Monday, May 9, 2011

NBA Playoffs Second Round: Weekend Recap

Though four fan-bases might disagree with me, I thought we got a really fun weekend of NBA playoff action the last two days. Three teams pulled off upsets, including one by mounting a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter only to win in overtime. Another upset tied the series at two games apiece, while the third was the product of NBA-record shooting performances. There were ejections and rejections and three-pointers galore. Hit the jump to read all about it.

Eastern Conference

Atlanta Hawks (5) @ Chicago Bulls (1)
5/2: Game One--Hawks 103, BULLS 95 (1-0, Atlanta)
5/4: Game Two--BULLS 86, Hawks 73 (1-1, Tie)
5/6: Game Three--Bulls 99, HAWKS 82 (2-1, Chicago)
5/8: Game Four--HAWKS 100, Bulls 88 (2-2, Tie)

Though the Bulls finally got a decent performance from Carlos Boozer (18 points, six rebounds), the Hawks got the victory on their home floor to tie up the series 2-2 and send it back to Chicago for a pivotal Game Five. Despite the final score, this game was incredibly close for the first three quarters. The Bulls took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, and they held that edge until almost halfway though the period. The game was actually tied at 80 when Atlanta took a timeout with 5:58 remaining. To that point, Josh Smith (see right, dunking) had scored nine of 13 points for the Hawks in the fourth and Derrick Rose had seven of 11 for the Bulls. From that point on, Rose scored six points compared to only two for Smith; however, the Hawks outscored the Bulls 20-8 the rest of the way, as Al Horford poured in eight points against a tired-looking Chicago front line. Though Rose scored 13 of his team's 19 points in the final period, he committed two turnovers that became four easy Atlanta points during the 20-8 game-ending run. During that run, the Hawks scored on nine of 11 offensive possessions while limiting the Bulls to only one offensive rebound. After Luol Deng hit a shot to cut the Atlanta lead to eight with under 1:20 remaining, Jamal Crawford responded with a huge three-pointer on the ensuing possession. That bumped the lead up to 11 points with one minute remaining, effectively sealing the Atlanta victory.

Boston Celtics (3) @ Miami Heat (2)
5/1: Game One--HEAT 99, Celtics 90 (1-0, Miami)
5/3: Game Two--HEAT 102, Celtics 91 (2-0, Miami)
5/7: Game Three--CELTICS 97, Heat 81 (2-1, Miami)
Though Miami held a two-point lead at halftime, the Celtics dominated the third and fourth quarters en route to a much-needed victory in Game Three. Had the C's lost this contest, they would have faced a 3-0 hole--and all 99 teams to be in such a position in NBA history have been eliminated. With the win, though, the Celtics get new life because they have a home game tonight to potentially tie up the series.  If each team's stars play the way they did on Saturday in Boston, though, the outcome of tonight's Game Four is a foregone conclusion. Kevin Garnett (see left) looked like the KG of old, scoring 28 points on 65% shooting (13-20) from the field.  He also pulled in 18 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.  The most impressive aspect of KG's performance, though, was his defense on Miami's Chris Bosh. Though nominally a part of Miami's "Big 3," Bosh played like a scrub on Saturday against Garnett. He shot 1-6 en route to six points and a -16 +/- rating.  Bosh also only pulled down five rebounds all game at the power forward position, compared to six for shooting guard Dwyane Wade. The Heat might have been able to overcome such a pathetic showing from Bosh had someone else picked up the slack, but nobody did.  LeBron James, like Bosh, was completely outplayed by his Celtics counterpart, Paul Pierce. The Boston small forward dropped 27 points on 45% shooting, while also picking up five rebounds and five assists.  LeBron, on the other hand, only scored 15 points on 37.5% shooting from the floor, along with missing four of seven free throw attempts.  Though he showed defensive intensity at times (five blocks, two steals), he still allowed Pierce to score 27 points on him. James also turned the ball over four times and had a game-worst -21 +/- rating. Normally, one would think that if the Heat outscored their opponent by five points with LeBron on the bench, they would end up with a blowout win. That was not the case last night, though, as James' presence on the floor actually hurt his team in Game Three.

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies (8) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (4)
5/1: Game One--Grizzlies 114, THUNDER 101 (1-0, Memphis)
5/3: Game Two--THUNDER 111, Grizzlies 102 (1-1, Tie)
5/7: Game Three--GRIZZLIES 101, Thunder 93 (2-1, Memphis)
The Grizzlies' front line has been key to their success in the playoffs thus far, and that did not change on Saturday in Memphis. They received another huge performance from power forward Zach Randolph, who racked up 21 points and 21 rebounds in Memphis' come-from-behind victory over the Thunder in Game Three. Randolph was third in the league in rebounds this regular season, with 12.2 per game. During the postseason prior to yesterday, though, he had only been averaging 9.25 boards per game--perhaps because he has had to deal with Tim Duncan and Serge Ibaka down low. Last night, though, Randolph overpowered Thunder big men Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. He grabbed 21 rebounds, including eight offensive ones that he turned into six points. Randolph was at his best when it mattered most, pulling in five rebounds late in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies eliminated a 13-point deficit. He even drew a big offensive foul from Russell Westbrook with 22 seconds left in overtime, effectively icing the game for the Grizzlies. Without Randolph's big contributions down low, Memphis likely would not have come back to win this game; Z-Bo was fantastic down the stretch, though, with 21 all-important rebounds and some great defense.  The other key for the Grizzlies in Game Three was the play of former-starting shooting guard O.J. Mayo (see left).  The Grizzlies' 2008 lottery pick averaged a career-low 11.3 points per game this regular season, and he had been averaging only 9.5 ppg in the postseason before Saturday's game.  Given big minutes (42 out of 53 total) this time, Mayo broke out with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks, and no turnovers.  Aside from the great all-around performance, the former USC star had a game-high +23 +/- rating for the Grizzlies.  Though his shooting percentage was subpar (6-18, 33.3%), he played great defense on Thunder guards James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha.  The Grizzlies should feel great going into Game Four at home with a series lead, especially if O.J. Mayo is going to start living up to his potential.

Dallas Mavericks (3) @ Los Angeles Lakers (2)
5/2: Game One--Mavericks 96, LAKERS 94 (1-0, Dallas)
5/4: Game Two--Mavericks 93, LAKERS 81 (2-0, Dallas) 
5/6: Game Three--MAVERICKS 98, Lakers 92 (3-0, Dallas)
5/8: Game Four--MAVERICKS 122, Lakers 86 (4-0, Dallas wins)
Guarded or unguarded, Jason Terry
knocked down shots against LA
In what Magic Johnson called a "classless" performance, the 2010-2011 Lakers went out in embarrassing fashion: a 36-point blowout at the hands of the Mavericks bench.  Dirk Nowitzki even had a bit of an off day, with only 17 points and seven rebounds.  He was actually Dallas' fourth-leading scorer yesterday, though, as the reserves combined for 86 points--the same amount of points that the entire Lakers team scored in Game Four. The story of the Mavs blowout win yesterday--as well as the dominance of its bench--lies in their three-point shooting. As a team, they shot 20-32 (62.5%) from downtown, but the bench was actually 17-21 (81.0%). Jason Terry tied an NBA playoff record by hitting nine three-pointers (on 10 tries) in Game Four, and Peja Stojakovic shot 6-6 from downtown. Dallas also tied an NBA playoff record with 11 three's in the first half and 20 for the game. The Lakers, by contrast, shot poorly from outside, hitting only 20.8% (5-24) of three-point attempts. This trend is a continuation of the first three games of this second round series: the Mavs hitting outside shots while the Lakers failing miserably at doing so. For the series, the Mavericks shot 41.9% from behind the arc, while the Lakers only shot at a 28.9% clip. Strong three-point shooting is a strength that Dallas displayed during the regular season, and they continued to play to that strength against Los Angeles. Another winning formula for the Mavericks has been that they move the ball well in half-court offensive sets. This means that, with Jason Kidd running the point, they are better able to find open shooters. As a result, they get assists on an extremely high percentage of their baskets.  In Game Four, led by reserve JJ Berea's eight dimes (and 22 points), the Mavs got assists on 72.7% of field goals (32 of 44). By comparison, the Lakers continued to struggle through isolation plays, leading to assists on only 51.6% of their baskets. The Mavericks had a similar advantage in all three previous games in the series, and their ball movement led them to a Game Four, series-clinching victory. Now it's on to the Conference Finals.

No comments:

Post a Comment