Nets 91, Hawks 83 (Atlanta leads series, 2-1)
This didn’t feel much like a 1-8 matchup during Games 1 and 2. Same deal in Game 3.
The Nets jumped on Atlanta early yesterday, leading 14-3 after six minutes and 31-16 after the first quarter. The Hawks predictably battled back, but the Nets held them off with an 18-0 second half run.
Brook Lopez was fantastic, scoring 22 points with 13 rebounds in 42 minutes. It’s easy to criticize his style of play, but the dude can shoulder an entire team when he’s cooking offensively. He also got major help from his teammates; Bojan Bogdanovic (19), Thaddeus Young (18 and 11) and Joe Johnson (16 and 10) played nicely in the win. Jarrett Jack scored only 5 points in 27 minutes, but the offense had some juice while he was on the floor—certainly it looked better than when under the control of Deron Williams (1-8, 3 points).
The Nets are not the most spectacular team in the League, but they’ve been damn solid this series. Meanwhile, the Hawks have not looked nearly as sharp as they did during the regular season.
Kyle Korver was especially bad yesterday, making just 1 of 8 shots (0-5 threes) for 2 points. He was lights-out all season and played well in Games 1 and 2, but the Hawks couldn’t really work around his poor shooting in Game 3.
DeMarre Carroll led the team in scoring with 22. He made 9 of his 12 shots in 33 minutes—a nice effort after scoring just 2 points in Game 2. Paul Millsap posted 18 and 17.
The Hawks never found their Hawkish stride—they never dominated the pace, never found a groove on either end. It’s a stretch to say their 2-1 lead is concerning, exactly, but it is sorta curious. Don’t be surprised if this thing draws even on Monday night.
Bucks 92, Bulls 90 (Chicago leads series, 3-1)
For 47 minutes and 58 seconds, Game 4 was playing out like the rest of the series already has: The budding rivals traded bursts of offense one after another, Jimmy Butler covered the floor like a man possessed, and every time the Bucks appeared to build a viable lead, the Bulls’ starters promptly took command.
Like Thursday’s thriller, Saturday’s game appeared to be heading for overtime after Khris Middleton swiped Derrick Rose in the final seconds of a 90-90 gridlock. Then Jason Kidd frantically got off a timeout call, and with 1.8 seconds left, Jared Dudley found Jerryd Bayless sneaking past Rose on a backdoor cut.
The 2014-15 Milwaukee Bucks, left for dead by just about the entire basketball-watching planet on Opening Night, just won a playoff game.
Five Bucks tallied double-digit scoring, and OJ Mayo (!) led the team with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Seven players took at least seven shots, and nobody except for Middleton topped 11. And the second-most efficient defense during the regular season finally regained form, touting vicious double teams in the paint all night and leaping out on passing lanes to force 28 Bulls turnovers.
Mayo appeared to hit a dagger late in the fourth, when the mercurial guard knocked down a deep 3 as the shot clock expired. Jimmy Butler raced down the floor and hit a heavily-contested 3 to reciprocate, and at the next dead ball, Mayo’s bomb was ruled a shot clock violation by a fraction of a second. The next Bucks possession featured a jumper that swooped in-and-out and two blocked shots at the rim before Mayo drilled a 3 at the top of the key and let out a rapturous “ayeee.”
Rose came alive in the last two minutes after a stagnant afternoon. He hit a spot-up 3 to cut the Bucks lead to 90-87, then on the next possession grabbed a board, pushed the length of the floor, drew two men on penetration and flipped it to Pau Gasol for a game-tying and-1.
Until the waning seconds, the story of Game 4 was Butler, who followed up his 53-minute, Gatorade fatigue icon-inducing performance from Thursday with 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Butler logged another 40 minutes, added seven rebounds and two steals, and continued his campaign as perhaps the best two-way player of the Playoffs so far. The Bulls ran plays exclusively for Butler for much of the first two quarters, and he ended the half on an absurd 3 that banked off the glass as time expired.
The Bulls held their own defensively and shot 48.5 percent from the field (and more than 55 percent from behind the arc), but their season-high 28 turnovers ultimately squandered any chance at a sweep in Milwaukee. Rose’s final turnover is what set up Bayless’ game-winner, and he had eight giveaways in all.
Game 5 is Monday in Chicago.
Warriors 109, Pelicans 98 (Golden State wins series, 4-0)
Round of applause to the Pelicans, who refused to lay down during this series.
And now for the amazing Warriors, who disposed of New Orleans fairly easily last night for the sweep.
Steph Curry led all scorers, if you can believe that. He hit 11 of his 20 shots (6-8 threes, 11-12 FT) on his way to 39 points. He cleared 34 in three of the four games this series. He was the most exciting player in the League all season—and probably the MVP—and he’s just kept it rolling. It’s very tough to picture him losing four games out of seven.
Klay Thompson added 25. He averaged 25 per game in the sweep, and often looked like the team’s best crunch-time scorer. Quite a wingman. Draymond Green added 22 points, 10 boards and 8 assists. I’d write about his absurd versatility if I hadn’t already exhausted all adjectives recapping Games 1-3.
Meanwhile, promising stuff from the Pelicans. Anthony Davis finished off an incredible season with 36 points and 11 rebounds last night. He averaged over 30 per game in the series despite not getting the rock nearly enough—there’s just no telling how good he’ll be a year or two from now. He was born in March of ’93. He will be back next year, and his team won’t get swept.
Eric Gordon went off for 29 points on 12-21 shooting in the loss. Teammates Tyreke Evans (2-10), Ryan Anderson (4-11) and Jrue Holiday (4 points, 17 minutes) hardly showed up.
Golden State will get about a week of rest before Round 2 (as if they need it).
Grizzlies 115, Blazers 109 (Memphis leads series, 3-0)
The crowd and the colors were finally in favor of the Blazers as the first round series between Memphis and Portland relocated to Oregon last night for Game 3. But despite the few changes, the final result of the game was still the same. The gritty Grizzlies overcame a Mike Conley injury in the third quarter and survived a late surge of momentum from the Blazers to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Memphis opened the game 6-0, and a double-digit lead made an appearance as early as the first quarter thanks to Courtney Lee’s 10 points. By the end of the second quarter, the Grizzlies went on a 10-3 run and scored 62 points, the most points in franchise history during a Playoff half. Also in the second quarter, was this sweet jam from Kosta Koufos off a Nick Calathes (13 points) dish, who stepped up his game in the Grizz win without Beno Udrih and later Conley:
Having never led the game and seeing their second round hopes slipping away, the Blazers tried to turn things around in the final period. Nic Batum, who led all scorers with 27, sank a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 Blazers’ run that brought the home team within 3 points.
But that was the closest Memphis let ‘em get.
Marc Gasol led the Grizz with 25 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, and 3 blocks, Lee finished with 20, and Conley put up 14 before having to leave the game. LaMarcus Aldridge continued to struggle, by his standards, going 6-18 for 21 points. CJ McCollum contributed 26, and Dame Lillard added 22 in the Game 3 loss.
Any flicker of fire left in the Blazers might be put out for good by the Grizz’s paws tomorrow night in Portland. A little color and crowd change clearly won’t cut it.