2011 NBA Playoff Schedule: Tip Times and Playoff Predictions
The 2011 NBA Playoffs are underway, and we have already seen that anything can happen.
The New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies made NBA playoff history yesterday by defeating the top two seeds in the Western Conference, knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
Meanwhile, the top seed in the Eastern Conference got quite a scare before pulling out a victory in the end, as the Chicago Bulls needed an MVP performance from Derrick Rose to edge the Indiana Pacers in Game 1.
The Miami Heat did not play the most complete game in the world, but were able to get past a gritty Philadelphia 76ers team on Saturday, while the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks got off to a solid start against the Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic.
On Sunday, the Boston Celtics needed a huge three pointer from Ray Allen with about 12 seconds left to come back and beat the New York Knicks, while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook became the first players since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City to each score 30 points in a playoff game in the Thunder's win over the Denver Nuggets.
With only two games on tap on Monday, it is a rather light night of action. But if this weekend is any indication of what we can expect, you will not want to miss a moment.
Stay tuned for all of the latest news and notes from the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Nate McMillan was not happy with the officiating toward the end of his Portland Trail Blazers' Game 1 loss against the Dallas Mavericks to begin the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Then again, when is the losing coach or team ever happy with the referees?
Dallas won the game 89-81, but Portland was leading 72-66 near the end of the third quarter.
But in the fourth quarter, The Mavericks attempted 19 free throws, while the Trail Blazers attempted just two.
Generally speaking, that will result in a victory for the team who got off 19 attempts in one quarter, much as it did Saturday night.
Art Garcia of CBS Sports reported that McMillan certainly had an issue with how the game was called won the stretch.
"The free throws," McMillan lamented, "I just don't get that."
Perhaps equally as surprising as the calls was the fact that it was Jason Kidd who led the Mavs on offense, connecting on six three point attempts on his way to a season high 24 points.
Still, McMillan could handle that, but he could not handle the free throw and foul disparity in the fourth and final quarter.
Garcia sounds at least slightly empathetic.
"Then the whistles starting coming," said Garcia. "And coming. And coming. During a 14-6 stretch that gave Dallas an 82-78 lead, nine points came at the line. Nowitzki took 13 foul shots in the game. They all came in the fourth. He made every one. (Portland had 13 free throws the entire night.)"
Garcia reported that LaMarcus Aldridge definitely sided with his coach.
"They marched to the free-throw line, got easy baskets with the clock stopped, giving them momentum and the game shifted in their favor," Aldridge said.
"They didn't turn up any aggressiveness," he said. "They just got there. They played the same way the whole game."
Portland is going to have to get over this game if they expect to move on to compete in Game 2. If they continue to lament on the officiating, they will lose focus on what they have to do to beat the Mavericks.
After all, they are competing against Dallas, and not the referees, right?
I understand that they have absolutely every right to be displeased with how things went down in Game 1, but if they do not play better and show the ability to close out games in the fourth quarter, the results may look similar in the end of Game 2 on Tuesday night.
At least the net result could be similar.
And while it is not always easy to put something like that behind you so quickly, the Trail Blazers will have to do exactly that. And right now, McMillan is the biggest offender.
"It's hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it's called a little different -- 19 to 2 in the fourth quarter," he said. "And I felt like we were attacking, and guys really didn't know how to play with the fouls that were being called. A lot of touch fouls."
They will have to learn by tomorrow night.
The Memphis Grizzlies may only be up 1-0 in their series with the San Antonio Spurs to begin the 2011 NBA Playoffs, but they wasted no time in rewarding Zach Randolph.
Chris Broussard of ESPN reported that Randolph will be rewarded kindly for his efforts.
"Hours after Zach Randolph helped the Memphis Grizzlies win their first playoff game, the franchise rewarded him with a four-year, $71 million contract extension that was agreed to Saturday night, according to league sources," wrote Broussard.
Of the $71 million, $66 million is fully guaranteed and the fourth and final year of the deal is a player option, sources said. Randolph has incentives based on individual and team achievements of $1.3 million each season, according to sources."
That is quite a hefty contract for Randolph, although he has been a huge part of the Grizzlies' success over the past few season. Still, whereas this is is 10th season in the league, that is a lot of guaranteed money for someone who has battled weight and effort issues throughout his career.
While he seems that he has overcome all of the issues that once plagued him throughout his early days, giving him $66 million guaranteed over the next four years is at least a little bit risky.
But on the flip side, Randolph is still just 29-years-old. He is a beast inside and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In fact, he is actually looking better the later he gets in his career. He certainly looked excellent in the postseason on Sunday in the Grizzlies' upset win over the Spurs.
Having already signed Rudy Gay and Mike Conley to long term contracts, I suppose it only made sense to reward Randolph as well. This is now a young team whose core is very solid for years to come. If they can add a piece or two in the 2011 NBA Draft and possibly through free agency, this could be a team who winds up resembling the Oklahoma City Thunder in certain ways.
They have already proven that they have some excellent players, and with the addition of a big man like Randolph inside, they now clearly should be taken seriously.
If Randolph remains healthy and can prove that he is over any maturity issues, then this will be a good signing. But the fact that he is smart enough to know that all of that money is guaranteed could affect him in the opposite way, as we have seen that with other players in the past. They do great in their contract year, and then sort of relax too much afterward.
Memphis is literally banking on the fact that Randolph can handle stability and financial security.
Dwyane Wade appears to be likely to suit up for the Miami Heat's Game 2 matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight, and he may be indirectly paying homage to Corey Hart.
You see, Wade is going to be wearing his sunglasses at night, in an attempt to prevent from getting migraines during and after the game.
Wade helped lead the Heat to a Game 1 victory on Saturday afternoon, but severe migraines caused him to miss practice on Sunday. But he was able to return to practice on Monday morning, sporting tinted glasses so that he will be able to be pain free against the Sixers tonight.
This is the second time this season that Wade has been sidelined with migraine symptoms. Light sensitivity has been an issue that usually lingers for Wade, and that again is the case. Considering the lights in the arena as well as all of the bright white shirts in the stands, it is no wonder why Wade suffers from migraines.
Maybe all of the Heat fans could wear black or red tonight. It may be the answer to saving the postseason for Miami.
Hey, stranger things have happened.
Well, to a certain extent.
According to Barry Windhorst of ESPN, 76ers head coach Doug Collins humorously said that he has a new defensive strategy to counter the strong play of Wade.
"I have a set of cymbals that every time he runs by the bench, I'm slashing them," Collins said. "And I went out and bought the brightest flashlight I could find, and every time I get eye contact I'm shooting it at him. He's going to be great. He always is. He's a lot like [Michael Jordan]. I think his mental capacity to fight through these things is off the charts and we expect him to be terrific."
Clearly, Collins was kidding about the cymbals, but he right in saying that he does not expect Wade to be affected by the symptoms tonight. His team should expect nothing less than Wade's best in Game 2 on Monday night.
Yahoo! Sports reported that AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds said that since Wade has been through this before, he has a pair of shades that are all set to go for tonight.
"If Wade, as expected, chooses to wear goggles again, he has a pair that the NBA has already approved," writes Reynolds. "The league—which banned a pair Wade planned to use earlier this season in what [Erik] Spoelstra lightheartedly dubbed “Goggle-gate”— said the lenses should not totally conceal his eyes from defenders, noting that would be an unfair advantage.
The migraines have typically shown up about once every couple years, which makes the issue even more befuddling for Wade, since he’s never been able to identify the exact triggers. He missed a game in January 2005 with a migraine and many practices during college at Marquette with the problem, though never had to sit out for a headache before turning pro."
Wade may still be struggling to find answers for his migraine issues off of the court, but he appears as confident as ever on it to start the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Kobe Bryant may have scored 34 points in Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Playoffs for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New Orleans Hornets, but it was not enough. The Hornets won the game, stealing home court advantage for now, and Bryant decided he was not going to shoulder the blame for this one.
According to Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports, Bryant is pinning this one on Pau Gasol.
“He’s not naturally aggressive,” Bryant said. “Even if I’m tired, I’m naturally aggressive. You just have to rev him up a little bit, get him going. If the effort isn’t there,“I’m not going to sit around and wait, especially in the playoffs.”
And he didn't, as he scored a game high 34 points on 13-26 shooting from the field and 8-9 from the free throw line. Gasol finished with just 8 points on 2-9 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. But he clearly was not playing up to even his own standards.
And Bryant not only recognized as much, but he decided to say it as well.
The worst part may have been that it was not David West, or even Carl Landry or Emeka Okafor who were outplaying Gasol. It was slightly used reserve center Aaron Gray, the former second round pick out of Pittsburgh. Gray made Gasol look exactly like Kendrick Perkins and others have referred to him as, which is soft.
If the Lakers are to turn things around, they have to do so in a hurry. Gasol is till a big part of this team, and he will need to step up his offense and defense in Game 2 if the Lakers are even considering making another run at an NBA Championship.
Or at least if they plan on getting past the first round.
Hornets' coach Monty Williams said that he guys came to fight. Ludden asks if the same can be said of their opponents.
When discussing if Los Angeles came to play, Ludden quipped, "The Lakers? They hope Gasol decides to do the same. Kobe, for one, isn’t waiting."
The Lakers will have to stew over this one until Wednesday night, which is bad for them, but it gives the Hornets a few days to recuperate.
They certainly could use the rest, while the Lakers will be replaying yesterday's loss both backward and forward.
Critics have been saying for months that this may be the year that the Lakers are finally in over their heads.
We will find out if they are right.
The Miami Heat won Game 1 of their first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers to open up the 2011 NBA Playoffs. But without the strong play of Chris Bosh inside, they would have stood no chance.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the greatest NBA duo in the league in recent memory. They currently edge out Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But like the Thunder are now finding out since acquiring Kendrick Perkins, the Heat are now realizing they same thing about Bosh.
You need a presence inside to win in the postseason.
Bosh dropped a game high 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds. he shot 8-17 from the field and 9-11 from the free throw line to lead the Heat to a Game victory.
James had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assist, while Wade finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. That is all well and good, but there is no way they emerge victorious without Bosh.
The talk all season long has been absolutely ludicrous. The cries of Bosh doesn't belong, he doesn't fit, he is overrated, he should be traded - it is all ridiculous. Bosh is a perennial NBA All-Star, and it has been deservedly so throughout his career.
It wasn't that he didn't fit in with Miami, but rather he wasn't allowed to fit in with Miami until James and Wade let it happen. Bosh was not holding the team back. James and Wade were holding back Bosh.
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN said that the team does indeed realize the importance of Bosh on the court.
"Ahead of the playoffs, Bosh was shadowed by doubt, as many in the public questioned whether the former Toronto Raptor could stand up to the pressures of postseason ball now that he has a target on his back," wrote Haberstroh. "Judging from Saturday’s performance, Bosh is not wasting any time to prove the doubters wrong."
Haberstroh also reported that James said “[Bosh] is the most important player on our team,” James said. “When he plays aggressive, shoots the ball well and rebounds, we’re a very, very good team. He showed up today. He brought it.”
Brought it, indeed.
When Bosh is aggressive, he plays better. When almost all players are aggressive, they are more effective. Settling for long range jump shots will rarely get the job done. Bosh knows that, and so do his teammates.
The 76ers certainly found that out in Game 1 on Saturday. Elton Brand could not stop Bosh, and neither could Thaddeus Young.
When he plays like that, I'm not sure that anyone can stop him.
Except for perhaps James and Wade.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs began with some amazing finishes this past weekend, but they also featured quite a few upsets. The biggest one may have been the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference - San Antonio Spurs - falling to the No. 8 seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
People can say what they want about how the Spurs are still the team to beat. Manu Ginobili did not play. The Grizzlies played better than can be expected. The Spurs were just a bit rusty after having clinched home court advantage earlier this month.
But the bottom line is that while it may have been just one game, this is a team who wreaks of desperation already. Some of their players looked every bit of their age, and this is a team who is in trouble.
But it was just one game, right? Like they say, one game does not a postseason make.
You know who says that? People who root for losing teams, because that is what the Spurs looked like yesterday.
A losing team.
The Spurs may have played without Ginobili, and they do expect to have him back for Game 2 on Wednesday night. But the truth is, George Hill played very well in his absence. Tony Parker was horrible from the floor, but he made up for it best he could at the free throw line. Tim Duncan had a very good game, and Matt Bonner and Gary Neal were very productive coming off of the bench.
What I am trying to say is that San Antonio did not play a terrible game. They simply lost to the better team on this occasion.
Memphis got another outstanding game from Zach Randolph, who they are close to signing to a contract extension, and Marc Gasol was the dominant of the two Gasol brothers this weekend. Mike Conley did a good job leading the offense, and the Grizzlies also got some great production from their reserves behind Shane Battier and O.J. Mayo.
Marc Stein of ESPN said that we should not be completely surprised as Memphis' win on Sunday, because they have more than enough size inside to compete with San Antonio.
"The Grizzlies privately believed coming into this matchup that Gasol, in tandem with Randolph's ongoing dominance, could be the X factor that overloads Duncan's nightly burden at nearly 35," wrote Stein. "Yet they couldn't have dreamed how Day 1 of their long-awaited return to the playoffs would unfold. While Marc's older brother Pau was no-showing in the Los Angeles Lakers' humbling home defeat to short-handed New Orleans, Duncan was forced to admit -- with Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair ineffective and foul-plagued -- that the combo of Randolph and young Gasol had him seriously stretched."
But as well as the Grizzlies played in Game 1, they have a long ways to go before they can topple the best in the west throughout the regular season
Yet after watching the first game of the series, you have to feel as if they clearly have a shot.
On Sunday, they were outrebounded, picked up more personal fouls, turned the ball far more often, and finished with a much worse shooting percentage from the free throw line.
But through it all, they came out on top.
Dwight Howard will become the first player in league history to be named the NBA's defensive player of the year for three consecutive seasons, league sources confirmed Monday. According to multiple sources, the Orlando Magic center will take home the hardware for the 2010-2011 regular season once again.
In the regular season, Howard averaged 22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 2.3 blocks per game and a career high 1.3 steals per contest for Orlando this season. His scoring average was the best of his career, and his rebounding numbers were the second highest for him during a regular season.
Howard was second only to Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves in rebounding, and was tied for second in blocks with Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks.
While capturing this honor, Howard is also expected to be named to the first team All-NBA as well as all defensive team. He could also finish in the top three or four for league MVP.
But as of now, I'm sure he would trade all of those awards for a few good men, meaning teammates who may be able to help him out more on the floor against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Howard finished the Game 1 loss with 46 points and 19 rebounds, but the lack of support led to an easy Hawks' victory.
Howard joins Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo as the only players to win the award at least three times since the league began handing out the honor after the 1982-83 season. Wallace is the only player to win it four times, although his career dropped off significantly after he departed from the Detroit Pistons the first time. Mutombo was an outstanding player in his career, although Howard may be the most complete of the three, as his offense is also superior.
According to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, Howard is very proud to be able to take home his third Defensive Player of the Year award.
"It means so much to me because I pride myself on playing great team defense and being the anchor for my team," said Howard. "To know that nobody has ever done this three years in a row, I just thank God for allowing me to get through another season without any major injuries,’’ Howard said. ``I could have just stopped after winning one (Defensive Player of the Year) award, but I want our team to be successful and I know it starts with me and it starts on the defensive end. Me playing defense is about helping my team win. And I think that shows every night when I’m out there trying to be there for my team and erasing the defensive mistakes.’’
The numbers should be released shortly as far as the official votes are concerned, but this contest is not expected to be all that close. Howard should turn out to be a landslide winner.
I am still hearing whispers that Howard will be in the running for the NBA MVP award as well, but I do not see anyone edging out Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls for that honor. I would also be surprised if anyone besides LeBron James of the Miami Heat finished in second place.
That means that as nice as it is for some to dream, Howard will not join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in league history to win the NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award in the same season.
Howard would be happy to win a playoff series to go along with his award right now.
Chauncey Billups left Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals for the New York Knicks with just over a minute remaining following a knee injury against the Boston Celtics. As of this minute, Billups appears very questionable to suit up in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
The Knicks' starting point guard strained his left knee with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter. He ran into Jermaine O'Neal, and then immediately clutched his knee on the floor. Thankfully for the Knicks, Rajon Rondo was not able to capitalize on the injury with a five-on-four advantage, as he went for a home run ball that went almost directly out of bounds.
But New York would go on to lose the game, and they may have lost one of their key ingredients to a possible first round upset as well.
More will be known following further tests over the next couple of days, although Anthony Carter and Toney Douglas are expected to see more playing time if Billups is unable to go on Tuesday. Douglas hit a huge shot that put New York ahead down the stretch, but it was still not enough.
Frank Isola of The New York Daily News says that this injury may not just affect the Knicks for Game 2 on Tuesday, but could possibly play a part in what happens after the season with Billups.
"Billups will have the knee examined Monday to determine if there is any structural damage," wrote Isola. "The timing of the injury is bad on many levels. It seems unlikely that Billups, a 2004 NBA Finals MVP, will be available for Tuesday's Game 2.
Moreover, Billups, who came to the Knicks as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal, has a $14 million option that the Knicks have to decide on five days after their season concludes.
The club has already given the 34-year-old point guard a verbal guarantee that he will be back. But that could change depending on the severity of the injury."
If Billups is out for any period of time, the Knicks immediately use one of the more clutch performers in NBA Playoffs history. Nicknamed "Mr. Big Shot" for some of his postseason heroics, Billups will be an important piece for New York going forward, even at the age of 34.
Following the huge trade that brought Carmelo Anthony and Billups to New York, the Knicks went 4-3 in games where Billups did not play. They are hoping not to have to find out what would happen with him on the sidelines for an entire playoff game.
Unfortunately for them, they may have no other choice.
The Los Angeles Lakers were stunned in their Game 1 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Hornets to open the 2011 NBA Playoffs, but is it time to panic?
If that talk toward the end of the regular season was blown out of proportion about the Lakers being too old and past their prime to win another NBA Championship, they had better plug their ears after yesterday's tough loss.
The two time defending champs did not look like a team ready to defend its crown yesterday. The Hornets, who are severely undersized inside without David West, got another great game out of Chris Paul, but his supporting cast was no slouch either.
Paul led the way with 33 points, but Carl Landry filled in with 17 points in place of the injured West. The Hornets also got an excellent effort from Aaron Gray in a reserve role, as the back-up center finished with 12 points and converted all five field goals he attempted. Gray outshot, outscored and physically outplayed Pau Gasol.
But the story of the day was Paul, who also added 14 assists to go along with his team high 33 points. His continued unselfish play got all of his teammates involved, leading to the huge upset at the Staples Center.
We had seen this before. The Lakers coast down the stretch of the regular season, only to reach another level in the playoffs. They have made a living out of it in recent years. It is almost as if they get bored with a rigorous 82 game schedule, knowing full well that they can turn it on in the postseason.
But has that all changed now? Are these not the same Lakers as in year's past? Does this team no longer have what it takes to step it up to advance through the NBA Playoffs?
If yesterday was any indication, then the answer would be a resounding no.
But we have to remember one thing.
It is just one game.
J.A. Adande of ESPN made some very good points that would lead you to believe that history is not on the side of Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
"The Hornets didn't worry about the predictions that didn't count on them winning a game, let alone the series," wrote Adande. "They didn't worry about the stats that showed them getting outscored by an average of 102-91 in losing all four regular-season games against the Lakers. They didn't worry about the lineups that gave the Lakers a height advantage in four of the five starting spots. And as [Monty] Williams said pregame, it wasn't just a matter of measuring tape. 'We've played against tall teams, but [the Lakers] have Kobe,' Williams said."
Even Bryant squeezing through double-teams to score 34 points off 13-for-26 shooting wasn't enough to counteract Paul. That's because Paul won the battle in the fourth quarter, when he made four of five shots and nine of 10 free throws to score 17 points, while Bryant had seven points on 3-for-9 shooting and the Hornets shot 64 percent and outscored the Lakers 36-28.
The big-picture scenario is that the L.A. Lakers are down 0-1. They've never started a championship run by losing the first game of the playoffs. It never began this way for any of Phil Jackson's six championships in Chicago, either."
The Lakers are certainly not out of this series - not by a long shot. Yes, they have lost hoe court advantage - for now. If they can take two out of the next three games, then he can wrestle it right back from New Orleans.
Yesterday could have been about not being ready. They may have been prepared, but they did not look ready for what the Hornets brought to the Staples Center.
But if any team can get back on track, wouldn't it be the Lakers?
Or is this truly the beginning of the end for this storied run of one of the most successful franchises in sports history?
Only time will tell.
If Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks was any indication of what is to come, then this could be a very difficult path back to the NBA Finals for the defending champs from the east.
The Celtics were able to come from behind and steal the first game at home, but it was not easy. It wasn't pretty either, but wins in the postseason do not have to look good. The final score is the only outcome that counts.
That could not have been more true for Boston than last night.
The Celts defended their home court advantage for now, after working feverishly to come from behind and defeat the Knicks on a three point prayer that was answered for Ray Allen. Of course with Allen, that is nothing new. He has hit clutch shot after clutch shot since joining Boston four seasons ago.
But if Boston is to get back to the NBA Finals, they will need more offensively as the playoffs progress.
The starters were excellent. Allen led the way with 24 points, while Paul Pierce finished with 18 points and Kevin Garnett contributed with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Jermaine O'Neal added 12 points in limited minutes due to foul trouble while connecting on all six field goal attempts, while Rajon Rondo rounded out the starting five with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He could not have come much closer to a triple-double.
But that is where things fell off drastically. The bench gave the Celtics next to nothing. Glen Davis gave them the most minutes in a reserve role behind O'Neal, but finished with just two points and five rebounds. Jeff Green, who was acquired in the controversial Kendrick Perkins trade, could only add four points in 17 minutes of play. Delonte West had two points and Nenad Krstic did not register anything in the scoring department in just five minutes of action.
Thankfully, the defense did step it up for Boston, getting better as the game progressed. And as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston noted, it was head Doc Rivers who should receive a lot of credit for leading his team to another dramatic victory in the postseason. especially for drawing up the two-for-oen possession when Garnett got the alley-oop inbounds pass with 37 seconds remaining.
"And therein lies one secret to why Rivers' plays are successful more times than not," says Forsberg. "There are always multiple options, so a play shouldn't fizzle because the defense successfully takes away Option A. Boston thrives by finding Option B (or C or D or E)."
That is why Boston wins. Not only because their plays are drawn up with different options, but the player who can lead the team can have a different name on the back of his jersey every night.
They have countless options as far as play calling goes, but they also have many standout options who can win the game when it is all on the line.
Those are the most important options.
Especially when you have that many of them on one floor at the same time.
The Chicago Bulls played great defense in the 2010-2011 NBA season under first year head coach, Tom Thibodeau. For 45 minutes in game one of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, the same could not be said.
Thankfully for them, the final three minutes was enough to pull out the improbable comeback victory.
The Bulls did not look like the same team who won 62 games in the regular season behind stellar defensive play. They gave up more points than normal and picked up too many foolish fouls. But again, they were able to turn things up defensively to win game one and hold on to home court advantage for the time being.
But they were also fortunate that the Pacers did not feed the ball to Tyler Hansbrough as much during that time span as they should have, as it was Hansbrough who put Indiana up by double digits in that same time span.
Granted, a lot of Hansbrough's points came with Carlos Boozer on the bench for Chicago, as he was in foul trouble for much of the game. But according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Boozer has to remain aggressive.
"He was very aggressive early," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His foul trouble made him tentative. He can't play that way. Even if he gets fouls, he has to stay aggressive. When he's aggressive, he's very good."
Johnson reported that Boozers foul trouble hurts the Bulls on both ends of the floor, which could not have been more evident in game one, as the team really struggled with him on the bench.
"Seven of Hansbrough's nine third-quarter points came with Boozer on the bench," wrote Johnson. "The pesky Pacer hit two fourth-quarter jumpers and stole the ball from Boozer for a dunk and three-point play."
"Carlos didn't guard him the entire game," Thibodeau said. "So our team didn't do a good job. You have to look at how he got those points. Was it the result of breakdowns? I would say it's a compilation of things. We have to do a much better job on him."
The Bulls will need to find a way to slow down Hansbrough better than they did in game one. In the end, it was the Pacers' offense who stopped Hansbrough more than anyone down the stretch, as they simply failed to get him the ball.
That part falls on their head coach, Frank Vogel. The rest of the team struggled late in game, but Hansbrough had given them the double digit lead. They should have fed him every possession down the stretch, but they did not, instead settling for ill advised jump shots.
Ultimately, they fell right into the plan of the Bulls on defense in the final three minutes. They looked like a team who was either tired from trying to hold on to a late lead, or perhaps like a team who knew that they were in over their heads.
If the Pacers can come out with the same aggression that they did for a large part of the game, tonight's contest should be close once again.
But if they start tonight anything like they finished game one, tonight's could be in the bag for Chicago by the end of the first half.
Derrick Rose led the Chicago Bulls to a game one victory in the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers.
But what else is new?
Rose has led the Bulls throughout the entire season, and is the runaway favorite for the NBA MVP award this year.
He continued to prove his worth on Saturday, leading the Bulls back to a huge comeback victory over the Pacers.
Rose dropped a career playoff high 39 points and made up for a poor three point shooting night by burying 19-21 free throw attempts. He also hit the game tying field goal late in the fourth quarter, and then dished to Kyle Korver, who hit a three to give the Bulls their first lead of the ball game with less than a minute remaining.
But this game should not have even been so close down the stretch. The Pacers were led by Tyler Hansbrough, even though he was knocked nearly unconscious by an inadvertent Kurt Thomas elbow. Yet after Hansbrough put the Pacers up by double digits with just a few minutes remaining, the team did not go back to him, and watched Chicago close out the game on a 16-1 run to seal the game one win.
Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago said that it was a pleasant change to see some emotion out of Rose as the Bulls completed the improbable late comeback.
"The Bulls were down 99-94 with two minutes to play when Rose drove for a bucket and got the 'and-one' call," said Greenberg. "He looked toward his family's luxury suite and beat his chest with a look of defiance on his face. He hit his free throw, and on the Bulls' next possession he hit a face-melting spin move floater to make it 99-all.
Rose often gets miscast as some emotionless killing machine. He is the Terminator, that's true, but he does like to let loose with a yell here and there. Unlike Carlos Boozer, who screams much better than he plays perimeter defense, it means more when it comes from Rose."
Chicago will need more from the rest of the team in game two on Monday night, as they cannot count on Rose to drop close to 40 points per contest. Their team defense will have to improve, because it did not look like the same defense that helped them win 62 games in the regular season.
At least not for the first 45 minutes of the game.
But in the end, the Bulls were able to escape with a huge game one victory. They held on to home court advantage for now, and it remains to be seen just how much wind they took out of Indiana by capping off a dramatic comeback.
Only time will tell, and that time will begin at 7:00 PM on Monday night.
Kevin Durant led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a game one victory with a career high 41 points in the 2011 NBA Playoffs opener against the Denver Nuggets.
Durant, the 2010-2011 NBA regular season scoring champion, dropped 41 points, while Russel Westbrook also finished with a career high 31 points. The two combined for 72 points and 15 rebounds. Needless to say, the Thunder needed everything they got from their high scoring tandem in order to hold on to home court advantage for at least the first game.
After failing to pull off the monumental upset in a surprisingly close series with the Los Angeles Lakers last postseason, the Thunder are counting on big things from their superstars this year. Judging by last night, they are certainly off to a great start.
Of course, they will need more of a supporting cast if they expect to continue their winning ways.
John Rohde of The Oklahoman concurs.
"It's never a good idea to play 2-on-5 ball during the NBA playoffs, but that's essentially what Game 1 equated to for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night," wrote Rohde.
'The Thunder's All-Star tag team combined for 72 points and 15 rebounds, which was enough to overcome five double-digits scorers for the Nuggets and eight players who had eight points or more."
While Durant and Westbrook were nothing short of phenomenal, the Thunder still needed a controversial call to go their way, as well as some poor choices on offense by the Nuggets to preserve the victory.
Kendrick Perkins paid instant postseason dividends for Oklahoma City, as it was his tip in that was ruled good, although it probably should have been waived off due to offensive interference. The initial shot by Westbrook appeared to still be over the cylinder when Perkins tipped it back in for the field goal.
But it did not matter, because the referees allowed the shot, and following a few more poor possessions by Denver, the Thunder were able to celebrate the big win.
But if they do not get a little more from their supporting cast, game two may not end quite as well for Oklahoma City. The rest of the starting lineup will have to account for more than nine points on 3-13 shooting from the floor.
They may also not be as fortunate if they get off to such a rough start, as the Nuggets were unable to put them away early on in the first game. Game two on Wednesday night may be a bit different.
The Denver Nuggets may have had many chances to steal game one of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it was a controversial tip in by Kendrick Perkins that contributed to their game one loss.
The Nuggets got out to a great start on the road, but a controversial call and some ill advised shots down the stretch did them in against the Thunder.
While a tip in by Kendrick Perkins should have been waived off for offensive interference, Denver still had plenty of chances to tie or take the lead in the final few minutes.
John Hollinger of ESPN said that while the Perkins shot should not have counted, the Nuggets have no one to blame but themselves in the end.
"The blown interference call hurt, obviously, but the Nuggets also left everyone wondering about their offensive execution in the final minutes," said Hollinger. "For 45 minutes this was a spectacular game that featured brilliant shot-making and high intensity from both sides; the first half, in particular, was the best 24 minutes of basketball I've seen this year."
Denver missed two floating jumpers from Raymond Felton and then saw Danilo Galinari lose the ball while dribbling it off of his foot. Kenyon Martin then took a long jumper that showed poor shot selection, and then Felton tried to match him by heaving up a long three point attempt with less than a minute remaining.
While the Nuggets did have more than their fair share of opportunities with the players who were on the floor in the end, but Hollinger questions why at least one of them was still on the court at a time where the team needed offense.
He also said that the wrong former North Carolina Tar Heels catalyst too one of the final shots.
"The Nuggets may rue two tactical decisions in particular," wrote Hollinger. "The first was leaving Martin in the game rather than re-inserting Wilson Chandler during an obvious offense-defense situation after Denver fell behind by a point with 1:05 left. Chandler hadn't played since the 10 minute mark but is a much better outside shooter than Martin; when the ball kicked out to Martin he missed badly from 21 feet.
The second was running so much offense through Felton rather than Ty Lawson in the closing stretch, even though Lawson was seeming to have an easier time carving up the Thunder defense. Nuggets coach George Karl did say the final, wild 3 by Felton was supposed to be a play for Lawson but the Thunder denied him; still, three other plays ran through Felton and yielded empty trips."
Denver has a couple of days to regroup and get ready for game two on Wednesday night. While they almost stole game one on Sunday night, they know that they were just a few seconds away from taking home court advantage away.
But on the flip side, they could be a few more bad decisions away from trailing 2-0 in the series.
The Oklahoma City Thunder got some record setting performances last night in their 2011 NBA Playoffs opener, as they defeated the Denver Nuggets on a controversial late tip in basket by Kendrick Perkins.
It appears as if that trade has already paid immediate dividends.
The Thunder got behind right from the start, yet battled back to take game one at home behind 72 total points from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The league's leading scorer, Durant, and Westbrook became the first players since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City to each score 30 points in a playoff game. Durant finished the game with 41 points and Westbrook added 31 of his own to spark the team to victory.
But according to John Hollinger of ESPN, it probably should have gone down slightly different down the stretch.
"The Thunder went ahead on a tip-in by Kendrick Perkins that should never have been allowed, as Russell Westbrook's shot was still clearly in the cylinder when he batted it in," said Hollinger. "The Nuggets also were hurt by referee Bill Kennedy's continued unilateral enforcement of the "respect for the game" rule, as he nailed Raymond Felton with a fourth-quarter T that left the gang of courtside reporters just feet away from him mystified."
Still, regardless of the controversy surrounding the final few minutes, the Nuggets had their fair share of opportunities to win the game, but faltered down the stretch. They missed some easy shots late in the game, and took an ill advised three pointer by Ray Felton that was supposed to be a play designed for Ty Lawson.
A former North Carolina Tar Heels standout took the shot, but it just happened to be the wrong one.
Hollinger went on to say that while Denver should feel pretty good about last night's showing, that they have no excuses and better turn things around in a hurry if they wish to remain competitive in this series.
"For all those shortcomings, however, Denver can walk away feeling good in a lot of other ways," says Hollinger. "Durant and Westbrook combined for 72 points, the Nuggets missed 12 foul shots and shot 4-of-16 on 3s, and defensive ace Arron Afflalo -- who might prove even more useful against Westbrook than against Durant -- didn't play; despite that, Denver lost by four on the road. That's a pretty respectable result.
Nonetheless, the best-of-seven playoff format makes the half-empty view the more persuasive one. With only four chances to steal one game -- at least -- and one-quarter of them now gone, Denver may rue the chances it had down the stretch of this one.
They had a blown call go against them, and it was a huge factor. But ultimately, those five straight empty trips -- and, to spin it equally the other way, the five straight stops by a newly toughened Thunder defense -- are the more obvious reason Oklahoma City walked away the winner."
Game two will take place in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, as the Thunder will look to go up 2-0 in the series, while the Nuggets will look to steal home court advantage.