Celtics 90, Hawks 84 (OT) (BOS leads 2-1)
Here’s how Atlanta head coach Larry Drew’s pregame talk should have gone before Game 2: “Okay, fellas, we let the last one slip through our hands at the house. We gotta take this one, and we gotta take it without Josh Smith. Joe, I need you to take the offensive load. Can you do that? Oh, and Jeff Teague, gonna need you stop a well-rested Rajon Rondo. Do those two things, guys, and we’ll win.”
Coach didn’t mention anything about Ray Allen. He probably didn’t even know about the Celts’ game-time decision to let the shooting guard play for the first time since April 10. Allen came in the game with about four minutes left in the first. The throaty TD Garden applauded enthusiastically too. He hit his first shot. Allen, who ended up with 13 points in 37 minutes, could not have scripted his return any better—well, save for the fact he had to face Joe Johnson.
Johnson had 29 points, but his shooting was again deplorable (35% for the series). Rajon Rondo had his seventh career Playoff triple-double (17 points, 14 boards and 12 assists), but his shooting was also pretty unremarkable (32%). The two teams essentially balanced each other out with their inefficiency. The halftime score was 40-38 Boston. 60-58 Celts through three. 80-80 at the end of regulation.
One thing about extra frames is that tired legs usually get exposed over the five hard-fought minutes. The relatively young Hawks squad should have stormed out the OT gates. What they did in actuality felt more like a light drizzle. A much hungrier Boston outscored Atlanta 10-4 in the bonus quarter, winning 90-84.
Josh Smith’s absence weighed heavily on the final score. Though Jeff Teague (23 points) did his part, Atlanta just didn’t have that same offensive determination in the paint without their do-everything forward. But come hell or high water, J-Smooth will be out there for the tone-setting Game 4 in Boston on Sunday. “I’m gonna play regardless of how I feel,” says the man who’s nursed a knee injury since Tuesday night. “I know how important these games are.” —DeMarco Williams (@demarcowill)
Sixers 79, Bulls 74 (PHI leads 2-1)
After the major disappointment of Game 2, the Bulls were looking to come into Philadelphia and make a statement in Game 3. Perhaps the statement they made is they’re a team devoid of the ability to close games with a lead in the Playoffs so long as their best player–Derrick Rose–is out of the lineup.
And speaking of D. Rose, adding to the Bulls injury woes is Joakim Noah who went down with a left ankle injury midway through the third quarter. He made a valiant effort to come back and play after going to the locker room and being evaluated by the Bulls medical staff, but after a few minutes back on the court, it was clear he was hobbled and Tom Thibodeau took him out for good.
After the game, Noah left Wells Fargo Arena on crutches and sporting a walking boot. It’s safe to say that if it weren’t for bad luck, Chicago would have no luck at all.
The funny thing about Game 3, though? The Bulls looked like they had it in control. After a tight-knit affair over the first 24 minutes of action, the Bulls seemed to take control of the game in the third quarter, holding Philly to just 11 points.
But when Noah got hurt and Carlos Boozer picked up his fourth foul in the third, forcing Thibs to sit him, it would prove to be the beginning of the end for Chicago.
The Bulls went into the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead and at one point, found themselves up by as many as 14. But Chicago missed 10 consecutive field goals and and were outscored 28-14 in the final quarter and the rest is history.
The Bulls lose Game 3 by a score of 79-74 and now find themselves down 2-1. The series resumes on Sunday for Game 4, but it’s hard to imagine Chicago being able to win if Noah is unavailable and no one would put it past them if they’re already defeated mentally. —Bryan Crawford (@_BryanCrawford)
Nuggets 99, Lakers 84 (LAL leads 2-1)
Pam McGee has that trademark scowl. And on Friday night, she didn’t break character until after the Nuggets put down the Lakers 99-84 and her son JaVale was being interviewed on the court after an impressive 16 point, 15 rebound and 4 block performance. “I try not to look over there too much,” McGee told ESPN’s Ric Bucher after the game. “My mom can be aggressive on the baseline.”
The Nuggets came out hype during game three, putting it to LA early in the first behind the sensational play of point guard Ty Lawson, who led a 28-2 run in the first half that became a 38-14 lead. The Nuggets bigs held Andrew Bynum scoreless in the first half; a surprising turn of events considering his domination during the first two games of the series. Bynum finished the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds after a monster second half, helping cut the Denver lead to 68-64 with about a minute to go in the third. But Kobe Bryant’s struggles in the Pepsi center this year continued and LA could not hold off Denver’s inspired play, triggered in part by the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried who added 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Kobe finished with 22 points on 7-for-23 shooting. “I wasn’t on my sweet spots,” Bryant said. “They tried to keep me more on the perimeter. I wasn’t in the post a lot. I basically lived in the post and the elbow the first two games.We got away from that. Pau [Gasol] as well. You saw me on the perimeter way too much. We can’t to do that. We’ve got to kind of stick to our ground-and-pound game, which is me in the post, Drew in the post.” Game four is Sunday night in Denver. —Nima Zarrabi (@NZbeFree)