64918819Say goodbye to the Conference Finals

First, a little business: I will be out of town on vacation the rest of this week, so I won't be writing BAD posts for Games 2 or 3. Thankfully technology will allow me to post comments or tweet so I can share my smart-ass musings if I feel like tapping something out on my phone.

In today's absurdly ridiculous NBA legal news update, JR Smith got busted for illegal scootering. I can't shake my head discouragingly enough.

And finally, I hope you appreciate these last few games. It's probably the last NBA action you'll see for over a year.

Worst of the Eastern Conference Finals Press Conference in Pictures:

64919797"I'm going to the NBA Finals? Golly gee willickers!"

64919384"I am the most boring man on the face of the Earth"

64919365"I wonder how much I can get my for my MVP trophy on eBay..."

Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals:
Mavericks at Heat, ABC, 9pm (Series tied 0-0): Here's a cool but probably meaningless stat from the Elias Sports Bureau: "Dallas has won its last 14 regular-season games against Miami, the 2nd-longest winning streak teams to meet in the NBA Finals. The other 4 teams to enter the Finals with at least a 5-game winning streak against their opponent have gone on to win the title."

Why do I say this stat may be useless? How often do you see a team in the Finals that looks as completely transformed as this year's Heat? Right now they're hotter than Tabasco Family Reserve. But during the regular season, they were at times more dysfunctional than a sitcom family. And of course this stat is also useless because it goes deep back into previous seasons, with different players and coaches. Remember Miami's 2007-2008 team? Dwyane Wade played in only 51 games. Shaq gave them a mere 33 games. Ricky Davis was the only player to play in all 82 games for that team. (For the love of God, Smush Parker was on their roster!) Amazing how much the times change, eh? How did they turn it around so much? I need to think about this one for a few minutes -- if you need me, I'll be in the Chamber of Understanding

Okay, I figured it out: Dwyane Wade is really good at basketball. So while we talk about LeBron this and LeBron that, don't forget the other guy he's going to have going to the foul line approximately 1,847 times during this series.

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Fate really kicked the Bulls in the man region last night.


At long last.

After what feels like an entire year of fruitless effort and unending heartbreak, the turbulent ups and downs, the many times when it looked like they might never make it, the Miami cHeat have finally broken through.

This isn't merely a story. It's a saga. An odyssey. An epic tale of unwavering bravery and endurance in the face of staggering inequity and stunning odds.

Said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra: "We had to go through a lot of adversity. That struggle that we went through in March, where we lost five straight -- all of them close games, where we didn't execute down the stretch and weren't able to close games out -- that helped us. As painful as that was, we had to go through that fire together to be able to gain the confidence where we could be successful now in the postseason."

Normally, when human beings walk through fire, they get burned to a smoldering crisp. But not these cHeat. Oh no. Truly, from the ashes of doubt and hate, never has a Phoenix metaphor been more personified!

Added Wade: "It just seems like yesterday we were coming together as a new unit, and the Miami organization decided we needed to get away and (have) it just be about us and not let any outside distractions get in. And it was just about us."

It really does seem like only yesterday, doesn't it?

But the truth is this story stretches all the way back to last October. Nature did not create mortal man to survive the eight months of agonized waiting these cHeat have endured. They are more god than man. When the sun's light has faded and human life has been nearly extinguished from the desolate surface of a dying world, still shall the minstrels sing of the great light that shone forth from the asses of these men on this holy day!

You want pain? You want suffering? Look at the soul-wrenching anguish LeBron experienced when Derrick Rose ruthlessly swiped at the air in front of him:

Fortunately, the officials saw fit to reward LeBron's Job-like suffering with a foul before bloody stigmata could form on his mighty wrists. Truly is he the Chosen One. And, like a Messiah, he is met with unreasoning hate.

How much longer must this be so?

Said King Crab: "What's today's date -- the 26th? I say we've got about a month left. About a month left of continued hate. We'll see what happens next year."

No one has been more spiteful toward the cHeat than Sir Charles Barkley, Lord of Hate and Dark Despair, Weaver of Shadow and Spreader of Deceit.

Said Barkley: "These athletes today are all wussified. I've been saying LeBron's been the best player in the league for three years. And I say one thing criticizing The Decision, and I get a phone call from Nike saying why don't I like LeBron? It's interesting how this (expletive) works. These groups today, if you don't say 100 percent positive about their guy or their team, they overreact."

Don't believe his lies.

If you don't think this is divine providence, then you need to go buy a dictionary, look up "divine" and "providence," and then jam them together. From ESPN Stats and Information:

Including the regular season, the Chicago Bulls were 53-0 when leading by double-digits in the fourth quarter. So, with only 3:14 remaining in Game 5, and the Bulls leading by 12 points a win appeared all but certain.

The Miami Heat had other plans though, finishing the game on an 18-3 run to advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history.

According to 10,000 simulations done by Accuscore.com, the Heat had just a 1 percent chance of winning the game with 3:14 remaining.

Just like it's been all season, the "Big Three" for Miami were at the center of it all, scoring 69 of the team's 83 points, including the last 33.

It wasn't all good for the trio though; through three quarters they combined for as many field goals as turnovers (13).

The main culprit was Dwyane Wade, who committed nine turnovers to tie his playoff career-high and the franchise playoff record.

However, along with LeBron James, the pair came alive scoring 22 points in the final frame, while connecting on their last six field goal attempts, three of which came from behind the 3-point line.
LeBron isn't just a Majestic King and Basketball Messiah, mind you, he's a prophet. Remember his sage Tweet: "Crazy. Karma is a b****. Gets you every time. Its [sic] not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!"

Karma was indeed bitchy to Derrick Rose, who pulled off the crime of the century by stealing LeBron's 2011 MVP award. In retribution, Karma punked Rose into 9-for-29 shooting and 5 turnovers in the biggest game of his life. Fittingly, Chicago's last shot of the season was Rose getting stuffed by James on the game's final play:

Said Rose: "At the end, it's all me. Turnovers, missed shots, fouls. The series is over."

Karma also benched Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for the entire fourth quarter. Would anyone have ever guessed that Keith Bogans would see more PT in winning time than Boozer and Noah? But it was written in the Book of Time.

Probably by LeBron.

This wasn't just a victory for LeBron, or the cHeat, or the city of Miami, or the long-suffering cHeat fans who have struggled though a five-year championship drought, it was a victory for the American way of life. In a fast food culture full of armchair cynics who eschew personal accountability and demand instant gratification, these cHeat can be a moral exemplar, a throwback if you will to an earlier time in which hard work and perseverance really can pay off over time if you just stick with something and put the needs of other ahead of your own.

Joakim Noah, quote machine: Three words: "Hollywood as hell."

Pat Riley, quote machine: "You can see that we have two, three players that have no fear. Chris steps up there and makes two free throws that he's got to make. LeBron and Dwyane struggling a little bit with their game most of the night, but they made some big, big shots.That's what it's all about."

Dwyane Wade, quote machine: "We don't even know what happened. I'm not going to lie to you and say we do. I can't remember all the plays. I just remember the timeout, and Coach just looked at us and said, 'We've done this before. We've been in games where we've gone on a 12-0 or 14-0 run. Just believe.' We came out of that timeout believing if we get stops, we can give ourselves an opportunity. That's all I remember."

Taj Gibson, quote machine: "[Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] was basically saying his thing -- 'score, stop, score.' We had a good lead. It was all about getting stops and who could close it out. But then we really couldn't get any stops and the momentum grew."

Kurt Thomas, quote machine: "They hit some tough shots, step-back 3s, runners, you can't take anything away from them. They know how to put the ball in the hole and they showed it. I don't think I've ever experienced that. It seemed like they just hit one big shot after another. I thought we had a nice lead there, and it just slipped away. We let a golden opportunity get away."

Ronnie Brewer, quote machine: "We wanted [James] to take contested 2s, contested 3s. I guess you have to limit him but he stepped up and he willed his team to victory."

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20110525-mavs-celebrationThe Mavs celebrate their conference title by playing with a Van De Graff generator

Sorry to keep things brief today, some personal stuff going on. But that still couldn't stop me from Googling "electric ball that makes your hair stand up" because I couldn't remember the technical name for it! You're welcome.

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

20110525-thunder-fansThese fans are like Bob Seger -- "waiting on the Thunder..."
(No word on if they think they're going to Katmandu)

20110525-rick-carlisle"Come on! Stop making me pull my hair out! It's thin enough as-is!"

20110525-james-hardenCome on. You're not Gene Simmons. Your beard's great -- stick with what's working for you.

20110525-jason-terry-russell-westbrookIsn't this backward? I thought Dallas was on top of the Western Conference?

Nationally Televised Games:
Heat at Bulls, TNT, 8:30pm (Heat lead series 3-1): Magic Johnson tweeted "Will be interesting to see if the @miamiHEAT will be motivated by seeing the @dallasmavs close it out last night." Because apparently the prospect of playing in the NBA Finals isn't enough motivation in and of itself. It pains me to even consider that.


No KD, that's the wrong ball. It's over, just...look, you're making this hard on both of us...

Kevin Durant's acne: Good morning readers of Basketbawful! We started off the night with some excellent close-up KD interview acne....bleegh. Eh, the ESPN pre-game is crap anyways, I'm turning it off until 9.

But I couldn't resist hearing what "bold predictions" would be made tonight:

Magic: KD 50 in a loss
JB: J.J. with 25-8 in DAL win
Wilbon: OKC win tonight

Sadly, it was obvious that JB made the most reasonable guess. And so it was.

The Chokelehoma City Blunder: Here we go again. Up by 7, 5 minutes to go, close out by getting out-scored by 17-6. How did this happen? Again?

The game started ugly, with Dirk's failed attempt at Kevin Love Outlet, and for the whole game Dallas was TERRIBLE at recognizing Nick Collison on the baseline just outside the paint. But the tide first changed with yet another Harden flop attempt. Only this time, the home crowd did not buy it at all, and neither did the refs.


But that didn't stop the refs from sucking in general. Poor Dirk, up until the first minutes of the 4th, was getting hammered harder inside than Tori Black. Didn't the refs get the memo that the 2006 rematch hasn't officially started yet? In related news, Nick Collison set an NBA single game record with 9 personal fouls.

Yet thus is the value of experience, and Dirk yet again did his thing. More on this later. Marion put on a throwback defensive performance, and hell even his floater makes and 4 ft misses brought me some nostalgia of his Suns days. Okay back to Dirk. Check out how he ended the 3rd:

Dirk "German Doctor J" Nowitzki.

Mark Jackson, quote machine: "No disrespect, but I'm gonna disrespect Chandler!"

Jeff Van Gundy, quote machine: "Brendan Haywood is stroking it!"

Really though, would you even believe me if I told you that Brendan Haywood sinking free throws helped keep the Mavs afloat?

Russell "please don't start calling him by the nickname Mark Jackson made up 'Wild Thing'" Westbrook: Granted, the OKC choke was more evenly distributed tonight, but it seems only fair to start with Westbrook. Starting with that terrible play in the third, when dribbling it up the court on the sideline with Jason Terry defending. I think a whistle was blown almost simultaneously as Terry tried to reach in for the steal, but Westbrook just lost it and elbowed Terry directly into referee Monty McCutchen. You could see him visibly stunned and pausing for a second, like "wait, aren't I supposed to be giving you the benefit of the doubt on these whistles? Sorry bro, I gotta T that, because that was completely dumb". Westbrook finished with a Heroic Kobeian 31 points on 11-28 shooting.

Oklahoma in the last 5 minutes: Let's look at the numbers: 6 PTS, 2-10 FG, 2-2 FT, 9 REB, 7 TO (including a double dribble!), 6 PF (only 1 intentional). And although they got some good rebounds, they also gave up some terrible ones, including giving Dirk a second chance to try another wide open 3, which had a 107.12% chance of going in based on my calculations. And the terrible rebound that led to a Marion essentially-go-ahead fast break dunk, only Marion is Marion and kinda awkwardly bumbled and decelerated, allowing Durant to catch up and foul him while having no chance at preventing the score. Just wow.

Oh and Westbrook left the court early, which is kinda becoming no longer faux pas to do. Or the media will bring it up and compare it to the Pistons or LeBron or whoever doing it, which is giving him way too much credit. Or some other shit I don't really care.

Doris Burke, quote machine: "Mark [Cuban], if it's possible to be conspicuously inconspicuous, while there are no complaints out of New York, you have been remarkably quiet. Why?"

The Dallas Mavericks: For leaving behind the trophy, leading to Jason Terry awkwardly walking back out to the court to pick it up. But props on everyone walking away from Doris Burke at the end, prompting her to display the most emotion she's ever expressed, wondering why everyone was abandoning her.

Scott Brooks post-game press conference: Wanted to get the fuck out of there (and did so)

Kevin Durant post-game press conference: First words: "What up."

And did someone actually ask him how he felt about Dirk getting back to the Finals? I can't even joke about this ironically, because I know someone will twist this sound clip negatively against KD.

Harden was there sporting a backpack too, (DOUBLE BACKPACK, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?!), and was probably only there in the first place because Westbrook was being "u mad" on the team bus. But more on the backpack. What a terrible collage of colors. The Durant bag is simple and conveniently functional, the Harden bag was just trying too hard. May this press conference be the harbinger (including the reason for Westbrook's absence) for OKC's over-hyped future.

Oh who am I kidding, I'm gonna miss the backpacks. Please don't use HGH in the offseason, Durant.

The Los Angeles Lakers: LOS ANGELES (AP) --In the boldest move big business has seen since Domino's adopted their Maoist self-criticism marketing strategy, the Los Angeles Lakers have signed Mike Brown as their head coach in a 4 year $18 million deal. Sadly, there's no improved spices on the crust of this deal, however legions of Celtics, Spurs, Jazz and Pacific Division fans have taken to the streets in jubilation upon hearing this news, some crying with palms upwards towards the sky.

"It's a miracle," proclaims one Phoenix resident. "The second coming; it's glorious. We're all saved."

Ticket sales for Lakers away games have skyrocketted across the nation (and Toronto I guess), as people want to get a first glimpse of this historic moment. Meanwhile, discussions and general anxiety have rapidly spread, as the rate of Twitter tweets and blog posts from greater Los Angeles area IP addresses has increased tenfold over the past 24 hours.

"Yea, that Campang guy was right, this is pretty much the rapture," one fan bemoans outside of Staples Center, his Kobe 8 home jersey swaying listfully in the smog as he uses his smartphone to update his Facebook status on a network he thinks is 4G because 4G is in the name but is actually far slower than the real 4G standard specifies. A small group of self-proclaimed "real Lakers faithful" have gathered in front of the stadium with signs of protest against the decision. Other vocal fans seem to have quickly moved into their acceptance stage of grief.

"Well I mean, his record isn't THAT bad, and he led LeBron and the crappy crap Cavs to like, 69 wins and a bunch of Finals and stuff, and he can fix the Lakers's defensive problems!" posts an anonymous fan on some forum. Sources say a few tried to "white knight" for the relatively reasonable poster before being overwhelmed by requests to STFU.

Mike Brown could not be reached for comment, as he was too busy spouting metaphors on ESPN's half-time show, and developing a game plan to not have Kobe hate him within 24 hours.

Former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson could not be reached for comment, although we think we heard him snickering and choking on his own spittle before hanging up his cell.

Novak Djokovic's opponents: Play the entire game assholes, there's already enough accusations of throwing matches in tennis as it is.

Lay's Lightly Salted Chips: Curse your magic, making me type with one hand until I finished consuming you! You're not even that delicious, why can't I stop...

Marriage: One word - Humpdashian.


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20110524-keith-bogans"I'M OPEN! LET ME SHOOT IT!"
"Yeah, you're open for a reason!"

So it sounds like Mike Brown is your new Los Angeles Lakers head coach. Mike Freaking Brown. Get ready to go from the Triangle Offense to the What The Hell Am I Doing Offense!

Here's a fantastic what is this I don't even moment from the Basketball Jones.

Worst of the Night in Pictures:
20110524-chris-boshCaption This!
Eh, what's up, Bosh?

20110524-lebron-james-keith-bogansLeBron's new nickname: Spoonman

20110524-lil-wayneYou know you want to rock a pair of checkered flag socks the next time you're out in public

Nationally Televised Games:
Thunder at Mavericks, ESPN, 9pm (Mavs lead series 3-1): I saw this stat from the ESPN Stats and Info crew: "Kevin Durant was 0-6 with James Harden on the bench during the fourth quarter and overtime in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Durant is now 1-9 from the floor this postseason with Harden on the bench during the fourth quarter and overtime, including 0-7 from the 3-pt line." So I guess the proper move here would be to play James Harden all 48 minute? Instant success! (Stretches back in chair, kicks feet up on desk) Damn, no wonder Mike Brown can be the Lakers coach. This job is easy! Where's my $4 million per year?

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This picture sums up everything I'm feeling right now.

Dwyane Wade's dunk fail: In the early stages of the game, Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr went on about how unhappy Wade was about his lousy shooting in Game 3, and how he did extra shooting, great players work hard, yada, yada, yada. That conversation led brilliantly into this:

Derrick Rose saw that missed dunk and raised three nasty ones:

Unfortunately, if you subtract those jams, Rose went 5-for-24. More on that below.

The Chicago Bulls: Things started out so well for the Bulls. They raced out to a 19-8 lead with 4:22 left in the first quarter...then bad things happened.

Very bad things.

Very bad offensive things.

The shivering terror actually started exactly at the 4:22 mark when Ronnie Brewer clanked the free throw half of an "And 1" opportunity.

Keith Bogans went on to brick three-pointers on Chicago's next two possessions. Why would Bogans ever shoot threes on back-to-back possessions, you ask? Because the Heat left him wide open, of course.

Rose followed Bogans' bricks with a three-point clunker of his own.

Then Carlos Boozer went 0-for-2 from the line and shanked an open 19-footer in consecutive scoreless possessions.

Then Bogans missed another three.

Then Rose committed a turnover on Chicago's final possession of the quarter.

That's right. After taking that 19-8 lead, the Bulls didn't score again during the first quarter despite having several open shots. That 12-minute sequence ended 19-16. I really believe that four-minute drought cost the Bulls the game. They had a very real chance to take complete control and didn't do it. That's just one of many things that will haunt them about this particular loss.

So many wasted opportunities. The Bulls bobbled the ball away 22 times for 26 points going the other way. That combined with their 38-22 disadvantage in free throw attempts offset their 26 fast break points and the staggering 44-24 advantage in points in the paint. Chicago also played tough defense, forcing King Crab (11-for-26) and Pookie (5-for-16) into off nights. Bosh was 6-for-12, but five of his six made field goals were from 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 feet. The Bulls forced him to shoot contested jumpers...he just made 'em.

The Bulls didn't make 'em. In all, they went 16-for-57 on jumpers (28 percent) and only 6-for-24 on threes (25 percent). Sometimes they were open. Sometimes they weren't. It didn't seem to matter either way.

Chicago's Bench Mob: LeBron (35 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals) was seemingly the consensus Player of the Game, but his plus-minus score was -1. Dwyane Wade's was -10. But check out the borderline absurd plus-minus stats of Miami's reserves: Mike Miller (+36 in 26 minutes), Udonis Haslem (+25 in 34 minutes) and Mario Chalmers (+10 in 21 minutes).

Chicago's reserves? Borderline absurd in the other direction: Taj Gibson (-21 in 10 minutes), Ronnie Brewer (-12 in 21 minutes), C.J. Watson (-12 in seven minutes), Kyle Korver (0 in 16 minutes) and Omer Asik (0 in two minutes).

The Bench Mob was supposed to be the Bulls' biggest advantage against the top-heavy, bottom-weak Heat. Unfortunately, they were thoroughly outplayed by their Miami counterparts last night. Particularly Miller, who grabbed 9 big rebounds and scored 9 points in the fourth quarter, drilling two key jumpers and even driving into the jaws of Chicago's defense for a layup that tied the game at 80-80 with 3:15 left.

Speaking of which...

Kyle Korver: With his tattoos and wacky hair, Miller looks like Korver's Bizarro World counterpart, and his return to basketball life casts a harsh light on Kyle's fade into oblivion. As Jeff Fogle of Hoopdata points out: "Tonight's 2 of 6 brings him to 25 of 77 from the floor over the last 12 games, with eight rebounds in 172 minutes."

Here's the thing: I don't begrudge Korver any shot. That said, I don't think Chicago's offensive sets are getting him clean looks at the basket. Too many of his shots are contested and forced.

On that subject...

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: There's no question that the man can coach the absolute living hell out of a defense. But, at times, the offense looks like it's still running sets out of Vinny Del Negro's playbook. Especially in critical situations. In Chicago's last two possessions of regulation, Thibs put Rose on an island against LeBron. The result: A 6'2" guard forcing two contested 18-footers over a 6'9" athletic freak.

Not good shots.

From my living room, I was screaming for the Bulls to run an offensive set -- any set -- rather than bailing out and using an iso.

But, again, we should have seen that coming. The Bulls have been "cheating" all season, devolving into "give Rose the ball and get out of the way" mode every time the going gets tough. Credit Derrick for repeatedly coming through, which was probably a major factor in his winning the MVP. But then you also have to credit the Heat for repeatedly throwing new looks at him in this series. This time, they turned to LeBron down the stretch, something they hadn't really done yet in this series.

It worked.

Given time, Rose has figured out pretty much every defense that's been thrown at him. He didn't have time -- or, really, the energy -- to figure this one out. I'm not sure how much input Pat Riley is giving Erik Spoelstra at this point, but Riley did the same thing when he was coaching the Lakers in the 1980s. He was always throwing new defensive wrinkles at Larry Bird, trying to get Bird out of his comfort zone. Riley went with waves of defenders (first Michael Cooper, then James Worthy, then Mychal Thompson, and so on) and waves of doubles coming from a variety of directions. The Heat have been employing similar tactics against Rose.

And is has worked.

Derrick Rose: The Miami defense really put him in a box, didn't it?

For instance:


About a month ago, I wrote that talent usually wins out in the NBA playoffs, and that Miami's Big Three would probably trump Chicago's Big One.

It was a bitter prediction that's coming true right before my eyes.

People are going to look cross-eyed at Rose for his shooting (8-for-27) and his turnovers (7), and rightly so. I'm sure some fans are contacting a repo man about taking back Derrick's MVP award. I'm also sure LeBron knows exactly how that feels. The previous two seasons, his Cavaliers compiled the league's best record while he won back-to-back MVP awards, and then those squads got soundly bounced by more talented teams.

In point of fact, last season, the Celtics wiped both Wade's Heat and LeBron's Cavs off the playoff map. Which, we have been led to believe, is what convinced them to join forces in Miami.

Rose missed a free throw with 1:09 left in regulation that, considering neither team scored again until the overtime session, might very well have won the game. Then there were the two missed jumpers over LeBron. I'm sure those three misses will haunt him. So will the unforced turnover he committed with 1:05 left in OT and the Bulls down only 93-89.

He gave his all. He came up short. Like I said, LeBron knows all about that.

Chicago's mental lapses: Said Joakim Noah: "Sometimes effort isn't enough. You got to do more than that. We had mental lapses. We can't turn the ball over against this team at all because they get on the break and they're really tough to stop in that situation.

"I feel like every game is a little bit like that. Even the games that are eight, 10 points. If you're watching closely, all these games are so close. They're played at one or two possessions, so a few of these turnovers, I missed a few easy baskets around the rim. Those are things I'll think about all night probably."


The Bulls committed 22 in all. The Heat scored 26 points off of them.

Mental lapses?

Like when Luol Deng threw the ball away on an inbounds pass with 1:36 left in overtime and the Bulls down only 93-89? Or, on Chicago's next possession after LeBron missed a 21-footer, when Derrick Rose drove into the paint and simply lost his handle on the ball?

Those particular miscues were part mental lapse and part fatigue. The Bulls were absolutely out of gas at that point. At least by the looks of it. I've watched enough basketball and played enough pickup ball to recognize the effects of fatigue. On the road, against the wall, with guys closing in on 50 minutes of PT, facing a killer defense energized by its home crowd and the opportunity to put the series in a submission hold, the Bulls succumbed.

In overtime, talent won out, and Miami's three stars were overpowering.

Bosh scored the first four points of OT on two free throws and an icy cold jumper from 20 feet. The Bulls got an unlikely three-bomb from Brewer, but Wade responded by drilling a 19-footer right before the shot clock expired. Carlos Boozer muscled his way into a foul at the other end but missed the second freebie. On the other end, LeBron drove in for a layup. The Bulls called time and that led to Deng's botched inbound pass, then LeBron's missed jumper, then Derrick's turnover, then a layup by Wade.

On the other end, Wade blocked a shot attempt by Deng. Lu got it back and Wade fouled him, after which Deng hit both free throws to pull the Bulls to within four points. James hit another mid-range jumper to push the lead back to six points. Rose drove madly the other way and had his layup attempt swatted by Wade. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, the Heat simply outfought the Bulls. Wade then iced things with a couple free throws.

We can talk free throws and fast breaks and turnovers and bench play and whatever else. But in those final few minutes, the talent and will of Miami's three stars was too much. Just too much.

The Bulls still have pieces on the board. But last night's loss felt like checkmate.

Miami's flopstravaganza: With 10:18 left in the fourth quarter and the Bulls leading 69-68, LeBron James drew an offensive foul on Luol Deng courtesy of an egregious flop. Seriously, LeBron -- possibly the most powerful physical specimen in the league (or second to Dwight Howard) -- dropped like he got face-punched by Ivan Drago. He did the same thing in Game 3. The most annoying part was after his obviously exaggerated fall, he grinned like an idiot and nodded vigorously to his teammates while wagging his tongue.

Really? The mighty LeBron needs to flop?

With 4:39 left and the Bulls leading 77-74, Chris Bosh flopped his way to this flagrant foul:

Shame on you, Steve Kerr, for applauding and supporting Bosh's theatrics. Still, I can see why it was called a flagrant. My issue with it is that something very similar happened between Boozer and Udonis Haslem earlier in the game, only Boozer calmly stood up to Haslem's thuggary and -- of course -- wasn't given the flagrant. So I guess maybe Kerr was right. Maybe Boozer should have taken a dive.

The Boshtrich's flop initiated a huge swing. He hit both free throws and, when the Heat got possession back afterward, Mike Miller drilled a jumper to put Miami up a point. Fans and, supposedly, players talk up the importance of toughness, but once again bravely flopping in the face of physical contact continues to give teams a significant advantage.

Update! Officiating: Great players don't need extra steps to hit clutch shots...but it sure does help, doesn't it?

Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report: Omer Asik fouled twice in 113 seconds for a +2 and a 2:0 Voskuhl. (Lacktion negated due to injury, as noted by Dan B.)

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2011053-kevin-durant-presser"Hmm... I wonder where I can get a sweet lunchbox to go with my backpack..."

In NBA tattoo news (that amazingly does not include Birdman Andersen), Monta Ellis got a forest tattooed on his chest. That's some serious attention to detail. You can almost expect a squirrel to come scampering out of his jersey during a game next season.

Ridiculous stat of the day: "Last 10 NBA seasons: Teams have trailed by 15+ pts in last five mins of 4,970 games (RS and playoffs). DAL became only winner last night."

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

20110523-dirk-fansOkay, points for creativity, I guess?

20110523-kevin-durantI guess Durant's less impressed by your body paint than I am. Sorry dudes.

20110523-nate-robinson-kevin-durantNate Robinson auditions for a second job as the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man outside the Valvoline store

Nationally Televised Games:
Bulls at Heat, TNT, 8:30pm (Heat lead series 2-1): Can we please stop talking about Joakim Noah's anti-gay slur and subsequent fine? His new-found complete and total inability to put a basketball through a hoop is far more interesting, considering he is, after all, a professional basketball player.


homecourt advantage
If this is "homecourt advantage," no wonder Thunder lost.

The Oklahoma City Thunder: With five minutes and five seconds left in the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant drilled a three-pointer to put the Thunder up 99-84. The 15-point bulge was Oklahoma City's biggest lead of the night. Durant's triple seemed like a knockout blow and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle immediately called a timeout to rally his troops.

But, c'mon, seriously. The Oklahoma City Arena was going bonkers. The Thunder had all the momentum. And, anyway, the Mavericks had accomplished their goal in Game3: They had stolen a road game and reclaimed homecourt advantage. It was time to pack their bags and try to get back to it at home in Game 5. Right?

Said Brendan Haywood: "You're lying if you're not surprised. Down 15 with 5 minutes to play you're thinking hopefully something can happen. You're just kind of wishing."

Wishing, huh? Well, somebody on the Dallas roster must have rubbed a genie the right way or something, because the Mavericks closed out the fourth with a 17-2 run to force overtime.

Let's check out OKC's "offense" during that final five minutes of fail: Russell Westbrook missed three; Serge Ibaka missed 6-footer; Westbrook missed 17-footer; Westbrook turnver and foul on Jason Kidd (giving Kidd two free throws); Durant missed 22-footer; Durant missed three; Nick Collison offensive rebound; Westbrook made two-pointer; Westbrook 0-for-2 at the line; Westbrook missed 15-footer; Durant turnover; Westbrook missed 16-footer; Westbrook loose ball foul (giving Shawn Marion two free throws); Thabo Sefolosha missed three-pointer; Durant missed desperation three from 30 feet (blocked by Marion at the buzzer).

As Chuck Barkley would say: TURRIBLE.

Things didn't improve much for the Thunder during the five-minute overtime period. Here's their "offense" in OT: Durant missed three; Sefolosha made jumper; Westbrook missed three; Westbrook turnover (stepped out of bounds); Ibaka made 17-footer; Durant turnover; Westbrook missed jumper; Durant missed desperation three; Durant missed desperation three.


Make it a total of 6 points over the final 10 minutes and five seconds of playing time in this game. At home. With a playoff series on the line.

According to ESPN Stats and Information: "The Mavericks are the only team in the last 15 seasons to win a playoff game in which it trailed by 15 or more points with 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter."

Said Jason Terry: "There's times and situations where they are going to test the courage and the mental inner strength of your team. This was one of those times. This was a defining moment in our season where we look back and say, 'Hey, that was the game.'"

Meanwhile, when the Thunder look back on their season, this will probably be the defining moment where they look back and say, "Hey, that was the game where we blew our chance to go to the NBA Finals."


Said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks: "There's no doubt it was a tough loss. If this loss did not hurt, there's no such thing as a loss that can hurt you. ... It goes without saying that it was a tough loss to accept, but it is a loss and we have to learn from it. I thought our guys played as hard a basketball game as you can play. They were physical, we challenged shots, we struggled a little bit down the stretch with execution and throughout the game we struggled with turnovers."

No kidding.

Oklahoma City's ball-handling: The Thunder gave up 26 points off 26 turnovers, offsetting hefty advantages in rebounds (55-33), points in the paint (54-36) and fast break points (19-6).

Kevin Durant's butter fingers: KD committed 9 of his team's 26 bumblefucks, including what may have been the biggest of the game. With 1:01 left in OT and the score tied at 101-101, J-Kidd stripped Durant as he was going up for a shot. On the other end, Kidd pump-faked Westbrook out of his shorts and then nailed a three with 40.3 seconds left. And that was pretty much the ball game.

Man, for a dude who can't shoot worth a damn, Kidd hits some big shots.

Speaking of threes...

Oklahoma City's three-point shooting: The Thunder had a historically bawful night from beyond the arc in Game 3, going 1-for-17, thanks largely to Durant's 0-for-8 festival of clank. Things didn't get much better in Game 4 as OKC went 2-for-13. KD hit the only two triples his team made. He also missed five others. But, in all fairness to him, three were desperation shots.

James Harden: He fouled out in only 23 minutes of PT. And his absence might have cost the Thunder the game. According to ESPN Stats and Information:

As mentioned the Thunder were outscored by 15 points in the final minutes of regulation, and a lot of that was because their offense changed drastically when James Harden fouled out at the 4:48 mark. Prior to Harden fouling out, the Thunder focused their offensive attention on the inside game. After Harden fouled out, though, the Thunder settled for long-range shots, missing their only two field goal attempts inside of 15 feet in the last nine minutes and 48 seconds of the game.

The Thunder's lackluster offense without Harden was also exposed in the pick-and-roll game. The Thunder ran 25 pick-and-roll plays prior to Harden fouling out but ran just two afterward. The transition offense also stalled, with the Thunder picking up 17 points on 14 transition plays prior to Harden fouling out. Afterward, the Thunder failed to score on their only transition play. This postseason, Harden has scored the eighth most points as a pick-and-roll ball handler and the sixth most transition points.
Best of the Night: Dirk Nowitzki: More from ESPN Stats and Info:

A huge part of the Mavericks comeback was Dirk Nowitzki who finished with his second 40-point game this postseason (both this series) and seventh of his career. After shooting 60.0 percent from the field in Game 4 and 80.0 percent in Game 1, the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Nowitzki is the first player to record two games with 40 points while shooting at least 60.0 percent from the floor in the same playoff series since Shaquille O'Neal had a pair of games like that for the Los Angels Lakers in the 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers. For his playoff career, Nowitzki is 10-1 when he scores more than 35 points with his only loss coming in a 42-point performance in 2001 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Oh and if that's not enough, Nowtizki is 48-for-50 from the free throw line this postseason including the two clutch game-tying free throws he drained with six seconds left in regulation of Monday’s win.
Give Dirk his props. Dude is awesome.

Dirk: "Fuck you, Physics."

Jason Kidd's matador defense: Why even put a hand out there, Jason?

Kevin Durant, quote machine: "It's not over."

No it's not. It will be after Game 5, but it's not over yet.

Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report: Daequan Cook baked a gold brick worth 5.6 trillion (5:38).

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20110521-scott-brooksScott Brooks takes the "Zombie Sonics" thing to the next level

The Trail Blazers and GM of basketball operations Rich Cho have parted ways. After just one year. Cheer up, Rich! If you were a 30 minute sit-com in today's environment, you'd be a success if you lasted a year! Here's my favorite take on the situation so far: Larry Miller: Rich hired: "Rich is the perfect fit for our organization" Rich fired:"The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn’t right" I guess the "fit" they wanted was Cho concocting some magical elixir to reverse the aging process so they could bring back Bill Walton for another title run? For some actual analysis, Tom Ziller chimes in with the rumor that Cho wanted to suspend Brandon Roy.

Here's some other interesting news in the Western conference: Manu Ginobili played with a broken arm during the playoffs. It's like he wants to make you feel bad every time I miss an open jumper in a pickup game or call in sick to work because you have a cold. (Yes, I am aware that Rajon Rondo played with an arm that flopped around like a piece of overcooked spaghetti, but he can still make you feel good about your jumper, so I'm throwing him out of this analogy.)

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

20110521-mark-cuban"Note to self: no more Warheads when cameras are pointed at me..."

20110521-james-harden-fanI love everything about this picture

20110522-kyle-korver-ronnie-brwer-mike-millerAnd who said the Bulls/Heat matchup was unwatchable?

20110521-jason-kiddGood thing Jason Kidd was wearing his Life Alert necklace!

Nationally Televised Games:
Mavericks at Thunder, ESPN, 9pm (Mavs lead series 2-1): I just read a stat that Kevin Durant is only 2-for-18 from behind the arc in this series. Woah. This isn't making Russell Westbrook's decision-making look great, but it's certainly taking the edge off a little.


thunder bench

James Harden's flop: All I can say is: Wow.

Okay, "wow" isn't really all I can say. If there was such a thing as basketball prison, and players were sentenced to it for crimes against the sport, I would want Harden serving a life sentence with no chance for parole.

It wasn't just the flop, mind you, it was the "OH MY GOD NOT MY FACE!" reaction that went along with it. There's selling a flop, there's overselling a flop, and there's pretending someone shot you in the head. Too much, James. Too much.

The worst part was that Tyson Chandler received a technical foul for arguing the call. The league actually showed some wisdom by rescinding the tech. But damn, people. It never should have come to that. And Harden's flop-a-rooni started an 8-0 run that pulled the Thunder to within 65-52, which was the closest they'd been since the end of the first quarter.

Which brings me to...

The Oklahoma City Thunder: Playing at home with a chance to take complete control of the series, the Thunder forced Dirk Nowitzki (7-for-21) and Jason Terry (3-for-12) into bad shooting games. Ditto for Jason Kidd (4-for-10) and Peja Stojakovic (3-for-7). In all, the Mavs shot 43.9 percent and went only 7-for-21 from downtown. They also lost the rebounding battle 45-37 and had a 36-18 disadvantage in free throw attempts.

Dallas also led by as many as 23 points and held on down the stretch for a 93-87 win. Thanks to a team-wide offensive pants-wetting by Oklahoma City.

The Thunder shot 36.5 percent as a team and went 1-for-17 on threes. That is not a misprint. According to ESPN Stats and Information, OKC tied for the second-worst three-point percentage in a playoff game in the last 20 years (5.9 percent), trailing only the 2005 Mavericks, who shot 5.6 percent (1-for-18) in a 119-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns. You know, back when the Suns were relevant and Steve Nash was the MVP.


Anyway, Kevin Durant bricked his way to a 7-for-22 night and Russell Westbrook went 8-for-20 and committed 7 turnovers. And you know what? Westbrook has me totally confused. I can't tell if he's Oklahoma City's best player or their worst nightmare. Is he keeping them in games or shooting the Thunder out of them? I have no idea at this point.

Maybe it's a little of Column A, a little of Column C.

On the subject, courtesy of AnacondaHL, a "flawed yet interesting take on why Eric Maynor should be point over Westbrook."

So now let's backtrack to that "since the end of the first quarter" reference I made in the entry for Harden's flop. Oklahoma City got outscored 27-12 in the first 12 minutes, and that pretty much defined the game. According to ESPN Stats and Information, "they turned the ball over 7 times and made just 4-17 from the field. The Mavericks meanwhile assisted on 8 of their 12 made FG."

Bad D. Bad O. Bad everything.

Said Durant: "Frustrating. It's tough to start a game, not make shots and you give teams easy baskets. That's like a backbreaker."

Added Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "There's no question they started the game really hitting us and knocking us out of our offense. And we missed a lot of 3s. Those 3s weren't all contested."

Sometimes you’re hitting. Sometimes your not. On Saturday, the Thunder were not. It wasn't just three-pointers, either. According to Hoopdata, OKC went 4-for-9 from 3-9 feet, 3-for-10 from 10-15 feet and 3-for-9 from 16-23 feet. And they missed 13 of their 29 attempts at the rim.

Bonus video: More adventures in officiating courtesy of Refcalls:

The Chicago Bulls: I didn't think it would be Chris Bosh.

He was the Ringo of these "Heetles," right? The oft-criticized, occasionally forgotten third wheel. The butt of all the "Two and a Half Men" jokes that swirled around Miami this season. The Boshtrich. The guy who went 1-for-18 against the Bulls during what's turning out to be an utterly meaningless regular season game.

I didn't think it would be Chris Bosh.

I just didn't think he would be the Heat player beating the Bulls.

Bosh scored 34 points on 18 field goal attempts.

According to Hoopdata, e went 5-for-6 at the rim, 2-for-2 from 3-9 feet, 1-for-1 from 10-15 feet and 5-for-9 from 16-23 feet.

He hit open shots.

He hit contested shots.

After starting the game 0-for-3, he went 13-for-15.

Bosh also earned more foul shots (10) than LeBron James (9), Dwyane Wade (6) or Derrick Rose (3).

And he knocked down eight of them.

Chicago's defense was designed to slow down the scoring exploits of LeBron (6-for-13) and D-Wade (6-for-17). That mission was accomplished. But Bosh's frightening accuracy from everywhere on the floor stretched that D to its breaking point. It allowed James to drive, draw the double team, and kick the ball out. Six of LeBron's game-high 10 assists were dished to Bosh and Wade...four of them to Bosh.

That's the value of Miami's three-star system.

How can you possibly guard all three of them on every possession? The answer, it's turning out, is that you can't. Bosh now has two 30-point outbursts in three playoff games against the Bulls. And in the one game he didn't go for 30, James and Wade had big scoring games.

It's hard not to compare LeBron's floor game and assist totals to that of Derrick Rose. Of course, when Rose tried to run the pick and roll with Joakim Noah, the Heat defense stuck to Rose like it was made of Velcro. That's because Noah is no threat to score. Last night, Jo finished with a single point on 0-for-4 shooting.

Speaking of which...

Joakim Noah: Let's put it this way: Noah finished the game with more alleged gay slurs than field goals.

Oh, man. Listen to Grant Hill and think before you speak, Joakim!

Back to the game, Noah has never been a primary or even secondary scoring threat. The Bulls count on him to rip down rebounds and make an impact on defense. Only he didn't do either last night. Not even close. Jo totaled a mere 5 rebounds, only one of which came on the offensive end, when he missed a tip shot.

And he was the unfortunate victim of several Bosh jumpers.

Noah finished with five fouls. He committed three of them trying -- and failing -- to stop Bosh. He couldn't even slow Bosh down. That wasn't just a hiccup in the game plan. It blew the game plan to hell.

Said Noah: "We didn't finish well at the rim. I feel like I could definitely do a better job on the boards, and I need to finish better. I'm really disappointed in myself with the way I played tonight."

You can tell Noah is frustrated. You can also tell he's lost all faith in that little 15-footer he had developed before his thumb surgery. Now, when left unguarded with the ball on the outside, Noah looks like he's holding the world's hottest potato. He can't get rid of that thing fast enough.

Juxtapose Noah's fear of getting the rock outside the paint with Udonis Haslem's confidence. Haslem went 4-for-5 from the field in the second half, which included jumpers from 15, 16 and 18 feet. Haslem's ability to hit those shots opened up the floor for James to drive and kick, drive and kick, drive and score.

Back to the Bulls... The Bulls aren't opening similar lanes for Rose. Carlos Boozer finally made a jail break -- 26 points, 10-for-12 at the line, 17 rebounds -- but Deng went 2-for-7 when he wasn't shooting from point blank range. Keith Bogans hit one and missed two. Ronnie Brewer was 2-for-6 and hasn't earned any respect for his jump shot. Kyle Korver attempted only two field goals in 11 minutes. Omer Asik -- who's less of a threat to score than anyone else on this team -- went 0-for-3 before leaving with a leg injury.

In short, the Bulls couldn't stop Miami's Big Three -- who scored 73 of the Heat's 96 points -- and couldn't get anything consistent out of their offense outside of Boozer. Haslem, Mike Bibby (2-for-4 on threes) and Mario Chalmers (2-for-3) spaced the floor just enough for their superstar teammates to go where they wanted to go.

Chicago won the rebounding battle (41-32) and outscored Miami in the paint (36-31), but the Heat nearly 51 percent from the field and went an outrageous 10-for-19 from 16-23 feet (52.7 percent). That can't happen.

Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: "They're making shots. We have to get up and challenge their shots better. We have to finish our defense. The rebounding was good. Challenging their shots wasn't."

I guess. Although there were a couple times Noah's hand was so far up in Bosh's face he could have wiped Bosh's nose, but Miami's big man knocked the shots down anyway. What more can Noah do to challenge? Hit Bosh with a brick?

Shouldn't be a problem. The Bulls have plenty of bricks to go around.

Kyle Korver: This was just...embarrassing. All I can say.

Chris' Weekend Playoff Lacktion Ledger:

Mavs-Thunder: Eric Maynor bricked once and lost the rock once as well for a +2 in 5:54, while Daequan Cook baked two bricks from...uh...Bricktown and fouled thricely for a +5 in 14:03.

Bulls-Heat: Gee, Mr. Joakim Noah, the fact you are in the lacktion report probably means you didn't help the moo machine beat out South Beach.

In 29:04 as starting big man, five boards and six assists were negated by four bricks, two turnovers, and five fouls for a 7:6 Voskuhl. yikes.

Omer Asik also represented the windy city well with two fouls countering a board in 15:21 for a 2:1 Voskuhl.

Meanwhile, Miami's Mike Miller fouled and bricked twice each (once from...uh...Brickell) and lost the rock once in 12:54 for a celebratory +5 suck differential.

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Let's talk numbers.

The Thunder score 106 points on 55.7 percent shooting.

They scored those 106 points in 88 possessions, giving them an Offensive Efficiency of 120.5 points per 100 possessions.

Their accuracy from three-point range (7-for-18) pushed their Effective Field Goal Percentage to 60.7 percent and their foul shooting (21-for-26) put their True Shooting Percentage at 65.1 percent.

Can you say "sizzling"?

Hoopdata (as always) broke Oklahoma City's shooting down by zone: 12-for-14 (85.8 percent) at the rim, 6-for-12 (50 percent) from 3-9 feet, 4-for-6 (66.7 percent) from 10-15 feet and 10-for-20 (50 percent) from 16-23 feet.

According to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Western Conference finals is tied at 1-1 after the Thunder exploited the Mavericks for 55.7 percent shooting. Only once in the regular season did the Mavericks allow better shooting -- in a 103-89 loss Jan. 17 at Detroit."

Wow. Two distinct levels of fail there. The Pistons? Really? But I digress.

Said Tyson Chandler: "I know guys are going to be upset and come back and have a better game in Game 3. Oklahoma City got hot and made shots. But you can't allow a team to shoot 54 percent. There were so many defensive errors out there. To me, it's just a lack of concentration and we're playing for too much to have that right now."

And how about that Thunder bench, eh? The OKC reserves scored 50 points on 16-for-23 shooting to go with 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. And check out the productivity: Nazr Mohammed (+5 in two minutes), Daequan Cook (+11 in 16 minutes), Eric Maynor (+18 in 20 minutes), Nick Collison (+10 in 26 minutes) and James Harden (+14 in 32 minutes).

And the Thunder's crunch time lineup consisted of Harden, Maynor, Collison, Cook and Kevin Durant. And that shit worked.

Said Durant: "We had a good start to the fourth quarter. You can't mess that chemistry up. Coach made a good decision by doing that."

Added Nowitzki: "Their reserves came out swinging and really took it to us. We were never really ready for their reserves."

Wait. How can you be "not ready" for Eric Maynor and Daequan Cook?

Said Harden: "Eric made some great plays. Daequan made some big shots. Kevin did what he did. Nick played some great defense. I just tried to find my spots and make shots as well."

That he did. Harden -- who, it recently came out, was Danny Ainge's true target in the Kendrick Perkins trade -- scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter.

Still, it doesn't matter whether Harden or Russell Westbrook is in the game: _allas nee_s to _o something about their _efense.

Said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: "The defensive end is what we've got to solve. Scoring 100 points in a playoff game should be enough to win. Not if you're giving up 106, 112."


I quoted various shooting stats above. Here's another from ESPN Stats and Information: "The Thunder scored 26 points on jump shots in half-court sets during Game 1, accounting for 23.2 percent of their total points. In Game 2, Oklahoma City scored 50 points on jump shots in half-court sets -- 47.2 percent of the Thunder's total points."

Of course, in all fairness to the Mavericks, the Thunder were white hot from everywhere and will likely regress to the mean in Game 3. But one smokin' game was enough for them to steal the homecourt advantage.

Said Carlisle: "Sometimes you get your butt kicked. You've got to take it like a man. Hey, we've got to respond."

Rick Carlisle: Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram blames not the _efense but the _allas coach for this loss:

The Dunk and The Beard and The Miss all had a hand in dooming the Mavericks in Game 2 of the West Finals.

What eventually led to OKC 106, Mavs 100, though, was The Idiocy.

No acceptable explanation exists for why Dirk Nowitzki only took two shots in the third quarter.

Two bleeping shots.

He did not have a single point in the third quarter, which is a sure sign of adjustment/point guard/coaching/all around Mavs fail. It was not as if OKC was doing a great job on Dirk, or even a good one.

They just were not forced to do any job at all on him for 12 minutes.

And if proof were somehow needed of this, in the fourth, when Dallas started again feeding him on trip after trip, he jumped in exactly where he left off in Game 1.

Killing OKC.

Just like in Game 1, OKC had absolutely no answer for The White Mamba or Dirty Dirk or The Big German, for my fans who prefer to keep nicknames old-school and consistent.

So did he get enough touches?

"Yeah, I thought he got enough touches" a testy Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before reversing direction and launching into a tirade against his defense.

I beg to differ, Rick. Seventeen shots is not enough for Dirk, not in a loss, not when Kevin Durant has 23, especially not coming off of his 48-point dominance in Game 1.

Feed your beast. And once Dirk became re-introduced, Game 2 suddenly went double D and I am not talking about crowd eye candy.
I guess I see where Engel is coming from. Although by suggesting that the Mavs' problem was that they didn't outscore a team that was shooting lights out feels a little Lawler's Law-y to me. I still think the problem was the _efense.

Kendrick Perkins, quote machine: "Me and Tyson never got along. He don't like me and I don't like him. That's pretty much how it's been. Everybody always looks at me as kind of a dirty player, if you're on the opposite team. But he's just as dirty as anybody else."

Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report: Nazr Mohammed monied up a 1.55 trillion (93 seconds)...while Brendan Haywood negated a 100% shooting percentage (on one attempt) and board with 4 fouls in 7:57 to earn a 4:3 Voskuhl. And Ian Mahinmi fouled twice in 71 seconds for a +2 and a 2:0 Voskuhl.

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bloody asik

How bad were the Bulls last night? I'll let Jamaal Magloire answer that:


It was just that kind of night.

The Heat beat the Bulls on the boards and they beat them up. For example:

Miami forced Chicago to shoot 34.1 percent from the field. The Heat packed the paint and willingly gave up open threes. The Bulls capitulated but couldn't convert, going 3-for-20 from downtown. They also missed 10 free throws

It was like the chunk of their brains that controls shooting was taken out and replaced with Michael Bolton's Jack Sparrow song. Which, while totally awesome, doesn't contribute much to putting a ball in a basket.

Check out these ugly numbers: Derrick Rose (7-for-23, 0-for-3 on threes), Carlos Boozer (3-for-10), Luol Deng (5-for-15, 1-for-7 on threes), Kyle Korver (1-for-7, 1-for-5 on threes). Let's face it, those are the Bulls' shooters/scorers. And Boozer, Deng and Rose combined for 8 of Chicago's 10 turnovers. Every time Deng tried to drive baseline, he got the ball stripped.

Rose tried to set up his teammates, and he finished with eight assists, but guys weren't hitting. From ESPN Stats and Information: "Derrick Rose couldn't find his shooting rhythm, and when he created shots for his teammates, they too struggled to convert chances into points. Starting frontcourt Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng had a hard time converting Rose's passes, as the two forwards combined to shoot 2 of 9 (four points) off passes by Rose, and sharpshooter Kyle Korver missed all four of his chances created by the league MVP."

With homecourt advantage on the line, the Bulls mustered only 10 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a playoff-low 75 points.

The Bulls weren't much better on the other end. LeBron James (29 points, 12-for-21) and Dwyane Wade (24 points, 8-for-16, 8-for-10 at the line) did whatever they wanted, and King Crab hit four clutch hoops down the stretch, including a three-pointer with 4:28 left that broke a 73-73 tie and put the Heat in total control. Chicago scored only two more points the rest of the way.

Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: "We played a low-energy offense, a low-energy defense and the result was not good."

He's got that right.

And, hell, I haven't even brought up the mess the Bulls made in the paint last night. From ESPN Stats and Information: "The Bulls made 15-of-33 shots (45.5 pct) inside five feet in Game 2 against the Heat, well below their season average of 58.9 percent entering Wednesday night. Derrick Rose (2 of 10), Carlos Boozer (3 of 8) and Joakim Noah (2 of 6) were three big reasons the Bulls were outscored 50-34 in the paint."

According to Hoopdata, the Heat went 16-for-20 at the rim, an 80 percent conversion rate.

I've gotta tell you, Udonis Haslem was to Game 2 what Taj Gibson was to Game 1. He finished with a plus-minus score of -11, but his energy inspired his teammates. He threw down dunks. He blocked a shot by Rose. He hit a couple 20-footers at the end of the third quarter to stave off a Bulls rally. He grabbed 3 key offensive rebounds and made countless hustle plays.

But let's face it. Haslem didn't beat Chicago by himself. Nor did LeBron or Wade.

The Bulls won Game 1 with defense and rebounding.

They lost Game 2 for the same reasons.

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20110517-rick-carlisleRick Carlisle demonstrates that Dirk is a robot through interprative dance

Sorry to keep this one short -- I've had some unexpected changes to my schedule the past few days. You know, kind of like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has had a change of schedule. I'm sure he didn't plan on needing to bitch to the media about not getting a statue. Come on! He deserves a statue just for his glorious acting performance as That Big Dude That Got His Ass Whupped By Bruce Lee in Game of Death.

Nice shades. Deal with it

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

20110517-kevin-durant"Come on, Dirk! You're making me waste a totally awesome box score line!"

20110517-mavs-fanWhat is this I don't even...

20110517-mark-cubanWe gotta work on that jumpshot form, Cubes. Get that elbow in line with the target!

Nationally Televised Games:
Heat at Bulls, 8:30pm, TNT (Bulls lead series 1-0): LeBron has a head cold. However, don't expect an historical game -- "Head Cold Game" doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "Flu Game," after all.


dirk and nick

The Oklahoma City Thunder: Try to sedate your brain and consider the following: The Thunder finished last night's game with an Offensive Rebound Rate of 30.6, an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 52.1, a Free Throw Rate of 59.7 and an Offensive Efficiency of 120.4...and they lost the game.

Or maybe it's more accurate to say the Mavericks won it. And they sure didn't do it by stopping Oklahoma City. Dallas scored with the kind of efficiency that must have had John Hollinger biting his lip and silently caressing his calculator.

The Mavs shot 53.3 percent from the field -- including 9-for-23 from downtown -- and converted 34 of their 36 free throw attempts (94.5 percent). That gave them an eFG% of 59.6 and allowed them to score 130.1 points per 100 possessions.

With all due respect to Jason Terry (24 points, 8-for-16), J.J. Barea (21 points, 8-for-12) and Jason Kidd (11 assists), this one was all about Dirk Nowitzki.

From ESPN Stats and Information:

Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points, his sixth career 40-point playoff game, finishing two points shy of his playoff career-high.

Among active players, only Shaquille O'Neal (12), Kobe Bryant (11) and LeBron James (nine) have more career 40-point playoff games.

Nowitzki set an NBA record by going 24-for-24 from the free throw line, the most free throws made in a single game without a miss -- regular season or postseason.

He drew fouls from seven different Thunder defenders, including all five of Serge Ibaka's. Dirk went 7-for-9 when guarded by Ibaka, including 6-for-8 on post-up plays.

Combining field goal attempts and free throw attempts, the ball left Dirk Nowitzki's hand 39 times tonight; 36 of those times, it went in the hoop.

Nowitzki attempted just 15 shots, the second-fewest field goal attempts in a 40-point playoff game in NBA history.

Only Terry Porter, back in 1992 for the Portland Trail Blazers, needed fewer attempts (41 points on 14 attempts) to reach the 40-point plateau. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his field-goal percentage of 80.0 is tied for the highest ever in a Conference finals game (minimum 15 FGA).
I think Luc Richard Mbah a Moute needs to rewrite his scouting report to read simply: HIDE YOUR WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND ALL YOUR VALUABLES. YOU CANNOT STOP DIRK NOWITZKI.

Seriously, Mbah a Moute said: "Dirk is a shooter, that's what he does. That's his game. So when you have a guy who shoots, you can contest his shots, you can body him up and you can take him out of his shots making it tough for him to get in a rhythm. ... You want a player like Dirk to drive all night. You want to give him the drive and make sure the help comes or try to take a charge."

Well, the Thunder took that advice to heart, and they made Dirk drive. The end result was that record-setting night at the foul line. When he wasn't doing stuff like this that is:


Said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks: "I thought we defended him as close as we can -- obviously, too close."

Obviously. Think about this: Nowitzki scored 48 points on 15 shots.

According to Dirk, he spent the nine-day break between sweeping the Fakers and starting the Western Conference Finals engaging in late-night shooting sessions. I'm sure he wanted to add something like "and the voodoo rites necessary to make it so I never miss another shot ever again." What? Nowitzki only went 12-for-15 from the field, you say? I'm sure he realized he'd have to miss a few shots now and then just so people wouldn't realize dark magic was involved. Probably decided that while he was washing the pig's blood off his ceremonial wizard's robe.

Said Nowitzki: "I was really looking to shoot early and was able to get my rhythm after the first couple of shots. I kept attacking and my teammates kept feeding me and feeding me and I was able to take advantage over some smaller players."

Kevin Durant -- whose 40-point, 8-rebound, 4-assist, 2-block night was completely overshadowed by what Dirk did -- said: "We can't get discouraged. He's going to make shots. He's going to make off-balanced shots with a hand in his face."

Added Ibaka: "He was hot. It's tough. You can't get frustrated. I'll watch film and we'll come back the next game."

I'm not sure Ibaka really wants to review that film. It would be like watching a home video of your own violent murder. Then Ibaka will realize he was a ghost the whole time, Sixth Sense-style. Actually, you know, that would explain a lot about his defense last night.

Memo to the Thunder: Smacking Dirk around the way you did to Zach Randolph might not work in this series. Not when he shoots free throws like this:

Said Durant: "After playing a physical series with Memphis, I think we were a little too physical with him. We have to make adjustments, be smarter. It's a learning experience, just feeling it out and seeing how we're going to play."

Russell Westbrook: Westbrook was aggressive looking for his shot and getting to the free throw line. The good news is that he went 14-for-18 at the charity stripe. The bad news is that he went missed 10 of his first 11 field goal attempts and ultimately ended up 3-for-15. And, as the AP recap pointed out, "Despite his poor aim, he had taken more shots than Durant at one point late in the third quarter, fueling the critics who say he's too much of a scorer and not enough of a distributor."

What? Because he attempted 15 shots and 18 free throws while finishing with more turnovers (4) than assists (3) despite playing with one of the league's most prolific scoring machines, who was on his way to scoring 40 points on 10-for-18 from the field and 18-for-19 at the line? Are those critics really suggesting he should have been feeding Durant instead of looking to score?

Said Brooks: "He was attacking the basket. That's what we want Russell to do."

I bet. Especially when he shoots 1-for-6 from 3-9 feet, 0-for-1 from 10-15 feet and 0-for-3 from 16-23 feet. At least he didn't jack up any threes.

Kendrick Perkins: Okay. It's official. I'm sick of Perk's tough guy act. Exactly one minute and 11 seconds into the game, he grabbed Tyson Chandler's arm while they were jockeying for position under the hoop, and then he got in Chandler's face after Durant knocked down a 15-footer. For some bizarre reason, the official called a double technical even though, as far as I could tell, Chandler didn't do anything other than stand there looking sour.

Exactly two minutes later, again while they were establishing position under the basket, Perkins basically brought his elbow through Chandler's head. It wasn't a swing so much as a push, but the refs caught this one and Perk was whistled for his second personal and had to go to the bench.

Kendrick didn't commit another foul, but he ended up logging only 28 minutes, during which the Thunder were outscored by 14 points. And yes, in case you were wondering, Perk did in fact have the worst plus-minus score of the game.

Peja Stojakovic: Peja is a shooter. He's there to shoot. Which he did, squeezing off eight shots in 21 minutes, six of which were three-point attempts. He hit exactly one of those shots. Man, it feels like 2002 all over again, doesn't it?

The Dallas D: Do you realize that, if you subtract Westbrook's 3-for-15 brick-a-palooza, the Thunder shot 54 percent from the field? The other starters were on fire: Durant (10-for-18), Ibaka (7-for-11), Perkins (3-for-4), Sefolosha (2-for-2). Oklahoma City went to the line 43 times and shot 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. Oh, and they had 22 fast break points.

If Dirk hadn't been so legendary, this game really might have swung the other way.

Dirk Nowitzki, poster boy: It wasn't all violins and roses for Dirk.

Kevin Durant's post-game fashion statement: Was he on his way to his sixth grade yearbook photo shoot or something?


Magic Johnson, quote machine: This one was submitted by Will R. of Two Middles Up. Here's Magic on Dirk's performance: "He might have three legs tonight the way he was shootin'!"

No, really. Here's video:

The Human Heat-ipede: My buddy Gauvin is a surgery nurse and recently watched The Human Centipede out of professional curiosity. His curiosity quickly turned to horror and the nearly unstoppable urge to barf. Which, of course, translated into the need to tell all his friends about the movie in exacting detail. In case you don't know about it -- and I'm not sure how any regular Internet users could have at this point -- here's a one-sentence summary: A mad doctor kidnaps three people and sews them together ass-to-mouth to create a human centipede.

This Deadspin link was provided by reader inkybreath at my By The Horns blog. Apparently, some guys made the following poster for Game 1 of the Heat-Bulls series. Security didn't let them into the United Center, unfortunately, but no amount of security could keep it off the Internet.

human heat-ipede

The Minnesota Timberwolves: Let the conspiracy theories begin:

The Minnesota Timberwolves have had the worst history of any team in the NBA Draft Lottery.

Despite finishing in the lottery in 14 of their 22 seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves have never had the No. 1 draft pick.

In fact, after losing out on the first pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, this will be the first time they've even had the No. 2 pick

The Wolves have had zero luck. In the 14 years they've been in the lottery, they have never moved up and 8 times they've moved down.

In 1992, they had the league's worst record and ended up at No. 3. Picks One and Two were Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning

GM David Kahn said what everyone was thinking after Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sent his 14-year-old son (who has a rare nerve disorder) to represent Cleveland.

"This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines," said Kahn. "As soon as the 14-year-old kid joined us, we were toast."

We assume he's only (half) joking? Though more than a few NBA fans are still convinced that the Knicks didn't win the very first Lottery (and Patrick Ewing) on an entirely fair draw.
The Los Angeles Clippers: But wait. There's more:

The worst part is that the Cavs, who were stabbed in the heart by LeBron James last summer, didn't even win with their own pick. (As the second worst team, they had has a 19% chance of nabbing No. 1 overall.) They won with a Clippers pick that they got in a trade ... that had a 2.8% chance of winning. Cleveland now has two of the top 4 picks.
Ah, the Clippers. No matter what happens, no matter the circumstances, they are and always will be who we thought they were. On the bright side, they got Mo Williams and Jamario Moon in the trade that sent that pick to Cleveland...

Chris' Playoff Lacktion Ledger: Nate Robinson obeyed his thirst for lacktivity by bricking thricely in 5:41 (twice from the JPMorgan Chase Tower) and taking a rejection for a +4!

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20110515-erik-spoelstraErik Spoelstra looks to Cypress Hill for his motivational techniques

We already have an intriguing playoff game to watch tonight. However, even before that game tips off, we get to see the NBA draft lottery (8:30, ESPN). Because watching ping pong balls bounce is more exciting than actually watching a Cleveland-Detroit game.

Worst of the Weekend in Pictures:

20110515-derrick-rose-celebratesI think D-Rose needs a clean pair of shorts
(And why is Joakim Noah scowling?)

20110513-shane-battierWhat a deal! Every Memphis playoff ticket comes with free admission to the gun show!

20110515-zach-randolph-nick-collison"Why hello there"

20110513-marc-gasol-russell-westbrook20110513-lionel-hollins"Russell Westbrook! Stop violating my players!"

Nationally Televised Games:
Thunder at Mavericks, ESPN, 9pm (Series tied 0-0): I hope you like Youth Vs. Experience discussions, because odds are you're about to be bludgeoned with a 50 pound sack of them during this series. For example, OKC's four leading scorers are all 23 or younger. Dallas hasn't played a single player that age in the entire postseason. So why are the Thunder even bothering to practice or do any coaching strategy discussions, etc.? Just wheel in a TV, turn on Matlock, and the Mavs will be so distracted it'll just be a layup line!

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