The Indiana Pacers: When Tyler Hansbrough's three-point play (see below) gave Indy a 98-88 lead with 3:38 remaining, my buddy Statbuster, a lifelong Pacers fan, immediately said: "They're going to lose."
He knows his team.
Over that final 3:38, the Bulls ripped off a 16-1 run. Game over.
Said Danny Granger: "We put forth a good effort, but who cares. It's 0-1."
Added Roy Hibbert: "This one hurts bad."
See, I tend to think the Pacers played as well as they possibly could and won't have a better chance of winning a game. As I wrote at By The Horns, Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Hansbrough were crazy-hot from the outside. Those guys combined to shoot 12-for-22 from 16-23 feet (Hansbrough was 7-for-10), plus Collison and Granger went 6-for-10 from downtown. Furthermore, Brandon Rush and A.J. Price combined to go 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
That's some unusually accurate long-distance shooting. And several of those shots were contested.
I concede that the Bulls can clean up their defense a little bit. But I think the Pacers were converting long field goal attempts at a much higher rate than usual -- the Hoopdata numbers back this up -- and there's no way they're going to shoot that well in Game 2.
Or ever again.
Carlos Boozer's defense: Had the Pacers actually won this game, I would have expected Boozer to rip off his Bulls jersey to reveal a hidden Pacers jersey right after the final buzzer sounded. Seriously, the way he was (not) defending Psycho T, I was sure he'd been paid off to throw the game.
After trailing for the entire game, the Bulls had pulled to within 91-88 with 4:52 left in the fourth. Hansbrough then his back-to-back long jumpers over what looked like a Boozer statue. After the second jumper, Hansbrough stripped Carlos and then converted a breakaway dunk as Boozer fouled him.
Notice how Boozer didn't go for the ball? He pushed Hansbrough in the back while he was up in the air. That was a dirty foul and, had Hansbrough let himself fall, Boozer probably would have been tagged with a flagrant. Turrible.
Kurt Thomas' elbow: The most dangerous Bulls elbow since Bill Cartwright.
Derrick Rose's three-point shooting: Rose scored 39 points on 23 shot attempts, thanks to the fact that he went 19-for-21 from the foul line. He also had 9 points and 2 assists in the final five minutes of the game. The flipside of his amazing performance is the fact that he went 0-for-9 from three-point range.
Freaking 0-for-9. Look, Derrick. I know you added the three-point shot this season, and it's great that you can knock them down occasionally, but there is not nor will their ever be any good reason for you to chuck up nine triples in a game. Ever. Please stop.
Danny Granger, quote machine: On whether the Pacers ever felt safe with their lead: "With Derrick Rose on the other team? No. With Derrick Rose on the other team, no. It's like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend. Every time you tell her you don't want to talk to her, she'll show up at your door again."
The Philadelphia 76ers: Honestly, I almost feel bad putting Philly in WotW. I mean, they played tough. Took an early 14-point lead. Fell behind by 16. Came back. Had a chance to steal the game in the final minutes. Ultimately, they couldn't overcome Miami's 2.5 superstar system or some mildly head-scratching officiating, that gave the cHeat a 39-15 advantage in free throw attempts.
In fact, Miami got 15 freebies in the second quarter alone.
When asked whether he could explain the foul shooting differential, Sixers coach Doug Collins said: "I could. My grandkids would lose their college fund. So I'll have to dance around that one. I can't respond to that."
Added Jrue Holiday: "It's kind of discouraging. But at the same time, we know we just have to keep at it. ... Calls are made and we have to fight through that."
Still, Chris Bosh (25 points, 12 rebounds), LeBron James (21 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots) and Dwyane Wade (17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and some clutch hoops) had to do pretty much everything (they also combined for 33 of Miami's 39 free throw attempts). At this point, if the Sixers can hold down just one of those guys (I'm thinking Boshmallow), they stand a chance.
Dwyane Wade, quote machine: "The only number that matters right now is 1-0. That's all it's about."
The number 42 still matters, right?
The Orlando Magic: This one goes out to Dwight Howard:
Over the years, I've been hard on Dwight, and I could give him a little grief for the missed free throws (8) and the turnovers (8). But when a guy scores 46 points on 23 shot attempts while earning 22 trips to the foul line and ripping down 19 rebounds...
...what more is he supposed to do? I mean, you know, other than not brick eight free throws or turn the ball over eight times.
This loss was not on Dwight. It was a straight up failure of his supporting cast: Hedo Turkododo (6 points on 2-for-9 shooting), Brandon Bass (0 points on 0-for-4 shooting), Jason Richardson (4 points on 2-for-8 shooting) and a combined 10 points from reserves Quentin Richardson (0-for-0), Gilbert Arenas (2-for-5), J.J. Redick (2-for-6) and Ryan Anderson (0-for-2).
I actually found myself thinking the Magicians would have been better off keeping Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter. It was that bad.
And, yeah, Jameer Nelson finished with 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting, but he had exactly one point in the first half when the Hawks were taking control of the game. Nelson didn't start lighting it up until the Magic were down big, which gets filed in the "Too Little Too Late" folder in the Basketbawful Supercomputer.
The Magic won the battle of the boards (40-29) and scored more points in the paint (48-36), but they gave up 21 points off 18 turnovers versus only 8 on 10 for the Hawks. What's more, Orlando's interior defense wasn't exactly an iron wall, as Atlanta was 8-for-14 at the rim (57 percent) and 7-for-10 inside 10 feet.
Said Joe Johnson: "I think we just had to be excited about where we were. We understood that we played this team four times this year and we won three of them. We're a confident group. I think the last six games of the season people kinda looked down on us because we lost all six. But now we have a plan. It's coming to fruition and we just have to go out and play together."
Huh. I think the Hawks will lose Game 2 based on that quote alone.
The Portland Frail Blazers: I can't be too hard on the Blazers. How could they have prepared for Dirk Nowitzki to ravage them for 18 points in the fourth quarter. Dirk scored 12 straight points in one stretch and went 13-for-13 from the line over those final 12 minutes. By comparison, Portland had 13 foul shots in 48 minutes. As always, I'm just sayin'.
Another shocker was Jason Kidd hitting six three-pointers. Six!
Said Kidd: "They want me to be aggressive. We all know that Dirk and Jet [Jason Terry] are offensive guys and they put the ball up. But in the playoffs you have to have other guys step up and score and I know that our opponents are going to give me that jump shot and I have to be able to knock it down."
Added Dallas coach Rich Carlisle: "Spectacular. We had some guys that didn't play their best games, but Jason Kidd played the game of the year to this point. Every shot he made, every play he made was absolutely essential for us. His leadership is something you can't quantify."
I'm sure as long as Kidd keeps draining threes and Dirk keeps dropping 18-point fourth quarters, the Mavericks will win this series easy.
The San Antonio Spurs: Oh my...
What a major fail. As LotharBot pointed out: "The San Antonio Sterns got 47 FTA in a home playoff game. They also had 5 more steals, 6 fewer turnovers, a +2 rebounding differential (+6 on offense)... and lost." I should also point out that San Antonio got 21 points off 16 Memphis turnovers (while giving up only 10 points off 10 turnovers themselves). And lost.
What went wrong? Well, it didn't help that they bricked 11 foul shots and converted only 40 percent of their field goal attempts. And their defense, which had looked so pillowy soft at various times during the regular season, allowed the Griz to shoot 55 percent from the field and 60 percent from downtown. And Z-Bo (25 points, 10-for-15, 14 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (24 points, 9-for-10, 9 rebounds) did everything short of coating the Spurs with BBQ sauce and eating them alive.
Then there was Shane Battier's three.
Said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich: "What do you want to know about it? It counted for three. He caught it. He shot it. And he made it."
And regarding his decision to hold Manu Ginobili out of the game: "You know [darn] well he's not happy with me. And you know [darn] well he wants to be on that court. But I made my decision."
Still, Richard Jefferson could have tied the game on couldn't-have-been-any-more-open three at the buzzer. But I'm sure you've guessed how that turned out.
Said Jefferson: "I was wide open."
Before anybody starts writing obits for the Spurs, ask yourself whether Memphis is going to shoot 55 percent again, or whether Z-Bo and The Younger Spanish Marshmallow can continue to scorch the earth.
Gregg Popovich, quote machine: Video from an anonymous commenter:
The Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers -- seemingly -- got the best possible first round matchup: A Hornets team missing its leading scorer and rebounder (David West) and utterly reliant on a gimpy-legged superstar (Chris Paul). Few people questioned whether this series would be a sweep...and some were wondering whether the slaughter rule might have to be invoked.
Turns out Chris Paul was feelin' way, way better than "just fine" (33 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and three ultra-clutch jumpers) and the Hornets played a nearly perfect road game: 52 percent shooting, 24 assists on 41 made field goals and only 3 turnovers. Reread that last part. Only 3 turnovers in 48 minutes of intense playoff action. You may now join me in saying: Holy shit.
Meanwhile, Arron Gray -- a.k.a. The White Flag -- stepped up and outplayed Pau Gasol. I'm not kidding. Gasol finished with 8 points on 2-for-9 shooting and got heckled by the Staples Center crowd. Gray went 5-for-5 from the field and finished with 12 points and a plus-minus score of +25 in 20 minutes of PT.
Let's put it this way: Pau would make the perfect addition to the world's largest mug of hot chocolate.
Said Gasol: "I'm disappointed, yeah. Stunned, surprised. But we were the ones responsible for that to happen, so we have to own up to that and come back to work in the next couple of days and get the series where we want it to be."
Meanwhile, Lamar Odom continued the Lakers' season-long quest to rationalize away their mystifying no-shows: "It's always good for us, when I think about the personality of our team, to be humbled a little bit. Sometimes that's the best thing for us, to be humbled. To lose on our home court in the playoffs, probably against a team that people think we should handle easy, I think it's good for us."
You've heard of must-wins. Now, apparently, there are must-loses.
And suddenly the Hornets have life.
Said Carl Landry: "A lot of people counted us out from the beginning. A lot of people probably still count us out. That's cool. A lot of people might think this game might have been lucky, but we play as a team. We play as a collective unit. We're without David West, but we've still got dudes on this team that can step up."
My prediciton for Game 2: Pain. And a Lakers blowout win.
Fate: Gray seemed destined to be the NBA's top feel-good story of the first playoff weekend...right up until the final minute of the game.
The New York Knicks: Ladies and gentlemen: Ray Allen.
That was just one example of clutch defensive fails by the Knicks down the stretch. Here's another:
Said New York coach Mike 'Antoni: "We can compete with them, obviously. They made big shots at the end. That's why they are who they are."
And giving up big shots at the end. That's who the Knicks are.
Speaking of the Defense That Does Not Exist...Jermaine "The Drain" O'Neal scored 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting. Remember: Last season, he went 9-for-44 over five playoff games. Although if it makes anybody feel any better, The Drain had a game-worst plus-minus score of -11. And he got posterized (with KG) by STAT:
Said Amar''''''e: "We've got to find a way to win down the stretch. We had a great chance to win. We played well throughout the full 48 minutes. We just didn't quite close it out."
Yeah. About that...
Carmelo Anthony: From ESPN Stats and Information (via TrueHoop):
Carmelo Anthony has made five go-ahead or game-tying field goals in the final ten second of either the fourth quarter or overtime this season (two for Denver and three for New York), the most by any NBA player.
Essentially Anthony was the most clutch player in the NBA this season, however he was certainly not the most clutch Knicks player today.
That honor belonged to Amar'e Stoudemire, who led the Knicks with 28 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. He went 6-for-7 from the field in the fourth quarter, but didn’t even get a touch on any of the Knicks final seven plays.
Instead Carmelo Anthony used four of the final seven possessions without recording a point (two turnovers, two missed shots).
As for his final try...is this really the best shot the Knicks could've gotten?
By the way, that offensive foul -- you know the one I'm talking about -- was a correct call. By the book and the letter of the law. Admittedly, you don't see it getting called down the stretch of too many intense Eastern Conference playoff games. You can argue a lot of things. But you can't really argue that it wasn't a foul.
Said Doc Rivers: "I don't know if [Pierce] drew it, but he took it. And it was the right call. Heck of a call to make, but it was the right call. I mean, it was clear. And I give Paul a lot of credit. I give Paul credit in the second half -- Billy Walker and Carmelo in the first half, they got every shot, everything they wanted. In the second half, it went away. And I thought it was due to Paul."
Countered 'Antoni: "Well, in my eyes, obviously I'm biased, but I thought it was a tough call. And I thought the [no] call [when] Toney [Douglas] went flying trying to chase Ray Allen was a tough no-call. Those things happen. I'm not happy about it, but it happens."
Added Anthony: "As far as that offensive foul goes, what I thought and what they called were two different things. So it is what it is, he called it and it's over with."
Boston's bench: 8 points on 4-for-15 shooting. Ugh.
The Denver Nuggets (I guess): Man, it's hard to fault the Nuggets for this loss. Great game. Both teams gave it everything they had. Ultimately, this loss came down to two things: Denver's 12 missed free throws and Kendrick Perkins' go-ahead tip-in with just over a minute left...
...which shouldn't have counted because it was an obvious goaltend.
Said Nuggets coach George Karl: "Obviously it was goaltending. The ball doesn't get outside the cylinder. It's not even outside the cylinder. So, how can't you see that? But that's part of the NBA."
Countered Perkins: "There's a lot of calls that would have probably got questioned tonight, so it ain't just that one. So, we're going to keep playing. It happens. The game, that's how it is. At the end of the day, we've just got to move on."
Heh. Perk knows.
Bad officiating aside, Kenyon Martin pointed to his team's inability to do anything with Kevin Durant (41 points, 13-for-22, 12-for-15 from the line) and Russell Westbrook (31 points, 12-for-23, 7 assists).
Said Martin: "We have to limit one of them. They can't go for 30 or 40. I think our concepts of paying attention to everyone else was great. Everything we needed to do, we did -- except for limit Durant and Westbrook."
Everything you needed to do, Kenyon? Again I point to those 12 missed free throws. And, as LotharBot pointed out: "Nuggets-Thunder second quarter, about 6 min left, the Nuggets missed 4 free throws on one possession. Nene drew a foul and shot 2, and bricked both. KMart with the offensive rebound and got fouled, with the Thunder over the limit. He bricked both as well."
I mean...you know?
Speaking of Mr. Bot, here's his weekend wrapup from the BAD comments, some of which is covered in this post and some of which is not:
Nuggets missing 4 free throws on one possession.
Blown call on offensive basket interference (that resulted in a lead change) late in the Nuggets-Thunder game.
Kendrick Perkins got absolutely schooled by Nene (22 points on 11 shots, 8 rebounds vs 4 points and 5 rebounds). Isn't Perkins supposed to be a good defender? On the other end, Kevin Durant scored 41 points on 22 shots. The Nuggets couldn't figure out any defenders who were good on him.
Carmelo Anthony committing an offensive foul with the Knicks up by 1 and about 20 seconds left, then failing to stay with Ray Allen (yes, that was Melo's guy) as he hit the game winner, then bricking a potential game winner of his own.
One of the TV guys commented that Amare was ballin early in the fourth and then didn't touch the ball again. Actually, he did twice. The first was an offensive foul. The second was a defensive rebound that he failed to secure, giving up a key offensive rebound and JO layup that tied the game. He probably also should've defended the rim on the inbounds lob to KG.
The Spurs losing a home game despite getting 47 fta, because their defense sucked and their offense sucked more.
Okafor with 4 points, 2 boards, and 6 fouls -- yet even with the Hornets' best interior defender being totally unproductive and fouling out in only 22 minutes, Bynum-Gasol-Odom combined for fewer total shots than Kobe (22 vs 26). The Lakers bigs are supposed to be a huge strength, so why is that team so afraid of the paint?
Speaking of the Lakers, they forced only 3 turnovers from the Hornets; this ties an NBA playoff record.
I'd say that's plenty of bawful, and that's just today's games.
Sixers-Heat: Tony Battie scavenged for a working Super Nintendo in 58 seconds to give Philly a Mario.
Hawks-Magic: As the dirty birds pulled off a shocker in Florida, Jason Collins started the celebratory mediocrity by countering a free throw in 17:39 as starting big man with a lost rock and a foulout for a 7:1 Voskuhl. Zaza Pachulia married a board and two free throws with 3 fouls and a turnover in 8:55 for a 4:3 Voskuhl. And Josh Powell provided 100% from the field (in one attempt in 7:56) and a board, only to foul four times for a 4:3 Voskuhl.
Frail Blazers-Mavs: Brian Cardinal had a 12 second sprint F1 Race for a Mario.
Grizzlies-Spurs: Hamed Haddadi turned over a mushroom in just 52 seconds for a +1, a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, and a Mario! Fellow baby cub Ishmael Smith celebrated the shocking victory with a 1.4 trillion (83 seconds).
Meanwhile, for the not-so-happy home team, starting center Antonio McDyess dashed a made field goal and free throw and board in 13:08 with two turnovers and five fouls for a 7:4 Voskuhl, and Danny Green painted a plumber's outfit in 29 seconds for a Mario.
Hornets-Lakers: Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff each suited up Tanooki-style in 54 seconds as MARIO BROTHERS (Ratliff going non-lacktive with a board).