Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau got hit with a $35,000 for suggesting that Lebron James flopped the other night after being shoved by Nazr Mohammed. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m not a fan of traitor Lebron, but that claim is pretty ridiculous. Mohammed shoved Lebron out of the blue, and I’m not at all surprised that he naturally fell backwards. Thibodeau should have been fined.
That said, Thibodeau’s strategy versus Lebron is brilliant, even with some execution issues like Mohammed’s stupid shove. The idea is to get into Lebron’s head, and frankly Lebron had a bad game but was bailed out by his teammates. It may not lead to a Bulls win since they’re so overmatched, but with Lebron you have to challenge him physically and mentally as we’ve seen him wilt many times before both when he played for the Cavs and in 2011 with the Heat.
Of course, Lebron can also rise to the occasion and make you pay for it, but leaving him alone spells certain defeat for most teams. It’s playoff basketball and you have to challenge Lebron and hope he suffers a meltdown or at least starts altering his game.
The Chicago Bulls are a mess with all their injuries, but Derrick Rose won’t be suiting up for game 7 against the Nets. Rose finally spoke to the media and basically reiterated that he’s physically cleared to play, but . . . mentally he’s not ready.
He left open the possibility of playing against the Miami Heat if the Bulls advance.
It’s hard to criticize anyone coming off an ACL injury, and we ave no idea what this guy is feeling. But it’s still a little odd that he’s not willing to take a chance with the playoffs on the line.
As we move into the second half of the NBA season, some unexpected teams are surging to the top of the ranks. Of course, nobody is surprised by the Miami Heat’s position at the top of the Eastern conference, but the wrong team from Los Angeles seems to be at the top, the Clippers. Many expected the Lakers to be the dominate team in the Western Conference, but they are not even in the picture right now. Here’s a quick look at where we stand as of right now:
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Boston Celtics
Biggest Surprises in the East
Probably the biggest surprise is the rivalry matchup sitting in the 2 and 3 seeds currently. Both Indiana and New York were expected to be in the playoff hunt, but not sitting right behind Miami with a legitimate chance to win the East. The Atlanta Hawks can also be thrown into this surprise group, as they are right behind the Pacers and not far behind the east leading Heat.
It’s going to be an exciting run to finish the season and snagging Indiana Pacers tickets for one of the final games, as they renew their historic rivalry with the Knicks, can lead to an exciting and memorable experience. All eight teams have winning records and the top four teams all have a real chance to win the conference.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Houston Rockets
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Portland Trailblazers
Biggest Surprises in the West
The biggest surprise found in the western conference has to do with the team not in the playoff picture, as of right now. The 15-20 Los Angeles Lakers were picked to possibly win more games than any other NBA team in history, at the beginning of the season, but they currently sit 10 games back from the 8th and final playoff seed. Another huge surprise lurking even further back than the Lakers is the Dallas Mavericks.
Both of these teams have recently experienced quite a bit of success, but neither is even close to the playoff hunt right now. Without a long winning streak in the second half of the season, we may see the Lakers miss the playoffs for only the 6th time in franchise history and the first time since 2004-2005. We will most likely also see the playoffs played without Dallas for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.
With the two biggest surprises coming from the west, predicting the NBA finals teams isn’t all that easy. At the beginning of the year, many experts picked Miami and Los Angeles Lakers to make the finals. However, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the picture now and it’s very likely a team, such as the Indiana Pacers or the New York Knicks could build enough momentum to overtake Miami in the playoffs.
The west is all up for grabs and the most likely team to go to the finals is the San Antonio Spurs, simply because they know how to get there. Another team to look out for is the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they are young and capable of making a playoff run.
Whichever teams end up in the playoffs and the finals, this season has created quite a bit of excitement. The top teams in both conferences are only a few games apart from each other and nobody is running away with the conference titles. It will be exciting to watch and fun to see how it all shakes out.
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.
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.