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.
HEAT INDEX: The first half of LeBron James’ masterful 35-point, 14-rebound performance against the Boston Celtics was a demonstration of why LeBron came into the league as the most hyped rookie in NBA history, and how he’s been able to dominate so many games throughout his eight seasons in the league. James used his unprecedented combination of size, speed, strength, and court vision to attack the basket with reckless abandon and score at will, overpowering the Celtics over and over again on his way to inside baskets or free throws. James scored 22 points in the first half — points the Heat desperately needed — and he only made one jump shot while doing so. The second half was a different story. The Heat ‘s offense went stagnant, and LeBron went quiet in the third quarter. The game came down to the wire, the kind of situation that LeBron had struggled in all season long, but he was magnificent in the clutch on Monday night, scoring 11 of the Heat’s final 13 points in regulation and scoring or assisting on the first two baskets of overtime.
HOT HOT HOOPS: After saying that his emotions got the best of him in Game 3, Chris Bosh provided fodder for sports talk hosts around the country. Bosh was derided as a soft player who was perhaps not a worthy third cog next to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. That was then. This is now. The Heat’s power forward made one of the most critical plays in the game, tipping in a missed James jumper to give Miami a 95-90 lead with 24 seconds left. Bosh shook off a shaky start to finish with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting and 12 rebounds, outdueling Kevin Garnett.
CELTICSHUB: With the ball and 20 seconds to go, you wouldn’t find a person alive that wouldn’t have bet on Boston to execute a play and get a good shot. It was only one year ago that the Miami Heat saw this late game execution first hand when a Rajon Rondo alley-oop sent a game to overtime, an eventual Boston win. Tonight was an anomaly, although a perfect punctuation to a contest that lacked offensive execution. Coming off a timeout, Paul Pierce got the ball at the top of the key and began to dribble down extraneous seconds. Then the Celtics began to make their move only instead of setting a pick on a Miami player, Allen and Kevin Garnett had done the unimaginable: they set a pick on themselves. Out of sorts and without a screen coming, Pierce is forced to go left and throw up a prayer that was not answered. Backboard, rim, out, overtime.
CELTICSBLOG: It may appear that with just ten total shots, the Celtics weren’t trying to go to Garnett. That’s not the case though, as the Heat just simply defended him much better this time around. “We tried to get him the ball,” Rondo said. “Give them credit they did a good job of fronting him and double-teaming. He’s a very unselfish guy, he’s not going to force shots.” Rondo makes a good point. Simply adding more pressure, or double-teaming at times will basically take Garnett’s offensiveness out of the game. The problem with that for opposing teams is that Garnett is a great passer, and can often times find the open man or make the right decision if he’s double-teamed. But just two assists on the night doesn’t back that argument up much.
DAILY THUNDER: Same story in the overtimes. Westbrook was the offensive focus for the Thunder and Durant played second banana. I’d have to re-watch but on first look, it just seemed like the Grizzlies intended to take away Durant and force Westbrook’s hand. If Westbrook wasn’t up to the challenge, OKC loses this game in the first OT. But he stepped up and didn’t settle for bad shots. He attacked and in some cases, created. (Like how about that kickout to James Harden for 3 that tied the game at 117-117? Big, big play and a big, big shot.)
MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored the Thunder’s last eight of 12 points in a 133-123 triple-overtime victory over the Grizzlies on Monday night to tie the best-of-seven Western Conference series at 2-2. While Westbrook had 40 and Durant 35, if anything, it was the fact that Westbrook deferred to Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, that finally got the Thunder the win. Memphis had no outside scoring options at the end because O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley had fouled out. Zach Randolph finished with 34 but was smothered with triple teams at the end.
PRO BASKETBALL TALK: It was long. It was draining. It was sloppy. It was brilliant. It was physical. It had easy shots missed and impossible ones hit. It was entertaining. It was basketball you could not turn away from. It was the best game of the playoffs so far. And in the end — three overtimes later — Oklahoma City has evened its series with Memphis 2-2 after a133-123 win. For us fans, thank you Memphis and Oklahoma City.
EYE ON BASKETBALL: The NBA announced its All-Defense teams with Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard leading the way. The first team consisted of Howard, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant. The second team is Joakim Noah, Tony Allen, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala and Tyson Chandler. Now two things right off the bat: Kobe is on the first team? Just another example of the odd affinity some media voters have for No. 24. He picked up an odd number of MVP votes (included a first-place vote) and was voted to the NBA’s All-Defense first team. Kobe is a good defender, but this isn’t 2006. He isn’t near the stopper he once was. The second is that Dwyane Wade wasn’t even on the second team. Wade is known as maybe the best on-ball defender in the entire league and not only did Kobe get his first team spot, but Wade was relegated to honorable mention. That’s just… messed up. If you’re curious, NBA coaches vote on the All-NBA teams. Which makes you wonder if they didn’t pay attention, voted on hype/reputation or were just lazy. Probably a little of all the above.