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
Yahoo: He never acted like a leader in Denver, and nothing’s changed in New York. He had come to New York, because he said he wanted to be a winner. He wanted championships. So, the Knicks lose a playoff game, and ‘Melo can’t stop insisting that he made the right play by giving up the ball with a chance for victory. The Knicks lose a playoff game, but ‘Melo explains he was too tired to chase down and foul a Celtics player dribbling out the clock on the victory. When Anthony had a chance to close out the game, he made the safest possible play to ultimately deflect criticism, the one that deep down he knew would free him of blame when it predictably crumbled.
NY Post: Amar’e Stoudemire plans to suit up in tomorrow’s must-win Game 3 at the Garden. Chauncey Billups may give it a try, too. But neither will be close to 100 percent. The Big Apple 3 has been reduced to the Big Apple 1.75. With the beat-up Knicks trailing their first-round series to Boston, 2-0, Stoudemire and Billups underwent duel MRI exams yesterday in Manhattan. Stoudemire was diagnosed with a pulled back muscle resulting from back spasms from Tuesday night’s Game 2. Despite being listed as “day to day,” a person with knowledge of the situation said there’s “a good chance” he will be in uniform and attempt to play through the pain tomorrow. One other source said, “He should be OK,” but there’s no assurances when it comes to the back.
NY Daily News: Really on this night, the Knicks had come up one basket short. Anthony had come up one basket short. He scored his last basket with 2-1/2minutes left, never scored again. He had 42 then. The Celtics basically went to the kind of defense you can see in high school basketball, what looked like an old-fashioned triangle-and-two, two guys on the star, three guys hanging around the key hoping to stop everybody else. "I made the right play," Anthony had said in the interview room, talking about the pass out of the double-team he made to Jared Jeffries. "The right play was to go to Jared. I thought Jared was going to lay it up… I made the right play and so I can live with that."
Miami Herald: The fans are giving Heat center Joel Anthony love with MVP chants, and his play has been important for Miami. When he steps to the free throw line, the chants get louder and louder. On Monday night, he heard it come from teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the locker room.
Heat Index: But Collins’ more significant declaration is that he believes Dwyane Wade is the Heat’s most important offensive piece. His game plans have reflected it. The Sixers attempted to squeeze Wade in the first two games of the series. Regardless of the statistics or anything else, Collins thinks that cutting Wade off as much as possible gives his team, and perhaps any team, the best chance to win. “We feel like Wade is going to be their primary scorer late in games and we’ve wanted our best defender on him,” Collins said. “You’re going to have to match up and that’s what we’ve decided to do.”
Blog a Bull: The Bulls bench was one of the biggest advantages they've employed over the course of their league-leading regular season performance. It even garnered a (uninspiring but effective enough) nickname of 'the bench mob'. They'd start their impact on the game when Brewer would first come in for Bogans (or Taj for Boozer), and then would be out in full force to start the 2nd Quarter. The strategy would usually be repeated again in the 4th Quarter. Watson/Brewer/Deng/Gibson/Asik was the best defensive lineup in the league, and when Korver would come in for Deng it was one of the best all-bench units around. But while Thibs may be 'sticking to what's been working' when it comes to Bogans starting*, as Doug Thonus of ChicagoNow points out, the Bulls coach has definitely made some changes when it comes to other parts of his rotation.
ESPN Chicago: The Chicago Bulls know they haven't played their best basketball in the playoffs up to this point, but that doesn't mean they feel lucky about being up 2-0 heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Thursday night. "I don't feel fortunate at all," Deng said after Wednesday afternoon's practice. "We won both games. Whether we played good or bad, I know a lot is being said to all that, but at the end of the day we won those games."
Sentinel: [Tony] Allen is making the wrong point. He has shed some light on something and it's this: Howard's counterparts need to pick up their games and challenge him. Not just foul him and wrestle him and flop like soccer players.
Sentinel: If the Orlando Magic struggled to shoot the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in just one game, you could call it an aberration. If it happened twice, you could label that a mere coincidence. But the Magic's continued offensive woes against the Hawks now have to be considered a pattern — a pattern that might force Orlando to change its identity on that end of the court just to escape the first round of these playoffs.
Forum Blue and Gold: And it really was a team effort. Because on this night it wasn’t only Pau Gasol that couldn’t find his groove on offense, but Kobe Bryant as well. Neither of the Lakers’ best players could effectively crack the code of the Hornet defense, making only 5 of the 20 shots they combined to take for a grand total of 19 points. Gasol continued to get pushed off his spots by the physical Hornets’ big men, consistently getting stood up on back down attempts and cut off when he tried to drive to the hoop. The result was several forced jumpers and open complaints to the referees that went unheard with his frustration only rising as the game progressed. His only saving grace on offense was his ability to tally 5 offensive rebounds – including several big volleyball taps out in the final period – but those 5 rebounds also represented his total for the game (meaning he didn’t grab a single defensive rebound). Needless to say, Pau is still looking for anything resembling a solid game in these young playoffs.
ESPN LA: After allowing a little fear to ripple through the greater Los Angeles area Sunday afternoon (lingering through off days Monday and Tuesday), the Lakers overcame a slow start to restore some order in their first round matchup against New Orleans. Tied 1-1, the series heads to New Orleans for Game 3 Friday night. The result was expected, as was the relatively comfortable margin of victory. How they got there, though, held a few surprises, starting with five field goals between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Not exactly a conventional recipe for success.
Project Spurs: After losing game one of their first round series with the Memphis Grizzlies at home, the San Antonio Spurs desperately needed a win to ensure they didn't make their trek to Beale Street down 0-2. Enter Manu Ginobili. Before the game, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said his team was prepared for Ginobili, but in the case of Ginobili, there's only so much you can prepare for. “Manu is Manu. We worked on the-and-roll, we weren't very good at it tonight,” Hollins said. “He’s a tough player and a good player. I don’t think you can go out there and trap the guy and play that way.”
My SA: he Spurs turned on the defense down the stretch, allowing Memphis to score only one basket during a span of nearly four minutes late in the fourthh quarter when their 12-4 run put the game away. And after a struggling team performance from the foul line earlier in the game, George Hill sank six foul shots in the final 5:08, including four in the final 12.3 seconds to ice the victory.
The Two Man Game: In a weird twist, neither team has been successful with their starting lineups. The Trail Blazers’ starters have been a -2 when on the floor together, the Mavericks’ have been a -3. For each team, change of pace units have done most of the damage. Two intriguing units played significant roles in Game 1 and disappeared in Game 2. These two lineups seem somewhat representative of the overall direction of each team. The Jason Kidd – Jason Terry – Shawn Marion – Dirk Nowitzki – Tyson Chandler combination was the third most used lineup by the Mavericks this season, playing just over 187 minutes together. It was also one of the team’s most effective units, posting a Net Rating of +19.03 across the entire season. We’ll call this lineup “The Grays” in reference to their 8 gajillion combined years of experience.
ESPN Dallas: No NBA team had a better road record than the Mavericks this season, whose 28 wins away from home were matched only by the Miami Heat. That means nothing but the Mavs will have a healthy dose of confidence as they arrive in Portland in preparation for Games 3 and 4. That’s a lesson the Mavs learned the hard way last year. “Unfortunately, if you look at last season, I think we were the best road team and that didn’t help us in the playoffs,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We lost all three games we played in San Antonio and ended up losing the series, 4-2. The playoffs is a new season.”
NewsOK: The score was 43-17 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter of Game 2 on Wednesday night. The Oklahoma City Thunder was halfway to clinching this opening-round playoff series, while the Denver Nuggets were digging a hole halfway to China. The Nuggets clawed their way back, but never got closer than 10 points and lost 106-89. “The hole was just too big,” Denver coach George Karl admitted afterward.
News OK: The Thunder escaped with a four-point win in the opening game of this series Sunday night, and everyone from Thunder coach Scott Brooks to the ball boys knew Oklahoma City could not possibly continue to receive such a dominant offensive attack from just two players. With that realization, it seemed an entire fan base turned its collective focus to one man. James Harden. The second-year shooting guard needed to contribute a scoring spark, and he did just that Wednesday night, pouring in 14 of his 18 points off the bench in the first half as the Thunder cruised to a wire-to-wire 106-89 Game 2 win over Denver.