Post Up: Clap For ‘Em

by April 29, 2011
kobe bryant

Atlanta 84, Orlando 81

The Hawks made all the hustle plays in a low scoring, grind-it-out game to defeat the Magic 4-2 and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

After shootaround, Jamal Crawford was asked the significance of being able to close out the series at Philips Arena. “I want the confetti to fall tonight,” he said. “I want to do it in front of our home crowd. They’ve been great the first two games, and like I said, I expect them to be even better tonight.”

The Hawks played a resilient game, responding to every Magic run and showing a lot of confidence by putting everyone on the floor in the position to make shots or make plays. Five Hawks finished in double-figures, including Marvin Williams, who had a strong showing off the bench with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting.

Joe Johnson played an all-around fantastic game. He scored 23 points with 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Johnson played a team-high 46 minutes in which he stayed aggressive on offense and made it tough for both Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson to find their rhythm on the other end.

Johnson’s biggest play in the game was an offensive rebound with 10.9 seconds remaining. After the Magic cut the deficit to one, Marvin Williams missed a three-point field goal and Johnson tapped the ball out to Crawford. The Magic were forced to foul, and Crawford sank both free throws to put the Hawks up three.

The cloud over the Hawks’ thrilling victory was a strained hamstring suffered by Kirk Hinrich late in the fourth quarter. He will undergo an MRI on Friday.

Game 1 against the Bulls is Monday and Chicago won the season series 2-1. —Tracy Weissenberg

L.A. Lakers 98, New Orleans 80

Well, the little guy went as far as he could. No one else making a shot, his own shot fairly cold, the other guys controlling the glass. A brief postseason flash that ends in a fizzle.

This was the game most expected of the series, with Kobe doing enough and the Laker bigs making it seem at times like they had ball magnets in their palms. Their bench still underproduces, but they occasionally have a certain scrappiness (Barnes, Brown, Blake) that mixes in well with the offensive prowess in the top six. Bynum played another strong game and LO was on his game. Kobe really didn’t have to do much, and as others have said, that might be a good thing. The less he overdoes it, the more those bigs can dominate. One guesses that OKC looms as the challenger, and that will be a very, very good matchup.

Hard to separate the Hornets’ on-court performance from the off-court questions. Tonight they missed David West, with no one trustworthy on the other end of CP3’s passes. Ariza was OK, but not quite as assertive. Carl Landry is a nice player, would be a great first guy off the Hornets bench, but he’s not the scorer he replaced. In the end, Okafor can’t handle rebounding duties in a heavy game like this, and Belinelli/Jack/Green don’t deserve to share a backcourt with the owner of the newly reclaimed PG crown.

Still, as a run, as a last reminder to the city before this uncertain break, you can’t take anything away from the Hornets. They didn’t bring their A game, but continued to fight hard in the first half. The height and skill advantage wore through in the second half and Chris couldn’t carry the load quite that far.

This is an interesting postseason, with no contender looking unbeatable. Kobe still holds the key, but who comes to take it, and how firm is his grasp, those are the questions that remain at the outset of Round 2. Same as the first. —Toney Blare

Dallas 103, Portland 96

No one wants to hear an “I told ya so” if they’re the ones being told so. But here it is: I told you that the Mavs would win this series in six games. Outside of predictions, it was imperative for the Mavs to win this series to elevate themselves out of their playoff doldrums. It was just a matter of digging deep, finally finding the grit to hold on in the fourth quarter and close, close, close that got them out of the first round and back into the Playoff conversation.

But the Portland Trail Blazers were no slouch. After their key acquisition of Gerald Wallace, Nate McMillan’s bunch entered the postseason looking scary good, so much so, that every analyst with a platform picked the Blazers to prevail in this matchup. Brandon Roy’s comeback game gave all of us inspiration, Crash’s play was textbook determination and LaMarcus Aldridge displayed low block and mid-range domination, but as scrappy as Portland was, Dallas was just better when it mattered.

Dirk Nowitzki continued to drain jumpers while impersonating the Leaning Tower of Pisa last night, finishing with a game-high 33 points and 11 rebounds. Jason Terry continued to dole out daggers off the pick and pop, netting 22 points to help defeat the Blazers 103-96 in Game 6. Wallace, who literally played out of his mind, tallied a team-high 32 points and 12 rebounds and Aldridge added 24 points and 10 boards.

Next up for the Mavs are the Lakers, who also closed out their first round series last night in six games with the Hornets.  The battle begins on Monday night and for the first time ever, fans will be treated to a Dallas/L.A. Playoff series. Whoa, Nelly, this should be good. —Maurice Bobb