Artest flex
Your 2010-11 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner, everybody!

The Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard once again left his Tyrannosaur-sized footprint on the game -- 25 points, 8-for-13 from the field, 9-for-12 from the line, 15 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 2 assists and a steal -- but that's pretty much where the good news ended for the Magic. Orlando was revealed, once again, as an experiment in shoddy team building.

It's hard to believe that, two short seasons ago, the Magic made it all the way to the NBA Finals. Of course, after that success, they compounded the error of having given an obscene contract to Rashard Lewis by ditching key cog Hedo Turkoglu in favor of Vince Carter. Then, when that didn't work out, they shipped out Lewis and Carter -- along with Marcin Gortat, who was Howard's only real backup -- in return for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Turkoglu Part 2.

Richardson made sense, I guess, because he was a three-point shooter and as far as anyone could tell a consistent scoring threat. But Arenas is finished as an elite player -- that should have been obvious to anyone -- and The Return of Turkoglu seemed destined to prove that sequels are never as good as the original.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned how the Magic outbid the Bulls for the services of J.J. Redick. Who got injured. And doesn't play defense.

On that subject, none of Orlando's key players ever played much defense, except Howard. In fact, Howard earned his Defensive Player of the Year award for making every single defensive play for the Magic all season. I may need to double-check that number, but it feels right, doesn't it?

Defense and overall ability aside, the Magic were built on the strength of Howard's outside game and the outside shooting ability of his teammates. If Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns teams had a Seven Seconds or Less offense, then Stan Van Gundy's system should have been called "Dunk or a Three." Only this year's squad wasn't a great three-point shooting team. They were decent, I guess, ranking 10th at 36.6 percent.

Still...that made them only 0.1 of a point out of 15th place. So, in reality, they were somewhere between average and above-average when shooting threes. And that really wasn't good enough. Not with how their offense is supposed to work. Sure enough, outside shooting doomed Orlando against the Hawks. For the series, the Magic shot 26.2 percent from downtown. Last night, in an elimination game, they went 5-for-19 from beyond the arc.

To make matters worse, they were outrebounded 39-31 including 14-7 on the offensive glass. That's significant considering their season came down to an offensive board. The Hawks were up 82-81 with 12 seconds left when Marvin Williams bricked a three. Had the Magic simply gathered in the rebound, they could have won by making any shot. Unfortunately for the Orlando faithful, Joe Johnson came up with the board and got it to Jamal Crawford. Arenas was forced to foul, after which Crawford calmly knocked down both 'throws.

Credit the Magic (and an illegal pick by Howard) for getting Redick wide open for a potential game-tying three-bomb with three seconds left. But the shot was even wider left than it was open. Atlanta came up with the rebound but landed out of bounds, setting up a final opportunity for the Magic with one second left. But it was no chance at all: Richardson's shot was blocked by Josh Smith.

Game over.

The future doesn't look so bright for the Magic. They're locked into long-term deals for Arenas and Turkoglu, and Howard can bolt after next season. I'd say "Maybe the front office can make a canny move" but, if they could do that, the team might not be going home early.

Update! Jameer Nelson: This stat curse has to go right up there with Devin Harris' infamous "I knew we were going to be a playoff team" and "Playoffs, baby" stat curses.

Hey, Jameer, you can still make this prediction come true. Chicago could always use another ball boy. You're certainly the right height for the job.

Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: "A team that fights as hard as our guys did, and I couldn't get them over the hump to win this series, that really is disappointing to me and the job that I did as a coach. I'm just disappointed not to be able to get my team over the hump."

I'm not sure what more Van Gundy could have done. Make Jameer Nelson taller? Use faith healing to fix Arenas' knee? Shoot his players' threes for them?

Experts: Basketbawful reader stephanie g provided the following images of fail:



Not that I have much room to talk. While talking to BadDave on Wednesday night, I guaranteed Orlando would come back and win the series. Last night, pretty much as the final buzzer sounded, BadDave started blowing up my phone.

So, yeah, I was wrong. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The New Orleans Hornets: It stuns me that so many people fooled themselves into thinking this was an actual, you know, playoff series. Yes, the Hornets won two games, but it took two absolutely superhuman performances by Chris Paul plus step-up games from guys like Aaron Gray and Jarrett Jack to pull off those victories.

Honestly, it's a testament to CP3 that some people -- make that "many people" -- really thought he could single-handedly destroy the Lakers any time he wanted. That it would be that easy. The extent to which those two wins changed perception about Paul was astounding. He went from being generally considered one of the best (if not the best) point guards in the league to possibly the greatest ever. I was honestly prepared for a "It's God disguised as Chris Paul!" quote from somebody, and some of the comments on ESPN's recent Daily Dime Live chats were damn close.

Here's what I want to know: Have people not followed the Lakers for the past decade? Or, more accurately, have people not followed Phil Jackson's coaching career?

Look, lots of players have burned Jackson's teams for a game or two. Especially guards. Tony Parker is an example that springs to mind. And then, after some adjustments are made, those players usually get shut down. It happened when Jackson was in Chicago and it's happened during his two stints in L.A.

And it happened again last night. Paul had a double-double (10 points and 11 assists) but shot only 4-for-9, attempted only one free throw and committed a game-high 5 turnovers. He never took over the game for any stretch of time and finished with a co-game-worst plus-minus score of -17. Jackson designed a defense that almost completely took Paul out of the game. With predictable results: New Orleans fell behind by as many as 21 points and eventually lost 98-80.

The defining moment of last night's game, the instant I knew the series was truly over, was when Paul grabbed a rebound and then got knocked over by Ron Artest, who stole the ball, laid it in, and then flexed for the crowd. The Hornets never really recovered from that play.

There was more at work than L.A.'s defense on Paul or Artest's Hulk Hogan impression. The Lakers' size advantage finally squashed the smaller Hornets. To wit: L.A. had a 43-30 rebounding edge, including a 14-7 on the offensive glass, which in turn led to a 21-4 advantage in second-chance points. Andrew Bynum, who had 8 offensive boards, was particularly devastating.

Said Hornets coach Monty Williams: "Every time he got an offensive rebound, it was deflating. You don't really realize how good he is until you face him in a series. Kobe's Kobe, but I thought Bynum decided the series. He was that good."

Added Phil Jackson: "The size and depth of our team wore them down in the end."

That it did.

Reggie Miller, possibly unintentionally dirty quote machine: On the relationship between Jackson and Bynum: "I think they had a coming of the minds after the All-Star break." When I heard this one, I immediately jotted it down in my notebook, but Basketbawful reader Wormboy also e-mailed it in.

The Portland Frail Blazers: This game down to execution and hitting shots. The Mavericks did those two things. The Blazers did not.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Dallas went 31-for-55 (56.4 percent) in their half-court sets after the first quarter. I don't mean to oversimplify things, but the Mavs played like a veteran team that's been there and done that. The Blazers didn't.

Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 11-for-17, 11-for-11 at the line, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) played up to his reputation instead of down to it. LaMarcus Aldridge (11-for-25 from the field, only 2-for-4 at the line) did the opposite.

Said Jason Terry: "We're such a confident team. We have so many veteran guys, starting at the top with Jason Kidd on down to Dirk, that we believe. Especially in close ballgames, we've been winning them all season long. So we're confident."

Added Aldridge: "I think everybody played their hearts out tonight. I thought everybody gave it their all, we put it on the line. They just made more plays than us."

That's the thing, you know? The Blazers played okay. The Mavs just played better.

As for the Mavericks' chances against the Lakers, let me put it this way: According to Hoopdata, Dallas ranks 28th in the league in FGA at the rim and 5th in three-pointers attempted. The Mavs are a jump shooting team. L.A.'s size is gonna wear 'em down, just like it did to the Hornets.

Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report:

Magic-Hawks: As the dirty birds took out the alchemists from Florida, wealth was handed down on both sides of the table, with Orlando's Quentin Richardson cueing up a 5.45 trillion (5:28) and Atlanta's Hilton Armstrong receiving a final voucher for a 2.25 trillion stay (2:15).

Jason Collins went 100% from the field (on one attempt) in 16:41 as starting big man, even gathering up two boards...only to foul and lose the rock thrice each for a 6:4 Voskuhl.

Lakers-Hornets: Remember when this series was...interesting? Seems so long ago, doesn't it? At least Joe Smith and Patrick Ewing Jr. each became the proud holder of a 1 trillion bank note.

Mavs-Frail Blazers: Brendan Haywood burned out four boards in 15:18 with three bricks, a turnover, and four fouls for a 5:4 Voskuhl.

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Blogger DDC said...
God Ron Artest is a doucher...I know Stan Van Grumpy got the dreaded vote of confidence from the Magic earlier this week, but I think he's a goner. I feel like there is a bit of cognitive dissonance going on with them. Van Gundy wants them to be a hard-nosed, tough defensive team, but they have a roster full of guys that can not play defense. I don't konw what they can do, but Ron Jeremy is going to be a goner.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Hedo 2: Electric Turkoglu?
And I'm sorry Bawful, but your mention of jotting something down in your notebook immediately made me think of Greggggggg Easterbrook. Try not to feel too offended, I didn't mean to make that comparison, it just sort of happened.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
ball don't lie's pic! (bwahaha)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Another victory. Hm hm hm hm hm hmmmm...

Blogger zyth said...
Glen Davis is confident.
i know that confidence is important , but... fuckin hell, someone should shup up davis. hope he doesn't jinx it like he did last year

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Crap! I forgot to give stephanie g credit for the expert fail graphics! D'oh! Sorry, Steph.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I know Stan Van Grumpy got the dreaded vote of confidence from the Magic earlier this week, but I think he's a goner. I feel like there is a bit of cognitive dissonance going on with them. Van Gundy wants them to be a hard-nosed, tough defensive team, but they have a roster full of guys that can not play defense. I don't konw what they can do, but Ron Jeremy is going to be a goner.

I tend to agree. Or, at least, he should be a goner. I think the team has gotten about everything they can get from him and have started to, in small ways, tune him out. It's probably time for some fresh blood.

And I'm sorry Bawful, but your mention of jotting something down in your notebook immediately made me think of Greggggggg Easterbrook. Try not to feel too offended, I didn't mean to make that comparison, it just sort of happened.

Sad tromboooooooooooooone.

Anonymous Lucas said...
Possible dirty quote from last night. Kevin McHale was talking about muscles getting tight from sitting too long and he said "I'm getting stiff just sitting here next to you"

Blogger Basketbawful said...
D'oh, Part 2! I forgot the Jameer Nelson stat curse. Post updated.

Anonymous Czernobog said...
@DDC: I wonder if they'd be interested in trading him for Jay Triano.

Anonymous Drew said...
It's an interesting point you make re Paul. I had thought that LA's key weakness was defensively at the PG spot (kudos to me for the sharp insight) which had allowed Paul to basically do as he wanted despite having an ensemble cast of journeymen. Obviously winning four games entirely on your own is a big ask, just ask Dwight.

Looking at their matchup with Dallas, there's no way Jason Kidd can exploit that weakness to the same extent. Not having seen a ton of Dallas games this season, is there any hope for them that Marion can slow Kobe? I can't see anyone else coming out on top defensively for them either: Dirk vs Gasol or Odom and Chandler vs Bynum in particular.

Anonymous Drew said...
One thing that might be interesting about the Magic next season: if they draft Jimmer. Just for pairing Jimmer and Jameer at the 1 and 2 spots.

Blogger Dick Sullivan said...
Your prediction of the upcoming Mavs-Lakers series is way off. We haven't even unleashed Brian Cardinal's full potential yet. Screens of death everywhere.

Anonymous Bummed Blazer said...
As a blazer fan, I think last night finally killed once and for all the excitment that the potential of an Oden, Roy, Aldridge team brought for the last few years. This was a close as this team will ever get to being healthy. It was a favorable matchup and they were just not good enough and likely never will be as currently configured.

Time to rebuild, around Alridge, Batum/G. Wallace I guess. Just looks like that will lead into the trap of a string of multiple first round exits. So I don't where they go. Sigh.

Here is hoping the CBA does something on injury amensty.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
As a Hornets fan... I'm basically happy with the series over all, despite the fact that the losses were mostly non-competitive. Without David West, and with that huge size/skill advantage the Lakers have... to go 6 games with the Lakers is an accomplishment. And it was awesome to see Paul play like he did. By the end of the season many of us (Hornets fans) were questioning whether Paul would ever be the same again. This series proved that he can be.

I truly think that, when his career is over, it's likely he will be considered the greatest PG to every play the game. This is something I've believed since 07-08.

Anonymous Blizzard said...
I feel bad for the Hornets, even if it was poetic justice that the signature turning point was a Chris Paul flop that backfired on him. It seems like their roster from 2008 has morphed into a homeless man's version at each position. Marco/Peja, Okafor/Chandler, Landry/West, Paul/Paul. I guess Ariza is an upgrade over whoever the hell they had back then.

Blogger The Nightbringer said...
Glen Davis is confident.
i know that confidence is important , but... fuckin hell, someone should shup up davis. hope he doesn't jinx it like he did last year

This is coming from a lifetime Laker fan: Boston will steamroll Miami.

WV: shins. I win internets?

Anonymous Aaron said...
Any prediction for round 2?

Lakers beat Mavs in 6
OKC beat MEM in 7

Chicago beat Alt in 5
Boston beat Miami in 5

Blogger The Nightbringer said...
Oh, almost forgot to ask.. did anyone here that recorded the Lakers-Hornets game get footage of Cheryl Miller nomnoming on catfish during the game? Probably the best moment of the entire series.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
On Bynum: There was a SI article recently describing his childhood interest in disassembling telephones, looking for colleges with mechanical engineering programs, and his fleet of custom built computers and a goddamn 100 mph RC car.

Perception immediately changed. Easily my favorite Laker.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Lakers vs. Mavericks will come down to injuries.

Lakers win if:
-Everyone stays healthy for both teams
-Either Dirk, Terry, Tyson, or Kidd get hurt

Dallas wins if:
-Everyone on Dallas stays healthy
-Either Bynum, Gasol, or Kobe goes down

Blogger Wormboy said...
Wow, I actually picked that upset. Well, I then waffled about it.

re:Artest. I almost expected to see the "dickery of the night" logo in the intro to that clip. I couldn't really see, but it looked like Artest punched Paul in the chest. Was that really a steal? And the flex was, well, ugh. There ain't no justice in the universe when an ass like that has a ring.

re:Dallas. Was it just me or did it seem like the officials in the 4th quarter wanted to steal one from Dallas or send it into another game? There were several dubious calls. Think of Camby drawing the charge on Dirk, where Camby shuffled another 2 feet to the right when Dirk came in. Crappy call. And I think that before Dirk was closing out the game from the foul line, Dallas hadn't gotten a single free throw to Portland's 12 or 14. Egad.

re: Reggie. Two thumbs up from the wife for "coming of the minds." I never think she's paying attention over there on her laptop, but she always hears that kind of stuff.

re: TNT. On the one hand, I can't say how much better the TNT coverage is than ESPN or {gack} ABC. The commentators are better, the camerawork is better, hell, even the outside-the-arena-footage is MUCH better. Of of course EJ and the fellas are FAR better, especially since they don't get into the inevitable ESPN dick-slinging oneupmanship. On the other hand, they keep doing the verbal ads durign the game, and it can be VERY discncerting. Marv Albert says that Dwight Howard gets and "and 1!" and then in the EXACTLY same tone of voice tells us about Aliens invading planet Earth in the movie this spring, or the latest Axe body spray. Damn. You're good at NBA coverage TNT, but I can't say I like that particular mute button avoidance tactic.

re: the Mavs vs. Lakers. No chance. Really, no chance. Tyson Chandler is infinitely better at center than Ericka of the Crippling Contract, but the 3 guys or similar height and (to quote Hubie Brown) athaleticism are gonna eat him alive. And Dirk may be tall, but he can't play inside. No chance. Lakers in 5 is my call, unless the officials try to influence things. Oh, and Butler says he comes back for the series, but I think guys coming back from long injuries in the middle of playoffs are generally liabilities. Rusty and disrupting flow and sub rotations. Butler's not worth it.

And I must say things look pretty good for the Lakers out West. Do we really see any of the other contenders taking them down? Maybe the Zombies, but I seriously doubt it. The Spurs look too creaky, and the Grizz are too inexperienced.

Anonymous Rick said...
I like Drew's suggestion of a Jameer and Jimmer backcourt. First because of the obvious marketing potential (Killer J's, J Squared, Little get the point, I'll leave the final name to the wizards on Madison Avenue) but also because it may be the worst defensive back court in the history of the NBA. That's right Ellis and Curry, even worst than you. And without Howard, we might be witness to a weakside blocker being dunked on every minute.

Better get a nice haircut and a shave, Brandon Bass and Earl Clark, because you're going to be in a lot of posters.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...

Here is the sign of the night. Too bad ATL can only say hello 4 times.

Anonymous TransINSANO said...
Blizzard - Ariza has a higher ceiling, but you after the last couple years you could still call Ariza the homeless man's James Posey.

AnacondaHL - You forgot to make it clear that those custom computers and remote controlled car he built himself. Read the same article last week and couldn't agree more, I've been rooting for him since he was 17 yet knew so little about him and had to rely on his game interviews (always very smart, if a little too honest) or small stories to get a feel for the guy. Great article, what professional sports writing should be.

Anonymous - So, you're basically picking Dallas? You don't need to go through every injury permutation, we understand that changes things. Anyway, I'm going Lakers, I think Dallas is an old half court team like the Lakers, that's how they like to play, and they're are bigger and better and can stay home on Dallas' shooters. I certainly didn't want Portland running them around the Rose Garden, though after the fact you always kind of feel like you'd rather play the team that just showed how beatable they are.

Wormboy - Only teams that scare me are the Zombies and the cHeat (maybe Memphis too if they can prove their mettle). Still pissed that the Lakers blew homecourt against Miami when it would have been easy to hold on to. They might have potentially lost the championship right then (I think about this shit). Needless to say, I'm rooting against them advancing to the Finals so that point becomes moot. Still, it would be a shame if I don't get a chance to use this:

Anonymous BasketDane said...
The inevitable comparison which is best: Chris Paul or Derrick Rose?

And what do you guys think the chances of the Thunder upsetting the Lakers when they meet?

Anonymous jj said...
people talk about artests flexing..

and nobody mentions how poor jason smith ends up getting absolutely raped by a left handed layup

wv: backlo - as in, crazy pills told smith&wesson to backlo

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
@BasketDane. Well I'm biased as a Hornets fan obviously, but I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same as Bulls fan. Paul by a mile.

Rose is a hell of a scorer, and he's developed into an above average playmaker as well - but Paul's all-around game is much more developed and advanced. I think Paul's best seasons (07-08, 08-09) blow away anything Rose has done yet. And even this year, with Paul's scoring way down - I still think Paul is a good deal better.

Anonymous AK Dave said...

I'm picking LA until someone I mentioned gets hurt. And I guess I should have been more specific: SOMEBODY IS GOING to get hurt. There are too many fragile knees, shoulders, and ankles on these teams for everyone to stay healthy through hard-fought games.

My inclination is to say that Bynum is going to go down first, but it could also be Dirk or Chandler. In any event, I believe that this series, as opposed to the first round, will be greatly influenced by injuries.