Celtics 92, Knicks 86 (Knicks lead series 3-2)
Funerals and parties don’t usually go hand in hand, but that’s exactly what the Knicks thought they were walking into when they showed up to the Garden Wednesday night. Dressed in black at the behest of Kenyon Martin, they had hoped that Game 5 would be the game that would finally bring the basketball lives of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to an end, and that the two, along with the rest of the Celtics, would neatly fall into the graves that the Knicks had dug by jumping out to a 3-0 series lead.
The Knicks, however, seemed to plan out very little aside from their attire, and instead of a funeral there was a revival. For the second consecutive game the Celtics were able to keep their season alive, this time with a 92-86 win in New York. One more victory, in Game 6 in Boston, and they’ll be able to do something that only three teams in NBA history have ever done. Two more wins and the Celtics will become one of a kind.
“Whatever shenanigans they want to pull, dressing all black, let them do that,” said Jeff Green, who, along with Jason Terry, led the Celtics with a team-high 18 points, six of which came on a pair of game-sealing 3-pointers, an area where the Celtics finished 11-22. “We’re here to win games and not talk.”
“We was going to a funeral, but it looks like we got buried,” JR Smith said, before adding: “I’m done with this black stuff.”
Like Game 4, the Knicks’ looked lost, inept and stagnant on offense. Carmelo Anthony needed 24 shots to score a team-high 22 points. JR Smith, whose absence due to suspension in Game 4 was considered part of the reason New York had to return home for a Game 5, was just 3-14 and finished with 14 points. Raymond Felton added in 21, but as a team the Knicks shot a dismal 40 percent from the field and hit just 5 of 22 shots from behind the arc.
“Offensively, we were searching,” Mike Woodson said. “I’ll go back and break this tape down, and we’ve got to come up with another plan.”
But enough on the game—instead let’s talk about what happened after the final buzzer sounded, when, while walking off the court Anthony appeared to be taunted by Celtics guard Jordan Crawford. Carmelo declined to comment on the incident afterwards. He did, however, offer one of the better quotes of the year.
“I’m not thinking about no Jordan Crawford. Not at this point in time, I’ll tell you that,” Anthony said. “I don’t think he deserves for you to be typing right now.”
Neither did this series, or the Celtics a week ago. Now they both do. Now there’s ever more bad blood and even more drama. Now there’s a chance that we might be witnessing history. Whether or not we do is anyone’s guess. But for now, let’s just all enjoy the ride of watching two all time greats in KG and Paul Pierce desperately fight for their lives.–Yaron Weitzman
Pacers 106, Hawks 83 (Pacers lead series 3-2)
The Pacers looked pretty bad in Atlanta this series, scoring 69 points in Game 3 and shooting 38 percent in Game 4. They got back on track on Wednesday night. The Hawks actually led midway into the second quarter, but the Pacers led by seven at the break and dominated the second half. They held a double-digit lead for the entire fourth quarter.
Indiana’s offense looked sharp. Their starters put together quite a full box score: David West put in 24. Paul George scored 21 (7/8 overall, 2/2 from deep) with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. George Hill double-doubled with 15 and 10 dimes. Roy Hibbert posted 18 and 9 and Lance Stephenson scored 8 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. The Pacers absolutely dominated the glass, 51-28. That has a lot to do with Atlanta missing 50 of their 75 shots.
After a terrific Game 4, Josh Smith followed up with a dud—5-for-16, 14 points, 5 boards, 0 assists and 5 fouls in 26 minutes. Al Horford scored 14, but only shot 5-of-14. That duo was great on both sides of the floor in Atlanta’s two wins, but they didn’t bring it last night. Jeff Teague was awful, shooting 3-of-16. The Hawks forced 16 turnovers and got to the line 37 times, but still didn’t have a chance.
This was a picture-perfect Pacers game. They seem to thrive on three factors, and hit on all three last night.
Factor One: Strong defense. Check. Atlanta hit the fifth most threes in the League during the regular season. The Pacers held them to 3-of-14 from downtown and 33.3 percent overall on Wednesday.
Factor Two: West and George leading the way offensively. Check. The two needed just 24 shots to score their 42 points. The offense runs through these two, and the Hawks couldn’t stop them.
Factor Three: Balanced scoring around West and George. Check. Neither guy is going to score 35+, so Indiana needs contributions from a bunch of players. Hill, Hibbert, Stephenson and DJ Augustin (11) all played well.
The series will now shift back to Atlanta, but the momentum rests firmly with the Pacers. They’re the better team, and they proved it last night. That’s the way it looked after Game 2, though, and Atlanta was able to protect home court. We’ll see if the Hawks can stay alive on Friday.—Leo Sepkowitz
Rockets 107, Thunder 100 (Thunder lead series 3-2)
Omer Asik has to be glad the first round series against Oklahoma City is headed back to Houston because, like Cheers, it’s a place where everybody knows his name.
In the fourth quarter of the Rockets’ 107-100 Game 5 win Wednesday night, the Thunder’s Scott Brooks employed the always popular strategy of fouling the opponent’s supposed weakest link at the free throw line to spark a comeback.
Didn’t work. Asik sank 8 of 12 from the charity stripe during that stretch on the way to 21 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Durant, honest to goodness, couldn’t even remember the Turkish Hammer’s name.
“We was on our way back,” Durant said, before losing the “Name That Center” game. “We used hack-a…whatever his name is, that kind of slowed the rhythm down a little bit.”
“Give him credit. He stepped up and made shots and made his free throws,” Scott Brooks added about Asik, who is a career 54% shooter from the line. “That’s a strategy we don’t use often.”
It wasn’t all on Asik, though. Francisco Garcia dropped five treys and 18 points on OKC’s noggin and Patrick Beverly, who heard boos rain down from the rafters like an indoor thunderstorm (get it?) in Chesapeake Energy Arena every time he took a friggin’ breath on court, added 14.
“My teammates told me to come out here and stay aggressive,” said Beverly. “This is a family unit with this team. I tried to not hear the boos and tried to go out and stay focused on the game plan today.”
James Harden, who was battling flu-like symptoms—not to be confused with Michael Jordan’s flu game, of course—shook off the sniffles long enough to bake his former team for 31 points, including seven long range bombs from behind the arc.
“I just tried to go out there and give it all I had,” said Harden, who is hoping that he can help his Rockets become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit by the hairs on his chinny chin chin. “It was a win or go home, so I got some shots to fall and I just tried to not think about it. We just came out here and played pressure-free. Go out there and just hoop, that was our mindset going into the game. The same thing back at home: Just go out there and hoop. We’re an eighth seed. Nobody’s expecting us to win. So just give it what we’ve got. Simple.”
Houston led at the end of the first and second quarters, but Oklahoma City managed to fight its way back in the final period, cutting the lead to eight. From there, the home team gummed up the works with their “Hack-A-Whatever-His-Name-Is” strategy for nearly two minutes and eight unanswered points, which extended the Rockets’ lead to 101-92 with 3:53 left to go.
“They miss him (Russell Westbrook) everywhere. How would you not? He’s one of the top players in the league,” said Kevin McHale. “They probably miss him in the locker room, miss him in shootaround, miss him on the bus, miss him on the plane, miss him on offense, miss him on defense. Did I miss anything?”
Russy was at the game to show his support, but he couldn’t help KD, who despite finishing with 36 points, couldn’t score a point in the crucial fourth quarter, coming up lame all five of his shot attempts.
“They don’t care about the rest of the team,” Durant said. “When I have the ball, it’s like four guys guarding me at one time. We just have to forget about this. We’ve got a quick turnaround for the next game. They came out played well.”
You can forget Game 5 all you want KD, just don’t forget Asik’s name again, because by the end of this series, you’ll definitely know it.
Game 6 is Friday night in Houston.–Maurice Bobb