The San Antonio Spurs:
I already covered the death of the Spurs here
. That 61-win season was a fantastic last gasp for the Duncan era. But Zach Randolph slammed the window shut.
R.I.P.Tim Duncan, non-quote machine:
Basketbawful reader Zach B. sent in this non-quote
which, as he put it, works on so many levels: "Duncan left the court five days after turning 35 for what might have been the last time, not that he said anything to his teammates."The Oklahoma City Thunder:
Before Oklahoma City opened the second round with a Game 1 loss at home to the Grizzlies, Thundermania had been building to a fever pitch. It's actually been building ever since they acquired Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics. After all, Perk was supposed to be the elusive "final piece" that would push the Thunder past the Lakers and into the NBA Finals.
Only, last time I checked, Oklahoma City is going to have to make it to the Western Conference Finals before they get a shot at L.A. And that might not happen.
Zach Randolph may see to that.
I never thought I'd type those words outside of some sort of hostage situation. Nor did I ever think I'd be cutting and pasting anything like the following quote into a Basketbawful post. It's from Kevin Durant. About Randolph.
"You can't stop him. You've got to make them shoot tough shots like he's been doing, but if he's making them, he's tough to stop. He's an animal."
Durant also believes Z-Bo is "the best power forward in the league."
Replied Z-Bo: "I've got to agree with that. Thanks, KD. I appreciate that."
I am still on planet Earth, right? Third rock from the sun?
Randolph continued: "I've felt like I don't get a lot of respect I deserve. It's nothing personal or nothing. I just try to come out and be the same player, consistent during the regular season and during playoffs. I just try to be this way all the time, play my way all the time, and not be up and down. The good players be consistent and stay consistent, not just playoffs but during the regular season, also."
Added Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "The one thing that I admire in his game is he's relentless. He's always playing the game. You just know that the loves the game. We have to do a better job of controlling him and making him miss some shots.
It's not going to be easy, and we know that going into it, and we knew that going into this game. He scores, and he scores in bunches, and we have to do a better job with that."
I'm not on Earth anymore. I can't be.
I may be way off here, but it may be time for NBA teams to wake up and smell the reality. The Lakers won the last two league championships not because of how awesome Kobe Bryant is. They won because they have two quality big men to throw at people. And, frankly, that's why they're going to beat the Mavericks in that second round series. Thanks to David Stern's "touch me not" legislation, perimeter players have dominated the league the last half dozen years or so. To the point that GMs haven't been assembling dominant frontcourts like the old days.
Except for the Lakers, that is. They have back-to-back titles to show for it. Now the Grizzlies have one, too. And they have become a nightmare for their opponents.
Make no mistake. It's not just Zach, though. Randolph was awesome -- 34 points, 12-for-22, 1-for-1 from downtown [!!], 9-for-9 from the line, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists -- but the presence of Marc Gasol (20 points, 9-for-11, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal) means that Oklahoma City's defense can't key in on Z-Bo. Not with another kickass big roaming the paint.
Memphis won the rebounding battle, hauled in 17 offensive boards and scored 52 points in the paint.
That said...let's not count the Thunder out just yet. This could be an aberration game. After all, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Gasol and Randolph went 11-for-15 on shots from 10 feet and beyond. That's a conversion rate of 73+ percent. Against the Spurs, they went 20-for-50 (40 percent) from 10+ feet.
What's more, Memphis surrendered a mere 8 points on only 8 turnovers, while scoring 23 points off the 18 turnovers committed by Oklahoma City.
The hot outside shooting by the Grizzlies' big men and disproportionate turnover margin won't happen every night. Of course, the one night it did happen may turn out to be enough. We'll see.Kendrick Perkins:
The Thunder traded him to dominate the paint and shut down opposing big men, right? Amiright?Russell Westbrook:
Westbrook's line looks great -- 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists -- as long as you don't include the 9-for-23 shooting, 7 turnovers and 5 personal fouls. When one player barely wins the turnover battle against the entire other team, you know somebody's got the butterfingers.The Boston Celtics:
Dwyane Wade was super hot -- 38 points on 14-for-21 shooting plus 8-for-9 from the line -- and his production was most definitely not
the norm. According to ESPN Stats and Information:
Wade shot 6-for-11 from 15 feet or farther in Game 1; his six field goals from that range were two more than he made in his previous four games against Boston.
During the regular season, Wade had the lowest field goal percentage of the 69 players who attempted at least 15 field goals from at least 15 feet against the Celtics.
You know what? That's fine. Superstars catch fire. It happens. I can forgive that. Especially when LeBron James and Chris Bosh are held to 11-for-29 from the field.
What I cannot forgive is Boston's defense on James Jones. JJ exploded off Miami's bench to score 25 points on 5-for-7 from downtown and 10-for-10 from the line. Yes, that's right. In a game featuring Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen...James freakin' Jones had a game-high in FTA.
I'm so not on planet Earth. Where the fuck am I?
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Jones set the cHeat franchise record for points off the bench in a playoff game. What's more, he went 4-for-5 on threes in the second quarter, tying Miami's postseason record for three-pointers in a single quarter. Oh, and get this: He launched all seven of his FGA without taking a dribble. And he was unguarded on six of his seven attempts. And all five of his makes. Nice rotations, Celtics.
Said Ray Allen: "There's so many things we need to do to get better. I think everybody in that locker room knows that, just from a small conversation we just had."
Jeez, no shit, Ray.
Bottom line is this: Boston can't afford to get beaten by Miami's roleplayers. That's what happened. In the first half, cHeat coach Erik Spoelstra benched LeBron and Wade at the same time, which is ultra-rare. Jones ended up leading a 9-0 run. And Jones ended up outscoring the Celtics bench 25-23. Man oh man, I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
Still, cHeat fans shouldn't feel too confident. The Celtics played like ass -- Boston's bigs were 13-for-32 in the paint and got seven shots blocked, Rajon Rondo played only eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, and Paul Pierce got ejected (see below) -- and still cut a 19-point lead down to 90-82 with 4:22 left. And it was Rondo's careless passing (four TOs in six possessions down the stretch) that killed any hope of a comeback.
But the comeback was a distinct possibility.
I say that the Celtics will play much better in Game 2. Of course, it may not matter, because they may be without the services of...Paul Pierce:
Yes, Pierce's ejection has caused some angst around these parts
, no doubt about it. Here's my take.
With 7:58 remaining, James Jones committed a flagrant foul on Pierce. Wasn't called a flagrant, which happens sometimes, so you just have to live with it. Only Pierce couldn't or wouldn't live with it, going face to face with Jones and then head-something-ing him. Was it a headbutt? A headbump? A facerub? I'm not sure what to call it. I do know that Zaza Pachulia was recently suspended one playoff game for what the league felt was a headbutt on Jason Richardson.
You can't do that, Paul. You're the team captain. You can't get a technical when you're team is trying to make a comeback -- your free throws cut the lead to 10 and there was plenty of time remaining -- and you can't do something that could risk suspension in a playoff series versus a real championship contender. I understand your frustration. I would've been pissed, too. But you've won a championship, Paul. Been the Finals MVP, even. You know better than that. You do.
Less than a minute later, Pierce was setting a pick on Wade, who lowered his shoulder and tried to blast right through Pierce's pick. Yeah, Pookie could have (and probably should have) been called for a foul on the play, but the nearest official didn't have a clear view and, frankly, probably wouldn't have made the flagran call Doc Rivers wanted anyway. Not in Miami. That's the reality of playing on the road in the playoffs, Paul. You're not new to these games. You know better. Or you should. Instead you said something inflammatory with referee Ed Malloy standing, what, five feet away?
Crew chief Danny Crawford said: "And in the rulebook, that is a verbal taunt. And it just so happened to be Pierce's second technical foul."
For the record, Crawford also said
: "He approached Jones and got right in his face. There wasn't a head-butt, but he got right into his face after a hard foul."
Crawford's statement might save Pierce from a suspension, if only because Stern hates to contradict his officials. But, as much as I understand why Pierce was upset, I have to agree with ESPNBoston's Jackie MacMullan
: "It was an appalling development for the team captain and supposed leader, who, instead of helping Boston scratch back from a deficit that was as high as 19 points, lost his composure and was forced to watch the remainder of the game from the locker room in disgrace."
Labels: Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul Pierce, San Antonio Spurs, Worst of the Weekend, Zach Randolph