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: So I wanted to know from LeBron, in a purely basketball context, how does one prepare for Rondo, master of the unpredictable? “You really can’t,” LeBron said. “You just have to be in tune. Every time he has the ball, you always have to know that he’s capable of making something happen, not only for himself, but for his teammates." [...] “He’s like Barry Sanders. You wouldn’t want to run up on him all crazy in the backfield back in the day either. He’ll spin you around and get a touchdown. So you gotta be smart with it.”
Heat Index: After two games, Garnett and Bosh are deadlocked in a pitchers' duel. Garnett got his jumper going in the third quarter of Game 2, but apart from that, he's been a marginal offensive player. Much of the chatter has attributed Garnett's struggles to old legs, exhaustion, maybe even the residual effects of a calf injury he suffered around New Year's. But Bosh's ineffectiveness? Well, that must be Garnett's voice in his head, Garnett's physicality, and his unwillingness to bite on Bosh's patented shot-fake.
Miami Herald: If what we’ve seen so far is real, if the Miami Heat is indeed fast-forwarding the aging of the Boston Celtics and putting an expiration date on their time, it makes me wonder this: When do you know a team is done? Do you ever know as it is happening? Are there signs and sirens and symbols, like all those highlight plays in Game 2 where Celtics were stumbling and Miami was celebrating? Do the Celtics themselves already know this and feel this in their creaking bones? Or does a champion’s confidence – trusted and rewarded so many times as it helps a young man climb out of the ghetto and to the castle at the top of sports – always defeat doubt with a belief so strong and sculpted over time that it morphs into delusion? Does the body break for the belief does?
ESPN Chicago: They are, in some ways, victims of their own success. Sixty-two victories, taken in total, makes a certain statement about a team, and it's a standard the Chicago Bulls have had trouble living up to this postseason. Even with their 4-1 first-round series victory over the Indiana Pacers, the Bulls' play overall left their fans with a certain measure of disappointment and concern moving on. And after their Game 1 loss to Atlanta at home on Monday, that anxiety only grew.
Load O' Bull: Carlos Boozer was booed hard by Bulls fans in their team's Game 2 win to tie the playoff series with the Hawks. His offensive game wasn't pretty, but there was a step forward in his shot selection. He's adjusted it to the physical limitations of his injuries, but his problems in the post are stemming from good scouting by opponents and a decision-making problem by Booz and his teammates. After Game 2, it was clear the Bulls saw the criticism as going too far. Tom Thibodeau defended his power forward, citing his hustle and rebounding. Joakim Noah added to this, refuting the boos, and saying the Bulls basically live and die as a team. This was mostly rhetorical expressions of chemistry, but not entirely false.
AJC: More than 18,000 tickets have been sold for 7 p.m.'s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said. Those coming to the game should expect to have their bags searched and to be wanded by portable metal detectors, he said. The increased security was a directive from the NBA. It was instituted after the national terror alert level went up due to concerns about a retaliatory strike after the death of Osama bin Laden. “It’s not from any threat that came to the league or to the teams,” Triche said.
Peachtree Hoops: An underlying sub plot to the Atlanta Hawks attempt at escaping the second round of the playoffs has been the play of Jeff Teague. People are starting to take notice as the little used guard has taken the second round by storm. All Teague did was follow up his solid Game 1 performance with a team leading 21 points and three assists in Game 2. SB Nation's Tom Ziller took notice following Game 2. The second-year point guard thrust into the starting lineup due to Kirk Hinrich's injured hamstring has played remarkably well in two games. He hounded MVP Derrick Rose all over the floor in Game 1, and was Atlanta's top scorer (by a mile) in Game 2. Teague racked up 21 points on 7-14 shooting with three assists and zero turnovers. Rose shot just 10-27 and had eight turnovers to 10 assists.
Forum Blue And Gold: Few envisioned this series unfolding the way that it has and it’s a credit to the Mavericks for turning the perceptions of their team – and thus their match up with the Lakers – upside down. Not that people didn’t recognize how great a player Dirk is nor the effectiveness of Tyson Chandler as an interior presence, but if you were to ask most observers who had the better “closer” or the “advantage inside” most would have said the Lakers. So far, that’s been wrong. Very wrong. That said, those conceptions coming into this series existed for a reason. The Lakers do possess those aforementioned ingredients but have not been able to put them on display effectively in this series. Credit the Mavericks for playing as well as they have. At the same time, discredit the Lakers for playing as poorly as they have. There’s certainly a connection between these events but for the Lakers to fight their way back into this series, they need to start with what they can control; they need to start with themselves.
OC Register: Foward Ron Artest has been suspended for one game by the NBA for his foul on Mavericks guard Jose Juan Barea in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s 93-81 loss to Dallas. In Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals series, Artest clotheslined the Mavericks guard. Artest was immediately ejected after picking up his second technical foul. He did not talk to media after the game.
Mavs Moneyball: This team likes to defy critics. Maybe they're trying to make up for all the years that they were the favorite. It was too much pressure for them to handle. Maybe all the Mavericks needed were competent centers, and a lower seed, no expectations. It would have been understandable if the Mavericks had gone into their game Wednesday night with a kind of complacency. They had won the first game of the series, in Los Angeles, against the defending champions, and winning two could have been seen as greedy. JJ turning into a tall black man greedy. JJ turning into an ice cream dispenser greedy. Thankfully, the Mavs played with a little greed, and pulled out an improbable win over the Lakers, 93-81.
ESPN Dallas: On a floor full of superstars and All-Stars, J.J. Barea stole the show in the fourth quarter and sealed the Mavericks' Game 2 victory with an array of drives and stellar finishes. He outscored Kobe Bryant, 8-5, in the final quarter and out-assisted Jason Kidd. He took more free throws thanDirk Nowitzki and even added a rebound. For the game he had 12 points to lead the Mavs' bench and four assists. "Really, I don't think they had him on the scouting report there in the fourth," Nowitzki said. "He kept attacking off the pick-and-roll. We had good ball movement and that means they have to constantly close out and J.J. was able to attack their bigs off the dribble off the screen-and-roll and got to the basket a couple of times. He was spectacular and really won us the game in the fourth."
Welcome to Loud City: I eagerly anticipated this new entry from Pruiti, because I wanted to again be able to see how the Thunder's adjustments in their interior defense had so confounded Zach Randolph. Z-Bo finished the game with 15 points off of 2-13 shooting, and had two turnovers. He did not make a shot in the 2nd half. While Randolph was able to still collect four offensive rebounds, he was not able to get into one of those "and-1" groves where he racks up the points with fouled put-backs. OKC Takes Away Randolph's Space, Limits His Effectiveness | NBA Playbook Be sure to read Pruiti's entire post, but he ends with this clip which demonstrates the way the Thunder were able to close out on Randolph's space.
News OK: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka did not practice Thursday but is listed as "probable" for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals series Saturday in Memphis. Ibaka suffered a sprained left ankle Tuesday in the Thunder's 111-102 victory over Memphis that evened the series at 1-1.
Crossover Chronicles: There's a whole thing here about perception, culture, tattoos, stereotypes, and what some people think about those who have tattoos that I don't really want to get into. All I'll say is that there are some people who think everybody who's tatted up is in the Hells Angels or something, as an example. But just because A&E has effectively documented the fact that all motorcycle gang members are inked up as a requirement, that doesn't mean all people who are inked up are in motorcycle gangs. Case in point, Kevin Durant. The Durantula is not a motorcycle gang member, definitely. He's also not as tattoo-less as you previously may have thought he was.
Straight Outta Vancouver: When Mike Conley and the Grizzlies agreed upon his five-year, $45 million extension back in November the outrage amongst Grizzlie fans and NBA pundits was overwhelming. The deal certainly had it's flaws and there were many reasons to believe that such a large contract for an unproven point guard was a mistake but the optimists (if there were any, it sure seemed like everybody was against the deal) saw a young player that had enormous potential and was just starting to merge with his team. Conley was just 23-years old when he signed the extension, he was growing with a young Grizzlies core and he had been showing gradual, though not tremendous, improvements over the first three years of his pro career.
[...] What Conley's been doing may seem pretty simple but the truth is Conley is playing the role of "point guard" better than anyone else in the playoffs. I'm not saying he's better than Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, but when you watch those other two guys play it's pretty easy to notice that they do a lot of freelancing and tend to break away from the offense multiple times throughout the game. Conley, on the other hand, has rarely deviated from Memphis' outside-in gameplan and he's orchestrated the Grizzlies' attack perfectly.
Commercial Appeal: Yet the series shifts to FedExForum for Game 3 on Saturday night with the Griz owning an edge, even if it appears that the Thunder now have momentum. Memphis left Oklahoma City having accomplished its goal of stealing home-court advantage — with the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series tied at 1-1, the Griz could win just their home games to advance. So far, the Griz are 3-0 in FedExForum during their eye-popping postseason run but are sure to be challenged more in this series than in their waltz with the Spurs. There are several trends that will hold true throughout what promises to be a long series now that the Griz and Thunder have each played to their strengths in the first two games: