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: “Obviously, having him back is going to be a boost of energy to the crowd and to the team,” Dwyane Wade said at Friday’s practice. “But it’s our job to continue to execute our game plan and not worry about who’s coming back and who isn’t.” After Wade spoke, LeBron James was asked to share his thoughts on O’Neal’s expected return. “Whatever D-Wade said,” James responded. “We will all play our game. You can only put five guys on the court at one time. We’ll see what happens.” Does it change the Heat’s frontcourt rotation? “Nope, nope, nope,” LeBron said.
Heat Index: The other team knows it’s coming, but it doesn’t matter. Dwyane Wade pounds the rock just beyond the 3-point line, the only Heat player on the left side of the court. LeBron James, a 270-pound mass of muscle, sprints toward his teammate, barreling down on Wade’s already beleaguered defender. If Wade refuses the screen and attacks to his left, as he did to finish off Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in March, there is virtually no help defense that can arrive in time to stop him. If Wade uses the screen, the defense is forced to switch to prevent Wade from turning the corner. Accepting the screen, Wade drifts to the middle of the court as LeBron slams his backside into his new defender and pins him just below the high post. From here it’s a brutal two-man game in which a shooting guard at least 50 pounds smaller than James is marooned on a deserted high post island, almost certain to be eaten alive.
ESPN Chicago: Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said Friday he wants to play through the pain of his turf toe injury, despite his struggles in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks. Game 3 of the series, which is tied, is Friday night. After the morning shootaround, Boozer responded to criticism from former Bulls star Horace Grant, who told ESPNChicago.com Thursday that if Boozer can't produce, then he should sit. "I don't agree with that," Boozer said. "I think if I'm out there and I can help my team, I will.
Chicago Tribune: Derrick Rose is shooting 38.9 percent. Carlos Boozer is answering question after question about his lack of scoring. And the Chicago Bulls' offense is playing with very little pace. But to hear the Bulls tell it at Friday's morning shootaround, offense isn't their focus. Defense is. "We're not worried about our offense," Rose said. "We're just trying to contest shots and make it hard for them. When we play aggressive, that's our game, especially defensively. When we really get into guys, make it hard on them, rebound, we play better. We can live with our missed shots. But we have to go after guys defensively."
AJC: Larry Drew likes the look of these playoffs. He's feeling pretty good about his own team, too. There are upsets all around in the NBA postseason. Top-seeded San Antonio has already been eliminated. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are in trouble. And Drew, the rookie coach of the Atlanta Hawks, sees no reason why his own team can't go farther than anyone would've expected. "This thing is wide open," he said Thursday.
SB Nation: Horford was fifth among the Hawks in shot attempts (seven) and finished with nine points and 13 rebounds. Horford got more attempts in Game 2 (12, fourth among the Hawks), but struggled, shooting 3-12 for six points and 14 rebounds. The lack of success is a bit mystifying; in three regular season games against Chicago, Horford averaged 17 points on 62 percent shooting. We know Horford can score on Joakim Noah(his college teammate) and Carlos Boozer; after all, he meets the solitary criteria for being able to score on Carlos Boozer: "having a pulse."
OC Register: Lamar Odom told reporters he would be thestarting small forward in place of suspended Ron Artest against Dallas on Friday night. Odom said Thursday: “I haven’t played small forward in a couple years … but I’ll adjust and try to impact the game.”
ESPN LA: Respectfully, this is either grasping for a bright side or simply over-thinking. Plain and simple, this situation isn't good for the Lakers. I'm not saying they can't win Game 3 without Artest, but any notion his absence somehow creates a silver lining is delusional. The Lakers aren't getting enough consistent production from anybody not named "Kobe" or "Bryant" to remove a key player from the mix. Especially if this means more PT for the reserves, currently engaged in a contest to see who can bring the least to the table. (A metaphorical contest, not an actual one . . . to the best of my knowledge, at least). Relatively speaking, Artest has been among the better Lakers against Dallas, sobering thought or not.
ESPN Dallas: Much has been made of the long list of things the Lakers have done wrong so far this series. Well, the Mavs see plenty of room for improvement when they watch the game film, too. “We still haven’t really played our best basketball game for 48 minutes,” Jason Terry said. “That’s the encouraging thing for us.”
ESPN Dallas: J.J. Barea doesn't know what to make of the Los Angeles Lakers' trust issues, but he does have a feel for his face. "I'm fine," Barea said. "My ugly nose is fine." As for those trust issues that Lakers center Andrew Bynum brought up after Game 2 concerning L.A.'s rotations on the defensive end, Barea does expect adjustments in tonight's Game 3.
Daily Thunder: Between Games 2 and 3 of the Thunder’s Western Conference semifinal series against the Grizzlies, the Bulls, Hawks, Lakers and Mavericks all play twice. The Heat and Celtics share the same three-day layoff as Oklahoma City and Memphis. Three excruciatingly long days without Thunder basketball, and one day without any NBA basketball at all, is too much. And ridiculous. The Oklahoman offered the NBA’s reasoning for the three-day layoff in its notebook Thursday, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. There was no game Thursday because the Spurs-Grizzlies series might have gone the full seven games? Well, what’s the excuse for Heat-Celtics then? In the NHL, where men are men and hockey players, like honey badgers, just don’t give a snot, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins played Games 6 and 7 of their first-round series on back-to-back nights in different cities. That may be a little much, but the point remains the same. There’s no need for such a long layoff.
News OK: In a precautionary move, Oklahoma City Thunder starting forward Serge Ibaka did not practice Thursday due to a sprained left ankle suffered late in Game 2 on Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. With Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal playoff series not until Saturday at 4 p.m., Ibaka was given a second straight day off to heal while not risking further injury. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Ibaka is day-to-day and will be re-evaluated at practice Friday morning.
Shaky Ankles: We all saw Randolph destroy Tim Duncan, and for the time being a double dose of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, but it’s a very, very interesting statement considering who else plays the position. Is Randolph better than Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, and Carlos Boozer? (Undoubtedly yes to those last two.) Is he benefitting from favorable matchups or is he really this dominant? This isn’t to say that Portland GM Rich Cho would, say, swap Aldridge for Randolph at the drop of a hat, but nevertheless it’s extremely interesting that a late bloomer with such intense baggage who kept his imposing game hidden from the public can allow, even for a second, the thought to cross Cho’s mind. Randolph is a trickster in that he lulled the masses to sleep before pouncing on San Antonio at the playoff’s opening gate. Not that his game was completely misjudged, but at the All-Star break, more television pundits whined about an Aldridge/Lamar Odom snub (not to mention the initial spurn of Kevin Love) over Randolph as a suitable Western Conference reserve. Right now it’s tough to argue who’s more valuable to his team. At any position
Commercial Appeal: Game 3 will be a test of how well Randolph and the Griz took notes. By their own admission, the Griz didn't handle the aggressive infiltration of their offense with the intelligence that's guided them to this point. Memphis watched film Thursday morning and the popcorn-less viewing only confirmed what the team already knew: Oklahoma City did nothing special. The Griz had poor spacing. They made bad decisions passing the basketball and settled for jump shots.