A lot of the country’s basketball fans weren’t focused on the NBA last night. In fact, most of the attention was put on the game at the collegiate level. There were some marquee match ups featuring what figures to be three of the next superstars in the NBA. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch much of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky mostly because i’d rather watch my Mavericks. I don’t have much interest in basketball at the college level unless it involves joining a pool for brackets come March. Chances are that Wiggins, Parker and Randle will all be great players at the NBA level but until I actually see it, let’s pump the breaks and worry about what’s actually going on at the NBA level. Who’s dominating the league so far in this early season? So far this season, the Pacers have looked like the most dominant team in the league on a nightly basis. The defense and coaching is going to be there without a doubt. That’s one of the staples of Indiana’s game. But let’s add Paul George, second in a lot of early MVP races, who is continuing to play at the level everyone expects him to after his performance in last season’s playoffs. Let’s also look at the bench, much improved during the offseason and it shows on a nightly basis. Their offense still looks a bit stale sometimes but it’s not a glaring problem, just their style of basketball. What’s also interesting is that Danny Granger is set to return to his first game sooner than later. How will that affect a Pacers team that’s off to a franchise best 8-0 and the only undefeated team left in the league? I can’t imagine the train stopping anytime soon. Their schedule gets a little more challenging in the next few weeks but I could see them winning out the rest of the month barring an upset. The real challenge for this great Pacers team comes in December when their month starts with a five road games in 8 days against some of the top teams in the western conference, followed by the Heat at home. Until then let’s just enjoy what they’ve currently doing because despite getting almost no attention, the Pacers are the best team this season so far.
Speaking of no attention, the Spurs just seem to do what they do every single year. Play good basketball and win games. Right now they’re 7-1 and atop the western conference and I don’t know anyone who would bet some serious money on San Antonio giving up that position. Who would take their position if they slip for a few games? Well the obvious answer is OKC, especially now that Russell Westbrook is back and continues to look healthier as the games go by. To no one’s surprise, Durant leads the league in scoring (30.2/gm) but it’s going to rest of the supporting cast that I feel will ultimately make a difference. How the rest of the west shakes out is going to be fascinating to watch. From the Suns (how are they still there?) on down to the Lakers, all of those teams will be fighting for 3 through 8. Out east it continues to look like only the Heat will keep up with the Pacers, at least until Rose and the Bulls get themselves together and are 100% healthy. Most impressive players this season? These are aside from the obvious ones like LeBron or Durant. I’d have to go with either Kevin Love and Anthony Davis. Love finally looks healthy again, second in scoring behind Durant and leading the league in rebounding. And with Anthony Davis, well I think we’re all being reminded why he was the consensus #1 overall pick just a couple years ago.
Halfway to the ultimate prize. That’s what the Heat and Grizzlies are thinking this morning after they took care of business and eliminated their opponents in 5 games. For Miami it’s just a step in the process, repeating as the champions was the clear goal from the beginning. Last night the Heat used a big 4th quarter to come from behind and eliminate the Bulls from the playoffs 4 games to 1. LeBron James, as usual, was the best player on the court last night (23pts, 7 reb, 8 ast) but it was Dwyane Wade’s spark in the 4th quarter that really fueled the Heat’s comeback. The Bulls actually played very well, leading for the entire 3rd quarter and at one point they had a double digit lead. For a a few minutes there, the Boozer and Robinson-led Bulls actually looked like they were going to send the series back to Chicago. But as the rest of the series showed, it was too big of a mountain for Chicago to climb. The effort wasn’t a problem. This Bulls team was too depleted but hats off to Chicago for making this such a great series to watch. For Miami it’s on to the eastern conference finals where they’ll be awaiting their next opponent. I have a feeling that Indiana takes care of business tonight and sets up a nice series against the Heat.
It’s been a hard past for this Grizzlies franchise. I remember when the Mavs used to always eliminate them in the first round back in the mid-2000s No more because for the first time in franchise history, the Grizzlies are in the western conference finals. The Grizzlies withstood a late rally by the Thunder to win on the road and takes the series 4-1 to move on to the west finals. Things got a bit shaky for Memphis there at the end of the game but the Thunder didn’t make the shots at the end (thought Durant’s last shot was in) to make the comeback complete. Kevin Durant did not play well, especially in the 4th quarter and when the chance to come up big for his team came around it was evident he didn’t have it. It’s really hard to carry your team for several games and the pressure increases exponentially during the postseason; Durant feeling the effects as the series went on. Z-Bo led the way for the Grizzlies with his “old man” basketball (24 pts, 14 reb) and despite some missed free throws late, he was the power behind the Memphis offense. Marc Gasol played great defense as always and what do you know, another big clutch shot by the best big man in the league. That’s what makes this team so scary for whoever their opponent in the west finals is.
I don’t know what it was about last night but there were a ton of dunks. Big shout out to Tayshuan Prince for this dunk. Dunking on three Thunder players at once. I know i’m not the only one who hit rewind on their remote just to watch it again.
while thinking about eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
Both Miami and Memphis won deciding games last night but they both won their respective games in different manners. Miami completely dominated the Bulls while the Grizzlies mounted a comeback to edge out the Thunder in overtime. Am I the only one who has the slight feeling that these two teams will be meeting in the Finals? I’m getting ahead of myself. The Miami Heat have officially rounded back into their championship form. The Heat dominated pretty much every facet of the game against a depleted Bulls team that could no longer compete. Miami ended up winning the game 88-65 but the deciding quarter was clearly the 3rd as Chicago could only manage to score 9 points, a franchise playoff low. It’s simply too big of a task for this Bulls team to compete with the favorites to win it all, no matter how much effort is put into it. Nate Robinson was terrible (0-12 from the field) after starting the series with plenty of swagger and confidence. LeBron James on the other hand (27 pts, 8 reb, 7 ast) was great as he continued to play at MVP-level and looks like he’s completely in the zone. This series looks to be all but over as it heads back down to Miami for Wednesday night’s game.
It was surprising to see how well the Thunder started out in last night’s game, dominating the offensive side of the ball but it was coming from the supporting cast around Kevin Durant. The Thunder looked solid, leading the Grizzlies by as many as 17 points during the 2nd quarter. It was Memphis who played the better second half and overtime, frustrating Durant late in the game and forcing the Thunder into some costly turnovers to help the Grizzlies take a commanding lead in the series. The Thunder can certainly extend this series. They showed it last night during the first half how they can do so. Durant had a nice stat line (27 pts, 7 ast, 7 reb) with a clutch basket but it’s not that great considering what he’s done in other games since the Westbrook injury and the Grizzlies will certainly live with that. The Grizzlies will definitely live with Marc Gasol playing the way he did last night (23 pts, 11 reb, 6 blk) as he might have been angry with the fact that despite winning DPOY, Gasol wasn’t named part of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team. It’ll be interesting to see how the Thunder respond at home tomorrow night as their season is on the line while the Grizzlies look to strike the final blow and secure a spot in the conference finals.
If there’s a show worth staying up for, Inside the NBA is definitely one of them. It’s a shame that this show can’t be the main one covering the Finals. Anyways, here’s a video of them making fun of Wade’s choice of clothes:
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.
The announcement that Jason Collins made yesterday took most of the headlines around basketball and sports but the playoffs still had to go on. Last night’s games weren’t particularly intense, the Thunder-Rockets game got intense towards the end but it was more of a flow game. But last night did show that teams can certainly evolve as the series goes on. The Nets showed a lot of fight last night with their backs on the ropes, beating the Bulls 110-91 and extending the series as it heads back to Chicago for a big Game 6 on Thursday. I was pretty impressed with Brook Lopez (29 pts, 10 reb) as he led the Nets offense and kept Joakim Noah pretty quiet as Lopez dominated the paint for pretty much the entire game. Deron Williams also had a solid game (23 pts, 10 ast) and it’s that 1-2 punch that makes the Nets so dangerous but it’s about consistency of play. The Bulls were able to get within a point a couple of times in the 4th quarter but never took the lead, mostly because when the starters weren’t on the floor it was very difficult for Chicago to score.
On the other side of the eastern conference bracket, Atlanta and Indiana played another weird game in a series that has been impossible to predict. I literally have no idea what either of these teams is going to play like on a nightly basis. Josh Smith was certainly impressive (29 pts, 11 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl) in scoring a career playoff high for points, even though he had a bad 3rd quarter. Was Indiana going with a “hack-a-Smith” during the 3rd quarter? It got Indiana back into the game but once again, like in game 3, their halftime deficit (17) was just too large to overcome. Now the series is tied as 2 as it heads back to Indiana for tomorrow night’s critical game 5. The most likely result of that game is Indiana winning by a large margin but at this point in the series, I’ve begun to expect anything from these two teams.
Great game between the Rockets and Thunder, filled with plenty of memorable plays and a sort of bizarre finish. I know Serg Ibaka probably still feels bad about missing the game-tying lay up at the buzzer but he shouldn’t. Anyone who has played basketball at any level for an extended period of time has missed an easy shot. Or dropped a pass playing football or missed an easy goal playing futbol/hockey. Sure, it’s not at nearly the same level but we can sympathize at least a little. More positive memory from last night’s game for the Thunder was this ridiculous dunk by Durant down the stretch. Chriss Webber’s reaction says it all. Houston did have the last laugh though. Led by Chandler Parsons’ breakout performance, the Rockets were able to hold off the Thunder and win 105-103 to stay alive in the playoffs. How about Carlos Delfino of all people dunking right in the face of Durant? Durant has been superhuman these past couple of games so that dunk was a bit eye-opening. Like the top comment on the video says “LOL, now Durant has to wake up from this nightmare and drink Gatorade.“
Shout out to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on their D-League championship.
Not the most entertaining night in terms of close games or exciting finishes but there were some pretty good highlights to look back at. My personal favorite for the night was Roy Hibbert’s nasty dunk in the first quarter to set the tone early for the Pacers. Indiana rode their shooting performace to take the victory over the Hawks 113-98 and a 2-0 lead in the series. I watch this series between the Pacers and Hawks with the slight feeling that the Hawks aren’t playing with too much enthusiasm. Not going to go as far and say they’re not trying, that’s a little harsh but there seems to be a lack of effort or spark from Atlanta. Or maybe that’s just Atlanta’s style of play and i’m just missing it entirely. Either way, i’d be surprised if the Hawks managed to win a single game in the series. The first game, it was the Pacers playing good defense on Atlanta and last night’s game was the Pacers simply outscoring the Hawks. This one will most likely result in a sweep.
Am I the only who thought it was really weird that we were having a game in Oklahoma City start just after 6pm local time? I’m just used to the western conference games starting much later but sometimes, that’s just the way the schedule falls. It was a tight game between the Thunder and Rockets, coming down to the last few plays but eventually OKC edged out the Rockets 105-102. I was very surprised at how well the Rockets were able to get stops late in the game in order to climb back in it. It was simply too big of a task for Harden and co but I do applaud the effort. The Rockets seem to have figured out how to defend the Thunder but at times, Durant and Westbrook are just too good. Things shift back to Houston in a couple of days and if the Rockets have any chance of extending this series, game 3 is a must win. Teams don’t recover from being down 0-3 in a series.
Tony Parker looks like he’s back to 100% health and that’s pretty much it for the Lakers because when he’s back to full health, Parker is the best player on the court in this series. Led by Parker’s 28 points, the Spurs used a strong second half to cruise by the Lakers 102-91. The Lakers need to have Dwight Howard out on the court as much as possible but during the 3rd quarter, Howard picked up two quick fouls and that kept him on the bench for most of the quarter. It’s no surprise that in the same quarter Tony Parker had his best stretch, scoring 15 and leading the Spurs to a comfortable lead. What can the Lakers do to make this a series? Well for starters their back court has to play better and try to do what they can to contain Tony Parker. I’m anxious to see how much the referees influence will come up after game 3.