Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 at 1:54 am  |  34 responses

Links: Day Three Playoff Thoughts

Utah steals home court…with Fesenko!

by Lang Whitaker

Here’s what you need to know from the Cleveland/Chicago Game Two…

Sure, Derrick Rose played well, and Joakim Noah backed up his talk with 25 points and 13 boards over 41 minutes. But they ran into the best player in basketball. Like, they literally ran into the best player in basketball. At least, James Johnson did.

Video Game James returned tonight, dropping 40, 8 and 8 on Chicago. And when it mattered most, with the Bulls pressing in the fourth and the game close, LeBron hung in the air and hit a lefty layup, then hit a jumper over Luol Deng, and then another one over Kirk Hinrich.

Which is really Chicago’s entire problem: You’re not going to even slow down the best player in the NBA with Deng and Hinrich trying to single-cover him. To Chicago’s credit, they did finally double Bron, and he passed it to an open Jamario Moon, who drained the back-breaker. Cleveland won, 112-102.

I know the Cavs are able to mix-and-match with whoever they want, but a part of me wonders if they shouldn’t be the ones dictating to the other teams.

Maybe it’s not as cool to be the team making the adjustments, to be the reactor instead of the actor, but the wins count no matter how you rack them up. Right?

As impressive as LeBron’s performance was, if you stayed up for it, the Denver/Utah game was better, the best game of the Playoffs thus far. Utah shot about 70 percent in the first half and had a big lead, then Denver went on a run in the third and took a lead early in the fourth. But Utah stayed right there with them, getting huge shots from guys like CJ Miles and Paul Millsap.

Game on the line, three from Korver, offensive foul on Melo (nice foul drawn by Miles), back-to-back offensive fouls, and then Melo fouled out and Utah went up 3 with 25 seconds left. Utah drained their free throws down the stretch and stole home court advantage with the 114-111 victory. Deron finished with 33 and 14, but strange as this may sound, it was a true team effort for Utah, with everyone chipping in.

This Jazz team reminded me so much of the Jazz teams from about five years ago that we used to celebrate here on The Links, back when everyone was injured and they used line-ups of guys nobody had heard of and they still almost made the Playoffs.

Sure, Utah made some tough shots, but Denver just couldn’t sustain the urgency that carried them for so long last season. Even though they had a huge personnel advantage on the Jazz, the Jazz had a heart advantage. Denver seemed like they felt they could flip a switch and turn on the effort, but they couldn’t summon it when it mattered. I don’t know if it’s because George Karl is gone or what, but the Nuggets just didn’t seem to have any juice tonight. And if there’s one team in the Playoffs you don’t want to get home court advantage, it’s Utah. Denver just handed it back to them tonight.

And I think Kyrylo Fesenko might be the new official player of The Links. With Okur and Kirilenko out, Fesenko played 20 minutes and actually played respectably. He rumbled and bumbled around and, most importantly, didn’t screw anything up. Also, he doesn’t have a lot of skills, and he looks like he’s 12 years old, so that’s fun.

• Tomorrow night we got Atlanta/Milwaukee Game 2 at 7:00 PM EST on NBA TV, and then Miami/Boston at 8:00 PM on TNT, then Portland/Phoenix at 10:00 on NBATV, and then Oklahoma City at Los Angeles at 10:30 PM on TNT.

Big, big night.

I gotta get some sleep.

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  • http://thetroyblog.com TEddy-the-Bear

    Let’s go Jazz and Thunder! I’m developing into quite the fan for these two teams…
    I think the Jazz and Nuggets series is the best First Round match-up in the NBA right now. Real basketball at its finest: physical, tough, defense-oriented, high-octane offense, close games, big runs… Just fantastic basketball.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Kenny on the post-game show of the Nuggets/Jazz game was HILARIOUS!
    Also, every single call the officals made in the last 1.30 of the Nug/Jazz game was entirely correct. Can’t believe I’m going to say this, but they did a good job.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    + Charles is correct 100% when talking about teams reacting to the mannerisms of the coaching staff. E.g. The Jazz being scrappy and ferociously dtermined, whilst the Nuggets need to get kicked in the @ss to do anything well – which they don’t sans George Karl.
    The last 2 minutes of the post-game show with the shake weight thing? Classic.

  • http://www.boogiewilliams.com Boing Dynasty

    Ya, 114-111 = defensive oriented.

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com Hoopistani

    i hereby declare that #lebron should be re-nicknamed “Video Game James”. much better than King/Witness/LBJ/etc

  • Jj

    The jazz could’ve used Ben Handlogten!

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Agree with you Hursty – the calls were right. I thought Melo’s 6th was pretty stupid.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Fesenko has nothing on Handlogten.

  • http://slamonline.com Krishan

    What the hell is a fesenko

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Krishan – a type of mushy, white cheese.

  • Atrain

    Fesenko is a beast. Video Game James great nickname. Doesnt Noah know Bone Thugs comes from Cleveland? Cleveland is the city that we come from so run…

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Hmmph. Even with a healthy roster this year, and before George Karl had to go get treatment, the Nuggets were playing complacent. Same problem all year. What happened? I don’t watch that many Nuggets games but I feel they were a better team both ways last year. This year their offense is still top notch, but they somehow have never been able to get their focus on. At this point, looks like Utah in 5 or 6…

  • riggs

    the calls on the nuggets were BS ticky tack fouls, there was a stretch where the jazz didnt even have to run up the ball, the refs whistled and they walked to the line. come on man…

  • T-Money

    There are 2 school of thoughts: you impose your will on the opponent or you counter everything he throws at you. I’m not surprised that Mike Brown opts for the latter since he got his coaching education from Pop. The Spurs in their heydays could play any kind of basketball: fast, slow, small, big. He’s always thinking defense first and will not allow a mismatch to be exploited. That’s why he went with Bron at the 4 on Deng and sat Twan because he didn’t like Twan on Deng.

  • Sparker

    i was watching jerry sloan (and phil jackson, on sunday) and thinking what a goddamn travesty it’s going to be when we don’t have wily old foxes like them on the sidelines anymore. great game. so much energy. definitely veering out of control more often than is healthy, but really fun to watch

  • webstarr

    I remember those days Lang. “The Official Team of the Links”right? The year Sloan got completely screwed out of COTY

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Didn’t make it for all of Jazz-Nuggets, but totally agree with your Cavs analysis.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @T-Money: Spot on about that Spurs observation. I think the Cavs’ guard situation is decent, but they really shine in that they are crazily deep with their bigs. The only team with as deep and imposing a frontline, I think, are the Celtics. But the Celtic bigs aren’t nearly as versatile, since they fall neatly into 2 categories: phat and goofy (Shelden, Baby, Perk) or old and washed up (KG and Rasheed).

  • LA Huey

    Korver torched JR. It was fun to watch Ugly Ashton make Earl look like a D-League call-up. Speaking of which, what happened to Sundiata?

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    As a Raptor fan, watching AP and Jamario on this Cavs team being such key contributors has got to be bittersweet. A lot of stupid fans in our city loved to focus on their shortcomings and were strangely celebratory when the Raptors let them go. Tell me we couldn’t have used an unselfish stat-stuffing wing/center(!) like Moon this year, or AP’s quiet leadership on the Raptors. On the other hand, as someone who loved every minute of their tenures with the Raps, it’ll be great to see them hopefully win something this year, especially Moon, who’s incredibly barely a few years removed from a last-minute training camp addition and now is killing it on a contender.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    LeBron James Starts Small Business on Defensive End
    April 20 2010
    As the playoff series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls heats up, so does LeBron’s entraprenurial spirit. James, who scored 40 points in Monday’s win, referred to his ultimate goal in becoming a billionaire athlete.
    While not chasing down unsuspecting Bulls, James managed to call a few business contacts and set up an online store. As the Bulls only have one primary scorer, James was able to talk on the phone with one hand and appear to be wagging his finger at Luol Deng, saying: “I’m LeBron James, bitch! Fear my defense!” in an effort to remain defensively intense.
    On other possessions, James could be seen reading through various business plans for his online store, and even entered a negotiation with a partner while Derrick Rose cut to the rim. “I mean it’s tough, you know? Our guys is defending but I gotta make sure LBJ Inc. is still bringing home the paper.”
    The product being sold on James’ website? A LeBron-patented “Weak Stuff”. In fact, LeBron’s shipping partner turned out to be none other than AC Carr, who repeatedly told opponents to “Get that weak stuff otta here…so we can sell it!”.
    Weak Stuff goes on sale in June.

  • Bruno

    Fesenko looks like if he was Arvydas Sabonis’s son

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  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    Barkley made a great point about how the Cavs need to stop playing 1 against 5 if they expect to win a championship, best player in basketball or not.

  • TyMo

    Jazz-Nuggets gonna end up being the best first round series. I’m still going Nuggets in 7. Jazz just have too many injuries.

  • webstarr

    RIP Guru

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    How does try to take away Lebron’s right hand, and then allow him to go right in the easiest drive of the night?
    That’s ridiculous.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I mean, watch the footwork on the play.
    Lebron has established his pivot on his left foot. That means that in order to go left, he has to CROSS his right leg over the left. Any defender worth his salt should be able to react to that move and cut of the dirve.
    Yet, James Johnson still fails to anticipate the Bron is almost certainly going right, and to cut off that angle.
    He does a horrible job of steering is man. He has an advantage based on Bron’s footwork but doesn’t even recognize it.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    As much as I rag on George Karl, I can truly see his impact now that he’s out.
    He has his flaws, but clearly the Nuggets need him to keep them in check and put them in positions to succeed. Dantley isn’t getting it done.

  • T-Money

    Allenp, that just means that Karl is an actual NBA-level coach. Something that Dantley clearly is not.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Rest in peace Keith Elam aka Guru. You will be missed.

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the Balla

    Fesenko was the white Kwame … I couldn’t get over his lack of hustle, passing ability, and idea of where and when to set a pick!!! I couldn’t believe he was in the game!!!

  • sp

    did u recognize that they cut d-rose and his crossover after the dunk?

  • sp

    @james the balla imagine a white kwame!!!