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NBA Playoff Wrap Up Day 1

April 16, 2011
  • You couldn’t have asked for a better opening game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs than what the Bulls and Pacers delivered Saturday afternoon. The Pacers, led by 24- and 22- point games from Danny Granger and Tyler Hansbrough, lead the entire game including a comfortable 7-10-point lead for most of the second half until Derrick Rose found Kyle Korver for a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in the game to put the Bulls up for good, 102-99.

Rose was the star of the day, scoring 39 points on 10-of-23 shooting – even though he was 0-9 shooting 3’s. Rose was fearless the entire game, relentlessly driving to the hoop, making insane shot after insane shot and getting to the line 21 times, making 19 free throws. Even though he led the monster Bulls’ comeback, after the game Rose said, “Colin Cowherd still won’t think I’m a legit MVP candidate.” Just kidding, but I can’t wait to listen to The Herd on Monday morning to see what Cowherd says.

  • The Heat and Sixers provided a solid follow-up to the first game, and I was kind of in and out in watching it (I was sleeping). But it’s about how I expected this series to go: The Heat have the more talented players and the better team, but the Sixers have enough energy and are good enough to keep the game(s) and series close. At the end of the day, LeBron and Wade are going to be able to impose their will, which is what happened today. Over the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter the Sixers went on an 18-8 run to cut the Heat’s lead to one. But from there the Heat went on a 9-2 run to close out the game behind all nine points from the “Big 3.”

I expect the Sixers to be able to get at least one in Philly, but as today went, so will the series. The Heat’s superior talent will be enough to easily win the series.

  • In the lone upset seeding-wise so far on Saturday the Hawks were able to outscore the Magic by 16 points in the second and third quarters, which helped them to a 103-93 win. From the outset it seemed the Hawks would let Dwight Howard get his points – which he did. Forty-six of them, on 16-23 shooting. But he also turned the ball over eight times, mostly because of the good defensive job Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia did on him. Help defense from Josh Smith and Kirk Hinrich forced turnovers in the second half as well, which helped Atlanta keep and enlarge its lead.

Outside of Howard and Jameer Nelson, who had 27 points, the Magic connected on only eight of 34 shots, with only four other players scoring, none of whom had more than six points. The Hawks were the exact opposite. They used their third-quarter scoring barrage to take an insurmountable lead, which swelled to 18 at one point. The Hawks had five players score 13 or more points, and those five connected on 53 percent of their shots. Once again, Al Horford was a beast from mid-range, and Jamal Crawford scored nine fourth-quarter points. Joe Johnson finally looked like the $20 million man (Well, not really), but his 25-5-5 line on 9-of-16 shooting was very instrumental to the Hawks winning.

  • The Mavericks overcame a six-point deficit with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter and ended up winning 89-81. It took monster games from Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd to do so however, as Nowitzki scored 28 points, which included going a perfect 13-for-13 at the line, and Kidd scored 24 points, which included making six of 10 3-pointers. I wasn’t able to see much of the first half of the game, but watched most of the third quarter and basically all of the fourth quarter. The Mavericks shot 29 free throws compared to the Blazers’ 13. Seemingly every time down the court in the fourth the Mavs would benefit from a foul call on the Blazers, and at least three or four times the calls were questionable at best, so we’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the series is called, especially once it gets to Portland.

But the Blazers still have to like where they’re at now. They were down 10 points in the first half, but took the lead in the fourth quarter, and if it wasn’t for a bunch of Dallas free throws, could’ve prevailed as the winner. Dallas’ scoring tonight seemed to be pretty much what one would expect, except Jason Kidd’s 24 points. Chances are Kidd won’t be able to shoot 60 percent from 3 again, and with Wes Matthews, Brandon Roy and Gerald Wallace not shooting very well tonight the Blazers should be able to rebound in Game 2 and once again push the Mavs all the way. I’m still picking the Blazers to win the series.

On a side note this is why I like the Blazers to beat the Mavs and give the Lakers a heck of a matchup in Round 2: At one time tonight the Blazers had Nic Batum, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby at the 2-5 spots on the floor. When your shooting guard is 6’8″ you’ve definitely got length and height on your side. If the Blazers and Lakers matchup in Round 2 that quartet of Blazers should be able to matchup nicely with the Lakers trio of Gasol, Bynum and Odom. Not to mention it would be a much more exciting matchup than the Lakers-Mavericks.

Today’s Three Stars

  1. Derrick Rose – Rose showed why he’s the leading candidate for the MVP award. Rose didn’t make a 3 today, but shot 10-of-14 on 2-pointers. Rose only missed one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, and his 19 made free throws were the most in a playoff game since 2002.
  2. The Atlanta Hawks defense – Besides monster games from Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, the Hawks played solid D on the rest of the Magic, keeping Orlando under its season averages in points, field goal percentage and three point percentage. Turning Dwight Howard over eight times led to several fast break opportunities for the Hawks and limited the Magic’s ability to kick out to open 3-point shooters.
  3. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd – As mentioned above these two were the reason the Mavericks won tonight. Dirk went off in the fourth quarter, scoring more points in that quarter than any other tonight. And Kidd’s six 3-pointers were instrumental in giving Dallas as much offense as it needed and didn’t allow for the Blazers to sag off Kidd and double Dirk or anyone else more than what they could afford.
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