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
Miami Herald: you just had the game of your life, for one, and in the only city you have ever loved. You outscored the entire Boston Celtics bench by yourself in a playoff game. You matched Ray Allen, only the greatest three-point shooter ever, shot for shot from distance. And you did it to lift a hometown filled with coaches, teachers, friends and family. Isn’t that a reason for joy? “Big picture,” Jones finally said without a smile. “There’s so much more to do.”
Heat Index: The bad news? As special as Dwyane Wade is, he can't be counted on to score 16 points on 14 jump shots every night. LeBron James didn't have a great night shooting the ball, but some of the shots he made were so difficult that they have to be considered found money. The law of averages dictates that James Jones will have a game where he only makes one or two out of seven 3-point attempts, no matter how good of a shooter he is and how open his looks are. And the Celtics have too much offensive talent to look that discombobulated in every game of the series, even though the Heat appear to match up well with them defensively. At some point, you have to figure those jumpers will stop falling. That Rondo will activate and become a dynamo both in transition and in the half court. Or that Paul Pierce will start making those step-backs and picking the Heat defense apart while never appearing to break a sweat. Kevin Garnett will start making his catch-and-shoot 20-footers, mid-post fadeaways, and modified hooks over the right shoulder. Or Ray Allen will … keep doing what he did in Game 1. If and when those things start happening, the Heat will have to find a way to create effective offense in the half court against Boston's defense. And Chris Bosh will have to be a big part of that.
ESPN Chicago: The moment Luol Deng stepped foot in the Berto Center this summer, he knew new coach Tom Thibodeau meant business. The Chicago Bulls forward had just returned from training with the English National Team and got a quick introduction to what life under Thibodeau’s regime would entail. "I came in here and I thought no one was in here," Deng recalled after Sunday's practice. "And I tried to just get a few shots up and he came down [from his office]. And he put me through one of the toughest workouts I've ever done. That's when I knew it was going to be no joke. And I had to make sure I was in shape for training camp."
ESPN Chicago: Carlos Boozer returned to practice on a limited basis for the Chicago Bullson Sunday afternoon while Derrick Rose was excused for personal reasons. Boozer is expected to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against theAtlanta Hawks on Monday night. "He'll be ready to go," Bulls center Joakim Noahsaid of Boozer, who declined to speak with reporters after practice.
AJC: The first issue is point guard, where starter Kirk Hinrich isn't expected to play during the best-of-seven series. Jeff Teague could take Hinrich's place since he's best suited to defend Chicago's Derrick Rose. Drew said he's also considering starting veteran Jamal Crawford, who hasn't started a game in his two seasons for Atlanta. Drew and predecessor Mike Woodson have favored Crawford's scoring off the bench.
AJC: For the past two springs this is where it ended for this group of Hawks. Consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals were abruptly cut short by series sweeps at the hands of Cleveland and Orlando. The average victory margins: 18 for Cleveland in 2009, 25.3 for Orlando last year. “It's definitely embedded in the back of everybody's minds that we haven't advanced past the second round," Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. "And, in the second round, we've pretty much gotten embarrassed."
OC Register: Game 1 of this next round could be more delightfully thorny than all six games of last round were, and we mean just by halftime Monday night. Get there early, Lakers fans. Who knows what sort of anti-Maverick insults Barnes might tweet during the national anthem? This history of hostility is a good thing because this series might need to manufacture its intrigue. On the court, does anyone think the Mavericks can beat the Lakers? In a seven-game series? More important, do the Mavericks think the Mavericks can beat the Lakers?
ESPN LA: At 38 years old, Jason Kidd is the giant panda-rare NBA point guard who, chronologically speaking at least, makes Derek Fisher look youthful by comparison. It's been a while since Fish was the kid in a head-to-head playoff matchup. "Probably since John Stockton, Mark Jackson in the late 90's, 2000," he said Sunday afternoon, digging deep into the memory bank. But old as he may be, heading into Monday's Game 1, Fisher and his teammates are showing a healthy respect for Kidd.
ESPN Dallas: The Mavs have spent a lot of time talking about being ready with a physical presence against the big, strong front line of the Los Angeles Lakers. They've talked about being ready to keep their cool when things heat up. But, perhaps the most important aspect for the Mavs as they begin this monumental second-round series is making sure they're ready to do what's necessary to spread the scoring wealth. “Offensively,” Nowitzki said, “I don’t think it’s a secret that we want to play off each other and share the ball.” The Mavericks failed to get at least four players scoring in double figures 17 times during the regular season and they were 7-10 in those games.
ESPN Dallas: It’s frightening to watch how aggressively Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest can play defense on the perimeter knowing they have a couple of trees behind them eating up space. The impact a healthy Andrew Bynum has had on the Lakers team defense has led many to call him the most important or indispensable Laker. And while I appreciate his importance, you’re nuts if you think a backcourt ofDerek Fisher and Shannon Brown gets you very far in the NBA regardless of who’s on the floor with them. Yes, Bynum is tough when he gets deep paint touches ad he kills you on the offensive glass and he shrinks the paint defensively. But being able to challenge Kobe is still a huge ordeal. And since the Mavericks don’t really have anybody that forces Kobe to put in work on the defensive end, it’s going to be big for three key guys to make life as difficult as possible on Bryant.
Welcome to Loud City: [second chance points] is a buzzword for basketball analysts everywhere, but here, it's the truth. Randolph and Gasol were getting offensive rebounds left and right not only because they're great rebounders, but also because the Grizzlies would always have a third man down in the post creating some extra space for Randolph and Gasol. It was sly, but it was worth it, because it led to easy buckets for the Grizzlies. The Thunder, on the other hand, don't have the same scoring ability from their own big men, so their offensive rebounds were not as successful. When you get down to it, the loss tonight was not a lack of offense. Our offense wasn't perfect, but it was adequate. What really killed the Thunder was a lack of defense. To be fair, there are some plays that just can't be stopped, like Z-Bo's sweet, sweet jumpshots. But most of what happened is just textbook. Comeon, backdoor cuts? Letting the Grizzlies lure you into a dumb trap play? Watching Gasol shoot wide open jumpers from the top of the key? Heck, sometimes, I saw Thunder players simply give up or lose their man on defense. That's just a lack of effort.
News OK: That's what beat the Thunder 114-101 Sunday. Memphis toughness. The Grizzlies were tougher than OKC. Tougher with the ball. Tougher on defense. Tougher at the rim. “We didn't have any energy,” Kevin Durant said. “They played harder than us. They fought harder than us. It's a long series. We gotta come out with more fight the next game.” Mandatory, I'd say, if the Thunder wants to avoid a four-game sweep. “They were more physical than us, from bigs to small,” said Kendrick Perkins, words that pained the Thunder enforcer to say.
Straight Outta Vancouver: If you've watched the Grizzlies all season you know they are strong in two particular areas: post play and forcing turnovers. Those also in the know are aware that the Grizzlies have struggled this season winning key games on the road. After all, aside from the a playoff win over the Manu Ginobili-less San Antonio Spurs, Memphis relied heavily on home cooking in order to move past the Spurs. Sunday afternoon, though, a perfect storm came through Oklahoma City. Randolph was, for a lack of better words, a force in Game 1. He scored 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, with both Randolph and Gasol hitting enough long jumpers to keep the defense honest. The step-outs by OKC allowed forMike Conley and Tony Allen to see open cuts to the basket. With the Grizzlies among the league's worst in mid-range jumpers (24th, 38.4% shooting from 16-23 feet) and eFG% (27th, 50.1 eFG%), per HoopData, the fact that Z-Bo and Gasol added to the Grizz hitting mid-range jumpers helped open up the baseline and the cutting lanes in the paint. A success!
3 Shades of Blue: Let's thank the appropriate parties for the HUGE win. Yet again, the biggest win in franchise history….. Russell Westbrook, come on down. Yes, you get on the list even before ol' #50. We all know this guy is absurdly athletic and very talented-but taking more shots than KD and failing to finish at the rim is a recipe for guess what, a Thunder loss. And the bad shot choices are not the extent of it-they're a symptom of a larger decisionmaking issue. On the other hand… Mike Conley, seven assists and ZERO turnovers, and excellent poise in the fourth quarter when OKC was getting desperate on D. Still not the greatest shooting percentage, which has established itself over the last month or so as something he really needs to improve-but IMO he's earning his keep right now.