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
ESPN NY: "I think now it's just a matter of us continuing to learn how to play together," Stoudemire said. "We're fairly new with each other, and it takes more time to get the chemistry. But it's now the playoffs and so I think we're ready."
His thoughts on the Celtics? "They're a veteran team. Most of the guys are 30 and up, but they're definitely a veteran team. They've been in the playoffs many years and have won championships before. They're well-experienced."
NY Post: Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said Ronny Turiaf will be his starting center for Game 1, not Shelden Williams, who sprained his ankle last night in the fourth quarter, coming down on a Celtic player's foot. Turiaf, who's had an injury-prone season, missing 19 games, started against Chicago on Tuesday and last night versus Boston. D'Antoni said the matchups were good for Turiaf, but that things could change if Shaquille O'Neal gets healthy for Boston.
Posting and Toasting: The Knicks and Cetlics (and, I would imagine, a lot of other teams) went out Wednesday night and demonstrated that the regular season has run its course. An air of "School's out!" and/or "No parents!" pervaded, suggesting that warm weather basketball is on its way, and with it the pursuit of very big things. Tonight, we witnessed the Knicks and Celticsdo many little, strange things, almost as if to purge them from their systems in advance of a first round match-up. Our recap tonight will mostly serve as documentation of the various nonsense that took place so that this game might be commemorated by generations to come.
Heat Index: Bosh: "I’m going to go with the Celtics right now because of their experience and where they’ve been. The Bulls, they’re very talented obviously. They earned, and rightfully so, the No. 1 spot in the East. But you know, the Celtics you really never know with them. Last year everybody wrote them off, they were the No. 4 seed and they came within a few minutes of winning an NBA title. So they have guys that have been there many, many times before and they bring a lot of experience."
Sun Sentinel: "We accomplished," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "what we wanted to in the regular season, in terms of building a game that's ready for the playoffs." The construction came in two distinct stages. Because this is the Heat, Pat Riley's Heat, defense came first. "Really building those habits defensively, which takes a long time," Spoelstra said putting emphasis on "really" as he spoke. "And when you're incorporating nine new players, demanding a philosophy and building a philosophy on that side of the floor takes time, and I think we've certainly built up those habits that'll be adequate in the playoffs."
ESPN Chicago: As an assistant with the Boston Celtics, Tom Thibodeau saw the obvious talent in Derrick Rose. But it wasn't until he took over as Chicago Bulls coach last summer that he saw Rose had something different. "Until you get to be around him every day and you see his makeup and you see his drive and his humility and the fact that he's never satisfied — he gets to the gym early, he practices hard, he's a great leader, he stays late — you couldn't ask anything more of a guy," Thibodeau said Thursday on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on ESPN Radio. "I think because of those attributes, he will continue to get better throughout his career. He's just a very unique guy. He really doesn't care about individual statistics. He cares about the team and winning more than anything else."
Load O' Bull: The Bulls closed out the regular season with a 97-92 win over the Nets. Tom Thibodeau finished the season tying Paul Westphal's 1992-93 rookie coaching record of 62 wins in a season, as the Bench Mob made up for sleepy play from the Bulls starters. The 97-92 win over the Nets at the United Center was tense and the reserves were fun to watch, as they played very well to close the game.
Sentinel: The word is out. You can beat the Orlando Magic by staying at home on their 3-point shooters and defending Dwight Howard one-on-one. The Boston Celtics followed that blueprint in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, and now the Atlanta Hawks are cribbing from that same strategy.
Magic Basketball: Getting past Atlanta will be a relief for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s flat out unsettling to have to play a team that has beaten you three times in the regular season. Second, no matter how you spin it this is probably the least exciting matchup in the East, and in that regard I’m already looking toward the second round.
Forum Blue and Gold: If one game could sum up a season, this was it. The Lakers found their footing early, extended the lead going into the home stretch, gave up that entire big lead through sloppy play and poor execution, had Kobe bail them out, and then out talented their opponent at the end with excellent big man play and some Kobe mixed in. The result was a 116-108 victory over the Kings that clinches the 2nd seed in the West and a 1st round date with the Hornets. What an amazing, frustrating, thrilling, breathe a sigh of relief at the end ride. This sounds just like the Lakers’ season, no?
ESPN LA: It's the perfect regular-season capper for a massively underwhelming April. Five consecutive losses, with the skid finally snapped by a discombobulated victory over a short-handed San Antonio Spurs squad. The victory drought featured wretched offensive execution, a sudden inability to avoid turning the ball over, late rotations and nonexistent transition defense. Plus, there's been no shortage of complacency, the most glaring example coming against Portland, when the Lakers resembled a squad of zombies. And not the fast, aggressive kind from"The Walking Dead." I'm talking your daddy's zombies, the ones easily timed with a sundial.
Project Spurs:The San Antonio Spurs announced today that guard Manu Ginobili will be listed as doubtful for game 1 of their first round series with the Memphis Grizzlies. [...]Ginobili had an MRI earlier today in San Antonio. The MRI showed that he has a right elbow sprain. The injury occurred in the first quarter of last night’s Spurs-Suns game. Ginobili has already begun his rehabilitation process and will be listed as doubtful for Game 1 of the Spurs-Grizzlies series, which is scheduled for noon on Sunday at the AT&T Center
Project Spurs: the Spurs are poised to make a deep playoff run but which teams can possibly prevent another parade down the San Antonio Riverwalk this summer? Based on likelihood of facing the team, strength of roster and individual matchups for the Spurs, I've ranked the top 3 teams in the way of the Spurs winning title number 5.
ESPN Dallas: "It adds another shooter and it spreads the floor, gives Dirk Nowitzki opportunities to do what he does best," said Kidd of the ripple effects when he's hitting his shot. "And then, I'm not the guy who's going to score a lot of points, so it definitely is a bonus when I do score." On a team that doesn't always know where it's second-leading scorer will come from on any given night behind Nowitzki, Kidd's ability to score between10 and 12 points a game significantly decreases the scoring burden on the streaky shooting guard Jason Terry as well as small forward Shawn Marion, who has considerably lifted his scoring average since becoming a full-time starter last month.
ESPN Dallas: Jason Kidd said the players did not go to coach Rick Carlisle as they did early in the season to endorse DeShawn Stevenson as the starting shooting guard. They didn't have to. TheRodrigue Beaubois experiment had run its course and Carlisle realized he had no choice. He had to pull the plug before the playoffs began. "It was time," the Dallas Mavericks coach said Thursday.
News OK: Fifty-five wins. The Thunder won 55 games. Wow. Forget, for a moment, the upcoming Denver Nuggets and maybe the San Antonio Spurs after that. Before we jump on the NBA playoffs' carnival ride of emotions, before we learn more about Danilo Gallinari and Nene Hilario than we ever wanted to know, let's take a breath and appreciate what we've just witnessed.
NewsOK: Kevin Durant: “It's going to be tough. Both teams are going to grind it out. They're physical. They play hard. It's going to be tough, but we're looking forward to that challenge. We respect them as a team. We have a humble approach to everything, but we do play with an edge. When we're on the floor, of course we're going to play with an edge.”