Wednesday , Apr , 25 , 2007 Oly Sandor

NBA Wrap-up For April 25, Playoff Edition

Breaking down the day’s top NBA playoff stories … Kobe the Facilitator and his Lakers struggle … Nash and Barbosa put on a game 2 show, we’ve got the analysis … What’s wrong with the Heat? Can Shaq and D-wade comeback from another 2-0 deficit? … Bosh helps Toronto pull even with NJ … And much, much more …

Top 3 Stories

1) The Sun ain’t shinning on the Lakers
2) The Heat head home facing a 2-0 deficit
3) Raptors even the series with a game 2 victory

1) The Suns frustrate Bryant and the Lakers

What Happened: There will be no more questions about the lethargic play in game one. Phoenix played their usual up-tempo game, routing the by a score of 126-98.

The Suns had six players score in double figures. dropped 16 points and 14 assists, while his ‘back-up’, , the freshly-minted sixth man of the year, scored 26.

and combined for 38 points and 19 rebounds. James Jones chipped in with 12 points. Raja Bell bounced back from a tough game one, scoring 11 points.

The Lakers were completely out-classed and never looked competitive. , the NBA’s scoring champ, passed on several open-shots in an attempt to involve his teammates.

His strategy backfired. No Laker wanted to assert themselves on offense. Bryant led the Lakers with 15 points on 5 of 13 shooting. Jordan Farmar, Maurice Evans, and Lamar Odom each had 10 points.

Phoenix leads the series 2-0. Game three will be played Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Reaction of Phoenix Coach Mike D’Antoni on the win:
"It’s hard to single things out. Our defense was really good, our rebounding was really good, we really ran well, and I don’t know if we can play any better than that. (ESPN)

Reaction of Phoenix forward Shawn Marion on his team’s play:
"It was like everything was working tonight on all cylinders. You can’t ever go out there and play perfect, but I think we did everything we wanted on both ends of the floor." (ESPN)

Reaction of CNN reporter Kelly Dwyer on Los Angeles’ chances:
“And there’s no chance of them catching up to these Suns, by the way. How hot is this team? No big runs for Phoenix on Tuesday in the win, just a sustained white hot sheet of fancy passin’ and lights-out shooting. Phoenix "won" this game more than Los Angeles "lost" it; but we’re focusing on the limpy Lakers this time out.”  (CNNSI)

My Take: The Suns are virtually unbeatable when they’re allowed to play at such a lightning-quick pace. From the opening tip, they pushed the tempo and never let up.

Consider this statistic. Phoenix rarely loses when they score 30 points or more in a single quarter. Opposing teams know this, so they try to stop the Suns from scoring 30 points or more in a single quarter.

In game two, the Suns had three quarters where they scored 30 points or more.

Right now, the starters are rolling. The bench is contributing. Raja Bell, who struggled in the series-opener, broke out in game two, hitting several three-pointers.  Phoenix looks flat-out dangerous.

The Lakers, on the other hand, just looked flat. First off, their body-language was awful in game 2. They lacked enthusiasm and energy. I was glad Lamar Odom gave Nash a firm foul towards the end of the third quarter. It showed L.A. still cared.

Bryant can’t defer to his teammates. Under different circumstances, with different teammates, he should absolutely swing the ball and involve others. Right now, none of his teammates are interested in stepping-up and taking ownership.

Game two proved it: the 2006-07 Lakers lose when Bryant passes. They live and die by Kobe the ‘Scorer.’

2) Chicago rolls to a 2-0 lead over Miami

What Happened: is on the ropes. And is looking for the knockout.

The Bulls, led by and , defeated the Heat by a score of 107-89 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Gordon scored 27 points, including 11 in the third quarter, which helped the Bulls build a 17 point lead. Deng took over for Gordon in the game’s final frame. Chicago’s small forward scored 14 in the fourth quarter and ended up with 26 points.

Once again, Gordon and Deng outplayed and , who both had sub-par performances for Miami. O’Neal had 17 points, while Wade finished with 21 points.

But the Bulls can’t relax. They know Miami came from back from a 2-0 deficit to win last year’s NBA Finals against Dallas.

Game three is in Miami on Friday.

Reaction of Miami center Shaquille O’Neal on the game two loss:
"I have been around a long time and I’ve been in all these situations before. Basically, the Bulls did what they’re supposed to do and protect their home court. We have to play smarter basketball. We got to come with a lot more energy and play with a lot more effort and a lot more passion." (ESPN)

Reaction of Miami center Alonozo Mourning on the Heat pulling off a comeback:
"We’ve been here before, you know what I’m saying?" I have the utmost confidence in my teammates and this team that we can pick ourselves back up and get back on track." (CNNSI)

Reaction of Chicago forward Luol Deng
on staying focused:
 "We’ve got to be mature enough to understand that Miami has been in this situation. We can’t relax. We have to keep playing aggressive." (CNNSI)

My Take: The Bulls are a tough team. But they’re especially tough when their perimeter players are making shots. And, make no mistake about it, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are making shots.

Deng’s emergence gives Chicago another closer down the stretch. The re-incarnation of James Worthy was brilliant in game two, making several fourth quarter shots to preserve the Bulls’ lead.

Deng takes the pressure off of Gordon and opens things up for all his teammates.

Miami look uninterested. I think they believe it’s still the regular season. They have to play some defense and get O’Neal and Wade involved.

Coming back from a 2-0 series deficit will be difficult for the Heat. They’re a year older. And Chicago has home-court advantage.

3) Raptors celebrate coach of the year award by getting even

What Happened: Sam Mitchell won the NBA’s coach of the year award on Tuesday afternoon. And Anthony Parker and helped him win his first playoff game as a coach on Tuesday evening.

The got 51points combined from Parker and Bosh to beat the 94-84 in game two of their Eastern Conference playoff series.

Toronto trailed heading into the fourth quarter, but became more aggressive on offense and clinched the game.

The Nets were certainly competitive. Vince Carter had 19 points and 11 rebounds, while J added 14 points and 11 rebounds. But , who was so impressive in the series opener, ended up with just 13 points.

The series is now tied 1-1. Game 3 will be played in New Jersey on Friday.

Reaction of Toronto Coach Sam Mitchell on Anthony Parker’s inspired play:
 "We need Anthony Parker to continue to play like that. He was just unbelievable tonight. In that fourth quarter, when we needed him, he stepped up." (CNNSI)

Reaction of Toronto forward Chris Bosh on Anthony Parker’s performance:
“He wasn’t the prettiest player but he got the job done and that’s kind of how the playoffs are. You just have to get the job done, no matter what happens."  (ESPN)

Reaction of Toronto guard Anthony Parker
on the win:
“We definitely turned a corner as a team tonight because we gutted it out, especially when things weren’t going well. This was a game we had to have. We couldn’t go to Jersey down 0-2. Now we’ve got to go to Jersey and get one."  (CNNSI)

My Take: I think Toronto showed their true colors in game 2. Yes, they struggled in the first-half. But, like they have all season, the Raptors rallied and found a way to win.

Anthony Parker led the charge. This guy embodies Raptor basketball. He’s blue-collar. He works hard. And he’s a team guy. Parker, like all the Raptors, was much more assertive and aggressive in the second half.

I think Toronto will have an excellent game 3. The ‘dinos’ looked nervous in game 1 and for the first half of game 2. Now they’ve got a victory under their belt. They’re feeling good about themselves and this will carry over into New Jersey.

Come back tomorrow morning for another edition of the NBA Wrap-up, Playoff Edition. Click here for more of NBA blog