First of all, observe yesterday’s top 10… it’s very nice for a four-game playoff night.
Note Manu’s behind-the-back move that split the D and dropped Tony Allen at number two. That was nasty enough to have me giving props to one of my least favorite players in the league. He should’ve finished it off with authority, though… the lane was there, and he had it in his healthy left arm.
Prior to game three, Kenyon Martin emphatically let reporters know that JR Smith and the Nuggets “are fine.”
If you’re wondering what the hell I’m/he’s talking about, well, JR has recently stated that the Nuggets have lost their “spark”, and he expects to leave as a free agent in the offseason. I agree with JR as far as the spark; the Nuggets looked flat in game two, but I figured they might be able to come back home and get it together for game three. Denver has only dropped one game at home since trading Carmelo Anthony. Coincidentally, that L came at the hands of the Thunder. So did L #2.
Denver came out with energy and aggression in the first quarter, dropping 31 points and building a five-point lead. They knocked down three of four threes, K-Mart had a few dunks, and 7 of their 11 field goals were assisted. The Nuggets are at their best when they’re getting out in transition, sharing the ball, and creating easy looks for one another. They did all of that in the first quarter, and gave themselves a boost by making three of four from long range. However, the Thunder had absorbed the opening burst of energy pretty well, and it turns out that that was all the Nuggets had in them. They’d finish up the game with just 18 team assists and eight fastbreak points, and their three-point shooting dropped way the hell off–they finished up 6 for 23. Basically, after a promising first quarter, they laid an egg. Fortunately, the Thunder weren’t lighting things up themselves, and Denver was able to stay in it down the stretch. In fact, they finished up the third on a 10-0 run and took a 73-71 lead. OKC had tied the game up within three minutes, though, and Denver then went over five minutes with just a single bucket. They ended up down six with 36 seconds left, forcing them to resort to fouling one of the league’s premier freethrow shooting teams. It didn’t look promising, and I rolled over and fell asleep. Well, KD then clunked one of his FTs, and JR Smith nailed a triple. Four point game. Russell Westbrook was then sent to the line, and he choked BOTH. JR Smith nails another three. One point game. Denver kinda choked after that, though… they allowed James Harden to get wide open on the inbound pass, which sent three Nuggets rushing after him to attempt a foul, making it possible for Serge Ibaka to leak out long for an uncontested jam. Still, Denver was down just three with 10 seconds left, and JR Smith had turned the heat up… so… maybe? Nope… JR had apparently used up all of his magic on the previous two makes; he wasn’t even able to hit the rim in an isolation scenario with James Harden. Credit Harden for staying on his feet through a JR Smith pump fake, and then staying straight up in his contest to avoid a foul. It really was excellent D on a guy who is extremely tough to guard in a one on one scenario.
Like I said, the Thunder hardly shot well in this game; in fact, they were precisely one percent worse than Denver from the field. Both teams made equal amounts of shots (29) and threes (6) in this game. OKC won this thing by three points (97-94) because they nailed their freethrows. Both of these teams are known for getting to the stripe, and both of them did that last night. Denver earned themselves 45 tries, and OKC 43. The Thunder, who knock ‘em down on the regular, actually clunked 10. KD uncharactaristically missed three, and Russell Westbrook and James Harden each missed two. However, Denver’s 66.7-percent masonry made OKC look damn good at 76.7 percent. Nene was the main culprit… he’s normally a 70 percent freethrow shooter, but he’s been clunking them all series long, and his 5-10 came as no surprise to me. Raymond Felton missed his only two, JR Smith bricked a pair, and K-Mart came up empty on three of eight.
Even though I don’t really like this dude, shout out to Serge Ibaka, who scored 22 points. He wasn’t just dunking, either. Air Congo knocked down a pair of mid-range Js in the second half, and made all 10 of his freethrows. Way to step up, youngin’… but I still think your swag is extremely corny. Yup, that’s my beef with Serge Ibaka, one of the league’s more popular non-star players: his swag is corny. For example: the airplane thing? That’s tired, man. Jason Terry wore that out years ago. Oh, and then there was that commercial where the old guy calls Serge Ibaka “one of the best young players in the world”. Yeah, that statement is so absurd that it actually made me dislike Serge Ibaka a little bit.
The Indiana Pacers FINALLY held on to a second half lead and earned themselves a victory over D-Rose and the Bulls. I like the Bulls, but I’m really happy for the Pacers, to be honest. They’ve earned at least one victory in this series… they’ve been fighting hard as hell, and they refused to throw in the towel… even down 3-0, and even with more fans of the opposing team filling their own arena. Those road warriors from Illinois got a little scare early on as Derrick Rose left the game after turning his ankle. He went to the lockerroom very briefly, then showed he was straight immediately after returning to the game…
His ankle was fine, but his jumper was not… and neither were the Bulls. Rose went just 6-22 in this one (1-9 from three), and unlike games one, two, and three, he didn’t get to the stripe (2-4 FTS). That, along with rough shooting nights from pretty much the entire roster, left them down double figures by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. They ended up trailing by as many as 17 with about 10 minutes left… they couldn’t possibly come back from that defecit, could they? Indy had held late leads in all three of their losses, but they were never up 17 with 10 minutes to go. Well, it wouldn’t be Derrick Rose–he had just two buckets in the period–but it would be Luol Deng, who sparked a run. The Man From Sudan dropped 7 of his 16 in the fourth, and with some help from Joakim Noah and Kyle Korver (made three Js in the fourth), the lead was cut to just one point with 15 seconds left. Danny Granger then clutched a pair, and it was Carlos Boozer for three…….
…….no. That makes him 1-10 from beyond the arc for his career, so I know what you’re thinking: WTF were the Bulls thinking? Well, they were clearly trying to get the ball to Derrick Rose, and then to Luol Deng, but credit Dahntay Jones and Danny Granger for doing an excellent job of denying a pass to either player. Kyle Korver was left open at the top of the key for a split second, but Noah had a Pacer draped all over him and was unable to spot the best shooter on the floor. Boozer’s man had sagged down into the paint, leaving him wide open, and he basically had to shoot it. I’ve got no regrets about that look if I’m the Bulls. Boozer isn’t a three-point shooter, but he isn’t Shaq, either. He can hit a jumper… he just missed this one. Yeah, the ideal look would’ve been Kyle Korver, but he’s obviously going to have someone stuck to him like super glue. Overall, it was another crazy comeback by the Bulls, and they got themselves a great look to put it in OT–their well of good fortune just finally ran dry. I figure they’ll wrap it up in five, and like I said, I’m really happy that the Pacers got themselves this win; they deserved at least one. Said Frank Vogel: “I think we deserve to be in the series. I’m still upset that it’s 1-3. We should be up in the series.”
All of you excuse makers out there (EHEM..AMARE..EHEM) need to take some pointers from the main man Derrick Rose. Yeah, he kinda sucked yesterday, but he still found a way to impress me in his postgame presser. Check this out: “It’s the playoffs. I’ve sprained my ankle a million times, you’ve just got to make shots.”
That’s what’s up. Anyway, all I’ve done here is talk about the Bulls. Seeing as the Pacers won, maybe I should give them a paragraph. A few days ago I said something like “if the Pacers are going to win a game, Danny Granger will have to give Luol Deng the business, and Indy’s frontcourt will have to out-play Chicago’s.” Well, Deng was nice during that fourth-quarter run, but Granger put up better numbers (24/10/4) in the game. As for the frontcourt, Hansbrough didn’t do much, and Noah was good for the Bulls, but Roy Hibbert stepped up and notched 16 points, 10 boards, and three swats. I wasn’t exactly on point, but I have to give myself a little credit… I kinda called it. I didn’t call this, but I feel the need to note it: Indiana out-scored Chicago 10-0 on the break. It’s awfully tough to win a basketball game without a single easy transition bucket. Credit the Pacers for keeping Derrick Rose in half-court mode.
Last time I saw Zach Randolph attempt a clutch three, this happened:
Last night, this happened:
That was f@ckin’ wet! Man, that had some beautiful arc on it, and it made the net splash like a pebble falling into the calmest of lakes. As you can see, there were still 41.9 seconds left in the game as that shot passed through the rim, and a five-point defecit is hardly insurmountable in that amount of time. Manu Ginobili knocked down a pair of freethrows, and it was down to three. Z-Bo couldn’t replicate his swish, and George Hill rebounded the miss with about seven seconds to go. For whatever reason, he didn’t call a timeout, which probably would’ve been the smartest thing to do. By the time Gregg Popazitz tried to call one, the ref had already sprinted towards the other end of the floor and the ball was in the hands of Manu Ginobili. Gino then made one of the dumber plays of his career by mysteriously opting to take the ball inside the arc… and by the time he realized oh sh!t, a two doesn’t help us here, does it? it was too late, and a shot was never taken. “I thought we had a little more time,” Said Manu. Said me:
And there you have it! The first playoff victory ever to take place at the Fed Ex Forum! It was a really fun environment from start to finish, and OJ Mayo has even credited the fans for making the difference: “Did you see that building?” Mayo said. “That was the difference. It was just unbelievable. Our crowd, everybody up swinging a white towel, and everybody on the same sheet of music. If you want to know the difference, it was that home court.”
Yep, the crowd was definitely hyped. I’ll tell you what the difference on the court was, though: the frontcourt. As they did in the game one victory, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol put in work. The two of them combined for 42/14/6, out-scoring TD, McDyess, and Blair by 14. Shout out to Darrell Arthur for tacking on another nine points and six boards in just 15 minutes off the bench. With Manu hurting and TP not playing up to par (shooting just 15-44), it’s been the frontcourts that have battled it out thus far. San Antonio is going to need more from their guards if they want to win this thing, because it looks like Z-Bo and Marc are gonna be bringing the pain on a regular basis.
The only game I didn’t get to see yesterday (I had to work for three hours because no one buys my t-shirts) turned out to be one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history, which happened to take place in one of my favorite series. Figures. So anyway, the Blazers were down 18 entering the fourth… but apparently, Brandon Roy had at least one more Brandon Roy game left in him. Check this sh!t out…
What you have just witnessed is the second-biggest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA history. In case you forgot, the Celtics once came from 21 down at the start of the fourth to defeat the Nets earlier in the decade.
I suppose this was almost as much of a choke for Dallas as it was a comeback for Portland. I mean, DAL scored 15 points in the fourth while giving up 35. I’ll give ‘em a pass for giving up the 35 because Roy was in God-mode, but scoring 15? That’s a choke-job. Jason Kidd committed a key turnover where he basically bounced the ball out of bounds, and then he damn near air-mailed an open three that would’ve given his team a lead with under 30 seconds to go. He did make an incredible full-court pass to Jason Terry for a shot that damn near won the damn thing, but JET missed, and it’s 2-2. I’m f@cking pissed that I was busy being a waiter while I should’ve been busy being an epic game observer. Buy a goddamn shirt or two so I can do this full time!