Day 22 – Bring out the Brooms
3 votes – Jason Terry. On a day when Dirk was actually a little quiet (only took 11 shots), Jet went absolutely bananas, nailing 9-10 threes on his way to 32 points – in 25 minutes. On his way to sending the Lakers home in a stunning sweep. I said all I needed to say about the Lakers premature demise on Day 20, so I need not repeat it here, at the risk of making this all about the Lakers. Because it’s not. The Mavs thoroughly outplayed them in this series. They were lead by Dirk, but they got huge performances from Barea, Peja and Jet to get them over the line in Games 2, 3 and 4. These are the type of performances you need from your role players to win a championship. The Lakers certainly didn’t get them. The Mavs did, and that’s why they wrapped this thing up in 4. They go deep this Mavs team. Having three bench players score 20+ in Game 4 proves it emphatically.
2 votes – Peja Stojakovic. Could have given this to about 3 or 4 Mavs players. But Peja gets it for a perfect 7-7 shooting performance including 6-6 from downtown. Peja Stojakovic is in the best form I have seen him in for years. He is a weapon I just didn’t think the Mavs really had. He’s the perfect example of why no one gave them a chance of beating the Lakers. You just didn’t expect him to play a role, to make a difference. How wrong we were.
1 vote – Josh Smith. An absolute stat-stuffing performance from Josh – 23 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks. 11 of those points came in the 4th quarter when the Hawks simply monstered the Bulls, outscoring them 33-19 and levelling this thing at 2-2. Honorable mention must go to Jeff Teague who has been a pleasant surprise, and a very consistent performer for this Hawks team.
Day 24 -Bulls just 1 away
3 votes – Derrick Rose. The questions were raised after Rose’s Game 4 34-point, 32-shot attempt performance. “Does this guy shoot too much?”. “Is he trying too hard to take over the game?”. “Is Derrick Rose actually a ball hog?”. Ok so I made that last one up, but Game 4 was the first time watching Rose I actually thought to myself, this guy is hurting his team. He quickly put to rest any doubts with a solid Game 5, taking a more respectable 24 shots and still scoring 33, to go with 10 assists. He was more aggressive and didn’t resist settling for jump shots as much as he did in Game 4, which opens the game up for his teammates. It allows someone like Taj Gibson to step up in the fourth when the Hawks were collapsing extra quick on Rose. This is the only way I can see the Bulls making the Finals – not from Rose’ individual brilliance, but from the ability of his teammates to shoot the lights out (Taj shot 5-5). I just don’t see it happening enough for them to get past Miami.
2 votes – Taj Gibson. As I said, shot the lights out and stepped up big in the fourth. “Taj is a good player,” Rose said. “I think he really doesn’t know how good he is”. Over the last three games of this series Taj has shot a phenomenal 13-17 from the field. If he really is playing himself into form it gives the Bulls another dimension and takes pressure of Boozer. Watch this space.
1 vote – Luol Deng. Classic Luol Deng game. 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, lots of great defense that doesn’t show up in stats. I feel like I’ve said this before… anyway, it’s might important that this guy stays in a groove because there’s a couple of wing players waiting for him in the ECFs that are pretty good at basketball.