Knicks 88, Celtics 80 (Knicks Win Series 4-2)
The Knicks did everything in their power to throw the game away late and bring the series back to New York for a Game 7 showdown. But, the Knicks held on to win their first playoff series in over a decade, despite a 19-0 fourth quarter run that cut a 26-point lead down to just four. For the Celtics, it was a tremendous effort but too little, too late, and quite possibly, the end of an era for a team that has seen great success. As the final seconds wound down, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers looked on solemnly as the Knicks celebrated a series clinching win in TD Garden.
After dropping two straight games, the Knicks came out focused from the start, holding the Celtics to just 10 points to take a 14-point lead after one. The Knicks continued to hold the Celtics at bay and built their lead to 26 while holding the Celtics to a putrid 49 points. Then, out of nowhere, the Celtics woke up from their sleepwalk and began to put the pressure on the Knicks.
Avery Bradley showed signs of life for the first time since Game One and harassed any and every Knick that found themself on the perimeter. Jeff Green starting driving to the rack and finishing, and Paul Pierce, the Celtics longtime leader, broke out of his slump. By the time the Knicks realized what was going on, the Celtics had cut the lead to just four, sending the home crowd into a frenzy and instilling hope in a team that had once been down 3-0.
With the Knicks reeling and their terribly inefficient ‘All-Melo Everything Offense’ stalled, guard Iman Shumpert came up huge and bailed his teammates out on both ends. Not only did the second year pro—who, just a year ago tore his ACL in the opening round—lock up Paul Pierce on defense, Shumpert hit a few clutch shots and came up with a key steal and basket late to break a 4:43 scoring drought and put the Knicks up 77-69 with five minutes to go. Shumpert finished with 17 points, 6 boards, 2 steals and was undoubtedly imperative to New York’s win.
Boston kept fighting and cut the lead back down to six but Anthony hit a three-pointer and J.R. Smith converted a three-point play to push the lead back to double-digits and put this series on ice. The Celtics put up a valiant fight but couldn’t pull off another victory.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Celtics this off-season as the enter the summer with a lot of questions surrounding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. The possibility of a new-look 2013-’14 Celtics is now very real due to contract situations and injuries. The Knicks, on the other hand, live to see another day and are in for a physical series against a Pacers team that matches up very well. With only a day off before Game One, the Knicks need to regroup and prepare for another tough slew of games. —Peter Walsh
Pacers 81, Hawks 73 (Pacers Win Series 4-2)
A nine-point second quarter by the Hawks spelled the end of their season last night. Indiana led by eight at halftime and expanded the lead to 15 after three.
The Pacers were able to overcome a bad shooting night by Paul George (2/10) thanks to some stellar defense. The Hawks were only 3-for-19 from deep and 26-for-78 (33.3 percent) overall.
The Game 6 box score looks eerily similar to Game 5’s for the Hawks. Josh Smith scored 14 points on 16 shots for the second straight game. Al Horford (14 & 9 in Game 5) went for 15 and 7. Jeff Teague followed his 3-for-16 performance on Wednesday with a 3-for-12 night on Friday. The team made a third of their attempts—same as in Game 5. They weren’t good enough to win the fifth game of the series, and they didn’t elevate their game at all in the sixth. Pretty lame showing with the season on the line at home.
The Pacers got 21 from each of George Hill and David West. Roy Hibbert double-doubled with 17 and 11 and Lance Stephenson did some of everything—8 points, 11 boards, 6 assists, a steal and a three.
So the Hawks’ season is over, but that shouldn’t surprise anybody. They lack real star power and were mediocre all season—both evident throughout this series. They’ll now shift their focus to a big offseason, where Smith can walk via free agency (how about a sign-and-trade to Houston for a package centered around Thomas Robinson?) For the Pacers, the battle is just beginning.
They’ll draw the Knicks in the second round in what should be a great series. There are awesome matchups to watch all over the place. George on Carmelo Anthony (though Melo will probably see some of the bigger West as well). Stephenson on JR Smith. Hill on Ray Felton. Hibbert and Tyson Chandler battling in the post.
The two teams faced off four times in the regular season, and the home team won each game. The Pacers limited Melo (22 points, 38 percent) and Smith (14.5 points, 37 percent) in the regular season matchups, and the Knicks will need their key scorers to be better if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, New York has to slow down George, who averaged 20 points, 7.3 boards, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game in the four meetings and will be fresh off of a huge series against Atlanta despite the down game last night. Indiana will, of course, rely heavily on their star in Round 2. Can’t wait.—Leo Sepkowitz
Thunder 103, Rockets 94 (Thunder Wins Series 4-2)
The Houston Rockets ran out of red glare Friday night at the Toyota Center after falling 103-94 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who advance to the second round to face the Memphis Grizzlies.
Down 0-3, the Bayou City ballers battled back to win two straight, forcing a Game 6 at home.
But the Thunder proved to be too much to handle.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” said Patrick Beverley, who flourished in his starting role as point guard during the series. “My mind is set to play Game 7. It’s frustrating right now.”
No one was more frustrated than former Rocket Kevin Martin after Game 5, though. The former Rockets scorer, who was traded to OKC for James Harden came up lame in Chesapeake Arena, finishing with an embarrassing three points.
“The last 48 hours after Game 5, I couldn’t even look my teammates in the eye because I felt so bad,” said Martin.
Kevin Durant, the undisputed leader of the defending Western Conference champs, noticed Martin’s exasperation, and reached out to his teammate via text message to encourage and reassure him for Game 6.
“I had faith that he was going to come out and be aggressive and have a really good game,” said Durant, who finished with 27 points, said of Martin. “He’s a big-time scorer. He carried us in that first half when I was struggling.”
Rejuvenated, K-Mart went to work, racking up 21 points by the end of the first half.
Oh what a difference a text message makes.
“It was just coming in there, trying to set a tone,” Martin said. “It was going in there and playing like I have been in my career and jump-starting us to a victory.”
The Rockets came out firing in the third, but the Thunder used a 14-4 run at the top of the fourth quarter to snag a 92-81 lead. Derek Fisher, who continued to hear cacophonous boos from the home crowd every time he touched the ball, turned back the clock to his clutch Lakers days, hitting key 3-pointers on the way to 11 points, four rebounds and two steals off the pine.
“He has made our team better,” said Scott Brooks. “His spirit of doing it every day is something all teams should strive for. What I saw tonight was some of the most inspired play I’ve ever seen as a player and as a coach.”
Harden, who was playing despite suffering from strep throat, finished with 26 points and seven dimes, but couldn’t get his team back into it.
“We were just stagnant and from there on out we couldn’t get any movement and really couldn’t get any shots off,” Harden said.
Despite taking an L, the Rockets exceeded expectations this season, even pushing top-seeded Oklahoma City to the brink on its quest to become just the fourth team to ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.
After getting traded to Houston at the start of the season and taking on a bigger role as the franchise player, Harden stepped up and showed that he was the superstar that Daryl Morey coveted.
“I’m proud of him,” Durant said of Harden. “They’re building something special here in Houston.”
“We have a lot of young guys who work hard and want to win. The sky is the limit for us,” said Harden. “It was a good year for me. Not the way I wanted to finish. Now, I have some time to really work on my game. This series was definitely a good thing for us.”
Things got a little testy between these two squads, likely brought on by Russell Westbrook’s season-ending injury brought on by a collision with Beverly, but Durant still respects what the Rockets are building.
“It’s a fun brand of basketball. They really gave us a challenge,” said Durant. “I was starting to hate those guys. I was starting to hate everyone on those games on the series. I’m sure they felt the same way about us. You really appreciate the effort they bring. You respect them. That’s healthy for the game of basketball. They play the game right way. They remind me of us from a few years back. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.”
Chandler Parsons was another bright spot for Houston. The sharp-shooting Florida alum put on a show with an array of dunks and net-poppin’ threes. It was enough to spark a new nickname: Chandler Bang.
“I think we have something really special here,” said Parsons. “We have something to look forward to. The world saw that we have a chance to be really good.”
Looking ahead, the Thunder will host Memphis for Game 1 of the Western Conference semis on Sunday afternoon.—Maurice Bobb
Clippers 105, Grizzlies 118 (Grizzlies Win Series 4-2)
That’s a wrap. Following four straight games of strong team play, the Memphis Grizzles advanced to round two after closing out the Clippers in Game 6, 118-105. In all four games, the Grizzles took advantage of the Clippers poor post defense while disrupting their transition offense and pick and roll play. “We took too long to come to the fight,” a clearly frustrated Chris Paul said post-game. “We waited until game six to start to play aggressive and match their intensity.”
With Blake Griffin hobbled by an ankle sprain that allowed him to only play 14 minutes, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro had to shuffle the deck and tried to use a few variations of small lineups to catch Memphis off guard. It didn’t work. The Grizz did what they do best: five starters in double figures led by their supreme posts, Zach Randolph (19 points, 5 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (10 points, 7 rebounds). “All-NBA Marc Gasol and All-NBA Zach Randolph carried us, they are the real heroes,” Tony Allen said.
With Jamal Crawford struggling to the tune of an 0-5 night, L.A. again relied heavily on CP3 and the bench play of Matt Barnes who had a remarkable game with 30 points on 11-14 shooting. After being down by 15 at one point, L.A. put together a late run and had the game at 103-97 with about five minutes remaining and momentum shifting their way. But the Clips left Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless open for three-point attempts during consecutive possessions and the Grizzles young guards knocked them down for the final daggers. “Our season is over, there’s nothing to take from it, it is what it is,” Paul explained. “I want to give a lot of credit to the Memphis Grizzles, they played hard and we got beat.”
Despite his limited minutes, Griffin got into it with Randolph again in the third quarter after both men got tangled up and went to the floor. It looked like Blake was giving Zach a bit of an elbow on the ground and Zach went after him a bit until the two were separated. “I don’t even know what happened,” said Randolph who was T’d up on the play. “He was going down, I was going down—I just tried to brace myself.”
Randolph earned another technical and was ejected by referee Joey Crawford with minutes remaining for saying something to the Clippers bench. Paul was also ejected after being whistled with his second tech with about 2 minutes left. It was a strange ending to a great performance by Memphis. Conley finished with another impressive game, 23 points and 7 assists. Allen added 19, Tayshaun Prince (10 points), Bayless (18 points) and Quincy Poindexter (10 points).
Memphis will travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Sunday for Game 1 of Round 2.–Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree