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NBA Week 1 – who be ballin’ who ain’t?

With the NBA back to ballin’ after a long lockout that few seemed to care about, who be ballin’ and setting the tone for this shortened season; and who ain’t?

The Oklahoma City Thunder (4-0) got off to the hottest start after All-Star Kevin Durant hit a three-point buzzer-beater in Game 4 of the season to bring Oklahomans to their feet and send the Dallas Mavericks (0-3) back to the state of Texas with their tails between their legs.

Durant, who finished the game with 30 points tying his LOW of the season, has averaged 31.3 PPG and trailed only LeBron James. You know, King James, the guy who left cold, no-nightlife Cleveland to strut the nude beaches in South Florida and become the most hated man in sports (until Tim Tebow and his Bible pumping mob recently took over that honor).

The Heat who added stout defender Shane Battier have started with a 3-0 run along with their East rival Atlanta Hawks (2-0) who won games against sparring partners New Jersey and Washington.  While it’s clear what the Big Three in South Beach bring to the court, is Joe Johnson, the most overpaid guy in sports at $120 million, and his Hawks for real or not? We’ll find out when they take the court during week two of the season against the Heat and Bulls twice each.

Rounding out the teams with the hottest starts is the Portland Trailblazers (3-0) who added NBA Sixth Man Award winner Jamal Crawford (13.3 PPG)…you’re gonna regret not inking him Hawks.

So while the Thunder, Heat, Blazers and Hawks be ballin’ early into the season, who ain’t?

The biggest surprise is the Mavs who so far are nursing an extended NBA Championship hangover. But how long is that gonna last is the question being bantered in area taverns around Jerry’s town. With an owner like Mark Cuban who loved winning so much he couldn’t take a piss without his championship trophy, expect this team to get back on track well in time to make another run.

Joining the Mavs in the cellar are the 0-3 Boston Celtics who have seen little luck of the Irish. Backcourt tandem Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen are holding their own averaging 46.8 PPG between them but without Paul Pierce in the line-up, they’re yet to pull off a win, dropping the first three games to the Knicks, Heat and New Orleans.

The Lakers who started out flat with losses to the Bulls and Sacramento Kings got back on track with back-to-back wins over the Jazz and Knicks with Kobe Bryant (29.3 PPG) nailing team game-high scores for his team in all four games.  Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace chipped in a combined 41.4 PPG to help even the team’s record to 2-2 and ease any ulcers courtside regular Jack Nicolson may be experiencing nowadays.

With the first week of this shortened season nearly in the books, keep an eye on CP3 and DH12 who are sure to make headlines that deal with on the court performances and not trade talks. And as always expect some of these teams to shift in the standings. Until then, that’s who be ballin’ and who ain’t.

Used with permission of the author.

Jay Donetelli is a Tampa-based freelance sportswriter and contributor to Sports Climax. With an opinion sharper than an Ovechkin skate blade with the sting of an Ali jab, Donetelli has a loyal cult of readers who have found a way to love him.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Hawks turn to ‘D’ to take series from Bucks

ATLANTA, GA. – As hard as it was to imagine after the Atlanta Hawks had the meltdown of the decade and blew a sure NBA photo fileswin in Game 5, losing that game may be a blessing in disguise.

Adjustments had to be made after that debacle and the Hawks were forced to come out and play defense to win the next two games against the Milwaukee Bucks, one on the road, to take the best-of-seven series 4 games to 3.

With their backs to the wall after the Game 5 loss, the Hawks clamped down defensively and held the Bucks to a franchise low 69 points for an 83-69 win in Game 6 and came out playing defense again on Sunday, coasting to 95-74 win at the Highlight Factory.

With the win, the Hawks move on to face No. 2 seed Orlando and should take that defensive mindset with them when they face the Magic on Tuesday.

Playing in the first NBA playoffs of his career, NBA sixth man award winner Jamal Crawford led the Hawks with 22 points on Sunday, just two days after he netted a game-high 24 on the road in Milwaukee in Game 6.

Crawford has spent his career on struggling teams and is enjoying the atmosphere of the playoffs.

“It’s just so much fun,” said Crawford. “It’s like walking on air.”

Crawford nailed 8 out of 16 shots, including two outside the arch while Al Horford added 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Hawks simply outplayed the Bucks, maintaining a double digit lead throughout much of the game while dominating the boards on both ends of the court.

Of the other starters, Mike Bibby scored 15 points, Josh Smith added 15 and Joe Johnson continued to struggle from the field hitting just 4-of-14 for 8 points.

“We let [the fans] down in Game 5,” Josh Smith said. “We enjoyed every minute of this.”

More NBA: LeBron Wins Second Consecutive MVP

 Hawks Implode on Home Court and Lose Game 5 to Bucks

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Hawks implode on home court, lose to the Bucks

ATLANTA, GA. – Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings soared into Philips Arena, scoring 12 straight points in mike woodson hawksthe first six minutes of the game Wednesday night to let the Atlanta Hawks know his team wasn’t rolling over in Game 5 of their NBA Playoffs series.

The Hawks responded, pulling away several times throughout the game and seemed to have the deal sealed after Josh Smith sunk a long jumper with 4:10 remaining giving his team a 82-73 lead.

But here’s where the old cliché kicks in: “It’s never over ‘til it’s over”.

With the Hawks thinking about hitting the showers, the underdog Bucks had other plans and stunned the home team with a 18-5 run, storming off the court with a 91-87 come-from-behind win and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

That final run included a 14-0 spurt where the Hawks missed seven in a row from all areas of the court, imploding in front of their shocked hometown fans.

Jamal Crawford who received the NBA Sixth Player Award just prior to opening tip, was everything but, hitting just 4 of 18 from the field.

“This is incredible. We had the game won. It just slipped away from us,” Crawford said.

With this struggle and potential elimination ahead for the Hawks, coach Mike Woodson may want to get a fresh resume ready to shop around before the season ends.

Over his tenure, his team has shown several runs of unmotivated play and with his contract due again, he has good reason to be nervous.

Another face that may be packing his bags is All-Star Joe Johnson who becomes a free agent this summer. Sometimes criticized for his lack of consistency, Johnson again showed that side of his game during this crucial game, hitting just 6 of 16 from the floor for 13 points.

“It’s a terrible loss, embarrassing. It’s the same thing, effort, toughness, that’s killing us. Everybody here should check themselves in the mirror,” said Johnson.

Yes, effort and toughness but you forgot lack of motivation. Three important qualities that have been engrained into players at playoff time by passionate successful NBA coaches like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley.

Unless the Hawks find a way to win in Milwaukee on Friday then back at home in Game 7 on Sunday in Atlanta, Mike Woodson may be involved in his final playoff series behind the bench in Atlanta.

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