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
Heat Index: In Game 2, the Heat likely will encounter an emboldened Rondo and a half-court unit that's not going to settle for face-up jumpers from Jermaine O'Neal and will be far more committed to finding second and third options. The Heat will need to combat that with 24 seconds of focus and a much more alert transition defense.
Hot Hot Hoops: I believe that the insistence that the Heat may have gotten lucky in game one is absurd. The Heat were finally able to break through on isolations, and continued their production in spot up opportunities. Yes, the Heat probably took too many long twos, but with the Celtics packing the paint, the Heat didn’t force the action. Also, many of the looks from distance were wide open. While I’ll never encourage Wade or James to fire from distance, I will always be in favor of the Heat taking open shots.
Chicago Tribune: On the eve of training camp, Derrick Rosef amously and rhetorically asked why he couldn't be the NBA's most valuable player. Rose, according to multiple sources familiar with the announcement, will get this answer on Tuesday: He can. Rose, sources said, will receive the award during a Tuesday afternoon news conference at a local hotel. Commissioner David Stern will present it to him again before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Hawks on Wednesday at the United Center.
By The Horns: last night, and they stole homecourt advantage from the Bulls. Joe Johnson left third degree burns all over anybody who dared guard him. Johnson finished with 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting, going 5-for-5 from downtown and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Former Bull Jamal Crawford added 22 points on 8-for-16 from the field, 2-for-4 from beyond he arc and 4-for-4 from the foul line. As a team, the Hawks went 14-for-21 at the rim (66 percent). They went 7-for-13 from three-point range (54 percent) and converted 26 of their 57 jumpers overall (46 percent). Atlanta finished with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 55.8 percent and an Offensive Efficiency of 115.7. Against the league’s best defensive team.
Hoopinion: With the exception of a brief period early in the third quarter when the Chicago Bulls successfully isolated Joe Johnson on one side of the floor and Josh Smith took (and missed) three jump shots in three-and-a-half minutes, the Atlanta Hawks played a brand and quality of basketball that resembled what Larry Drew described this summer far more than that which they displayed during the bulk of the regular season. Had the Hawks, with any regularity, run motion offense at the pace and with the precision they demonstrated tonight against the league's best defense even the most pessimistic of observers wouldn't have predicted a series sweep.
Peachtree Hoops: Al Horford actually didn't sit the rest of the first half after picking up his second foul in the first quarter. This was critical as Horford, along with Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia, helped keep the Bulls off the glass in the second half and locked them out down the stretch. Horford's 9 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists were steadying. There was really good ball movement, resulting in 20 assists against 10 turnovers. Joe Johnson gave the ball up, and got it back in better position to shoot, playing no small role in his good shooting tonight.
OC Register: The Lakers tried to beat New Orleans in Game 1 of the first round by loading the burden on Kobe Bryant. It didn't work. The Lakers tried to beat Dallas in Game 1 of the second round on Monday night, by going back to Plan A. Fool them twice, shame on them, as the Dallas Mavericks saddled up and rode down a 16-point deficit to knock off the Lakers, 96-94. The theory that Andrew Bynum held the road map for victory after he averaged a double-double against New Orleans, will have to be tested another day, perhaps in Game 2. With Bryant scoring perhaps too easily in the first quarter, Bynum could not develop a rhythm against Tyson Chandler's defense and gave the Lakers just eight points, five rebounds, eight shots and two trips to the line.
OC Register: The Lakers gave up a 16-point lead and fell to the Mavs in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, 96-94. Kobe Bryant scored 36 points, but he took 29 shots to get there. “It had nothing to do with me,” Bryant said. “I had games where I shot the ball 30 times, and Pau’s had big offensive games. I had games where I shot the ball 10 times, and Pau and Andrew didn’t contribute that much…it had nothing to do with my shots.”
ESPN Dallas: At the time it certainly seemed as if it had the potential to sink the Mavs heading into halftime. Dallas led 38-33 with 5:38 to go in the second quarter and the Lakers started to make a run. L.A. seized the lead with a 20-6 finish, including 14-2 in final 2:30. The two came when Dirk Nowitzki scored with three seconds left in the half to pull Dallas within five points. Then came Terry's brain freeze. Odom dribbled up the sideline and as he started to heave a buzzer beater from around midcourt, Terry chopped him, no doubt about it. Odom went to the line, hit all three and suddenly the Lakers' lead was eight. But, the damage wasn't complete. After the third free throw, Dirk Nowitzki jabbed an elbow at Ron Artest as the two locked up along the key. Nowitzki got hit with a technical and Kobe Bryant made the free throw. It gave the Lakers a four-point play and a nine-point lead with virtually no time left on the clock.
ESPN Dallas: The Mavericks might have planted a seed of doubt in the two-time defending champions’ minds while stealing Game 1 and homecourt advantage. “I’m highly concerned,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. “This team can beat us. It's clear. We just have to come in ready to play Game 2."
Daily Thunder: The Thunder did three very important things badly yesterday: They didn’t protect the paint, they didn’t rebound and they didn’t take care of the ball. Adding a fourth, they didn’t take the ball either. The Grizzlies had an offensive rating of 123.48. That’s pretty, pretty good. The Thunder 107.36 points per 100 possessions, which is not bad by any stretch and in most every case this season, would result in a win. For everyone wanting to blame the Thunder loss on a certain player, look no further than those numbers. The defense was terrible, period.
NewsOK: James Harden: “Just opportunities. I had a few turnovers early, a couple of assists early as well. Opportunities weren't there. In the fourth quarter, I had a couple of shots. I just have to assert myself early in the game, as soon as I check in.”
3 Shades of Blue: faithful fans who have kept up with us, we've ridden with this team during the 24-win seasons. The heartbreak losses to PHX and SAC. We've stayed with this squad through Hasheem Thabeet. All the while, seeing the flashes, the flickers of something REALLY, REALLY COOL. I'd tell my buddy the Laker fan, "Dude. You're not watching these guys. When they're on, they can beat anybody. The trick is consistency. When they play with consistency, watch out." He'd laugh obnoxiously, tell me my team's not going to make the playoffs, and referred to the Grizzlies as "cute." After the OKC Game 1 win, he told me his son and wife are cheering for the Boys from Beale. I cackled with delight. He muttered words I won't put here without a TV-MA rating. And he's not the only one who's realizing that this squad isn't your usual 8th seed. Now that the experts are actually WATCHING our guys play . . . well, read for yourself:
Commercial Appeal: John Hollinger is a really smart guy. He writes about basketball. He thinks about basketball. He even invented a basketball stat called the PER, which I would explain if I understood it myself. The point is, he takes this seriously. ESPN hired him to analyze the NBA. Before the Grizzlies-Thunder series, he looked at all the numbers and angles and matchups and picked the Thunder in 5. Then Game 1 tipped off. At noon Sunday. Exactly 46 minutes later, Hollinger issued the following tweet: "Questioning my logic."