Roberto Duran, Larry Bird, Mo Cheeks and the NBA Round 2

By Paul Gotham

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder
Photo by Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing up my sleeve

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that San Antonio advanced. After all, they have Pop, the “Big Fundamental,” a guy who comes off the bench who would start for every other team in the league and role players who enjoy being role players. Did I mention Pop?

It’s just that Dallas had them dead to rights. Game four. At home. With the lead. Three minutes to go. You pull this off. Right? That’s about the point DeJuan Blair wanted to try his own World Cup promo up side Tiago Splitter‘s head.  Everything, in effect, unraveled from there. Vince Carter brushed up against immortality and returned. Blair appeared to possess the unique motivation needed to topple the Spurs, but drifted when it mattered most. Monta Ellis was grabbing at career defining moments and lost grip.  Dirk Nowitzki has the Unguardable Play, but somehow it didn’t matter.

The Mavs played game seven like they invited Roberto Duran to give the pre-game speech. Transition defense? Non-existent. Interior defense? Not to be found. San Antonio scored 30 of their 119 points behind the arc. The Spurs hit just four of those treys as they built a 22-point halftime lead. Tony Parker owned the lane and distributed freely. The Mavs offense could have been served at IHOP for the daily special.

Anyone else wondering why Dallas didn’t at least think about going zone? It worked three years ago. Parker shooting threes has to be a better than the alternative. Maybe Danny Green gets that much respect?

Carter on the floor with Dirk and Jose Calderon along with Monta looked like a lineup that the Spurs couldn’t match for 48 minutes. Kawhi Leonard can only guard one person at a time.

Maybe Pop pulled this one out of the hat. The rest of the West might regret Dallas letting the Spurs get up from the deck.

Before leaving Dallas – remember when Rick Carlisle compared Dirk to Larry Bird?

He touched off a round of hyperbole proclaiming the Mavs star to be better than the Hick from French Lick. Worth noting Dallas hasn’t won a playoff series in the three years which have passed since then.

So you want something unguardable

Kevin Durant whacking threes is unguardable. Check that KD whacking threes is un-freeking-guardable. Add to that he can actually go off the dribble. If he’s got measure, forget it. And he’s not a liability on the defensive end.


Russell Westbrook channeled his inner Maurice Cheeks Saturday night. He played like a point guard. Didn’t think he had it in him to dish out as many dimes as he would take field goals (16). Westbrook playing like that on the offensive end and treating opposing players like he did Tony Allen could be the difference.


Love Allen’s reaction. Who was that?

Consider this: who was the last shoot-first point guard to lead his team to the NBA title?

About Lillard’s game winner

Hmmmm…Must be the first time James Harden was ever asked to help on a stagger screen of the ball?  How else does one explain his lack of effort.  He knows the ball is going to Lillard, right? You step out and give your teammate a chance to get back into the play. Right? You at least do something other than put your hands on your hips while the ball is in the air.

Geez. Great shot. Don’t get me wrong, but offer some resistance.

That being said, if Tim Duncan struggles to defend Dirk for 48 minutes, how is he doing with LaMarcus Aldridge?

Then again, San Antonio’s bench will seal the deal in this matchup.

Shooters gotta shoot

If the Clips are going to beat OKC, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick have to bring it all series. They need game 7 Redick who netted  20 on 7-13 shooting in 31 minutes during the series clincher against Golden State as opposed to the eight in 28 outing of game five.  Crawford hit 3-10 from long range in the 21-point game-four loss. He drilled 3-6 in game 7. Any connection? Chris Paul and Blake Griffin work better with open space. You don’t need Dr. Naismith to help on that one.

Brooklyn’s lineup

Paul Pierce playing power forward? Seems kind of silly right? Can’t say it any better than Doug Collins through Bill Simmons:

Can Jason Kidd keep Andray Blatche motivated with a bulk of the minutes? And dangle the carrot of playing time just far enough from Mason Plumlee to have it matter? Joe Johnson went from 29 points in game three to seven points in game four to 32 in game five. Is there a chance Johnson can have four or five games with 25 or more points?

Maybe, just maybe, the Nets can catch the Heat in game one trying to loosen the rust. Going to have take advantage of home court from there.

Hitting the Wall

The fact that Washington plays like they care seems to make all the difference in the matchup with Indiana. Resident NBA savant Steve George notes the trade of Danny Granger damaged the psyche of the Pacers. If Larry Bird will trade Danny, who else will he trade? Not to mention trading him for Andrew Bynum.

John Wall plays with more energy than Paul George and Lance Stephenson combined. Forget about Roy Hibbert. His energy does not show up on the scale.

Wizards advance.



21 Responses to "Roberto Duran, Larry Bird, Mo Cheeks and the NBA Round 2"

  1. Steve George   May 6, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Paul, I left you a long message here yesterday which seems didn’t get saved. Good thing too, because in it I was picking Indiana and OKC to win their respective series, which after last night makes me sound seriously el stupidio. I thought I had a sane reason for picking Indiana, despite my earlier misgivings but last night did nothing to bolster my confidence. Hibbert reverted to early 1st round form, they looked lost in their defensive rotations, and they couldn’t throw it in the ocean. Toronto looked more confident, took better shots, and made all of the hustle plays. Could be a short series if Indiana doesn’t get this figured out soon. I have no idea what happened in OKC except to say Chris Paul. Holy sh**! There’s nothing the Thunder can say or do except to try and convince themselves there’s no way anyone can play or shoot that well all series. It didn’t matter that they got to him, he still hit the shot or found the open man. Again, if this keeps up, it’s going to be bye bye OKC. Tonight I have San Antonio and the Heat, let’s see if the curse of Steve holds true.

  2. pgotham   May 6, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Whoever compared Hibbert to Ewing in Space Jam after the monstahs took his skills is right on. He looks terrible. His foul on Gooden while trying to get position for a rebound (?) was hideous. His post-season performance is like George McGinnis in the ’77 finals. On the flipside, Gortat and Gooden make Washington very difficult to beat. With Wall and Beal getting it done on the perimeter, those experienced guys in the post, knowing their role is a good combination especially when you add in Ariza.

    And OKC? Numbers can lie, but here is one that does not: Westbrook: 6 turnovers and 4 assists while shooting 9-14. Wonder if KD watches Washington play and wishes to himself man if only Wall wore a Thunder jersey.

    The Jet put it well (quoting Lenny Wilkens) “a good point guard knows how to play between 50-100 mph.” Wall is getting it. Westbrook? He almost had me believing during game seven.

  3. Smitty   May 8, 2014 at 6:39 am

    I feel like Eminem here a little bit when I say, ” Will the real Roy Hibbert please stand up, please stand up. Will the real Roy Hibbert please stand up, please stand up”..

    28 points last night for the big guy. Apparently David West needs to pull him aside before every game because for one night – it worked.

    63 points between Durant and Westbrook last night.. Westbrook was 13 for 22 from the field – that is pretty respectable and he had the triple double.

  4. Steve George   May 8, 2014 at 7:40 am

    I’ll go with the Bob Marley meme and add “Roy played”. Same goes for Russ, Clips have no answers besides shooting lights out when Russ and KD both get it going. Gonna to be a fun two weeks!

  5. pgotham   May 8, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Like Chuck and the Jet point out Hibbert nets almost three times his average and they win by four at home. Something is amiss. A win is a win I guess.

  6. pgotham   May 8, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Westbrook has three triple doubles in nine playoff games.

  7. Smitty   May 8, 2014 at 8:05 am

    More importantly the Clippers don’t have the physical bodies to expose the Thunder’s offensive issues like Memphis did. The Grizzliesturned Durant and Westwood in to jump shooters and dared the rest of the Thunder to beat them.

    It had the feel of Colonel Jesop yelling at Lt. Wineberg, “Who is going to beat us? You Serge Ibaka? You Kendrick Perkins?”

    Fortunately for the Thunder, Durant adjusted and now I think the Clippers are in trouble. I don’t think they have the defense to shut down either Durant or Westbrook like you said and I am not sure they ccan outscore them for 4 games. Going to be fun watching it though.

  8. Steve George   May 8, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I’m not sure how he EVER gets 10+ assists with all the iso they run. Last night is a perfect example of why OKC lives (and dies) with Westbrook. When he’s on, there’s almost no one better. I don’t think this team wins 57 games and is a second seed if they’re running motion, or high screen with Perk or Ibaka. Give them a couple of shooters like Beal or Curry, or a rim rocker like Griffin and I’ll tell you something different, but given the current configuration they’re only going as far as the KD and RW show will take them.

  9. Steve George   May 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    A win is a win, no points for style, Chuck and Kenny both won an a**-load of stinkers in their day as well.

  10. pgotham   May 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Keeping the meme motif going. Looking for SRV after tonight because the Trail Blazers gonna deal with a Texas Flood.

  11. pgotham   May 9, 2014 at 6:32 am

    “It’s flooding down in Texas…”

  12. Smitty   May 10, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Both road teams won last night. Now was it the Pacer’s defense last night or the fact that the Wizards couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn to blame for Washington’s shooting woes?

    Hibbert with a modest night but effective. That certainly supports what the the local Indy sports radio has been saying – they don’t 28 points from him every night just need him to show up.

    Has anyone else noticed that this fire under Hibbert kicked in right after Bynum was ruled out for the playoffs? Coincidence I think not.

    I have enjoyed those very radio stations saying that the Bynum Signing was a good roll of the dice. Really? I really think it messed with team chemistry and cause Hibbert to have 2 month temper tantrum.

  13. Smitty   May 10, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Interesting stats from last night Pacers/Wizards game:

    Assists: Pacers’ 20 to Washington’s 10.

    Turnovers: Wizards 17 to Pacers’ 9 turnovers.


  14. pgotham   May 10, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Washington showed their immaturity on the perimeter last night. Indiana took away first options from Wall and Beal and forced bad shots. Instead of running some offense, the Wizards opted for the first available shot. The poor shot selection extended to Gortat and Gooden who struggled to find any rhythm . 63 points at home? During the playoffs? Geez…

  15. Steve George   May 11, 2014 at 8:45 am

    notice how often Wall backed the ball out of the paint when confronted by Hibbert on dribble penetration? Roy changed the game, I think credit should go where credit’s deserved, all hail the return of Roy!

  16. Steve George   May 11, 2014 at 8:46 am

    … and in Portland as well

  17. Steve George   May 11, 2014 at 8:52 am

    There’s virtually nothing one can say about San Antonio. I mean what describes the incredible “sameness” of their game, night in, night out? 7 scorers to defend, with a different guy stepping up every night, everyone defends, everyone passes, everyone takes the shot when it presents itself. Basketball, I just effing love San Antonio Spurs basketball!

  18. pgotham   May 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Agreed. Looking at my previous response I didn’t give enough credit to Indiana’s defense. In saying that, wasn’t Chicago supposed to be an above average defensive team? Who said it’s all about matchups?

  19. Steve George   May 11, 2014 at 10:55 am

    haha, that would be, among many others me!

  20. Smitty   May 11, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Tonight it was the Paul George show!! 7 for 10 from behind the three point line. Wow!!

    On the other hand the Wizards had a double figure lead in this game. At some point you know the Pacers have to start getting back in the game, don’t you force the guy with the hot hand to put the ball on the floor??

  21. Steve George   May 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Go figure that a 19 point lead isn’t enough in Washington, and a 22 point lead isn’t safe in SoCal. I don’t think OKC-Clips has changed much, the Clips cant expect that kind of comeback every night but are we hearing the sound of Indiana finally getting it together?

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