Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NBA Playoffs: Night Eleven

Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers (8) vs, Chicago Bulls (1)
4/16: Game One--BULLS 104, Pacers 99 (1-0, Chicago)
4/18: Game Two--BULLS 96, Pacers 90 (2-0, Chicago)
4/21: Game Three--Bulls 88, PACERS 84 (3-0, Chicago)
4/23: Game Four--PACERS 89, Bulls 84 (3-1, Chicago)
4/26: Game Five--BULLS 116, Pacers 89 (4-1, Chicago wins)

After a Game Four speed bump in Indianapolis, the Bulls finished off the Pacers last night on their home floor, winning a game that was never really close. Chicago outscored the visitors by 11 points in both the first quarter and the third quarter at the United Center, essentially sealing the game by taking a 19-point lead into the final period. Tom Thibodeau's squad even kept up the pressure late in the game without Derrick Rose, holding a lead of 20 or more for the final 7:09. Unlike in the Bulls' Game Four loss, Rose did not try to carry the team on his injured ankle; rather, he got his teammates involved. He dished out six assists, attempted a series-low 17 field goals, and facilitated five of his teammates scoring in double-figures. Though Rose still had a fantastic statistical night (25 points on 8-17 shooting) the big performer for the Bulls was Luol Deng (see above). He collected 24 points, six rebounds, a team-high seven assists, and three steals in 41 minutes of play. On a night when Carlos Boozer scored only two points (on one-for-five shooting) and D-Rose could not drive with his usual aggressiveness, Deng stepped up for his team and led the Bulls into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Atlanta Hawks (5) @ Orlando Magic (4)
4/16: Game One--Hawks 103, MAGIC 93 (1-0, Atlanta)
4/19: Game Two--MAGIC 88, Hawks 82 (Tied 1-1)
4/22: Game Three--HAWKS 88, Magic 84 (2-1, Atlanta)
4/24: Game Four--HAWKS 88, Magic 85 (3-1, Atlanta)
4/26: Game Five--MAGIC 101, Hawks 76 (3-2, Atlanta)

In the first blowout of this first-round series, the Magic trounced the Atlanta Hawks to fend off elimination at least for one more game. Now the series travels back to Atlanta, where the Hawks took both games--but only by a total of seven points. Expect Game Six to be nothing short of a dogfight, which is the exact opposite of how Game Five went down. The Magic led by 13 points after 12 minutes and 23 points at halftime en route to utter statistical domination of the Hawks. The Magic had a better shooting percentage from the field (41%-36.2%), from downtown (42.3%-25%), and from the free throw line (75.9%-68.8%). Orlando also bested the Hawks in rebounds (48-43), assists (18-15), steals (seven to three), and blocks (four to three). The Magic even pulled down four more offensive rebounds than Atlanta, while turning the ball over six fewer times. That translates to 10 extra possessions for Orlando, giving them three more fast break points, eight more points in the paint, and nine more points off turnovers. The silver lining for the Hawks? They committed three fewer personal fouls. Congrats.

Western Conference

New Orleans Hornets (7) @ Los Angeles Lakers (2)
4/17: Game One--Hornets 109, LAKERS 100 (1-0, New Orleans)
4/20: Game Two--LAKERS 87, Hornets 78 (Tie, 1-1)
4/22: Game Three--Lakers 100, HORNETS 86 (2-1, Los Angeles)
4/24: Game Four--HORNETS 93, Lakers 88 (Tie, 2-2)
4/26: Game Five--LAKERS 106, Hornets 90 (3-2, Los Angeles)

In New Orleans' two wins so far in this series, Chris Paul exploded for elite statistical performances--33 points, 14 assists in Game One and a triple-double in Game Four. Last night in Los Angeles, however, the Lakers held CP3 pretty much in check all night. He finished with (what for him would be considered) a modest performance: 20 points, 12 assists, and only four rebounds. Paul dished out eight assists in the first quarter alone, but then the Lakers backcourt limited him to only four dimes the rest of the evening. Similarly, the former Wake Forest star was held to only two points in the first quarter and three points in the third quarter. Paul was never able to really get a consistent rhythm going last night at the Staples Center due mostly to swarming Lakers defense. Their seven-footers (Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom with some heels) controlled the paint all night long, and Bynum had five offensive rebounds all on his own. The Hornets, by contrast, had more offensive fouls (four) than offensive rebounds (three) or second-chance points (two). That is not a winning formula in the playoffs, especially not when every starter for your opponent (including a hobbled Kobe Bryant and octogenarian Derek Fisher) scores in double-figures.

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