Friday, April 24, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Lakers fortunes seemed to turn on a dime Thursday. They not only lost to Utah on Deron Williams' jumper with 2.2 seconds left, but endured a disconcerting performance from Andrew Bynum. The knee brace Bynum wears since tearing his MCL has prompted complaints from the Lakers 7-foot center, and it looks like it's now causing a serious slip in production. He missed practice Wednesday after unimpressive seven and 10-point outings in the first two games of the playoffs, and then turned into a foul machine Thursday in Game 3. He committed five fouls and scored four points in just seven minutes against a Utah team that was still without its starting center, Mehmet Okur, who has a strained right hamstring. Lamar Odom picked up the slack offensively with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Pau Gasol had a strong 20-point, nine-rebound evening, but without Bynum, the Lakers were eaten alive on the boards by Carlos Boozer. He had 22 rebounds that were the difference in a 55-40 advantage on the glass for Utah, and scored 23 points to boot in a rare display of Boozer's full arsenal this year. He outshone even Kobe, who endured an off night, shooting just 5-for-24 and totaled 18 points, not enough on a night when some clutch shooting could have come in handy. He did record one of his six assists on a pass to Pau Gasol that led to a game-tying basket with 11 seconds to go, but that only set the stage for Williams. It wasn't the best night for Williams, who finished with 13 points on 3-for-7 shooting and nine assists, but he came through when the Jazz absolutely had to have him.

2. The only negative for the Mavericks on Thursday is that they only got to play one game. Dallas throttled the Spurs 88-67 on a night when San Antonio looked spent. The Mavs held their opponents to 32 percent shooting, kept all but two of their players in single-digits, and allowed no Spur to score more than the 12 that Tony Parker had, hardly an encore for his 38-point performance in Game 2. Dallas shut them down from the start, allowing just 30 points in the first half and 12 more in the third quarter. Tim Duncan shot 2-for-9 for just four points, and Michael Finley went scoreless in 17 minutes. The Mavs were led by Dirk Nowitzki, who piled up 20 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes, and Josh Howard, who had 17 points and eight rebounds in the same amount of time. Dallas had five players in all reach double-figures, including new starter J.J. Barea, who had 13 points to go along with seven rebounds. Still, the series could an even affair if the Spurs win Saturday, though its hard to imagine an aging team bouncing back from a game like this in less than 48 hours.

3. The Bulls, too, are but a win a way from tying up their series following a blowout loss Thursday. They certainly can't do much worse than in Game 3, when the Celtics raced to an early lead and defused a Chicago crowd that was ready to ignite. Boston was up by 11 after the first quarter and 22 at halftime as it cruised to a 107-86 win. Defense was the catalyst as always for the Celtics, who harassed the Bulls into 22 turnovers. They held Chicago to 38 percent shooting and the potent backcourt combo of Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon to just 24 points combined. Paul Pierce had a strong if abbreviated 27-minute night, leading the Celtics with 24 points. Rajon Rondo continued his emergence as an all-around force, with 20 points, a game-high 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Glen Davis outplayed his childhood buddy Tyrus Thomas, posting 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and even Stephon Marbury, who had 13 points and five assists off the bench, got into the act. The Celtics have turned the series around after the alarming loss in Game 1. We'll see Sunday if Chicago can return the favor.

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