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.
Atlanta Hawks 86 – Orlando Magic 101
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.
Indiana Pacers 89 – Chicago Bulls 116
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.
New Orleans Hornets 90 – Los Angeles Lakers 106
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.