Monday, April 20, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Bulls' win over the Celtics in Game 1 was no fluke. Ray Allen's poor performance in the playoff opener probably was. Allen was back to his usual self in Game 2 Monday, nailing four clutch three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with two seconds to go, as the Celtics survived 105-103 to tie the series heading to Chicago for Game 3. Allen had 30 points in all on 9-for-18 shooting to lead the Celtics just two days after he went 1-for-12 from the field for four points. Yet his bounce-back performance would have meant little if Rajon Rondo didn't give further notice that he is to be considered a star and a top-flight point guard. Rondo shook off an ankle injury that sent him to the locker room in the second quarter to return and finish a triple-double, with 19 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds, with five steals to boot. He also helped relegate Derrick Rose to a facilitator's role in the wake of his 36-point explosion in Game 1, holding him Monday to just 10 points. Ben Gordon picked up the scoring slack and then some for Chicago, scoring a playoff career high 42 points while evoking a few memories of a man with a similar last name who had a 63-point performance at Boston Garden 23 years ago to the day. But just as Jordan didn't have enough help to win that day, only one of Gordon's teammates scored as many as John Salmons' 17. That's scarcely enough, especially when the Bulls got manhandled on the boards by a 50-35 margin, largely thanks to the dozen rebounds each by Rose and Kendrick Perkins. As Jordan's Bulls learned in the '80s, and these Bulls will soon come to realize, one man show only takes you so far no matter how dazzling the performer.

2. San Antonio was embarassed on the defensive end in Game One. The Spurs responded in swift fashion. No Mav scored more than 16 points, and Dallas a team was held to 40 percent shooting and outrebounded by a 44-28 margin in a 105-84 San Antonio rout in Game Two. No one's struggles personified the Mavs' night more than those of Dirk Nowitzki, who shot just 3-for-14 for 14 points. Jason Terry led Dallas with 16 points, but that's a below average night for a guy who is used to getting to the line more than three times all night. Dallas was missing a catalyst in the vein of Tony Parker, who was seemingly unstoppable slicing his way to the basket during a 38 point, eight assist performance. Tim Duncan had an off night offensively, taking only 10 shots and scoring 13 points, but he wasn't needed the way he often is because Drew Gooden answered the bell again. Gooden had 13 points in 19 minutes off the bench in the type of performance that has made him the next in the line of shrewd acquisitions by the Spurs. Another of their hallmarks during their years of success has been playing well when behind in playoff series. No one should be surprised if the early advantage Dallas earned in Game One is never regained.

3. The Spurs picked up Gooden while the Celtics went after Mikki Moore, another big man who came available late in the season. Maybe Boston should have signed them both. Word came Tuesday that another post player for the Celtics is injured. It's been revealed that Leon Powe tore the ACL in his knee during Monday's game, and he's out for the playoffs. The team, which last year rotated five players in and out of the power forward and center positions, is down to three. It hurts because it costs Boston a championship-tested reserve who knew how to produce in limited minutes, coming up with eight points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes of play Saturday. Powe is a much better rebounder than Moore, who likes to step away from the basket on the offensive end. Powe is the more efficient scorer, as well, and the only significant gain the Celtics make is in length, because Moore is four inches taller. It all came together so quickly brilliantly for the team in 2008, and with injuries to Garnett and Powe and GM's Danny Ainge's heart attack, it is seemingly all coming apart just as swiftly.

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