Today's pic was sent in by the Headless Chicken, who was puzzled by the giant bulge in Kendrick Perkins' shorts. Did he dislocate his hip or was he just really happy to be bodied up to a "dominant" center? You be the judge.
The Boston Celtics: Well, nobody said defending the NBA title would be easy...but the Celtics are making it look REALLY hard. Last year, they lost in Boston only once during playoffs (in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals). As of last night's 95-90 loss to the Magic, the Celtics have now opened two consecutive playoff series by dropping Game 1 at home.
I don't know if there was a physical and emotional hangover from the Bulls series or what, but the Leprechauns came out flat-footed on offense and a step slow on defense. The Magic led by 18 at the half (54-36) and went up by 28 points (65-37) early in the third quarter, thanks mostly to some truly bawful shooting by the Celtics (38 percent for the game). But, of course, Orlando is one of those "let 'em back in the game" teams, so...
The Orlando Magic: It can truly be said that no deficit is safe against the Magic. They simply will not allow their opponents to get blown out. So that shoulda-been-safe 28-point lead got whittled all the way down to four with less than a minute to play and then to only three when Paul Pierce drilled a three-bomb with 6.6 seconds left. But Orlando got the ball to J.J. Redick, and he kicked in a couple fouls shots to seal the deal.
Despite the win, Stan Van Gundy was understandably unsettled. "The last 16 minutes was a debacle. We were sort of trying to run out the clock, and you can't do that in games like this. Especially in the playoffs, teams are going to keep fighting and keep coming back." Added Dwight Howard: "We got complacent as a team, stopped doing what we did to get the lead and against a good Celtics team you can't do that." Those are nice sentiments and all that, but this is the third time the Magicians have coughed up a 20-point lead in the playoffs. It might be time to, I don't know, make some adjustments.
Paul Pierce and Glen Davis, regret machines: Said The Truth: "We can't wait until we're down 25, 26 points until we wake up. There's no excuses for us not to be ready." Added Big Baby: "If we had played the rest of the game like the second half...it's hard to play from behind. That's what we did and we lost."
Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen: They combined to shoot 4-for-24 (including 1-for-9 from downtown). That's 16 percent field goal "accuracy" from two of your primary scorers, which probably isn't going to get it done. I mean, they made Stephon Marbury (4-for-6) look positively en fuego. Most interesting, to me, is the Curious Case of Rajon Rondo. He was on fire through the first five games of the Bulls series, going 48-for-94 (51 percent) from the field and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. But since then, he's 8-for-37 (21 percent) and has missed all four of his three-point attempts. Maybe this is the Revenge of Brad Miller in action, because Rondo hasn't been himself since all the brouhaha surrounding the flagrant-that-wasn't-a-flagrant.
Update! Rajon Rondo's airballed free throw: I really can't believe I forgot about this one. Fortunately, eileen had my back and said: "Rondo's airballed free throw was the ugliest shot I've seen in a long, long time." (Huh. I guess eileen hasn't seen this.) Anyway, onto the video...
The Los Angeles Lakers: It all the hurry and hubub to crown the Lakers "The Lords of the West," someone forgot to tell them that they still have to win a certain number of games to reach the NBA Finals. I don't get it. It's like they haven't shifted into their playoff gear yet. Not consistently, anyway. They don't seem any more intense than they did during most of the regular season...and not even half as intense as they played during their two games against the Celtics. I mean, I know all that winning can get really boring, but c'mon.
Now Basketbawful reader Joseph T. feels there was a more sinister reason for L.A.'s Game 1 flopparoo. "I am a Lakers fan, and I admit they stunk up the joint last night. Kobe and Gasol couldn't find the bucket with a flashlight and a map. BUT...they didn't lose because of that. They had more rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, made more shots, and had 3 fewer turnovers. How did they lose do you ask? Reverse Home Cooking. A MASSIVE 12 foul difference. Houston was called for 14 fouls, L.A.? 26. Houston also shot 10 more free throws as a direct result." I'm not sure I saw much of a problem with the officiating myself, particularly since Houston's last eight FTAs were the result of intentional fouls.
Meanwhile, Basketbawful reader Karc is predicting sweet, sweet oblivion for the Lakeshow: "And now the Lakers are officially in trouble. I mean, seriously, the Lakers had more shot attempts (+15), more rebounds (+2 total, +6 offensive), more assists (+1), fewer turnovers (-1), more blocks (+1), more steals (+3). And they still lost. Of course, that usually happens when a physical team psyches you out into fouling more (+12), making your best player take bad shots all night (14-for-31), and making the rest of the team live and die by the three (2-for-18). And this is not like the usual case where LA blows a huge lead. They never led in the second half. Not once. [Editor's note: L.A. actually did briefly take a one-point lead in the fourth.] Credit the Houston defense, or Kobe Bryant blowing a save (he is 'The Closer' after all). I almost want to say Houston will sweep them, because nothing that the Lakers did indicates that they can bounce back from this. And even if they do, Denver and Cleveland are ready to dish out the same, only with a better point guard (Billups) and the MVP of the league (James). Adios, Los Lakers."
Me, personally, I don't think the refs stole the game from the Lakers, nor that L.A. is in serious trouble. Yet. But they do need to amp up their intensity and (single entendre comig) keep it up, or they're going to fall into a pothole on their road to the championship...and break their face.
Lamar Odom: If you know anything about Odom, it's that once the playoff pressure is on, he's going to start shanking his foul shots. And, sure enough, he went 1-for-6 from the charity stripe last night.
Kobe Bryant: Stephanie G sent me an email that said: "Kobe is a dick. Just sayin'." And while that statement doesn't necessarily require any hard proof, she provided the following animated .gif as evidence anyway:
Phil Jackson: My buddy Craig from The Association sent me the following text last night: "Phil Jackson is showing his age. It took him 10 minutes to figure out that [Derek] Fisher can't guard [Aaron] Brooks." That made me realize, Phil hasn't been himself lately. I mean, playoff time is usually Jackson Time. That's when he finds new and interesting ways to inspire the troops, makes countless sly adjustments, works the refs, lobbies with the press and basically stays one mental step (or 10) ahead of his coaching counterparts. Maybe it's his physical health, or maybe he's just ready for retirement, but P-Jax doesn't seem to have the same 15+ pieces of flair he usually has. (And 15 is the bare minimum.)
Lacktion report: Last night was a little light on the lacktion, but Chris still came through with a few tasty morsels: "In Houston's somewhat shocking victory at Staples Center, Von Wafer -- the only lacktator tonight -- served up a delicious +5 suck differential in 7:50 via foul, two giveaways, and two bricks!"
Cleveland: Congratulations, folks. Your superhero is the NBA MVP and your basketball team is already getting finger measurements for their championship rings. But I have some bad news for you...you're still Cleveland. Yeah. Sorry 'bout that.
Accomplishments without perspective: By the way, some of you have been commenting or emailing me about all the noise being made about D-Wade's 100-block, 100-steal season. Here's a list of the 133 times that feat has been accomplished since the NBA started keeping track of blocked shots. (Otherwise I'm sure we'd see names like Wilt, Russell and Oscar -- among others -- on the list.) Not to demean what Pookie did, because it's pretty darn rare, but finding out that guys like Clarence Weatherspoon, Dan Roundfield and Oliver Miller have already done that sure take a little shine off of the apple, doesn't it?