Post Up: Lost in the Mood

by April 26, 2011

San Antonio 86, Memphis 104

I’m beginning to think “Los Spurs” is Spanish for “massive failure.” Down 2-1 to the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Spurs needed a decisive victory Monday to (re)announce their presence with authority. Instead they folded worse than Ed Helms in “The Hangover,” (I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight…) giving up 104 points and allowing the Grizzlies to shoot over 50 percent from the field en route to an 18-point loss.

Like many others, I expected the Spurs to bounce back with a strong showing after taking it on the chin in Game 3. Instead they were manhandled. Other than the play of Tony Parker (23 points on 9-12 shooting), they were atrocious. They let the Grizzlies carve them up like Boris the Butcher. Even Darrell Arthur.

The Spurs were a train wreck on defense, a car crash on offense. Tim Duncan finally showed his age, scoring just 6 points in 29 minutes. Richard Jefferson laid an egg. And DeJuan Blair may as well be on the side of a carton of Lucerne (even Hamed Haddadi saw more minutes).

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies showed the kind of balance and poise typically reserved for San Antonio teams come Playoff time. Their ball movement was terrific. Mike Conley was terrific. They had five players score in double digits (the third time they’ve done so this series).

They’re rolling right now, as Zach Randolph’s towel-waving jig at the buzzer is testament to. They have all the momentum – not to mention consistency.

The Spurs, the No. 1 seed in the West and the best team in the League throughout much of the regular season, now face the daunting task of winning three in a row to stay alive. Is it possible? Yes. But not if they play like they did Monday. — Patrick Crawley / @BasketballFiend

Portland 82, Dallas 93

After playing the role of Superman for Portland in Game 4 with his incredible fourth quarter heroics, Brandon Roy never made it out of the phone booth for Game 5. Dallas, still fighting the demons of its epic 2006 Finals collapse, held the three-time All-Star to just 5 points in 26 minutes off the bench and rolled to a convincing 93-82 victory Monday night to pull ahead 3-2 in its first-round series with the Trail Blazers.

“Frustration is definitely at a high level,” said Dirk Nowitzki at the post-game presser after the Mavs’ Game 4 loss.

The 7-0 foot German sharpshooter absorbed questions about his team blowing a 23-point lead Saturday night like they were bullets, cringing at having to somehow explain his team’s penchant for choking, yet again, in the postseason. Maybe it was the bitter taste of those haunting memories; maybe it was a tongue-lashing by Rick Carlisle, or worse, Mark Cuban; or maybe it was the home cookin’. Whatever it was, the Mavs came out the gate fired up and they never let up on the visitors.

Stymied by foul trouble on the road, Tyson Chandler played to his height in this must-win game, racking up 14 points and a career-Playoff high of 20 rebounds, including 13 on the offensive end. Jason Kidd distributed the rock to the tune 14 dimes and Nowitzki scored 11 of his game-high 25 points in the third quarter, helping his team hold on to its lead in the fourth quarter like a rabid mongoose on a rattler.

Portland had the upper hand for much of the first half and was only down 10 when Roy connected on a open J at the start of the fourth, but then it was all downhill for the Blazers, who missed their next 10 shots.

The signature play of the game was when Gerald Wallace raced down the court to block Shawn Marion’s dunk attempt, only to have the rebound end up in Kidd’s hands, who then kicked it out to Peja Stojakovic to nail a wide-open three ball. That was the nail in the coffin.

Andre Miller led Portland with 18 points and 7 assists, while Crash added 16. Jason Terry continued to be a spark plug off the bench with 20 points.

Both teams head back to the Rose Garden for Game 6, where the Blazers are hoping the trend of the home team taking home the W continues to force a Game 7. —Maurice Bobb / @reesereport

Oklahoma City 101, Denver 104

Denver avoided a sweep by holding off a fast-finishing Oklahoma City. The Nuggets used an offensive spread reminiscent of their post-trade form to end the regular season, using it to overcome big nights from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

Ty Lawson was brilliant, 27 points on 16 shots while giving his usual bolt of energy. It was hardly the classic point guard line—just 3 assists while leading the team in shots attempted—but a Nuggets team lacking a true go-to scorer, or even true star for that matter, benefitted as a result. His 13 points in the fourth proved to be the difference.

Danilo Gallinari had his best game since the opener with 18 points, and he held Durant as long and as best as he could until a late KD flurry. JR Smith hit timely shots, Kenyon Martin was efficient, and Denver simply had more contributors.

The union that is Durant (31 points) and Westbrook (30 points) must now wait for their first post-season breakthrough. Westbrook reminded us that, while continually growing as a point guard, his game can also be besieged with a hardheadedness that makes him both great and frustrating. Frankly, 30 shots is too many, especially when it produces only one point per shot. He’s a gamer, though, for better or worse.

Durant had a rough first three quarters yet came on late, scoring 16 points in the final 9 minutes to drag the Thunder back from down 9 to within 2. He’ll be ready to go when they return home.

Perhaps appropriately, this series didn’t end in a sweep; Denver saw to that with a fine, balanced effort. Don’t expect it to return to Mile High, however. — Todd Spehr