In Sketches, we'll be taking you on a quick trip through the NBA blogosphere to get our finger on the pulse of all of the key happenings and storylines in the L each day.
PEACHTREE HOOPS: With the exception of Game 5, the Hawks mysteriously made the Magic offense grind into jelly. Orlando, who had run the pick and roll so well in that game, went back to only occasionally using it efficiently. In fact, they surprisingly went into Howard early, and the Hawks waited until the big man put the ball on the floor, and thenKirk Hinrich pounced, helping irritating Howard into (6) turnovers, including 3 steals of Hinrich's own. In Fact: You could make the case that Hinrich was the MVP of the series for the Hawks, once again playing fantastic defense on Nelson while causing those issues inside for Howard as well. Hinrich was good offensively as well, but attacked the hoop and fell to the ground, suffering what was said to be a right hamstring injury, putting his participation in the Chicago series, his old team, in doubt.
ORLANDO PINSTRIPED POST: Indeed, the Hawks--the league's second-worst offensive rebounding team in the regular season--snared 36.8 percent of their own misses Thursday night against a Magic team which led the league in defensive rebounding. As a result of the offensive boards and frequent misses, the Hawks finished the game with 12 more field-goal attempts than the Magic, which may have been the difference in a three-point game. The rebounds weren't flukes, but rather resulted from Atlanta exploiting the defensive adjustment Orlando made in winning Game Five. Dwight Howard's ignoring his nominal matchup at center in order to shade Johnson and Crawford took him out of rebounding position, and the Magic failed to properly box out Atlanta. Johnson himself picked up 7 such rebounds, many of them of the "look what I found" variety.
FORUM BLUE AND GOLD: Without anyone knocking down shots for the Hornets, it became increasingly easier for the Lakers to defend Paul, who easily had his quietest game of the series with 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. The Lakers bigs did a great job of hedging high enough to prevent Paul from driving, but stayed far enough away so that Paul wouldn’t blow by them. The Lakers perimeter defenders did a great job of fighting over screens with enough speed so that that Pau and Bynum spent as little time as possible isolated on Chris Paul. Kobe mentioned that he looked tired in his post-game presser, and a lot of his fatigue might have come with the fact that Paul saw five different defenders during the course of the game. Fisher, Blake, Kobe, Artest, and Brown all spent at least a few possessions on Paul.
AT THE HIVE: In the meanwhile, there is absolutely no way anyone can question Paul's commitment to this team, this organization, or this city. His passivity in the first half of this game was a season long trend - caused by his surgery, Monty Williams' new offense, what have you - not an isolated instance of him "giving up on the team." We'd do well to remember that as the off-season media machine begins to twist and manufacture The Chris Paul (Where Will He Go!) Story.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Nowitzki said that the Mavericks have to approach the Lakers with respect, but also with a frame of mind that they have to be the aggressors. But they have to do all that without losing their poise against a team that is bigger and more athletic than the Mavericks are. In the final meeting in the regular season, the Mavericks became agitated down the stretch, losing their cool on their way to a blowout loss. "We got to go for it in Game 1 and Game 2 and let it all hang out,'' Nowitzki said. "You got to go for it in the first one. That's how we're going to approach it. You never want to trail in a series, so Game 1 is big. "We got to learn from that (the regular season against the Lakers). They're going to try to do the same thing Portland did and that's being physical. We can't let that bother us. We can't lose our composure like we did in the last game there. We got to fight through that stuff.''
BLAZER'S EDGE: In the final analysis the Blazers looked like what they were: a 48-win, 6th seed playing a better team. Portland showed some nice ability and some resilience. They never said die in the critical moments of their home games. They just didn't realize soon enough that hidden moments in Games 1 and 2 would eventually prove just as telling as the amazing comeback in Game 4. Dallas didn't exactly put together 48 minutes of beautiful basketball each outing but they played better more often and for longer stretches than did the Blazers. That won out in the end.
SB NATION: you can easily think that the Grizzlies have suddenly shifted to being the underdogs, despite having a 3-2 lead and home-court advantage. To this, I say ... eh. In 2007, the No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors had a golden opportunity (pun intended) to close out the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. With just 3:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, Baron Davis hit one of his prayer three-pointers to give the Warriors a six-point lead. But then Dirk Nowitzki just took over, hitting insane shot and making huge plays to eventually give Dallas a six-point win. The Warriors weren't as close as the Grizzlies were, but they were pretty damn close. For a couple days, we all wondered about the mental effect of the Warriors coming so close to knocking out arguably the best team in the league?
What happened in Game 6? The Warriors blew the Mavericks out, taking a 21-point third quarter lead and winning by 18. So much for the carry-over effect.
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