Well, on offense anyways.
(Image via dealbreaker.com)
“It will be a long time before I could be a head coach, because I don’t care how much money you get paid. If you’re not producing more or if I feel you’re hurting the team, especially in the playoffs, I’d bench you. If Boozer is having an off-game scoring, he has to do other things. You have to rebound and you’ve got to play defense.”
“I like Boozer as a person, but if you’re hurt like that (turf toe), it’s a liability for the team. I’m pretty sure Taj Gibson would be a very good replacement. This Bulls team is built where if one guy goes down, he has a good backup.”
Carlos Boozer, quite frankly, looked pathetic against the Hawks in Game 2.
I’m extremely confident that Taj Gibson, Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik can positively impact the game more than a 60%, 70% healthy Carlos Boozer can.
Game 3 Bulls @ Hawks tonight calls for a sharp eye to be had on the Booz train. How will his slowed lateral movement affect the team defense? Will he be able to finish inside? Will Carlos rise to the occasion and be more at ease now that he’s on the road away from the impatient Bulls fans who love to boo him?
Let’s be honest. Derrick Rose ’s play will decide who wins this series. The Booz train will become a larger issue if the Bulls advance, but for now the Bulls can escape the Hawks as long as Derrick Rose plays like the MVP that he is.
Just minutes ago Carlos responded to Grant’s comments (via ESPNChicago):
“I don’t agree with that, I think if I’m out there and I can help my team, I will. I want to score a little bit more points, I think my team needs it, I’m working through it, and I think the best games are ahead of me.”
Yesterday – after learning of Frank Vogel’s confident claim that his team could win the series if it won Game 5, though down 3-1 – I sided with Volel, so to speak, reasoning that this series had been much closer thus far than the 3-0 start would indicate, pointing to three trends that had manifested themselves thus far in the series, and hence reasons the Pacers could keep things competitive.
Those trends were: the narrow scoring margin (only -10 over four games, an average margin of only 2.5 points per contest); the fact that Indiana held the largest lead in each game despite their three losses, including leads in each fourth quarter; and the fact that Derrick Rose’s injury might have kept him from getting to the line and into the paint as he had in the first three games.
All of those looked to be promising omens toward the Pacers’ ability to keep this game close and steal a road win to lengthen the series. And then the game started. Chicago got off to a better start than they had in any of the other games, and were particularly ignited by several brilliant plays from Joakim Noah on both ends of the court. It was the game’s first play, however, that most foreshadowed how things would unfold.
After the Bulls won the tip, Indiana pressured the ball in Chicago’s back-court. The Bulls made two quick passes and found Keith Bogans on the wing, who pulled up for a three ball that made the net dance. Those first three points secured a lead that the Bulls would never relinquish, and came in a fashion that the Bulls would repeat 13 times. That fashion – a quick pass followed by a made spot-up jumper, in this and many other cases a three-pointer – would prove to be the primary difference that turned this game into a blowout when the others had been so close.
In the first four games of this series, Chicago shot a combined 23 – 74 for 31% from behind the arc and 127-319 for 39% overall. In a word, they shot poorly; in a harsher word, they shot awfully. It the Bulls’ shooting woes, partially a credit to the Pacers’ defensive attention and strategy, that allowed Indiana to stay close in each game, despite decided advantages in other departments – not necessarily the same advantages in the same game – including rebounds, free-throws, and assists. As long as the Pacers had kept the Bulls from shooting well, from the field, they were able to overcome their other deficiencies to have a chance to win.
Last night in Game 5, though, the Bulls shot 14 – 31 for 45% from deep, as well as 26-52 for 50% on 2-pointers. They didn’t take drastically more shots in this game (83 compared to 82, 83, 72, and 82 in the first four games); they simply made more of them. The shot mix, though, did play a part, as they took 11 more three pointers than the 20 they took in three of the other four games, and going 6-13 from 3 in the 3rd quarter when the Pacers were trying to make a run essentially put the game out of reach.
The crisp pass we alluded to earlier was a subtle ingredient in all of those made field goals, as the 27 assists the Bulls had were a high for either team in the series. They moved the ball well inside and on the perimeter, and were decisive on the catch, as the shooters didn’t waste time putting up shots once they received the ball in an open position. I would argue that the Pacers didn’t do an overly poor job of closing out on those shooters, or even rotating to the ball inside. The Bulls were just a bit sharper and a bit more fortunate when spotting up from outside.
That is not to say that Indiana was helpless. In each previous game, the Pacers had overcome disadvantages in the areas mentioned above – rebounds (both offensive and defense), assists, free-throws, even poor – by taking care of the ball, limiting their turnovers to 11.25 per game. Last night, however, the Pacers coughed up the ball a series-high 20 times, limiting themselves to 9 less field goal attempts over the course of the game than the Bulls. It had been their low-error attack that gave their efforts to mitigate Chicago’s advantages. Indiana’s fight was still there, and they made several pushes to shrink the lead and try to stretch the series. But along with Chicago’s suddenly-found accuracy, their own turnovers proved to be too much to overcome, and, hence, the outcome was a convincing victory on the part of the Bulls, closing the series in a quick 5 games.
The Pacers faced long odds to win this series, even at the outset; their 0-3 start made those odds even longer. The 27 point margin in this 116-89 triumph by the Bulls, however, skews what was otherwise a very competitive first-round series.
Last night was, in a way, disappointing. Maybe I’m a bit spoiled from the incredible action the playoffs has given us already? As Sebastian Pruiti pointed out to me on twitter, last night was the first time in 9 straight days that we didn’t experience wire-to-wire excitement, and that’s something we should all be willing to live with. He’s right, it could be August already and we’d have to suffer through 2 hours of MLB highlights.
I’ll leave our supposed national past time alone for now and get on with business; most of the games turned into blowouts late but there was some substance there. My favorite result of last night’s action was everyone tweeting vintage Kobe dunks. That dude used to merk everyone.
I mentioned yesterday that Orlando’s shooters will eventually get hot and it happened in this game. Atlanta just had to hope it would come on a night where their own shooters also caught a flame. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the result was a 15-point loss that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicates. The highlight of this game was J.J. Reddick’s hilarious post-game interview on the podium, which happened to be the first of his playoff career. Outside of that, this game was insufferable.
Atlanta still leads the series 3-2 and Game 6 is a home game at Phillip’s. For their sake, I hope this game was just them packing it in and trying to close out at home because if it wasn’t, things could get interesting.
Real quick on the Pacers; this game was ugly but it wasn’t indicative of how your season went. Interim head coach Frank Vogel went 20-18 during his tenure and absolutely needs to be hired as the head coach for next year. He showed us a lot of value whether it was in guiding this team with leadership or drawing up situational plays. This team still needs one more key piece but their cogs are all legit. Granger can be a great #2, Collison is a good point and Paul George might be an All-Star in the making. Keep your heads up, Pacer fans, and make sure you keep your team in town, too!
This was a close out game and that’s exactly what Chicago did. I’ll save you the Rose rhetoric and point you at my key players: Noah, Deng & Gibson. Those three men are as important to this team as is MVP favorite, Derrick Rose. The way they lock down the wing and the middle of the court allows Chicago to get crucial stops which lead to those magnificent Derrick Rose finishes at the other end of the court. Most of these Bulls have elevated their games in the post season and that’s scary for opponents considering this team lead the NBA in wins. What’s scary for the Bulls is that Carlos Boozer has disappeared. If anyone has seen him, please notify the proper authorities.
Overall, these Bulls are lovable. They play hard and they play the right way, every single night. It’s displayed in Deng’s demeanor, it’s voiced in Rose’s humble interviews and it’s strung up in Noah’s smile. When Joakim went into the stands after the game to hug his grandfather it made you realize that these guys are the real deal. They love what they do and they are proud of the work they have accomplished. And they aren’t done yet.
I just want to point out that the Lakers wore black socks and black shoes at home today. If you aren’t entirely familiar with NBA on-court fashion, home teams typically wear white shoes and socks to coordinate with their lighter colored home uniforms. But the Lakers wanted to send a message to themselves as well as the Hornets and it worked. The NBA should make everyone wear black on black attire, it just looks meaner.
Chris Paul started out the game with 8 assists in the first quarter but finished the game with 12 and the Hornets got blown out by the end of it. A few things contributed to this. First of all, the Lakers played their first complete game of the series. And when I say complete, I mean that even Derek Fisher scored 13 points. The Lakers five starters and Lamar Odom all scored in double digits. And when the better roster is playing better basketball, you just have to sit there and take their punches, not much New Orleans can do to counter that. One thing that I can fault the Hornets with is sitting Chris Paul for two extended stretches that probably cost them a chance to win this game. First one came in the second quarter as N.O. let a 9-point lead slip as Paul rested. The second came in the 4th where L.A. blew the game wide open as CP3 got his usual rest. Chris ended up playing 41 minutes in the game but it’s how and when those 41 minutes came that hurt the team.
One thing that should be worry some for LA should be Kobe’s ankle. I know he had two throwback throw downs, including decapitating Emeka Okafor (twice!), but he wasn’t he usual self. I’m guessing he had a healthy Cortisone shot before the game and that relieved enough pain for him to actually participate, but his defense and play-making wasn’t there. He finished the game with 19 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 turnovers and got outscored by Trevor Ariza (22 points) on the other end. Hopefully, this is nothing serious as Lakers haven’t put away this series just yet, leading 3-2 and headed back to the Big Easy.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Miami Heat – 7:00 PM EST on TNT: If the Heat, who lead the series 3-1, can’t close this out tonight, I’m going to have to seriously discount them as a contender going forward.
Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs – 8:30 PM EST NBAtv: This game is going to be too good to be stashed away on NBAtv. Memphis might shock the world tonight and close this series out. On the road. Against the Spurs. A 61-win Spurs. Can you fathom all of that? Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol could actually beat the 4-time NBA Champion Spurs in 5 games in the opening round of the playoffs. It could happen tonight!
Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 10:30 PM EST on TNT: I honestly don’t think this game will be close. The Thunder messed around last game and still nearly pulled off the win. Game 5, at home with a chance to clinch the series and advance, you have to bet on Durant.
Links of the Day:
NBAPlaybook.com – This play sums up the Spurs’ woes this series.
HoopSpeak.com – Let’s take a look at the New Orleans Pick’n'Roll sets.
SB Nation’s Bay Area Blog – The latest news on the Anaheim/Sacramento/Rochester Kings/Royals
DailyThunder.com - Royce explains Russ.
That’s it for today and as always, don’t forget to join the party on twitter tonight!
Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.
Why the Indiana Pacers can tie and win their series against the Chicago Bulls
When it comes to impossible odds, historical probability shine less favorably as anything on being down 0-3 in a seven-game NBA playoff series. Few teams even come back to make things competitive, let alone push the series to a seventh game.
It was somewhat out-of-the-ordinary, then, when today after shoot-around, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel declared, “We feel like if we win tonight, we’ll win this series.” (via ESPN Chicago). Although the series is currently 3-1 in favor of the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls won each of the first three games, putting Indiana face-to-face with the unfavorable odds mentioned at the outset. Making the odds longer still is the fact that this is the 1-8 match-up, in which only once has the 8 seed triumphed since 2003 when the NBA switched to the seven-game format in the first-round.
What makes the Pacers, then, think they can be the first of almost 100 teams in their position (94 by my count) to win four straight games after being down 0-3, as the 8 seed at that?
First, Vogel’s own story sheds light on his first leap of faith in the coaching business dating back to his days at Kentucky. He overcame humble beginnings with little experience in coaching to work his way from a video coordinator to becoming an assistant coach under then-Kentucky head man, Rick Pitino. He used that success to launch himself to the NBA ranks as an assistant coach, to an advanced NBA scout, and again as an assistant coach in Indiana under coach Jim O’Brien. After O’Brien was fired in late January, Vogel was tagged as the interim, he rallied the troops, and lead Indiana to its first playoff appearance since 2006. So Vogel, you see, is not the type of man to shrink back from a challenge.
However, his claim could be more than just wishful thinking on the part of the confident head coach. Although Indiana dug this hole for itself, here are three quick reasons based on trends from this series to believe that the Pacers might have a fighting chance to tie and even complete the upset.
Scoring margin is a much stronger predictor of future success than just the binary measures of wins and losses. Although the Bulls have a decided 3-1 edge, they have only out-scored the Pacers by 10 points over those four games, or 2.5 points a contest. The Pacers haven’t been getting blown out in these losses; each game has been competitive.
Not only have the games been competitive, a look at the gameflows (I prefer to use the ones at Popcornmachine.net) reveals that the Pacers have held the largest lead by either team – having leads of 12, 6, 9, and 8 respectively – in each game this series. These weren’t just early leads owed to fast starts. They lead almost the entire contest in Game 1 before collapsing late, lead wire-to-wire in their lone win in Game 4, and have had leads in each 4th quarter.
If the Pacers have not been getting blown out, and have even had some commanding leads late in the games, why have they faltered 3 times out of 4 (not to mention nearly blowing their Game 4 win)?
I am not giving all of the credit to Rose for Bulls’ dominance in closing out the games. The Bulls’ defense has tightened during those closing stanzas, doing a good job of keeping the Pacers on the perimeter, and other Chicago players have made plays to win those games as well. But Rose is the motor that makes it all go, as he is a total +28 plus-minus in his four 4th quarter stints, and all of the Bulls’ late runs have coincided with his time on the court. How is that a good thing for the Pacers?
As unfortunate as it is, injuries are a reality of sports, and have played a part in countless playoff series throughout NBA playoff annals, and Rose suffered a sprained ankle early in Game 4. Though he came back to play and finish the game, he had a poor shooting game (6-22 shots for 27 FG%) and only got to the line four times in the whole game, compared with 19, 13, and 15, respectively in games 1, 2 and 3. This latter point is especially important because free throws, especially late, allow the Bulls to score with the clock stopped, and have played a large part in each of their come-back wins.
If Rose, who didn’t participate in morning shoot-around, is slowed due to his injury and lacks his usually ability to get into the paint and to the line, it could hurt the Bulls – and help the Pacers – if they are again facing a deficit in the 4th quarter.
The odds that the Pacers face remain long, even if they are able to get a win on the road in Chicago tonight. They would still have to win Game 6 at home before returning to Chicago to play Game 7 on the road, in which they would be the underdog. Still each of the trends mentioned above bear watching as the Pacers look to back up their coach’s words, and to make history.
Lionel Hollins tanking at the end of the season so the Grizzlies can drop down to the 8th seed and play a 61-win team now looks borderline genius. Memphis beat San Antonio to take a 3-1 series lead. Only person I know that called the Memphis upset was Zach Lowe on The Basketball Jones’ Overdose and he probably can’t believe how things have transpired either. Last night’s game saw the 4-time champion Spurs team get out-classed by Darrell Arthur and Tony Allen. The best part about this series is watching Marc Gasol adding zeros to his inevitable off-season payday. Marc has the confidence of a 2-time world champion as if his name was Pau. Swag him the f*** out.
Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes Of Hell tweeted during the game, “Just got a text from a friend. The Spurs window as contenders might run lockout-to-lockout, and that’s it. ” It’s remarkable that this is how things could end. Then again, would anyone be shocked if the Spurs came back and won this series? Game 5 is on Wednesday in San Antonio.
At this point I don’t know what to think of Brandon Roy. He went just 2 for 7 in nearly 30 minutes of action last night but I can’t just throw him under the bus, none of the Blazers decided to show up last night. LaMarcus went for 12 and 9 and Wes Matthews had 8 points in 36 minutes. If it weren’t for Wallace and Miller, this game would have turned uglier, sooner. No one really checked Dirk all night and no one could keep Tyson Chandler off the glass, specifically the offensive rebounds. Tyson grabbed 20 boards including 13 offensive rebounds, a team record. Those second chance points killed Portland, who had held Dallas to just 41% shooting for the night. Dallas now has a 3-2 series advantage and I think they close it out in Portland on Thursday.
I didn’t see this game but I got home just in time to see the post-game interviews and read all the tweets. Russell Westbrook was a trending topic in my timeline. The tweets were hilarious but the context wasn’t and that was deserved. I check the box score and I see that the Thunder point guard put up 30 shots and missed 18 of them including a few crucial baskets at the end of the game. Yesterday I said that this game would be indicative of exactly what the Thunder are capable of. If they close out this game strong and sweep the Nuggets, we should all be very scared. I’m scared, but not for other teams, I’m scared for Oklahoma. What transpired is what I’ve always been afraid of for this team, selfish, inefficient play. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come and Westbrook will soon realize that Durant is the closer, not him. Oklahoma has a chance to close the series out at home on Wednesday.
Atlanta Hawks @ Orlando Magic – 7:30 PM EST on NBAtv: Atlanta leads this series 3-1. This means the Hawks have three chances to win one game, starting with tonight. Which most likely means that Atlanta won’t win tonight because they are Atlanta. Orlando wins this one if their 3-point shooters actually make some 3-point shots. The strange part of this series is that Atlanta’s shooters haven’t been shooting well, either. Orlando might get unlucky and find their stroke on the same night Atlanta does.
Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls – 8:00 PM EST on TNT: The Pacers did some good things in games 3 & 4. They went to a trap defense and saw some results. Good enough results that they limited Derrick Rose — even before he sprained his ankle — and forced a Game 5. Although Chicago leads this series 3-1 and many thought this would be a sweep or at worst 5-games, Indiana has been right there. This could easily be a 2-2 series or even a 3-1 series in favor of Indy. That last bit might be a stretch but don’t forget the Pacer held a significant 4th quarter lead in every single game. If this team figures out how to actually close a game out — they almost blew a double digit lead in game 4 as well — they might steal at least one more game in these playoffs. Still, even with Rose’s bum ankle, I see Chicago closing it out tonight.
New Orleans Hornets @ Los Angeles Lakers – 10:30 PM EST on TNT: I’m not sure what to expect anymore. I never thought one man could beat the 2-time defending world champs, let alone do it twice in four games. The thing that gets me is that Chris Paul has been stellar, but it hasn’t been inconceivable. It’s not like he had to score 60 points for the hornets to win. He simply had to have a great Chris-Paulian type game of 20+/15+/5+. That might sound out of this world, but Chris nearly averaged that a few seasons ago, so asking for him to do it two more times in the three games left in this series is not that far fetched. Especially with Kobe playing on a sprained ankle which he refuses to get an MRI on, there might be no one on this Lakers roster than can defend Chris Paul. Lakers are going to have to simply outsize New Orleans, something which they are inexplicably having trouble doing.
Links Of The Day:
The No-Look Pass: Check out Rey-Rey’s daily recaps of playoff action!
The Basketball Jones: Holly MacKenzie with two pieces just as good as the performances that inspired them: Chris Paul & Brandon Roy
Negative Dunkalectics: The joys of gambling on the NBA.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com: Chris Paul is red-hot, via StatsCube.
Join me on twitter tonight for a ridiculously good time.
Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.