CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 26: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls claps while celebrating a play against the Indiana Pacers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 26, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 116-89. 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 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

NBA Playoffs 2011 Memes: Derrick Rose Isn't Himself, Drama In LA, Dirk Nowitzki Rocks And More

In this edition: Derrick Rose plays nothing like an MVP, the Lakers' crunch-time woes get blown out of proportion, Dirk Nowitzki shows he is awesome, the Hawks murder the basketball gods in victory and two unknowns make an impact.

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Hawks Vs. Bulls: Derrick Rose Wins MVP, Doesn't Play Like It, Gets Hurt

On the night where it leaked out that he won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, Derrick Rose submitted a pretty poor playoff performance in the Bulls' shocking Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Twenty-four points and 10 assists looks relatively nice. Twenty-seven shot attempt and zero (!) free throws looks horrendous. We have reached the point where it's impossible for teams to prevent Rose from taking shots, so the best you can do is make him take a lot of them to get his points. The Hawks did and won because of it.

Oh yeah, and Rose also sprained his ankle reaching for a pointless steal with his team down eight with less than 15 seconds remaining. Not the most MVP performance of the season, am I right? (This is the part where I troll and point out that Russell Westbrook would be killed for a performance like this, even though the circumstances are different and Rose is a better player). 

There are a lot of reasons for Rose's issues, and none of them are particularly encouraging. The Hawks defended him extremely well, dropping way back and cheating off the Bulls' shooters and big men to clog the lane. I'd say more on this topic, but Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe covered this more extensively than any writer alive possibly could (though I'm more skeptical than him that these simple adjustments he discussed will work wonders). Then, there's the injury issue. Rose claims he's fine, because he has to think he's superman and all that, but it's clear the ankle injury he suffered in the first round is affecting him. Now, he has a second ankle injury. That's bad.

All this means that there will be one of two scenarios playing out. Either Rose rises above his own pain and delivers, or he can't and the Bulls don't reach the NBA Finals. If it's the former, there will be way too much "will to win" and happy talk for me to take. If it's the latter, I fear that we'll all turn on such a special player because he's not as superhuman as we may think. Either way, I think we lose. That's how narratives work, I guess.


Mavericks Vs. Lakers: Pau Gasol Plays Poorly, Kobe Bryant Doesn't Close And PANIC!!

The Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, which is doubly bad because it was the kind of game they are supposed to win.They had a double-digit lead, and they still lost. They then had it as a game that was close down the stretch, with Kobe Bryant playing outstanding ball in their home gym, and they still lost. Now, the focus has shifted to the age-old Kobe vs. Pau Gasol question. Was Kobe freezing him out, or was Pau not being assertive?

Tom Ziller has already swatted away this sentiment well, so I don't have a ton to add. If I had to lean one way, I'd lean towards Gasol being too passive. Bryant played a good game, but was simply victimized by one poor pass, a turnover where he pretty clearly got mugged by Jason Kidd and a great look that he missed that usually goes in. Gasol, meanwhile, took just 10 shots and was lit up by Dirk Nowitzki

But the reality is that this is just an age-old example of a concept expressed by Katie Baker in her opening essay for on Monday. She was talking about Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire on the Knicks, but the same thing applies here.

That's the bane of the two-star system: it's tailor-made to generate intrigue and excuses and scandal, even after wins and especially after losses. Every shot has a built-in opportunity cost. Every huddle deserves extra scrutiny. Whose day is today? Who is going home mad? Watching the games felt like being a greedy tween once again, pitting my parents up against one another, asking one for permission or the other for money and allocating affection based on results.    

Most of the time, that intrigue is pointless, but it'll never stop the conversations from taking place. That's just the way it is. So in the end, let's just reserve a permanent spot for this on the meme power rankings for whenever the Lakers lose.


Mavericks Vs. Lakers: Dirk Nowitzki Proves He's Unbelievable At Basketball

Before the beginning of the Mavericks vs. Lakers Game 1, Charles Barkley went on the TNT airwaves and warned his comrades that he had a controversial statement to make. There was a long pause as we tried to figure out what he'd say. Heck, if it was controversial in Charles Barkley's mind, then it was probably going to be pretty damn controversial. 

Eventually, Charles got his point out. I'm paraphrasing, but this is what he essentially said.

"Dirk Nowitzki is a better player right now than Kobe Bryant."

Chris Webber and Kenny Smith howled in disbelief. Meanwhile, most of us on Twitter at the time kind of shrugged. Really, it wasn't that controversial at all. Dirk played at an MVP level this season, and Bryant began to show his age. If an NBA blogger said the same thing, there wouldn't exactly be a rush of dissent among his or her peers. It's kind of true.

Ultimately, Dirk went out and proved how awesome he really is in Dallas' 96-94 win. Kobe played great too, of course, but Nowitzki was the one who got it done down the stretch. He torched Pau Gasol all night, scoring 13 points on 5-5 shooting in six possessions with Gasol specifically on him. Lamar Odom fared a little better, but Dirk still ended up with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Oh, and he managed to score and pull off a karate kick in his final field goal of the night. 


Win or lose, hopefully we can all appreciate the Big German


Hawks Vs. Bulls: Atlanta Upsets Chicago, Murders Basketball Gods

The Atlanta Hawks upset the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of their 2011 NBA Playoffs second-round series last night, and many people that walk this earth still managed to make fun of them. This mostly has to do with the Hawks launching horrendous shots on offense that just so happen to go in. They don't play team basketball; they play isolation basketball, and they must be stopped! Even it it works!

No doubt, the Hawks are hitting shots they probably shouldn't make. Every time you expect their supposed bad shot selection to catch up to them, there's Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford hitting a stepback 18-footer with a hand in their face after dribbling for 14 seconds. It offends so much of what we want out of basketball teams that it inevitably leads to a lot of backlash. "Oh, this will catch up to them eventually," we say. "They can't possibly keep this up."

But what if ... gasp ... it can? Ask Orlando Magic fans if this style of offense will hold up in the long run, and you're liable to get a punch in the face. Atlanta certainly didn't regress to the mean against them, and it's not like Orlando is a horrible defensive team.

In fact, is there really any regression to the mean going on at all? During the regular season, the Hawks shot 43 percent from 16-23 feet as a team. That led the league. During the playoffs, Atlanta has hit 72 of their 186 shot attempts from that same range. Pull out a calculator, and you'll find that's ... just under 39 percent. In this supposed unsustainable hot streak of shooting, the Hawks are somehow managing to shoot worse from mid-range than they did in the regular season? 

How do you explain that? Maybe the reality is that Atlanta is a better team than we realize.


2011 NBA Playoffs: Jeff Teague, Corey Brewer Rise From Obscurity

Everyone who follows the NBA yearns to find that preverbal "diamond in the rough," that guy who comes out of nowhere to provide his team a lift when you least expect it. This search ignores the reality that almost everyone in the NBA is capable of helping in some capacity some of the time if given a chance. The talent level is distributed so evenly that it still boggles my mind that role players get paid so much money. But that's a subject for another day.

On Monday night, two such players rose from the scrap heap to lead their teams to big wins. For the Atlanta Hawks, it was second-year point guard Jeff Teague. Pressed into duty to be the first line of defense against Derrick Rose due to the injury of Kirk Hinrich, Teague somehow logged 45 minutes, slowing Rose well and scoring 10 points on his own. He didn't exactly score efficiently, but he was confident and he did a great job covering Rose and others on defense. Really, you have to throw stats out the window here. The very fact that he was competent and confident after playing less than 10 minutes total in the first-round series win over the Magic (eight of which came in the Game 5 blowout loss) is a huge accomplishment.

For the Dallas Mavericks, it was Corey Brewer. There was a strange subset of smart basketball people who howled at the audacity of the New York Knicks to cut him after acquiring him in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Maybe it wasn't the smartest decision, but it definitely didn't deserve the outrage it received. Nevertheless, we're going to hear about it more because Brewer provided a big lift in eight minutes in the third quarter. He hit a couple shots and played good defense, helping the Mavericks erase a 16-point deficit in an eventual win. 

Without their contributions, neither of those teams win Game 1. Now, let's sit back and wait for these players to go from being underrated to wildly overrated.

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