Starting 5: On the brink, Rondo’s redemption & Melo’s big night


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

1:  On the brink

Sorry, Denver.  You’re playing pretty well, but not well enough to beat the LA Lakers, who just have too many weapons, too many options, and too many guys that are just bigger and stronger than you.  LA beat Denver 92-88 last night to take a 3-1 series lead.

Aside from the normal options for the Lakers (Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, Gasol and Bynum), other options are stepping up where there weren’t options before.  Ramon Sessions arrival in the deadline-day trade is one. Steve Blake, often a regular punchline in the online, live-tweeting events that accompany every game, is another.  Blake and Sessions turned a tie game with about a minute left into a six-point lead with :18 left with a pair of clutch 3’s.  When you have to worry about all the other options on the floor, you hope that those guys can play closer to their expectations rather than step up and hit huge shots.  You’re out of luck, especially when you’re Denver and you don’t have much in the way of double-team-commanding players who can open up shots for teammates.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have found out that no Derrick Rose and now no Joakim Noah may mean no more playoff wins for them this year.  They fell to Philly 89-82 in Game 4 of their series, and now stand one loss away from going home disappointed.  Again.

Their situation may best be encapsulated by this Carlos Boozer pass that literally went about 10 rows into the stands.  That’s how bad it is for the Bulls.  Nothing is going right for them.

Sorry Philly, you’re only going to get the credit for taking advantage of this situation, and not much more.  It’s like a lion happening upon a gazelle with a broken leg.  This should be an easy kill.

2:  Rondo making up for his Game 1 stupidity

In Game 1 of the Celtics-Hawks series, Rajon Rondo bumped referee Marc Davis and got suspended for Game 2.  In the two games since then, Rondo has only dropped a triple double unlike any other in playoff history and then, last night, a 20 point, 16 assist game that also ranks among the“not many people have pulled this off” games.

Rondo is the first player with at least 20 points and 16 assists with no more than one turnover in a playoff game since Tim Hardaway for theGolden State Warriors in 1991, who had 27 points, 20 assists and one turnover against theLos Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Rondo, Hardaway and Magic Johnson are the only players to accomplish this feat in the last 25 years.

In the last 25 seasons, a Boston Celtics player has had at least 16 assists in a playoff game eight times. Rondo has seven of those performances (Larry Bird had the other in 1990).

Last night’s game was a far more impressive performance from Rondo than the 17/14/12 triple double.  That just sort of… happened… which is amazing in its own right.  Not many guys are good enough to have those kinds of stats in a game most observers would admit was good, but not as great as the numbers would indicate.

Last night, the numbers barely tell the story of Rondo’s dominance.  He was in control of the game from the start, and he had his jump shot working, going 4-5 from 16-23 feet and 2-3 from 3.  The end result was a comfortable 101-79 win that was nowhere near as close as the score would indicate.  The Celtics could have won by 50.  A win on Tuesday, and another big Rondo performance, and the Game 1 antics and suspension are a thing of the past.  And the Celtics will suddenly, likely, have home court advantage against a Sixers team that they were chasing for 80% of the season.


Rajon Rondo dusts off his “move” for the Hawks


Iggy with the nice putback

LeBron with a crazy clutch layup

4:  Line of the night:  Carmelo Anthony – 41 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Melo literally scored nearly half of New York’s points in their 89-87 win.  His 15 made baskets were just two short of everyone else on the Knickscombined.  And it wasn’t just one of those “bombs away” efforts where Melo hit a bunch of 3’s and was just sort of “meh” from the rest of the floor.  Melo only hit one 3-pointer (a huge one to cap a fun 30 second span where Mike Bibby, LeBron James, and then Melo all hit huge 3’s), and did most of his damage inside, shooting 9-13 at the rim.  It was a huge night that kept the Knicks alive for at least one more game.

5:  You can quote me on that

“I had a lane and then I kind of lost the ball. When I lost it, I knew that they’d recover by then so it made me dribble it out,” Wade said. “We got the switch and I got a little step on Amare and I was about to go to my shot. I was about to go to my shot but I kind of fumbled the ball a little bit. I thought I got a good look. I thought it was going in. But it came up a little short.”
     -Dwyane Wade, on the Heat’s last possession