We celebrate the big stories everyone is buzzing about after each day of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. In this edition: Derrick Rose cannot be stopped (again), everyone freaks out over the Bulls, Miami-Philadelphia acts as the hangover to last weekend, the Pacers are scrappy and Chris Webber makes everyone smile.
1. Derrick Rose Clutch Bot: Activated
What does it say about a player who scores 36 points, grabs eight rebounds and gets six assists, even though most smart people agree that he was well-defended? It says he's Derrick Rose. Say what you want about the overwhelmingly annoying Rose lovefest that has infested our brains this season, but recently, Rose has backed it up in a big way. The Pacers made major adjustments after Rose torched them in Game 1, guarding him with taller and more athletic rookie Paul George for most of the game and sending traps to get the ball out of his hands -- and Rose still led the Bulls to victory.
Rose wasn't perfect. He did commit six turnovers, and a lot of his points came in early offense as the Pacers were caught in a crossmatch. He also got a couple lucky breaks when the Pacers switched screens for some reason, putting the slower Danny Granger on him. But in the end, there aren't too many people who can drop 36-8-6 and still make you feel like they were contained.
There also aren't too many people in the league who can make you feel like the Bulls have no chance of losing even as the game is close down the stretch. Isn't that right, TNT?
(via Alex Kennedy)
2. Oh Noes! The Bulls are in trouble
All of Rose's brilliance can't overshadow the fact that the league's best team once again had trouble putting away the league's worst playoff team. The Bulls are up 2-0, but in the eyes of many, they might as well have lost. Great teams are supposed to put away bad teams easily, and those damn Bulls aren't following the script. This has inevitably lead to the equally silly counterargument: the Bulls are doing this all by design, and there's absolutely nothing to worry about.
I'll concede that having Rose tips the scales in crunch time against pretty much anyone, but there is absolutely reason to be concerned. The obvious comparison is the 2008 Celtics, who had to go to seven games to beat a 37-win Atlanta Hawks team. But people forget that the Celtics won their four home games by an average of 25.25 points per game. It was in Atlanta, in an atmosphere that hadn't experienced the playoffs in a while, where they had their difficulties. The Bulls haven't even experienced that yet, and they will, since the Pacers have been out of the playoffs for five years.
Perhaps the better comparison (HT: Ziller) is the 2006 Spurs, who were pushed to six games by a tough No. 8 seed in the Sacramento Kings. The Spurs barely won Game 2, then lost twice in Sacramento before putting the series away. The Spurs ended up losing in the next round to Dallas.
3. The Heat and 76ers star in "Hangover 2: NBA Playoffs Edition"
After a weekend of incredible playoff action, we were bound for a snoozer. Thankfully, the Miami Heat obliged. The Heat, who have been messing up the sanctity of the NBA all season, messed up the sanctity of the playoffs by obliterating the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 last night. In the process, they gave us and Marreese Speights hangovers. Those jerks!
Maybe this can help.
4. The Pacers scrap their way to contention. Scrappy! Scrappy!
Lost in all this panic about the Bulls is that the Pacers are a fun group of players that compete and overcome their no-talent roster to challenge the big boys. They scrap, they execute, they are well-coached and they don't make anything easy. Their coach looks young enough to be Brad Stevens' brother. Their star player is ... who, exactly? Their Rose stopper is a rookie. Their best big men are college guys you've definitely heard of. Their backup big men are Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster. Etc.
Some of this is a little tongue-in-cheek. The Pacers have more talent then people realize: it's just talent across the board rather than top-level talent. Their bench is pretty decent. Their starting lineup doesn't have any liabilities. Even when starting point guard Darren Collison got injured, they hung around by dusting off their T.J. Ford antique. Like Charles Barkley said at halftime, they're the East coast Denver Nuggets, and they have more talent than LeBron James' Cleveland teams ...
OK, maybe that was a little out of hand.
5. More Chris Webber, please
You know who the real star of last night was? Chris Webber. The TNT studio analyst got a chance to broadcast the Bulls-Pacers game, and despite his broadcast partner Dick Stockton showing his age, Webber was actually quite entertaining. He didn't just talk about the Bulls and Derrick Rose; he also gave plenty of love to the Pacers and submitted some unintentionally funny, yet wise lines. Such as:
"The Pacers need to realize, every game is a series within itself."
"You kids at home that don't get time to play, always stay prepared," (after T.J. Ford hit a 70-foot shot at the buzzer)
"I call it sideswiper, the sidewinder. Rotates clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time."
"When you don't pass the ball, you're playing defense on yourself."
He also talked candidly about his own limitations, described Rose's athleticism in odd ways and generally seemed as confused at what was happening as we all did. And this is a good thing, I promise! More C-Webb.
Honorable mention: Danny Granger refuses to pass ... Carlos Boozer can't stop yelling ... Miami is suddenly being praised for being dominant.