The second round of the NBA playoffs was a basketball wasteland for two players the Bulls may or may not target during this summer’s free agent bonanza. And “wasteland” might be an understatement. “Apocalypse” might be more appropriate.
Carlos Boozer and his Utah Jazz were unceremoniously swept by the Los Angeles Lakers, losing last night’s elimination game at home by the score of 111-96. Boozer managed only 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting, committed a game-high 4 turnovers (the Lakers had 6 as a team), and fouled out 3:31 left in the game. His power forward counterpart, Pau Gasol, finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots. That was a pretty common theme, as Gasol had his way against Boozer for most of the series.
Gasol was simply too big…which leads to a possible concern over a Boozer-to-the-Bulls scenario. Joakim Noah is slightly undersized as a center, and Boozer is somewhat undersized as a power forward. The Noah-Boozer-Deng combination might very well struggle against teams with bigger front courts (such as the Orlando Magic). It’s something worth thinking about.
For the moment, Boozer has no real comment on his future (or lack thereof) in Utah: “I’ll figure it out later. It’s too soon for all that talk. Right now we’re disappointed that we lost and our season is over. All the free agent talk, we’ll talk about it in July.”
If things ended badly for Boozer and the Jazz, they concluded in pain and misery for Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks. Johnson was an All-Star and the Hawks had their best regular season since the mid-1990s. However, that didn’t prevent both Joe and his team from being squashed like a bug during the postseason.
Last night, Atlanta was whisked into the playoff dustpan and then brushed into the trash courtesy of a 98-84 home loss to the Magic. And this wasn’t just a playoff elimination…it was an execution. The only thing missing were 12 blindfolds and a pack of cigarettes. According to STATS LLC, Hawks-Magic was the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA playoff history.
By the numbers, Orlando had the largest margin of victory in any four-game sweep in NBA postseason history (+25.3 PPG). As far as the Hawks are concerned, that’s failure on a grand and historic level.
And Johnson was standing at the epicenter of the smoking crater that was Atlanta’s second-round butt-kicking. As the Hawks were being mashed into a playoff pulp by the Magic, their team captain scored only 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting, including 1-for-6 from downtown. In fact, his final shot was an airball from 25 feet out. He finished with a game-worst plus-minus score of -20. When Johnson was benched with 3:51 remaining, the crowd booed him.
The crowd was responding in part to Joe’s lousy play — he averaged 13.4 points a game on 32 percent shooting over his last seven playoff games — and also to the fact that, after Atlanta’s 30-point home loss in Game 3, Johnson made a bad situation worse by saying: “We could care less if [fans] showed up.”
Johnson tried to back down from that statement the next day, but the damage was done. Was it permanent damage? We have no way of knowing…until July. Like Boozer, Johnson is mum on his future plans: “I have no idea. When July comes, we will figure that out.”