3 votes – Kevin Durant. Amazing to think that KD and Russell might have saved their best combined game of this series till last. Durant dropped a casual 39 on 13-25 shooting to go with 9 rebounds – simply one of the best Game 7 close-out games in recent years. I thought the Grizzlies had a decent shot in this one, and the old saying of “the team with the best player usually wins” seemed kind of irrelevant because Durant had failed to stamp his authority on this series. You could argue Randolph had been the best player up till this point. But KD today showed just why he’s one of the game’s elite. He stood up when it mattered and he demonstrated that complete offensive arsenal that few players have ever possessed. To be honest, I was expecting more from KD during this series. But when you factor in that he was playing against two of the toughest perimeter defenders in the league, and that Dallas have no one to stop him, you get the feeling that these 2011 Playoffs will likely remember Durant more for what happens in the next round, than was just happened in this one.
2 votes – Derrick Rose. I only watched the second half of this one, and I think I can sum up how the Bulls won in just one word: energy. Especially in the second half, the Bulls just played with flat-out more energy, more hustle and more aggressiveness. Everyone from Rose to Boozer to Ronnie Brewer to Joakim Noah to Taj Gibson and his flippin crazy dunks.
It was infectious, and its exactly how you’re supposed to open a playoff series when you have home-court advantage. My predictions of Lebron and Wade dominating (not that you have to be a genius to predict that) didn’t pan out – both of them had sub-par games and it might be the first time all post-season that’s happened. They started well and looked to be getting easy points in the open floor, but then the Bulls just put on the clamps. More specifically, D-Rose took his game to another level. An MVP-calibre level. The 28 points and 6 assists don’t tell the full story of how he pulled the puppet-strings in the second half of this game. He looked like the best player on the court. He made the other guys better. Tonight, he was the best player in the world.
1 vote – Luol Deng. Westbrook is stiff to miss out, but hard to go past Deng when he not only puts in an elite defensive effort against Lebron, but also drains four treys and scores 21 points. Again, a typical Luol Deng game and he’s now starting to look like a better more athletic more aggressive version of Tayshaun Prince in his prime. Or maybe just a less-rounded Scottie Pippen. Can the Bulls count on getting this kind of production from Deng every night? I don’t think so. They can’t expect to win when Deng is the only guy other than Rose to score more than 15. But I guess that’s what has epitomized this Bulls team so far. They will get contributions from someone, somehow. They are deep and their leader is totally unselfish. But I still don’t think they can win this series, and I’m still not changing my prediction of Heat in 5. I get the feeling Game 1 is the exception, not the rule. But I guess we’ll see…