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.
ORLANDO PINSTRIPED POST: Speaking of regression to the mean, Orlando finally managed to connect from the outside consistently. Two nights after setting a dubious record for three-point inaccuracy, it shot 11-of-26 from deep. The sorts of looks didn't change exactly--though the Hawks did have a nasty habit of leaving the corners open Tuesday, something they haven't done too often, which allowed Richardson to seam up the ball before firing in one fourth-quarter three--only the results did.
PEACHTREE HOOPS: But there is a reason I picked the Hawks in 7. That reason is the Hawks play their best when they have to, not when they can choose to. Larry Drew told me before the game that, to keep their edge, the Hawks had to play like they were the ones down 3-1. No way that got through to the team, or else they would be done for the season. The Hawks are the better matchup. They cheated too much, sagged a lot, and generally dared the Magic to make open shots. The Magic did.
BLOG-A-BULL: If the lessons from this series include the reemergence of Joakim Noah, it also has to give notice to the precipitous fall of Carlos Boozer. Booz finished a fairly miserable series with maybe his worst game yet: 2 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 fouls in under 16 minutes, and having to watch from the bench while his teammates took control of the game without him. As good as the Bulls looked tonight, it's still just the 8th seed they just beat, and to win the NBA title they need Boozer to be better.
INDY CORNROWS: NBA labor strife or not, this summer promises to be full of intrigue for the Pacers. For starters, Jamaal Tinsley will officially disappear from the team's salary cap, part of $30 million in cap space. Of course, that cap is subject to change, but regardless, the Pacers have five open roster spots with T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy, Josh McRoberts, Solomon Jones and Jeff Foster all heading onto the free agent market. Plus, A.J. Price has a non-guaranteed contract for next season so that puts six roster spots in play.
LAND O’LAKERS: Bryant's evening actually started out with a whimper with lot of ominous hobbling, as he struggled to stay with Trevor Ariza. He also didn't take a shot in the first quarter and looked physically ill. The Twitter chatter featured a lot of people wondering if the Lakers might be better off with Bryant's presence at a minimum, particularly after the second unit pushed the Lakers out of an early hole. Then, after a several mixed bag possessions, it was as if Bryant just said "Screw it." That's when he launched himself from between the circles to throw down with vicious force over Emeka Okafor. Ridiculous elevation and brutality, and one of three wicked dunks for Kobe. I don't know how these feats were pulled off, but like a lot of things with Kobe, trying to understand is an exercise in futility.
BIG EASY BUZZ BLOG: In losing Game 5 at Staples Center, turnovers and boards proved to be extremely damaging to New Orleans. The Hornets will look back at their 19 turnovers as one of the biggest reasons they couldn’t hang in for the entire night against the two-time defending champions. The Lakers also were dominant on the backboards, with a 15-3 edge in offensive rebounds. NOLA knew going into the series that rebounding was a category it probably would lose to L.A.’s immense starting frontcourt, but the key was to keep the margin relatively small. That didn’t happen Tuesday, with the Lakers taking advantage of countless opportunities on offense, to the tune of a 22-2 edge in second-chance points. The result was a 106-point output for the hosts, their largest of the series so far.
STRAIGHT OUTTA VANCOUVER: The match-ups have been there all along. The potential for something more than "Spurs in Five" was there, but the old guard's reputation will always linger. The Spurs are the Spurs and, until the Grizzlies have four wins in this series instead of three, they'll still be the Spurs. For that reason, because that does count for something in this league, one more win has to be taken from them. Memphis cannot assume it'll get that out of hand again, and though San Antonio is reeling, they know what this means as well, and the window is still cracked open; however slightly will depend on Game Four's lasting impact.
John Hollinger, ESPN.COM: Winning in four is impressive, regardless of the opposition, but those first two home games against New York's full roster were hardly encouraging ... and that was against an average team, not against a contender like Miami. I still think the Heat will breeze past them fairly easily in the next round.
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