Pacers 101, Magic 99 (OT) (IND leads 3-1)
The collective sigh of relief could be heard all the way back in Indianapolis as the final buzzer sounded in Orlando. The Magic started a furious rush at a comeback with an 18-2 run to pull the game within one. George Hill came up with his first set of late game heroics of the series and nailed a monster three pointer to keep the Pacer lead. He netted the last six points of overtime for the Pacers, and his two free throws with 2.1 seconds left eventually won the game. “I get to ride my teammates coattails and fill in a little bit,” Hill joked.
Every time the game seemed relatively out of reach, the Magic fought back with offensive firepower. That offensive firepower came at the hands of Glen Davis for most of the game. Davis is having the best stretch of basketball he’s played since he’s been in the league, averaging a double-double (18 points and 10 rebounds) for the series.
Tonight, his 24 points and 11 rebounds led the Magic in both respective categories, and his stretch of buckets at the end of the fourth quarter plus overtime kept the Magic in the game. As has been the case the entire series, however, David West came up big for the Pacers and helped balance out Davis’ work by putting up a game high 26 points. His 12 third quarter points fueled a run that the Pacers have become all too familiar with against the Magic.
Let’s face it: the Magic are all but done for. They worked their buts off and came two inches away from completing the second biggest comeback of the playoffs, but they stare a 3-1 deficit square in the face as they make their way back to Indianapolis. We all knew the Magic would bring the effort, the attitude, the competitiveness, and the “We all we got” mentality to every game they were fortunate enough to play in the post season. The Pacers just have too many fresh legs and a deep bench that the Magic can’t keep up with.
Give credit to the Magic for how close they came tonight to evening a series they have no business being even in. They got throttled in Game 2 and Game 3, yet they were one play away from having a 2-2 series. The intensity and hustle has not gone unnoticed, but in the end, the Magic just don’t have the firepower without Dwight to win the series. Maybe the Magic will prove me wrong, but I see a hard fought series coming to a close in Indianapolis on Tuesday night. —Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn)
Clippers 87, Grizzlies 86 (LAC leads 2-1)
Here’s the turning point of that Clippers-Grizzlies game yesterday, the one that Chris Paul held together for 44 minutes with some hot glue and a staple gun until someone new and exciting came along:
Reggie Evans stole an offensive rebound on a missed Nick Young free throw with 4:10 left and flicked it in off the glass. It was a little fluky, but those kinds of things are going to happen when you have a Street Fighter character on the floor for the whole fourth quarter.
That gave the Clippers a two-point lead and momentum that didn’t really stop, and they won 87-86.
It must piss you off a little if you’re Chris Paul. Here you are doing a Michael Jordan impression for 45 minutes, but it’s too usual, too plain. It’s not sexy enough. You have to count on this guy who looks like the secret weapon in a ’70s action movie to make a hustle play for your team to wake up.
The best possessions for the Clippers, again, were broken plays that partnered Chris Paul with his impatience. Blake won’t roll on a pick and roll? Okay, let CP get about an inch of space from 18 feet so he can hit a stepback jumper over a longer defender.
Is it a good basketball play? No. But the good basketball plays aren’t working. Paul had 24 and 11, but more importantly, the wheels flew off when he wasn’t in the game. Under Eric Bledsoe’s plus/minus stat in the box score, it just says, “Please help.”
So now the Clippers have to decide if they can stick it out with this Reggie Evans thing. The question in the next few days will be if he’s a better fit for the end of games than Kenyon Martin or DeAndre Jordan.
And, really, Blake Griffin should be on that list, too. But I can hear the fine folks at Kia coming to rip my tongue directly out of my face.
They got away with having both Evans and Griffin out there for extended minutes, but that was more or less a fluke. Marc Gasol was in foul trouble, then Lionel Hollins forgot he was on the bench entirely. (Yes, this was weird even when it was happening.)
Griffin was rewarded for all the extra work, having to face up all of those bigs on defense. He made a pretty dive cut after Paul hypnotized the Grizzlies into tripling him at the free throw line. Blake got a bounce pass and made dinner out of it. It’s what he does. That gave them a four-point lead with 32 seconds left.
When Memphis got it all sorted out, Rudy Gay had to get all clutch on us. And he did. He hit back-to-back threes from space. Bledsoe missed a pair of free throws, but nobody’s hitting three triples in a row in 18 seconds. We’ve filled our weekly miracle quota.
That last Paul pass, by the way, should’ve brought the discussion back to how good he is. But it didn’t. The scrum that circled Reggie Evans after the game was suffocating.
That’s probably why neither of these teams feel like championship teams. Championship teams don’t get beaten by novelty, nor do they rely on it. Reggie Evans felt like the hero du jour for a team constantly looking for a spark.
But the spark’s there. It’s Chris Paul. His teammates need to pay attention.
There was some slight buzz amongst some media after the game that maybe Chris Paul was the best point guard in the NBA after all. Rajon Rondo had been claiming the title all week, and they felt that was unfair. They’re right, but they’re not going far enough.
It’s not that Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. It’s that he might be the best player. —Ben Collins
Thunder 103, Mavs 97 (OKC wins 4-0)
A 3-0 advantage in most 7-game series generally denotes a mismatch of major proportions. In the case of the first-round Western Conference series between Oklahoma City and Dallas, the Thunder are in that comfortable position; just one game away from the second-round. But despite Thursday night’s blowout win by OKC, this has been a series that could just as easily be tilted in the Mavericks advantage.
In Games 1 and 2, the Thunder overcame tough shooting nights from the league’s scoring champ Kevin Durant and nabbed late-game home wins. The Mavericks were not so fortunate in Game 3 back in Dallas and now face the dreaded 3-0 deficit.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that ended with the score knotted at 47. The Thunder got an incredibly efficient half from the league’s best reserve in James Harden. The “Bearded One” hit all of his first-half 3-pointers and ran the offense for much of his 17 minutes on the court.
But the home team would not go quietly. Their leader, Dirk Nowitzki wasted little time in the second half hitting his first four shots, quickly giving the Mavs the advantage back. The Mavericks shot the ball beautifully in the fourth as Jason Kidd and Delonte West each hit 3-pointers to help swell the difference to 13 at 81-68 with 12 minutes remaining.
But, the fourth quarter has been the Thunder’s time and after a 12-0 run early in the quarter, things evened up. Once again, it was Harden spurring on his team, hitting mid-range jumpers, dunking in traffic and setting up his teammates for easy looks. Head Coach Scott Brooks went small for the game’s final six minutes, stymieing the Mavericks.
The backcourt of Harden and Russell Westbrook proved to be the difference in the series as a whole. Despite the latter being listed as the team’s point guard (and who had his first off night from the floor in the series), it was Harden on this night whose mix of creativity, athleticism and gumption was a force of nature. An epic display of postseason lore. A career playoff high 29 points and a fourth quarter performance that shall be the standard of a franchise that has been in the Midwestern state for only four years.
And as they say, “That was that.” The Mavs coughed up the lead with just over five to play and never led again. They struggled to knock down shots in the game’s final minutes and the defending champs were swept, losing Game 4, 103-97.
Now with a week off before the likely start of the second-round, the Thunder’s start to the postseason begs the question, ‘Despite being the #2-seed in the West, is this the conference’s best team?’
After watching the team unite on the floor and proudly display a unity that has been publicly scrutinized for the past couple years, they are surely at the forefront of the discussion. —Cub Buenning (@cubbuenning)
Spurs 102, Jazz 90 (SAS leads 3-0)
Even though the Jazz put up resistance, the San Antonio Spurs continue their dominance in the Western Conference Playoff series winning 102-90. With the win, the Spurs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series.
The Spurs showed veteran composure in Game Three in Salt Lake City. They executed their offense early in the game and withstood the early runs by the Jazz, and held a small lead of 52-50 at half.
In the second half, the big three for the Spurs took over. Tim Duncan was solid scoring 17 points and ripping down 6 boards. Tony Parker was amazing in the second half, scoring 27 points while making 7 of 8 from the line.
Free throws were a a huge factor in the game. Despite playing at home, Utah shot 14 of 26 from the charity stripe. San Antonio connected on 17 of 22 from the line.
Utah did have some bright spots in the game. Al Jefferson and Devin Harris scored 21 apiece for Utah, while Derrick Favors added 15 points, 11 rebounds in his highest minute total in a game thus far in the playoffs.
No NBA team has overcome an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The Spurs can close it out Monday night in Salt Lake City. —Christian Mordi (@mordi_thecomeup)