Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant scored 41 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins is looking to upset the top seeded Spurs. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Grizzlies steal home court advantage from Spurs; Bulls win games late, plus news and analysis.
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
Possible Upset Brewing?
Judging by the numbers and results of Memphis’ Game 1 win at San Antonio, it’s not out of the question.
A few hours before the New Orleans Hornets stunned the Lakers at Staples Center, the eight-seed Grizzlies served notice to the Western Conference’s top-seed Spurs in a 101-98 victory.
Yes, the Spurs were without their explosive guard Manu Ginobili, but that’s not the sole reason they lost.
Ginobili’s presence wouldn’t have helped San Antonio’s frontline, which was battered and bruised in the paint by Memphis’ big men.
Zach Randolph finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks and imposed his will against undersized forward Dejuan Blair and the finesse play of Matt Bonner.
And at least for one day, Marc Gasol was the better half of the Gasol Brothers.
Older brother Pau had one of his worst games as a Laker Sunday evening, but Marc more than held his own against Tim Duncan finishing with 24 points, going 9-for-10 from the field, with nine rebounds and two blocks.
Ginobili’s absence was felt in the backcourt however. Memphis was able to throw a combination of Mike Conley and the bigger Tony Allen at Tony Parker, which made life difficult for the all-star point guard.
Due to his quickness, Parker still penetrated and got to the foul line, but the physical play clearly hindered him. Parker struggled from the field (4 for 16) to score a team-leading 20 points, and looked uncomfortable. George Hill couldn’t muster up enough offense to take pressure off Parker.
Despite missing Ginobili who is suffering from a sprained left elbow, the Spurs still out rebounded (40-38), shot more free throws (47-33) and had fewer turnovers (10 to 16) than the Grizzlies.
However, San Antonio allowed Memphis to shoot 55 percent from the field while they finished at 40 percent.
Wednesday’s game will be telling. I think the Spurs, if Ginobili returns, will heed Memphis’ challenge and will tie the series. However, the Saturday and Monday games in Memphis will test the mettle of the Spurs.
Rose Carries Bulls to Wins
If ever one needed an accompanying photo for the phrase “ugly win,” the Chicago Bulls would be the poster boys.
Typically, any and all playoff wins are accepted no matter how a team achieves them, but there are exceptions.
For two games, the top-seed Bulls have relied upon late-game runs to defeat the Indiana Pacers.
Yes, those Indiana Pacers, who finished with a sterling record of 37-45.
But, if the Bulls did pose for that photo, there would be one exception. The exceptional Derrick Rose would have reason to duck out of the camera’s lens.
Rose has single handedly won both games by scoring 39 points in the opener and 36 in Monday’s 96-90 victory.
It’s too bad MVP voting ended. If votes were still being tallied for the playoffs, Rose would run away with the award.
Put simply, the Bulls are up 2-0 in this best-of-seven series, but they’re on thin ice. Aside from Rose, they can’t find a consistent, dependable scorer.
During Game 1, Loul Deng had 18 points and Kyle Korver added 13, but Carlos Boozer struggled, scoring 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
The results for Boozer were better during Game 2 (17 points and 16 rebounds), but Deng struggled finishing a dismal 3-of-13 from the field for 14 points.
Not only did Deng struggle during Game 2, but the Bulls shot 39 percent from the field and committed 21 turnovers. Chicago didn’t shoot well or take care of the ball in Game 1 either, but their saving grace is a 106-67 rebounding advantage so far in the series.
Chicago rebounded and played great defense all year, but in the playoffs, someone not named Rose is going to have to step up and score if they’re going to make a run at the Eastern Conference title.
Deng has always been a sporadic scorer throughout his career. What you see is what you get with him. On the other hand, when the Bulls signed Boozer during last summer’s free agency, I thought he would be a nice second scoring option to complement Rose.
But through two games, that hasn’t happened.
Boozer must revert back to his heyday when he regularly posted 20 points and 10 rebounds. When he’s not scoring, the Bulls tend to get bogged down on offense and Rose has to save the day.
If Chicago doesn’t get more balanced scoring, Rose may tire by the second round. And if he struggles from the field, the Bulls will be in hot water.
You can bet that whoever wins the Atlanta-Orlando series is taking notes on the Bulls’ inability at times to put the ball through the hoop.
What Else Caught My Eye
The first few days of the NBA playoffs have been exciting. In fact, following March Madness, it kind of reminded me of the college postseason.
There weren’t any blowouts, and teams such as New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta beat higher seeds. Philadelphia, New York and Portland nearly pulled upsets.
Denver could have possibly won Game 1 at Oklahoma City, but the officials screwed up big time on a goaltending call, by failing to call Kendrick Perkins for the infraction after he tipped-in a basket still on the cylinder.
The NBA league office issued a statement admitting the missed call.
And oh yeah, the Thunder needed 41 points from Kevin Durant to edge out Denver. The Nuggets look poised to push this series to six or seven games.
I thought the Atlanta Hawks strategy during their Game 1 win at Orlando was genius. With stiffs at center such as Jason Collins and Josh Powell, the Hawks coaching staff employed an old tactic: Hack-A-Dwight.
True, Orlando’s Dwight Howard scored 46 points, but the Hawks made him earn every point.
Collins fouled out, Powell committed four fouls and Josh Smith added four.
The Hawks know they don’t have anyone to stop Howard, but they locked up the rest of the Magic, with the exception of Jameer Nelson who had 27 points.
Nelson scored more than the rest of his teammates combined, and Howard doubled their output, a grand total of 20 points.
Unless players like Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson contribute, the Magic’s postseason could be a short stint.
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