Most notably, the Chicago Bulls shocked the Miami Heat in Game 1 Monday night — on the road no less — and the Indiana Pacers came into Madison Square Garden and punked the Knicks Sunday afternoon. Did you know the Bulls are 9-8 against the Heat in the “Big 3″ era?
They won’t back down, and if Miami doesn’t assert themselves in Game 2, a third trip in as many years to the NBA Finals might not be a sure thing.
Out west Kevin Durant continued to show why he is the leagues second best player — and the most clutch player in the NBA — as he turned in another monster performance — 35 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists — along with the game-winning field goal with just seconds to play. It’s a make or miss league, and Durant has made more in the clutch than anybody else in the playoffs. According to ESPN Stats & Info KD is a brilliant 4-4 when attempting go-ahead field goals with 24 seconds or less in the fourth quarter in the last two postseasons.
The rest of the NBA is 2-for-23 combined.
Meanwhile, Stephen Curry continued his rapid ascent into superstardom with a scintillating 44 point and 11 assist performance in Game 1 against the Spurs. Once again, Curry turned it up in the 3rd quarter, scoring 22 points and scoring or assisting on 15 of the Warriors first 17 points to help break the game wide-open.
The 25-year old is blossoming into his own type of star. You know what’s coming, you just can’t stop it.
For the second consecutive game he made four 3′s in the 3rd quarter. The kid is spectacular, and is reverting back to his Davidson days with ease in these playoffs. You can check out his shot chart here.
As Curry continues to wow, the drumbeat of expectation regarding his play will only grow steadily louder.
Curry was the first Warriors player to score 40 points in a playoff game since Chris Mullin in 1991, and was just one point shy of tying Kobe Bryant’s playoff record of 45 points against the Spurs.
Unfortunately Curry — who played a taxing 58 minutes — ran out of gas and missed his last eight jumpshots which opened the door for San Antonio to not only overcome a 16-point deficit with four minutes to play, but to set up Manu Ginobli for a game-winning 3-pointer with just one second to play in double-OT.
The heartbreaking 129-127 loss caused the Warriors to drop their 30th straight game in San Antonio, one of the most amazing stats going in the league.
Nonetheless, the Warriors proved one thing: age will not be a factor in this series against the Spurs. Make no mistake, they are here to compete.
And possibly win.
As the second round continues, lets take a look at the most pressing stories around the NBA.
- With Game 2 underway in Madison Square Garden, Knicks’ forward Amar’e Stoudemire has his eyes set on a Game 3 return to the court when the Knicks travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to continue their series with the Indiana Pacers. Dominated by size in Game 1, the Knicks will likely be able to use Stoudemire in this battle of bigs. More from Al Iannazzone of Newsday: “Amar’e Stoudemire moved closer to returning this postseason and giving the Knicks another big body they might need against the Pacers. Stoudemire played full-court three-on-three Monday, marking the first time he’s had contact since his right knee was scoped March 11. As expected, he looked rusty and winded and called it “a tough day,” but he moved well. Stoudemire won’t play in Game 2 Tuesday night, but if there are no setbacks, he remains on target to return for Game 3 Saturday in Indianapolis.”
“I have no pain running, jumping, cutting, slashing,” Stoudemire said. “I felt explosive. The only thing now is getting my wind back up and seeing how it feels [Tuesday].”
- In surprising news this evening, Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy believes that Derrick Rose may suit up for Game 3 against the Miami Heat when the Chicago Bulls return home to the United Center: “The reason they’ve kept the possibility open is because they genuinely believe that Rose may be able to make his season debut at some point, possibly as early as Game 3 against the Miami HEAT. Word out of Chicago is that Rose may suit up for Game 3, which will be played this Friday. Suiting up doesn’t guarantee that Rose will play, but being in uniform on the bench rather than donning a suit would be a step forward for the 24-year-old. Nothing has been confirmed at this point, but it’s a possibility.”
- Despite the overwhelming criticism from fans and media these past few weeks, Chicago’s Derrick Rose is not feeling the pressure to play. More from K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Speaking Monday before the Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Heat that the organization expects him to miss, Rose, as usual, remained the unfazed one as the hysteria surrounding his non-return continued to swirl.”
“I haven’t had any pressure from anyone — not in the organization, not from my teammates,” Rose said. “They know I’m putting everything I have on trying to come back as fast as possible. Just trying to be smart with the whole situation. Just taking my time.”
- More from Johnson: “Rose hasn’t told the organization he is sitting out the entire season and said “he might have a chance” to play in this series. But nobody within the organization expects that, and Rose, since mid-February, has been clear in his conservatism.”
“Everybody has their own opinion,” Rose said. “His key words that he said were ‘if I’m ready.’ Right now, I’m not ready. I’m just trying to take my time and really, really be smart. It’s definitely hard. But I know this will be over with pretty soon. I can’t get down on myself for not playing.”
- Rose may be under heat from his fans, but he is most certainly not from his teammates. ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell can explain why: “Noah took a question regarding how much pride he and his team feel being able to win without Rose while so many pundits count them out, and he went off on an emotional defense of his close friend.”
“Derrick’s a brother,” Noah said. “And to see him go through this is tough, but at the end of the day it’s really funny how quick people are to judge. But people don’t know what it’s like to lead a team, especially after you tore your ACL.
“If you tore your ACL and you have to be the starting point guard and have the expectations that Derrick has, then maybe you can judge, but everybody who hasn’t been in that situation before should really shut up because I feel like it’s just so unfair to him and to this team. We’re fighting, and everybody’s going to just s— on somebody who’s been giving so much to this organization. It’s crazy to me.”
- After being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the Chicago Bulls and firing interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Brooklyn Nets are trying to land a big name coach. Who they will actually sign is to be determined, but they are planning to persuade either Phil Jackson or Jerry Sloan according to various reports including USA Today: “After the first-round playoff series loss to the Chicago Bulls that led to interim coach P.J. Carlesimo being shown the door, a person with knowledge of the team’s hiring strategy confirmed that the Nets have reached out to Phil Jackson about the vacancy. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the coaching search. Also, two people with knowledge of the Nets’ plans say that while the Jerry Sloan-reuniting-with-Williams story line would be interesting and a tad surreal, it should not be taken seriously. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the coaching search. The Utah Jazz legend who resigned abruptly in February 2011 after clashing with Williams has been open about his desire to return to the NBA, but it’s not expected to take place here even if Williams claims it would be alright by him. “I’d love to play for Coach Sloan again,” Williams told reporters on Sunday.”