We won’t see a better game the rest of these playoffs.
Gotta love how the NBA allows you to take three massive steps without being called for traveling.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The best PF in the NBA is Dirk Nowitzki, a uniquely gifted 7-footer that can consistently beat defenders in a multitude of ways.
Zach Randolph’s making a strong case, though, for being the second best PF in the league. Let’s be clear, there are a ton of great PF’s in the league right now – LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, the list goes on. Would LA not make a Pau Gasol for Randolph switch right now, though? Wouldn’t Miami immediately flip Randolph for Chris Bosh? The Knicks would be much better off with a player that’s dedicated to cleaning up the glass on every possession, right? LaMarcus Aldridge and his silky smooth jumper is incredible, but Randolph has a similar jumper and can rebound better than anyone at his position besides maybe Kevin Love.
Anyone who watched yesterday’s Memphis-Oklahoma City game saw Randolph torch the Thunder. The Thunder tried to place Serge Ibaka on him. Well, Randolph took him away from the paint, isolated him, and when the shot clock neared 0, he executed his unblockable pull-up fade-away jumper. When the Thunder decided to put Nick Collison on him, Randolph immediately went to the paint and outmuscled him like Dwight Howard usually outmuscles PG’s. Perkins wasn’t a good match-up either. Randolph’s deceiving quickness allowed him to take Perkins away from the paint then take him baseline or towards the paint for either an easy layup or a finesse hook shot. Lastly, when the Thunder decided to quickly double team him, Randolph’s underrated court vision allowed him to setup his other teammates, most notably Marc Gasol, who finished with an impressive 20 and 13.
The Thunder will make adjustments and I still expect them to come out victorious in this series, but it’s going to be a battle. One thing’s for sure: Russell Westbrook can’t keep shooting more than the league’s leading scorer, Kevin Durant. To make matters worse, Westbrook turned the ball over more (7) than he assisted (6). Not exactly what you want out of your PG.
Randolph was the best player on the court on Sunday. I bet there aren’t many people complaining with Randolph’s recent 4-year, $71 million contract. Re-sign Marc Gasol and for at least the next three years, the Griz will have a core consisting of Randolph, Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Gasol. Watch out, people, Memphis isn’t going away.
You be the judge.
I for one didn’t think a foul should have been called. Harden didn’t jump and did a great job keeping his stand. Great defense, in my opinion. I’d actually say JR traveled before even attempting the shot anyway.
I’m looking forward to hearing Matt’s take on the call and the game later on.
by Eddie Moore
PLAYOFF TIME, BABY!!!!!
Now I’ve already prematurely posted my playoff predictions when I finished up my Western Conference Predictions column a few months back and I also stated my Finals predictions (LA over MIA in 6) when I wrote my NBA Mid-Season Recap column as well. Well, obviously a lot has changed since then, so here we go with my official NBA playoff predictions:
(Note: This appears to be one of the toughest playoffs in a long while to prophesy, so be easy on me with your disdainful comments if I only nail like 25% of these…)
NBA Western Conference:
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies – Depending on the severity of Manu’s elbow, the Griz could pull off a Golden State-like upset against the number-one seed out west. Won’t happen, though. Prediction: Spurs 4-3.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets – The Hornets are the worst team in the playoffs in the West; the Lakers may be the best. The Lakers will get some much needed rest while they wait to play the winner of the grueling series, Dallas versus Portland. Prediction: Lakers 4-0.
#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers – Absolute worst-case scenario for the Mavs: They draw the hardest first-round opponent, and if they win, they’ll have to beat the Lakers in a series when they won’t hold the vital home-court advantage. The Mavs, like usual, will fall short of expectations in the playoffs. Prediction: Blazers 4-3.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are a feel-good story. Coach Karl gets my vote for Coach of the Year for being able to essentially coach two completely different teams – and being able to do so successfully . Unfortunately the Nuggets are running into, arguably, the hottest team in the league, OKC. Prediction: OKC 4-2.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder – I predicted back in February the Spurs would escape past the Thunder. Not anymore. Perkins’ impact has solidified this team as absolutely championship material. Durant goes wild. Prediction: OKC 4-2.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers – The Lakers’ extra rest from the first-round will give them enough energy to take advantage of this fatigued opponent. It’ll still be a war. Prediction: Lakers 4-3.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder – Can the inexperienced Thunder dethrone the defending champs? Not this year. Prediction: Lakers 4-3.
NBA Eastern Conference:
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Indian Pacers – The team with the league’s-best record and the eventual league’s MVP will soar past the Pacers with east. Prediction: Bulls 4-0.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Philadelphia 76ers – Wade will have a field day feasting on Philly’s undersized guards, and the Heat will enjoy playing in a rare up-tempo playoff series. Prediction: Heat 4-1.
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 New York Knicks – This is the most exciting first-round match-up. I keep trying to convince myself the Knicks can pull off the unthinkable, especially with the Celts playing such atrocious ball lately. I still believe in the Celts, though. Prediction: Celts 4-3.
#4 Orlando Magic vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks – This is a hurdle the Hawks will never overcome. Prediction: Magic 4-2.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #4 Orlando Magic – Joakim Noah will be the key to this series as he’ll be able to slow down Howard enough to allow the Bulls to stay at home on Orlando’s three-point shooters. Prediction: Bulls 4-2.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Boston Celtics – Over/Under for number of technicals handed out in this series…15? In what will be an all-out war, the Heat slide by because of the brilliant play of the best player in the game, LeBron. Expect a 28-11-7-type performance. Prediction: Heat 4-3.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #2 Miami Heat – Like the Thunder, I definitely think they’re championship contenders. I just don’t see the Bulls being able to defeat Wade and LeBron in four games. Prediction: Heat 4-2.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #2 Los Angeles Lakers –The combination of Bynum, Gasol and Odom proves to be too much for the undersized Heat.
And there you have it. The Lakers will collect their third-straight championship; Kobe will tie Jordan with six titles; and Phil Jackson will retire with one of the most impressive coaching resumes off all time.
Sadly, this may be the last playoffs we witness for two years.
Good to see a little vintage Vince Carter last night.
The Thunder won by nearly 30 last night against the lowly Wizards. Perkins made his debut (only played 19 minutes), but his running mate, Ibaka, finished with 8 blocks. I love their big men now.
And we now officially have a fourth legitimate Western conference contender. Watch out.
We all know about DeMarcus Cousins’ mercurial personality, and last night after the Sacramento Kings lost a nail-biter against the Oklahoma City Thunder Cousins showed it off:
The incident, which was first reported by FanHouse, immediately followed a loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday night. Cousins, who had overcome early-season struggles of the performance and personality variety recently, is expected to be suspended for at least one game. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie did not immediately return a call for comment.
According to the sources, Cousins (whose postgame interview can be seen here) was furious at the last play in which Tyreke Evans missed a three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation that would have won the game. Cousins, who had been calling for the ball in the post in the final possession, watched angrily as Greene inbounded the ball to Evans for the final shot.
After the buzzer, he ran the length of the court to catch up to Evans and Greene and was letting his opinions be known as he blew by them to enter the locker room. According to the sources, Greene and Cousins began exchanging words inside the locker room. The situation then escalated, with both players taking swings at each other before they were separated.
Here’s Cousins’ press conference:
We can only hope Cousins’ erratic personality doesn’t become too big of a distraction now and in the future. He’s an exceptional talent that possesses incredible ability around the rim. I see no reason why he can’t eventually become a 22-12-type player. He’s not the first young (20), talented player to be tough to deal with (see: Jordan, Michael and Iverson, Allen), so let’s calm down with our criticism at this point. Obviously, though, this is not the type of stuff Sacremento wants to see.
Everyone who tuned in to yesterday’s exciting finish to the Oklahoma City Thunder-Miami Heat game saw the Heat spoil the Thunder’s hopes of pulling off a late-game rally. What was most surprising, though, was who stuck the final dagger in the Thunder. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. Yup, Eddie House has suddenly emerged as the Heat’s go-to man late in games, which is obviously surprising given the talent level of James, Wade and Bosh. Yesterday afternoon it worked, though. Instead of pulling up for a wide open three, LeBron unselfishly dished the ball out to House for a three of his own that turned out to be the game-clinching play.
If you didn’t catch the play, here it is (and make sure to check out House’s “big balls” dance after):
This from Tom Haberstroh of ESPN:
“Eddie House, Heat closer. To borrow a baseball term, House has unexpectedly stepped into the role of Miami’s closer in the end of tight games. In back-to-back contests, the star-studded Heat squad has entrusted House to register the go-ahead points with the game on the line. On Friday night against the Pistons, the Heat were down one point with 15 seconds remaining, when LeBron James passed it to House, who earned a game-winning trip to the free throw line on the final possession. And on Sunday against Oklahoma City, in one of the Heat’s most theatrical games of the season, the Heat received an encore performance. Miami down one, less than a half a minute remaining — James to House for the win. Both times, House delivered. Although the Heat reserve is an unlikely candidate for closing duties, the veteran would have it no other way. ‘I’m just ready,’ House said about Sunday’s game-clinching play. ‘If [James] passes it or he doesn’t, we both had looks. He just made a pass for an easier look. He could have taken a shot, but at the same time, that shows trust in his teammates.’”
It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how the Heat continue to handle late-game situations. Yesterday Wade initially got the nod, but he couldn’t capitalize and because of a nice Mike Miller rebound, the Heat were able to get a second chance. Whenever the Heat isolate Wade or LeBron late in games, their offense gets awkward. Each guy tries too hard to pull of a heroic and it usually results in a botched possession. We’ve all seen the likes of Steve Kerr, John Paxon and, most notably, Robert Horry coming up clutch in huge moments for their respective teams. So far for Miami, House is doing just that.
Let’s see if that continues.
Get that mess outta here!
Here’s the best scorer in the league for ya: