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Reactions to opening games of the 2013 NBA Playoffs

With the first weekend of the 2013 NBA Playoffs in the books, Sam Smith takes a look at the most impressive performances
Andre Miller said he actually never hit a game winning shot, though I find that difficult to believe even if he may be one of the most underrated guards of all time.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

The way the players related it, coach George Karl drew up a potential game winning play for Wilson Chandler with the game tied between the Nuggets and Warriors Saturday.

"Coach was going through the play but we were looking at each other. Andre (Miller) was hot," Nuggets guard Corey Brewer told reporters afterward. "So we were kind of like, 'Why don't we get out of the way, and let Andre have the ball?' He had Draymond Green on him. We like those odds."

Sort of like Michael Jordan against whomever. Miller’s driving layup (Hey, the Nuggets have a go to guy) was the highlight of a mostly one sided first weekend of the NBA playoffs. Miller scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets had a surprisingly tough time with the Warriors, who lost David Lee to a series ending injury. Miller said he actually never hit a game winning shot, though I find that difficult to believe even if he may be one of the most underrated guards of all time.

"I'm never surprised by Andre Miller. I say he's unguardable," said Brewer. "They always talk about these guys like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, but if you give Andre Miller the ball, he's one of the toughest guys to guard in the NBA."

Well, there goes underrated.

Anyway, I have Miller with the game of the first weekend.

The other big time performers included The Clippers’ bench (Eric Bledsoe seven for seven shooting) and a front court that held the Grizzlies to 23 rebounds and scored 112 points off the supposedly top three defense; Russell Westbrook only tieing for the most shots on the team, though it mostly was a blowout win; Brook Lopez in a Who-knew-he-could-do-that day; and the Knicks winning with two scoreless starters (Tyson Chandler and Chris Copeland) and another (Iman Shumpert) with one field goal. Is it too late to trade Paul Pierce? The Celtics failed to get a field goal from anyone off the bench.

With Ray Allen getting 20 points in the Game 1 win over Milwaukee, it’s not so easy to dismiss the Heat historically as they have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade certain Hall of Famers, likely Chris Bosh with a career that will include perhaps 10 All-Star games, an Olympic gold and several titles and Allen, still playing at a high level.

The most productive late season pickups look like the Knicks’ Kenyon Martin and the Heat’s Chris Andersen, both playing major roles in first game wins. They both are among the league leaders in tattoos, though I’m not sure of the connection unless Mike Tyson also plays basketball. Hey, Allen Iverson?

NBA news and notes

-- Boston was all excited for a month after Rajon Rondo went out with his ACL injury as the Celtics went 14-4 and the story line was Rondo held the ball too much and what a more versatile team the Celtics had. But after the Celtics’ eight-point, eight-turnover Game 1 fourth quarter, which persuaded the Knicks they now are the second coming of the Pistons’ Bad Boy defense, coach Doc Rivers is conceding he’d never began a playoff series without a true point guard and apparently looking toward Kevin Garnett as a playmaker as well. Good luck with that strategy. The Grizzlies after last year letting go of O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and even Wayne Ellington are shocked — shocked mind you — they’re having difficulty making shots against the Clippers after being all excited they finally got a defensive stopper and team player in Tayshaun Prince. Sure. And, yes, it is a lot tougher to score without Kobe Bryant. There wasn’t much talk about how Bryant’s failure to pass much was a hindrance as the Lakers in Game 1 were still into the fourth quarter laboring to get to 60 points. Sometimes you never say thank you until it’s too late. L.A. and national reporters, by the way, were all excited about Bryant’s sending of social media “tweets” during the game. Bryant said he’d stop after coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t seem all that thrilled with the media questioning about it. Bryant was relentlessly writing in his tweet messages for the ball to go to Pau Gasol in the post, which actually is what D’Antoni often was yelling to Kobe.

-- Paul Douglas Collins says he’s coached his last game in the NBA. That’s probably so at 61. Collins ends with a five-year consulting deal with the 76ers to pay off his coaching deal, though likely will be back in broadcasting next season. He was 110-120 with the 76ers and 8-10 in the playoffs. He went 442-407 overall in coaching the Bulls, Pistons and Wizards (when Michael Jordan returned) and 76ers, made four NBA All-Star teams with the 76ers, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 NBA draft, made what appeared to be the clinching free throws in the 1972 Olympic gold medal game and was honored by the Hall of Fame for broadcasting. Which is a pretty fair run for a skinny kid from Downstate Benton and Illinois State. Collins endorsed assistant Michael Curry, who coached the Pistons, for the job. Assistant Aaron McKie also remains a popular choice along with Villanova coach Jay Wright. Though the 76ers’ issue remains a somewhat gutted roster with the Andrew Bynum deal having gone awry. It’s why for now it’s regarded as one of the lesser jobs as the view is it’s for a coach to get in position for the team to improve and then be replaced by another coach with teams like the Wizards, Cavs, Raptors and even Pistons in the Eastern Conference in better positions to make a move toward the playoffs ... The Bulls’ Nate Robinson finished 10th in the Sixth Man voting to winner J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford second ... Mark Cuban hasn’t gotten much right lately. But he may have with Jason Terry, who has fallen off quickly and was scoreless in the Celtics playoff opener in a continuing series of poor performances, changing his nickname from Jet to 787 for the grounded jets. They’re actually back, but we’ll see about Terry ... Byron Scott is out in Cleveland after a 64-166 record and .278 winning percentage, the lowest in team history. Of course, he basically had a D-league roster for two years with Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving out numerous games. Irving, by the way, blew off “fan appreciation” activities for the players after the last home game and the team then apparently made up an injury, not hard with him, as a cover. Now the Cavs apparently are talking with former coach Mike Brown to replace Scott. Yes, the Mike Brown who was fired not because LeBron James didn’t like him but because he couldn’t win with LeBron James. And who then when the Lakers loaded up with talent was fired five games into the season. Yes, that Mike Brown. The Cavs projected starting lineup was together 10 games and when they were the most healthy in February they were 7-5. The Cavs have the third best lottery odds and the No. 19 pick from the Lakers in the draft. The Bulls fell to No. 20 in losing a three-way tiebreaker with Houston and the Lakers.

-- Not to say any series is over after the first game, but with the Hawks using a small lineup of Jeff Teague, Devin Harris and Kyle Korver on the perimeter and the checked-out-after-not-traded Josh Smith, it hardly seems likely the Hawks can get a game or two from the Pacers after being outrebounded by 16 in Game 1. Paul George got a triple double shooting three of 13. Dumping those last few games of the regular season to get out of the Heat’s playoff bracket isn’t looking that good yet. As for Smith, he’s looked mostly disinterested since not being traded in the most rumored deadline deal. He’s been said headed for the Rockets, though with their physical and rebounding deficit and with their cap room they more likely could pursue someone like Carl Landry or Paul Millsap ... Though perhaps the most interesting free agent situation is with the Spurs and Manu Ginobili. Would they bring back Ginobili again even with as many injuries as he’s had at a time when they can be well under the salary cap and go after a free agent? Of course, it was his eight points in 85 seconds Sunday which turned the game with the Lakers for the Spurs. They could make a run at someone like Al Jefferson. Or bring Ginobili back one more season when there’s a potentially greater free agent class in 2014. How great would that be if Dirk wanting to win finishes his career with the Spurs. Or maybe Kobe ... Ownership apparently directed GM Joe Dumars to hire Lawrence Frank over Mike Woodson, which probably merits Woodson sending a thank you note to the Pistons’ owner. With five of the last six Pistons coaches out in less than three seasons, Detroit area Realtors are said to be upset as the coaches tend to rent. The Pistons are seeking their 12th coach in 22 years. Frank started his two seasons 0-8 and 4-20. The first time Scott was fired it was Frank who replaced him with the Nets. Though it seems unlikely, if Tom Izzo were to get an NBA job you assume that would be the one as they do have a pretty good young core now and perhaps the most salary cap room of any team with the possibility of an amnesty for Charlie Villanueva. I don’t believe the Lakers will amnesty Bryant even if $80 million in luxury tax penalties is actual money. And I don’t believe they’d do this: But what about trading him to the Pistons for a young player. Then you don’t pay Bryant for not playing and see him end up with maybe the Mavs. You get something, the Pistons get an attraction with a team drawing as badly as anyone and hold their cap room as Bryant has just one season left on his deal as they’ll have enough cap room this summer to absorb Bryant’s contract. Now that would be worth a tweet.

-- You didn’t hear it that much from Michael Jordan as a player, but the Bobcats’ Gerald Henderson said as the season closed: “Absolutely we wanted to avoid that worst record (they did as Orlando got it). It was definitely one of our small goals down the stretch. Obviously things didn’t go as well as we hoped, but we played hard.” ... It will be interesting to see the interest in the Mavs O.J. Mayo, who is opting out to be a free agent. After a big start, Mayo faltered when Dirk Nowitzki returned and ended the season being blasted for lackluster play by coach Rick Carlisle. Mayo averaged 10.6 points and shot 38.2 percent and 19 percent on threes against the top five teams in the West ... Tough one for the Warriors David Lee playing in his first ever playoff game and going out for the series after 29 minutes ... In his playoff debut, Jeremy Lin shot one of seven and had as many turnovers as assists and five fouls in the Rockets’ loss to the Thunder ... One of the bigger names out there for a coaching vacancy is Flip Saunders, who has been mentioned in a return to Minnesota if Rick Adelman decides to retire ... Portland media is speculating the Trail Blazers are targeting Cleveland's Anderson Varejao $9 million, Chicago's Joakim Noah $11.1 million, the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, $10.9 million or the Suns Marcin Gortat making $7.7 million with their cap room in offering draft picks including a lottery pick to get a starting defensive center. Though the Bulls are not looking to start again with draft picks and probably not the Clippers, though Jordan and coach Vinny Del Negro have clashed. There are expected to be perhaps a dozen teams with more that $10 million in salary cap space. It seems more likely they’d end up with someone like free agent Chris Kaman. Samuel Dalembert also is a free agent ... Pelicans. Just wanted to see how it looked.

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