BasketBlog 5/2

Tonight’s games:

Jazz @ Spurs – 7:00 ET on TNT – Spurs lead 1-0
Pacers @ Magic – 7:30 ET on NBATV – Series tied 1-1
Clippers @ Grizzlies – 9:30 ET on TNT – Clippers lead 1-0

About Last Night

Photo Credit: Larry Brown Sports

Celtics 87, Hawks 80 – Series tied 1-1

– In the Boston Globe, Bob Ryan frames last night’s performance by ageless captain Paul Pierce and his Celtics with a historical perspective:

When you play for the Boston Celtics, anything positive you do always bumps into history. Whatever you’ve just done, somebody is around to tell you that somebody else did it better in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, or even four years ago.

Nor has this bunch won anything yet. What they do have is the knowledge that when the great, gutty, inspiring road playoff victories in Celtics history are annotated, what they did Tuesday night at Philips Arena will merit one of the top spots.

No Ray Allen. No Rajon Rondo. No worries. Trailing the Atlanta Hawks by 11 points with just under four minutes to play in the third period, and very definitely trending downward, they put on a sensational closing burst to pull out an 87-80 Game 2 victory that restores order in this series and sends them back home with a chance to do some serious damage to the Hawks this weekend.

– In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Mark Bradley writes about how it all fell apart for the Hawks:

Drew stuck too long with his bench – to be fair, the Hawks’ bench has been good this season – and saw the Celtics draw within two. Then they nosed ahead. The only offense the proud C’s could muster were alternating jumpers by Pierce and Garnett, but the Hawks had stopped scoring altogether.

The home side managed six points – two Teague free throws, Joe Johnson’s runner and Marvin Williams’ stickback of a Johnson air ball – in the first 9:07 of the fourth quarter. By then the Celtics had taken a 79-72 lead. (Adding literal injury to insult, Smith had been taken to the locker room. Diagnosis: Sprained left knee.)

And then it was done, the Hawks having done it again. They’d wasted an 11-point home lead on a night when the Celtics had been reduced to winning on memory. They’d managed 14 points in the fourth quarter, one more than Pierce scored by his 34-year-old lonesome. The Hawks’ precious homecourt edge is gone, and Rondo will be back for Game 3 and Smith – his old Oak Hill roommate – might not.

76ers 109, Bulls 92 – Series tied 1-1

– I was surprised that the Rose-less Bulls didn’t come out stronger last night. After playing resiliently without their best player for much of the year and leading 55-47 at the half, the Bulls fell apart in the third quarter as they were outscored 36-14. I still think that the Bulls will ultimately win this series but their path to doing so became much more difficult and uncertain after last night’s home loss.

– In the Chicago Tribune, David Haugh points fingers:

This was about the disappearance of Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, who were supposed to step up but combined for 17 points. This was supposed to be the game point guard C.J. Watson proved he could start for many NBA teams, not made Bulls fans long for more John Lucas III. This was supposed to be the game Richard Hamilton backed up his championship pedigree by supplying something extra, not scored half his career playoff average (10).

Of the Bulls starters, only Noah paid tribute to Rose with a consistently inspired effort in a 21-point performance that included soft jumpers and left-handed hooks.

– In the Chicago Sun-Times, Seth Gruen recaps a letter that Scottie Pippen wrote to the Bulls:

“It would be easy to hang your heads right now,” Pippen wrote in a letter to the team. “You could lose sight of the ultimate goal and give up before the rest of the games have even been played. But I know that’s not even a consideration for this group.”

Pippen justified the assertion by citing the example Rose set for the rest of the team, not by what the Bulls have been saying since Rose’s injury.

“Reflect on what you have brought to the table for your team all season long and why you’re a valuable member of the Bulls,” Pippen wrote. “Because all of you have contributed to this team’s incredible success. Ask yourself what you can do for the team moving forward.

“It’s going to be all about grinding it out moving forward.

Lakers 104, Nuggets 100 – Lakers lead 2-0

– I’m going to be honest: I just couldn’t stay up for this second half knowing that the game was going to end after 1 am. By the looks of it, Kobe and Bynum were spectacular.

– In the LA Times, Bill Plaschke notes that Kobe went from passive in Game 1 to agressive in Game 2:

On Tuesday, well, sometimes Kobe still just has to be Kobe. It was apparent early that his teammates were not matching the energy of their opening win, so Bryant took over with six baskets in eight attempts in the first quarter alone. He scored falling down, leaning forward, flying, fumbling, however, whenever. At halftime, he had 21 of the Lakers’ 55 points, he had missed only three of a dozen shots and he was just getting started.

In the third quarter, he pounded the Nuggets during a stretch that included three huge jabs: He hit a turnaround baseline jumper while being hammered by Arron Afflalo. He raced downcourt and blocked a fastbreak layup attempt by Al Harrington. He scored on a spinning layup through traffic up the middle.

In the fourth quarter, maybe the best closer in the history of the game closed it with an old-school shove and slam. When the Nuggets pulled with four in the final three minutes, Bryant grabbed a rebound out of a scrum, dribbled the length of the court, then threw it to Bynum for a dunk that turned into a three-point play, the most important play of the game.

– In the Denver Post, Mark Kiszla is unwilling to give George Karl a break:

How do we know it is spring in Denver? You mow the lawn for the first time. Nuggets coach George Karl gives a concession speech after his basketball team gets bounced from the NBA playoffs.

During a 104-100 victory, the Los Angeles Lakers crunched Denver at crunchtime Tuesday night. It’s that time again, when Karl has a nasty habit of making his team disappear in the postseason.

With the exception of 2009, when Chauncey Billups served as the coach on the floor for Denver and the Nuggets made a run to the Western Conference finals, Karl’s record as coach of this team is laughably bad.

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