Bull-dozed and Gored! Playoff Pondering for May 13, 2011

*Because Blogger was in a funk yesterday, I just decided to merge my article for the Bulls-Hawks Game 6 and the Thunder-Grizz Game 6.

Will Derrick Rose still be smiling when they host the Heat on Monday?
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Bulls finally dowsed the playoff fire of the Atlanta Hawks, and the Memphis Grizzlies clawed their way to a franchise-first Game 7. Chicago will try to handle their business against Miami as OKC expends more energy to try and dispose of Memphis.

CHI over ATL, 93-73 (CHI wins 4-2)

There is still a top seed left in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

And I’m putting my money on the Chicago Bulls to beat Miami, especially if they continue playing the way they did in the past two games.

Booze finally played
to his potential in Game 6
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
They showcased how a top seed should deal with a 5th seed – with unbridled ferocity, and merciless efficiency. They proved that the MVP didn’t need to put up MVP-ish numbers for them to win convincingly. And perhaps most importantly, Carlos Boozer proved he still deserves some attention.

That should bode well for coach Tom Thibodeau, who will rely on Boozer to outmuscle and out-position Miami’s Chris Bosh in the next round. It should also mean a lot for Derrick Rose, who’ll need someone other than Luol Deng to help him carry the scoring load against the Heat’s Big 3.

Scoring load is something that some big time Hawks didn’t really help carry in Game 6. All-NBA 3rd Team member Al Horford had 7 points, 2 boards and made only 2 of 10 FGs. Jamal Crawford, 6th Man of the Year nominee, just netted 8 points and was just as ineffective from the field. The admirable outputs of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith were drowned out in the noise the Bulls made for barging into the Eastern Conference Finals.

Luol Deng should give
LBJ all he can handle
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
And for all the din present after Chicago’s win, it’s quite easy to say the Atlanta Hawks were pushovers, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Despite the final scores of Games 5 & 6, anyone who tuned in to this pairing should come out with renewed respect for Atlanta.

The Hawks weren’t even supposed to be here (just ask Jameer Nelson), but they were more than just present. They fought, clawed, and jawed their way against Chicago. They beat them twice, and challenged them in every game. Atlanta was plenty tough, and though they will no longer contend for this season’s title, nobody can say the same thing for next year. If anything, the Hawks proved they have a lot more than meets the eye.

Behind the exploits of Smith, Johnson, and the surprising Jeff Teague, Atlanta didn’t serve things up on a silver platter. And I’m thankful for it.

Because that means these Bulls know they cannot take any team, any player, any situation lightly. Even if they’re the league’s top seed. Even if they have home court throughout the playoffs. Even if they have the MVP.

I want to thank the Hawks for showing Chicago that to win at this level and at this time of the year, they all have to come together, they all have to contribute, and that if they will win it all, the only way they can do it is by being a team.

Omer Asik and Kyle Korver are vital if the vaunted
Bulls bench is to meet success against Miami
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Joakim Noah contained Al Horford,
can he do the same to Chris Bosh?
(image by the AP)
Scottie Pippen is reminiscing Chicago's good old days
(image by the AP)

J-Smoove played his best against Chicago,
but the Bulls were just too much
(image by the AP)
Jeff Teague had a bad fall, which eventually led to
Atlanta's fall as well
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

MEM over OKC, 95-83 (Series tied 3-3)

For one whole half, the Oklahoma City Thunder had one foot in the Western Conference Finals, and then the Memphis Grizzlies slammed the door shut.

Not yet, said the Grizz. Not just yet.

Russell Westbrook carried
OKC in the 1st half
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Despite Kevin Durant being tagged with two fouls in the first quarter, Scott Brooks managed to steer the Thunder to a 10-point halftime lead, but Shane Battier’s three at the end of the 1st half seemed to swing the momentum as Memphis rallied in the third to seize the upper hand.

They just coasted in the final 12 minutes behind 11 4th quarter points from Zach Randolph.

The All-NBA 3rd Team PF once again typified the Grizzlies’ resolve, finishing with 30 points on top of 13 rebounds. He was ably backed up by OJ Mayo, who started the game and finished with 16 points, 4 steals  and 2 threes.

As for OKC? Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, but had 5 TOs against only 4 assists. And Durant was effectively shackled by Battier’s leech-like D. KD shot just 3 of 14 from the field and has a playoff-low 11 points.

The Grizzlies’ 2nd half play was characterized by a sense of urgency absent in Game 4 and 5. They’ll need every bit of that in Game 7.

OJ Mayo was, once again,
effective versus OKC
(image by the AP)
Game 7.

That we finally have a Game 7 in this year’s edition of the NBA postseason is a testament to the resolve of the Memphis Grizzlies. Already they’ve set franchise records for winning a series and winning games in the playoffs. They have a chance to get another feather in their cap by upsetting the Thunder. The last 8th seed that captured the imagination of fans all over was the 1999 New York Knick team that went all the way to the NBA Finals.

To get that far the Grizz will have to do yet another thing they’ve never done in franchise history – play & win that Game 7.

Tony Allen and the Grizz went through the hard way,
but they're still alive
(image by the AP)
Zebo just wont quit, and the Memphis fans
aren't quitting on him either
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Shane Battier shut down KD in Game 6
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This Gasol is scrappy, and still in the thick of the fight
(image by the AP)
Can Perk, KD, and Jet Zero actually close out the pesky Grizzlies?
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Here are the Top 5 plays from the Bulls' clincher over the Hawks:

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