In a sense, this was one of the most exciting Saturdays in the history of the NBA playoffs. I'm writing this midway through Oklahoma City/Denver. The three games that are in the books were extremely tense after dramatic comebacks. Ultimately everyone will remember Brandon Roy's stupendous fourth quarter heroics because Portland's come-from-behind efforts made it the distance. But...even with all the excitement...man that was some ugly basketball!
The last second nature of the first three games had me thinking back to that huge college basketball day in March of 1981 Some consider it the day that "March Madness" was born as a true TV showcase because US Reed hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to lead Arkansas over Louisville (a game in Austin I was lucky enough to attend in person as a college student, with 5th row seats back when it was easy to just order great seats!), Rolando Blackman hit a buzzer shot to lead Kansas State over top seeded Oregon State, and Mark Aguirre's DePaul squad lost at the buzzer to St. Joseph's. Wanted to make sure my memory was right on the teams. Here's a link with a few more details.
Chicago/Indiana was a thriller in the final moments. Portland/Dallas was too. San Antonio/Memphis made it a perfect three for three. No buzzer conversions. But, edge of the seat drama that captured the intensity of playoff basketball.
*Indiana was AWFUL in the final few minutes, blowing a 16-point lead with 4:16 to go and a 13-point lead at the two-minute mark. Indiana was outscored 18-3 to finish the game.
*Dallas just disappeared in the last 13 minutes of action, blowing a 23-point lead with 1:15 left in the third quarter, and a 10-point lead with 3:32 left in the game. Dallas was outscored 14-2 at the finish.
*Memphis didn't quite make it to the same stratosphere in terms of lead margin. But, they were up by 11 with 1:15 left in the third quarter before surviving a nailbiter finish.
If you're a glass-half-full guy, you focus on the heroic comebacks and whoever converted baskets in the final seconds. If you're a glass-half-empty guy, you've been yelling "CHOKERS!" at your TV set all day. If you're a stat guy, you marvel at the fact that:
*Chicago rallied from way down in a game where they would end up shooting 38% from the field, and 3 of 20 on three-pointers. How can you rally from that far behind when you can't make any shots?!
*Portland rallied from way down in a game where they would end up shooting 42% from the field and 4 of 19 on three-pointers. Portland's offense was so bad they scored 11 points in the first quarter and needed a late trey to finish with 14 in the third quarter!
*San Antonio rallied from double digits down in a game where they would end up shooting 41% from the field and only 2 of 15 on three-pointers.
That's 9 of 54 from long range for the teams making valiant comebacks! What???
Like a good dream and a bad dream all rolled into one.
Oklahoma City/Denver will finish too late to comment on this evening. Here are some notes from the earlier starts.
INDIANA 89, CHICAGO 84
2-point pct: Chicago 45%, Indiana 41%
3-point shooting: Chicago 3/20, Indiana 5/16
Free Throws: Chicago 19/24, Indiana 22/34
Turnovers: Chicago 13, Indiana 11
Chicago started out flat, and never really got rolling until the last two minutes. Derrick Rose struggled, then sprained an ankle. He did come back, but played with a little limp most of the way. He kind of walked off the court after the game like a young Fred Sanford. The impact this had on the game was most clear at the free throw line.
ROSE'S FREE THROWS
Game One: 19 of 21
Game Two: 12 of 13
Game Three: 13 of 15
Game Four: 2 of 4
He couldn't attack the basket in his normal fashion. His free throws are a big part of the Chicago offense right now. If you subtract those points from the final scoreboards, Chicago scores 85, 83, 75, and 82. That's an average of 81.3 and midpoints of 82-83 for the Bulls outside of Rose at the charity stripe. Consistent, but not good enough if Rose can't add about dozen extra points.
Chicago has now lost the turnover category in all four games. They haven't lost rebounding yet, but it was close in Indiana (88-87 in two games). They haven't reached 40% shooting from the field since Game One (39%, 39%, 38% the last three games).
There's plenty of time to get things figured out on the offensive end in terms of playing championship basketball. But, the main attack is still launching Rose into a lion's den to get mauled. It's taking its toll already on the smallest player on the floor.
PORTLAND 84, DALLAS 82
2-point pct: Dallas 42%, Portland 50%
3-point shooting: Dallas 10/26, Portland 4/19
Free Throws: Dallas 10/10, Portland 22/23
Turnovers: Dallas 14, Portland 10
Dallas built a big lead thanks to defense and jump shots. That was working great for almost three full quarters. They were doing well on three-pointers again until a ton of late misses. When things went south though, they couldn't pick up any points at the free throw line because they just weren't attacking the basket enough. Dirk Nowitzki fell in love with his "schaden-fade" jumper (because it makes opponents trying to guard it miserable). It stopped falling. A few miscues led to easy Portland points (Blazers win fast break points 12-0 and points off turnovers 16-4). Suddenly, Brandon Roy was telling reporters about a 2-2 series instead of Jason Kidd telling reporters about a 3-1 series.
Here's a list of Dallas' offensive possessions in the fourth quarter:
Terry bad pass (leads to Portland layup)
Barea misses 3-pointer
Stojakovic MAKES a 19-footer
Terry MAKES a 16-footer
Terry MAKES two free throws
Nowitzki turnover (leads to shooting foul and 2 Portland FT's)
Kidd misses 3-pointer
Nowitzki misses 19-footer
Nowitzki MAKES a 10-footer
Stevenson misses 3-pointer
Stojakovic misses 3-pointer
(We're at the 6-minute mark now, 6 of the first 7 shots of the quarter were at 16 feet or longer)
Nowitzki has shot blocked
Nowitzki MAKES two free throws
Chandler misses 6-footer
Terry misses 19-footer
Terry MAKES three-pointer
Terry misses 17-footer
Nowitzki offensive foul
Marion makes short jumper
Terry misses 3-pointer
Kidd misses 3-pointer (almost shattering glass)
Terry misses 3-pointer at buzzer
There was more inside in the final minutes, but still five additional shots of 17 feet or more before the desperation trey at the buzzer.
MEMPHIS 91, SAN ANTONIO 88
2-point pct: San Antonio 48%, Memphis 43%
3-point shooting: San Antonio 2/15, Memphis 4/11
Free Throws: San Antonio 24/32, Memphis 21/29
Turnovers: San Antonio 13, Memphis 10
I thought coming into the series that Memphis was going to have trouble matching up behind the arc. San Antonio was averaging 8.4 treys per game in the regular season. Memphis only made 3.8. Yes, Memphis was great at forcing turnovers. Would that be enough to make up for about a dozen points a game? Probably not, against a team with ballhandlers.
Well, it hasn't been a dozen points a game!
Made Treys thus far: San Antonio 15, Memphis 13
That's just two points per game over three games. Turnovers have been almost a dead heat (41-40 favoring Memphis). Actually, the total scoreboard is a dead heat!
Total Score: Memphis 279, San Antonio 279
The Grizzlies have done more in the final moments in two of three games, and that's why they're up 2-1. San Antonio needs to lift its game, and needs to do so quick if they want to get out of the first round.
Back Sunday with notes on OKC/Denver and the Sunday Slam.
Should I lobby to officially name Dirk's fallaway the "schaden-fade?" He kept shooting the shot today, so I tried to think up a name for it that would work. How many German words do American's know? "Schadenfreude" jumped out. Had to google it to make sure I had the definition right. Hey, "schaden" means "misery." That works! This shot makes opponents miserable when it goes in. Missing it makes Mavericks fans miserable because Dirk isn't going to draw many fouls when he's moving away from contact.
So, for five minutes I thought I had a breakthrough term. Sure, I waited too long to suggest "Snooki-Rana" after seeing Wrestlemania clips of her tumbling run (and it's not really a rana anyway). But, "Schaden-fade" was going to work!
Except, if you say it out loud it starts to sound like "shake-n-bake" which is slang for a dribbling move. And, who the heck is going to know that "schaden" means misery except Germans? And, even "schadenfreude" is one of those terms you may hear tossed around, but not that many people know what it means.