NBA Playoffs: Who's Hot, Who's Not
Three days in and the NBA Playoffs have already produced a ton of action.
In the East, the Miami Heat look determined to make quick work of the New York Knicks. The Chicago Bulls were impressive in their Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, but the news was not all good for the Bulls. They lost star point guard Derrick Rose for the rest of the playoffs with an ACL tear.
Over in the Western Conference, the top three seeds all looked flawless. Andrew Bynum has emerged as a real franchise player for the Los Angeles Lakers. He abused the Denver Nuggets Sunday.
Without further ado, here is this week's list of who's hot and who's not:
(Rose will not be on this list. He's not struggling, he's just unlucky.)
Who's Not: Rajon Rondo
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Rajon Rondo will not play against the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday. He won't even be at the game.
Rondo was suspended by the NBA for making contact with a game official with 41 seconds remaining in Sunday's Game 1.
In the playoffs, it is vital that players don't lose their composure. Every game is as important as the last and missing time is detrimental. Because Rondo couldn't keep himself composed following the whistle, he put his team in a serious disadvantage in Game 2.
The Celtics were thinking Eastern Conference Finals after Rose's season-ending injury. They got way ahead of themselves. Now the Celtics need to make sure they don't get knocked out in Round 1.
Who's Not: Zach Randolph
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Last year's playoff star Zach Randolph was a nonfactor in the Memphis Grizzlies' loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Other than doing push-ups on the floor, he was horrendous.
Randolph scored six points on 3-13 shooting. If he is unable to outplay or at least match Blake Griffin's production, the Grizzlies could be in serious trouble.
Randolph loved the attention he received in last year's playoffs, which is a concern. Does he want to win or does he want to relive his playoff experience from last year? As Grantland's Bill Simmons said, "Z-Bo wants to be The Man."
Randolph is still adapting to the starting lineup, which could take more time than the Grizzlies have. When Randolph was coming off the bench following his return from injury, it created huge matchup problems for opposing teams.
Who's Not: Memphis Grizzlies
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Everyone's favorite "sleeper" team must have read too many of its press clippings. The Grizzlies were outscored 35-13 in the fourth quarter by the Clippers Sunday. Instead of playing to win, the Grizzlies played not to lose.
According to ESPN, the Clippers comeback from down 21 entering the fourth quarter is tied for the largest in playoff history. What happened to the Grizzlies' lockdown perimeter defense? Nick Young had three three-pointers and Chris Paul led the charge in the Clippers' 26-1 fourth quarter run.
Now the Grizzlies are in a hole. Down 1-0, they need to win Game 2 and one of the games in Los Angeles in order to win back home-court advantage. This series is far from over.
Who's Not: New York Knicks
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Down 0-2 to the Miami Heat seems like a death sentence for the Knicks.
The Knicks played better in Game 2 against the Heat but ultimately suffered the same fate as Game 1. Carmelo Anthony played well, finishing with a game-high 30 points.
The Knicks' issues were the same as they always are: Other than Anthony and sometimes Amar'e Stoudemire, who can consistently score on this team? The supporting cast looks abysmal. Chandler still looks like he's at less than 100 percent.
Following the loss Monday, news got worse for the Knicks. Amar'e Stoudemire reportedly cut his hand after punching a fire-extinguisher glass case. Paramedics treated Stoudemire.
The Knicks have lost 12 playoff games in a row. They need to make some serious adjustments before Game 3, or else they could once again be swept out of the playoffs.
Who's Hot: Andrew Bynum
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Sunday was a good day to be Andrew Bynum.
The Lakers beat the Nuggets convincingly Sunday behind Bynum's historic triple-double. It was the Lakers' first triple-double in the playoffs in 21 years.
At the beginning of the season it was considered blasphemy to say that Bynum is better than Dwight Howard. In the past five months, Bynum has elevated his game to a superstar level. When Bynum is committed to playing defense, there is a real argument about who is the best center in the NBA. Howard is a freakish athlete, but his poor free-throw shooting is a huge disadvantage late in games. Bynum is a superb offensive player, and he shot 70 percent from the line this season.
Bynum will continue to feast on the Nuggets small frontcourt for the rest of this series.
Who's Hot: Tony Parker
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The Little Fundamental put on a show Sunday in the Spurs first victory in a Game 1 in four years. Parker finished Sunday's game against the Jazz with 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds.
The former NBA Finals MVP looks better than ever. Has a future Hall of Famer ever finished his best professional season with less recognition than Parker? Devin Harris cannot guard Parker. Parker will continue to have his way in this series.
The Jazz played the Spurs tough, but were outscored 31-23 in the third quarter.
Interesting stat: The Spurs scored 48 points inside of five feet Sunday, which is the most by any team in the last two postseasons. Parker was responsible for 20 of those points with 12 points and four assists.
Who's Hot: Oklahoma City Thunder
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This series is beginning to look like the passing of the torch.
Last year, it was the Dallas Mavericks who executed late down the stretch. This year it's the Thunder. There's not a team in the Western Conference that can beat the Thunder when they're clicking on all cylinders.
It's a great sign for the Thunder that they are still winning these games late with Durant struggling from the field. One of Durant's best qualities is his ability to forget his last shot. He will go off in one of the games in Dallas.
Who's Hot: Miami Heat
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The hottest team in the NBA is the Miami Heat.
After somewhat limping into the postseason, the Heat are back to playing stifling defense and their style of offense. Oh yeah, it also helps that they are getting a lot of calls from the referees.
LeBron James has the eye of the tiger. For him, this year's playoffs are life and death. He cannot go another offseason with critics taking shots at him for failing to deliver when it matters most. After scoring 32 points in Game 1, James once again had his way with the Knicks in Game 2. He finished with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
If James and the Heat can continue to play this good, no team in the NBA can beat them in a seven-game series.