The NBA: Injuries Kill and The Fall of a Champion

Joakim Noah twists his ankle. That and D-Rose's injury have
probably signaled the premature end to Chicago's season.
(image by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

And just like that the number one seeded team in the East is on its way out. Yes, I am aware a 1-2 hole is not a death knell, but the way things have swung the Bulls’ way, it might as well be.

Derrick Rose isn’t coming back. 

Joakim Noah is doubtful.

And the Philadelphia 76ers are bursting at the seams with confidence. 

All the ingredients for an upset are in the drink.

It’s almost like a rerun of the fate that befell the San Antonio Spurs last season. Injuries kill.

And at this point in the Playoffs, they don’t just kill, they hurt – the kind of hurt one will feel all offseason long. This is the kind of hurt only a redemptive campaign next season can quell.

To expound more on this, here’s a really nice read from James Davis of Bleacher Report:

“For the most part, being down 2-1 in a playoff series is not much reason to panic; the team on the short end is still only one win away from knotting things up.

But when a team goes up 1-0 and then falls behind 2-1 because of back-to-back complete and epic meltdowns, raised eyebrows coupled with furrowed brows begin to appear.

Even without their MVP, it was believed that Chicago could still beat Philadelphia, though that task may have been a bit tougher to accomplish in Derrick Rose’s absence; consequently, that tough task is looking more Sisyphean as of late.

The problem has been a lack of sustained effort from the Chicago Bulls.

These past two games both presented a Chicago team that was competitive in the first half only to completely lose their composure in the second, thus costing them a win.

If you look at the play on the court, you have a number of players at whom to point to for not stepping up and doing their part.

C.J. Watson, who played well during Rose’s absence in the regular season, has shot 27 percent from the field the past two games going 4-of-15 with the four shots he hit coming in Game 2.

All-Star forward Luol Deng has completely disappeared the last two games as well, averaging a paltry 6.5 points for the last two contests.

Carlos Boozer had a double-double in Game 3 with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but he went completely cold in the second half.

And as if losing Rose wasn’t enough for Chicago, Joakim Noah rolled his ankle, further darkening the clouds that have been gathering over the land of Bulls basketball.

All of this may be confusing to those who watched the Bulls play 27 games without Rose this past season, winning 18 of them, but there is one huge difference here.

During the regular season, the Bulls continued to play—and play well—without their superstar because they knew he was eventually returning.

Even when things like Rose’s groin injury turned out to be more severe than originally thought, there was still no sweating because his return was merely delayed.

When Rose went down in Game 1, he went down for good.

This Bulls team is playing without their superstar and they know he is not coming back for a long time.

One has to wonder if this has taken a huge mental toll on the Bulls, an impact that the organization has tried very hard to hide.

This team is no longer holding down the fort until the general arrives with cavalry; these guys are in the trenches knowing that their hero will not be swooping in to save the day.

Bulls players are saying all the right things to the media when it comes to how they will continue to play and pull out a series win; however, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that they have the postseason resolve to persevere.

The tipping point for this series now depends on the status of Noah.

If he is unable to go for some extended period of time, it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and pushes Chicago right out of the playoffs.

It may be a hard pill to swallow, but the Bulls could become just the fourth No. 1 seed to be eliminated from the first round of the playoffs.

Losing a game is nothing. Losing two in a row can even be considered just a hiccup that can be easily corrected.

The manner in which the Bulls have lost as of late and the extenuating circumstances surrounding those losses don’t bode well for rebounding and correcting.

Still, don’t push the panic button yet, Chicago, but you might want to open the cover and position your finger just in case.”

In other news, the Dallas Mavericks’ reign as the NBA Champions has officially ended, thanks to the team they beat for last season’s Western Conference crow – the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The definitive play of the game?

James Harden BLOWING BY Jason Kidd (using his right mind you) late in the fourth for a lay-up that all but sealed the fate of Dallas.

In connection with this, here’s a post from Karl Batungbacal, one of my former students in the Ateneo de Manila High School:

“Sweep? Yes and in Dallas even! The Thunder put on a great show by defeating the defending champions 4 games to none. Not even Jason Terry's broom-breaking superstition could stop the Thunder. Dallas led earlier in the 4th, but thanks to James "The Beard" Harden the Thunder went on a decisive 12-0 run in just 3 minutes. 

OKC took the lead thanks to a big defensive stop by Russel Westbrook, and his assist to Serge Ibaka that gave the Thunder a 92-91 lead. Dallas never recovered after that.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points on 10 of 25 field goals and Jason "The Superstitious" Terry pitched in only 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting.

The Mavericks are only the second championship-defending team to be swept in the first round with the Miami Heat being the first. After defeating Dallas in the 2006 Finals, the Heat were swept by Chicago the following year.

The Thunder have proven themselves worthy by sweeping the defending champions. The winner of the Lakers-Nuggets series will face OKC in the second round. Personally, I hope that Denver will win their series against L.A. to prove that they can defeat a high caliber team.”

Today’s Game Recaps:
IND over ORL, 101-99 (OT)
The Indiana Pacers blew a big fourth quarter lead for the second time in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, but this time they came back to win in overtime. David West posted a game-high 26 points with 12 rebounds, and George Hill's 12 points included the game-winning free throws with 2.2 seconds to play in OT as the Pacers held on for a 101-99 decision over the Orlando Magic in Game 4, despite seeing a 19-point fourth-quarter lead erased. Danny Granger added 21 points and Roy Hibbert contributed 14 points with 11 boards for Indiana, which took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The club has won three straight since surrendering 11 unanswered points in the final minutes of Game 1 to suffer an 81-77 defeat. Indiana can move into the second round when the series shifts back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Tuesday's Game 5.

The Indiana Pacers are just a win away from entering the
second round of the Playoffs since... Reggie Miller was still playing?
(image by the AP) 
LAC over MEM, 87-86
Chris Paul netted 24 points and dished out 11 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers edged the Memphis Grizzlies, 87-86, in a tense Western Conference quarterfinal Game 3. Blake Griffin tallied 17 points and Randy Foye hit 4-of-5 three-point attempts, including the game-tying trey in the final minutes, en route to 16 points for Los Angeles, which took a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Caron Butler -- who was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after fracturing his left hand in Game 1 -- started the game, and contributed four points. Rudy Gay finished with 24 points, Zach Randolph chipped in 17 and Marc Gasol had 11 points to go with 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who saw Gay's potentially game-winning jumper bounce off the rim as time expired.

Caron Butler celebrates as the Clippers come from behind
yet again to derail the Grizzlies.
(image by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
OKC over DAL, 103-97
James Harden scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as the Oklahoma City Thunder completed the series sweep of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks with a 103-97 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. The Mavericks became the first defending champions to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs since the Miami Heat in 2007. Kevin Durant added 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds for second- seeded Oklahoma City, which will face the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets. Dirk Nowitzki paced the Mavericks with 34 points and Jason Kidd added 16 with eight assists and seven boards.

Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant meet after the buzzer of Game 4, where
the Mavericks' reign as NBA champs were ended by the Thunder.
(image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAS over UTA, 102-90
Tony Parker poured in 27 points and San Antonio moved to the brink of advancing to the second round of the playoffs with a 102-90 victory over the Utah Jazz. Tim Duncan tallied 17 points and Danny Green 14 for the top-seeded Spurs, who can complete the sweep of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Monday in Salt Lake City. Al Jefferson had 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Devin Harris also scored 21 for Utah.

John Stockton can only look on as his beloved
Jazz flounder against the Spurs.
(image by the AP)

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.

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