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Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 at 9:08 am  |  30 responses

Post Up: On the Brink

The Bulls and Thunder are each one loss away from going home for good.

Heat 88, Bulls 65 (Heat lead series 3-1)

It was “just one game” when the Bulls lost by a franchise worst 37 points in Game 2. But it was “just about over” when the Bulls set new franchise Playoff records for fewest points, worst field-goal percentage and fewest points in a quarter Monday night.

The Bulls hit a brick wall in Game 4, scoring just 42 points through three quarters (including just 9 points in the third), and finishing with a 25.7 percent mark from the floor. Air-balling threes, missing pairs of free throws, chucking up ugly fadeaway bricks, the  Bulls didn’t crack 50 points until 9:43 in the fourth quarter.

With their No. 1 offensive option Nate Robinson shooting a perfectly abysmal 0-12 from the field and no other Bull hitting more than four shots on the night, the Bulls simply couldn’t find a way to put points on the board.

LeBron James led the Heat with a typical MVP-esque performance of 27 points, 7 boards and 8 assists. His handful of turnovers kept him from completely dominating the game. After a career night in Game 3, Chris Bosh continued to control the paint, with 14 points on 7-10 shooting.

As was the case all series long, the Heat continued to face questions about Dwyane Wade (6 points) and his sore right knee. Wade re-aggravated his knee in the first half, and looked like a shell of himself the rest of the way. He finished with his fifth straight Playoff game of 15 or fewer points.

Lauded for their heart throughout the Playoffs, the Bulls played Game 4 seemingly without a pulse. After Carlos Boozer (14 and 12) scored the game’s first two points, Miami went on an 11-0 run to start the misery for the home team.

Marquis Teague put the Heat up 20 in the fourth quarter with an accidental tip-in. The two points for the visitors gave the Bulls’ point guards 2 points for the Heat and a combined 0 for Chicago.

The Heat owned the fast break (17-2 transition points) as well as the paint (18 field goals in the paint—the Bulls finished with 19 total).

The numbers don’t lie, and here’s the scariest of them all: The Heat are now 44-3 in their last 47 games. Miami will try to wrap the series up at home on Wednesday.—Ryne Nelson / @slaman10

Grizzlies 103, Thunder 97 F/OT (Grizzlies lead series 3-1)

Overtime in Memphis last night. The Thunder held a 17-point first-half lead, but the Grizz were within eight at halftime and went ahead late in the third quarter. They could have iced the game with solid free throw shooting at the end of regulation, but Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol each split a pair from the stripe. Kevin Durant tied the game with six seconds left, and Z-Bo couldn’t win it at the buzzer. (Side note: the final play of the fourth quarter was basically an iso for Randolph that failed and got criticized by Charles Barkley later. I actually liked the play call. Nobody on the Thunder can handle Randolph—I thought it was a pretty good bet that he’d draw a foul on that play.)

In the extra period, Memphis led by three with 22 seconds left after a sweet Gasol jumper. Derek Fisher then threw an inbounds pass away, effectively ending the game.

Randolph, Gasol and Mike Conley were the stars for Memphis once again. Randolph was nasty down low and finished with 23 points and 12 boards—six of them coming on the offensive glass. Serge Ibaka played pretty well, but couldn’t match Z-Bo’s intensity around the rim. Gasol dominated on both ends of the floor, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and a playoff-career-high 6 rejections. His mid-range game was on display all night and he completely owned OKC’s centers (a group which included a 5-minute cameo from Hasheem Thabeet, that went exactly how you’d expect it to go). Conley stretched the floor and made some nice plays around the rim. He finished with 24 points (4 threes), 5 assists and 4 steals in a game-high 49 minutes.

Meanwhile, Tony Allen scored 10 with 3 steals while playing great defense as always. Jerryd Bayless scored 9 with a pair of triples. 2009 me would be stunned I’m saying this, but I love Bayless. I got Bayless fever. I need more of the bald head/headband/beard combo. What were the odds of him becoming a key instant offense guy on a title contender? He was a flop his first few years in the League before improving but battling injuries in Toronto between 2010-2012. Now he’s making a huge impact in his first year in Memphis. It’s awesome. He’s not afraid to shoot, is surprisingly good at creating his own look and takes pressure off of the Grizzlies’ stars for a handful of minutes per game. He comes off the bench with a ton of energy, reliably scores about 10 points in 20 minutes and never forces the issue when he doesn’t need to—a perfect fit on this team.

OKC opened strong and finished weak. Durant scored 27 (10/27) with 7 boards and 7 assists. Ibaka double-doubled with 17 and 14. Reggie Jackson added 15 and 8 and Kevin Martin scored 18 off the bench. Most of their damage came in the first half (the Thunder scored 41 points in 29 minutes after halftime).

I didn’t like the coaching job by Scott Brooks last night. Durant was far more effective when someone else brought the ball up, allowing KD to work away from the ball to try to get a decent look. However, Durant was the primary ball handler pretty frequently, allowing the Grizzlies to set their defense before he got down the floor. Either Allen or Tayshaun Prince would greet him initially, and soon a teammate (often Gasol) would help on a double-team. It forced Durant to either put up a contested shot or find a teammate (not a great option considering his supporting cast). As always, Memphis’s rotations were solid so it’s not as if the double-teams on Durant opened up a ton of great shots. The Grizzlies are way too good defensively to get beaten by such a one-dimensional offense. Durant is not a point-forward, and the decision to make him into one was especially weird considering that Jackson, the point guard, has been the only player stepping up in Russell Westbrook’s absence. Brooks didn’t seem to adjust to the problem, and also allowed Kendrick Perkins to log 24 awful minutes.

Going forward, Memphis is in great shape, but the series isn’t over. If the Thunder can squeak out Game 5 at home on Wednesday, they’ll go to Memphis for Game 6 knowing that the series’ seventh game would be in Oklahoma City. It’s a long shot, but Durant’s team still has a pulse.—Leo Sepkowitz

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  • Love The Game

    Been saying this the last few games now. No idea why they have Durant bringing the ball up the floor if he’s the only offensive option. It is so much easier for the whole defense to set up and focus on him. The Grizz are looking pretty impressive though.

  • http://twitter.com/apowellAdvocate Allen Powell II

    Scott Brooks is a problem. That’s all I have to say.

  • Max

    Let’s go GRIZZ!!!

  • LLC#12

    Not at all a relevant place to start this discussion, but I’m just hoping somebody may notice it…
    Last weekend was the Euroleague Final Four, the second highest level of basketball in the world after the NBA playoffs, and, unless I’m blind, this website mentioned nothing about it? We had an article about the Japanese, and even the Korean (!!) league, but we can’t get one piece about the second best league in the world? I don’t want to sound ungrateful, cause you guys do a really great job here, but I was just a little surprised that there was nothing.

  • Sergio

    Ok, KD scored the game tying shot, but he was HORRIBLE in the 4th quarter and OT. In related news, Tony Allen and Gasol are amazing defensively. It amazes me to see how such a slow guy like Gasol can be so effective on D. And its like he understands all the angles on all the plays. The Memphis defense on pick n rolls is the best in the league.

  • davidR

    if memphis makes it to the finals, can they realistically beat the heat?

  • Leo Sepkowitz

    They have a few things going for them. They can try to guard Wade/LeBron with Allen/Prince and lots of help from the bigs (not impossible). Z-Bo and Gasol will create huge problems for Miami’s small-ball lineup (the reason OKC hasn’t been able to go small, and has been forced to play Perkins). Memphis should dominate the glass. Wade certainly doesn’t look healthy…. All of that said, Miami is 44-3 in their last 47 (17-2 since the great streak was snapped in Chicago). It seems nearly impossible for a team to make them go 3-4 in a 7-game set, but I think Memphis has the best chance to do it of all the remaining teams.

  • Max

    F*ck yeah!!

  • RayJr

    I think so. Heat have Lebron and Wade/Bosh and Memphis have Gasol and ZBo to counter with Mike Conley Jr. giving them a big advantage at the PG spot. MEM has the best chance if SAS can’t make it past GSW.

  • RayJr

    The Bulls/Heat game was so hard to watch and then I thought “wow it’s only game 4″ because this series has been so painful to watch. Miami please put the Bulls and everyone else out of their misery in Game 5.
    Ibaka finally shows up and they still can’t win. I still have hope for the Thunder but things are looking very bleak. Also, so many second chance oppurtunities for MEM at the end of the 4th. Even without a solid scorer at the 2 or 3, Grizz still look very solid because Conley runs that team so well.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    yeah, realistically they could win that series. Not very likely, but yeah. The match up suits them outside of Wade/LeBron

  • LakeShow

    Yes, more of a chance than anyone else anyway.
    Memphis is the darkest horse there ever was.
    Pitch black.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    “i expect Kendrick Perkins to get more playing time tonight” – Scott Brooks

    .

    just perfect. you are the coach, and you don’t recognize that the worst player on your roster has been Kendrick Perkins. Oh, and you are also confident he will play more, but not sure because, god knows why, you are the coach!!! perfect.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    When OKC had starters in, then replaced Perkins with Kevin Martin, they went on a 14-4 run in 1st. Brooks never used this lineup again

  • LakeShow

    Dwyane Wade sucks…
    Sorry, but it had to be said.

    He has been good at everything not on the offensive end i’ll give him that.

  • The Fury

    Conley is going to be like Payton. Memphis made an excellent decision of paying him that much money.

  • LakeShow

    In what respect will he be like Payton?

    He will never put up 24-9-7-2 over a season. Nor is he the defender Payton was.

  • http://twitter.com/apowellAdvocate Allen Powell II

    I like Memphis’ shot. But, I there offense has looked sort of bad against the Thunder, and the Thunder are not the Heat on defense. Although Ibaka and Thabeet do offer something the Heat lack.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    he’s been really really awful. his knee must be a big issue.

  • LakeShow

    If he wasn’t D-Wade he’d be fine. Nothing wrong with 12-5-5-2-1 on 45%, but he is Wade, soooo….
    I’m sure that knee is the problem, but for the Heats sake he better get right, because James is going to need him at some point.

  • The Fury

    GP didn’t have those 24/9/7/2 line during his early years in the League. I did say that he will be just like Gary, but it doesn’t necessarily means that he will be EXACTLY like GP. Gary didn’t have a jumpshot to save his life when he first got in the League, nor the post moves he mastered in his prime. He improved his game every year, and that’s what I see in Conley. I know you were a Sonics fan, same here man. GARY PAYTON is my favorite player of all time and I hope Mike will walk that path because both were criticized during their early years in the L (Payton was considered a bust in his rookie season by the media that time, and Conley because of the money he received).

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    yeah, i mean if they see the Grizzlies in the finals, Wade is going to be severely missed.
    .
    .
    shiiiiit Indiana is going to be a problem without Wade too.

  • bike

    If Wade continues to go gimpy, then hell yeah, they have a great chance. A healthy Wade, then not so much.

  • LakeShow

    Haha, sorry man, Payton is a God in book lol.
    And I’m just now opening my eyes to Conley. I have doubted him his whole career.
    Your right that he has work ethic and desire, I just don’t see the physicality in him that made Payton who he was.

  • The Fury

    The thing that impresses me about Conley is, he’s so underrated but he does the right thing a point guard should do. Although I don’t see many Memphis games here in our country (just saw 5 games at least), he’s not flashy or anything. But he does his role very well. Well it’s just me. I just like the way he played the way I liked GP’s.

  • LakeShow

    He plays the correct way that’s for sure. Smart kid.
    I’m still unsure of how good he will be.
    I didn’t think he would ever be a top 5 PG and I still stand by that if everyones healthy at that position.
    He also has it easy in Memphis imo. Not allot of pressure and they don’t need him to do all the play making.
    I don’t wanna rag on him though, he’s been great in the post season.

  • pposse

    whats there not to like about the Memphis Grizzlies; this is a team made up of a bunch of guys that no one else really wanted, and now look at them; on the brink of a western conference finals birth and a legit threat for the crown.

  • uqk

    a team made up of a bunch of guys that no one else really wanted…sounds like piston 2004 :D

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    that dude sounds like he knows what he’s doing.

  • Mars

    I got mad respect for OKC. They aren’t so stupid. Win without Russ and you change the whole chemistry. Plus Memphis looking like 04 Pistons out there. Tayshawn with the prison D on Durant.

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