In Sketches, we’ll be taking you on a quick trip through the NBA blogosphere to get our finger on the pulse of all of the key happenings and storylines in the L each day.
NEW YORK TIMES: President Obama announced late Sunday that Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, was killed in a firefight during an operation he ordered Sunday inside Pakistan, ending a 10-year manhunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist. American officials were in possession of his body, he said.
STRAIGHT OUTTA VANCOUVER: Randolph was, for a lack of better words, a force in Game 1. He scored 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, with both Randolph and Gasol hitting enough long jumpers to keep the defense honest. The step-outs by OKC allowed for Mike Conley and Tony Allen to see open cuts to the basket. With the Grizzlies among the league’s worst in mid-range jumpers (24th, 38.4% shooting from 16-23 feet) and eFG% (27th, 50.1 eFG%), per HoopData, the fact that Z-Bo and Gasol added to the Grizz hitting mid-range jumpers helped open up the baseline and the cutting lanes in the paint.
DAILY THUNDER: The first half was fairly miserable, but one of those where it felt like the Thunder could seize an opportunity by just being down 10 going to the break. And they roared out in the second half cutting the Grizzlies’ lead to just three twice. It really had the feel that the Thunder were going to right the wrongs and issues from the first 24 minutes and assert themselves for a good second half battle. But one play really summed it up. After the Thunder got a big stop, Serge Ibaka turned and wildly threw the ball to Russell Westbrook. Memphis picked it off, scored on the next possession and just like that, momentum zapped once again. Despite all the effort and energy out of the gates to start the third, Memphis actually extended its lead to 13 heading into the fourth.
HOT HOT HOOPS: LeBron James was no slouch either but the Heat’s biggest advantage was that their Big 3 didn’t have to do everything to give their team a chance to win the game. With little bench support, the Celtics had to keep up with the Heat with Rajon Rondo (a low key 8 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds and 5 turnovers performance) and Jermaine O’Neal in foul trouble and none of their players aside from Ray Allen shooting it particularly well. The play of newcomers Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic predictably failed to make up for the loss of Kendrick Perkins. One has to really question whether a rusty Shaquille O’Neal can really come back in this series after a series of injuries and make a difference?
PENINSULA IS MIGHTIER: This was a good test for the Heat, who are 11 victories away from winning in all. Having now beaten their arch rivals twice in a row, Miami’s confidence level has to be very high. As Wade stated after the game, that there is no quit in the Celtics, we all know how good Boston is. They are the defending Eastern Conference champions. When the Big 3 were constructed it was almost a given that for Miami to achieve its ultimate goal, Boston would be their main competition. No offense to what Coach of the Year Tommy T. has done in Chicago, the road to the NBA title most definitely goes right down the middle of Bean Town.
HEAT INDEX: To be clear: Even though Bosh’s final line in Game 1 was pedestrian, he did some things very well. He played Kevin Garnett to a stalemate, which is no small feat. He pulled down 12 rebounds, while Boston’s big men pulled down only three offensive rebounds. Even though Boston doesn’t chase offensive boards, somebody had to make sure they didn’t get extra possessions. Bosh kept the floor spaced to some degree. The shots he did make came at opportune times, particularly a baseline jumper that rewarded a good LeBron post-up, ended an 8-0 Boston run, and put the Heat up 10 points with 3:55 remaining in the game. He was also active defensively and had a few nice deflections.
Bosh did a lot of good things on Sunday that won’t show up in the box score — in other words, he had a Joel Anthony game. Joel Anthony games are great. Joel Anthony has been absolutely invaluable to the team throughout the playoffs, and his contributions on the defensive end have been nearly as important, if not more so, as the offensive exploits of any of the big three. Everybody loves Joel Anthony, with good reason. That said, Chris Bosh is not Joel Anthony. Chris Bosh is an All-Star power forward with a $110 million contract who averaged 18.7 points a game — while sacrificing shots. Chris Bosh is a legitimate offensive weapon, and both he and the Heat can’t forget that.
RED’S ARMY: While the referees did not affect the outcome, they made several awful calls that all went against the Celtics.
1. Jermaine O’Neal’s flagrant foul on Jones. Puh-lease. It was a bump. Nothing more.
2. The non-flagrant call on Jones for raking Pierce on the head. Yes, Jones should wrap up Pierce to ensure he doesn’t get off the shot, but that doesn’t mean he has to knock him in the head.
3. The quick-trigger technical on Pierce that got him ejected. Wade ran thru Pierce on a pick (a possible flagrant foul itself) and then Ed Malloy delivered one of the quickest Ts you’ll ever see.
No – that was not a head butt by Pierce.
CELTICSHUB: Rondo didn’t look great in this game. He moved slowly enough for Mike Bibby and his two clubbed feet to stick with him, and he shot 30 percent from the dang floor even though he didn’t take any shots outside the key. But the Celtics offense without him on the floor was, to be kind, the worst ever in history. When Rondo came out with 11:17 to go in the second, the Celtics were down by four. They didn’t score again until 7:46, during which the Heat went on a 9-0 run and the Celtics missed five shots, blew one dunk, and gave up two turnovers. They could do nothing. The ball moved slowly enough for Miami to send double coverage against virtually every shot, the result being that none of the looks were even passable. Meanwhile, on the other end, the defensive rotations were at their sloppiest and James Jones hit two of his five threes as a result.
ESPN BOSTON: What did Paul Pierce do to merit the second technical with seven minutes remaining?
(Referee Crew Chief Danny) Crawford: “It’s what we call a verbal taunt. He directed profanity towards [Dwyane] Wade. And in the rulebook, that is a verbal taunt. And it just so happened to be Pierce’s second technical foul.”