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.
SECOND ROUND OPPONENT
Hot Hot Hoops: Continuing a season long tradition of slow starts and playing down to the opponent, the Miami Heat had their hands full holding off the Philadelphia Sixers 97-91 to wrap up the series in five games, their first series victory since winning the NBA Finals back in 2006. Ultimately, the Heat won't be judged by how they performed in this first round but questions still remain over this squad and whether they can actually topple the Boston Celtics. This was not a feel-good close out game with lackluster play and vets Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas making coach Erik Spoelstra look bad in continuing to keep them in the starting lineup. After yet another slow start they were quickly yanked from the game and only ended up playing 4 minutes each.
Miami Herald: Since the first game of the season, it’s the playoff series everyone has wanted. Finally, it’s here. Finally, the warmup round is over. The Heat advanced to play Boston in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 97-91 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday. Game 5 of this first-round series was no work of art for Miami but it matters little. The Heat dispatched the East’s seventh-seeded team with relative ease and finished 7-1 against Philadelphia this season. “It’s a good step for the franchise,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of advancing past the first round. “It’s been awhile.”
ESPN Chicago: The problem for Thibodeau is that when it has come to Carlos Boozer over the last week and a half, no amount of extra tape watching has helped get his big power forward out of a slump. Aside from a 17-point, 16-rebound performance in Game 2 (one, it should be noted, in which Boozer went 16 minutes without attempting a field goal) the Bulls' prized free agent acquisition has been bad. He simply hasn't performed the way the Bulls expected. So what can the Bulls do to get their $76 million man going? Everybody has an opinion.
Sentinel: Jason Richardson sat out a portion of Wednesday's practice because of soreness in the bottom of his left foot, but he expects to play Thursday against the Hawks in Game 6. Richardson stepped on a piece of glass in his home Tuesday afternoon, prompting an emergency trip to the hospital and seven stitches in the bottom of his foot. He took a pain-shot before the game and said the foot felt mostly numb while he was on the court.
Sentinel: Whether the Orlando Magic win or lose their first-round series to the Atlanta Hawks, coach Stan Van Gundy and General Manager Otis Smith both will be coming back next season. Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide told the Sentinel on Wednesday that he and owner Rich DeVos' family feel comfortable and confident in Van Gundy and Smith. "We're happy with Otis and Stan," Vander Weide said. "Neither are in jeopardy.
AJC: There’s the history of the NBA playoffs, and there’s the recent chronicles of the Hawks. The former gives the Magic just a 4 percent chance to win their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series against the Hawks after trailing 3-1. The latter is a story of postseason basketball that includes blowout losses, letdowns and series with promising starts followed by excruciating finishes. One bad night in Orlando encapsulated all of that. It’s not just that the Hawks lost Game 5 on Tuesday, it’s that they folded once the Magic surged to a commanding early lead.
Peachtree Hoops: Only the 2006 Suns forced a Game 7 after being down 3-1 in a series and getting a blow out win in Game 5. What does this mean? Ultimately we will find out Thursday night. Those already predicting a collapse might want to slow down just a bit. The pressure is firmly placed on the Hawks and that is probably where we want it. This club seems to play better when everyone is counting them out the most.
OC Register: From Bryant's oak tree, there grows another firm branch, though – one the Lakers hope to climb out on Thursday night against the Hornets. Bryant's killer instinct is unique, too. If Bryant didn't prove his killer instinct by not letting up in his 81-point game, he certainly has in his NBA championship runs – more so since he has became the undisputed leader of a contending team.
Forum Blue and Gold: game 5 may have been the best game the Lakers have played in this young post season. No one player was that great, but the cumulative production that the players produced made for a great win. With 6 Lakers scoring double figures and the bench players bringing a spark with their energy and hustle on both ends, every player that saw game action contributed positively. In a 16 point win it’s not rare to have every player with a positive plus/minus, but the Lakers are one team where that’s often not true. Often times, even in blowout wins, the bench unit gets outplayed and there’s a player or two that are -4 or -6 on the night. Or, there’s a starter that had a couple of particularly poor stretches and he ends up on the negative end at the game’s conclusion. Last night, even if it was only a +2, every Laker had a positive plus minus. I know it’s not an end all stat, but it does show that every Laker was able to contribute to helping the team win in the minutes he played.
Project Spurs:With a 3-1 deficit, the San Antonio Spurs were on the brink of playoff elimination in game five against the Memphis Grizzlies. But in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, with the Spurs down by three points, with 1.7 seconds left on the game clock, rookie Gary Neal hit the shot of his career (video in link)
MySA Spurs Nation: “No. To tell you the truth, I didn’t. I didn’t even see the rim. I had Marc [Gasol] on top of me as I was falling out of bounds. I just got lucky. That’s the truth.”
ESPN Dallas: There are plenty of reasons to believe Portland will win Game 6 on their home floor and push the series back to Dallas for a winner-takes-all death match on Saturday. You can point to Portland’s ridiculous crowd giving them a big advantage. You can note how Brandon Roy has been virtually superhuman at home. The home team has won every game both this series and all season long (9-0). Vegas says Portland; why shouldn’t you? But from where I’ve sat and what I’ve seen, Dallas has definitely been the better team in this series. If it wasn’t for a superhuman quarter – one of the greatest individual 12 minutes in the postseason history of the league – Dallas would be at home with their feet up waiting for the Lakers/Hornets series to end as opposed to back in Portland preparing for Game 6.
ESPN Dallas: Here's the checklist Dirk Nowitzki would like to see from center Tyson Chandler in Game 6:
"He's got to be active for us and he knows that. We need him out there chest-pumping himself and hyping up the crowd and that's what he's been doing for us all season long," Nowitzki said. "We need him vocal in the huddles, out there pushing everybody around, getting everybody in the right spots because he's our anchor defensively. If he keeps playing like [in Game 5] with the energy and his aggressiveness I think he's going to be OK." Nowitzki left out one important item. Chandler must stay out of foul trouble. Chandler, who has been susceptible to quick fouls, including and fouls out on the perimeter defensively and bad timing coming off screens offensively, had just one called against him in the first of Game 5.
Daily Thunder: What are you supposed to say after that? Unbelievable? Incredible? Unreal? Astonishing? Surreal? Unthinkable? Unimaginable? We just watched one of those games where you’ll be talking to a friend in 25 years and say, “Man, how about that Game 5 against Denver where Durant went off for 41?” We just watched a real moment. We just watched the type of thing that you can only hope happens to your team. It’s the type of thing we all dreamed about when this team moved here three years ago.
NewsOK: “A great player got hot,” Karl said. The turning point came when Durant stepped into a pull-up 3-pointer. It splashed straight through the net. It lifted the Thunder within 91-85 and pumped life into a crowd and team that were both growing listless. “I was off balance and it went it,” Durant said. “That kind of pushed me over the top.”