside, his presence was felt and outplayed Tyson Chandler for pretty much the entire game. I’m reluctant to say Indiana has a big upper hand in the series because of their inconsistencies against Atlanta last round but it seems like they’ve found a formula that gives the Knicks real trouble. The Knicks just need to play more efficiently because unless your team is on fire, jacking up shots isn’t the way to beat the Pacers.
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.
while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
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.
Normally division titles aren’t very important in the NBA, a banner is hung and it might attract more fans but it’s not a do-or-die situation. It’s not like in the NFL or MLB where a division title is almost necessary or else it’s going to be a tall order to get into the playoffs. Don’t tell that to the Knicks though. Last night the New York Knicks won their 13th straight game and in the process, clinched the Atlantic division title for the first time since 1994. Of course the scoring and offense flowed through Carmelo Anthony, who has been on a ridiculous tear and it didn’t slow down last night (36 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast) as he lead the Knicks to a 120-99 victory over the Wizards. Melo isn’t the only Knicks player that has it going right now, it’s pretty much the entire team but last night it was on another level. The Knicks went 20 of 36 from behind the arc. It doesn’t matter how well John Wall played last night, a Knicks team that is firing on all cylinders is very tough to beat. How far can this Knicks team go? It’s hard for me to see anyone in the eastern conference taking down the Heat but a Knicks team playing this well is going to give the best teams in the NBA all they can handle.
Not among the best teams in the NBA but still grabbing all the headlines are of course, the Lakers. Strides of progress for Kobe and co, they took down the Hornets last night at home and as of right now they’re in the playoffs.The 8th seed isn’t the most coveted spot particularly because the west is so strong at the top but every team just wants a shot. The downside for the Lakers is that the Jazz own the tiebreaker and have the more favorable schedule in the fight for the 8th seed. It’s going to be very interesting how the Lakers respond, controlling their own destiny but finishing the regular season with four very tough games. If the Lakers can win out and secure their spot in the post season, it will be very much deserved. My Dallas Mavericks are still in the race, however limited the percentages are for a team down 2.5 games with only five to go. I’m still holding out hope for a miracle but mostly I just want the Mavs to get to .500 tonight so they can get rid of the beards. Dirk is starting to resemble Ron Burgundy when he was drinking out of the milk carton.
The Heat continue to play without their full squad and they continue to look like the best team in the league. It’s going to be scary to see all these well-rested Heat players in the postseason, first round sweep of the Bucks here we come! Another playoff team that looked really good last night was Memphis. The Grizzlies easily handled the Bobcats 94-75 and if i’m one of the top teams in the west, I don’t want to face Memphis at any time. It’s a match up nightmare for most teams. I think they took that “don’t want to see them” title from Denver once the unfortunate injury to Gallinari happened. Blunder of the night easily goes to Jermaine O’Neal, who interfered on a buzzer beating shot by James Harden, giving the Rockets the win over the Suns.
I love that NBA does these Top 10 videos on a regular basis but this edition had an error. Westbrook’s dunk deserved to be #1.
It was a night in the NBA filled with so many memorable moments, it’s hard to keep track of them because the obvious headline was Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry making it rain from 3-point land (11-13 fgs) en route to a 54 point game. Oh yeah, he also added 7 assists and 3 steals into the mix. What is it about playing in MSG that when a player gets hot, the result is always scorching? It was no different for Curry last night, who looked absolutely unstoppable but unfortunately for Warriors fans, that only meant winning the battle as the Knicks took the victory 109-105. Part of that reason was Knicks’ center Tyson Chandler grabbing a career-high 28 rebounds (ten of them offensive) to go along with 16 points and a couple of steals. Curry will grab the headlines but it’s not easy to withstand a 50+ point game so credit to the Knicks for a much deserved victory.
MVP candidate Kevin Durant had a triple double (18 pts, 11 reb, 10 ast) and although it was relatively quiet, what was most impressive is that Durant had that stat line in only 27 minutes of play. Very impressive. The Thunder had dominant performance over the Hornets so no signs of slowing down for OKC. Last night featured two of the most unorthodox buzzer beaters that you will see this season. First we have Monta Ellis getting the roll on a ridiculous turn around 3-point shot in Houston to win the game. Then there’s Wesley Johnson hitting a 3 after being open on a cross court pass from Jermaine O’Neal against the Spurs to send then game into OT in San Antonio. Ellis clearly had the crazier shot but who would’ve guessed that Jermaine O’Neal would out-duel Tim Duncan down the stretch and be the key factor in the Suns victory on the road.
Some of the less attention grabbing headlines included a couple of players hitting career highs in points. Al Hortford (34 pts, 15 reb, 5 blk) set his mark during a Hawks victory over the Jazz. Lesser known but just as effective, the Pistons’ Brandon Knight set his career-high with 34 points against the Wizards so big ups to him. If you managed to stay up a bit, i’d have to say the most entertaining game of the night was the Nuggets taking down the Blazers 111-109 in Portland. Andre Iguodala had the best stat line (29 pts, 7 reb, 8 ast) but watching guards Ty Lawson and Damian Lillard go at each other in the back court was excellent basketball to watch. Something not excellent to watch was my Mavericks losing a 25 point lead (mostly in the 3rd) against the Grizzlies on the road. My eternal fanhood is the only reason that i’m watching the Mavs, hoping for some sort of miracle even as the mathematical probabilities of playoffs slowly dwindle away.