Its playoff time so it's time to focus on 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: Expect not only to see Walker play additional minutes in Game 2 because of Fields' ineffectiveness, but Mike D'Antoni may call on him more if Chauncey Billups sits next game with a left knee injury suffered tonight. Walker has been coming on strong as of late, tallying four double-digit scoring outputs in April. I spoke with Walker after the game to see how he exploited the Celtics' defense, how he's adjusting to D'Antoni's perimeter-based offense and what Ray Allen does so well to get open.
NY Post: Although the Knicks listed Chauncey Billups as questionable for Tuesday’s Game 2 against the Celtics, Mike D’Antoni said “the probability” is the point guard won’t be ready to play until Friday's Game 3. D’Antoni said Toney Douglas likely would start at point guard Tuesday night when the Knicks try to even the best-of-7 series against the Celtics in Boston.
Miami Herald: One day after missing practice with a migraine, Wade is expected to be with the Miami Heat on Monday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. Wade returned to the team for its morning practice, wearing lenses to protect his eyes while doing some light shooting. "He is feeling better," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He was wearing the shades. Guys were calling him 'Blade.' … He's feeling significantly better from yesterday."
Heat Index: However, not every Philly player joined Doug Collins’ lead and alluded to unfair refereeing in Game 1. After Sunday’s practice, Sixers supersub Lou Williams, who’s playing with a bum hamstring, said he deserves some of the blame for the free throw disparity. “I’m not able to be as aggressive as I usually am,” Williams said. “It kills half of my game when I can’t get into the lane and create fouls.” Williams totaled just two free throws in Game 1 while failing to get a shot off at the basket. This is a key development to the series because Williams ranks as the best whistle-inducer on the Sixers — nearly half of his shots come at the free throw line — and he admitted that his gimpy leg forces him to settle for jumpers. The Heat smell blood and have been vigilant in exploiting Williams in the half court with traps and smothering. Look for Miami to continue to neutralize Williams in Game 2. If they can keep Williams and Andre Iguodala in check, the Heat will win the free throw game again.
ESPN Chicago: "There's been a lot of talk about Derrick and the free throw line this year," Bulls guard Kyle Korver said after Sunday afternoon's practice. "In the beginning, it was that he couldn't get to the free throw line. And then you get it and then you got a lot of calls. "I don't think anyone's going to deny that he attacked the basket really hard [Saturday]. I think there were a lot of hard fouls [Saturday] on him. I don't think they gave him a lot of calls, he just went to the basket really hard and one of the very few ways to stop him from scoring is to foul him." The thing that should scare Bulls fans is that if it hadn't been for those calls, the Pacers would have been in business.
ESPN Chicago: Simply put, if Carlos Boozer plays the way he did on Saturday, the Bulls aren’t going to get to where they want to go. The prized free-agent acquisition scored just 12 points, committed four turnovers and played poor defense in his Bulls playoff debut. When asked about Boozer’s performance after Sunday’s practice, Thibodeau responded this way. “I thought he was very aggressive early,” Thibodeau said. “And then I thought his foul trouble made him tentative. And he can’t play that way. Even if he gets fouls, he’s got to stay aggressive. When he’s aggressive, he’s very good.”
Magic Basketball: You can take the Magic’s Game 1 loss to the Hawks in a number of ways. You could be enraged–the Magic’s two most important players played one of the best games of their career, and the team still wasn’t competitive. You could despair–it sure looked like the loss exposed a lack of defensive flexibility on the wings and the extent to which the Magic rely on Hedo to create in the offense. I have to confess, though, that I’m not pulling my hair out or drowning my sorrows just yet. It strikes me that Game 1 was almost so logical as to be baffling, as each team basically played to an extreme version of what we already knew about them: the Hawks shot jump shots and hit them, while the Magic have frustratingly few options when Turk doesn’t seem up to being the creator he can be.
Magic Basketball: I don’t want to belabor the point, but it might take more than a billboard to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando next season. This has been a backend conversation all season long, and while most Orlando fans have considered it foolishness that Dwight would ever up and leave Orlando, it’s starting to become evident that the Magic don’t have a lot to barter with.
Forum Blue & Gold: If there’s one thing I love about the playoffs, it’s the adjustments. I’d prefer to talk about what the Lakers’ opponent needs to do to rectify a loss, but after the first game that’s not the case. Instead, we need to look long and hard at what the Lakers need to do to bounce back and claim a win to even up the series on Wednesday. Luckily (or unluckily, I suppose) the Lakers’ game one performance gave plenty of things to work on heading into game two. And while there are plenty of things to fix on defense (more on that tomorrow), today we focus on how the Lakers can be more effective on offense. And that means getting Pau Gasol going.
ESPN LA: That Steve Blake's inaugural season in L.A. hasn't been a smashing success is hardly a government secret. The reserve point guard hasn't been bad, but rather lacking the impact most folks (particularly yours truly) expected. He hasn't been the shooter — for percentage or volume — expected. He hasn't been the play-maker expected. He hasn't been the "dude who severely eats into Derek Fisher'sminutes" expected. Commendable ability to keep the second unit organized notwithstanding, Blake's individual and overall presence has been too spotty all season. Still, it's interesting how the absence of a player, even one often underwhelming, creates a butterfly effect. On several tangible and spiritual fronts, Blake at home "speckled" was problematic for the Lakers.
Project Spurs: I had a chance to talk to San Antonio's KSAT 12 Sports reporter and anchor, Larry Ramirez, before game one as I did with several other local media members recently, and asked him about his thoughts on the San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies series. Although Tony Parker struggled a bit through game one, Ramirez still expects Parker to have a great series. "I think Tony Parker will have a big series," Ramirez said. "He should eat Mike Conley alive.
Spurs Nation: Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had his toughest workout since injuring his right elbow last week, taking part in one-on-one scrimmaging at the end of the Spurs’ practice Monday afternoon. Ginobili was raising his sprained right elbow more in shooting and dribbling than at any time since sustaining the injury Wednesday night in Phoenix. “We didn’t scrimmage five-on-five today,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s shooting and trying to his condition up so that when he does heal, he’ll at least be in some decent shape.”
ESPN Dallas: There was a lot of laughing after the Mavs wrapped up practice, as teammates cracked up while watching Dirk Nowitzki goof his way through some extracurricular shooting competitions. The Mavs are relaxed with a 1-0 lead over Portland in the series. But they vow not to be too relaxed for Game 2, with the Mavs well aware that the Trail Blazers will likely crank up the intensity a couple of notches in an effort to avoid a two-game hole.
ESPN Dallas: Game 1 was decided by free throws and 3-pointers, Portland coach Nate McMillan has said several times. McMillan has made his dissatisfaction with the free throw disparity known. But he had no complaints about the looks Portland got from the perimeter despite the Trail Blazers making only 2-of-16 3-point attempts. “They had some good looks,” Jason Kidd said. “We were very fortunate that they did miss. If they didn’t, we’re probably sitting here looking at a loss.”
Daily Thunder: The league issued a statement telling us something we all already knew: Kendrick Perkins’ basket with 1:05 remaining should not have counted. The statement reads: “Kendrick Perkins was improperly credited with a basket that should have been ruled offensive basket interference with 1:05 remaining in last night’s game. Although a player is permitted to touch the net while the ball is in the cylinder above the rim, Perkins also touched the ball while it was still in the cylinder which is a violation and constitutes goaltending.” Of course that doesn’t change anything as the Thunder went on to win 107-103, but it certainly does add a bit of flavor to Oklahoma City’s win. The tip put the Thunder up a point with a minute left. It was a critical play in the game and I don’t think even the most homertastic Thunder fan could deny that OKC caught a break there.
NewsOK: Russell Westbrook took the Thunder faithful on quite the ride Sunday night, a rickety rollercoaster that surely had you jumping for joy one minute and sinking in your seat the next. Should we have expected anything different? Before Westbrook lifted Oklahoma City to a 107-103 Game 1 win over Denver, the third-year point guard gave us all a reminder of why he was once the most questioned player in a Thunder uniform.