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Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 10:36 am  |  35 responses

Post Up: On the Brink

The Thunder and Spurs are one win away from the WCF.

Spurs 96, Clippers 86 (Spurs lead 3-0)

Blake Griffin showed up in a big way  Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, but his best effort of the Western Conference semifinals, however, wasn’t enough. Typically, 28 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the floor, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 rebounds and a pair of assists should get the job done and put the Los Angeles Clippers in position to win. Not against the San Antonio Spurs though. We’re talking about a different animal. A different beast. Even with all of the things Griffin brought to the table, the Clippers were in some serious trouble.

The mood in the locker room afterward was one of desperation. Griffin & Co. have little, or no, chance in the series at this stage of the game. For all intents and purposes, this one is over. It was right from the start. A good indication of that was the fast start by the Clippers on Saturday. They jumped out to a 24-point lead and Griffin scored 20 points in the first half.

There wasn’t much panic in the Spurs camp, of course. They went on a run of their own, a 24-point scoring spree in the second half. With that, the once thought to be insurmountable advantage was a thing of the past. So was Griffin’s stat line. No one will remember what the box score said after this one. No one will remember the Clippers putting up much of a fight. An end to the series inevitable as Game 4 is Sunday night.

“If we don’t play with that sense of urgency, it’s not going to be pretty,” Griffin said.

There was no urgency from the Clippers of their normally raucous rooters during the second half on Saturday. The Spurs held their counterparts to eight points in the third quarter. Eight points! You could hear a pin drop in the building. San Antonio, on the other hand, played well and outscored Lob City by 18 points right after intermission. A 24-0 run capped by a fadeaway jumper from Tim Duncan gave the Spurs the lead. He scored nine points during the outburst. Danny Green got in on all the fun and scored seven points in that stretch. Kawhi Leonard added five points of his own. All the while, Griffin was seemingly helpless. Everything he had done was seemingly erased.

Duncan was calm, cool and collected. He knew it was a matter of time before the Spurs rallied. “We didn’t plan on being down that much. We stuck with it,” said Duncan who finished a well-rounded effort with 19 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.

Tony Parker was not fazed. Not the least bit. He knew what needed to be done and was determined to make it happen. And 23 points, to go along with 10 assists later, Parker did indeed deliver. “They came out like we expected, very strong,” he said. “Blake was making crazy shots. We just took our time. It’s a long game, a very long game. At halftime, we were very calm.”

Bottom line: Griffin put his best foot forward and the Clippers still came up short. Break out the broom, the Spurs look like they’re about to finish this thing off with the sweep. —Sean Ceglinsky (@seanceglinsky)

Thunder 103, Lakers 100 (Thunder lead 3-1)

As Russ and KD entered the press room post game, the laughs from the scribes rang out. Westbrook—fitted in glasses with no lenses, red denim jeans and a tight designer shirt dipped in the color wheel—stopped as he sat down. “What are y’all laughing at?” The feisty PG had just finished giving the Lakers a blurry 37 points (15-26) and a heartbreaking loss. “Oh, I know,” Westbrook said with a massive smile.

OKC’s magical duo put together a memorable performance Saturday night at Staples Center, combining for 68 points and highlights for days. After trailing the majority of the game, the Thunder put together a phenomenal run with about eight minutes left in the game and down 13. With the game tied at 81, Pau Gasol passed up an open look faced up on the right block, forcing a pass to Metta World Peace on the perimeter that was easily stolen by Durant. Matched up one-on-one with MWP on the offensive end, Durant lulled him to sleep with a few dribbles before pulling a nasty three-pointer from 26 feet for the kill shot.

The Lakers immediately called timeout and even though there was 14 seconds left in the game and Kobe Bryant on the floor, a positive outcome for the Lakers didn’t feel possible. They had led the majority of the game and the three from Durant hushed the crowd. Kobe inbounded the ball and got it right back, dribbling to the top of the three-point line and unleashing a jumper that bounced off the side of the rim. James Harden added two free throws after being fouled and Kobe added a meaningless jumper as time expired, the Thunder hanging on for the 103-100 come from behind win.

“I wanted to run the shot clock down and get the last shot,” Durant explained. “I had been going to the rim and they did a great job swiping and contesting at the rim. I saw Artest backing up just a hair and I shot it. It left my hand and I was thinking, ‘If this doesn’t go in it’s going to be a terrible shot and they’re going to criticize me a lot.’

Even though he was on fire late in the game, Westbrook made it clear who the Thunder look to in the clutch. ”He’s the best scorer in the game and has proved it all season long,” Westbrook said of his running mate. “My job as a point guard is to let him finish off games for us like he’s been doing all year and he did a great job of it tonight.”

In addition to his late game heroics, Durant did a great job on the defensive end when he switched to Bryant late in the game at the request of Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

“There was no conversation, he just told me you get him,” Durant explained.  ”I had to go guard him I couldn’t tell coach no–I didn’t want to back down from a challenge”

Bryant finished with a game-high 38 points (12-28) and added 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but was 2-10 in the 4th quarter. He was hot early on, driving to the basket at will on Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, who played him tight to take away his jump shot, relying on his quick feet against drives to the lane. But Bryant was too fast and was getting to the cup with ease.

Durant used a different strategy when he was finally deployed. He played off Bryant a bit, trying to entice him to pull jumpers. ”He’s an unbelievable player as everybody knows in the world—one of the best to play the game,” Durant said. “He can score so many different ways. I am tall and I have long arms so I just tried to space it a little bit and kind of cut him off and make him take tough shots. He makes them sometimes. I just try to put a hand up and hopefully he misses.”

Kobe seemed extremely pissed after the game. He said the Thunder did a good job surrounding him and fronting Andrew Bynum in the second half.

“Pau’s got to be more assertive,” Bryant declared. “He’s the guy that they’re leaving. When he’s catching the ball, he’s looking to pass. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to shoot the ball. He’s got to drive the ball to the basket.”

Bynum scored 18 points and 9 rebounds but was disappointed about his looks in the second half. “They started running in transitions, I didn’t touch the ball, so the game started speeding up,” he said. “They beat us in transition at the end.”

The Thunder can close out the series on Monday night in OKC. —Nima Zarrabi (@NZbeFree)

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  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    I love how Kobe goes 2-10 in the fourth, but Pau is the main reason they lost. Bynum…”I didn’t touch the ball, so the game started speeding up.”

  • robb

    Kobe’s stubbornness and Pau’s lack of heart and concentration got the Lakers where they are. They should be 3-1 up, as a lakers fan sometimes you just wanna throw yourself through the f*cking window, it’s incredible how stupid they can be sometimes.

  • Anthony

    From what i saw, Kobe was 2-10 because they couldnt go to Bynum in the post, Pau was nowhere to be seen, obviously Blake and Metta cant create for themselve and that forced Kobe to take tough shoots with less than 8 seconds on the clock on each possession. You guys need to stop blaming Kobe for everything, this one is entirely on Pau (the play before Durant’s 3 at the end was beyond atrocious) and Mike Brown for not making any adjustements offensively and praying for Kobe’s contested fadeaway to save his ass. Being a Lakers fan must be depressing indeed.

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    The whole team loses, so the whole team gets the blame. Kobe was 2-10 because Durant was effective in the fourth on him. Pau made a really dumb play, and Mike Brown sucks. Kobe isn’t above criticism and neither is the rest of the team.

  • whooo!

    whether or not Kobe is ready to give up the title of “most clutch” in the league, Kevin Durant has come in this series and basically mugged him and took the title. not only was it 2/10, it was the complete disregard for Bynum (who was playing well and slowing down the game) that struck me. the game is more thatn stats, but Kobe is shooting 37/96 (39%) this series, while Bynum’s only shot 59 times (only 44%). and just to compare, KD is 39/72 at 54%.

  • whooo!

    thing is, we all understood that Kobe was going shoot huge volumes when his team had Kwame and Smush Parker. but isn’t it odd to STILL blame the team when they have Bynum, Gasol, Artest, and Sessions? dude is basically evolved into Allen Iverson. but this was a team loss for sure, and you get the sense of a lot of frustration in the locker room (especially Bynum, who’s immature and selfish as it is)… let’s see how hard they go after Dwight Howard this summer.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Royal

    I just hate how the Lakers feed the post and play well for 98% of the freaking game and then they decide to live or die with jumpers when the game gets close.

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    Kobe’s far more to blame for this than bynum or pau but whatever. and the weirdest thing is kobe was playing GREAT before the 4th. he was shooting efficiently. He was passing(more so than he usually does and he was defending) more importantly he wasn’t just jacking up jumpers. when he had sefolasha on him he used screens and when harden was on him he crossed over or drew the foul… he keeps doing that and the lakers win.. but……..

  • http://www.google.be/imgres?q=NO!+meme&um=1&hl=nl&sa=N&rlz=1C1AFAB_enBE454BE454&biw=1600&bih=763&tbm=isch&tbnid=L3l0ZW3D5dDSDM:&imgrefurl=http://forthesakeofscience Max

    Intresting Scalfact of the day:
    The legend once played 45 minutes April 2005

  • JoeMaMa

    spurs. SPURS. SPURS!!! SPURRRRRRRS!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jahmai

    Kobe trhows the ball away in game 2 and says, Durant gambled, it was extremely risky (atleast I believe that was the word he uses) and he made a great play. Gasol trhows the ball away and Kobe says, a bad read by Pau bla bla. Ridiculous.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jahmai

    *throws

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jahmai

    BTW, give me the Thunder duo over the Heat duo. KD is 23, Russ is 23 and they’re the highest scoring duo in the league, they’re a little better fit imo, because KD scores all his points in the flow of the game, they know who is the definitve no 1 option in the clutch (and KD has been delivering as much as anyone, 3 game winners in these playoffs already),Russ is still listed as a PG, albeit a scoring one. LeBron is incredible, Wade is great (but aging, not as skilled as Kobe without athleticism, which worries me). But it still feels a little bit like my turn, your turn at times, and LeBron as great as he is does have problems in the clutch and we can’t deny that(not 4th quarter, just last minute, last shot type of thing). He has had his moment but not nearly enough for a guy with his unreal abilities and skills and overall dominance for 99% of the game.

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    smh KD is not as great in the clutch as people think he is…seriously. artest just fell asleep and is not the defender he once was. He missed that same shot with lebron draped all over him in the regular season.

  • shutup

    Did anyone else see the Clippers start going into pre-mature celebration mode? Can’t say that 24 point lead started to ruin my day as the Spurs couldn’t get off 9 for what seemed like forever, then the unsportsmanlike sh!t started happening Blake made an and1 beat his chest and puffed it out before going to the free throw line… sometimes its best to win quietly , I understand the posturing and over the top stuff when playing a team like Memphis that was being physical to the point of being dirty, but thats not the Spurs, in all actuality I think the Spurs might be the only team left in the playoffs that will actually help an opponent off the floor, there has got to be something said for winning the right way.

  • http://www.thesmashbrothas.com zen garden

    I was at a bar last night (in SLC) and the game was on. Nobody seemed to be paying much attention but in those last few minutes the entire bar was watching and cheering for OKC…America (minus LA) sure loves to see the Lakers fail.

  • http://www.google.be/imgres?q=NO!+meme&um=1&hl=nl&sa=N&rlz=1C1AFAB_enBE454BE454&biw=1600&bih=763&tbm=isch&tbnid=L3l0ZW3D5dDSDM:&imgrefurl=http://forthesakeofscience Max

    ^I predicted a Spurs comeback after the 1st quarter.
    They’re just playing great basketball and anyone who says they’re boring needs to Shutup (pun intended)

  • http://Roosterteeth.com Caboose

    Man, I love seeing the Spurs come back like that. Duncan! GOAT! Jk.

  • http://www.google.be/imgres?q=NO!+meme&um=1&hl=nl&sa=N&rlz=1C1AFAB_enBE454BE454&biw=1600&bih=763&tbm=isch&tbnid=L3l0ZW3D5dDSDM:&imgrefurl=http://forthesakeofscience Max

    That was @ Shupup lol

  • shutup

    lol, once they cut it to ten before halftime I knew it was a rap, LA looked defeated walking to the locker room. You know what else bugs me is that teams find it necessary to do those jumping butt touches when they come back to the bench on every timeout, save your energy there is a game to play. lol

  • hero

    kobe the most over rated payer ever.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Caboose, if the Spurs make it to the Finals and TD wins Finals MVP, you could make a case for him to be in the Top-5.
    Usually any time a team loses, the best player gets a majority of the blame expect for when the Lakers and OKC lose. It always someone other than KD and Kobe’s fault for why their respective team lost. All I’m hearing today is “it’s Gasol/Bynum’s fault”, so people are just going to sit here and act like Kobe didn’t go 2-10 in the 4th all while ignoring Bynum, who was having a great game up to that point. If we are going to sit here and act like Kobe is this half man/half god when the lakers win, we better start holding him to those same standards when he shoots him teams out of wins.

  • AiRsMiTh

    “…16 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 rebounds…”

  • http://Www.slamonline.com Luffytyc

    Kobe’s right, he doesn’t give an F what critics, and fans, and teammates think. He really plays only for himself. Props and mad respect

  • Heals

    @shutup, so I take it the Mamba Army you were swatting away in the Kobe thread yesterday is waiving the white flag today…

  • bobbyD

    No one on the Lakers can guard Westbrook. He was going all the way or pulling up in the fourth. Kobe was getting no easy looks on his iso’s towards the end of fourth with the game on the line. Turn around fadeaway’s and long jumpers……tough contested shots. I know he can make ‘em, but Westbrook and Durant were getting theirs pretty easily. Thunder hung around close enough to make the run and the Lakers couldn’t close…..again.

  • Anthony

    I re-watched the 4th quarter, Kobe took 3 or 4 bad shoots (depends on how you view it) Pau was as passive as a sleeping cat (again, the play before Durant’s 3 is ridiculous), Metta had at least 3 or 4 oppportuniy to give the ball to Bynum in the post but didnt(that ended up with Kobe taking a difficult shoot in 2 occasions), Blake did some good things actually, an offensive board, a layup with 3sec left on the clock after beating Westbrook off the dribble, a steal around the 0:40 mark when the game was tied up at 98, the only touch Bynum had was from a Gasol’s pass and he missed a left hook. So a bad team effort overall and KD made them paid the price.

  • http://Roosterteeth.com Caboose

    Cosign that JT. 5 rings with 4 FInals MVP’s is pretty incredible. Kobe fans will jump on us for you saying that, especially since “Kobe already has 5 rings!” It gets…trying.

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    To be completely fair tho, they were fronting the F*CK out of bynum in the 2nd half. so maybe you can’t all the way blame them for going away from bynum but at the same time when that happens they have to do something to fix that.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/tray-5 T-Ray

    It’s not hard at all to get it inside when you’re being fronted. Swing it around keep the ball moving and lob over the top. You just gotta look for it and not be so impatient.

  • MIchael

    @T-ray

    You can’t pass the ball around when Metta and Blake are dribbling the shot clock out on every posession. Go back and watch the 4th quarter. Metta and Blake were just dribbling around for 15-17 seconds before dumping the ball off to Kobe. They Lakers desperately need someone who can create shots and can make a damn entry pass. It really isn’t a Kobe thing.

  • Bola

    @ Datkid the same KD drained a buzzer beater on Lebron. I don’t get what your story is. Durant is money in this playoffs, sure he’s not going to be clutch all the time but he’s done it over and over. Just ask DALLAS who KD is.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/tray-5 T-Ray

    Michael I totally agree but the team needs to sit down and realize that there must be constant ball movement. I just don’t think they are fully committed to feeding the post.

  • shutup

    @Heals you would think so, but then you would be wrong. That thread kept going strong, just ask Caboose

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    when exactly did KD drain on a buzzer beater on Lebron in the playoffs jack@ss? he didn’t even do it in the regular season? one win the heat got blown out. the other one durant missed the last shot with Lebron’s hand in his face. KD’s last shot against the lakers was preceded by 8 retarded shots by kobe, one idiotic play by pau and basically no defense by metta, who gave him all the room in the godd@mn world. that’s basically an uncontested jumper by KD of course he’ll make that. KD will beat you in the clutch only if you let him.

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