2011 NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder In Conference Finals

The 2011 NBA Playoffs schedule has been set, as has the TV listings on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV and the times for the first week of games. In the Western Conference, the L.A. Lakers will take on the Dallas Mavericks, the Memphis Grizzlies face off with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the semifinals. In the East, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat square off, with the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks meeting as well.

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Thunder vs. Mavs Video: Kevin Durant Posterizes Brendan Haywood

The knock on Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is he's apparently not athletic enough. He doesn't have the strength or ability to make the finishing moves necessary to win a championship. Without that, Durant is having to force tougher shots, gets bodied away from position, and struggles to finish off plays.

Thankfully, bad Dallas Mavericks defense proves that Durant can do quite a bit close up in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. First, Peja Stojakovic let Durant blow past him on his way to the basket, leaving his center Brendan Haywood out to dry on the blow by. Durant was happy to take advantage of the situation and exploit it to the best of his abilities.

Kevin Durant Poster Dunk On Brendan Haywood 5/19/2011 (via nbafufu)

For more on the Mavericks, head out to Mavs Moneyball to talk with Dallas fans. For more on the Thunder, head out to Welcome to Loud City to talk with Oklahoma City fans.


Heat vs. Bulls Video: Watch Taj Gibson Sledgehammer Putback Dunk

Okay, so apparently Taj Gibson decided to make the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals his personal coming out party. First he decided to baptize Dwyane Wade like Scottie Pippen on Patrick Ewing (check out the video here). Then he played incredible defense for most of the game, being able to switch onto LeBron James on pick and rolls and play him straight up, play on the backline, pound the glass, block shots, and also knocked down some shots too. 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists, with a plus/minus of +17 to boot.

And at the end of the game, this happened.

Taj Gibson Sledgehammer Dunk vs Heat 5/15/2011 (via nbafufu)

It doesn't feel too bad to be Taj Gibson right now, doesn't it? Chicago is now up 1-0 on Miami. Game 2 is Wednesday Night.

For more reaction from Bulls fans, head to Blog A Bull. For reaction from Heat fans, check out Peninsula is Mightier.


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Taj Gibson Posterizes Dwyane Wade

Taj Gibson was a pretty special defensive force for the USC Trojans, particularly his rebounding and blocking skills. He was always a great athlete though, and his incredible leaping abilities were always quite underrated. He's established himself as a solid bench player for the Chicago Bulls, as they now find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals.

They suit him well on dunks too. After a Miami Heat turnover led to a three on one opportunity for the Bulls, Gibson did this to Dwyane Wade.

Taj Gibson dunks on Dwyane Wade -- Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat Game 1 (via nbavideosnow)

What'd you think of the dunk? Best dunk of the playoffs? Let us know in the comments!

Chicago and Miami are deadlocked in battle in the Eastern Conference Finals. Check out additional coverage of the game on SB Nation's NBA hub. Head to Blog A Bull to discuss the game with Bulls fans. Head to Peninsula is Mightier to discuss the game with Heat fans.

(HT Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge for the upload.)


2011 NBA Playoffs Schedule: Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat, Game 1 Eastern Conference Finals Sunday On TNT

Well, the Eastern Conference Finals are set. Good vs. evil, if you believe in that nonsense. Pure-hearted Derrick Rose led his Chicago Bulls to a defensive snuff-out of the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Playoffs Series, meaning they'll be facing off with the madmen LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

Unfortunately, the early schedule has ensured they'll be way more talk than play, as the first three games will take ONE WEEK to play out. Game 1 is Sunday night on TNT, Game 2 is Wednesday night on TNT, then a three day gap to ge tto Miami and Game 3. Pretty ridiculous, if you ask me.

Here are the times and listings for each game in the series. 

Sunday, May 15: Game 1, Miami at Chicago, 5 PM PT/8 PM ET, TNT
Wednesday, May 18: Game 2, Miami at Chicago, 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET, TNT
Sunday, May 22: Game 3, Chicago at Miami, 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET, TNT
Tuesday, May 24: Game 4, Chicago at Miami, 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET, TNT
Thursday, May 26: Game 5, Miami at Chicago, 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET, TNT (*)
Saturday, May 28: Game 6, Chicago at Miami, 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET, TNT (*)
Monday, May 30: Game 7, Miami at Chicago, 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET, TNT (*)

(*) if necessary

Who do you think will win the series? Let us know in the comments!


Rajon Rondo Elbow Injury Would Have Kept Him Out Six-Eight Weeks If It Occured In Regular Season

No one is likely to question the heart of Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics anymore after his heroic performance coming back from that horrific elbow injury. However, now that the Celtics have been eliminated in five games by the Miami Heat, there will be plenty of questions about his mind. Was it a wise decision? Did he further damage the arm through subsequent contact with opposing defenders?

Mike Gorman of CSN New England reported after the game that he’d heard from sources inside the Celtics that Rondo’s injury was very serious, and could have kept him out as much as two months if he had decided to shut it down for the season. That Rondo decided to keep on chugging is a pretty impressive testament of character, even though his effectiveness considerably declined playing with one arm.

I guess it’s a small price to pay for immortality in the New England sports world.

What do you think of Rondo deciding to play with a serious elbow injury like that? Obviously a gutsy move, but was it a smart decision?

For more on the Celtics, hit up Celtics Blog.


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Dirk Nowitzki Filthy One-Legged And-1 Shot Helps Mavs Sink Lakers

Dirk Nowitzki is soft. Never forget this NBA fans.  Never forget this despite the innumerable 20+ point playoff performances, the incredible clutch shots he makes, the work he puts into making his incredible one-legged fadeaways.

Yes people, he practices shots like this. As good an NBA player as he is, what is Pau Gasol supposed to do with THAT?

(via nbafufu)

Nowitzki finished with a modest 24 points, but also only needed 16 shots to get that, and also pulled down seven rebounds. And if you watch his nine field goal makes, you can only hope that gravity forces that shot down a few inches short or beyond the rim. Wild shots for everyone else equals normal shots for Dirk.

But yeah, soft. Keep on saying that. One of these days, it might even be true.

For more on the Lakers, check out Silver Screen and Roll. For more on the Mavericks, check out Mavs Moneyball.


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Should Ron Artest Be Suspended For Clotheslining J.J. Barea?

In the closing seconds of a shocking Dallas Mavericks sweep of the first two games in the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals, Ron Artest added injury to insult by attempting to dislodge the head of the man that killed his team all fourth quarter long.

(via nbavideosnow)

Artest is likely to earn himself a game off, and at the worst possible time with Dallas up 2-0. Artest went to the head of Jose Barea, a move that has generally warranted a one-game suspension in every other instance during these NBA Playoffs (Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson come to mind). Artest's streaky history also does him no favors here, despite being the recent winner of the Kennedy Citizenship Award.

Artest's likely suspension means Matt Barnes probably starts for LA on Friday night in Game 3. It does not solve the worrisome issue the Lakers have with trying to stop Barea, who exploded for 10 points and 4 assists and took advantage of lame Laker pick and roll defense all night long.

For more on the Lakers, check out Silver Screen and Roll. For more on the Mavs, head to Mavs Moneyball.

(HT Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge)


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Dwyane Wade Dives In Stands, Terrible Miami Heat Fans Let Him Fall

The Miami Heat acquitted themselves well in a 99-90 Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics, and Dwyane Wade was all-around brilliant. 38 points on 21 shots, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks. Great game for Wade.

Miami Heat fans? Less so, as they continue to reinforce the stereotype they're among the worst and least-supportive in the league. Check the animated GIF by clicking here.

Hey Heat fans, you do realize this guy singlehandedly carried you to your only NBA championship? You realize his recruitment of LeBron James and Chris Bosh is the reason you're in this position to be three wins away from the Eastern Conference Finals? CATCH THE MAN YOU KEEP ON CHANTING "M-V-P" FOR (Well, you also chant "M-V-P" for LeBron, and Joel Anthony, which also doesn't reflect too well on you...) INSTEAD OF LETTING HIM FALL INTO THE METAL CHAIRS.

For more on the NBA Playoffs, head over to SB Nation's NBA page. For reaction from Heat fans, head over to Peninsula is Mightier. For reaction from Celtics fans, check out Celtics Blog.

What do you guys think of D-Wade's hustle and the spinelessness of Heat fans? Let us know in the comments!

(HT Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge)


2011 NBA Playoffs Schedule, Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies, Game 1 Sunday On ABC

Well, they did it. Those Memphis Grizzlies chased the San Antonio Spurs off the three point line all series long, and they rode behind their stalwart in Zach Randolph, the defense of Tony Allen, the skills of Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo, and a deep starting rotation that now has them playing in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, upsetting the top-seeded Spurs in six. Memphis becomes the first team to upset a #1 seed since the Golden State Warriors.

The next task of the Grizz? Dispatching the suddenly popular sleepers to win it all, the Oklahoma City Thunder. They'll have a relatively quick turnaround from this series to the next one, with Game 1 early Monday afternoon. Here is their schedule.

Game 1 - Sunday, May 1st, Grizzlies at Thunder, 10 AM PT/1 PM ET, ABC
Game 2 - Tuesday, May 3rd, Grizzlies at Thunder, 6:30 PM PT/9:30PM ET, TNT
Game 3 - Saturday, May 7th, Thunder at Grizzlies, 2 PM PT/5 PM ET, ESPN
Game 4 - Monday, May 9th, Thunder at Grizzlies, 6:30 PM PT/9:30 PM ET, TNT
Game 5 * Wednesday, May 11th, Grizzlies at Thunder, TBD, TNT
Game 6 * Friday, May 13th, Thunder at Grizzlies, TBD, ESPN
Game 7 * Sunday, May 15th, Grizzlies at Thunder, TBD, TBD

(*) if necessary

Who do you like in this series? Let us know in the comments!

For more from Grizzlies fans, go to Straight Outta Vancouver. Thunder fans can be found at Welcome To Loud City!


2011 NBA Playoffs Schedule: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks, Game 1 Monday

It took them awhile, but the Los Angeles Lakers finally eliminated the New Orleans Hornets in a decisive Game 6, using defense, the anchor of Andrew Bynum inside, the big talent of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and three quarters of strong play from Kobe Bryant to win 99-80 over Chris Paul and the overachieving Hornets.

The Lakers will end up with the Dallas Mavericks, who held off the Portland Trail Blazers one last time and won in the Rose Garden in Game 6. Dirk Nowitzki was money in the fourth quarter, and good support from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. It'll be the first time Dirk and Kobe have ever played each other in the playoffs.

Game 1 - Monday, May 2nd: Mavs at Lakers, 7:30 PM PT/10:30 PM ET, TNT
Game 2 - Wednesday, May 4th: Mavs at Lakers, 7:30 PM PT/10:30PM ET, TNT
Game 3 - Friday, May 6th: Lakers at Mavs, 6:30 PM PT/9:30PM ET, ESPN
Game 4 - Sunday, May 8th: Lakers at Mavs, 12:30 PM PT/3:30PM ET, ABC
Game 5 * Tuesday, May 10th: Mavs at Lakers, TBD TNT
Game 6 * Thursday, May 12th: Lakers at Mavs,TBD ESPN
Game 7 * Sunday, May 15th: Mavs at Lakers, 12:30 PM PT/3:30PM ET ABC

(*) If necessary.

For more on the Lakers, head to Silver Screen & Roll. For more on the Mavs, check out Mavs Moneyball.

Who do you like to win the series? Leave your predictions in the comments!


2011 NBA Playoffs Schedule: Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks, Game 1 Monday

Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls waited two days to find out their second round opponent after eliminating the Indiana Pacers. The Atlanta Hawks surprisingly took advantage of poor Orlando Magic perimeter shooting and rode the hot hand themselves to some close but impressive victories, winning their series in six games. They now head to the Second CIty to try and score their second upset in as many rounds.

Here is the schedule for the Bulls-Hawks series, which will be primarily featured on TNT (with a few possible games on ESPN).

Game 1 - Mon., May 2nd, Hawks at Bulls 5 PM PT/8 PM ET, TNT
Game 2 - Wed., May 4th, Hawks at Bulls, 5 PM PT/8 PM ET, TNT
Game 3 - Fri., May 6th, Bulls at Hawks, TBD, ESPN
Game 4 - Sun., May 8th, Bulls at Hawks, 8:00PM, TNT
Game 5 * Tue., May 10th, Hawks at Bulls, TBD, TNT
Game 6 * Thu., May 12th, Bulls at Hawks, TBD, ESPN
Game 7 * Sun., May 15th, Hawks at Bulls, TBD, TNT

(*) if necessary

For more on Chicago, check out the Bulls SB Nation site Blog A Bull. For more on Atlanta, check out the Hawks SB Nation site Peachtree Hoops.

Who do you like to win the series? Leave your predictions in the comments!


2011 NBA Playoffs Schedule: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat, Game 1 Sunday

And now the Miami Heat will finally begin their real test of validation. 

Miami struggled and struggled throughout their first playoff series, but still managed to beat the Philadelphia 76ers in five games. It wasn't easy, and the Heat still don't look particularly in sync, but they did just enough to close out the series on their homecourt Wednesday night.

However, their true test lies down the road against the defending Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Celtics (who eliminated both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade last year). The preliminary schedule dates has been announced, although TV times aren't completely set. All we can tell you is that Games 1 and 3 will be on ABC, and Game 7 (if necessary) will be on TNT.

Sunday, May 1st: Game 1, Boston vs. Miami, 12:30 PM PT/3:30 PM ET, ABC
Tuesday, May 3rd: Game 2, Boston vs. Miami, TBA (likely TNT)
Saturday, May 7th: Game 3, Miami vs. Boston, 5 PM PT/8 PM ET, ABC
Monday, May 9th: Game 4, Miami vs. Boston, TBA (likely TNT)
Wednesday, May 11th: Game 5, Boston vs. Miami, TBA (likely TNT)
Friday, May 13th: Game 6, Miami vs. Boston, TBA (likely ESPN)
Monday, May 16th: Game 7, Boston vs. Miami, TNT

Who do you have? Let us know your series predictions in the comments!

(HT John Schumann of NBA.com)


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Kobe Bryant Left-Handed Dunk Over Carl Landry

So, Kobe Bryant didn't seem to be having any trouble dunking on big men and creating more posters for aspiring hoopsters to plaster on their walls. Why not continue the trend in the second half? First it was  Emeka Okafor on a nasty drive and finish, now Carl Landry is on the brunt end.

Kobe Bryant dunks left-handed over Carl Landry -- Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets Game 5 (via nbavideosnow)

Funny thing is that Trevor Ariza is probably more to blame for playing Bryant too close up and letting him drive past him on both occasions. Ariza has been great offensively, but these defensive gaffes might have just as much of a negative impact as they've helped get Kobe and the Lakers going offensively.

The Lakers have started to pull ahead in the third quarter over the Hornets. Will the lead hold and will LA manage to take the critical 3-2 series lead?

For more on the Lakers, check out Silver Screen & Roll. Hornets fans should head to At The Hive.


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Kobe Bryant Posterizes Emeka Okafor

So, everyone thought Kobe Bryant might be done after turning his ankle in Game 4 of the Western Conference Playoffs. Bryant was limping and was seen on crutches after the game, and with a swing game looming between the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Lakers, no one really knew if Bryant would be up to the task. 

Yeah, whatever. A drive past his defender and a facial on Emeka Okafor later, I doubt anyone is thinking that.

Kobe Bryant dunk on Emeka Okafor -- Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets Game 5 (via nbavideosnow)

Bryant scored all of his field goals in the second quarter in the first half, and his L.A. Lakers hold a narrow three point lead over Chris Paul and the Hornets. Will Kobe have any more highlights in store for us in the second half?

For more on the Lakers, check out Silver Screen & Roll. Hornets fans should head to At The Hive.

(HT Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge for uploading the video)


2011 NBA Playoffs Video: Chris Paul Would Hit Mom If Playing Basketball Against Her

Chris Paul is not of this Earth. In Game 4 he lifted his New Orleans Hornets to an incredible 93-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers with an impressive triple double performance. He executed a nasty crossover on Kobe Bryant, who used to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He nearly broke Andrew Bynum's knees when he turned him around on a switch with his incredible dribbling skill. He had as many rebounds as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined (13). He had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the second half alone. He waited until the very last second to draw the double team and find a cutting Jarrett Jack, who nailed the clinching jumper.

And when asked by Cheryl Miller after the game about his competitive spirit and jousting with Kobe in the first half of this game, CP3 showcased his ferocious competitive spirit.

(via nbavideosnow)

This is a series. The Hornets are two wins away from one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. Can Paul pull off two more extraordinary performances like these?

For more from Hornets fans, go to At The Hive. For Lakers fan reaction, check out Silver Screen & Roll.


Tale Of The Tape: Hornets Anchored By Chris Paul, Aided By Poor Lakers Defense

So a day after a dramatic performance at the Staples Center, what exactly happened for the New Orleans Hornets to shoot 52% from the field, shoot 33 free throws and dictate the tempo? Some of the issues are obvious, some not so much, so let's take look. Courtesy of the incredible Synergy Sports, I made these observations.

  • Chris Paul was incredible. 14 assists and 2 turnovers against one of the biggest frontlines in the NBA, and 33 points to boot. Enough has been said of the way he dominated the game.
  • There are two sides to a great performance though, and lazy Laker defense did plenty to give the LA did a good job switching, but did a terrible terrible job switching back. It wasn't like Paul was always making quick decisions with the ball--on many possessions after the pick and roll, he simply held it, held it, waited for the isolation to come, then took him off the dribble or buried a stepback shot with little pressure. No rotation for the Lakers when the situation was there for the movement simplified CP3's tasks and made it easier for him to operate and dictate the game on his terms.
  • That big that Paul punished the most was usually the hobo that was installed into the game that eerily resembled Pau Gasol. I like the Spaniard, but the man was dreaming of Elsyian Fields today. More on his putrid offensive performance later this week.
  • Andrew Bynum was much better defensively on Paul; he had some lapses, but he managed one blocked shot, bothered another, and hedged well enough to force the Hornets point to give the ball up.
  • Emeka Okafor posted up at least twice with no intention of receiving the ball to actually force Bynum under the basket and to prevent the ball-handler from worrying about his floater/runner from getting blocked.
  • Lamar Odom was somewhere in between--his length bothered the ball handler a few times, but sometimes he paid for overaggressive or underaggressive play. Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher all guarded Paul, with no real success attributable to any of them.
  • The Lakers sometimes gambled or made bad decisions defensively, which is peculiar because they generally don't need to gamble to stagnate an opposing offense. Bryant went for steals and block shots and left his man open for driving lanes. Shannon Brown ... well, ok, it's not unusual that Shannon Brown was making bad decisions defensively. Trey Johnson got stuffed on one pick and conceded too much space for a Jack open jumper on another.
  • The Lakers generally only give up about 57% of field goal attempts that are cuts to the basket, tops in the league. The Hornets converted six of seven, and there were errors abounding.
  • The Hornets ran great pick and roll offense almost the entire game. Even if it was an isolation shot, it came off of one, two, sometimes three picks. What makes the performance even more incredible is that most of the damage came from the ball handler, considering that dribble penetration is generally difficult against LA's frontline--the Lakers are 9th at P&R defense against the ball-handler, yet gave up 9 of 13 against the ball-handler (usually Paul or Jarrett Jack).
  • Take a look at all of these plays, broken down below. Here are my arbitrary stats by my personal count. Admittedly this is a small sample size, but these were the most successful plays of the day for the Hornets.
    CP3 is a god among men: 4 for 4
    Gambling defense: 4 for 4
    Lazy rotations: 2 for 2
    Poor defensive fundamentals: 3 for 3
    Good defense: 2 for 7

The Hornets were 6 of 7 on their cuts (Lakers were 1st in the league this year at defending cuts--57.3%)
Chris Paul makes floater/runner, Tied at 14, 4:37 in 1st quarter (gambling defense)
CP3 takes the ball down the left sideline, with Carl Landry coming up to set the pick. Lamar Odom switches onto Paul and has him now on the sideline and gives him trouble with his length. Landry cuts to the left block and Pau Gasol eventually picks him up. Fisher is stuck on Gray on the right block.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Odom plays Paul too close, allowing him the ability to move off the ball. Paul executes a give and go with Landry by passing the ball around Odom's waist, getting it back, and finishing with an open floater in the lane.

Emeka Okafor dunk, NO 41, LAL 35, 5:15 in 2nd quarter
Same formula. Pick and roll, pick and roll. (lazy rotation)

Jarrett Jack guarded by Derek Fisher, Emeka Okafor comes out to set a pick. Gasol switches on Jack as he drives to the outside, and does a good job forcing him toward the baseline. He loses the ball on what looks like an Artest reach-in, but Jack eventually gets back the ball.

In the second or two available, none of the Lakers manage to rotate back onto their original man. Gasol stays on Jack, Odom remains on Landry ... and Fish guards no one (after he gets tripped up on the pick, he floats back on the play). Meanwhile, Okafor is wide open under the basket after his cut in one of the longest successful pick and roll plays in history. Jack directs himself toward the outside of Gasol's body before wrapping it around to the center.
Carl Landry AND-1 layup, NO 62, LAL 55, 6:30 in 3rd quarter (gambling defense)
Paul again runs pick and roll with Okafor on the strongside, but Bynum again does a great job picking him up. So he reverses the ball to the weakside to the right wing with Trevor Ariza. Kobe Bryant gambles for the steal again (something he's not that good at doing), giving up the drive from Ariza, who makes a pretty sweet pass between Ron Artest & Pau Gasol to Landry for a pretty automatic finish.

Carl Landry layup miss, NO 65, LAL 63, 3:15 in 3rd quarter (good D)
Paul again gets ready for the pick from Landry on the left wing, but Odom leaps over to trap and cut off the passing lane, and Paul has to keep the ball and start dribbling it to the left baseline. When Odom comes in to cut off the drive, Paul threads the needle to the driving Landry down the middle, but Gasol comes over from a great contest.  Best defense against a cut shown so far (and probably the rest of the game).

Aaron Gray layup, NO 71, LAL 68, 1:05 in 3rd quarter (CP3 is a god among men)
CP3 is conducting an orchestra and the Lakers are the captive audience.

Ron Artest is first on Paul, and Paul drives past him. Artest funnels him to Kobe Bryant, but Paul simply yo-yos it around the court before backing up to the top of the key. Aaron Gray comes back to set another pick, and the Lakers switch Gasol on Paul, Bryant on Gray.  Paul simply waits for the Hornets to clear out for a 1-4 isolation set, then drives past Gasol toward the basket when he gets his body turned toward the sideline.

Gray is nearest the basket on the opposite baseline. When Bryant comes over to try and block CP3's shot, Paul lays it off to Gray for the dish.

Willie Green layup, NO 79, LAL 74, 9:54 in 4th quarter (gambling defense)
Jarrett Jack takes the ball down the right sideline. Jason Smith comes over and picks Derek Fisher; Matt Barnes switches on Jack. Jack drives right past Barnes toward the baseline, and Odom comes over to provide the help.

But the issue comes on the weakside. Bynum comes over to provide additional help (or readies himself for a block shot) that probably isn't needed with the help Odom is showing to Barnes, so Shannon Brown leaves his man to take Brown's man. Green then makes a half circle from the corner Jack is driving from right down the middle of the paint. Jack dishes it to Green for another easy basket off a cut.

Jarrett Jack hook shot, NO 98, LAL 92, 2:24 in 4th quarter (good defense)
Paul again gets a pick from Gray from the right side at the top of the key, but Bynum and Fisher do a good job holding him to the left corner and cutting off driving lanes for Paul to get to the basket. Fisher sags off Paul for a second to watch the cutting Gray, but Odom is watching from behind to ensure Gray doesn't figure it out.

So again, just like Green, Jack curls from the opposite corner to receive the ball from Artest.

This is a tough shot for Jack though, but if Artest wasn't bothered by Jack's lateral quickness, Jack probably would have been stopped in his tracks and not allowed to drive much further and convert the shot. I'd give more credit to Jack for draining a tough shot like this one.

Hornets 9 of 13 on P&R ball handler (Lakers 9th at defending P&R ball handler--39.8%)
Chris Paul made layup; NO 6, LAL 2, 10:19 in 1st quarter
(gambling defense)
Chris Paul brings the ball up the court, but Pau Gasol commits way too early to trapping toward the sideline when Carl Landry comes up to set the pick on Derek Fisher. Paul drives right down the middle of the court. Emeka Okafor also does a good job to block out Andrew Bynum without committing a moving screen, giving Paul enough room to get up for a layup without getting blocked or stripped by Ron Artest leaking over from the right.

Chris Paul made layup, NO 10, LAL 4, 8:10 in 1st quarter (CP3 is a god among men)
Again coming up the court, Paul this time gets a double screen from Landry (to take Fisher out of the play) and Okafor. This time Gasol sags off to prevent the penetration, but Bynum doesn't step up enough to challenge Paul's shot either. Open jumper from the right elbow, although to be fair it's not an easy shot)

Chris Paul layup blocked by Andrew Bynum, NO 12, LAL 6, 7:44 in 1st quarter (good defense)
Okafor sets a pick and Bynum switches on Paul. Paul this time gets the drive, but Bynum with good contain to watch the jumper, then blocks the shot when Paul drives past him. One of the better efforts with the Lakers defending the man on the ball with a pick and roll.

Trevor Ariza missed jumper, NO 12, LAL 8, 7:10 in 1st quarter (good defense)
Ariza has the ball on the right elbow guarded by Kobe Bryant. Landry comes over to set a pick on Bryant's left. Bryant does a good job forcing Ariza to his right, into the help of Gasol. Gasol backs off and lets Ariza fire, which I'm sure the Lakers will take considering how poor a jump shooter Ariza is, particularly off his own dribble.

Jarrett Jack made jumper, start of 2nd quarter (poor defensive fundamentals)
Trey Johnson is guarding Jack but backing way off of him. Aaron Gray is at the high post but gives the ball back  to Jack. Johnson goes over the pick of Gray and Lamar Odom comes over to hedge, keeping his arms up to prevent Jack from rocking it over to the rolling Gray. Jack comes up and pulls up from the left angle and Johnson might have conceded too much space. Open look and two points for the Hornets.

Chris Paul made runner, NO 30, LAL 24, 10:28 in 2nd quarter (poor defensive fundamentals)
After Shannon Brown fights through one pick from Okafor, Brown gets his feet turned toward the sideline instead of keeping Paul in front of him. Paul crosses over to the basket and Brown is left trailing; Odom is getitng ready to trap at the top of the key and is out of the play. This is all on Shannon.

Again, Okafor does a good job pinning Bynum behind him in the paint to prevent him coming over for the block.

Jarrett Jack made jumper,  NO 37, LAL 30, 6:18 in 2nd quarter (poor defensive fundamentals)
Jack dribbles to his right as the Hornets center comes out ot contest. Trey Johnson runs right into the pick set by Okafor. Bynum doesn't have the lateral ability to step out to contest Jack's shot, but Johnson knows he'll have to fight harder through that because of who the big defender on the play is.

Chris Paul missed jumper, NO 55, LAL 54, 8:43 in 3rd quarter (good defense)
Okafor again comes over to set a pick from the right side and is able to bump Fisher off his coverage of Paul. Bynum does well do with contain, backing up but not conceding too much space to Paul, forcing a tough moving jumper. Bynum has acquitted himself well here.

Trevor Ariza missed jumper, NO 60, LAL 55, 7:27 in 3rd quarter (good defense)  
This is a late pick and roll after Paul can't set up any options. Ariza receives the ball at the top of the key, guarded by Bryant. Okafor comes over to set a pick from the right, with Bynum staying back. Ariza dribbles to the help and tries to get to the bucket, but Bynum retreats while forcing him down the lane and ensures a likely blocked shot when Ariza goes all the way. Ariza is forced to a difficult turnaround spin.

Chris Paul made runner, NO 69, LAL 66, 1:36 in 3rd quarter
(CP3 is a god among men)
Paul comes to the right elbow guarded by Fisher, Ariza comes to set the pick from Paul's left and Fisher's right. Paul executes a deadly killer crossover and drives with a clear path to the lane, as Bryant (Ariza's defender) doesn't switch, instead pointing to the big defender behind him (Gasol) to try and contest Paul at the basket. Gasol does his best, but Paul elevates the ball high and banks it in off glass.

Defense wasn't perfect, but this is really just a great play by CP3.

Jarrett Jack made runner, NO 77, LAL 74, 10:19 in 4th quarter (Lazy rotation)
Jack recieves the ball on a dribble handoff, while being guarded by Fisher. Jack gets moving before Aaron Gray comes to pick Fisher as Odom seems to trail a little too far behind Gray. Jack splits the double team and scores on a jumper on the run with a Bynum contest.

Willie Green made runner, NO 84, LAL 76, 8:45 in 4th quarter (Good defense)
Green one-ups Jack with an even more difficult runner.  Gray comes from the right and Bynum hedges toward the outside, opening up the driving lane inside. Bryant does gamble for the steal, but Green probably could have given that ball up to the open Jack waiting on the wing when Fisher tries coming in and defending him close up. Fisher does also reach for the ball, giving Green open space when he reaches up and connect. It's a great shot by Green though, and not the worst Laker defense.

Chris Paul made jumper, NO 94, LAL 87, 4:25 in 4th quarter
(CP3 is a god among men)
Paul is guarded now by Bryant, with Gray coming over to set the pick. Bryant switches on to Gray while Gasol is left guarding Paul. Whoops. Gasol shifts back to avoid dribble penetration and Paul buries the shot (and Gasol's corpse) on a stepback. Truly virtuoso performance from Paul, especially considering he had just isolated on Pau and already knocked down another jumper on the previous possession.


Great game for New Orleans. The big question is can they maintain this level of play when the Lakers inevitably wake up and start playing their brand of D? What will Paul does when the Lakers don't switch pick and rolls and play way off of him to avoid the drives altogether? Can he sustain that mid range game through the series? A lot of questions yet to be answered in what could be a surprisingly entertaining series.


VIDEO: Chris Paul One-Handed Bullet Pass To Aaron Gray, Carries Hornets Over Lakers

You might have been hearing about Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose the past few months. And they're all fine point guards, some of the best in the league. But let's get one thing straight: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets is the best of them all. At the top of his game, he can dominate like few others at the point position, and can win a game by dictating the tempo offensively. He showed that by toppling the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers with a performance for the ages--33 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 turnovers, and big big buckets down the stretch. He helped turn Willie Green, Aaron Gray, Marco Belinelli and Jarrett Jack.

His best moment from yesterday? An incredible dish from his right hand that he zipped to Gray underneath. Even Drew Brees had to sit back and admire that play.

(via FunkyAxl11)

For more Lakers coverage, go to Silver Screen & Roll. For Hornets coverage, check out At The Hive.


Lakers vs. Hornets: Kobe Bryant Neck Injury After Hitting Courtside Seat (VIDEO)

Some NBA experts believe that the only way the Los Angeles Lakers will stop being a consistent contender is either a drastic decline in health, or if Kobe Bryant somehow goes down with an injury. Well, the plastic end of a chair seemed to nearly guarantee the latter. Bryant made a fadeaway late in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs against the New Orleans Hornets, then went sliding back.

(via nbavideosnow)

It was reported that it was only a neck bruise, and he was back out in the third quarter anyway. You'd pretty much need to put Kobe in a body cast to keep him out of a playoff game. Additionally, it doesn't really help improve the already weak image of the Laker fan at Staples to see an empty courtside seat during Game 1 of a threepeat bid.

For more Lakers coverage, go to Silver Screen & Roll. For Hornets coverage, check out At The Hive.


Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks: Dwight Howard Puts Up 46 Points, 19 Rebounds, Destroys Etan Thomas, Loses

Poor Dwight Howard. He has one of the most incredible first halves in NBA Playoff history (31 points!) against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1, but the rest of the Orlando Magic do nothing and they end up trailing at halftime. He goes to the free throw line 22 times and hits 14 of them, but the rest of the team makes only 8 traditional trips and Orlando's free throw advantage was minimal. Other than Howard and a great third quarter from Jameer Nelson, the Hawks held the rest of the Magic down and were well-balanced on offense.

Superman's performance of 46 points/19 boards puts him on an incredible list for playoff performances. It includes Dwight Howard's performance from yesterday, and that's that. That's the entire list. No, Howard didn't have the perfect game (8 turnovers and an iffy technical foul), but it's hard to ask him to do much more and get so little from the rest of his teammates. If you just want 45+ point losing performances in recent memory, enter the Bonzi Wells zone.

Oh well. At least he'll inspire the poetic Etan Thomas to write a few sonnets after he obliterated him with a monster block.

(via FunkyAxl11)

For more on the Hawks, head over to Peachtree Hoops. For more on the Magic, check out Orlando Pinstriped Post.

(HT Matt Moore for the background on NBA historical performances.)


Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Thaddeus Young Impresses, Including Sweet Reverse Alley-Oop Layup

Thaddeus Young of the Philadelphia 76ers had an impressive showing in Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat. He scored 12 of his 20 points in the 4th quarter, the majority of those on a run that cut the Miami big lead from 16 to 1. He also grabbed eight offensive rebounds, four during that final run. Young really looked like he was working harder than most of the other players on the floor with his effort

He punctuated his impressive performance with this incredible reverse alley-oop layup on the feed from Andre Iguodala.

Thaddeus Young's Crazy Reverse Alleyoop (via NBA)


At 23, Young is a free agent this summer, so there's probably some self-interest at work with this effort, but the man looks like he has a bright future with his rebounding and athleticism in the open court. Unfortunately, Dwyane Wade got the better of him in this game thanks to some dubious officiating, but that doesn't negate the impressiveness of his performance.

For more on Miami, check out Peninsula Is Mightier. For Philadelphia, check out Liberty Ballers.


VIDEO: Surreal Derrick Rose Block & 360 Layup Sequence Against Pacers

I don't really have a stake in who should or will be the MVP. It's an award that's poorly defined in a sport where quantifying value is sketchy at best. So if you want to ask me if Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls deserves the award, you might as well ask me how to solve the financial crisis. Don't know, probably won't know anytime soon.

That being said, it's hard to really think of anyone in this league who can recover from getting screened and trailing one of the fastest point guards in the league in Darren Collison, block the layup milliseconds before it hits the backboard (when it would've been a goaltend), take the ball back the other way at full speed, make at least one full spin through three Pacer defenders in the paint (Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush), and finish the basket.

(via rockeruttzu)

And that wasn't even the most remarkable moment of his 38 point performance in the narrow Game 1 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Check out the video of the sequence that won the game over in our recap post.


Dwyane Wade Crazy Clutch Jumper Was An Offensive Foul, Lifts Miami Heat Over Philadelphia 76ers

It's the playoffs, which means it's time to gripe about NBA officiating again.

The Miami Heat had just seen their huge second half lead cut to a one possession game by the hard-working and energetic Philadelphia 76ers. So naturally, we know what's coming next. Dwyane Wade gets the ball in his hands at the top of the circle, gets a pick, and drives to the basket. Here's what results.

(via nbavideosnow)

Patently ridiculous shot by Wade. But definitely an offensive foul that was not called.

As Jeff Van Gundy points out, Wade kicks Thaddeus Young away from him with his right leg. As he has done so often in this past, this is a case of D-Wade initiating contact to get more space for an open jumper and getting the benefit of the doubt from the officials. It might have made a huge difference in the final 97-89 outcome to give his Heat a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

For more on the Heat, check out Peninsula Is Mightier. For Sixers coverage, check out Liberty Ballers.


Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Hansbrough Exposes Carlos Boozer In Game 1 (VIDEO)

Although the Chicago Bulls had the best record in the NBA in the regular season, there were a lot of questions about whether they could replicate that success in the playoffs. One of them surrounded starting power forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer has had plenty of playoff success during the Utah Jazz, but genuinely did not play very well against teams with strong power forward play. Of course it's not really fair to Boozer to judge him for trying to stop two of the best in Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol.

Well, second year man Tyler Hansbrough of the Indiana Pacers definitely made Carlos Boozer look foolish this Saturday afternoon. Over and over, Hansbrough went to the pull-up long jumper, and Boozer refused to step up and contest the shot on almost every occasion. 22 points for the former Tar Heel, and Boozer was held to 12 points on 4 of 11 shooting.

What makes it worse is Hansbrough went to the body of Boozer during the 4th quarter to contest that same sort of outside jumpers, and this was the result.

Tyler Hansbrough Steals / Dunks Ball on Carlos Boozer 4/16/2011 (via nbafufu)

Boozer is probably going to have better games, and Derrick Rose saved him from two days of constant bashing, but there will be tougher matchups for the big man down the road, and the question marks linger.


Bulls vs. Pacers: Derrick Rose Dominates Down Stretch, But Darren Collison & Paul George Hold Their Own

Let's give dap where dap is due in the first game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Derrick Rose was incredible down the stretch for the Chicago Bulls. He got an and-1 off an incredible drive through traffic to tie the game. He made an incredible spin floater through traffic on a soft double team to give his team their first lead of the game. He drew the triple team on the drive, then found Kyle Korver for the wide open three that pretty much clinched the game to give Chicago a five point lead. 39 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, plus so many trips to the free throw line (19 of 21!).

Bulls Rally behind Rose and Korver (via NBA)

But let's not ignore the efforts of Paul George and Darren Collison by the Pacers. Collison did a good job setting up other teammates, and had an excellent first half to put pressure on Rose defensively, finishing with a statline of 17 points and 9 assists.  George did a solid job defensively on Rose before wearing down the stretch, and it's worth mentioning that Rose missed all nine of his three pointers. The comparisons between Dwyane Wade 2006 and Rose 2011 are almost uncanny, aren't they?


Should be the first game of an exciting series between two of the youngest team in the NBA Playoffs.

For more on the Bulls, head over to Blog A Bull; for Pacers coverage, check out Indy Cornrows.


2011 NBA Playoff Bracket: No Easy Road To The Finals

For those who want to see a bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, SB Nation has handily provided their own. To view the PDF, click here. The first page displays the bracket. The second page displays the URLs of the team sites in the playoffs. The bracket will be updated as each series completes.

Here are the matchups, both actualized and potential, in the Western Conference Playoffs.

First Round

  1. San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies
  2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets
  3. Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trailblazers
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Denver Nuggets

San Antonio/Memphis winner vs. Oklahoma City/Denver winner
Los Angeles/New Orleans winner vs. Dallas/Portland winner

SA/Mem/OKC/Den vs. LA/NO/Dal/Por

People may think the Lakers drew the favorable matchup when they ended up with New Orleans instead of Portland, but they still have to face the winner of the Portland-Dallas series in the second round, and both of those matchups could definitely drag on. Meanwhile, the top half of the bracket is a total minefield, with two potential underdogs looming as sleepers in Memphis and Denver, the cagey vets in San Antonio, and the emerging power in Oklahoma City.

In the Eastern Conference,

  1. Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers
  2. Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks
  4. Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

Chicago-Indiana winner vs. Orlando-Atlanta winner
Miami-Philly winner vs. Boston-New York winner

Chi/Ind/Orl/Atl vs. Mia/Phi/Bos/NY

Other than Philly dragging Miami a few games, only the Boston-NY series has any compelling value in the first round. But the second round has some intriguing matchups. The two leading MVP candidates will probably face off in Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose in a Chicago-Orlando series, and of course Boston-Miami will be the main attraction.

Should be another long and exciting playoff run for all the fans. Strap in.

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