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.
CLIPPERBLOG: As a unanimous Rookie of the Year, Blake joins David Robinson, Larry Bird and Jerry Lucas. That’s it. Between them, they have 29 All Star appearances (7 Lucas, 12 Bird, 10 Robinson), 4 MVPs (1 Robinson, 3 Bird) and 6 championships, with all three having won at least one (Lucas 1, Bird 3, Robinson 2). And only Jerry Lucas won a championship with a team other than the one by which he was drafted. Time will tell what Blake Griffin has in store for the Clippers.
BLOG-A-BULL: Starting with some positives, pretty much all centering (pun!) around Joakim Noah. He not only forced Al Horford into his second-straight poor performance, but also led the Bulls with 7 offensive rebounds, a category that they dominated tonight like they did in the season series. Not only the officially-tallied boards, but also 50/50 balls where the Bulls seemingly got every nod over Atlanta. The Hawks also blew several transition opportunities after receiving pressure from a well-retreating Bull. If game one was really about a lack of effort (as Luol Deng implied post-game), then these hustle indicators showed the Bulls were definitely on another level in game two…at least in that department.
ESPN CHICAGO: The Bulls are happy to get the win, but there are a lot of red flags after this game. They struggled offensively most of the night, shooting just 39 percent from the field. Carlos Boozer had eight points and 11 rebounds and had several shots blocked at the rim. He looks like a shell of the player he was earlier in the year. Rose played well at times, but he is still struggling on offense. He was 10-for-27 from the field and 1-for-8 from behind the arc. He also turned the ball over eight times. The big difference on this night was that the Bulls dominated the boards and played with an edge for most of the game. Still, the Bulls shouldn’t feel very confident heading to Atlanta for Game 3. There are plenty of areas for them improve on, even though they picked up a much needed win in a game that Noah called a “must-win” immediately after.
HOOPINION: The offensive struggles wasted a winnable defensive performance. Teague again did as good a job on Derrick Rose as could reasonably be expected before switching over to chase Kyle Korver around in the fourth quarter. The Hawks could make the change because Rose remained content (or capable only) to shoot pull-up jumpers when Jamal Crawford sagged six-to-eight feet off of him. It was more a case of Rose not taking advantage of the matchup than Crawford putting in an unexpectedly good defensive performance. He replaced Teague with 5:20 left in the first quarter and the game tied. When Teague re-entered the game 8 minutes and 21 seconds later, the Hawks were down six and the Chicago lead would be permanent.
TRUEHOOP: There would be no Laker comeback as the Mavericks held them to 32 second-half points, their lowest total in the second half of a playoff game since 2004. Dirk Nowitzki led the way for Dallas with 24 points, his ninth straight playoff game with at least 20 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three teams have come back to win a seven-game series after losing the first two games at home – (2005 Mavericks, 1994 Houston Rockets, 1969 Lakers).
ESPN DALLAS: Put much of it on the Mavs’ spirited defense that has pressured the perimeter and turned Bryant into a jump shooter with wily veteran Jason Kidd hounding him. They’ve been solid inside, too, with Nowitzki scuttling Gasol and keeping him out of the paint and with Brendan Haywood proving to be the competent complement to Tyson Chandler patrolling the key. It was Haywood who earned the big minutes in the fourth quarter in Game 2 with a spirited five-point, eight-rebound, three-block effort overall in 17 minutes.
EYE ON BASKETBALL: What have we seen from this Lakers core in the past as we look ahead to Games 3 and 4 in Dallas? The Lakers usually respond only when they absolutely have to. You could argue that they didn’t have to yet, that they can even drop another game in Dallas before executing a backdoor sweep. But that would mean that Kobe Bryant’s assertions are correct, that the Lakers don’t have to adjust to Dallas, they just have to play better. The Lakers aren’t struggling through like the Bulls, who seem like a better team playing down to their oppponent. The Lakers are losing to what looks like a better team in every phase of the game. And unless they come up with a considerable flip switch, they’re going to ruin the storybook ending for Phil Jackson and the second Lakers’ threepeat. It sounds impossible, but Dallas has set the level the Lakers have to respond to.
SILVER SCREEN AND ROLL: Bynum still isn’t getting the ball enough. Drew was great on those rare occasions he was allowed to touch the rock, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. But about half of those attempts came after his own offensive rebounds. For the most part, if he wasn’t going after the ball off a missed shot, he wasn’t part of the offense. On one occasion he hustled downcourt off a Mavericks miss, set up in the low blocks, sealed his man… and waited for a pass that never came. Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake both stared right at him, with an entry pass available, and kept it on the perimeter instead. It’s genuinely stupefying that this team is still struggling with this 90 games into the season.
FORUM BLUE AND GOLD: The worst part of the game, however, was the Laker defense. I mentioned Dirk’s success, but that’s pretty much a given at this point. Where the Lakers really struggled was in dealing with the Mavs’ P&R, consistently getting caught rotating too slowly or worse yet not at all. Lamar Odom’s attempts to hedge and recover were comically bad as he often ended up screening off his own man who then had to navigate two players (the screener and Odom) to chase the ball handler coming off the pick. J.J. Barrea benefitted from this the most as his ability to turn the corner, keep his dribble alive, and then probe the Lakers’ paint produced lay ups for himself or wide open jumpers for his teammates.
BOSTON GLOBE: In February, when President Obama invited Russell to the White House to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, he could not help but ask a simple question: How was it possible that a city that had honored so many of its sports legends had yet to commemorate the legacy of one of its most transcendent ones?
“I hope that one day in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man,’’ Obama said.
The words will ring true.
The Celtics announced plans yesterday to build a statue of Russell, the player who not only helped bring 11 NBA titles to Boston but also served as a symbol for the racial tension in the city during the civil rights movement and the progress ever since.
* A note from my ombudsman on Blake Griffin being one of the few unanimous Rookie of the Year Selections in NBA history:
“So I went back to look and this is mostly the product of idiocy. One idiot thought Deron Williams was better than Chris Paul. I know people did spend a lot of time debating who was better, but Paul crushed him during their rookie years and played way more minutes. I just can’t see how anyone could have reasonably thought Williams was better that year. There was also one moron who thought Andrea Bargnani was better than Brandon Roy. Those were some of the closest ones I found, but there are way worse votes out there. Three(!!!!) voters thoughts Keith Van Horn was better than Tim Duncan….. I think these have to be local voters voting for the hometown guy…otherwise it makes no sense!!! Van Horn over Duncan??!!?!?!??!?!”
Canada and Utah man. Canada and Utah.