Post Up: Still Ballin’

by April 21, 2013

Celtics 78, Knicks 85

The Knicks-Celtics highly anticipated Playoff matchup kicked off with a moment of solidarity. Prior to tip-off, New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Boston’s Paul Pierce joined at center court to address the fans and show support for the city of Boston. After that tasteful moment of unity between the rivals, the two squads battled back and forth over the next 48 minutes in a tight, grind-it-out Game 1 that saw the Knicks prevail.

New York got off to a slow start, allowing the Celtics to get the early lead and took the energy of out of the sellout crowd on hand. Melo then erupted for 12-straight points and the Knicks calmed down and regained their composure. “I just wanted to get off to a good start and hit some shots to make the game easier for everyone else,” says Anthony. “It was the first playoff game and I’m sure guys were anxious to get out there. There were a lot of energy and a lot of emotions. Once we calmed down, we got back to the way we’ve been playing all along.”

Though it felt like the Knicks were in complete control of the game throughout the first half, the Celtics took a 53-49 lead into halftime behind 20 points from Jeff Green. The forward was shut down in the second half, though, scoring just six points as the Knicks revved things up defensively. “They started being more aggressive, when I caught the ball I saw double teams,” says Green. “I didn’t get out in transition like I did in the first half…They forced turnovers and we weren’t getting in our sets offensively.”

While the Celtics’ leading scorer cooled off, Carmelo Anthony kept on cookin’. The NBA scoring champ scored 17 of his game-high 36 points in the second half as he and his New York teammates completely shut down the Celtics in the fourth quarter. The Celtics scored just eight points in the fourth quarter and had a string of bad turnovers that crushed their hopes of stealing the Knicks home-court advantage. For the game, the Celtics turned the ball over 21 times compared to New York’s 13. “Twenty turnovers and I think 10 offensive rebounds…that’s too much,” says Kevin Garnett. Playing on the road and against a good team that’s energized, you don’t help yourself. You don’t give yourself the chance to win like that.”

Kenyon Martin came up huge for New York with Tyson Chandler struggling. The late-season acquisition scored 10 points and grabbed 9 boards in 28 minutes and had a huge dunk after a great assist from Melo that had the Garden rockin’. JR Smith shot 7-19 and scored 15 points and Raymond Felton scored 13 points and dropped 6 dimes.

Though getting a game one victory is always big, the Knicks know they have a long ways to go before this series is said and done. “It’s gonna be a battle. Although we won today, we didn’t really do nothin’. We protected our home court and got our first win. Game two will be even tougher. We gotta keep that 48-minute mentality.”

Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night in New York. —Peter Walsh

Warriors 95, Nuggets 97

The Playoffs have a tendency to separate the men from the boys, but in the case of the Warriors and the Nuggets there were boys, men and an old geezer in particular. Andre Miller’s opening-game performance was a microcosm of how we’ve defined his style of play.

“He’s got that old man game.”

There were particular moments—be it posting up players 3-4 inches taller than him, or utilizing pivot moves and headfakes like they were going out of style, or navigating his way through the lane for the game-winning basket like a stationwagon trying to get children to a soccer game—that everything he did just felt thoughtful, full of craft and cussing under his breath. Miller’s 28 points on 11-16 shooting helped the Nuggets (who shot just 39 percent from the field outside of Miller) nip the Warriors 97-95.

For the Golden State, they’ve got to hope that they can look back at this series and say that they proved they could hang with and eventually beat the higher-seeded Nuggets, versus saying that they let one slip through their fingers in a series they let get away from them. Stephen Curry couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn in the first half (even though that game-tying three at the end was supremely epic), their defense was mostly putrid for large stretches and they might’ve lost their best scoring threat from the inside in David Lee with a possible right hip flexor strain.

“I felt a pop,” Lee said after the game, which obviously isn’t a good look for Golden State.

But Mark Jackson has to feel confident in knowing that his frontcourt is capable of competing on the boards with Denver, which isn’t what the Warriors are known for. Andrew Bogut played strong, Festus Ezeli played with confidence and Carl Landry scored timely buckets. Now if only Klay Thompson could finish a layup or defend his man as easily as he scored, or if Curry could play two halves of basketball, then this series could get interesting.

As of now, we’ll just enjoy JaVale McGee and Andre Iguodala praising their favorite old man in victory, as they will now spoil him with the finest ice for his knees and ointment for his joints after putting up a heroic playoff performance.—Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan

Bulls 89, Nets 106

I’ve been to over 15 Nets games this season, and it was never been this cold. Editor-in-chief Ben Osborne and I were posted up in the dark Barclays Center rafters, just ahead of the nosebleeds. We watched shivering as Jerry Stackhouse took the mic and delivered an impressive performance of the National Anthem to the diverse Brooklyn crowd.

We wouldn’t be the only ones who were cold Saturday night.

Brooklyn came out aggressive from the jump and played possibly their best game of the season. In their first post-season game in six years, the Nets ripped apart the vaunted Bulls defense with a 17-point victory. They sunk 16-20 shots in the second quarter en route to 60 percent shooting in the first half.

An unstoppable first half from Brook Lopez—in which he got everything he wanted in the paint, spinning, swirling, getting easy dish-offs from Deron Williams—had the roof of the Barclays Center nearly ripping off. Deron, in so many ways, was playing like the floor general who was considered by some to be the best PG in the L not too long ago. He finished off a brilliant first half with a running bank shot off the glass.

The Nets then came out with serious intentions of ending the game in the third quarter, getting a full compliment of bench production from CJ Watson (14 points) to Andray Blatche (12 points), who put the ball in the net in every conceivable way.

Once Reggie Evans (5 points, 13 boards) threw a lob to Blatche, the game was certifiably over.

Clearly—and it’s been a while since this has been said—Williams was the best player on the court. If you haven’t seen the point guard play in a while, you might’ve been surprised by his performance. After starting the season as a tired shadow of himself, the Nets’ PG re-evaluated his play mid-way through the season, smartly took some rest and recuperation in January, gradually improved his play every month, transforming his body in the process. His first dunk of the season came in April, and last night, he was throwing down reverse jams, diving on the floor for loose balls and pulling up for threes with confidence.

A seriously slumping Gerald Wallace came alive in a big way in this game. The power forward got his confidence up on the defensive end with a couple crowd-igniting rejections and got to the line four times.

Wallace finished with 14 points, 6 boards, 2 assists, 2 monster blocks. DWill dropped 22 points (9-15) and 7 assists. Lopez had 21, 5 and 3 blocks.

Outside of Carlos Boozer, who dropped 25 and 8, the Bulls couldn’t get any sort of offensive flow going, shooting 30 percent in the first quarter—not even attempting a three and getting to the line once. Noah was held scoreless on his bad foot. Luol Deng was 1-6 and looked extremely exhausted.

Things didn’t get much better for the Bulls’ All-Stars. Noah limped his way through Saturday’s loss with 4 points, 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. Deng finished with 6 points and 2 rebounds in 38 minutes. He didn’t get his first bucket until the third quarter.

To add to the Bulls’ frustrations, starting guard Kirk Hinrich left the game with a thigh bruise. Their defense was porous, and their offense was sluggish. Maybe it can all be thrown away as one rotten game.

But most likely it wasn’t. The Nets are at full strength, and they’re finally coming together. Chicago will continue to grind it out and may pick up some wins. But the Nets are working on all cylinders, and the Bulls are still trying to hit second gear. There’s nothing wrong with bringing it back into the shop for a tune up.

It’s tough not to get jump to conclusions, but Game 1 was all about the Nets. Anyone who tuned into this demolition could see the frustration written across the Bulls faces. Game 2 will be played Monday night in Brooklyn.—Ryne Nelson / @slaman10

Grizzlies 91, Clippers 112

Before he addressed reporters post-game, Marc Gasol tried to get through to Mike Conley in the Grizzles locker room. “No matter what happens or what they call, we have to keep playing!”

The Spaniard went on to explain to the media that regardless of their success on the hardwood, being outhustled is unacceptable. “I don’t care if we are shooting 20 percent,” Gasol declared. “They shouldn’t be playing harder than us.”

Hustle and foul trouble stood out in Saturday night’s 112-91 L.A. victory—Memphis was called for 57 personal fouls and Zach Randolph and Tony Allen both struggled with fouls throughout. Memphis did a great job defending run outs and the Clippers’ lob game, keeping momentum in check all game but they were crushed on the boards, 47-23.

“Once we made a run and they would get rebounds and second chance points,” Gasol said.

Chris Paul paced the Clippers with 23 points and 7 dimes, keeping Memphis PG Mike Conley on his toes all night. The Randolph-Blake Griffin battle lacked finesse as they tussled with each other on the block all night, both ending up in foul trouble and at one point, called for a double-foul late in the fourth that was each player’s fifth personal.

“It’s going to be physical each and every game,”Grifin said of Randolph. “That’s the way he likes to play and as long as we’re winning the game and we’re up I’m cool with it. I’m ready for however many games it will to take. If that’s the way he wants to play, let’s do it.”

Memphis came within one point of the Clippers early in the forth, but reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe led a 7-0 Clippers run to hold them off and they never looked back. The Clippers bench dazzled: Bledsoe 15 points, Jamal Crawford 13 points and Matt Barnes 10 points. Jerryd Bayless led the Grizzles with 19 points on 6-12 shooting and Gasol added 16 points but only finished with 2 rebounds. Memphis is hoping to re-group and steal Game 2 in Staples on Monday night.—Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree