Starting 5: Nuggets get close, Philly takes advantage & Pierce goes off


Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1:  The Nuggets get closer… but….

They’re just not good enough to beat the Lakers.  The playoffs are all about matchups, and these are some tough matchups for the Nuggets.  All the double teaming of Bynum worked well enough in stretches, but he’s still too big for them (27 pts, 9 reb).  Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant (38 pts, 15-29 fg) and Denver is still down 2-0 after last night.  

The Nuggets still showed that they can win a couple of games in this series and push the Lakers.  This won’t be a walkover.  But the energy and uptempo play can only take them so far, especially when the Lakers can absorb the punches like they did last night, and respond with a groin-kicking run that really saps the energy out of you.  When the Nuggets had a shot to cut the lead to two (or one) last night, the Lakers stepped up and made stops. 

When you go all out, hit the other team with everything you have and they don’t go down… it’s disheartening. 

2:  Philly wins, but don’t blame a lack of Rose

The Sixers used a 36-14 third quarter to turn a 55-47 halftime deficit into an 83-69 lead to start the fourth and a 109-92 Game 2 win.  But don’t blame the lack of Derrick Rose, which is the natural reaction. 

Of course, Rose being in the game would have helped the Bulls score and stem the tide there in the third quarter, but it’s the Bulls trademark defense that was missing in the second half of that game.  The Sixers scored on a barrage of fast breaks which led to Philly shooting 59% against the vaunted Bulls D. 

So while you can say “well.. see… no Rose, no chance,” keep in mind that this Bulls team doesn’t rely on Rose for its D.  It’s D is a Thibodeau-instilled system that has operated well without Rose in there in the past.  Yes, it’s harder to play defense when you’re missing shots and they’re running out on you, the Bulls have the personnel and strategists to account for that in Game 3.  This was a great win by the Sixers, but it would be a mistake to view this game as a sign of bad things to come in the series for Chicago.


Andre Iguodala with the huge dunk over Luol Deng


Paul Pierce with the emphatic slam after the steal

Jeff Teague runs the width of the court to block Keyon Dooling

J-Smoove… not so, um, Smoove

4:  Line of the Night:  Paul Pierce: 36 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists

The Celtics captain came out of the locker room hot, knocking down the first nine Celtics points of the night.  He closed by scoring literally half the Celtics fourth quarter points (13 of Boston’s 26) including seven straight to hold off the Hawks and earn an 87-80 Game 2 win.  Said Doc Rivers on this performance, “we don’t win the game if Paul doesn’t play like that. He knew that, and so did they.  And he still did it.  That’s what makes him so special.”

One big story line going into the series was Boston conceding home court and resting players.  With the win, they steal it back from the dazed Hawks, who had an 11 point third quarter lead.  Now the Hawks have to see how Josh Smith’s knee (strained patellar ligament, MRI today) will affect him in Game 3.  The Celtics, meanwhile, get Rajon Rondo back from suspension for their first home playoff game of the season.  This could be a tough one for the Hawks, who squandered a huge opportunity. 

5:  You can quote me on that

We gutted it out, man. You know what we are man? We all grit, all grit man. All grit and balls man, that’s what it is.
     -Kevin Garnett, after the Celtics win in Atlanta 

“I think losing last season, and the way we lost, we’re approaching this postseason much more focused”
     -Pau Gasol, after beating the Nuggets last night