The Boston Celtics: If their blowout victory in Game 2 rewrote the script of their series against the Crabs, then their blowout loss in Game 3 re-rewrote it. The Celtics' 124-95 defeat in Boston was their worst home playoff loss ever.
And this playoff death was swift and merciless. The barf-o-rama effectively ended after 12 minutes, during which LeBron James exploded for a Cleveland franchise postseason record 21 points and the Craboliers outscored the Celtics 36-17.
Seriously, it was a first quarter apocalypse for the Leprechauns. They missed 10 of their first 13 shots, finished the period shooting 27 percent and fell behind by as many as 21 points. By contract, the Crabs shot 67 percent for the quarter. Not a good percentage to give up when your team is built around defense.
At halftime -- with the home team down 22 points -- the crowd booed. You could hardly blame them, but damn. Maybe Mike Bibby was right about these guys.
For the game, Boston let Cleveland shoot nearly 60 percent. Even worse, the Celtics were outrebounded 45-30 and got outscored 50-32 in the paint. They couldn't have looked more helpless if they'd been playing in roller skates on a court full of banana peels.
Said Doc Rivers: "We were awful. We just didn't play with the same intensity they did. They played with a Game 7 mentality."
Added Paul Pierce: "That was embarrassing. That's embarrassing when you lose at home like that, We just let our guard down. ... You've got to know the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to come in here with all the urgency in the world. They took the fight to us early, and we didn't respond to it."
Yeah. And speaking of which...
Paul Pierce: Not only was Pierce the first faulty line of defense against King Crab -- who finished with 38 points on 14-for-22 shooting by the way -- but the Half Truth managed only 11 points on 4-for-15 from the field. Hell, Pierce didn't even hit a shot until midway through the second quarter.
And remember: This is the same guy who said he was the best player in the world after the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008. As always, I'm just sayin'.
The San Antonio Spurs: If you had told me that the key to the Suns winning Game 3 in San Antonio was "releasing the Dragon," I would have assumed you meant a literal Lord of the Rings-style dragon. Then if you'd told me, "No, I mean Goran Dragic," I would quickly chugged down a glass of milk so it could spray out of my nose while I was laughing at you.
Well, the joke would have been on me. And the Spurs.
Dragic one-upped Lebron's 21-point first quarter against the Celtics by going super nova on the Spurs in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Dragic scored 23 of the Suns' 39 fourth quarter points, going 9-for-11 from the field and 4-for-4 from downtown. On one of those threes, he was fouled by George Hill but went up awkwardly and hit it anyway.
Dragic was truly unstoppable...and I'm not even remotely kidding. But don’t take my word for it:
Said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry: "He's my secret weapon. I don't know where he came from, either."
Mind you, going into that final quarter, Dragic had scored a total of 7 points on 3-for-14 shooting in the other 11 quarters of this series.
Said Manu Ginobili: Everything we tried, it was a bucket and it was demoralizing."
Added Tim Duncan: "Definitely an opportunity wasted."
No kidding. The Spurs went up by as many as 18 points in the second quarter -- the Suns' biggest deficit of the 2010 playoffs -- but couldn't close. Their free throw shooting didn't help. They missed 12 for the game, including five straight in the second quarter (four in a row by Tony Parker and one by Duncan). In fact, Timmy went 5-for-12. Duncan -- The Big Fundamental -- is shooting only 47 percent from the stripe in the playoffs.
I mean, San Antonio got blown out in the fourth quarter (39-24) while Steve Nash, Amar'''''e Stoudemire and Jason Richardson were sipping Gatorade on the sidelines.
Although I'm hesitant to join the crowd of OMG DRAGIC love (he deserves it but still), I want to point out that his performance wasn't just amazing for the positive stats. He also had zero turnovers, zero fouls, and zero bad shots. The only thing he did wrong was (inexplicably) miss two freethrows. Let's say 'Bawful has made me pay more attention to those.
In addition to the ridiculous positive stats (and dearth of negative ones), he played Tony Parker as well as you possibly can. Parker's makes were few, and difficult: He made three highly-contested layups versus Dragic (10:05, 8:50, 3:28).
On the other hand, Goran blocked a Tony Parker layup by jumping a foot above TP (29.9 left in the 3rd).
Or there's this sequence (11:44-11:29, 4th) for which the stat sheet read 2 rebounds:
- Stopped a fast break (on a TO from Manu's steal from Barbosa) led by Tony Parker with Frye (11:39 4th) by disrupting the play and getting a good hand in Parker's face to get a miss right at the basket - AND got the rebound
- Turned that into a fast break of his own and would've had an amazing assist on a pass from the half-court line to the wing if Barbosa hadn't laid it up too hard
- But even then, he anticipated Barbosa's miss and got position versus McDyess (I think), Parker and Bonner for the rebound. Parker was so frustrated he reached in and Dragic drew the foul.
He also had several plays that didn't show in the box score at all:
- Coordinated a sweet switch with Frye against Parker who, sandwiched between the two, threw up an awful shot (6:00)
- Pressured the ball out of Ginobili's hands (5:29) with Hill
- Responsible for an offensive rebound (tipping it to Barbosa) (5:12)
- At 3:58, Hill got caught behind a screen, and Dragic was the only Sun between Manu Ginobili and the basket. Manu also had Parker coming down the baseline: This was two on one. Two of the deadliest driving players in the NBA versus the 2nd-year 24-year-old Goran Dragic. Dragic closed on Manu to force him to pass, and anticipating it, tipped the pass away and out of bounds, preventing an almost certain layup.
The mind reels.
Jared Dudley came in and changed Game 2 with his energy and determination without scoring a ton. Dragic one-upped him by not just putting up a freaking INSANE stat sheet (1 point every 39 seconds, 3 Reb, 2 Ast 1 Stl, 1 Blk) but bringing that energy and more to the other end.
THAT is what made it incredible. That's why the Suns won by 14 and not 3 or 6.
And now, the perfect sad Spurs bench photo -- complete with Duncan headpalm! -- courtesey of Basketbawful reader Clifton:
Btw... I think THE biggest reason the Suns are doing so well is because of their team chemistry. Obviously, the individual talents that have been assembled mesh well, but these guys just gelled this year.
Case in point... according to Jason Richardson's Twitter, after practice today, nearly the whole squad went out together to watch Iron Man 2: Richardson, Dudley, Nash, Amundson, Barbosa, Frye, Dragić, Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, and Taylor Griffin. You just get the feeling that these guys are actually good friends, and that extends on to the court.
Agreed. And honestly, it all started when Steve Nash signed that extension last summer. Best money the Suns ever spent.
Tony Parker: 10 points, 5-for-17 from the field, and 0-for-4 from the line. And, as I pointed out, those four straight bricks from the line happened during the second quarter when the Spurs could have totally blown the game open.
Friday lacktion report: Much like me, chris saves some of his best lacktion for Friday.
Suns-Spurs: Jarron Collins continues to celebrate his status as a Starter In Name Only with a three-foul performance in 9:03 that earned both a +3 suck differential AND a 3:0 Voskuhl!
Louis Amundson scored some smackeroos successfully with a 2.95 trillion (2:58) for Alvin Gentry.
Meanwhile, for San Antonio, Keith Bogans bought New Super Mario for the Wii and made it through the first level in just seven seconds or less - appropriate for a game against Los Sols!
The Atlanta Hawks: Damn...maybe it would have been better if they'd just gone ahead and lost to the Bucks in the first round. I mean, this is just embarrassing.
After beating the Hawks 105-75 in Atlanta in Game 3, the Magic have the second-highest scoring differential through the first three games of an NBA playoff series (+29.0 PPG). And they're barely behind the pace set by the Lakers against the Spurs in 1986 (+31.7 PPG).
It's a good thing for Atlanta that Orlando missed 11 free throws.
And it gets worse: This beating was the worst home playoff loss in franchise history. WTF? Weren't the Hawks 34-7 at home during the season?!
All 10 Orlando players who checked into the game scored. Meanwhile, the Hawks shot 34 percent and managed only 8 fast break points (despite being "built to run"). They also finished -17 on the boards and -12 in assists. Hell, pick a stat and it probably pooped all over the Hawks in this one.
Said Al Horford: "It's just not there. The guys know what we have to do. It's just frustrating when the effort isn't there."
Added Joe Johnson: "A tough, ugly loss. Embarrassing."
Yeah. And speaking of which...
Joe Johnson: When your best player gives you only 8 points on 3-for-15 shooting, chances are your team just got its ass kicked. Johnson -- who will probably be seeking a max contact during this summer's free agent bonanza -- has been stinking up the 2010 playoffs. In his last six playoff games, Joe's shooting 31 percent and averaging only 13.3 PPG. Against the Magic, he's shooting 29 percent and scoring 12.3 PPG.
Said Johnson: "Guys look to me for guidance. When I'm playing like that, it's almost impossible for us to win."
The Utah Jazz: Well, they fought the good fight, but the end result was the same as if they’d just rolled over and died: an 0-3 series deficit.
It’s hard to grumble too much about this one, considering it was the only truly exciting game of the weekend (although it was awesome to watch the Suns sweep the Spurs). However, the Jazz failed to get the correct amount of hand in the faces of L.A.’s three-point shooters (13-for-29). That pretty much spelled doom for the Mormon Musicians.
Utah also hurt themselves with missed free throws. With 4:09 left in the fourth and the Jazz leading 98-96, Carlos Boozer bricked two straight. Then, with only 1:06 remaining and Utah ahead 105-103, Wesley Matthews hit only one of two. Critical misses in a 1-point loss.
Ron Artest has made a point to make his inaugural season in Los Angeles as controversy-free as possible, stonewalling reporters time and time again when asked about his individual effort and turning the conversations to focus on the Lakers as a team.
Artest's Twitter feed, @RONARTESTCOM, is a different story.
Late Thursday night, Artest's account posted a string of tweets expressing frustration with Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
The first unedited tweet, posted at about 9 p.m. PT, read: "Finally Phil Jackson didn't mention me in media before talking me Now I can build on game 2. Hopefully he talks to me before the media."
The next unedited tweet, posted approximately an hour later, read: "Ever since phil mention things about me in media before coming to me first I was weird . So every pray he can somehow close his yapper."
At Friday's practice, Artest would neither confirm nor deny that the tweets were his, even though his brother, Daniel, wrote on his own Twitter account, "Whoever hacked [Artest's] twit page is foul," hours later.
"I'm never upset at my coach," Artest said Friday. Artest would also not verify his brother's claim that the account was hacked, either, saying, "You got to call him."
When a reporter began to paraphrase the tweets and asked him why he would have tweeted what he did if he wasn't upset, Artest said: "No, no, you have to read it exactly. That's exactly what I said? If you can't get it exact, then I can't answer it."
When Artest was further questioned about it, he avoided the question.
"I'm here to talk about basketball, basketball, all basketball," Artest said. "Twitter is for my fans, not for [media]."
Fortunately for Artest and the Lakers, P-Jax is used to dealing with this kind of thing and managed to smooth things over. This is the kind of crap that could have doomed a team like, say, the Nuggets.
Basketbawful reader Geert submitted a nice "response" quote from Jackson: "Ron is a person I think you have to have a more direct influence as far as the subtleties of irony that sometimes I get involved in might pass him by."
Saturday lacktion report: You know the drill.
Magic-Hawks: Randolph Morris pawed at pure gold in a 2.2 trillion (2:12) payday, while Maurice Evans had an exactly-nine-minute stint of suck: three bricks (one from Peachtree Street), one giveaway, and one foul for a +6 suck differential!!!!
Lakers-Jazz: Josh Powell provided Jerry Buss some poker chips - 1.4 trillion (1:24) to be exact.
The Cleveland Cavaliers: After the way they won Game 3, the Crabs had the Celtics on the ropes...and then Rajon Rondo happened. He just happened. There's no other way to put it. That little dude BLEW UP for 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in Game 4. Those numbers are as stunning as what Goran Dragic did against the Spurs in Game 3 of the PHX-SA series. I mean...18 rebounds?! That's insane. He's the smallest guy on the floor!
Oh, and LeBron wasn't gonna block this shot...
I bet LeBron wanted to kick something again. Yes, again.
By the way, the same Boston fans who were booing their team during Game 3 were chanting "M-V-P!" for Rondo in Game 4. From Baby Face to Heel to Baby Face...you're starting to lose me, Boston fans.
Oh, one more important stat you won't find in any box score: Rondo finished with one shot to Anderson Varejao's nuts. Just like all his passes...right on target.
Some random numbers: The Crabs were -14 in rebounds, -17 in fast break points and -10 in points in the paint.
The San Antonio Spurs: Basketbawful reader Arouet said: "If the Suns win game 4, you must post this video. No exceptions or excuses. Post it."
I'm not even sure what to say. As a Suns fan, this sweep exorcises so many demons. The Spurs didn't really play poorly in this series. They did all the same things, pulled all the same tricks, made the same adjustments...they just ran into a Suns team that refused to fold. Even after Nash had his eye remodeled by Tim Duncan's elbow.
Said Nash: "I couldn't see anything." No kidding.
Honestly, this sweep was one of the happiest moments in my basketball watching life. It felt almost as good as seeing a team I'm rooting for win a championship. It was redemption. Sure, the Suns might not get past the Lakers, but so the hell what? This felt good.
Said Tony Parker: "Obviously I'm very sad and very mad that we lost, but at the same time I'm happy for Nash and [Amare] Stoudemire. Because every year they played hard against us and it never went their way. This year, it went their way."
Added Duncan: "We thought from our past experience that we could do some things to control the series, but they just outplayed us. All in all, they just outplayed us."
Grant Hill, quote machine: "He looked like Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini. It forced him to focus 'cuz he was shooting out of one eye."
Sunday lacktion report: And now, chris presents a special "sayonara, Spurs" lacktivity update:
Crabs-Celtics: Leon Powe jumped into his namesake overhead block for 49 seconds straight to earn a Mario.
Suns-Spurs: Roger Mason jarred up a brick and foul in 5:24 for a +2 suck differential, while Keith Bogans closed out his postseason by quickly rescuing Princess Peach in just two seconds for his second consecutive SUPER MARIO!