The Fundamentals

» April 22, 2009 10:33 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

John Schuhmann of  “The Pistons’ starters have been beaten badly in this series. Through two games, Richard Hamilton is a minus-49 on the floor, Tayshaun Prince is a minus-37 and Rodney Stuckey is a minus-35. The Detroit vets have looked slow and out-of-sync. They committed seven turnovers in the first quarter on Tuesday, mostly unforced. And even when they had open looks at the basket, they had trouble converting, both in the lane and from the perimeter. ‘In the first half, offensively, we just rushed every single thing that we were trying to do,’ Curry said. ‘We missed six layups in the first half. You can’t miss six layups in a playoff game and expect to win.’ Meanwhile, James is a plus-43. Despite the extra attention in Game 2, he still finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. And after a less-than-stellar Game 1, Williams recovered to score 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and dish out seven assists on Tuesday. When it comes to the guys that play most of the minutes, the Cavs have totally outclassed the Pistons.”

Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:  “His 38-point performance in Game 1 was impressive, but it was too easy. The Pistons had a bad scheme and they executed it poorly. His 29-point, 13-rebound, six-assist performance in Game 2, however, was phenomenal. The Pistons threw all kinds of bodies at him. They used all kinds of defensive schemes — using a guard on him and doubling him with a big man; trapping him early, trapping him late, not trapping, playing zone — you name it. They came at him with some aggression. They limited his points in the paint. They did everything you can do to slow a mortal man and James still beat them. ‘Obviously, he’s an unbelievable player, but what makes him special is his ability when he does get double-teamed,’ Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. ‘If you come with a small, he can see over the top. Even when you come with a big, he can see over the top and make plays on the backside.’”

Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe:  “After two playoff games, the Celtics’ leading scorer is not Ray Allen or Paul Pierce, and their leading rebounder is not Kendrick Perkins. Rajon Rondo leads the Celtics not only in scoring and rebounding but also assists and steals. After Rondo outdueled Chicago’s Derrick Rose in a 118-115 Celtic win Monday night, though, there were questions about his status for Game 3 tomorrow because of a sprained right ankle. ‘The swelling has gone down some, that’s always a good sign,’ coach Doc Rivers said. Rose, who had 36 points in the Bulls’ overtime victory in Game 1, struggled in Game 2 after being charged with two early fouls. ‘When you are in foul trouble, your timing and rhythm is wrong,’ Rivers said.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “NBA teams get six timeouts per game and a 20-second timeout per half. But they can use just three full timeouts in the fourth quarter. According to league rules, if a team reaches the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter with three full timeouts remaining, they turn into one full and one 20-second timeout. That’s what happened to the Bulls in Game 2, but they also had their second-half 20-second timeout left. So they stopped the clock at 1:54, 1:01 and 20.1 seconds. After all three timeouts, Ben Gordon knocked down a jumper on his way to 42 points. ‘People are going to second guess and first guess. So what? I don’t care,’ Del Negro said. ‘They can guess. I’m the coach. I’m going to make the decisions.’ Del Negro said the plan was to get it to Derrick Rose after Allen hit the go-ahead jumper, but the Celtics took that away.”

Eddie Sefko for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “The way Nowitzki has struggled; it’s a mild shocker that the Dallas Mavericks are level with the Spurs. Playoffs usually are dictated by superstars. In the matchup of the two best players in the series, Nowitzki is getting trounced by Tony Parker. But that’s why a series is best-of-seven. After two games, it’s foolish to try to declare a winner, especially when it’s 1-1 going into Thursday’s Game 3 at American Airlines Center. Nowitzki, who finished the season with 25 consecutive games scoring at least 20 points, hasn’t reached that mark in the playoffs. It’s the first time since May 5 and 7 in 2005 against Houston that he’s gone consecutive playoff games without scoring 20. To find three in a row, you have to go back to his second season and first playoff appearance in 2000-01.”

Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer:  “Tonight at Amway Arena, site of the second game of this first-round playoff series, there will be plenty more Iguodala jumpers, dunks and drives. The only question is: How empty, or crowded, will his bandwagon be tomorrow? His Sixers – and, yes, they are his team – can take a two-games-to-none lead over favored Orlando. Or they can return to Philadelphia tied one game apiece, still having stolen home-court advantage from the Magic. The trip south will have been a success for the Sixers either way, but it seems this series, starting with today’s follow-up performance, is a chance for Iguodala to break from the NBA’s second shelf to its top tier, from B-list to A-list. How can he get there? By winning playoff games.”

Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel:  “For the night Lee hit 8-of-18 shots and finished with 18 points in his first playoff game while Alston poured in 15. Combined they connected on 13 of 32 attempts from the field. Meanwhile Turkoglu and Lewis, usually the Magic’s primary sharpshooters, combined for 21 points (Lewis had 15) but took just 19 shots, hitting seven. It was certainly an uncharacteristic performance for both. But Coach Stan Van Gundy said it fed right into Philly’s plan of letting the Magic’s guards shoot, taking away shots from Turkoglu and Lewis and keeping just single coverage on big man Dwight Howard. If the trend continues and the Magic don’t find away to spread around the shots, it could add up in a much more eye-popping number: A dreaded 2-0 series deficit. ‘When they come they’re always coming off the guards,’ Van Gundy said. ‘They will not leave Turk and Rashard so it’s tough for those guys out of those situations to get shots and they are taking away their 3s. Our guards are open and we can get those shots whenever we want. They have to step up and make shots.’”

Dave McMenamin of  “Ariza is now 13-for-16 for the series, and matching him make-for-make is Shannon Brown, who shot 2-for-3 from three and 4-for-6 overall on Tuesday. Brown has made 10 of his last 12 three-point attempts since taking over as L.A.’s first reserve guard late in the season. Bryant finished with 26 points and nine assists and relished the facilitator role as he did in Game 1. Sure, he took a couple shots that only he would have the audacity to take — one fade away on Ronnie Brewer comes to mind — but he had more excitement in his teammates’ makes than in his own. He was the most fervent supporter of Ariza and Brown, making a point to be the first teammate to congratulate them after a made shot with a chest bump, head slap or even full-body push. ‘It’s important for them to know that I trust in them and I’m excited for them when they knock down those shots and I’m going to keep coming to them,’ Bryant said.”

Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports:  “These aren’t the elbows-flared, bare-knuckled Jazz of John Stockton and Karl Malone, and Sloan knows it. They’re young, still unsure how to win on the road. The Jazz made a run to the West finals two years ago and pushed the Lakers to six games in last season’s second round with largely the same cast, but injuries tempered this season’s progress. Even now, they’re missing starting center Mehmet Okur, whose absence has made it all the more difficult to match up with the bigger and longer Lakers. Still, an infusion of young legs isn’t the only change Utah has undergone since Malone and Stockton hung up their short shorts. Deron Williams, who followed up his brilliant 17-assist performance in Game 1 with a playoff career-best 35 points on Tuesday, is tough and physical, making him a good fit for Sloan. Millsap will bang, and Matt Harpring looks like he could start at inside linebacker for the Patriots. But many of these Jazz are better suited for the open floor than brawling in the lane.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “Lakers Coach Phil Jackson ended one tradition this week, declining to slip on a championship ring when the playoffs began, but he continued a different ritual. He has spliced clips of the movie ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ into team video sessions, part of his attempt to add a certain theme to every playoff series. ‘It’s a miracle. Miracles happen,’ Jackson said when asked why he chose that film. Come again? It wouldn’t be that much of a miracle if the Lakers win the championship . . . or would it? Jackson insisted it took special circumstances for any team to win a title, perhaps mindful that injuries strike at any time. ‘You have to have a tremendous amount of good fortune to come through playoffs and win,’ he said.”

John Canzano of The Oregonian:  “People are going to spend the next few days dissecting the differences between games 1 and 2 of the series. And maybe that’s natural. But what’s more important is to recognize how Houston responded when it was pressed, and squeezed, and forced to make decisions with the outcome of a game undecided. The Rockets got rattled. The Blazers’ ability to continue to apply pressure, and make Houston feel the gravity of the moment, is the key to the rest of this series. Remember, with the home court and playoff seeding at stake, Dallas took it to the Rockets in the regular-season finale, and Houston melted in the big moment. For all the problems the Blazers have had matching up with Houston this season, they were able to do what good postseason teams do — adjust.”

John Reid of The Times-Picayune:  “For the past two days, the Hornets spent extended sessions watching game tape to solve their mistakes, which included a lack of movement once the pass was sent to West, not pushing the tempo and failing to make open shots. The Hornets shot 37.2 percent from the field. Paul was the only player who appeared to be in rhythm, finishing with 21 points and 11 assists. New Orleans also allowed Denver guard Chauncey Billups to have an impressive performance with 36 points, which included hitting eight of nine 3-point attempts. ‘I give Kenyon a lot of credit; I thought he did a real good job,’ said Hornets Coach Byron Scott, who coached Martin with the New Jersey Nets. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of getting David on the move a little more. When we pass the ball, we can’t stand. Then it’s a home run or a strikeout. We’re not giving him a chance to make plays with scoring and passing. I thought we made him one-dimensional because we just stood around when he had the ball.’ Without movement by the Hornets, Nuggets defenders converged on the post and denied West open angles to the basket.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post:  “Jerry Colangelo, Team USA’s basketball director, told The Post during the All-Star break D’Antoni would be a top candidate if the 62-year-old Duke coach were not to return. D’Antoni served as an assistant to Krzyzewski last year in China and developed a strong rapport with potential 2010 free agents, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who reportedly will be offered a contract extension this summer. Asked about potentially becoming the Olympic coach, a three-year commitment, D’Antoni told The Post, ‘I’m tied to Coach K and will wait to see what he decides to do. I’ll probably serve in any position they ask me to do. It was a great experience. Whatever they decide, I’ll fall right in line.’”

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: “Dikembe Mutomo’s legacy will be that he was one of the great NBA defensive players of all-time, an amazing shot-blocker, a winner in every sense of the word. Yet his career is so much more than that. He was an amazingly good citizen of the world. He had a charitable heart and devoted countless hours and dollars to the causes he believed in. He’s a role model for every future player. His 18-year NBA career ended Tuesday night with a gruesome knee injury midway through his 1,297th game. He left the floor on a stretcher after every single teammate had surrounded him on the floor. That gesture spoke volumes about what they thought of him. He’s the funniest, smartest professional athlete you will ever meet. He has that booming raspy voice, that wide smile and that very loud laugh.”

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