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GOING THE DISTANCE
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 5, 2006 9:00 a.m. ET

SUNS RISE IN L.A.

The Suns don't believe they should be a historical footnote. That doesn't mean they won't take it.

Only seven squads have ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series and, on Saturday, that list could be eight teams long. At the beginning of the series, it seemed unlikely Phoenix would be in such a situation. Four games later, it seemed unlikely Phoenix would be invited to the second round.

How quickly our thinking changes -- as quickly as two Kobe Bryant buzzer beaters in Game 4 or a Tim Thomas triple to erase L.A.'s three-point lead at the end of regulation in Game 6.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

This time, the Suns escaped the Staples Center with the win -- one they thought they should have had the last time they were in Los Angeles. As Steve Nash joked after the game, with a four-games-to-two lead the Suns have one game remaining.
-- [Arizona Republic]

As for that remaining game, maybe the Lakers can sneak a look at some film today to see what they did right in Games 1-5. Compare that with what Kobe did right in Game 6 and it's clear they need the team effort of the earlier games.
-- [L.A. Times]

That remaining game also means the Hallway Series is on hold and in danger.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

And, it means the Clippers have to change the way they're preparing for the next round.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

Regardless, the Clippers players can feel sure they'll be well prepared for whomever they face.
-- [L.A. Times]

NETS, HEAT ADVANCE

The Heat and Nets now know their second-round opponents. After closing out their first round matchups Thursday night, the teams will meet, with the first two contests being held in Miami.

It took six games and a banged-up Wade for the Heat to dispatch the Bulls.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

To beat the Nets, however, the team will need more Game-6-like dominance from its big man and less of the foul trouble that plagued him earlier in the series.
-- [Miami Herald]

The Nets, meanwhile, have to be happy there's nobody named Anthony Johnson on Miami's team.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

The career backup and his scrappy supporting cast have the Nets happy to move on and face the Heat.
-- [New York Post and New Jersey Star-Ledger]

This time it'll be the Heat that has homecourt advantage, but it might not matter to New Jersey's Nenad Krstic, who's seen worse than the boo birds that'll be flying around South Beach.
-- [New York Post]

WAIT CONTINUES FOR DETROIT, DALLAS

The future for Detroit and Dallas isn't quite as clear. Both teams are enjoying a few days off and are likely hoping their would-be opponents continue to beat up on each other through a full seven games.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

As Mitch Albom tells us, the Pistons used the early win to catch up on some Zs.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

That and the ability to actually watch the Cavs and Wizards go at it tonight in Washington.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Dallas is also trying to keep itself busy while echoing what Detroit's saying: It doesn't matter who they play in the next round.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

One scribe isn't necessarily buying that -- or other theories -- as the Spurs pose a threat no matter how you look at them.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

So, what to make of all this free time? Well, it gives us all the chance to write stories like this one about whether Dirk is the best European player of all time.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Or talk about how Sidney Lowe is expected to take the reins at NC State, just as soon as he finishes his own degree.
-- [Washington Post and Detroit Free Press]

But, when the ink dries on those cute little stories, understand that the players really just want to get back on the court. Even if it means playing your teammates.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

TIP INS

Your team isn't in the Playoffs? It's never too early to start thinking Draft.
-- [Charlotte Observer]

Chris Paul was officially named one of the top five rookies. Many believe he'll soon surface at the top of that list.
-- [The Oklahoman]

HE DOES IT AGAIN
Posted by By John Schuhmann on May 4, 2006 11:00 a.m. ET

ARE THERE ANY DOUBTERS STILL OUT THERE?

He did it in Game 3 and he did it again last night. LeBron James scored with 0.9 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Cavs a Game 5 win and a 3-2 series lead over the Wizards. It was an instant classic, highlighted by an incredible comeback by Washington in regulation and a duel between two of the league's four leading scorers.
-- [New York Times, Akron Beacon Journal]

On the final play, LeBron was able to drive baseline around two defenders for a layup. That wasn't the only time the Wizards forgot the most important rule of playoff basketball: no layups! The second most important rule may be that, if you have a timeout, you can use it to advance the ball upcourt to get a better shot.
-- [Washington Post (reg. req'd)]

It was a tough loss, but Gilbert Arenas still found time to pay his respects to the king after the game.
-- [Washington Post (reg. req'd)]

Game 6 is in Washington on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

BUCKS ARE GONE FISHIN'

In Detroit, the Pistons never let the Bucks even sniff a chance to force a Game 6 back home, rolling over Milwaukee from the start to win the series 4-1. Richard Hamilton led the way with 40 points, thanks to a not-so-restricting tape job on the ankle that he injured earlier in the series.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

One seeds beating eight seeds is why Mitch Albom prefers hoops to that other sport they play in our arenas.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

So it wasn't much of a series, but at least the Detroit fans got to enjoy an extra home game.
-- [Detroit News]

Despite the blowout, Michael Redd went out with passion. The Bucks may need to rework Redd's supporting cast this summer though, possibly in a way that will get Andrew Bogut more involved.
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

NETS, HEAT TRY TO CLOSE OUT ON THE ROAD

Tonight's three games get started in Indianapolis at 7 p.m. ET on NBA TV, where the Nets would like to finish off the Pacers immediately, without thinking too much about the last time they tried to close out a series.
-- [Bridgewater Courier News, Newark Star-Ledger]

Meanwhile, the Pacers will be counting on their All-Star, who is 3-5 in elimination games since he came to Indiana.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

In Chicago, Dwyane Wade doesn't want to repeat what happened the last time the Heat were in a Game 6, so he will be ready to play despite brusing his hip on Tuesday.
-- [Miami Herald]

The Bulls will wait to see how healthy Wade is before making a decision on how to guard him. On the other end of the floor, Scott Skiles just wants his team to take better shots.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

Heat and Bulls, Game 6: 8 p.m. on TNT.

WAR OF WORDS

Raja Bell: "We don't need an octagon."
-- [Arizona Republic]

Kobe Bryant: Raja who?
-- [Los Angeles Times]

Lakers-Suns, Game 6 (sans Bell): 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

HOME SWEET HOME
Posted by By John Schuhmann on May 3, 2006 11:00 a.m. ET

PIVOTAL GAME FIVES GO THE WAY OF THE HOSTS

It has certainly been an interesting, and somewhat surprising, first round so far, with the 6-8 seeds either winning (in the case of the Clippers) or making it more of a series than maybe people expected. With four Game 5s on the slate for Tuesday, it was the biggest night of the playoffs so far.

The night began in East Rutherford, N.J., where the Nets were trying to break the lose one, win one run they've been on. They were in control for most of the game, but Indiana kept coming back until Vince Carter put them away with an amazing drive to the hoop and dunk over Jermaine O'Neal.

It was a rare move for Carter that capped off a huge night (34 points, 15 boards, seven assists). It's no coincidence that his play has elevated as he has become more aggressive offensively.
-- [New York Daily News, NBA.com]

This series has been as competitive as any other, just not as chippy.
-- [New York Daily News]

Now though, the Pacers are in bad shape, both literally and figuratively. But somehow, the Nets haven't been able to create much space between the two teams.
-- [Indianapolis Star, The Record]

Game 6 in Indianapolis will be Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on NBA TV.

In Miami, the Heat got a major scare when Dwyane Wade went down in a heap late in the first half. With a bruised left hip, Wade returned midway through the third quarter with the Bulls up five. The Heat then went on a 7-0 run to take the lead and they never looked back after that.

The final quarter, which went 31-17 in favor of the Heat, was inspired by Wade, but fueled by Shaq, who was hampered by foul trouble for most of the night.
-- [Miami Herald]

In the end though, it was a superhero night for "Flash", one reminiscent of a shoe commercial and full of highlights (Video).
-- [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, NBA.com]

For the Bulls, it was a chance to seize the series, but they let it get away, a wasted opportunity if there ever was one.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

Now, they'll be playing for their playoff lives Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.

It was a similar story in San Antonio, where the Kings held a four-point lead early in the third quarter. Then the champs awoke, going on a 14-4 run to take control of the game. They build the lead up to 14 early in the fourth, but Sacramento came back to tie it with three minutes left. The trio of (a beardless) Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Michael Finley was too much in the end though, and the home team prevailed, as they have all series.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

It's far from over however, and the Mavs are sitting back and waiting for the winner. Game 6 is Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN from Sacramento.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

On to Phoenix, where the Suns were on the brink of elimination after Sunday's miracle at Staples. A third-quarter, 17-5 run turned a tight game into a comfortable win for Phoenix, who got a big game from Boris Diaw (25 points, 10 boards, nine assists).
-- [Arizona Republic]

In winning Game 5, however, the Suns may have made it tougher on themselves for Game 6, as Boris Diaw could be facing a suspension after he clotheslined Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter.
-- [Arizona Republic]

The pressure now shifts over to the Lakers, however. Game 6 is Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
-- [Los Angeles Daily News]

EARLY START WEDNESDAY

If you're on the East Coast, you'll want to get home early Wednesday night, as TNT's double-header gets started at 6 p.m. ET with the Pistons and Bucks.

Detroit wants to get the first round over with to avoid a return trip to Milwaukee for Game 6. If they do, it could be Rasheed's doing.
-- [Detroit Free Press, Detroit News]

The Bucks won't go down easy, though. To quote Michael Redd, "It's going to be a dogfight (tonight) because we're going to make it a dogfight."
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

The Cleveland-Washington series just seems destined for seven games, and the critical Game 5 takes place tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

The Cavs might want to take some advice from Gilbert Arenas. Yes, you read that right.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Meanwhile, the Wizards have their own secret formula for success.
-- [Washington Post]

IT FEELS GOOD
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 2, 2006 11:00 a.m. ET

WAIT OVER FOR CLIPPERS, BUT CONTINUES FOR GRIZ

Two Western Conference franchises advanced to the Conference Semifinals Monday night as the Mavericks completed a 4-0 sweep over the Grizzlies in Memphis and the Clippers finished off Denver on their home floor.
-- [NBA.com]

In closing out the Nuggets in five games, the sixth-seeded Clippers have made it out of the opening round for the first time since 1976, when the franchise was known as the Buffalo Braves. If the Lakers defeat the Suns tonight, both L.A. squads will meet in the second round.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

"We don't know what to expect," said Elton Brand in the L.A. Daily News about moving on. "Everything is the first time. We're all excited."

In stark contrast to the celebratory atmosphere of the Clippers squad was the Mavericks' subdued locker room after their 102-76 win. There was no celebrating. Barely even a raised voice.
-- [Dallas-Forth Worth Star-Telegram]

Dirk's not satisfied, and he has reason not to be. The Mavericks are the only undefeated team in the playoffs, and are likely playing better basketball than anyone right now, but they'll have to do more than just win a First Round series in a commanding fashion to get the monkey they've been carrying off their collective back.
-- [Dallas-Forth Worth Star-Telegram]

In the five previous seasons in which they've averaged 56 wins, Dallas made it to the West Finals just once, in 2003, when it succumbed to San Antonio in six games. The following season featured a first-round exit and last season saw the team fall in the semifinals.
-- [NBA.com]

For the Grizzlies, all it would have taken was a playoff win to reverse their history, but instead Memphis moved to 0-12 all-time in franchise postseason history last night. Another year, another sweep.
-- [Memphis Commerical Appeal]

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are already thinking about next year. Carmelo Anthony said Monday he hopes the team re-signs Nene this summer.
-- [Denver Post]

But one has to wonder, what direction the franchise will go in if management changes? According to the Denver Post, GM Kiki Vandeweghe -- whose contract expires in August -- may not be re-signed.
-- [Denver Post]

THEY CAN CLOSE OUT TONIGHT

The Lakers visit Phoenix tonight in a potentially series-deciding Game 5. I've heard many basketball enthusiasts claiming not to be fans of Kobe Bryant admit they've found themselves with no choice but to marvel at No. 8 this season, and even root for him.

Bryant's surprised everyone. After he hit two clutch shots in Game 4 to push the Lakers' lead to 3-1, his celebration following the contest seemed to indicate that he had pulled something from deep inside within himself that even he didn't realize for certain he had.
-- [NBA.com]

When you put someone in a situation where their backs are against the wall, and then they prove to themselves they have the ability to dig out of the hole, it's an experience that carries over in everything they do from that point on.

Believe this: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are more dangerous than ever. And, in one writer's opinion, team owner Jerry Buss is now getting the last laugh over his decision in the 2004 offseason.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

This time, it's the Suns' turn to see if they can dig out of a hole.

"We have to play like it's the last game of our lives," Leandro Barbosa told reporters. "If we want it, we have to play like crazy for 48 minutes."
-- [Arizona Republic]

THREE SETS OF 2-2s

Action in the Pacers-Nets, Bulls-Heat and Kings-Spurs series all resumes Tuesday night as well. All series are tied two-games apiece, and the winners will surely have the momentum. Of the 128 previous best-of-the-seven series that have been tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series 107 times (83 percent).

For the heavily favored Heat, the frustrations of their struggles with Chicago could be seen in the blowup between Dwyane Wade and Gary Payton just before halftime of Miami's second straight loss to the Bulls on Sunday.
-- [Washington Post]

However, one Miami columnist says this is no time to panic -- for the team or for Heat fans.
-- [Miami Herald]

The defending champion Spurs, meanwhile, could become the third No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to the No. 8 seed. The Nuggets defeated the Sonics in 1994 and the Knicks shocked the Heat in 1999, but back then, the First Round series were only five games.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

What a difference a year makes -- not only for San Antonio, but for Bonzi Wells, who some say was traded because he wore out his welcome with Memphis but now is inspiring his teammates in Sacramento.
-- [Sacramento Bee]

Finally, the Pacers and Nets square off in New Jersey. This series has truly gone back and forth, with no club having won back-to-back contests, but New Jersey could do that tonight. Both of Indiana's losses came in the games Peja Stojakovic sat out, and he told reporters that in all likelihood he won't play in Game 5 because of his strained right knee.
-- [Newark Star-Ledger]

Even so, Richard Jefferson says the Nets don't seem to care either way.
-- [New York Post]

L.A. STORY
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 1, 2006 9:30 a.m. ET

LAKERS, CLIPPERS SHOWDOWN LOOMS

Worried yet Phoenix fans? You absolutely should be. First, the historical numbers.

Since the NBA expanded the Playoffs to 16 teams in 1984, only four No. 2 teams have ever dropped the opening series to a No. 7. Most recently, Miami lost to New York in 1998. The others: The Spurs lost to the Warriors in 1991; the Jazz lost to the Warriors in 1989; and the Mavs lost to the Sonics in 1987.

The difference between those four and this Suns-Lakers series? An extra two games, which nearly guaranteed a win for the better team. I said "nearly."

Even with the extra two games, things are looking bleak for the Suns. Only seven NBA teams have ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven. One Phoenix scribe isn't worried though.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Others, however, have passed the state of denial.
-- [Arizona Republic]

And while not many people -- despite Phil Jackson having never lost a first-round series -- expected a first-round upset, Kobe and Co. are teaching us it can happen.
-- [L.A. Daily News and New York Times]

But how? Well, start with the coach, the man with the highest postseason winning percentage of any play caller. The Zen master has taken the Suns out of their game and is outcoaching Mike D'Antoni, who finished as runner-up to Avery Johnson for Coach of the Year honors.
-- [New York Times]

If that sideline wisdom isn't enough, how about a dose of Kobe? Well, the Suns have been spared that, sort of, as Bryant has played unselfishly -- some might say out of character. What's killing the Suns is that Bryant is sharing the ball and his teammates are coming through -- all five Lakers starters are averaging double-figure scoring.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

But when the game's on the line, get the ball to Kobe. See the game highlights. Or just watch Kobe's late-game heroics.
-- [NBA TV Broadband]

With one more victory for L.A., it'll play L.A. ... Feel free to insert either nickname wherever you'd like. That's because the Clips are on the verge of their first playoff series victory since moving to California and their second in franchise history, holding a 3-1 edge on the third-seeded Nuggets.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

The team picked up its first postseason road win in 13 years with their Game 4 victory, despite Chris Kaman suffering from more than the thin air.
-- [New York Times and L.A. Daily News]

All this winning for L.A. teams has folks around the country abuzz. And if both teams can take care of business, hoops fans will be treated to a rare treat, the "Hallway Series", as comedian Billy Crystal dubbed it.
-- [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

BEST OF THREE

As we said above, the first round now lasts seven games, but it's been shortened to a best-of-three for half of the field. The Heat, Bulls, Spurs and Kings have all held serve on their home floors, while the Cavaliers, Wizards, Nets and Pacers have split home and away games through the first four.

Perhaps the biggest cause for concern of those teams is the Spurs, who had a hard time believing their Game 3 loss and were then routed the next time out.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Manu Ginobili's Game 4 struggles were endemic to the team's.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

And so the Spurs find themselves in some real trouble.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Of course, they are if Bonzi Wells -- or any other King for that matter -- hauls in 17 boards.
-- [Sacramento Bee]

The same can be said for the Heat, if Shaq sits one more game with foul trouble.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

Or if the team continues its infighting.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

More on the Wade-Payton affair here and here.
-- [Miami Herald and Chicago Sun-Times]

Speaking of Wade, every time we mention him and the 2003 Draft, the conversation immediately turns to comparisons with LeBron James. Not many are comparing him with another Class of 2003 member who's having a solid first round.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

And when Hinrich's all-around game isn't inflicting damage, the frustrating Andres Nocioni is. The Argentine is giving better than 22 and 10 a night to the Bulls efforts.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

In Indy, it was the efforts of Vince Carter and Co. that allowed the Nets to pull even with the Pacers before heading home for Game 5.
-- [New York Daily News]

Carter, along with Jason Kidd and Nenad Krstic, are doing some damage in the paint to control the Pacers.
-- [New York Times]

MOTOR CITY MISSION

Detroit hopes to avoid a similar situation to the above eight teams and go home up 3-1 on the Bucks. Imperative to their playoff hopes is to get some rest for Rip Hamilton and his ailing ankle.
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

That loss in Game 3 didn't help any.
-- [Detroit News]

What might, though, is the fact Hamilton got a few shots up in practice yesterday, something he hasn't been able to do since spraining his ankle in Game 1.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Even with Hamilton hobbled, the Pistons know they have one advantage: Rasheed vs. the rookie.
-- [Detroit News]

The Bucks, meanwhile, believe that by looking to more than one man will make them successful tonight.
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

So, what to expect from the teams tonight? Here's the take from Detroit.
-- [Detroit News]

ONE AND DONE

While there are a lot of "must-win" situations right now, no team is feeling more pressure than the Memphis Grizzlies today. The Grizz are on the verge of being swept out of the Playoffs a third straight year, to go 0-12 all-time in the Playoffs.
-- [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

While the Grizz aren't dead yet, one writer has all but written off the team.
-- [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

The Mavs, however, have not.
-- [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

But they do know what's at stake ...
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

... And it's not just the team's first-ever Playoffs sweep.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

We're still alive!
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Pistons guard Chauncey Billups on the team's Game 3 loss to Milwaukee:

"We gave up 124 points, man. That's a lot of points for a bad defensive team to give up. For us, and the pride we have, that's just not acceptable."
-- [Detroit News]

2005-06 ARCHIVE
April 28 -- One for the Little Guy
April 19 -- Still Mostly Cloudy
April 14 -- You Can Do Magic
April 6 -- Work to be Done
Mar. 31 -- Will Suns Rise?
Mar. 24 -- Artest Fit For A King
Mar. 17 -- Almost Doesn't Count
Mar. 10 -- A Magical Game
Mar. 3 -- Revenge of the Herds
Feb. 13 -- The Heat is On
Feb. 10 -- Left Out in the Cold
Feb. 3 -- We're Going Streaking!
Jan. 27 -- Trade Winds Blow
Jan. 23 -- Points a Plenty
Jan. 20 -- Give the King a Break
Jan. 13 -- Who's the Man?
Dec. 1 -- Welcome Back, Larry
Nov. 17 -- League Pass Surfing
Nov. 10 -- Setting OWGs Straight
Nov. 4 -- Season Underway
Oct. 27 -- The Central Is Stacked
Oct. 19 -- All Dressed Up
Oct. 14 -- LeBron Out Of Hospital
2004-05 -- Archive
2003-04 -- Archive