LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Carl Landry #24 of the New Orleans Hornets in the second quarter in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

NBA Playoffs 2011 Memes: On Kobe Bryant's Supposed Knee Injury, Return Of Derrick Rose Clutch Bot And More

In this edition: was Kobe Bryant really hurt, or did he just fight through the pain? Also, the Derrick Rose Clutch Bot returns, the Magic actually make shots, Chris Paul is merely very good and Joakim Noah does Joakim Noah things.

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Hornets Vs. Lakers: Kobe Bryant Fight Off Injury ... Or Did He?

Depending on how you view Kobe Bryant, Tuesday's night's performance to lift his Lakers to a key Game 5 win over the New Orleans Hornets was either one of the great playoff performances you'll see or a sign that he is disingenuous about everything. Bryant, of course, injured his knee in Game 4 trying to guard Willie Green, and was working around the clock to get healthy. But he also never got an MRI, and he certainly looked pretty healthy dunking over Emeka Okafor and then Carl Landry.

So what is it? Kobe's explanation was simple: he didn't want to waste time driving in LA's notorious traffic to get an MRI when there was no way he would sit out anyway. 

"I didn't feel like it was broke or anything like that. If it was, it wouldn't have mattered anyway because I was going to play anyway. It would have been a waste of time -- go all the way up there [to a hospital] and do that and sit in 4 o'clock traffic for two hours. I don't know why you guys [press] are so concerned about an MRI. It's not like we would have told you the results anyway."    

"It's not like you would have known anyway." Ha ha. Good one Kobe. Many others weren't so convinced. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith said he was dogging it, trying to hide the embarrassment of getting crossed up by Green. TNT announcer Kevin Harlan noted that "we have not seen a limp, a stagger or an irregularity in this game." Hornets coach Monty WIlliams scoffed at the idea of him actually being hurt. Heck, even current players were questioning him on Twitter last night:

Kobe's ankle is NOT hurt...lol. There's no way u can dunk like that with a bad wheel!less than a minute ago via ÜberSocial Favorite Retweet Reply

I don't think Kobe's ankle is a factor anymore. Don't see him limping anymore after that dunk!less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


Ultimately, I wouldn't put it past Kobe to embellish an injury. I think he wasn't as hurt as one would have thought leading into this game. But given the Lakers' so-so play this series, wouldn't it be helpful for those underachieving to see their star "fighting through injury?"

In the end, I feel like this is what it was all about for Kobe. He probably felt good enough to play, and he wanted his teammates to see how important the moment was to him. Seeing as Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum killed New Orleans on the glass, I'd say the mission was accomplished. 


Pacers Vs. Bulls: Derrick Rose Clutch Bot Makes Triumphant Return

The home court and a bout with mortality was all the Derrick Rose Clutch Bot needed to be activated again. Rose fought off an ankle injury to do exactly what his Bulls team needed to beat the Pacers, scoring 25 points and mostly being pretty efficient, though he did shoot a lot of threes. 

The most important stretch came midway through the third quarter, when the Pacers drew to within five points. Rose responded with three three-pointers, a spectacular block on Roy Hibbert and a nice pass to Keith Bogans for another three. Suddenly, the lead was double digits again, and it stayed that way. All this caused Michael Wilbon to exclaim the following:

That stretch by Rose, the 3 3s, the block on 7-footer Roy Hibbert, the whip pass to Bogans for 3...its why metrics don't explain his value.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply


I responded with some snark, pointing out that all of those things are technically metrics. I responded this way mostly because I didn't want the Rose MVP debate to reopen, because it was stupid and a lot of wasted energy. In reality, I get what Wilbon is saying. It's the timing of this surge, when the Pacers were starting to rally, that isn't captured simply by these traditional numbers. (It is captured by plus/minus and all the advanced spin-offs of that stat, but let's ignore that for now). 

Here's my issue. Sure, Rose doing that at that time breaks the backs of the opponent and provides his team confidence, in such a way where we have to actually watch to see its effect. But let's not pretend Rose is the only player capable of these kind of two-minute surges. Hell, on the same night this all happened, Kobe Bryant had his own two-minute surge, except he did it against a better team in a higher-pressure spot with arguably a more serious injury. Earlier this playoffs, Chris Paul had his surge, except it was on the road against a much better team with much worse teammates. To pretend those moments cement Rose as MVP is to ignore the reality that most stars are capable of doing that too.

Nevertheless, the Derrick Rose Clutch Bot rolls on. Let's hope that we can retire the MVP references once he actually wins the MVP.


Hawks Vs. Magic: Orlando Makes Some Shots, And The Hawks Roll Over

In retrospect, Orlando's blowout win in Game 5 over Atlanta was entirely predictable. The Magic were shooting so poorly that they were bound to have a bounce-back game or two at some point. That happened Tuesday night. The Hawks, given what we know about them, were bound to have a game where they just didn't compete. That happened Tuesday night.

All this is to say that I'm not sure what Game 5 means. Now, I'm on record thinking the Magic would rally and win in seven, because I thought they were right there in every loss despite horrendous shooting that would surely return back to the mean. Game 5 didn't change my opinion one bit on that. But it did change the opinion of some people, most notably Charles Barkley, who declared that he would be working on Saturday night, when a Game 7 in this series would take place. 

Here's where I say we should pump the breaks. The TNT crew talked about how Orlando now has confidence and how the pressure is squarely on the Hawks. That may be true. But this isn't the first time a team down 3-1 won by double digits in Game 5. Here's what happened the last 10 times this took place:

  • 2010 East Finals: Magic win Game 5, 113-92, lose to Celtics Game 6, 96-84.
  • 2010 West First Round: Mavs win Game 5, 103-81, lose to Spurs in Game 6, 97-87.
  • 2010 West First Round: Nuggets win Game 5, 116-104, lose to Jazz in Game 6, 112-104.
  • 2009 West First Round: Blazers win Game 5, 88-77, lose to Rockets in Game 6, 92-76.
  • 2008 West First Round: Rockets win Game 5, 95-69, lose to Jazz in Game 6, 113-91.
  • 2007 East Semifinals: Nets win Game 5, 93-82, lose to Cavaliers in Game 6, 88-72.
  • 2007 East Semifinals: Bulls win Game 5, 108-92, lose to Pistons in Game 6, 95-85.
  • 2006 East FInals: Pistons win Game 5, 91-78, lose to Heat in Game 6, 95-78.
  • 2006 West First Round: Suns win Game 5, 114-97, win Game 6 vs. Lakers, 126-118.
  • 2004 East Semifinals: Heat win Game 5, 94-83, lose to Pacers in Game 6, 73-70.
In other words, only once in the last 10 times has a team won in a blowout in Game 5 and also won Game 6. In fact, of those nine times it didn't happen, only two were wins by single digits. The Magic could win Game 6, of course, but they would have to fight an uphill battle against history. Let's not assume that a terrible Game 5 performance by the team leading will carry over to Game 6.

Hornets Vs. Lakers: Chris Paul Is Merely Good, Hornets Lose

The New Orleans Hornets need Chris Paul so badly that he probably needs to play the entire game for them to have a chance. Case-in point: Paul played 40 minutes Tuesday night, but he needed to take a three-minute break at the beginning of the fourth quarter because he was gassed. The game was starting to slip away even before he went out, but by the time he got back in, the Hornets had a deficit they couldn't overcome.

In the end, Paul was outstanding of course. How many players can drop 20 points and 12 assists and have it be only their third-best game of a five-game series? But outstanding isn't enough to counteract a team that lacks talent and a frontcourt that got completely dominated. Paul didn't have a triple-double; therefore, his team lost.

Obviously, Paul can't will Emeka Okafor to actually grab a rebound, nor can he cause Carl Landry to grow three inches. Nothing that happened is Chris Paul's fault. But it is still interesting that he didn't play the entire second half. The playoffs have longer and more frequent timeouts, and there are no back-to-back games. The games may be more intense, but there's also more time to recover from them. And yet, Paul still had to sit out three minutes during a time when the game was starting to slip away.

I don't know whether to pin that on Paul or Monty Williams. Paul did seem a bit tired when coming to the bench, but Williams probably could have given him a breather by calling a timeout. It was probably a bit of both. All I know is that the Hornets have no chance when Paul is merely good or when he merely plays 40 minutes a game. It's unfair, but it's how it is. 


Pacers Vs. Bulls: Joakim Noah Is Still A Pest

Joakim Noah is a nuisance and a pest. He's a guy you'd love to have on your team, but would hate to play against. These are all things Noah probably doesn't mind. In the end, it was he who got the last laugh, as his Bulls finally put together a complete game to knock out the Pacers.

Remarkably, it was Noah who ended up breaking the Pacers' spirit. The Pacers never broke from three tight losses earlier in the series, despite crunch-time failure in all three. But when Noah finally flexed his muscles and started doing Joakim Noah things, the Pacers got mad and lost their cool. Josh McRoberts was first, taking poorly to a Noah elbow and getting himself ejected because he delivered a forearm shove from behind. Danny Granger was next, and he wasn't hiding anything. When the buzzer sounded, he had to be restrained from fighting with Noah and his teammates. Once the media came in to talk, he forgot to put the filter back on.

"Joakim Noah, he's a dirty player," Granger said. "Honestly. He elbowed two of my power forwards. One got kicked out. The other got a tech and nothing's called on him.

Noah's verbal response was simple ("I'm just trying to win basketball games, man). His facial response might have looked something like this, and it would have been more appropriate than anything that came out of his mouth. I'd say more, but HEY LOOK IT'S JOAKIM NOAH'S GRANDFATHER AND SISTER.

Honorable mention: Frank Vogel wakes up the beast ... Trevor Ariza's coming-out party continues ... the Hawks roll over and surrender.

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