NBA Playoffs 2012: The Week Ahead

Branden FitzPatrick@divingmelvinCorrespondent IMay 7, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat looks on against the New York Knicks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls (No. 1) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (No. 8)

Following Derrick Rose's season ending ACL tear, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had this to say: "Derrick is not only a great player, he’s a great teammate, a great person. But it’s not a death sentence. It’s not a death sentence for him; it’s not a death sentence for our team.

The Bulls have not responded to Thibodeau's comments. Rose's injury, along with Joakim Noah's severely sprained left ankle, have left the Bulls for dead. C.J. Watson, who played well in Rose's absence in the regular season, has been abysmal. The "vaunted" defense of the Bulls has been nonexistent. 

The No. 8 seed has won a first-round series against the No. 1 seed four times. Unless the Bulls can pull off a miracle, they will become the fifth No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed. Game 5 is Tuesday on NBA TV.

The Bulls have prided themselves all season long on the fact they outwork everyone else.  If the Bulls lose to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games it won't be embarrassing because they lost to a No. 8 seed. It will be embarrassing because of the effort—or lack thereof—they displayed. 

Miami Heat (No. 2) vs. New York Knicks (No. 7)

The New York Knicks saved themselves and their fans from the embarrassment of losing an NBA-record 14 games in a row. The Knicks played like they had everything to lose. Carmelo Anthony was breathtaking, scoring 41 points and grabbing six rebounds. Amar'e Stoudemire, with one hand covered in padding, looked like the Stoudemire of old.

It was nice watching the Knicks celebrate a victory in Madison Square Garden.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat fights for rebound position against Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2012 at Madison Square Garden i
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Ultimately, the win just delayed the elimination of the Knicks. The Heat will come out ready for Game 5 on Wednesday. Anthony is great, but he can't outduel the Big Three of the Heat every night. 

On a side note: Is Erik Spoelstra capable of scrapping together a last-second play? On the last possession Dwyane Wade got the ball, attacked the rim, found nothing, then jacked up a terrible three. Spoelstra needs to give Doc Rivers a call in the offseason and learn how to create plays to execute down the stretch. Wade is a great player, but any forced shot is a bad shot.

With Tyson Chandler out of the game, there was no one on the Knicks that was going to prevent LeBron James from attacking the rim. Game 4 was a missed opportunity for the Heat. 

Indiana Pacers (No. 3) vs. Orlando Magic (No. 6)

Tuesday the Indiana Pacers will look to eliminate the Orlando Magic. The Magic, without their superstar Dwight Howard, have played hard and have given the Pacers everything they got. The Pacers played Game 1 as if they thought the series would be a cakewalk. Because of their lack of effort, they got beat. The Pacers have not underestimated the Magic since.

Tuesday will likely be the end of the Magic, but you have to at least recognize their valiancy. 

Boston Celtics (No. 4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (No. 5)

For a second it looked like this would be a competitive series. After losing to the Boston Celtics by 22 points Sunday, the Atlanta Hawks have confirmed who we thought they were. Josh Smith and Al Horford were both back for the Hawks but it didn't matter. It was clear from the get-go that the Celtics were not going to lose Game 4.

Celtics' games are officially becoming the Rajon Rondo "clinic of how to play point guard." According to ESPN, Rondo was responsible for 56 of the Celtics' 101 points Sunday. He finished with 20 points and 16 assists.

Tuesday's Game 5 will not only be an opportunity for the Celtics to close out this first-round series, but it will be another chance for NBA fans to watch Rondo put on a highlight factory

San Antonio Spurs (No. 1) vs. Utah Jazz (No. 8)

Monday the Utah Jazz will fight to avoid becoming the second team swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Jazz have a strong, young roster. Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson is the best collection of post players in the NBA. Next year they will be a very dangerous team.

This year the Jazz don't have enough to compete with the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are too experienced, too well coached and have a roster that is too deep for the Jazz to compete with.  

Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (No. 7)

The Dallas Mavericks had one of the worst NBA title defenses of all time. Despite ending in a sweep, this series was entertaining. Dirk Nowitzki just didn't have "it" this year. The rest of the Mavericks roster could not keep up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. This series seemed like a passing of the torch.

Enjoy the next few days off, Thunder fans. 

Los Angeles Lakers (No. 3) vs. Denver Nuggets (No. 6)

The Denver Nuggets almost made things interesting Sunday night. Charles Barkley would have looked like a genius if the Nuggets could have closed out the Los Angeles Lakers, tying the series up 2-2.

DENVER, CO - MAY 06:  Steve Blake #5, Pau Gasol #16, Kobe Bryant # 24, Ramon Sessions #7 and Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate their victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Pl
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Instead, Steve Blake hit the biggest shot of his career and the Lakers are now up 3-1.

Tuesday is Game 5 and the Lakers know they need to make quick work of the Nuggets in order to get some much-needed rest before they face the Thunder in Round 2. The Nuggets will be competitive. Like the Jazz, the Nuggets also have a intriguing core of young post players. JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried will be active on the boards.  

Memphis Grizzlies (No. 4) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (No. 5)

What a bizarre series this has become. The Memphis Grizzlies have looked like the better team, but the Los Angeles Clippers have closed out two of the games late. The Blake Griffin-Zach Randolph matchup has become a physical battle. Griffin refuses to let Randolph push him around, and so far Griffin has gotten the upper hand in the matchup. 

Monday night is huge for the Grizzlies. If they lose, the popular pick to make a postseason run could be pushed to the brink of elimination. 


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