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It's Backwards Day: The vaunted Denver defense leaked like a sieve Monday night. LeBron was merely mortal in Cleveland's close-out game. And the Celtics did in Game 4 what NBA teams rarely do -- win without the three-ball.
Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "The Nuggets' defense has slackened against Dallas ... They are not playing with the cohesiveness they did against the Hornets. When there is penetration the help is either late or non-existent. After forcing the Hornets and Mavericks to score from the perimeter for the first six games of the postseason the Mavericks are starting to earn some easy buckets. Tonight Dallas actually outscored Denver in the paint 42-36 ... If Dallas is going to shock the world and come back to win this series it will be on the back of Dirk Nowitzki. No Nugget player has been able to deal with Dirk apart from Chris Andersen for one quarter in game one and Kenyon Martin for one quarter in game three. The decision not to double Dirk would seem to have worked as Dallas has not gone crazy from behind the three point line and Denver is up 3-1 in the series. I think you can make a good argument that not doubling Dirk is actually not working. The Mavericks are not killing the Nuggets from behind the arc, but from the charity stripe. During the regular season Dallas averaged .274 free throws per shot attempt. Against the Nuggets Dallas is shooting .430 free throws per shot attempt."
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "LeBron [James] actually looked human tonight, or something approximating it: He got what I refer to as the 'gritty' 27/8/8, never really getting out on the break, stringing together jumpers, or finding himself able to slice through the defense at will in the half-court (only 4-8 from inside the immediate basket area), instead hitting an open three here or there, leaking out early to get two cheap dunks, cutting backdoor and looking for lobs, getting a layup on Mo [Williams]' going baseline and finding him cutting on counter-movement (MY FAVORITE PLAY EVER), and saying 'f*** it, you're going to have to foul me because I'm not going to stop going towards the rim until I die' to get some free-throws in tight moments. His passes also weren't of the spectacular three-point line feed for a dunk variety, but were simple passes out of traps on the pick-and-roll and down low. It was just playing the right way mixed with energy, that otherworldly athleticism, and a sense of the flow of the game. The highlight reel isn't going to be as nice and his PER is no longer broken, but it was an extremely effective game that got us the win, which does make 8 double-digit playoff wins in a row. I'll take that."
Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "The Celtics beat the Magic on Sunday despite making just one three-pointer. How rare is that in the NBA? This season, teams sunk either one or zero three-pointers 57 times and went 17-40 in those games. As for the C's, they've hit one or zero from deep just twice in the last two seasons combined -- once in a January win at Orlando (in which they hit none) and again in a loss at Milwaukee in March. So Sunday's win was a very, very rare thing for both Boston and the league in general."
THE FINAL WORD
Hoopinion: Stop talking about the Hawks' effort when talent and tactics are the issues.
Two Man Game: Dirk takes over.
Raptors Republic: Trying to rationalize the Jay Triano hiring.
(Photos by Glenn James, Andy Lyons, Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)