Sunday, April 3, 2011

Worst of the Weekend: Playoff Shakedown Edition

weekend 2-001

The San Antonio Spurs: In the course of a couple weeks, what was once a seven-game lead in the loss column over the Lakers fell all the way to one, thanks to a 119-114 overtime loss to the Rockets. It was San Antonio's sixth loss in a row. And it was more than was historic. The Spurs hadn't lost six straight since April 1997. You know, before the Tim Duncan era.

Remember: San Antonio exploded out of the gates this year. The Spurs were 46-10 at the All-Star break. So far ahead of anyone the idea of them getting caught was about as likely as an Adam Morrison comeback. But since then, they're 11-9. To provide some perspective, the Pacers are 11-10 since the ASG.

To add a little insult to injury, the Spurs were punked by Luis Scola (21 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists), a guy they once traded away for for Vassilis Spanoulis and a 2009 second round draft pick (Nando DeColo).

Anyway, San Antonio's hold on homecourt advantage could actually slip away. Every loss seems potentially crippling.

Said Tony Parker: "They are all tough losses now. We are not making plays at the end of games. We have to stay positive and hope it turns our way. We'll see what we're made of."

Added Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "We're going to see what we are made out of, if we can dig down deeper. We'll see if we are worth the way we played this season or not."

The Boston Celtics: One night after their "We finally turned things around!" win over the Spurs, the Celtics fell to the Hawks in Atlanta. And it was a fall of the "I've fallen and I can't get up" old guys variety. Boston actually looked pretty sharp for most of the game and even took a 60-48 lead in the third quarter.

The the wheels came off.

Remember: The Celtics are 7-10 in the second game of back-to-backs. That puts them right ahead of...the Clippers. Sure enough, after taking that lead, they were outscored 40-23 the rest of the way, including 25-16 in the fourth quarter. Speaking of which, during that final 12 minutes, Boston was outrebounded 17-8 and outscored 10-0 in second chance points. For the game, they were outrebounded 52-38 and outscored 18-2 in second chance points.

Straight up outhustled. But hey, no excuses, right?

Said Kevin Garnett: "Back-to-back is part of the NBA. It has been since I've been in the league, so that's no excuse. Either we can quit and go home or we can continue to get better. There's no history of quitting in this team, so we'll just move forward."

The Celtics are now tied in the loss column with the Heat.

The Los Angeles Clippers: The Steve Nash-less Suns snapped their season-worst four-game losing streak by beating the Clippers. Thanks in no small part to third-string point guard Zabian Dowdell's season-high 14 points. Figures, huh?

Said The Other L.A. Team coach Vinny Del Negro: "I don't think we had much energy tonight. We let Phoenix run where they wanted to when they wanted to."

They are who we thought they were.

The Milwaukee Bucks: On the brink of playoff elimination, down by a single point to the Pacers in Indy, Milwaukee's last second shot came from...

...Drew Gooden. Story of the season for the Deer.

Said Gooden: "I was the last option, and it just called for me to pop back out if nobody was open. So I got it. All I could do is fling it up there. I tried to get some contact on the arm and maybe get a call, but you saw the result. Just hit the back of the rim."

Added Bucks coach Scott Skiles: "We'd like a better look than that."

No you-know-what, Sherlock.

The Cleveland Cadavers: Didn't these guys beat the Heat a few games ago? After watching the way they lost to the Wizards Generals, you'd hardly believe it. Rookie Jordan Crawford had his first career triple-double (21 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) and Andray Blatche grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds and matched his career-high by scoring 36 points. I guess the Cads thought it was "defense optional" night in the Verizon Center.

Said Cleveland coach Byron Scott: "GodDAMNit!" I'm guessing.

The New Orleans Hornets: A season-low 12 points in the first quarter. A double-digit home loss to the Grizzlies with seventh place in the Western Conference on the line. And, gak, a season-high seven assists from Zach Randolph?

Said Hornets coach Monty Williams: "He was amazing. He was the point guard on the floor tonight who pretty much dominated the game. They got layup after layup, and he did a good job of passing the ball. They were ready for the double-teams."

When Z-Bo dominates you with his passing, you have failed at life.

The Minnesota Timberwolves: They led 52-51 at the half and then the cHeat ran off a 25-1 run in the third quarter. Game over.

Said Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis: "They just came out and smoked us, whatever it was [25]-1 run. We couldn't find ways to get stops, couldn't protect the paint, couldn't score. That kind of sealed our fate."

This moment pretty much symbolized Minny's game...if not their season:

Said LeBron: "CB got a turnover and a rebound, and I got a steal and a bucket all on the same play. It might be on [SportsCenter's] 'Not Top 10' and 'Top 10' plays at the same time. That'd be pretty cool."

LeBron James, quote machine: "You wish you could just simulate the rest of these games and get to the postseason. Let me get my rest. We've still got work to do. We're not taking these games for granted."

The Utah Jazz: They managed to choke up a 17-point lead at home and get eliminated from playoff contention all in one night. And it's worse than that: Utah became the first team in NBA history to start 15-5 and 27-13 and not make the playoffs. So, uh, groan.

Brandon Knight: From Dan B:

Congraulations, Brandon Knight -- your 6-for-23 shot-jackery cost Kentucky a chance at the NCAA championship game. Knight went 3-11 from downtown (most of those were early in the shot clock pull-up attempts for no apparent reason, and one of those was a second half buzzer-beater to knock the margin of victory down from 4 to just 1) and only attempted two free throws. Sure, he was Kentucky's leading scorer, but that's because he was the only person shooting. It's hard for your teammates to score when you won't pass them the ball, content to instead dribble aimlessly and heave an unnecessary trey. When they do finally get a chance to take a shot, they are so ice-cold that they never have a chance.

That being said, at least Knight hit his only two free throws. The entire rest of the team went 2-10 from the charity stripe combined. Terrance Jones was particulary offensive with his 0-5 effort. Come on, guys. Knock down your free throws. They're free.

Also noteworthy from this game: UConn won despite going 1-12 from downtown, and Donnell Beverly had a nice 1 trillion box score line.
Bitter but deserved.

Chris's Friday Lacktion Report:

Bucks-Pacers: Larry Sanders bucketed 37 seconds for a Mario, while tiny Earl Boykins had two little bricks in 7:24 for a +2.

Bobcats-Magic: Earl Clark crunched out 2.3 trillion (2:16) worth in gold bars.

Sad Cadavers-Generals: In the Highly Unanticipated Rematch Of A Now-Nonexistant Rivalry, Hamady N'Diaye delivered a payday of 1.4 trillion (1:24).

Celtics-Hawks: Jermaine O'Neal drained a board and free throw in 15:40 with two fouls and two turnovers for a 4:2 Voskuhl, while Von Wafer found 2.75 trillion (2:45) worth of gold flakes.

For the winning dirty birds, Jeff Teague turned out one brick from Underground Atlanta, one rejection, and one foul for a +3 in 3:19.

Heat-Wolves: Zydrunas Ilgauskas managed a 1.05 trillion in molten gold (1:04), while rookie Dexter Pittman put two boards in the back burner with a brick, two turnovers, and foul in 2:15 for a 3:2 Voskuhl.

Grizzlies-Hornets: Leon Powe pounced on a celebratory 1.85 trillion (1:52) for the baby cubs, while New Orleans's Patrick Ewing Jr. found some gold-encrusted nougat worth exactly 1.7 trillion (1:42). Ewing's teammate Jason Smith subverted an assist in 5:36 with a brick, foul, and turnover for a 2:0 Voskuhl.

Spurs-Rockets: James Anderson added a new disc to his Wii collection in 33 seconds for a Mario.

Clippers-Suns: Ike Diogu downed two bricks from the stripe in 5:03, as well as a foul, for a +3 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.
Weekend 3-001

The Oklahoma City Thunder: Losing in Portland on Friday night was understandable. But losing to the Clippers the very next night? I mean, a winless weekend after a 14-2 March, capped off by a loss to The Other L.A. Team?

This game turned in the third quarter when Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook and coach Scott Brooks all recieved technical fouls within four seconds of each other. That meant three straight foul shots for the Clips, who finished the game with a 28-24 advantage in free throw attempts. Blake Griffin earned 18 of those freebies.

Said Kevin Durant: "I think we were the more physical team. But techs are something that just can't happen. We can't afford to just give them points like that. I think the way things were going, and the way they were on their way back, those techs just pushed them over the top."

Typical of a team playing the second night of back-to-backs on the road, the Thunder got outscored 61-43 in the second half. Of course, the Clippers played the previous night, too. Plus, they're the Clippers.

The Toronto Craptors: The Craptosaurs played the Bulls tough despite being without Andrea Bargnani (sore right ankle) and Jose Calderon (sore left hamstring). And yet...

James Johnson: Get. That. Weak. Stuff. Out.

Hey, did you know Derrick Rose has more offensive rebounds (78) and blocked shots (48) than LeBron (77 and 46). Kinda interesting.

The Minnesota Timberwolves: I bet Kevin Love and Darko Milicic were happy they missed this one. The T-Wolves had the ball stolen 17 times and gave up 33 points of 26 turnovers in their 106-89 beating in Memphis.

Said Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis: "We played really hard and gave a good effort considering how short-handed we were. When you give up 33 points off turnovers, it's too big of a hole to dig yourself out of. You have to do something extraordinary, if you're going to give up that many points."

And, as we all know, the T-Wolves don't do "extraordinary."

The Dallas Mavericks: As if Thursday night's beating in L.A. wasn't bad enough, the Mavs got held to 92 points on 41 percent shooting by...

...the Gol_en State Warriors. Cue the rationalization!

Said Dirk Nowitzki: "We'd love to get some wins here before we start off, but the playoffs are also a completely new season. We'd love to get some momentum, start making some shots, look a little better. We look a little flat lately, look a little tired. So hopefully we can step it up here."

Added Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: "I just kept believing we were about to hit a hot streak."

Chris's Saturday Lacktion Report:

Craptors-Bulls: Alexis Ajinca confounded a block with a turnover in 2:58 for a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, while Julian Wright wrote in a foul for a +1 in 3:02.

Sixers-Bucks: Mareese Speights fouled once in 6:58 for a +1 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, while Jason Kapono had 14 seconds to race Diddy Kong and Toad in a Mario Kart battle.

Mavs-Warriors: Ian Mahinmi was 50% from the field (on two attempts) and earned two boards in 12:29, only to lose the rock twice and foul four times for a 6:4 Voskuhl.

East Oakland's Ekpe Udoh had one board as starting big man, only to brick twice, turn over the ball twice, and nearly foul out - resulting in a 7:1 Voskuhl in 16:02!

The epic man love comes from Raptors Republic via tonious35.

The Dallas Mavericks: That hot streak Carlisle was hoping for did not begin on Sunday. The Tyson Chandler-less Mavericks lost to the Frail Blazers in Portland and once again looked predictable and slow-footed on offense. As for Dirk's "the playoffs are also a completely new season" theory?

Said Jason Terry: "That's too far ahead for me to even think about right now. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves, if we do we're not looking at the right picture."

That's for sure.

And I get it. I do. Second game of back-to-backs, the final stop on a six-game road trip. Teams aren't their best in these situations. Still, the Mavericks, like the Spurs, looked strong almost all season (minus the stretch that Nowitzki missed). Now they're going to be relegated to the three-seed and a likely second round matchup with (fingers crossed) the Lakers.

Said Terry: "Tonight we just didn't have that extra burst. They got every loose ball, they got all the big rebounds, they just outhustled us. That tells me we have a weary team. We need to get back home and get re-energized."

Yeah. Too bad you won't have homecourt past the first round...

The New Jersey Nyets: Against, the cHeat, they...wait, what? The cHeat might sign Eddy Cuh...Cuh...Cuh...


...ah ha...ah ho...hoo hoo...hooooooo. Whoa.

Okay, seriously, Miami has put Curry through a workout and there's a "better than 50-50" chance Pat Riley will sign him. Workout? What kind of workout could they have possibly put him through? "Hey, Eddy, run 10 feet without passing out or eating a ball boy! Now...GO!" Published reports say Curry currently weighs somehwhere between "Holy fuck!" and "Run! Run! Oh, God, RUUUUUUN!" But, hey, you never know. Maybe LeBron wanted a beanbag to recline on during the four minutes a night he doesn't play.

The Phoenix Suns: Let's see: The Spurs snapped their longest losing streak of the Tim Duncan era by blowing the absolute living hell out the Steve Nash-less Suns and officially eliminating them from playoff contention. Yeah, seems painfully fitting, doesn't it?

Said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry: "We knew they were going to have a reaction, obviously they lost six straight games. They're fighting like crazy to stay ahead of the Lakers, and the Bulls. Obviously, it becomes really important to them, and they played that way."


Added Marcin Gortat: "I don't want to answer [whether it's hard to find motivation to play], but I'll just tell you one thing, I'm embarrassed. I'm glad in the second half we stepped up a little bit and didn't get blown out by 40 or 50, but it's embarrassing."

The Detroit Pistons: They let the Celtics shoot 64 percent in another double-digit loss. Seriously, Boston was scoring so easily that, at one point, Delonte West overthrew an alley-oop that banked in for a three. But let's get to the real story of this game...

Shaq: The Big Limpy was back! For five minutes! Then left with a calf injury!


Yep. Despite the extended in-season vacation, Shaq couldn't shamble up and down the court for five minutes without getting hurt. That's a really, really bad sign for the Celtics and their fans, considering that, after the Perkins trade, their hopes were absolutely dependent on having a healthy Shaq for the playoffs.

But Doc Rivers said it was a minor injury. "Scary more than anything" I think he said. No kidding. Shaq hobbled off the court and got carted to the locker room in a wheelchair. Ugh. The Celtics are so screwed.

Said Big Baby: "He'll be OK. Shaq's always going to be all right. He doesn't get hurt. Shaq is invincible, man. That's what I believe in. He'll be back. Man of steel. That's what I've been believing since I was a little kid."

Baby knows this isn't professional wrestling, right?

The Detroit Pistons: Forgot to mention this: Detroit has now lost 50 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-94 and 1994-95.

The Cleveland Cadavers: Make it a winless weekend. Capped off by getting blown out by the Knicks, who clawed their way back to .500 and officially qualified for the playoffs. Thanks for that, Cadavers.

Stat of the game: Cleveland's 22-10 disadvantage in turnovers.

Said Cads coach Byron Scott: "Tonight we were just very careless with the basketball pretty much all game long. We did a much better job in the second quarter which got us back into the game, but second half 14 turnovers is way too much against this team. It gives them a chance to get in the open floor and make easy baskets."

All baskets against the Cadavers are easy. Just sayin'.

The Utah Jazz: Talk about rubbing lemon juice in the wound: One game after being eliminated from the playoffs in historic fashion, the Jazz lost to the Kings. It was Utah's sixth straight defeat, which represents their longest losing nine in a row back in March of 2005. The Jazz are now 5-18 since Jerry Sloan retired.

The Orlando Magic: Whoa. The Craptosaurs snapped their six-game losing streak by beating the Magicians, who look primed and ready for a first round playoff elimination. I mean, seriously, the Craptors?!

Said Orlando coach Stan Van Grumpy: "They wanted to win, we didn't care, so they won."

Toronto shot 50 percent, won the rebounding battle 48-30 (including 15-7 on the offensive glass) and registered 24 assists to only 15 for the Magic.

Van Grumpy continued: "We certainly didn't even try to turn it on tonight. Our guys want to try to pick their spots. I'm not at all confident. I'm confident in what we're able to do when we want to play, but I'm not confident that our guys will come with an approach to really come out and play hard and play with great energy. I'm not confident in that at all. ... You don't see teams get outrebounded by 18. That's absurd."

Countered Dwight Howard: "I don't want to say I don't care what Stan says but sometimes he is very passionate and he says things that we might not like."

That's right. Dwight doesn't want to say he doesn't care what Stan says, but...

As for Van Grumpy, he was sticking up for Dwight, I think: "It's a little ridiculous that we can't even let Dwight get a drink of water, but that's the way it is. When he leaves we have no defense and today we had very little offense. It's crazy, but we should be able to take him out to get a drink of water."

Nuggets-Lakers: I'll let LotharBot handle this one:

Bawful from Nuggets-Lakers: Kobe missed as many shots as Gasol and Bynum took, combined. I hear ignorant commentators sometimes say JR Smith can shoot you into games or shoot you out of games, but he doesn't ever get enough attempts to shoot his team out of games. Kobe actually does shoot his team both into and out of games; that's what happens when you get 27 attempts and sometimes convert 20 and sometimes convert 10.

The Lakers get great rebounding from their bigs, but almost none from their guards and small forwards (other than Kobe.) The Nuggets get weak rebounding from their bigs, but their guards and small forwards get it done -- their two sub-six-foot pgs (Lawson and Felton) combined for eleven rebounds, which is more than all six of the Lakers' non-bigs combined.

Speaking of rebounding, Odom choked when it counted, failing to box out Kenyon Martin on a free throw miss near the end of the game, which allowed the Nuggets to go up by 5. Nuggets bane right now is free throw shooting. 12 misses -- including 6 by Danilo Gallinari, who is supposedly near 90% but went 5-11 from the line tonight, and 4 total free throw misses in the final 20 seconds of the game.
It's a real bummer the Lakers lost ground in their bid for the number one seed.

Chris's Sunday Lacktion Report:

Generals-Bobcats: Kwame Brown had three boards for his favorite team owner's squad in 32:54 as STARTING big man...but bricked twice, lost the rock twice and fouled thricely for a 5:3 Voskuhl.

Heat-Nyets: Brandan Wright managed to start his way to a get-rich-quick program with a 3.45 trillion (3:28), while fellow ruble-rouser Ben Uzoh did score three points...but only had 46 seconds to get through World 1-2 for a non-lacktive Mario.

Extremely Sad Cadavers-THE KNICKS ARE CONTENDERS NOW, THEY CAN BEAT CLEVELAND!: Manny Harris and Joey Graham can now rake in the dough to douse their tears with a 1 trillion (62 seconds), while Ryan Hollins had perfection from the stripe and field (for only three points) as starting center in 19:35, even getting three boards along the way...only to lose the rock twice and foul out for an 8:7 Voskuhl.

Jazz-The Purple Paupers Who Are Still Residents Of A NON-Suburban Urban Area That Is Not Defined By A Theme Park: Francisco Elson bricked once in 6:01 for a +1 suck differential.

Pacers-Hornets: Patrick Ewing Jr. can now afford another ten truckloads of Snickers bars after a 1.35 trillion payday (1:22).

Mavs-Frail Blazers: Portland's Patrick Mills and Luke Babbitt each planted a fire flower in 50 seconds as Mario Brothers, with Mills also bricking once for a +1!

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