Saturday, April 18, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Celtics were able to endure Ray Allen's struggles early in last year's playoffs. They won't be able to do the same this year if Allen stays cold. The erstwhile member of Boston's new Big Three had an abominable shooting performance, missing 11 of 12 shots from the floor including a baseline jumper that could have sent Saturday's playoff opener to double overtime in a 105-103 OT loss. The Celtics don't have enough to mask such a poor performance with Kevin Garnett out, even when Rajon Rondo hits for 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Paul Pierce, who must carry a great deal of the scoring load, went 8-for-21 for 23 points and missed a free throw that would have given the Celtics the lead with 2.6 seconds left in regulation, so it wasn't the greatest of days for him, either. It was, however, the best performance Derrick Rose has ever authored, at least in his brief NBA career so far. He had 36 points, tying the record for the most ever in a playoff debut, added 11 assists and went 12-for-12 at the line, defying what convention says about rookie point guards in the playoffs. Joakim Noah had 17 rebounds, and Tyrus Thomas got hot at the right time, nailing three jumpers in overtime. The Celtics are in major trouble.

2. The key for Dallas is the play of its supporting cast around Dirk Nowitzki, and Saturday night the lesser lights stole the show. Josh Howard led six players in double figures to show his chronicly achy left ankle felt just fine in a 105-97 win in Game One at San Antonio. Nowitzki had 19, and while usually any number under 20 for him spells doom for the Mavs, they didn't need him to be a dominant force on this night. Even Jason Terry, normally the second option, wasn't needed nearly as much as usual. Brandon Bass, scored 14, J.J. Barea 13, and Terry had 12 to power the Dallas second unit, which outscored San Antonio's bench 39-14. Erick Dampier chipped in 11 rebounds and 10 points as well on a rough night for the Spurs defense, which allowed 54 percent shooting. The inability to stop the Mavs on the other end wasted a throwback performance by Tim Duncan, who had 27 points and nine rebounds, as well as another age-defying shooting night for 36-year-old Michael Finley, who went 7-for-10 for 19 points. Tony Parker was his usual self with 24 points and eight assists, but it simply wasn't enough.

3. The banner Saturday for road teams finished up in Portland, where the Rockets had the best opener of all. The Blazers had no answer for Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks zipped past Steve Blake and the vaunted Houston defense shut down everyone in Portland, including the crowd in a 108-81 shellacking. Yao had an amazing first half, going 9-for-9 from the field, 6-for-6 at the line and grabbing seven rebounds during a 24-point explosion. Joel Przybilla wound up with three fouls and Greg Oden two trying to guard him. Yao added just two more rebounds for his final line as the Rockets decided to rest him for all but six minutes of the second half. Brooks kept Houston going after the break, hitting four of his five three-pointers in the second half and finishing with a game-high 27 points to go along with seven assists. He was too much to handle for either Blake or Blazers backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez, who combined for just seven points and eight assists. The only Portland starter to score in double figures was Brandon Roy with 21, but he needed 23 shots from the floor to do it on a night when the Blazers were outshot 59 percent to 42 percent. Greg Oden was the only bright spot, taking advantage of the lack of athleticism from Dikembe Mutombo when Yao was out to score 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Oden couldn't stop Yao, though, on a night when no one could.

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