Its time to start focusing on the playoffs and our potential roadblocks to Banner 18. Every day we'll bring you what's making news in enemy territory. This way we know what they're up to when it comes time to take 'em out.
FIRST ROUND OPPONENT
The Knicks Blog: The Big Four will be the Big Four regardless of who they play. But their team is missing something that pushed them ahead of their opponents in the past – toughness in the paint. Plenty of people wanted the Knicks to face the Heat because they felt as though the matchups were better. Plenty clamored that the Heat have no interior presence. But does a frontline of Jermaine O’Neal, Nenad Kristic, and Glen Davis invoke the same nauseating feeling that a healthy Shaq and Kendrick Perkins would have?
Newsday: The Celtics' loss was a curious one. With second place still within reach, Doc Rivers decided to sit his four star players: Kevin Garnett , Ray Allen , Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo . Rivers said he might sit his stars again in Wednesday night's season finale against the Knicks in Boston .It will be the first time in 21 years that the Knicks and Celtics have faced each other in the playoffs. That year, Patrick Ewing led a stunning comeback to win a best-of-five first-round series with a Game 5 win on the old Boston Garden parquet.
Daily Dime: James had control of the game in his hands, with the Heat's playoff destiny riding on his next move. And suddenly, he delivered. "Washington 95, Boston 94," James shouted to onlooking Heat players from his corner stall in the visitors' locker room at Philips Arena on Monday night. "OK, guys? I'm done." And with that, James set his cell phone aside and declared himself done with the moment-to-moment updates he was providing a crowded locker room from a game-tracker that seemed to work faster than the mobile devices anyone else in the area had.
Sun Sentinel: Coach Erik Spoelstra said believes he has found the right mix. "I'm comfortable with where our guys are playing right now in the rotation," he said. "I know the guys are starting to feel more comfortable, as well."
ESPN Chicago: Thibodeau spent about 10 minutes after Monday afternoon's practice at Madison Square Garden working individually with his [Joakim Noah] on post moves. The pair had previously worked together during the summer at the Berto Center, but with Noah still slumping after returning from an ankle injury, and for that matter, since returning from thumb surgery after the All-Star break, Thibodeau thought it was time for a little extra tutelage.
ESPN Chicago: For those of you who may have missed it, asked if he'd rather face the Celtics or the Bulls in the first round, Granger chose the Bulls. "Boston's a different monster," he said. "They don't have the best record in the East, but they won championships; they know how to do it. They have four, five guys you have to worry about. "Chicago, they go as Derrick Rose goes. If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance of beating them."
Sentinel: Poor Jrue Holiday. He’s been posterized by Dwight Howard [...] “Sometimes, like your momma says, when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time bad things happen,” Howard opined. “Really, I was just going to lay the ball up, and then Jrue jumped. I feel bad for his head. Let’s have a moment of silence for Jrue.”
Orlando Pinstriped Post: In a bizarre game with some mind-bending stats, the Orlando Magic defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 95-85, behind Ryan Anderson's 18-point, 14-rebound effort off the bench. The result clinched the seventh seed in the East for Philadelphia, which played without high-scoring reserve guard Lou Williams and franchise swingman Andre Iguodala. Orlando scored 30 points in the first period on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range, and may have taken a run at a 40-point quarter were it not for a string of inexplicable turnovers. Chester, PA native Jameer Nelson, who distributed tickets to 400 family, friends, and youth organizations, shot 3-of-3 on threes in the period, getting his team off to a hot start.
ESPN LA: When it comes to turning things around, Jackson again emphasized the need to think incrementally. "I told these guys we played better for 42, 44 minutes last night. That's a good sign. We have signs the ailing patient is starting to recover." Not great, mind you, but better. Unfortunately, from a quality control standpoint Lakers have some space to make up relative to their output during the big 17-of-18 streak coming out of the break. Whether it happens Tuesday against a San Antonio team Jackson isn't sure will go full tilt, given their lofty status in the standings and the age of key players, remains to be seen.
Silver Screen and Roll: On the heels of the Los Angeles Lakers' fifth straight defeat, a 120-106 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only important question to be asked of Lakers Nation is "How much stock do you put in the Lakers recent run of poor form?" On the one hand, there can be no doubt that much this 5 game losing streak can be attributed and written off to poor effort and lack of focus. How else can one explain the team with one of the league's best offenses failing to top 100 points per 100 possession for four straight games, or one of the cleanest teams in the league (the Lakers are currently ranked 3rd in the league in turnover ratio) coughing the ball up 18, 19, 17, and 17 times respectively before yesterday's 10 turnovers.
Project Spurs: The Spurs are up 2-1 in the series [vs. the Lakers]. Who needs this last game most? Jeff: The Spurs. With San Antonio facing the defending NBA champs in LA, what better way to send a message to the Lakers than to get the win and leave the Lakers thinking San Antonio will be a handful. Plus, the last time the Spurs and Lakers met, Los Angeles obliterated San Antonio. Do not want to give LA any mental edge.
MySA: Loquacious Dallas guard Jason Terry has promised to personally knock the Spurs out of the playoffs as he repeatedly maintained that the Mavericks were the best team in Texas over the second half of the season. The Spurs could help the Mavericks come closer to the No. 2 seed in the playoffs by beating the Lakers Tuesday night in the Staples Center. But that doesn’t mean Terry will be rooting for the Silver and Black. “I’ve never cheered for them,” Terry told the Associated Press Monday night after the Mavericks’ victory. “I couldn’t care less.”
ESPN Dallas: A couple went in and out, but none of Jason Kidd's five 3-point attempts went down during Monday's overtime win at the Houston Rockets. Kidd has been in an extended deep freeze from 3-point range, but he said his shot feels good.
"It looks great," Kidd said. "In and out, you can’t do anything. The first one was long and a couple of them were in and out. You learn really quickly as a shooter that those are fine, those are OK misses. You can live with those, so we’ll just keep shooting."
ESPN Dallas: It certainly appears that Terry, an 85.4 percent free throw shooter, thought he only needed one free for the lead. His second attempt bounced high off the rim. The Rockets tried to corral the rebound, but it bounced out of bounds as the buzzer sounded, ending regulation in an 86-86 tie. Only Terry was in the midst of a full sprint the other way. He raised his arms, pumped his fist, smiled big and sure seemed to be celebrating victory No. 56 of the season. Terry's facial expression and body language sure seemed to change on a dime after he ran all the way down the court only to then realize no one else was celebrating with him. The rest of the team headed back to the bench to play their first overtime game 81 games into the season.
NewsOK: In just his second NBA season, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka is on the cusp of leading the league in total blocked shots. Ibaka had 189 entering Monday's game at Sacramento, three more than Washington's JaVale McGee. In Washington's 95-94 win against Boston on Monday, McGee finished with five blocks. But Ibaka actually upped his lead by swatting six shots in the Thunder's 120-112 win over the Kings. Ibaka had four rejections after halftime.
NewsOK: First, [Kendrick Perkins] talked the talk, calling out Lakers coach Phil Jackson as “arrogant” and labeling forward Pau Gasol “soft.” Then he walked the walk, helping to limit Lakers center Andrew Bynum to 12 points and hold Gasol to four rebounds.Perhaps most importantly, Perkins stood up to the back-to-back defending champs. He locked horns with Kobe Bryant, all but putting the Lakers star in a headlock and then daring any Laker to do something about it. And he flustered Bynum so much that the Lakers' big man threw the ball in Perkins' chest. Perkins didn't budge. For his skirmish with Bryant, Perkins picked up his seventh technical foul since debuting with the Thunder on March 14