Editor's note:Wild Yams is once again our special Rockets-Lakers correspondent. And Dan B. once again provided today's header photo.
The Boston Celtics (Game 3): The Orlando Magic are an inside-out team: They feed the ball to Dwight Howard down low and they drop three-bombs from on-high. That's who they are...it's what they do. If you're going to beat the Magic, or even stay within 20 points of them, then you probably have to take away at least one of those two options. But on Friday night, the Celtics did not; Howard (17 points, 7-for-8 14 rebounds, 5 blocks) owned the paint and the Magicians connected on 50 percent (9-for-18) of their three-point attempts. It was just that kind of night, as Boston's famed and fabulous D got roasted over a Magical fire. (Incendio!) Orlando shot nearly 60 percent for the game (39-for-66), a figure that included nine layups and nine dunks. Did the Celtics ever give up 18 layups/dunks when KG was playing? Just curious. Oh well. Whether you lose by one or 21 (as Boston did), it's still only one loss. Uh, right?
Ray Allen's jump shot (Game 3): Don't look now, but Ray-Ray's jumper has gone wayward again. After his Game 3 pants-crapper (3-for-13, 0-for-5 from downtown), Allen is 12-for-40 (30 percent) from the floor and 3-for-19 (15.7 percent) in threes for the series. I know everybody always turn all shocked and astounded when Ray occasionally goes broke in the playoffs, but that's what happens when you live and die by the jump shot.
Kendrick Perkins: Apparently, Perk decided to take a page out of Kobe Bryant's "Complete Guide To Self-Defense On The Basketball Court." Shortly after being abused by an uncalled shove from Howard, Kendrick decided that the best defense was a good offense...in the form of his elbow to Michael Pietrus' throat.
The foul was ruled a flagrant, but Perkins was neither ejected nor suspended afterward...despite the fact that this particular cheapie was clearly delivered above the notorious "above the shoulders" demarcation line. Maybe it was because their was no windup or follow through, maybe it was because Pietrus didn't do enough theatrical writhing, or maybe it was because David Stern is using a new method to decide on his final rulings. Like forcing a death row convict to fight his way through an underground arena of death. If the convict survives, he goes free and the play stands as called. If he dies a horrible death, the NBA apologizes and applies a postgame fine, foul upgrade and/or suspension. Oh, and by the way, the convict isn't really set free. Stern has him killed anyway. That's just how D-Stern rolls.
The Houston Rockets (Game 3): Houston definitely didn't back down in this game, but unfortunately for them they didn't play very well either. The Lakers didn't have a very good game themselves, but were still able to win rather handily on the road, making them now 3-0 in Houston this year, and 6-7 overall against the Rockets this season. The main reason that Houston lost this game is because their vaunted defense just was not able to slow the Lakers down enough to make them play the Rockets tempo like they were able to do in Game 1. In that game the Lakers were only able to score 92 points in a loss, but in the two games since LA has put up 111 and 108 points, both Laker wins. The fast pace helped the Lakers play their game, even if they didn't play very well, only shooting 43% from the field (though they did hit 11-20 three pointers). The Rockets didn't really get a good game from any of their players, and that's something of a large problem when you want to win a playoff game. One of the main culprits was...
Ron Artest (Game 3): In Games 1 and 2 Crazy Pills had really been playing some top quality ball on the offensive end, so it was probably just a matter of time before he came back down to earth a bit, and that's exactly what he did in Game 3. He still had 25 points, but it took him 23 shots to get there, including shooting only 2-8 from 3-pt range. As is sometimes the case with this Rockets team, Artest's poor offensive decisions can be one of the opponents' best weapons. Artest was pretty unstoppable when he took the ball inside, but he apparently prefers to shoot from distance, and that's not good for his team (if they want to win, that is). He ended his night by getting called for the weakest flagrant two foul I've ever seen (which probably should have just been a shooting foul, and nothing more), and getting ejected; but at least the league has since retroactively changed it to a flagrant one. Fortunately the foul came in the last minute of play after the Lakers had already blown it open, so this ejection really had no bearing on the outcome of the game (unlike Artest's ejection in Game 2).
Aaron Brooks (Game 3): With Derek Fisher out due to a suspension, and little-used Jordan Farmar in to take Fisher's place, Brooks responded by laying an egg to the tune of 7 points and 1 assist, with 3 turnovers and 5 fouls. Not really what a team needs from its starting point guard. Additionally he was pretty badly outplayed by the aforementioned Farmar, who finished with 12 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and only 1 turnover. Farmar played so well that 2nd string PG for the Lakers, Shannon Brown, who figured to play a big role in this game with Fisher out, only got off the bench for 15 minutes. Fortunately for the Rockets, with Fisher's suspension having been served, Farmar will no doubt return to his spot at the end of the bench, where his chances of terrorizing Houston will be much more limited.
Rick Adelman (Game 3): Yao Ming suffered some kind of injury in the 2nd quarter of the game, but continued to play on it. As the game went on Yao appeared to become more and more hobbled, and by the 4th quarter was pretty obviously laboring up and down the court, yet Adelman left Yao in there, despite the Lakers having a double-digit lead for most of the last 12 minutes. Yao refused to have his foot looked at or treated, and courageously (and probably stupidly) just played through it, but you can't fault a player for trying to play through pain. You can however fault the coach for letting his star player risk further injury by watching him limp up and down the court like that in a game that's probably decided, or you can at least tell him that if he won't let the trainers look at the injury then you're not gonna put him in the game. Adelman, however, sat idly by and let Yao continue to play, and now Yao is done for the season for suffering a hairline fracture in his left foot. Now, it's unfair to say conclusively that Adelman allowing Yao to play on an injury is what caused the fracture (because for all we know the fracture may have been the initial injury), but Rockets fans are certainly blaming him, and it's hard not to agree with them a little bit. If one of your players is limping around out there the way Yao was, you've got to force him to let the trainers look at him. Period. This is especially true when said player has a long history of foot and leg injuries.
Game 3 of the Mavericks-Nuggets series: My eyes...my eyes...THEY BURN. They did after watching this game, anyway, thanks to the fact that the teams combined for 61 personal fouls and 89 free throw attempts. If I'd known this game was going to devolve into Foul Fest '09, I would have flipped over to Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire. Of course, you've gotta love the NBA, because the one foul that should have been called wasn't...
The non-call on 'Melo's game winner: The setup: Dallas was protecting a two-point lead with less than 10 seconds to go. Incredibly, despite the ridonkulous number of fouls called in this game, the Mavs still had one left to give. (And I'm sure that wasn't home cookin' or anything.) As Carmelo Anthony tried to dribble his way into a shot, Antoine Wright gave him two hard bumps that went uncalled right before 'Melo drilled the game-winning three with a second left. The Mavericks, rather than being upset that Wright didn't, I don't know, try to defend the play, were beside themselves that the foul wasn't called. And poor Mark Cuban looked like he had just found an uncooked snake head in his broccoli. Unfortunately for them, science has proven that angst can't alter the outcome of a game, no matter how painful the circumstances. (For more information, please see The Collected Words of the :07 Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns.)
Said Wright: "I was positive a whistle was coming, just like everybody else was positive the whistle was coming. I made a play on the ball like I was told in the huddle, and the call wasn't made. ... I'm upset like everyone else in this locker room, and I feel like we have a right to be upset." Yeah, well, here's some advice, Antoine: Next time you want to get an intentional foul call, you might have to do more than just bump the guy. WRAP HIM UP. This is the NBA, and sometimes fouls have to be MORE than obvious for the officials to call them.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who probably should have preached solid defense rather than intentional fouling, had something interesting to say about Mark Wunderlich, the ref who was responsible for not making the call: "I'm almost as disappointed for Mark as I am for us. ... It's a call he makes 100 percent of the time." 100 percent of the time? Really, Rick? Well, maybe you should read this then:
A day after Game 4 of the Western Conference finals last year, the NBA said a foul should have been called against Derek Fisher(notes) of the Los Angeles Lakers on the final possession. That could have given San Antonio a chance to win the game and get even in the series.
Fisher jumped and came down on Brent Barry(notes) in the final seconds of a two-point game. No foul was called and Barry missed badly on a 3-pointer as time expired.
Mark Wunderlich, one of the three officials for that game last year, was part of the crew for the Denver-Dallas game Saturday night and was the one closest to Wright and Anthony.
As always, I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin'. But wait! There's more! The NBA, in its consistently inconsistent fashion, actually came out and admitted that the refs goofed. I know. Welcome to Armageddon, Population: Us. According to NBA president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin: "At the end of the Dallas-Denver game this evening, the officials missed an intentional foul committed by Antoine Wright on Carmelo Anthony, just prior to Anthony’s three-point basket."
What a boner! It's nice that the NBA actually owned up for a change, but Dirk Nowitzki wasn't exactly thrilled by the league's mea culpa was Dirk Nowitzki: "If I was the league, I wouldn't say that. I don't think it makes anybody feel better. We don't get the last seven seconds back to kind of play it over again. More than anything, I think it made it worse."
And no NBA officiating controversy would be complete without the Vegas angle. From Basketbawful reader Karc: "BTW, over/under for the game was 209.5/210. If the foul is called and Dallas holds on, it's 208. After the non-call, it's 211. Just sayin'..." Huh. What a crazy random happenstance!
Now, some final thoughts from Stephanie G:
A flood of thoughts wash over me thinking about this situation:
1. The Suns are the only other team something this weird could've happened to.
2. In what other sport would a team want to intentionally foul AKA break the rules so as to gain an advantage? Usually breaking the rules results in a non-desirable penalty. Basketball is just odd that way.
3. If 'Melo misses the shot it's the Denver players who are having kittens and the NBA is issuing an apology to them instead.
4. I'm under the impression that coaches and players tell the refs in these situations that they are going to foul so as to not leave any doubt. What happened here?
5. Wright's foul was weak but "wrapping him up" may have been a flagrant 2 or something given recent history (I'm only half joking).
6. If the score was tied and the same thing happened and the ref did call the foul then fans would be complaining that refs shouldn't call something that soft at the end of the game.
7. Dirk is averaging something like 30-11 on 50% in the first three games. Even though he was taking tough fadeaways down the stretch I don't want to hear anyone blaming him. Denver is just a better team.
8. Dallas was up 4 with 30 seconds left in the 4th. Some teams find ways to win, others...well...
9. 'Melo can't get any love from the refs unless he's absolutely hammered in the paint. He can't even draw intentional fouls! How awesome is that?
10. How much does this feed the "Stern hates Cuban" conspiracies?
The Atlanta Hawks (Game N/A): Yes, technically speaking, they're still in the playoffs. But they won't be for long. And even though I could care less about this series at this point, Basketbawful reader Gal D. did have at least one beef with Game 3: "In case you missed it, the Cavs had a 29-11 advantage in FTA. This can obviously be explained away as one team being more aggressive, so I checked the shot-chart. The Crabs had 47 attempts in the paint and 44 mid to long-range jump shots, while the Dirty Birds had 52 attempts in the paint and 42 J's. I didn't see the whole game, I'm just sayin'." Hey, Gal, didn't you know that in addition to being named MVP, LeBron traveled to South America and found an ancient Incan idol that has rendered he and the rest of the Crabs incapable of committing fouls? No, really. It happened. (Furthermore, if King Crab managed to survive a nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator, nobody would even question it.)
Jaime Aron, Associated Press quote machine: Basketbawful reader mister d00bie said: "Just noticed this gem of a sentence in the AP recap of the Mavs/Nuggets game: 'The Mavericks were hoping to feed off their crowd, just like the Nuggets did in the first two games at their place, but all the fouls kept the fans from getting into the action. The game was so blah that the public-address announcer reminded everyone at halftime that the team needed them to get more involved.' It appears that in this 'global economic crisis,' that AP Sports writers have had to sell their thesauruses to survive."
The Los Angeles Lakers (Game 4): In the interest of being concise I'm tempted to say everything about them was bawful in this loss; but since that's not really in keeping with the spirit of this site, and because I definitely owe all the people I battled with last week over the Lakers & Rockets a take from the other side, allow me to expand upon the myriad ways that the Lakers were plain miserable in Game 4. For starters, don't let the 12 point margin of victory by the Rockets fool you, this thing was much, much more one-sided than that. No, the Lakers were only able to salvage the appearance of a relatively close game due to outscoring the Rockets 33-16 in the 4th quarter, which was other wise known as "garbage time", as the Lakers trailed by 29 after three quarters. As written above, Houston was without Yao Ming for this game (as they will be for the rest of the season), because he was sidelined with a broken foot; but that didn't stop the Rockets from pouncing all over the Lakers right from the start. Houston raced out to a 17-4 lead, then a 26-10 lead, and the Lakers never closed the gap to within single digits the rest of the game. I could give you reasons or excuses for why the Lakers played so poorly or why the Rockets played so well, but I won't. The Lakers just got their asses handed to them by a Rockets team that's now missing both T-Mac and Yao, and that means the Lakers will now have to make a return trip to Houston if they want to advance to the next round. All that's left to be said is to point out the individual performers who were the worst, and that brings us to...
Kobe Bryant (Game 4): Normally a guy who gets up for just about every game, Kobe was largely invisible in this one, taking only 17 shots and scoring only 15 points. He was only 1-4 from three-point land, and didn't earn even one trip to the foul line. On the other end Kobe let Shane Battier light him up for 23 points on only 12 shots, including 5-10 from deep. To put this in perspective, Battier had only scored 18 points combined in Games 1, 2 and 3 of this series, and it was the first time Battier had scored 20 or more points in a game this entire season (didn't Kobe just get selected to the All-Defensive 1st team last week?). Kobe was most assuredly not going to be confused with Michael Jordan after this game.
Derek Fisher (Game 4): Freshly back from his one game suspension for leveling Luis Scola in Game 2, Fisher played like he'd been suspended for two games instead. His line: 2 points on 1-4 shooting with no assists in 20 minutes of playing time, and a game low -26 on the +/-. That alone would be worth a mention here, but the fact that his counterpart, Aaron Brooks, went off for 34 points on 12-20 shooting cemented it. Considering Brooks played so poorly in Game 3 while Fisher was out that he got mentioned above, maybe Phil Jackson should sit Fisher for the rest of the series. Then again, Jordan Farmar doesn't exactly get a reprieve here either, since he was guarding Brooks for some of the 21 minutes he was on the floor.
Lamar Odom (Game 4): Maybe Odom was waiting till the 4th quarter to make a contribution, but unfortunately for him he wasn't in the game that long, as he left with back spasms after a pretty bad collision in the 3rd quarter, during which he picked up a charge. Nevertheless, in the 25 minutes Odom did get to play, his contributions were negligible at best: 2 points on 4 shots, with 6 boards and 3 assists. Odom will have tests today to see how bad he's hurt, but if he can't go, at least the Lakers have...
Andrew Bynum (Game 4): Bynum continued his parade of futility through these playoffs with another scoreless game, this time in 12 minutes of playing time. He did manage to avoid a 12 trillion, however, thanks to one missed shot, two rebounds, 1 turnover and 3 fouls. Well done Andrew, you're exactly the spark off the bench the Lakers hoped you'd be. I should probably stop here before I go ahead and name the rest of the Lakers' entire roster (all of which deserve a mention, except maybe for Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown). It should be pointed out that the Lakers are now 0-4 in games against Houston in which Yao does not play. Not a good omen if you're a Lakers fan.
The Orlando Magic (Game 4): The good news: Orlando totally shut down Eddie House (zero points, 0-for-1) and Brian Scalabrine (zero points, 0-for-2). Now for the bad news: With a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the defending champs, the Magicians found out that the NBA...is where Big Baby Happens. (Thanks to Andrew B. for the link.)
This was especially sweet redemption for Davis, not only for that whole crying episode, but because Davis was the guy who fouled Rashard Lewis with 11 seconds to go, thus empowering Lewis to put the Magic ahead with a couple foul shots. So I guess we can excuse Baby for celebrating so hard he probably almost burst a vein. Oh, and let's not forget about that fat kid he shoved on his way to the Boston bench:
Orlando's starting backcourt (Game 4): Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick combined to shoot 2-for-14 and 1-for-11 from downtown. Oh, which reminds me...
The Magic's three-point shooting (Game 4): Remember way back at the beginning of this post how I said that, to beat the Magic, you needed to take away either the inside or the outside? Well, Dwight did his thing (23 points, 8-for-14, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks), but it wasn't raining outside. Orlando went 5-for-27 from downtown. As I also said above, live by the three and sometimes you'll die by it too. Ray Allen feels your pain, guys.
The Boston bench: There total contribution for the game in total: 2 points (from Stephon Marbury), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, a steal and 11 fouls in 35 minutes. I hearby dub them "The Invisible Men."
Weekend lacktivity update: Chris and his bud (and regular Basketbawful photo contributor) Dan B. tag-teamed on this weekend's lacktion.
Celtics-Magic - Game 3: Orlando's Tony Battie bricked twice for a +2 suck differential in 3:49. Teammate and fellow big man Adonal Foyle did get a board in 3:02, but negated it with a giveaway, foul, and brick for a 2:1 Madsen-level Voskuhl.
Lakers-Rockets - Game 3: Josh Powell missed two shots in exactly 3 minutes for a +2, marking his second straight +2 (and second straight appearance of unimportance).
First off, here's a shout out to my best friend and fellow 'bawful devotee Dan B. who helped out with the source material research for tonight, as I was away at the racetrack. Now, on to the top non-contributions of this playoff Saturday!
Nuggets-Mavs - Game 3): Johan Petro took a foul for a suck differential of +1 in 1:37, and as a center, that also qualified him for a 1:0 Voskuhl. Dallas's Gerald Green offered a verdant +7 suck differential in 9:11, the worst single-game performance of the playoffs to date (thanks to four bricks and three fouls). And, here's some mediocrity Dan noticed that has to be quoted verbatim (if you're looking for a cure for insomnia):
"What do you call something that isn't lacktion, but isn't action either? I call it Jose Juan Barea's night. Barea statistically had a fairly unproductive 11:37 of playing time, going 0-2 from the field, but with 1 rebound and 1 assist to balance it out. And if you factor in Denver's Nene having just a single name to type or say, that also balances out Jose Juan Barea's three names. So overall, it's a wash."
Cavs-Hawks (Game 3): The Dirty Birds have been thoroughly roasted by the crustacean nation all throughout this second round, tonight being no exception. Except that for once, the ultimate lacktion matchup finally lived up to its nickname, with the least important amongst them suddenly rubbing shoulders with some surprisingly significant ballers!
Daniel Gibson gave up the rock once and bricked three times (twice from Peachtree Street) for a +4 in 14:06, while Ben Wallace of all people turned over the ball once in 8:16 for a +1 (that also accrued a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl). Bench partners Tarence Kinsey and Sasha Pavlovic clawed at a Game Boy for 46 seconds in a four-way F1 Race battle with Atlanta's Solomon Jones and Othello Hunter, the first time in these playoffs that we have SYNCHRONIZED DOUBLE MARIO BROTHERS! (These creatures of the sea and air were so aligned in their lacktive celebration of the Famicom, that NONE of them even dared contribute anything to any statistical category!)
And THE Mario West avoided honoring his pizza-eating plumber namesake tonight, but instead went collecting gold coins with a take of 1.5 trillion!!
Lakers-Rockets (Game 4): What playoff game is complete without a Voskuhl from Andrew Bynum? This afternoon, his 11:37 saw two boards negated by a brick, turnover, rejection, and three fouls for a 4:2 ratio.
Celtics-Magic (Game 4): Adonal Foyle watched a 49-second snippet of "The Wizard" for a Mario.
Dennis Rodman: Seems the Worm tried to worm his way out of a $1,000 dinner tab and hilarity ensued. And by "hilarity," I mean that an altercation broke out in which the manager of the hotel at which Rodman had eaten got punched in the face. Once a Bad Boy, always a Bad Boy. (Thanks to Chris for the link.)
Update! Mark Cuban: How's this for a Mother's Day present from the land of Superdickery: Cuban mouthed off to Kenyon Martin's mom, Lydia Moore, at the conclusion of Game 3 of the Mavs-Nuggets series. According to Mark, he "only" told Kenyon's momma that her boy was a thug (an unnamed fan was calling the Nuggets thugs, and Cuban admits to telling Lydia "That includes your son"). However, Martin's agent, Brian Dyke, claims that Cuban told Moore, "Your son is a punk." No word yet on whether this happened before or after Cuban thugged a cameraman on his way to the Dallas locker room (at the 0:55 mark). (Thanks to DDC for the head's up.)