Lakers, Jazz advance to 2nd-round matchup; Hawks force Game 7

By: 05.01.10

It truly feels like the playoffs now. And not because three of the four conference semifinal matchups are set, or because we’ve got our first Game 7 on the horizon, or because the “Just Happy To Be Here” crew is all gone. It feels like the playoffs now because Kobe Bryant has unleashed the bottom-teeth scowl on a full-time basis … Kobe (32 pts) was bearing his teeth all throughout last night’s Lakers/Thunder Game 6 in Oklahoma City, like when he stuck a fadeaway with four seconds left in the first half to put L.A. up by six at the break, then ran off 13 of the Lakers’ first 15 points of the second half. The champs led by as much as seven in the fourth quarter before OKC came back, taking the lead on a Russell Westbrook and-one, then going up three on one of Kevin Durant‘s rare buckets (more on that later). Kobe scored to make it a one-point game, and with 18 seconds left, L.A. got the ball back with a chance to end it … So you already know who’s getting the ball. Working against Westbrook, Kobe got to his spot and got off his jumper. Brick. But before Thunder fans could even celebrate, Pau Gasol (9 pts, 18 rebs) snuck in and tipped in the miss with 0.5 on the clock. Westbrook’s last-ditch three didn’t go, and that was it … Nice try with the “blue-out” by Thunder fans, but it came off looking too much like a corporate retreat or something. It was like 20,000 Wal-Mart employees came to the game after their shift … Guarded by Kobe like he was in Game 5, Westbrook (21 pts, 9 asts, 3 stls) found it harder to score and at times his shot selection was just bad. But you couldn’t really blame Westbrook for forcing the issue when Durant (26 pts, 5-23 FG, 14-15 FT) couldn’t buy a bucket against Ron Artest. Now the hardest part for Artest is over until/unless L.A. makes the Finals and he’s got to guard LeBron. Otherwise, KD was the toughest assignment he’s going to draw in these playoffs … And why’s that? Because Carmelo and the Nuggets are done. Trying to stay alive in Game 6 on the road, Denver still didn’t have Nene, which hurt them in particular because Carlos Boozer played like he had a monster inside him. Booz posted 22 points and 20 boards, but during Utah’s biggest stretch of the game they were leaning on Paul Millsap. The score was tied early in the fourth quarter when Millsap (21 pts, 11 rebs) check in, and as ‘Melo would put it later in the press conference, he just kept getting and-ones. That coincided with a two-minute stretch where the Nuggets went 0-for-5, got two technicals and a couple of turnovers, and they never recovered after that … Like Durant, Carmelo’s season finale was tough and will give him a lot to think about over the summer. The Jazz threw a combination of C.J. Miles and Wes Matthews at ‘Melo, who went 6-for-22 and finished with 20 points … If only Isiah Thomas were still around. He could’ve helped free-agent-to-be Joey Graham flip last night’s 21-point, 10-board effort into a four-year, $20 million contract this summer … The Bucks were at home with a chance to finish off the Hawks, but they got completely shut down. Not a good sign when you start off the third quarter with an eight-minute scoreless drought, or when Carlos Delfino (20 pts) is the only guy who shows up offensively; that adds up to scoring below 70 for the game … Jamal Crawford‘s first game after winning Sixth Man of the Year was terrible, but last night he rediscovered his stroke and put up 24 points. If Crawford had been playing at his normal level this whole series, we’re probably not even talking about a Game 7. Since Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has to stick Joe Johnson and/or Josh Smith depending on who’s hot, anybody else Scott Skiles can throw on Crawford is either too short, too slow, or can’t handle his craftiness with the ball. If he comes out knocking down shots in Game 7, the Hawks win … Andrew Bogut looked like Colonel Sanders with that white suit. Bad decision all around. Rick Pitino can only barely pull off the Diddy white party look; and Bogut isn’t Rick Pitino … We’re out like KD and ‘Melo …

Around The Web