Observations and analysis on the day some NBA series are heating up . . .
It was pretty predictable. Bryant trusts his teammates more than ever and, as proof, had eight more assists than any other Laker the first three games, but no way he risks 2-2 with some version of "I want to get everyone involved." They could be involved this time by running to the other side of the court.
Bryant went from needing about eight minutes for his first basket in the opener, nine minutes in Game 2 and until deep in the second quarter in the Game 3 loss to saying on the off day Friday that maybe he had been waiting too long to look for his shot. Then he dropped 24 points on the Jazz in the first half alone.
• Just what the rest of the league needs. The Lakers with more options and depth.
• The Jazz has changed lineups and changed cities until it is basically out of options heading into Monday night at Staples Center and the potential summer sendoff. That's the unavoidable conclusion.
• The 3-1 series lead (
It's all the more unexpected because Nowitzki averaged 30.3 points the final eight games of the regular season and scored at least 25 each time. The first four against San Antonio resulted in 19, 14, 20 and, on Saturday, 12 points. At 44 percent, Dirk wasn't shooting poorly. He just wasn't shooting a lot.
Yet the Mavericks are in a very good place, an encouraging sign moving forward that if they can win a series with Nowitzki as a complementary player on offense, imagine what could happen if he starts going regular season again. The other good news for Dallas is his rebounding. Nowitzki is at 8.5 boards a game for the series, at first glance a slight up-tick from the 8.4 of the previous 82 games but actually more than that because the Mavs and Spurs are taking far fewer shots per outing than Dallas and its opponents did in the regular season. He is grabbing more boards with fewer opportunities.
• No surprises for San Antonio.
In one stretch of Game 4, Parker and Duncan combined for 38 of the Spurs' 41 points. When the pair was both resting late in the third quarter, 58 of 68 points were on the bench.
• Now it becomes a test of composure for the Hawks, the darlings of the playoffs a year ago at this stage while pushing the heavily favored Celtics to the brink but now, suddenly, dealing with their own determined underdog.
A 1-0 series lead and homecourt advantage has given way to a 15-point loss followed by a 29-point loss (
This has been the season of Miami fighting back, from the disastrous 2007-09 to make the playoffs at No. 5 in the East and then in the first round. The Hawks get their turn to either make a stand or put themselves in a likely insurmountable deficit.
• The reversal in the series has happened so fast. Saturday, the Heat took control from the start -- 50-29 at halftime -- and crushed the Hawks spirits.
• Didn't you used to be
• We don't just have a series with Denver's lead down to 2-1 and another home game ahead for New Orleans after Saturday's narrow New Orleans win (
It's great playoff emotions, with Hornets coach
• Nice response by
Paul also had six turnovers. More than that, he took five shots in the final period and missed all five and didn't get into the lane to do damage like the previous three quarters. In the fourth, he missed a jumper, missed a three-pointer, missed a jumper over the outstretched arm of 6-9
• The key stretch for the Hornets: Paul finally came out for a rest with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter and New Orleans leading 79-72. By the time CP3 went back in with 7:09 remaining, the Nuggets had failed to capitalize other than shaving one point off the deficit. It was 82-76.