“Let Burien Chevrolet make you a great deal!” - Elise Woodward
By Trenton Jocz, KJR Intern
(Home teams in all caps)
Chicago 90, BROOKLYN 82
Looking Back: In sports, sayings like "they just wanted it more" and words like "heart" and "desire" are overused and a media-driven narrative. But in Game 2, Joakim Noah, as he does so often, really did just want it more. Simply put, the Bulls season is over if he doesn't perform the way he did in the fourth quarter last night. The Bulls led most of the way but were in danger of, as Tom Thibodeau would put it, "letting go of the rope" multiple times thanks to late pushes by Brooklyn led by C.J. Watson and back to back 3 pointers by a previously dormant Joe Johnson. On a strict 20-25 minute limit (so strict that Thibodeau actually followed it), Noah re-entered for the final 7:39 and shut the door multiple times on Brooklyn's comeback. Whether it was diving out of bounds to save the ball to Kirk Hinrich, who dished to Nate Robinson for a 3 pointer, or exploding as much as his ailing foot would allow to block a Brook Lopez drive and letting out a primal scream just in case anyone wasn't aware this game belonged to him, he simply wouldn't allow the Bulls to fall into a crippling 2-0 deficit.
Going Forward: As noted here yesterday, no team bounces back from a bad loss like Thibodeau's Bulls. The main reason I trusted Chicago would win this series is they've been through 4 postseasons with this nucleus and are perhaps the most professional team in the league. That doesn't mean Brooklyn can't get it together, it just means we haven't seen it and must go off of the lackluster endings for prior teams led by Deron Williams in Utah and Johnson in Atlanta. I'm echoing a bit of broadcaster Steve Kerr's sentiments from last night, but as the series shifts to Chicago, the Nets may have found something late when Watson and Andray Blatche played with the main trio of Deron Williams, Lopez and Johnson. Playing Gerald Wallace (1-7 after an an outlier 5-7 Game 1) and Reggie Evans (almost a non-entity on offense) together was crippling to the spacing of the Nets. Playing 3-on-5 on offense would be hard against any team. It's near impossible against a team like Chicago.
LA CLIPPERS 93, Memphis 91
Looking Back: Game 2 had a much different rhythm to it than Game 1. The earliest indicator of this was the way Blake Griffin set the tone in the first quarter. Buried by foul trouble on Saturday, Griffin came out and did everything from his trademark dunks to his burgeoning Nowitzki-ian one-legged fadeaway off glass. Once that subsided, Jamal Crawford made multiple GIF-worthy crossovers and jump shots that only J.R. Smith can appreciate. Watching the game, it never felt as Los Angeles was in danger of dropping Game 2, but somehow Memphis made its run late, rallying back from a double digit deficit largely on the back of a resurgent Mike COnley performance and eventually tying the game on a Marc Gasol dunk with 13.9 seconds left. That would prove to be far too much time for the Point God. Even with Tony Allen, considered by many to be the best wing defender in the entire league, draped all over him, Chris Paul calmly drove the lane (with a debatable pushoff) and banked in an off-balance shot on the right side of the floor to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Going Forward: At this point, Memphis has to rely on the difference that leaving Los Angeles and heading back home will make. There's not a whole the Grizzlies can do to slow down Paul or stop a guy like Crawford when he's hot. Again, they need more out of Randolph and his ability to play better represents the only area of potential improvement for the Grizz. Unfortunately for them, the athleticism of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are just about the worst possible matchup for a ground-bound bruiser like Z-Bo. The other glimmer of hope for Memphis lies with the officiating. While cries for a pushoff on CP3's game winner ignores that both teams were allowed to be physical all game, a lot of the 50-50 calls went against them and perhaps that changes as the series heads east.