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It’s anybody’s series in the case of Grizzlies versus Thunder. Meanwhile, LeBron leads Heat in Game 4 win, and are the Bulls are struggling because of “effort.”By Michael Brown, Sentinel Sports Writer Grizzlies-Thunder Series Looks like a Coin Flip
Memphis guard Mike Conley and the 8th seeded Grizzlies were supposed to be knocked out of the playoffs early… in the first round. But instead they are in a battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) That’s the impression I was left with after watching Oklahoma City defeat Memphis Monday in a triple-overtime thriller.After watching the up and down the court athleticism on display by both teams, I conjured up allusions of old footage of games featuring the Showtime Lakers against Dr. J’s 76ers.Back then, it was common to see teams light up the scoreboard and combine to score well over 250 points.The Thunder’s 133-123 win at Memphis was a blast from the past. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 40 points and teammate Kevin Durant poured in 35 points, including six in the third OT.Not to be outdone, Memphis’ Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol traded punches with Oklahoma City’s two all-stars.Randolph led the Grizzlies with 34 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while Gasol scored 26 points to go-along with a game-leading 21 rebounds.At press time (May 10) Game 5 is yet to be played, but this series looks like it will go the distance. From what I’ve observed, neither team has a decided advantage over the other.Also, the coaches and benches look to be pretty evenly matched. Last week, I wrote that Westbrook must defer to Durant if the Thunder wants to be successful, and I stand by that statement.Although Westbrook scored 40 points on 15-for-33 shooting (which is still too many shots), his shot selection was much better. Westbrook only hoisted up two three pointers and limited his turnovers to three. He also went to the foul line 11 times.Last week, he was shooting erratically and coughing the ball up, allowing the Grizzlies to capitalize. If Westbrook plays under control, we’ll be in for a real treat as the Thunder faces the Mavericks who demolished the Lakers in a sweep.LeBron Takes another Step towards Silencing Critics
Miami Heat forward LeBron James had a great reason to go a little crazy in overtime. He scored 35 points and brought down 14 rebounds in the Heats victory, giving them a 3-1 lead over the Boston Celtics. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Scoring 35 points and nabbing 14 rebounds on the way to leading your team to a commanding 3-1 lead in the semifinals tends to help your cause.And that’s what LeBron James did in a 98-90 win at Boston Monday, helping to redeem his image after his Cavaliers were embarrassed by the Celtics in the playoffs last season.Of course the Celtics’ cause wasn’t helped by point guard Rajon Rondo being hindered with a dislocated left elbow, which was covered with a padded sleeve during Game 4.Rondo, who I thought would key the Celtics to a win in this series, didn’t have his usual burst and the Heat took advantage.During the regular season, the Celtics won the first three of four games against the Heat with Rondo being the difference.
However, that was then and this is now. Dwayne Wade and James have evolved to the point of where they’re comfortable on the floor together and Chris Bosh, though not consistent every game, earns his title most games as one-third of the Big Three.During Game 4, the Big Three combined for 83 of Miami’s 98 points and grabbed 35 of the team’s 45 rebounds.Typically, teams as top heavy as the Heat struggle, but clearly, Miami’s an exception. If the South Beach triple-headed monster plays well, they may win the whole thing.Contributions from players such as James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mario Chalmers are almost irrelevant. The Heat’s ancillary players are akin to a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. Nice, but not necessary.Meanwhile, Boston, if they’re eliminated Wednesday night, will have more in common than just a rivalry with the Lakers. The Celtics’ aging roster will have to be upgraded if they’re to make another run.On the other hand, James’ critics and haters will be forced to get their best pro-Bulls and Hawks chants ready. Both teams will be the only barriers separating James from the NBA Finals.Rose Chides Team for lack of “effort” Those were the sentiments expressed by MVP Derrick Rose after a practice and video session Monday.According to Rose, the Hawks didn’t beat the Bulls 100-88 Sunday because they played a better game, but also due to lack of “effort” on behalf of his team.Rose told the Associated Press, “They (Atlanta) just played harder, getting to loose balls, second effort, chasing balls down.” He later added, “If anything, I think all of us are mad with the effort that we put in the last game.”Well, yes and no.Yes, the Bulls could have played harder and got after it harder, particularly on the defensive end. Joe Johnson shredded them in the backcourt and Josh Smith and Al Horford combined for 43 points on 17-for-33 shooting from the field up front.No, the Bulls didn’t lose because the Hawks just “played harder.” The truth is, despite Chicago winning a league-leading 62 games, they’re not a great team.In fact, on offense, they’re ordinary.Rose scored 34 points during Game 4, but he shot an abysmal 12-for-32 from the floor. The Bulls as a team shot 41 percent while allowing the Hawks to shoot nearly 50 percent.Rose is simply the beginning and the end of the Bulls’ offensive output. For instance, he scored 44 points during the Game 3 win, but the rest of the starting lineup combined for 21 points.When it’s all said and done, Rose’s super performances may be good enough to defeat the Hawks, but the Big One will likely have to face the Big Three in the next round.Will that be good enough? We’ll see.
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