We asked some of our writers to tell us what they're expecting from the upcoming NBA playoffs.
Jay Caspian Kang: Miami will go 16-3 in the playoffs, and one of the losses will come to the Bucks. They'll also lose a game to the Knicks and the last one to the Thunder in the Finals. They're the first team since the first Ubuntu Celtics that's going to legitimately intimidate their opponents. The Nets vs. Bulls first-round series will be unwatchable. In the Western Conference, I think we'll see more than 10 different games in which a player scores more than 40 points. Steph Curry, Tony Parker, James Harden, Durant, and Westbrook will all turn in memorable performances. Oh, and this Western Conference playoffs, as a whole, will trend on Twitter every single night. Just so many great matchups and players there. Every series in the Western Conference will go at least six games, but all the top seeds will advance.
In case you were busy recording your sophomore album, It's Hard Out There (On the Road), here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Chicago Bulls used their strength and rebounding advantage to beat Miami, 101-97, snapping the Heat's 27-game winning streak. After the game, LeBron James complained about the Bulls' physicality and hard fouls: "I believe and I know that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays." Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau responded, saying, "I'm soooooo sorry. Reeeeeeallly. I would never tell my guys to be physical in a big game. Especially a brute like Kirk Hinrich. My deeeeeepest apologies."
Despite the absence of Metta World Peace, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 22nd straight time, 120-117. The game was not without controversy, however, as Ricky Rubio appeared to be fouled by Kobe Bryant on a game-tying 3-point attempt. After the game, Bryant was defiant when asked about the non-call, saying nothing as he pulled down a large map of the world from above his locker and blacked out Spain with a magic marker.
A 22-second summation of what the Boston Celtics face without Kevin Garnett for two weeks:
What that clip shows: A skinny wing player, Iman Shumpert, stealing a rebound from two Boston front-line players who have initial inside position on him. Those two Boston players are Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, and the Celtics have allowed 106.6 points per 100 possessions when they’ve shared the floor, per NBA.com. That would rank 25th overall for the season, which is a problem, since the Celtics as a team have actually allowed 99.8 points per 100 possessions — the sixth-stingiest mark in the league.
Of the 43 two-man player combinations that have logged at least 250 minutes this season for Boston, only the Courtney Lee–Chris Wilcox combo has been worse — and only by a smidgen, at 106.8 points allowed per 100 possessions in about 450 fewer minutes than the Green-Bass combo.
The NBA is churning out a wonderful product right now, and last night’s game in Boston serves as a perfect example. LeBron James, the league MVP currently in the midst of an incredible winning streak with his Miami Heat, arrived in the city of his most bitter rival. Like it or not, Boston is still one of the league’s best atmospheres. And like it or not, Miami is still the best team in the league. Factor in Miami and Boston's “hate” for each other, and you've got a recipe for a great night.
Unfortunately, about an hour prior to tipoff, the Celtics announced that Kevin Garnett would not play. If the Celtics had a puncher’s chance to beat the Heat with Garnett on the floor, without him their chances were seemingly reduced to those of Glass Joe's. But this was no ordinary night.
Playing in his fifth game in seven nights, LeBron was focused, even before tipoff. After the Celtics' introductions, James was the first man to take the floor. Well before the dancers had even cleared the court, James stood straddling the midcourt line like Roberto Duran waiting for Sugar Ray Leonard.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. LeBron James
I know that this one came with all the attendant "Here lies Jason Terry/He did the Jason Terry dance/He wore a headband" kind of memorials. But it was just one French horn stab in what was a masterful funeral procession written, composed, and conducted by James at the Garden last night. This dude was responsible for 64 points last night. SIXTY-FOUR. 37 points and 12 assists. He is the engine inside the fourth quarter soul harvester that is the Miami Heat offense. I mean ... look at this:
In case you were busy getting your NIT bracket in before tipoff, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Miami Heat secured their 23rd consecutive victory, overcoming Jeff Green's 43 points to grab sole possession of the second longest winning streak in NBA history, as they edged the Boston Celtics, 105-103. "That has a nice, non-confrontational ring to it," said Heat forward LeBron James after the game. "'Second best of all time.' Maybe people can just say that about me. And just leave it at that. Really. I don't care at this point."
Not to be outdone, the Denver Nuggets won their 12th consecutive game, overcoming 34 points from Nate Robinson to beat the Chicago Bulls, 119-118, in overtime at the United Center. "That has a nice non-confrontational ring to it," said Nuggets head coach George Karl. "Second best team in the NBA hold on, I seem to be getting a call." Karl then looked at his phone before sheepishly muting the ringer. "It was Coach Pop. I'll call him back How about third best team in the NBA?"
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Let's forget for a second that though the Knicks were playing on the road in Charlotte, the noise in the building was mostly for them. Let's put aside that the Bobcats were losers of four in a row going into the game, that they had a charming if overmatched lineup (Kemba, MKG, Bismack, Gerald Henderson, former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and the robot from Short Circuit) on the court, and that they were playing like a bunch of Treadstone/Blackbriar agents trying to viral off their blues (BOURNE LEGACY JOKES, GUYS. AMIRITE?). Let's forget all that. You say caveat, I say cave-J.R.-SMITH-HEROBALLLLLLLL!
Doc Rivers is a candid guy and a very good coach, but I’m not totally buying what he’s selling here (via the Boston Herald):
Although the Heat occupy his thoughts, Rivers said the current edition of the Celtics wasn’t conceived with any one opponent in mind.
“That’s the one thing we don’t do,” Rivers said. “We just make moves to make us the best team we can possibly be with our personnel. Hopefully that’s enough to make us a better team than them and everyone else.”
In a general sense, Rivers is being honest. Any team that wants to win an NBA title over the next two seasons (at least) has to look at its roster and consider whether it can beat a healthy Miami team four times in seven games — a team that now plays LeBron James as a nominal power forward comfortable in the post. Some teams will choose to just wait out Miami, either through tanking, developing young players, or just spinning their wheels until the Heat take a step back or a franchise centerpiece becomes available.
1. Hope Solo: God Forgives, Hope Don't
The USWNT goalkeeper was warned this week by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for testing positive for something called Canrenone, which I may or may have not had at Olive Garden last night, incidentally. She was basically like, "Cool warning." Rem and I talked about this briefly.
Rem: Am I allowed to nominate Hope Solo for beating her charge? Chris: Not guilty, y'all got to feel her. Rem: Teflon Don. Chris: Hope Solo treated those charges like she treated Briana Scurry back in '07.
If you want to know why Hornets GM Dell Demps went through hell to get Chris Paul out of New Orleans, all you need to do is look at the spot Magic GM Otis Smith finds himself in now. I imagine him smoking a Carlton and drinking Chivas with melting ice cubes. There is a tear running down his cheek while he listens to very sad jazz. Dwight-itis has infected his team, and it looks like it's a terminal case.