Playoffs Commentary

Chicago Bulls’ Taj Gibson celebrates after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks during Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference second round playoff basketball game in Chicago, May 10, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Rick Morrissey, Chicago Sun-Times: So here the Bulls were to start the fourth quarter Tuesday night, locked in mortal combat with determined Atlanta, and, well, what was it going to be? Were the Bulls going to chop down this pesky, maddening team? And if so, how would they do it? With Derrick Rose, of course. You play against Rose, and you expect to see 33 points and nine assists. You almost cede it. But you don’t expect Taj Gibson to pour in 11 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor. You don’t expect Gibson to pour in anything not involving Gatorade. You certainly don’t expect Omer Asik to play almost 20 minutes in a playoff game, including all 12 in the fourth quarter. You don’t expect Ronnie Brewer to play the entire fourth quarter either. You expect Brewer to be waving a towel at the end of the bench. It’s proof that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is smart enough not to get in the way of a good thing, even if the good thing might require nametags.

Bill Reiter, FSFlorida: In February, after the Heat failed to beat a similarly under-performing Celtics team in Boston, I wrote the following: “Miami cannot beat Boston. Not now. Not later. Not in a seven-game playoff series. Not gonna happen.” I was wrong. I did not believe LeBron and his coach would find enough harmony to work together in a way that could lead to such a win. They did. I did not think, after watching LeBron and Wade after that game, that either man would get their confidence back in the face of a Celtics onslaught. But that’s exactly what happened. I certainly didn’t think Boston would trade away Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson for the likes of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, but that certainly happened, too. When the Celtics traded Perkins, they gave away more of their team’s heart and soul than most of us knew. Though perhaps we should have guessed it by the way Celtics players cried at the goodbye; by the way they bristled at the news.

Ron Borges, BostonHerald.com: Regardless of why they failed to hold a 13-point second-half lead last year in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers, that loss, in some ways, begat what has happened to them since. Big Three Lite seemed to wither and grow old that day, a circumstance that seldom reverses itself in sports. … The Heat have their own Big Three, and it is far from lite. It is made up of three guys who are younger, faster, stronger and perhaps even hungrier than the Celtics’ aging version, which is all the more reason why what happens tonight at American Airlines [AMR] Arena is so significant to the legacy of Pierce, Allen and Garnett in Boston. It seems foolish to suggest that somehow the aging and infirm team Danny Ainge put together this season will win three straight from the Heat, two of them in Miami, and thus advance to the East finals. Anything is possible, but some things are more unlikely than others, and at the moment a sighting of Halley’s comet seems more likely than a sighting of Banner 18 in the Garden rafters.

Berry Trammel, The Oklahoman: Russell Westbrook took 33 shots Monday night in the Memphis Marathon. Kevin Durant took 20. You know what that means. Here we go again. Why does Westbrook shoot so much? Why does he crave the spotlight? Why does he feel like he has to be the man? Crazed fans, we can forgive. But NBA veterans, from the likes of Chuck Barkley and Kenny Smith and Mike Fratello? Busting Westbrook even after he was the central hero in one of the most thrilling games in NBA history? Wondering why Durant wasn’t getting more shots than was his point guard. Are they not watching the games? To quote Strother Martin in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team.” The Thunder has regained control of this rousing Western Conference semifinal against Memphis, armed again with homecourt advantage in a 2-2 series. And Westbrook is the No. 1 reason. The Thunder has a favorable mismatch with Westbrook. It does not have such an edge with Durant.

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Derrick Rose’s 44 points lead Bulls to 99-82 win

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (R) shoots over Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague in the first half of their Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball game in Atlanta, Georgia May 6, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

No other Chicago starter scored in double digits, but it doesn’t really matter when your point guard drops 44 points on 16-for-27 shooting like Derrick Rose did in Game 3. Joakim Noah had the Rodman-esque line of two points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, while Carlos Boozer and his turf toe scored six points (on 3-of-6 shooting) in just 22 minutes. Taj Gibson picked up Boozer’s slack, posting 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

NBA Playoffs Commentary

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson calls a play as his team plays the Charlotte Bobcats in the first half of in an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 14, 2011. UPI/Nell Redmond

T.J. Simers, LA Times: Allen Iverson goes off in Game 1, the 76ers win, but never again. Chris Paul runs around making the Lakers look vulnerable, but then disappears. Now he has to stop Nowitzki. What a wonderful way for the best coach in the NBA to go out, handed one of the greatest challenges in league history. Given his resume, why should folks think it’s too much to ask? … Down 0-2, the Lakers have the Mavs right where they want them — in a position to prove Dallas is short on championship heart. I expect we will see that. The Lakers are still the better team and ordinarily get better in a playoff series with Jackson in command. I cannot imagine the Lakers rolling over and playing dead in Jackson’s final days as a coach.

David Haugh, Chicago Tribune: To a man, Bulls players and coaches blame most of Boozer’s inconsistency on accumulating health issues. If that plausible explanation indeed is true then the Bulls need to address it now. Don’t put Boozer on the bench for Taj Gibson in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Put him in a fancy suit and make him watch from the Scalabrine seats with others on the inactive list. The Bulls can win the Hawks series without Boozer. But the Bulls can’t beat the Heat or the Celtics without a meaningful contribution from their $75 million man. If Boozer continues to gut out a toe injury that limits him and appears to get worse the more he plays, he won’t be in the best condition to contribute when the competition stiffens. Bulls doctors wouldn’t allow Boozer to play now if he were at risk, yet I wonder if a week’s rest would help him more than it hurts his team.

Randy Galloway, Star-Telegram: The man who went to LA for four days, was the center of Southern California media attention, particularly since the Dodgers need a new owner, and basically zipped it for his entire stay out there. Didn’t say spit. The only way we knew Cuban was still alive was when the TNT cameras picked up a big smile that kept popping up behind the Dallas Mavericks’ bench at the Staples Center. I’m wordless over this development, being someone who spent the last decade telling Mark to shut up. He finally did, and improbable stuff has happened to his Mavs. Never thought I’d say this: Everyone needs to now take a behavioral cue from Cuban. Lay low.

Ken Sugiura, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Somewhere right now, Joakim Noah is nudging someone out of a buffet line, outhustling a teammate to the hot tub or maybe sealing off the magazine rack in his hotel gift shop. The NBA’s top offensive rebounder in the postseason drove the Hawks to madness Wednesday in the Chicago Bulls’ Game 2 victory. If the Hawks don’t counteract Noah and his ball-hawking teammates Friday in Game 3 at Philips Arena, trouble awaits. The Bulls outrebounded the Hawks 58-39 in their series-tying win Wednesday. The Hawks’ problems hardly ended there — see more below — but among the primary goals Friday will be not to get hammered on the glass.

Bulls bounce back, take Game 2

Derrick Rose (1) of the Chicago Bulls shoots against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference second round playoff basketball game in Chicago, May 4, 2011. The Bulls won the game 86-73. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Derrick Rose accepted the MVP award in a pregame ceremony and played like a MVP to help the Bulls win Game 2. He didn’t play great, mind you — 25 points on 10-of-27 shooting, 10 assists, six rebounds and eight assists — but he played like the Bulls’ most valuable player. Chicago needs him to score, so he scores. Right now, the Bulls aren’t getting the kind of production they need from Carlos Boozer, who should be an 18/10-type of guy, but is shooting 40% from the field and averaging under 11 points per game in the playoffs.

Joakim Noah was outstanding (19 points, 14 rebounds and three steals), but the Bulls aren’t going to get that kind of scoring production out of him on a nightly basis. Luol Deng (14 points, 12 rebounds) was his steady self, but he’s not good enough offensively to be the Bulls #2 option on that end of the floor.

Based on what I’ve seen of the Bulls this postseason, I don’t see them getting by the Heat in a potential matchup next round. Without solid production from Boozer, they are too dependent on Rose to score and he can’t pour in 30 points every night.

NBA Playoffs: Dogs & cats living together, mass hysteria!

I’m always reminded of this classic quote from “Ghostbusters” whenever anything weird happens.

On the heels of the Grizzlies’ win in Game 1 over the Thunder (after upending the #1-seeded Spurs in the first round), both the Hawks and Mavericks won on the road last night against the Bulls and Lakers, respectively.

The Hawks broke a 15-game second round playoff losing streak by winning in Chicago. Here are the highlights:

Rose’s twisted ankle at the end is obviously worrisome for the Bulls, who could normally overcome a Game 1 loss to the Hawks if he were healthy.

Joe Johnson (12-of-18 from the field, 5-for-5 from 3PT for 34 points) was on fire throughout the game. Where was the vaunted Chicago defense that has shut players down all season?

In Los Angeles, the Mavs overcame a 16-point deficit with a 17-4 run over five minutes in the third quarter. Pau Gasol had a bad finish to the game, fouling Dirk Nowitzki on an inbounds pass with under 0:20 to play with the Lakers up one and then he turned the ball over attempting to hand the ball to Kobe on the ensuing possession. (Kobe was really at fault because he was trying to draw the foul on his defender instead of making sure he got the ball.)

Either way, the Lakers are down 0-1 and the Mavs have stolen home court advantage in the series.

Here are the highlights:

The only higher seed to win Game 1 in the semis is Miami. Go figure.

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