MILWAUKEE -- Every time I cross paths with Michael Redd, he, without fail, reminds me of when we first met and then says, always in an awestruck voice, "And look at me now."
Redd rips Pistons for 40
He did it again after dropping 40 on the Detroit Pistons to make the East's No. 1 seed merely the latest heavy favorite to take a first-round stutter step.
Redd's 14-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-5 3-pointers, produced a convincing 124-104 win and cut Detroit's series lead to 2-1.
It also served notice that when it comes to pure scorers, there are none more unlikely than Redd. A second-round pick who prides himself on not (knowingly) having an enemy in the league, he is still coming to terms with the fact that he can light up just about anybody.
Had he done all his damage against a hobbled Rip Hamilton Saturday night, there might be reason to discount the performance. But Hamilton was limited to 31 minutes and Redd did his share of shaking Tayshaun Prince, Detroit's best perimeter defender, as well.
"I was actually surprised the way they played me the first game," he said. "They really crowded me. I felt like saying, 'Hey, I'm not that good.'"
Except, of course, that he is.
While the Bucks' win had much to do with the Pistons getting lulled into thinking they could win with a minimal effort, Redd proved he's not just a regular-season wonder. His array of moves, high release and utter confidence in knocking down shots through the smallest of defensive windows make him as close to unstoppable as a average-sized shooting guard with average foot speed can be.
But there's another level about that, which is being able to be just as aggressive, just as accurate, under playoff pressure.
Now, it's not as if Milwaukee is going to climb back into this series. After Rasheed Wallace bullied Andrew Bogut for 11 points in the opening minutes and the Pistons collectively knocked down eight of their first 16 3s, they appeared to believe they could toy with the Bucks the way they did in Games 1 and 2.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, played with the freedom of a team not expected to win. Redd's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 25 with less than six minutes left and that simply was too much ground in too little time for Detroit to cover.
That's hardly news. The Pistons have gone to the Finals the last two years and failed to sweep a series once.
The news is that Redd is starting to buy into the idea that being a nice guy and a great player do not have to be mutually exclusive. And that he could prove to be Exhibit A.
When I spent some time with the Bucks during his rookie year, Redd and I talked on a team trip to Alcatraz, as we rode the ferry to the island. His excitement about being an NBA player and seeing the world was endearingly palpable. He walked around with saucer eyes, amazed to be on a Bucks squad studded with Ray Allen and Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson.
And look at him now.
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AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
"Wow!" That was color commentator Reggie Miller's reaction when Dirk Nowitzki nailed this 3-pointer with 15.7 seconds remaining to tie the game. Down most of the day to the Grizzlies, the Mavs pulled out the game in OT for a 3-0 lead in the series. Nowitzki's shot was set up when Shane Battier (left) unwisely batted a rebound out toward the top of the key. Pau Gasol (right) couldn't quite get to his fellow Euro, and Nowitzki's Horry-style (or Miller-style) bomb seemed at once improbable and inevitable.
Rod Thorn drafted him four years ago as a teenager, stashed him away for two seasons in Serbia, and now the oddest thing has happened: Krstic is a burgeoning star.
Yet the most frightening proposition in these Eastern Conference playoffs, the most intriguing X factor, has been the rapid, resounding development of the 7-footer hitting one big shot after another in the fourth quarter of the Nets 97-88 Game 4 victory over the Pacers.
On Saturday, the Nets played "pick and pop" with Krstic, and Carter and Jefferson trusted him to hit open jumpers when the Pacers were making a late run at redemption.
Krstic dropped seven of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, but perhaps his most important contribution to the Nets tying the series at 2-2 was a vicious spin move to the rim that produced the fifth foul on Jermaine O'Neal.
Moments later, O'Neal fouled out of the game, and the Pacers were doomed. It's hard for the Pacers to win with O'Neal playing just 31 minutes with foul trouble, but even harder when Krstic makes them pay for devoting so much attention to Carter and Jefferson.
Krstic has always been a fabulous shooter, but these Nets have so much faith that he's developing into a complete player. For now, though, Krstic is a shooter, one that Jefferson boldly called the best big among the NBA's big men who aren't named Dirk Nowitzki
"We all believe in him," Kidd said.
-- Adrian Wojnarowski, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
Indiana backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley missed his second straight game because of a sore right Achilles' tendon. ...
Jermaine O'Neal made 13 of 14 free throws in Game 3, but just six of nine in Game 4. ...
New Jersey is 14-for-59 from 3-point range in the series. ...
After the game, O'Neal, who fouled out, said, "We've been a very good response team. Hopefully, we'll jump on them early and the game will be played on the court."
Memphis coach Mike Fratello, after Game 3: "I thought we played better than the previous two games. In the last five minutes, they fought harder than we did. They got two rebounds off of missed free throws and they hustled to a loose ball on the ground that turned into the 3-point shot that tied the game. The effort we put into the first part of the game was wasted in the last 5 minutes because that is the time to get things done."
Detroit coach Flip Saunders said that Richard Hamilton, who played 31 minutes and had 10 points coming off twisting his ankle, would not be out there if he was injured: "When a guy steps on the floor, he's going to be 100 percent," Saunders said. "I'm not changing anything I do with my own players." ...
The Bucks' only home victory against Detroit in the playoffs was in 1976, when Milwaukee won the first game of the series, then lost the last two. The Bucks didn't win a home game in 1989 or 2004 series against the Pistons.
Greg Buckner made Denver's first 3-pointer since Game 2 of the series when he hit from beyond the arc about three minutes into the game. ...
Evans was called for a lane violation two straight times as Brand missed the free throw on a three-point play attempt. He finally hit the third and Maggette followed with another three-point play to put the Clippers ahead 37-30 in the second quarter.
-- Associated Press
Bucks got hot? Pistons bored with success? Whatever your theory, the fact is the East faves gave up 40 to Michael Redd and lost by 20.
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
And now they're 0-11. In three trips to the playoffs, Memphis has yet to win a game. The 11th loss was particularly brutal, as the Grizzlies blew a late lead to the Mavericks and dropped the game in OT, 94-89. Coach Mike Fratello and Co. will try to avoid the sweep in Game 4 on Monday at home.
Quote of the Day
-- Royce Webb
Memphis' 10-point lead today matched the largest lead in a playoff game in team history.
Two years ago, in the team's first playoff game in Memphis, Hubie Brown's Grizzlies had a 10-point lead in the first half against the Spurs before San Antonio came back to win, 95-93.
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An emotional Carmelo Anthony sat motionless in front of his locker following the Denver Nuggets' 100-86 Game 4 whipping to the Los Angeles Clippers. His head rested on his clenched fist of his left hand, with his team dying, down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
This wasn't how it was supposed to be for the 2005-06 Nuggets. But soon the curtain will likely be falling down hard in possibly the most disappointing, trying and overhyped season since the franchise joined the NBA in 1976.
The Nuggets finished last season with a 32-8 record under new coach George Karl, who arrived midway through the season. In the playoffs, they gave eventual NBA champion San Antonio a tough fight.
Then came the most anticipated season since the Doug Moe days. Anthony was back for his third season. Add Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Earl Boykins and Nene to the mix, and the ingredients for something special seemed to be brewing.
"This is a year that we as a team have put a lot of work into," Anthony said. "This is a year we were going to be able to move on out of the first round and solidify the season that we had. To validate it."
But on opening night, Nene's season ended to a knee injury, a sign of things to come. Denver would lose a devastating 237 games to injury this season. A knee injury limited Martin to a career-low 56 games and 12.9 point average. Rookie guard Julius Hodge was shot.
The Nuggets started the playoffs having lost four straight and eight of their last 12. To make bad even worse, Martin was suspended indefinitely after telling off Karl during halftime of a Game 2 loss to the Clippers.
The Nuggets were booed out of their own Pepsi Center on Saturday after being down as many as 23 points before losing Game 4. Come Monday, it will likely all be over during a Clippers' party at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"Yeah, I'm surprised," said Anthony, who is averaging 20.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting while being smothered by the Clippers. "This right here really hurts to lose, on our home court. It's just embarrassing. It didn't even feel like a playoff game tonight. It felt just like a regular-season game. The crowd wasn't into it. We wasn't into it as a team."
More than 30 minutes passed with Anthony motionless in the same position. While he searched hard for a solution, the only one left is probably a miracle.
"I just want to win," Anthony said. "If I've got to sit here for three or four hours and think about what we've got to do, that's what I'm going to do."
-- Marc Spears, in Denver
In Friday night's Daily Dime, we mentioned that LeBron James could have been called for traveling three times during his game-winning drive. (We also mentioned that the Wizards could have been called three times for fouling James on that play.)
After the game, the Wizards complained loudly about the King's steps. And many in SportsNation agree.
Here's a sampling of what we found this morning in an overflowing Daily Dime mailbag:
Dustin (Wenham, MA): Wizards-Cavs, Game 3. Lebron James drives to the lane for the winning bucket. End of story, right? Wrong. What I saw was James drive to the lane, commit one of the worst travels I have ever seen, and not get called for it. Unbelievable.
Missoula: LeBron walked before he hit the Game 3 winner. Watch the tape. He picked up the ball, picked up his right foot, then stepped again with his left. He walked. The Wiz should have won.
Joe (New York): Please, guys. We need your help. The travelling by Bron-Bron has to stop. It's gotten ridiculous and it is hurting the integrity of the game.