As stephanie g. said: "SHAZAM! The playoffs are finally here!"
Now Kevin Garnett will be taking a one-game vacation...
The Chicago Bulls: This second season's leading candidate for Schrodinger's playoff team status pretty much lived up, er, died up (??) to expectations by face-planting into a 22-point hole against the highly (and very correctly) favored Craboliers. Despite being one of the best rebounding teams in the Association, Chicago was outrebounded 50-38 and gave up 13 offensive boards. They were also outscored 42-26 in the paint.
LeBron (4 blocks), Shaq (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks), Antawn Jamison (15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Andy Varejao (8 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals and a block) controlled the colored rectangle...and the Bulls eventually learned to fear the rim. As Basketbawful reader beep said: "It makes me puke when I see an empty lane and a Chicago player stopping to take a jump shot he misses, and even if he made it, it would be awful play ... my eyes were bleeding. :facepalm:"
Of course, even if the Crabs hadn't been returning every package to sender, that's sort of the Bulls' game plan. Long, contested two-point shots are their bread and butter. No wonder Luol Deng always has a sad face.
By the way, yeah, I know Chicago cut a huge deficit to only seven points late in the fourth. I have to say "whatever" to that, because Cleveland went to sleep. The Crabs did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. So don't let the Bulls' mini-comeback fool you.
Joakim Noah: Nobody wants to get YouTubed by a 38-year-old man who's glacial movements currently have to be tracked via calendar. And almost falling on your own face during the schooling? Eek.
Said The Big Geritol: "That's the patented move I've been doing for years. That's the 'Diesel Truck with No Brakes.' When I get into that mood people get out of the way because they know I'm in the cab and I don't have any brakes."
Replied Noah: "I kind of knew he was going to do it at first, so I tried to take it away. Then he waited and waited until a good time." Aaaaaaaaand...
Joakim Noah, unintentionally dirty quote machine: "He just knows how to use that 350 pounds."
Brad Miller, unintentionally dirty quote machine: Miller -- who ended up with a bloody face courtesy of Shaq's favorite elbow -- said: "He's still Shaq, but I tell all these guys all the time, you should have seen what he was like a few years ago. Every possession underneath, it was bang, bang."
The Milwaukee Bucks: The sad thing is, Bucks-Hawks could have been a great series before something that should never happen to a human arm happened to Andrew Bogut's arm. Amar''''''e Stoudemire's little push transformed the Bucks from a playoff dark horse to a Schrodinger's playoff team...unless John Salmons (6-for-18) has a little Michael Jordan in him. Exactly.
The Hawks went up by as many as 20 in the first quarter and led 62-40 at the half before forgetting you have to successfully complete 16 full games before winning the NBA championship. Atlanta's collective nappy time combined with some hot shooting by Brandon Jennings (34 points, 15-for-24, 4-for-6 from downtown) allowed the Bucks to rally, but their kinda-sorta comeback is as deceiving as the one the Bulls almost pulled off against the Crabs. Some teams fight their way back into a game, and some teams are let back in.
Said Mike Bibby: "When you get ahead by so much, you kind of get lackadaisical." Nobody knows this better than a former Sacramento King.
As for Jennings, his splits tell me the Bucks probably shouldn't expect him to keep shooting the ball as well as he did in Game 1. But Jennings sounds determined to go down firing: "Not having Andrew Bogut, I have to go back to playing the way I was at the beginning of the season. I have to be more aggressive if we're going to have any chance to win."
The Miami Heat: For 29 minutes, it looked like the Heat were going to win Game 1 of their first round series against The Paper Champions. Miami was shooting 53 percent and leading by 14 points when Boston's defensive demons woke from their season-long slumber. Over the final nine minutes of the game, the Heat shot 19 percent from the field (6-for-31) -- including 1-for-10 from downtown -- and got outscored by 23 points. During Miami's 10-point fourth quarter, Heat players started to look flat out scared when passes sailed their way. "No, no, I'm telling you, he's open!" It was a shooting apocalypse, but it could have been worse. One of their players could have had a meltdown like...
Kevin Garnett: Quick quiz: Is Kevin Garnett a dirty player? Quick answer:
Classic superdickery. Especially with the way he flounced away from the scrum after swinging the elbow. Way to go, KG. Now I can understand why Benny the Bull sniped you with a t-shirt gun. A person is what he does repeatedly, and you can only swing so many elbows and have so many run-ins with the Jose Calderons of the world before people realize you're, well, you know.
Anyway, let the excuses begin:
"I saw Paul grab his shoulder, as a stinger or whatever, so I just tried to immediately call [Celtics trainer] Ed [Lacerte] over," Garnett explained after the game. "I tried to give him some room and I just saw [Quentin Richardson] standing over him talking nonsense. I asked [Richardson] to give him some room and, before you knew it, mayhem started. That situation, man, I know these two [Richardson and Pierce] have competed against each other in the past and have history from bumping heads a little bit. I was just trying to give him the common courtesy for an injured player, that's all. Nothing more, nothing less.
"I have no beef with Q, I know him personally. I thought what he did was a bit disrespectful, standing over a guy hurt, you know, and talking nonsense. Before you knew it, it all just broke out. I gotta use my head, but all I saw was Paul hurt and that's all I cared about at that time."
Asked for a response to Richardson's comments , Garnett wouldn't bite.
"No thoughts at all," said Garnett. "Classless -- a classless act on his part. I'm moving on with it. I'm not going to go back and forth commenting through [the media]. End this."
Garnett said he apologized to his teammates after Saturday's game.
"I apologized because, like [coach] Doc [Rivers] said, sometimes even when you're right you're wrong," said Garnett. "A situation like that was totally classless, you know, but you keep it moving. It's nothing to keep going back and forth with."
"I'm going to say it: He's a dirty player," Noah said after he and his Chicago teammates practiced at Quicken Loans Arena in preparation for Monday's Game 2 against the Cavaliers. "He's always swinging elbows, man. I'm hurting right now because of an elbow he threw. It's unbelievable. He's a dirty player. It's one thing to be competitive and compete and all that.
"But don't be a dirty player, man. He's a dirty player."
Noah's opinion was that Garnett intended to strike Richardson.
"He knows what he's doing," Noah said. "It's messed up. It's wrong. It's not right. I shouldn't even be talking about this stuff. It's crazy."
A Miami win in Game 2 feels almost predestined now. I mean, this is just a fitting way for this particular Celtics' season to begin its end.
Paul Pierce: Okay, so, supposedly he had a pinch nerve, and, in all fairness, Quentin Richardson should have stayed the hell away from him. But even as a die-hard Celtics fan, I couldn't help but wonder why Pierce had to go down again. I'm not necessarily calling him a faker, but the dude takes an awful lot of dives. Even Ric Flair -- who was the best faller-downer in pro wrestling history -- facepalms when The Half-Truth goes down.
Evil Ted and I had a small debate over this, and my point was: On September 25, 2000, Pierce once got stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back and had a bottle smashed over his head...after which he had to lung surgery. Ya know how many games Paul missed that season? None. Pierce is tougher than that. He needs to stop flopping around when he gets hurt, because he's basically inviting incidents like this to happen.
Big Baby: Please stop.
Quentin Richardson, quote machine: "I was trying to get over there to take the ball out of bounds and he started to talk to me so I talked back. I don't have any business talking to him (Pierce), he was on the ground crying. I don’t know what was going on, two actresses over there that's what they are. ... Sometimes (Pierce) falls like he’s about to be out for the season and then he gets right up. That's all I said."
The Utah Jazz: In most cases, the playoffs are when teams start to really focus on defense. After all, that's what wins championships, right? In fact, I'm pretty sure at some point this weekend I heard Hubie Brown (or somebody) say there weren't any bad defensive teams in the playoffs.
The Jazz and Nuggets beg to differ.
Utah scored 113 points on 54 percent shooting while the Nuggets hit 57 percent of their field goals en route to 126 points. Carmelo Anthony scored a career playoff-high 42 points and J.R. Smith went off for 18 points in the fourth quarter, during which Denver outscored Utah 38-27.
Many faces went handless on this night. Even if Carlos Boozer believes otherwise.
Regarding 'Melo's multiple money shots in his team's collective mug, Boozer said: "He just took that game over. He hit shots with hands in his face. It seemed like he barely dribbled the ball, had a one-dribble pull-up or just caught it, faced up and shot it. That's where we miss A.K.'s length."
Speaking of which, I loved this quote from the AP recap: "Anthony was on a mission and C.J. Miles and Wesley Matthews were powerless to stop him." If Jerry Sloan's game plan is to use Miles and Matthews against 'Melo, then I hope he has a nice, big plasma TV and a comfy chair to sit in while watching the second round of the playoffs.
In all honesty, though, we all know Anthony's going to get his, right? The real key was Utah's failure to contain Smith down the stretch. That dude can (and will) shoot the Nuggets into games, and he can (and will) shoot them out of games. Just you wait.
By the way, what's up with the Jazz trainers giving Mehmet Okur a painkilling shot in his injured Achilles' tendon? You know...the one he tore during Game 1? Check it:
Okur had been bothered by Achilles' tendinitis in his left leg since April 7 and missed a game but he fought through it and received a painkilling shot before Game 1.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said he didn't believe that injection had anything to do with Okur tearing the tendon.
"We would never have put a player in a compromising position if there was any indication that the shot would have masked anything or done anything like that," O'Connor said. "We would have never done that. We'd never put a game ahead of a player's health. ... That's not in our DNA."
O'Connor said Okur's injection "was certainly his call."
"Is it related? I'm sure in same way, shape or form, everyone's going to put it on the fact that it is, but (team doctors) didn't feel there was any additional risk in doing that," O'Connor said.
Okur flew back to Salt Lake City without addressing reporters or his teammates.
The Oklahoma City Thunder: What can I say? They played like a young team in their first-ever postseason game together. All the Lakers really did was out-execute them. Although the Thunder weren't exactly helped out by...
Kevin Durant: I don't know if it was Phil Jackson's mind games or the merry-go-round of defensive looks the Lakers used against him (sometimes Artest, sometimes Kobe, etc.), but KD looked positively Larry Hughes-like in his playoff debut. The Durantula shot 7-for-24 -- including 1-for-8 from beyond the arc -- and committed a game-high 4 turnovers. He was obviously frustrated. Seriously, at times he looked like he was guessing his way through some horrific story problem ("If my jump shot left Oklahoma City by train at 1 p.m. on Saturday and headed toward L.A. at 150 mph, will it ever arrive...") By crunch time, Durant had pretty much decided to force up his shots no matter what, like he couldn't believe how badly he was shooting (or, rather, being forced to shoot by an aggressive defense).
In all fairness to Durant, he wasn't alone. As a team, the Thunder did way too much freelancing against L.A.'s defensive pressure. Guys set their sights on the rim and stopped looking for open teammates. They're sure not going to beat the Lakers that way.
Still, the Thunder did cut the lead to 79-72 with about three and a half minutes left, so maybe all that's necessary is a few tweaks here and there.
Said Durant: "We could've came here and got a 'W.' We just couldn't get over the hump." Hump game!
The Charlotte Bobcats: Despite falling behind by 22 points, the 'Cats made a game out of it...but only because they managed to rough up Dwight Howard. That roughhousing led to frustration, and the next thing you know, Pumaman was in foul trouble. Hack-a-Howard kinda worked.
Said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy: "Their big guys are going to hit him every chance they get. And if he gets one foul retaliating, they've done their job. He can't get any of those. He's just going to have to understand no matter how many times they hit him, he can't hit back. We need him on the floor."
Howard still made the difference on defense by swatting an almost-record-setting 9 shots. Which reminds me...
The 1996-97 Los Angeles Lakers: If you check out the AP recap, you'll see a list of the most blocks in a game in the last 20 postseasons. On that list, you'll see names like Howard, Tim Duncan, Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon and...Greg Ostertag?! Oh yes, my friends, 'Tag once had 9 blocked shots in a playoff game. Against the Lakers. For shame, L.A.
Dwight Howard, quote machine: Another reason the Bobcats loss was their inability to contain Jameer Nelson, who scored 24 of his game-high 32 points in the first half. About which Howard said: "I was just happy to have my little crib midget back."
Speaking of Pumaman, an anonymous reader left the following comment this weekend:
McHale, just gathered that you considered Howard to be the MVP over LeChosenOne on Truehoop. I get that he isn't a favorite over here at Bawful, but surely you can't really argue with his combination of team and individual success, right? While I understand (and dislike) the constant media-orgy over LeBron, I thought that his season this year was one of the most impressive I have seen in my 21 years. Am I wrong?
First off, I'm not saying that Howard is the better player. Nor am I denying that 'Bron pulled off one of the great statistical seasons in league history.
But here's my full explanation for my MVP considerations, which were cut in the final draft of the TrueHoop post:
Dwight Howard is as dominant defensively as LeBron is offensively. Moreover, Howard can dominate without dominating the ball. He takes only 10 shots per game, and you'll notice that his Usage Rate is almost 10 percentage points lower than LeBron's. Yet Howard is the league's best defensive player and the foundation of his team's offense. And his team happens to have the second-best record in the league.
Speaking of which, the Magic rate better than the Cavaliers in several advanced metrics, including Pythagorean Wins, SRS, Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, Effective Field Goal Percentage, Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt, Defensive eFG%, Defensive Rebounding Rate, and Opponent Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt. King James might have one of the great Player Efficiency Ratings of all time, but several significant advanced stats indicate that Howard's team is better. I think these things are worth considering.
In many ways, this is a Wilt-versus-Russell type of debate. 'Bron has the better numbers, and his team seems helpless without him, although I wager some of that is because of poor coaching and the fact that, when he's in the game, the ball is grafted to his hands. I like Dwight's all-around impact, even if I hate his poor free throw shooting and lack of post moves.
Vince Carter: It's the playoffs and you know what that means: It's time for Vag Carter to disappear. His Game 1 line: 4-for-19, 0-for-5 from three-point range, 3 rebounds, an assist and 6 fouls.
The San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs shot 50 percent and got strong games out of Tim While Duncan (27 points, 8 rebounds), Manu Ginobili (26 points) and Tony Parker (18 points, 4 assists)...but the rest of the team scored 23 points on 10-for-26 shooting. What's more, San Antonio gave up 13 offensive rebounds -- 5 to Ericka Dampier, who's quietly fighting for a new contract -- and surrendered 20 points off 17 turnovers.
Said Duncan: "We didn't play focused enough. We just weren't there all night."
Gregg Popovich even resorted to a Hack-a-Dampier strategy that backfired when Ericka went 4-for-6 after three straight intentional fouls.
Said Pop: "We hoped he would miss free throws rather than Dirk killing us the way he was."
The Phoenix Suns: Classic Suns. Favored. At home. Facing an opponent that just lost their best player. Unfortunately for Phoenix fans, the only guy ready to step up to the playoff challenge was Steve Nash (25 points, 10-for-18, 9 assists). Nobody else was ready to step up, even as the Frail Blazers were bonking free throws and missing dunks. Credit Portland. The Blazers slowed things down and put the defensive clamps on -- Phoenix shot 41 percent for the game -- but the Suns missed an awful lot of open shots. Especially in the final minutes.
Jamie Foxx, to JT: "I love Phoenix, there's just too many vegetarians"
As for the Blazers...holy shit. They are officially the NBA equivalent of a movie serial killer, right up there with Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and whoever else you wanna name. As Basketbawful reader Sun Devil put it: "Is it possible that the Blazers are the greatest Wounded Tiger team of all time? Even if they get bounced quick from the Suns, they've had a helluva season. All their injuries have set off a perpetual motion of wounded tiger proportions!"
Amar''''''e Stoudemire: Somebody needs to remind STAT that he hasn't signed his big free agent contract just yet. I know 18 points and 8 rebounds might now sound that bad, but it was. Trust me, it was. Amar''''''e went 8-for-19 from the field and committed a co-team-high 4 turnovers. But his failings were most evident during crunch time.
With 2:40 left and the Sun trailing 92-89, Stoudemire used one of his patented post moves to turn the ball over via an offensive foul. On the other wend, Jerryd Bayless missed a jumper, but Amar''''''e didn't block out his man, LeMarcus Aldridge, who skied over him for the tip-in. The teams then exchanged three-pointers after which Stoudemire had the ball stolen from him by Marcus Camby. Nine seconds later, Amar''''''e fouled out.
If possible, I would like this stretch posted on YouTube as a tribute to why STAT shouldn't get max player money this summer, even though he probably will.
San Jose Sharks: I was already considering including this moment of Hockyawful in this post, and this comment from an anonymous reader cemented my decision: "This is hockey related, but I figured you guys could use a laugh. The San Jose Sharks just gave Colorado a 1-0 win in OT when a Sharks player scored on his own team." Oy.
Weekend lacktion report: Some would say that the playoffs are no time for lacktion, but chris continues to prove otherwise:
Bulls-Crabs: Janeero Pargo bricked once in 2:33 to earn a +1 suck differential, while in 40 seconds, we had FOUR Mario Brothers: Chicago's James Johnson, and the crustacean trio of Daniel Gibson (who managed a board in that time), JJ Hickson, AND Jawad Williams!
Bucks-Hawks: For Milwaukee, Dan Gadzuric made himself a 6.25 trillion (6:15), while Atlanta sent out the sanitation crew for garbage time - Joe Smith who lost the rock once and took a rejection for a +2 in 5:21 (that also earned a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl), Jeff Teague with a one-foul +1 in 6:13, and THE Mario West with a one-foul +1 in 1:12!
Heat-Celtics: Joel Anthony negated two steals and a block in 11:12 with a brick, rejection and two fouls for a 2:0 Voskuhl! For the C's, tiny Nate Robinson had a diminutive stint on the Virtual Boy - a mere 6 seconds for a Super Mario!
Jazz-Nuggets: Joey Graham heaved up one brick from the Granite Tower for a +1 in 1:45 - the same duration and suck differential that Malik Allen earned (along with a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl) after a foul!
Thunder-Lakers: In one of the most atrocious postseason performances seen in ages, James Harden racked up a sizable suck differential: a FULL +8 of fail after fouling four times, bricking thricely from the Library Tower, and losing the rock once in 16:20!!!!!
For Los Angeles, Josh Powell provided a payday of 1 trillion (1:01).
Spurs-Mavs: Keith Bogans fouled and bricked once each in 16:12 for a +2, while DeShawn Stevenson sauteed a shiitake or two briefly in a 7 second SUPER MARIO!
Frail Blazers-Suns: Dante Cunningham spent 11 seconds in the warmth of Bowser's castle for a Mario, while Jarron Collins - as Phoenix's starting big man in 11:35 - negated two boards with a brick and three fouls for a 3:2 Voskuhl.