We’ve run out of superlatives to describe Joe Johnson’s incredible performance on Monday night, willing his team to improbable victory with the best clutch performance to date in the 2008 Eastern Conference playoffs. His stellar line of 35 points and 6 assists on 14-of-24 shooting from the field (including 5-of-6 from behind the arc) doesn’t even tell the whole story… but this tribute video pretty much nails it.
Sports Illustrated – After another playoff letdown the Mike D’Antoni era is over in Phoenix. The World of Isaac – His possible job opportunities (model, stunt-double, advocate, etc.). ESPN – And while we’re at it, lets get rid of that Avery Johnson charatcer too. Fast Break Blog – Maybe Michael Jordan needs to take some time away from basketball. DC Sports Bog – DeShawn Stevenson has had a very, very busy month. Star-Telegram- And the hits just keep on coming for the hard-partying Josh Howard. With Leather – The New Orleans Hornets are the new Phoenix Suns. In a good way. What’s the Diff – Pistons fans are psyched about a potentially renewed DET/BOS rivalry. Larry Brown Sports – That sonofabitch just ruined a perfectly good blog name. The Starting Five – Tracking the NBA media quote machines, including Sir Charles. AOL FanHouse – Houston’s suffocating defensive performance deserves a little recognition. My Utah Jazz – Nobody wants to be the team that breaks McGrady’s first-round cherry. Cavalier Attitude – ETB favorite Delonte West is stepping up his game in the postseason. And One – For the Cleveland Cavaliers it’s all about hangin’ tough (mentally). SuperSonic Soul – Despite ETB’s strongly-worded letter, Kevin Durant will be the ROY. Oh No They Didn’t – This has absolutely nothing to do with basketball. It’s still awesome.
“Keep your eye on his hands as Pete Maravich demonstrates some pretty slick ball control. Now keep your eye on Pete’s hair as he demonstrates some not-so-slick hair control. Pete’s wearing his hair dry and casual, and it stays that way with new Vitalis Dry Control.”
1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 29, 2008 at 3:11pm in NBA
ESPN – When the going gets tough, Riley gets going. HOOPSWORLD – And now the rebuilding process can truly being in Miami. Celtics 17 – Joe Johnson, Joe Johnson, Joe Johnson, Joe Johnson, Joe Johnson. AOL FanHouse – Nash and company are done competing for titles, period. CelticsBlog – Did that really just happen? Was it all a bad dream? Celts fans still dazed. Ball Don’t Lie – Why Doc Rivers deserves significant blame for last night’s meltdown. NY Post – Juicy-but-far-fetched NY rumor of the day: Mike D’Antoni to the Knicks. SPORTSbyBROOKS – It’s time to dust off Larry Brown’s amazing technicolor dreamsweater. Deuce of Davenport – Karl Malone is chock full of sperm, but short on love. No Blood No Foul – Shocker: George Karl coaches the first 50-win team to get swept. NBADraft.net – An updated mock for this summer’s NBA draft.
As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition Kobe shows his MVP form and Luke Walton gets some respect.
This is what MVPs do.
On the road, when the chips are down, they will their teams to improbable victory.
On a night when another alleged competitor for the MVP crown couldn’t secure a W for his team over an eighth seed and the Celtics dropped a second game to Atlanta, Mr. Bryant took care of business like no one else can, ending the Denver Nuggets season in a stirring 107-101 Lakers’ victory.
The Lakers led by as many as thirteen points in the first half, and took a ten point lead (64-54) into halftime, thanks to 33 combined points from Bryant and Gasol. Things were running smoothly, and it looked as if the Lakers would run away with it in the second half – I was starting to lay odds on which Nugget would be ejected first when the Lakers opened up that 20 point lead late in the game.
But my odds making (I had Kenyon Martin at 3-1, Iverson at 2-1) was all for naught.
In the third quarter, the wheels fell off. The Lakers played as if they somehow harbored, in a deep corner of their hearts, a bit of pity for their Nugget brethren and wanted them to have at least one game as a parting gift.
There was something very revealing in the pregame coverage of Friday’s Philadelphia/Detroit tilt. First, they showed a few moments in the Pistons locker room as head coach Flip Saunders delivered his pregame speech. Not a single Piston appeared to have a passing interest in what he was saying, and their body language made that obvious. They were tying their shoes, putting their socks on and facing in other directions.
A couple minutes later we got a glimpse into the Philadelphia locker room as Maurice Cheeks delivered his pregame speech, and it was a completely different scene. The players were lined up in two rows facing their leader, nearly all in rapt attention and the four quarters that followed played out in similar fashion. It was just another piece of evidence in the case against Flip Saunders. He appears to have lost this team, struggles in the playoffs every year, and he needs to go after the season if Detroit doesn’t make the NBA Finals.
Philip “Flip” Saunders photo credit: Icon/SMI
In his speech coach Cheeks encouraged each player to simply do what they do and do it with confidence. That’s basically what happened. The 76ers played the kind of basketball that got them here, hitting the glass, getting up and down the floor, out-hustling their opponent and being demons in the passing lane. They managed an huge 15 steals and converted them into scads of easy fast-break baskets. Samuel Dalembert particularly good, finishing with 22 points, 16 boards and 2 blocks and a +27 in the +/- column. On the other side of the ball Detroit came out lethargic and continued to play sloppy, lazy basketball all game. The play of Rasheed Wallace was especially puzzling, as he was a complete non-factor on defense, on the boards and on offense. He had been the best player in the series the first two games, and he just didn’t show up, finishing with a bizarre line of 2 points and 5 rebounds on 1-for-6 shooting. Say what? Something had to be wrong. I have no inside information, but something was definitely up. The only Pistons who showed up were Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, and if they hadn’t combined for 41 points on an impressive 17-for-27 from the field this would have been a 30-point blowout.
Detroit managed to even the series at 2-2 with a 93-84 victory on Sunday. A win is a win, but it should have been a blowout. The Pistons should have come out on fire as a veteran team with a solid game-plan and motivation to spare. They should have planted their high-tops firmly on Philadelphia’s neck and never let up. Another wakeup call should not have been necessary, but Philadelphia won each of the first two quarters and led 46-36 at the half. It took an inspired third quarter with the Pistons outscoring the Sixers 34-16 to take control of the game. The lackluster victory is extremely disconcerting for all Pistons players and fans, but it’s the type of performance that has marked Flip Saunders’ teams in the playoffs over the years.
More on why Flip Saunders makes me nervous after the jump…
HOOPSWORLD – Watching these playoffs, it’s time for a “Deceiptfulness Rule” in the NBA. Wizards Insider – Jay-Z was dropping hate on DeShawn Stevenson at Club Love on Friday. Same Page Sports – The Spurs brand of slow-it-down basketball could be infectious. Yikes. Don Chavez – Ray Allen has some peculiar compulsive rituals and it’s rubbing off on Rondo. Bleacher Report – Ranking the top 30 prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. TMZ – This just in: Isaiah Rider is wanted by the authorities. Again. Biz of Basketball- These are the best NBA playoffs in years, and the ratings have responded. Brew Hoop – Andrew Bogut is the best big man in the NBA at drawing charges. MVN – A player-by-player report card for the Knicks, and Jerome James got the only A. ESPN – It’s a little odd for a 29-year-old, but Hedo Turkoglu probably deserved the MIP. K Luvs This Game- The Denver Nuggets mascot Rocky’s strategy backfires and proves a perfect symbol for the way this series has gone:
Here’s what we learned from the Suns dismal loss to the Spurs on Friday: they’re still a soft bunch capable of being pushed around and their system was incapable of stopping opposing point guards. For too long they’ve been unable to contain penetration, and it’s killed them over and over. 41 points and 12 assists for Parker on 17-for-26 shooting is completely inexcusable. And now that they don’t run as frequently or as efficiently and don’t have as many good outside shooters (sans James Jones, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson), they can’t make up for it. Serious changes should be made in the offseason. Phoenix also showed a complete lack of urgency and energy, which is a extremely hard to figure when it was basically a do-or-die game, and the leadership (or lack thereof) has a lot of answering to do.
A dapper Boris Diaw photo credit: Icon SMI
Sunday was a completely different story, with Phoenix coming out and playing with pride like they should have on Friday, winning 106-86 and looking in charge for the entire 48 minutes. The play of Boris Diaw was a revelation. Grant Hill’s return as a healthy contributor this year has been a great story. He managed to participate in 70 games in the regular season, the most since his last season in Detroit in the 1999-00 season. Then the playoffs rolled around and Grant went back to his injury-plagued self. It’s a shame, because Grant is a classy guy and still has a lot of basketball left in him — but Phoenix had to know his health was a major concern when they inked him. On Sunday the Phoenix Suns played their best game of the series without Hill, and his absence if the starting lineup might make them a better team.
Boris Diaw was inserted into the small forward slot in his place and his play was key inthe victory. Boris has been a major disappointment for two seasons now, but he plays significantly better when in the starting lineup. When starting this season he put up a line like his breakout 2005-06 season with 12 points, 5 assists and 5.7 boards on 51% FGs compared to just 7.9 points, 3.5 assists and 4.3 boards on 46.3% FGs when coming off the bench. He posted a line of 20 points, 10 boards, 8 assists and 2 blocks on 10-for-19 shooting in the win.
As Jeff Van Gundy pointed out he presents significant matchup problems for the smaller San Antonio small forwards. He’s too big and can post up smaller players, he’s too good of a passer to double-team, and he’s too agile to put a big body on. He also did a splendid defensive job on Tony Parker, who has absolutely lit up the Suns guards this series. Diaw and Parker have a history from their days in France, and perhaps it gives Diaw an edge. Of course, this news is all a day late and a dollar short, nobody comes back from 0-3, but the Phoenix Suns need to learn from this experience. Heading into 2008-09 Boris Diaw needs to be in the starting lineup, Grant Hill is not to be counted on and finding more creative ways to hide Steve Nash on defense has to be a top priority.
As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition he revels in the fatal Game 3 victory.
The beaches were closed in San Diego on Saturday due to a fatal great white shark attack the day before. A 66-year-old retired veterinarian was swimming with a group of fellow triathaletes-in-training when the attack occurred around 7 a.m.
It was the first fatality by shark attack in Southern California since a great white killed a woman in 1994 at Ocean Beach in San Diego – coincidentally, the same year that the Denver Nuggets last won a playoff series. The Nuggets, also an eight seed that year, upset the number one seeded Seattle SuperSonics, coached by none other than George Karl.
Over a thousand miles away, one could argue that a second fatal attack took place on land Saturday in the Mile High City at The Pepsi Center, but instead of the ferocious jaws of a great white shark delivering the devastating bite, it was two veterans from the Lakers last trip to the NBA Finals who severed the Nuggets’ arteries.
A further autopsy of the Denver Nuggets after the jump…
Star-Telegram – Jerry Stackhouse was, “about ready to kick [Byron Scott's] ass.” HOOPSWORLD – Tired of riding superstar guards to success, Shaq turns to horses. The Sports Hernia – Larry Brown is going to leave somewhere and go do something else. Upside and Motor – Breaking down the odds of where he might be doing it. QuantumHoops – 209 consecutive three-pointers and better defense than JJ Redick. Gossip on Sports – The top five reasons why Dwayne Wade dating Star Jones is “squicky.” AOL FanHouse – Sitting down with New Orleans’ mild-mannered superstar David West. Awful Announcing – Just when you thought you had seen the last of C-Webb… Black Jesus Disciples – Breaking down the Phoenix Suns total vacuum of leadership. NBA Stuffer – Joey Crawford leads the NBA in fouls, techs and ejections. We love you Joey. The Painted Area – It’s not your imagination: the NBA is a lot more fun to watch these days. What Would Oakley Do? – The Knicks are a lot like the Dream Team in one respect.