Playoff review/preview

In an interview with SLAM magazine earlier this year, Joakim Noah said, about Kevin Garnett:

Just trying to throw elbows…Cheap shots, just trying to get you off your game. But he’s a vet, he’s been doing this a long time, but it’s all right…He’s always on some bulls***. Always on some bulls***.

Back in 2010, Noah said of Garnett:

He’s a dirty player, man…He’s a dirty player. That’s messed up, man. I’m hurting right now because of an elbow he threw. It’s unbelievable. He’s a dirty player. It’s one thing to be competitive and compete and all that, but don’t be a dirty player. He’s a dirty player.

But then Noah got himself involved in this during game 3 of the ill-tempered series with the Miami Heat:

The Bulls have played an effective, if frustrating brand of playoff basketball in order to attempt to contain the Miami Heat.  It worked for them when they broke the Heat’s 27 game winning streak.

The Hinrich Manoeuvre

This rugby tackle from Kirk Hinrich was perhaps the most bum move of them all.  But the Bulls roughhouse tactics are only an acknowledgement that they simply cannot hang with the Miami Heat.

The Bulls are battered themselves.  Hinrich is out, possibly a result of catching a runaway train in the picture to the left.  Derrick Rose is still to come back from a torn ACL 13 months ago.  Luol Deng, perhaps the key to the series given his ability to effectively guard LeBron, is unlikely to come back and if he does, is unlikely to be effective given his sudden and rapid weight loss as a result of his recent spinal tap procedure.

Joakim Noah is also suffering from plantar fasciitis, and it is amazing that he’s even playing given all that I am told about that particular ailment.

Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson have picked up the slack, Robinson in particular has been hugely impressive (not that we should be surprised of course, Robinson is far from a one-trick pony despite his freak athleticism).  But Tom Thibodeau is struggling to find a seventh man to bring into his playoff rotation.  Neither Rip Hamilton nor Daequan Cook have managed to gain significant minutes despite the Bulls’ injury woes.  Consequently, the Bulls looked incredibly tired by the end of game three.  They had effectively contained LeBron for the entire game until the MVP went off in the fourth.

The home court advantage that the Bulls stole in game 1 now rests back with the Heat, overwhelming favourites to win their second title in a row.  Game 4 is tonight in Chicago.

Meanwhile, over in Oakland, the Spurs also regained home court advantage with a ten point win over the Golden State Warriors, for whom Stephen Curry suffered another ankle injury.  Tim Duncan and Tony Parker rolled back the years and gave vintage performances (remember when Duncan looked washed up a couple of seasons ago?) to lead San Antonio.  Meanwhile, Curry’s 5-17 night hurt Golden State, but not as much as the possibility of him missing time through injury would.

Golden State managed to tie the series with a spirited performance on Sunday night with key performances from Jarrett Jack, Harrison Barnes and, you guessed it, Stephen Curry.  The Warriors fought through foul trouble among their bigs (both Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli finished on 4, Klay Thompson had 5) and a slow start to pull back in the second half before smoking the Spurs 13-3 in the overtime period.

On Saturday night (have you ever tried to track down scores on espn.com the day after a game when there are games on that night? It’s ridiculously difficult) the Pacers beat the Knicks 82-71 behind 24 points and 12 rebounds from Roy Hibbert who totally outclassed Olympian Tyson Chandler.  The Knicks got 21 points from Carmelo Anthony but it was on a 6-16 night.  Even the brief return of Amar’e Stoudemire couldn’t lift New York who will need to find something to get past a very determined, but Danny Grainger-less Pacers side.

Stoudemire’s return couldn’t save Knicks

In the other Saturday game, Memphis beat Oklahoma City 87-81.  They were unsurprisingly led by Marc Gasol who has been outclassing opposing bigs for most of the season, but particularly during the playoffs.  Kendrick Perkins looks absolutely spent and Serge Ibaka, despite putting up 13 points and 10 boards missed a couple of dunks and generally reminded everyone that otherwise-genius GM Sam Presti effectively picked him over James Harden.  Game 4 of this series also takes place tonight.


About

Andrew was something of a latecomer to the game of basketball, having given up rugby after leaving high school. Joining Edinburgh’s fabled Pentland Tigers, he quickly moved on to the East Lothian Peregrines in the Scottish national league before moving to Belfast where he played with Queens and then with Belfast Star. After a year in the superleague, he moved back to Scotland and played with the Scottish Rocks in the BBL. He “retired” (the McDermott rule for using the word “retire” instead of “stopped playing” does require you to have been paid to play, so technically he retired) and moved to Seattle where he began life as an academic, which currently sees him working at University College Dublin. He is a legitimate non-frontrunning Miami Heat fan, having taken up following the team in 2001.

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