NBA Playoffs 2011: Things We Learned about Each Team in Second Round Thus Far
With only one series decided, this second round of the postseason has been thoroughly entertaining.
The Memphis Grizzlies have been an inspiring team with excellent poise and determination which has been depicted against Kevin Durant and the favored Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Dallas Mavericks appear to be unstoppable, however, after the Los Angeles Lakers were defeated by 36 points in a game that they needed to win; it is clear that the Lakers wounds this season were self-inflicted.
In the East, the Atlanta Hawks have just won their first second-round home playoff game since May 13, 1996. The Bulls are not as flawless as they appeared to be heading into the postseason, and Derrick Rose needs to get others involved.
Last but not least, the series between the Heat and the Celtics has been nothing short of breathtaking. After three games, both teams have shown the desire to win, and this one could very well go down to the last shot in a deciding Game 7.
This slideshow looks at things we have learned about each team in the second round.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Has Lost His Ability To Lead
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It all unraveled in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals for the defending champions.
The writing was on the wall before the Lakers even entered the postseason. The Lakers came into the postseason with plenty flaws, however, these flaws had been previously masked by Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant has an innate ability to lead, which has seemingly disappeared.
The Los Angeles Lakers star has faced adversity before. He put up with a teammate he despised for years in Shaq. Sometimes he shot too much, sometimes he did not shoot enough.
However, regardless of what happened during the season, it was masked by Kobe's ability to lead. In previous seasons, the gaps had been filled by astonishing performances by Kobe Bryant. He demanded nothing but the best from his team and took control of the game when he felt he needed to step in.
This postseason, we witnessed a Lakers team filled with extreme incoherency. Ron Artest resorted to his old ways and found himself back in the "bad books." The Lakers team was thoroughly outplayed during the second round, however, Game 4 depicted something much greater.
Kobe Bryant has lost control of this Lakers team.
Bynum and Odom both had senseless fouls, lacking sportsmanship and class. However, the Los Angeles Lakers lost by 36 points in a game that they needed to win.
Throw out all of Kobe Bryant's stats, he is a leader and when your team loses by an astonishing margin in a game that is deemed a necessity, the blame falls on the star.
Kobe Bryant has lost control, and this dynasty is now dead.
Miami Heat: The Roles of the Supporting Cast Are Exaggerated
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Heading into the playoffs there has been plenty talk of the supporting cast. Players like Joel Anthony, James Jones and Mario Chalmers have been appointed by the media as the keys to Miami Heat's victory.
Everyone understands the significance of " the Big Three," but heading into this postseason, there was plenty emphasis placed on the supporting cast and the difference they could make towards the Heat's title hopes.
They make a very minimal difference.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the contribution from James, Wade and Bosh. While Joel Anthony provides a much needed interior presence and a positive impact, his contributions are overstated.
Mario Chalmers and James Jones can often provide plenty assets, but Game 3 showed that none of this really matters. The Big Three have averaged over 75 points combined this season, yet they only scored 44, collectively in Game 3.
The result? a 16-point defeat.
Joel Anthony had a respectable 11 rebounds and 12 points. Mario Chalmers added 17 points and three assists. However, it really had no impact on the game. This Heat team lives and dies with the Big Three, and there is no other way around it.
The supporting cast is nothing more than a group of glorified spectators who allow for the Big Three to rest. Without LeBron, Wade and Bosh on their game, this team is doomed.
Memphis Grizzlies: Legitimate Contenders
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After the first round, one could make a compelling argument that the Memphis Grizzlies were at the right place at the right time.
The San Antonio Spurs, ranked first in the Western Conference heading into the postseason simply broke down. One factor attributed with the Spurs meltdown was their age as they seemed lethargic and unable to match the energy of the Memphis Grizzlies.
In this second round, the Grizzlies have shown that their team has a legitimate chance at reaching the Finals.
Three games into the season, the Memphis Grizzlies have played with more energy and have outmatched and outclassed the Oklahoma City Thunder which has resulted in a 2-1 series lead.
The Grizzlies have shown balance, determination and consistency. They are a very cohesive unit which and are motivated by the energy of their teammates.
This team is no fluke, they are in a legitimate position to win the West and are giving the Oklahoma City Thunder all they could handle.
We have a series on our hands.
Atlanta Hawks: Better Than Most Give Them Credit for
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The Atlanta Hawks have tied up the series against the Chicago Bulls. The most intriguing aspect about this series, besides the contribution of Jeff Teague which has been significantly understated, is the fact that the Hawks have limited the Bulls.
During the first-round series against the Pacers, there were times where the Bulls were simply awful. Yet, in the last minutes of the game, the Bulls would string together an impressive run and somehow win the game.
The Hawks are not allowing the Bulls to do this.
The Hawks are bringing the game to the Bulls with a physical dominant presence in the paint. What stands out most is their shot selection. Against the Magic, the Hawks simply didn't take the best shots.
This series has shown a much wiser Hawks team with more discipline than anticipated. They attack the rim, exploit the Bulls in transition and have played excellent defense this series.
This Hawks team is capable of winning this series if they just continue to stick what what is currently working: discipline.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Westbrook Needs to Find His Shot
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While Russell Westbrook is a very versatile player who often finds himself in all areas on the court, if the Thunder want to beat the Grizzlies then he will need to shoot better.
During the first round, Westbrook shot 39 percent. However, those were the Denver Nuggets, not the Memphis Grizzlies. During the second round, Westbrook has shot just 38.5 percent from the field. This season he has averaged 44 percent from the floor.
He needs to find his shot.
While contributing assists is great, like the 12 he had in Game 3, Westbrook needs to be an efficient scorer if the Thunder intend on being successful.
A lot of blame has been placed on his shoulders after his horrendous 7-of-22 shooting in Game 3, and if the Thunder want to turn this series around, then Westbrook will have to turn his shooting around.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose Is Human After All
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There is no doubt about it, Derrick Rose is a gifted athlete with an exceptional ability to lead. In the second round, the most revealing aspect has been the fact that Derrick Rose is human.
His ability to change position in the air, his basketball intelligence and his uncanny ability to take control of the game is exceptional.
However, like everyone else, Derrick Rose has bad days except on days when he is not so great, his team ends up losing.
Derrick Rose had 32 shooting attempts in Game 4 against the Hawks and only drained 12 of them. He had 10 assists, got to the line 11 times and even added four rebounds. Despite the 37.5 percent shooting from the floor, he had a good game.
However, it was not great, and it end up costing the Bulls.
If the Chicago Bulls want to make it to the NBA Finals then Derrick Rose cannot have any bad games. He needs to shoot less, get more of his teammates involved and establish himself as a legitimate three-point threat.
Derrick Rose showed he was human, and his team was convincingly defeated. He needs to bring back his supernatural game.
Dallas Mavericks: Depth Is a Spectacular Thing
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During Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Los Angeles Lakers scored 86 points as a combined team. The Dallas Mavericks bench scored 86 points as well.
During the second round, we have seen significant contributions from Peja, Jason Terry and JJ Barea. The positive impact has been so profound by this Dallas Mavericks bench that they almost appear to be unbeatable.
Who needs a team of superstars, inflated egos and unwanted pressure when you could have 75 points combined from Peja, Terry and Barea as witnessed in Game 4.
The Dallas Mavericks have a bench that make them downright scary. Other teams will be on the lookout as their depth is an incalculable asset that could see them straight through to the NBA title.
Let us not even start with how well they shoot the ball...
Boston Celtics: Team Continuity Means You Can Never Count Them out
By now, we have all seen the images. Rajon Rondo laying on the floor, Celtics fans everywhere holding their breaths and an elbow that is bent in a way that the human body is not meant to bend.
Yet, Rajon Rondo simply went to the locker room, popped his elbow back into place and got back out onto the floor. He is listed as a game-time decision heading into Game 4.
In other words, Rajon Rondo will play.
However, this act is more than just toughness or heart, this act is about team continuity. This is what solidifies the Boston Celtics as a legitimate threat to win it all.
During the second round, despite being down 2-0 in a series where they have been outplayed thoroughly for two games, they stepped it up. They played more than just like a group of teammates. They played like a unit with an unbreakable bond who were willing to risk it all for victory.
You can teach shooting, jumping, rebounding, passing and other fundamental aspects to the game of basketball, but you cannot teach heart.
The Boston Celtics have heart, and this is what makes them an elite team. They have the ability to put it all on the line and the collective effort shown during each game makes them contenders.