After trailing by 10 points with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and by six with just under four minutes remaining in regulation, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Chicago Bulls, 101-99 , in overtime to finish off an impressive road sweep at United Center. Randy Wittman's crew will head back to the nation's capital brimming with confidence and holding a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. The Bulls will travel east knowing that if they don't figure out a way to scratch out some more points against the Wizards' defense, they might not be long for the postseason. At least one prominent national basketball commentator isn't banking on Tom Thibodeau and company finding that solution before Game 3 on Friday . Hall of Famer and Turner Sports analyst Charles Barkley pronounced Chicago dead on arrival during TNT's post-game discussion of the Wizards' Game 2 win. Here are Sir Charles' comments, as dutifully transcribed by Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog : [Barkley] said John Wall “is learning to be a point guard instead of just a tornado out there.” He said Bradley Beal “has arrived.” And then he said this. “I will tell you this: whoever plays that team in the second round is gonna have their hands full.” “Are you saying this one is over then?” ["Inside the NBA" studio host] Ernie Johnson asked. “This is O-V-E-R in a 4-0 sweep,” Barkley said. “It is flat-out over. [The Bulls] can’t beat them. They can’t score enough. Ernie, I told you all season, this was the third-best team in the Eastern Conference when they’re healthy. They’re fully healthy, Wall and Beal are terrific. Nene is the key. He’s a nightmare matchup for most guys. “They’re gonna sweep the Bulls,” Barkley went on. “This series is a wrap. Whoever they play in the next series, whether it’s Indiana or Atlanta, they’re gonna have their hands full, because this team, they’re deep. They’ve got veteran leadership. They went out and got Andre Miller for leadership. Trevor Ariza’s been deep in the playoffs. Their two best players are [young]. They’re the key. Wall is growing up before our eyes, Beal can flat-out just shoot with anybody. But with the guys coming off the bench, this is gonna be a sweep.” To be fair, Barkley's within his rights to crow a bit — as he said, he's been touting Washington as the East's third-best team (when healthy) for months , and he was one of relatively few national pundits to pick Washington to beat Chicago in the East's 4-vs.-5 first-round matchup. (For the record, none of us here at BDL picked the Wiz, nor did Woj or Spears . Such haters.) And the odds of a comeback are certainly stacked against the Bulls. Only 16 teams in NBA history have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a postseason series — the 15 on this list and last year's Memphis Grizzlies, who came back to knock off the Los Angeles Clippers, and only three teams have come back to win a series after dropping the first two games on their home court. With all due respect to Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and third-place finisher in Coach of the Year voting Thibodeau, this year's Bulls don't have Wilt, West and Elgin, like the 1968-69 Los Angeles Lakers did, or prime Hakeem Olajuwon, like the 1993-94 Houston Rockets did, or 26-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, like the 2004-05 Dallas Mavericks did. They're in serious trouble, and in the case of this particular emergency, they can't break open the glass and pull out a Hall of Fame offensive force to pull them out of it.
The voters have the facts, and they've voted yes: Gregg Popovich is the best in the world at what he does. The NBA announced Tuesday that the San Antonio Spurs' inimitable sideline stalker has been named the league's 2013-14 Coach of the Year , taking home the Red Auerbach Trophy after piloting his Spurs to a 62-20 record, the best mark in the NBA, and the top seed in one of the more competitive Western Conferences in recent memory. It's the second time in the last three years that Popovich has taken home the honor, and the third time in his illustrious career. He won his first Coach of the Year after a 2002-03 season in which his Spurs went 60-22 and won the NBA championship behind league MVP Tim Duncan. He joins Don Nelson (1982-83 and 1984-85 with the Milwaukee Bucks, 1991-92 with the Golden State Warriors) and Pat Riley (1989-90 with the Los Angeles Lakers, 1992-93 with the New York Knicks, 1996-97 with the Miami Heat) as the only three-time winners in the history of the award, which dates back to the 1962-63 season. Popovich, 65, received 59 of a possible 124 first-place votes from sportswriters and broadcasters, and earned 380 total points — you get five points for a first-place vote, three points for second place and one point for third place — to top the ballot in a year in which there were a slew of very deserving candidates. You sure can make a strong case for Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek, who finished second. The former ace shooting guard and ex-Utah Jazz assistant received 37 first-place votes, a ballot-leading 44 second-place nods and 339 total points after leading a young and rebuilding Suns squad that many predicted to rank among the league's very worst teams to a remarkable 48-34 record. The Suns were in playoff contention until the second-to-last game of the season in his first year running the show in the desert. Ditto for Tom Thibodeau, who won the award after the 2010-11 season and came in third this season. The eternally hoarse and hard-charging Thibodeau received 12 first-place votes and 159 total points for his work alongside newly minted Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah in leading the Chicago Bulls to a tie for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference despite losing former MVP and expected offensive centerpiece Derrick Rose just 10 games into the season. He also watched his front office ship out two-way linchpin Luol Deng in a midseason money-saving deal that did nothing to augment this year's club. Without two of his three best players, Thibs still coaxed the league's second-best defense out of this year's Bulls and made scrap-heap pickup D.J. Augustin into a legitimate game-changing scorer off the bench. And then there's Steve Clifford, who finished fourth (eight first-place votes, 127 points) after building the sixth-stingiest defense in the NBA around noted sieve Al Jefferson. He turned the Charlotte Bobcats from a league-wide laughingstock into a team that doesn't beat itself, and they intend to make the Miami Heat work for every last bucket in their first-round playoff series. And Dwane Casey, who finished fifth (five first-place votes, 70 points) after engineering a 14-game turnaround in the standings to lead the Toronto Raptors to a franchise-record 48 wins, the second Atlantic Division title in team history, and top-10 finishes in points scored and allowed per possession. Any of those top five finishers would've been very worthy selections, making Coach of the Year, as always, one of the more difficult annual award calls to make. For what it's worth, two Yahoo Sports NBA writers — Kelly Dwyer and I — had Pop as our top choice in our 2013-14 postseason/awards predictions . Yahoo Sports NBA columnists Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears preferred Clifford and Hornacek, respectively, while BDL writer Eric Freeman went with Thibodeau. Also receiving first-place votes: Terry Stotts of the Portland Trail Blazers, whose free-flowing offensive system unleashed All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard en route to 54 wins, the West's No. 5 seed and a sixth-place finish; and Doc Rivers, who came in seventh after not only leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a franchise-record 57 wins and a second straight Pacific Division title, but also freeing up Blake Griffin to become the unquestioned focal point of L.A.'s meat-grinder offense while Chris Paul recuperated from a midseason shoulder strain. Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors and Jason Kidd of the Brooklyn Nets each received a third-place vote to round out the top 10. (The full media voting results have been made available online, if you'd like to check them out. Transparency!) But while there were many fine choices, there was only one right choice, and the voters made it. The 2013-14 season saw Pop not only continue his franchise's unparalleled run of consistent excellence — 50-plus wins for the 15th straight season, and for the 16th time in 17 seasons (they only played 50 games in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, and the Spurs won 74 percent of them, equivalent to 61 wins over an 82-game campaign, en route to an NBA championship ), and 17 consecutive playoff berths, the fifth-longest postseason streak in NBA history — but he did so on the heels of the Spurs' losses to the Miami Heat in Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 NBA finals, one of the most crushing conclusions to a season imaginable. Pop recently said he was "really impressed" with how his players bounced back from that "devastating loss." We're really impressed with how their coach did, too. There were plenty of times when the train could have run off the tracks, most notably during a six-week-long stretch where major contributors kept dropping like flies: big man Tiago Splitter hurting his shoulder , shooting guard Danny Green and swingman Kawhi Leonard suffering busted hands , sixth-man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili straining his left hamstring , and Tony Parker sustaining a "variety of maladies," etc. But without four huge pieces of the puzzle for several weeks, and with the Spurs fighting to stay at the top of a brutal Western Conference jam-packed with dangerous opponents, Pop just kept plugging in new parts to keep the system running smoothly. Under Pop, Marco Belinelli — a talented shooter and playmaker who'd never shot or made plays that well in his previous stops — became lethal, putting up more than 16 points and three assists per 36 minutes of floor time on excellent shooting splits (48.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range, 84.7 percent from the foul line) and proving a perfect complement to Ginobili in reserve groups that torched opposing second units. Under Pop, Patty Mills — formerly a little-used, towel-waving mascot — became a critical rotation piece capable of roasting defenses from long range and blazing his way to the rim when Parker sat down. Under Pop, Boris Diaw became a jack-of-all-trades type capable of holding together and augmenting myriad frontcourt units on both ends of the floor. Under Pop, unheralded players like Jeff Ayres, Aron Baynes, Cory Joseph and Austin Daye all stepped forth and made contributions that kept the Spurs on course for bigger things, keeping the big guns rested and ready. No Spur averaged more than 30 minutes per game during the regular season, which is the first time any team has done that in NBA history and is a pretty big deal given all those minutes and miles on the legs of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. And amid all that juggling, Pop's Spurs won a franchise-record and NBA-leading 30 road games, won 11 straight games in November and 19 straight games from mid-February through early April. He also led his team to top-four finishes in offensive and defensive efficiency, and earned home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs. Taken all together, this might be, as 48 Minutes of Hell's Trevor Zickgraf argues , "the most impressive coaching performance of Pop’s career." Considering all that career has seen — the ninth-most regular-season wins and third-most postseason wins in NBA history, five NBA finals trips and four NBA championships — that's saying an awful lot. And considering Pop won't ever take that bow himself, eternally reminding us that it's a player's league, we'll take a moment to take it for him. The best in the business works in San Antonio, and his work's not over yet. More NBA coverage from Yahoo Sports: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
The New York Knicks fired head coach Mike Woodson on Monday, five days after the end of a tumultuous, disappointing season that saw the Knicks freefall from Atlantic Division champions to an also-ran unable to reach the postseason in the worst Eastern Conference in recent memory. It was the right thing to do, and yet it might solve nothing; such is the state of the New York Knicks at the end of the 2013-14 NBA season. After an early Monday meeting , new Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson announced that Woodson and his entire coaching staff had been "relieved of their duties, effective immediately." "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff," Jackson said in a team statement . "The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond." Turner Sports announcer Steve Kerr — who formerly served as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns, played for Jackson for five years with the Chicago Bulls and knows the triangle offense that Jackson ran during his coaching career — is rumored to be the Zen Master's pick to take the Knicks' reins . Reports circulated last week that Kerr expected to be offered the job should it become available and would accept it . Kerr refused to comment on the Knicks' coaching situation on Sunday. Woodson exits New York having compiled a 109-79 record in parts of three seasons, leading the Knicks to two playoff berths and the franchise's best season in more than a dozen years. But he was also the public face of an excruciating 2013-14 season in which virtually everything that could have gone wrong did, and often in spectacular fashion. Woodson joined the Knicks in August 2011, one year following his firing after six years as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. He was brought in to serve as an assistant coach, and something of a defensive coordinator, on the staff of Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni prior to the 2011-12 season. D'Antoni resigned (under dubious circumstances ) 42 games into that lockout-shortened campaign amid reported clashes with star forward Carmelo Anthony that helped quell Linsanity and short-circuit the most exciting era in recent Knicks memory. The spark that had made an expensive collection of mismatched parts into something exciting was gone, and the Knicks were once again a squad that seemed to be going nowhere. Woodson got them going somewhere. Upon being elevated from assistant to interim head coach, Woodson turned to his wing-isolation-loving Atlanta roots and turned the Knicks' offense back over to Anthony on the bully block. He largely eschewed the pick-and-roll prowess of Lin, who was later sidelined by a knee injury, in favor of the (kind of) caretaker point-guard tandem of Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. The mix, along with renewed buy-in from the boys in blue and orange, led to an 18-6 finish to the 2011-12 regular season that got the Knicks into the playoffs. They were smoked in the first round by the Miami Heat, but they did score a win over the eventual NBA champions, the franchise's first postseason victory since 2001. On the strength of that finish, Woodson received a multi-year contract extension and a chance to run the Knicks for a full season with a full offseason and training camp. The next season, Woodson — his hand forced by a preseason knee injury to oft-ailing star Amar'e Stoudemire — slotted Anthony at power forward alongside reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, shooting guard/small forward Iman Shumpert, and the two-point-guard backcourt of offseason additions Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. As Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting has written , this was a move Woodson likely never wanted to make and with which he likely never felt comfortable ... but it worked.
|Adrian Wojnarowski||Los Angelesin 7||The 2-3-2 format is such an advantage to the home team. Just don't see a way Kobe doesn't close out in a Game 6 or 7 at Staples. Chance for epic series between these two teams full of great players and great winners.|
|Marc J. Spears||Los Angelesin 7||The Lakers have no one to slow down Rajon Rondo, but Kobe Bryant is playing on a higher level offensively than anyone in the postseason.|
|Johnny Ludden||Los Angelesin 7||For all the injuries he's dealt with, Kobe looks remarkably fresh. He'll need to trust his teammates more than he did in '08, but they'll also give him more of a reason to do so.|
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