Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 at 10:09 am  |  46 responses

Post Up: Thunder Supreme

Oklahoma City closes out the Lakers, plus the Celtics take a 3-2 lead over the Sixers.

Celtics 101, Sixers 85 (BOS leads 3-2)

“Grinding is what got me to this point, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.” —Brandon Bass

In the first half of a pivotal Game 5, with control of the series up for grabs, the Philadelphia 76ers unleashed themselves in Boston hell-bent on winning and taking this thing back to Philly up 3-2. The Sixers shot 54.8 percent in the first two quarters (23-42), held tight for a 50-47 halftime lead, and extended their lead to six early in the third quarter.

What the Sixers didn’t realize, though, was that while “hanging in there” may have been sufficient for them, the close game did nothing but infuriate the Celtics. Philly’s strong play gradually irked Boston, eventually igniting an inextinguishable blaze of fury.

With 7:41 remaining in the third quarter and the Sixers up 57-53, referee Rodney Mott lit the match.

Kevin Garnett (20 points, 6 rebounds) received a pass on the left block, sized up Spencer Hawes, attacked the rim and rose up in hopes of a layup, dunk or trip to the charity stripe. Instead, Mott called KG for an offensive foul. Garnett laid stale-faced on the floor, and the TD Garden instantaneously erupted in disapproval. Right then and there, Boston reached its boiling point.

Paced by unlikely hero Brandon Bass, the Celtics completed a 10-0 run within three minutes and gained a 63-57 advantage, a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the night. The 10-0 run featured six points—including back-to-back dunks—from Bass, as he was unstoppable in the third quarter, scoring 18 points on 6-7 shooting, individually outscoring the entire Sixers team, 18-16. Boston closed out the third with a 10-2 run over the final 3 minutes and outscored Philly 28-16 in the period to take a 75-66 lead heading to the fourth.

At that point, even if Philly didn’t know it yet, the contest was in the bag. The Celtics scored 16 of the first 22 points in the fourth quarter to pad the lead and put the game away.

Bass finished with 27 points on 9-13 shooting, including five dunks, all of which were thunderous, crowd-pleasing and momentum-gaining. With every Bass bucket, the nail went one inch deeper in the coffin. After playing just 3 seconds in the fourth quarter of Game 4, Bass was on the court for 37 minutes in Game 5, and boy, did his presence pay dividends. With his monster Game 5 performance, Bass is now averaging 21 points in his last two games, with the Celtics outscoring the 76ers by 19 points while he’s on the court.

Just in case you’re a little tired this morning, let me reiterate real quick: Third quarter of Game 6 – Brandon Bass: 18 points, Philadelphia 76ers: 16 points. Keep grinding, Brandon. Keep grinding.

The game ball goes to Bass, no question. But it would be a travesty to not mention Rajon Rondo, who once again had his hand(s) all over the game. Rondo registered 13 points and 14 assists, including zero second-half turnovers and seven fourth-quarter points. He catalyzed the Celtics second-half run, and per the usual, created lanes and open spaces, and delivered on-the-money passes so guys like Bass, Garnett and Greg Stiemsma (who scored an inspiring 10 points on 5-5 shooting) could go to work. Paul Pierce was solid too, scoring 16 points (9-9 free throws), and holding the team together during a first half in which the Celtics seemed out of sync and in a funk.

For the Sixers, Elton Brand finished with a team-high 19 points, and Evan Turner scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Andre Iguodala had a pedestrian 8 points and 6 rebounds. No bueno, Andre. Rookie Lavoy Allen did his part on offense, scoring 12 points on 6-6 shooting, but it’s games like these—getting schooled by the likes of KG and Bass—that will ultimately help develop him into a solid, if not great, player in the League.

If the Sixers want to return to Boston for a Game 7—which Elton Brand reportedly guaranteed after the game—they will have to contain the Big 4, and certainly prevent another dunkfest from Bass. Game 5 continued a trend of resiliency this postseason for the Celtics, as they’re a perfect 4-0 this season in games following a loss. But the same applies for Philly, as it is also 4-0 following a loss. So, Game 6 is Wednesday night, and if the Celtics remain fickle with their play, we’ll be back in Boston on Saturday.

After the game, when asked what the feeling is like when the crowd at TD Garden gets into it, Garnett had this to say: “It’s like taking a cold shower, stepping into a freezer that’s 60 below. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you want the feeling, try it out, come back, let me know.”

(I think) I feel you, KG. Can Philly defrost quickly enough to regroup and force Game 7, or will they remain frozen and call it a season? We’ll find out soon. —Eldon Khorshidi (@eldonadam)

Thunder 106, Lakers 90 (OKC wins 4-1)

Russell Westbrook jumped the passing lane and stole the ball from Ramon Sessions, sprinting down court and throwing up a ridiculous underhanded shot from the free throw line that banked in as Sessions grabbed him to avoid an easy bucket, walking into a three-point play instead. Westbrook and the OKC crowd went into a frenzy, giving the Thunder an incredible spark that led to an eventual 23-7 run. The game was tied at 70 prior to the remarkable effort from Westrbook, proving to be a game changer in OKC’s close-out victory over LA. “Sessions grabbed me kind of early and I just tried to throw it to the rim and luckily it went it,” Westbrook said.

Up 83-77 to start the fourth quarter and with Kobe Bryant taking a breather on the bench, the Thunder continued their relentless attack, highlighted by back-to-back 25-foot three-point baskets from Kevin Durant, essentially putting the game out of reach at 91-77. By the time Bryant checked back in, the Lakers had hit their fourth-quarter fatigue just as they had in Games 2, 3 and 4, wilting late while the Thunder continued to rise up, ultimately falling 106-90.

Bryant finished with 42 points (18-33) and 5 rebounds but did not record an assist. Dressed casual in grey sweats at his post game press conference, Bryant said the two teams have changed quite a bit since they faced each other last in the Playoffs. “When we came in here a couple years ago we had played with each other in the same system for years, so we kind of knew the intricacies of our offense and defensively what we want to do,” Bryant explained. “So now it’s just flipped. They’ve been together for a long time in the same system and know exaclty what they want to do—they’ve really grown tremendously. I think Westbrook improved, Durant improved. Sefolosha didn’t shoot the ball well tonight but overall he’s an excellent shooter which was different when we played them in ’09. Ibaka can shoot, Perkins is a great addition, so they made great strides.”

OKC did a fantastic job neutralizing the Lakers bigs in Game 5, with wonderful performances from Perkins, Ibaka and Nick Collison. Pau Gasol had 14 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks but only converted five field goals on 14 attempts. Andrew Bynum was disappointing, adding 10 points on 4-10 shooting and 4 rebounds. Perkins had 11 rebounds and two blocks and Collison added 6 boards. “They did the things that don’t show up in the stats and led us to a series win,” Durant said of the Thunder post players.

The Thunder’s Big 3 of Westbrook (28), Durant (25) and Harden (17) combined for 70 points. “That’s a tough team, they weren’t laying down,” Westbrook said of L.A. “We had to come together and be better teammates and we did that from the end of the third quarter until the end of the game.”

After being critical of Gasol’s play following Game 4, Bryant was more diplomatic in his comments following Game 5, saying Gasol played aggressive and took the shots that were available to him.

But Bryant was defensive when asked about the future of the Lakers. “I’m not fading into the shadows if that’s what you’re asking,” he explained. “I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere. It’s not like one of those things where the Bulls beat the Pistons and the Pistons disappear forever. I’m not going for that shit.”

The win for OKC advances them to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. This time around they will have to matchup against a San Antonio Spurs squad that hasn’t lost a game since April 11. —Nima Zarrabi (@NZbeFree)

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  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Ok buddy.

  • Riggs

    I have a feeling San Antonio are gonna have a rude awakening in Game 1. Brandon Bass attacking the rim is what he should have been doing from the start but rondo setting him up helped tremendously.

  • http://www.borntocompete.com Money$hot

    It was like Kevin Durant was Mr. Marcus, and Russell Westbrook was Rico Strong, and the Lakers were Pinky. And the Lakers just had what was coming to them! #Train

  • Feez_22

    well… no need for me to explain what i’ve already said a million times about the lakers. it’ll be fun to watch mike brown coach this team to disaster next season as well.

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    ^^Really, my dude? Really? LOL

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    That was at Moneyshot

  • http://www.slamonline.com Dagger

    Gasol can be soft and he’s been passive at times in these playoffs, but the constant finger-pointing at him for not being an aggressive scorer is pretty rich when A) he was essentially demoted to third option on offense this season, and B) Brown inexplicably got him to play as a stretch-four this season. Gasol’s role this season was primarily to facilitate and sink open jumpers, not pound around the basket. Anyway, Kobe’s scoring last night was impressive, but the 0 assists was less impressive. Too often Kobe looks only for his own shot. For example: how many times does he drive and dish to the open man? The Lakers were never going to beat this team by having Kobe score a million points, any more than the Knicks were going to beat the heat when Melo hit 40.

  • Heals

    Whheeww! C’s had me scared there for bit with JRu hitting rainbows and Bos offense relying on Bass and The Steamer. Thankfully Doc called em’ out for their woe-is-me/finger-pointing BS and Philly couldn’t get to the line. No reason trying to predict the next one given how either team could’ve won the series already…

  • 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

    Well Bynum, I guess close out games are pretty easy huh..

  • http://www.yahoo.com The Fury

    It would be awesome if the Spurs can also sweep the Thunder. Youth and talent can only be the reason the Thunder can beat San Antonio. But Professor X wouldn’t let it happen though.

  • Kadavour

    Kobe’s not a drive and dish type of guy. He’s one of the best triple threat and post up players in the game. He’s not a slasher anymore. Why would he give up post position unless he’s dishing to a cutter? Dude played a great game last night. We need to see more of this bang em in the post Kobe. The problem is the offensive system.

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

    I had a feeling Kobe would put his blinders on last night. At least Pau stepped up but Bynum only had 10 points. Sessions really pissed me off this playoffs and is more of a defensive liability than Fisher was.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/3796/isiah-thomas-wasn-t-on-the-1992-dream-team nbk

    Pau Gasol, 3-7 in the paint (not so good) — 1-5 from outside of it. Good offense Mike Brown, you have created an offensive system that has made a multiple time all-star 7’0″ Power Forward into Glenn Davis. *claps*

  • Tripledribble

    I can’t point to a close playoff game in recent memory that the lakers have won when Kobe scored a ton of points. I mean during the post shaq, gasol era, in important games. he scored 40 in game one of the finals against orlando, but that was a blowout against an overwhelmed and starstruck opponent. The one game they lost that series, Kobe had like 38 with ridiculous threepointers against Pietrus. Same in game 5 against boston in oten. It just doesn’t help his team when he goes into heroball overdrive. Even if he has a good fg % as last night, the result’s the same. When was the last time the lakers won a must win playoff game because and not despite of Kobe’s heroics?
    it seems to me it’s more important to mr. bryant to have scored 40 so he can show everybody ‘see i did my part, this loss is not on me but my inferior teammates’ than score 4 and win the game. Just sayin

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    I think if we put Phil Jackson instead of Mike brown in there…. w/ the triangle and just better offensive game planning and phil’s ability to motivate that team they really could’ve exploited their advantages and drawn this series out to 7 games. The lakers are NOT this much worse than the thunder IMO. with that said OKC played AMAZING.

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

    Spurs/Thunder is going to be legendary

  • Showmeyourwits

    The Lakers blew gms 2 and 4, and just didn’t have things go their way in gm 5. They need to get better though, and after seeing Bynum give up in multiple games, I’m okay with moving him for pieces and some flexibility.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Props to the Thunder and their fans(?). Always sad to see your favorite team crumble, but it happens. It’s sports. It’s a game.
    It’s going to be extra sad if the Thunder win a chip and it’s in Oklahoma City instead of where it should be in Seattle. Sad, sad, times for my basketball world, but I always look for the positive. In this case, I don’t know what that is, but i’ll find it.
    Mean while, I got some fishing to do.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nick Tha Quick

    @ T-Ray I hadn’t seen enough of Sessions to get a good feel for his game. He seemed to be up and down through the season. From the playoff games, some things are becoming clear. He is not a good shooter. He struggles to finish over length. He is below average defending the pick and roll and other actions on the floor. He can be posted by bigger point guards and fails to hold his ground. He doesn’t get to the line as much as he could. He often make poor passing decisions which are quickly converted to points on the other end. He doesn’t direct the offense very well even without Kobe on the floor. I am not very confident about Sessions as a long term solution at the point guard.

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

    I don’t think it’s because he’s flawed in his game I just don’t think the system really allowed him to flourish. Plus he was a late aquisition so I shouldn’t have expected him to just do work. He is a liability against the elite point guards especially the bigger ones who like you said can post him up and abuse him.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Head Count: Who actually has the Thunder (and Scott Brooks) beating the Spurs (and Gregg Popovich)?

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    Thunder in 7. Double ot.

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

    Not me nbk

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Surprisingly I got Thunder in 7 also. By no way through the ‘great’ coaching on Scotty B, but through the pure youthful exuberance and energy of the Thunder. It seems as if the Thunder are as good a matchup as anyone for the Spurs. Reason, Russel can guard Parker effectively from time to time, probably not vice versa. (I don’t see Tony being able to slow down Westbrook). Manu and Danny Green will be some what negated by Thabo and Harden. Durant will most likely have a field day with Leonard. Ibaka and Perkins can hold their own against Timmy D. That’s my thoughts anyway.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I have Spurs in 7 (wouldn’t bet on it though). I just wanted to know who had Thunder, I realize they have as good a chance as anyone to beat them.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Not sure Phil would solve things. They had Phil last year and did worse.

  • Rik Smits Mullet

    i have got the spurs in 6. Iam really looking forward to the spurs thunder clash. Hope nobody important gets injured. Really like to see how invincible the spurs are against a A++ team.

  • LA Huey

    Since Kobe and Pau joined up, the team that beat the Lakers in the postseason became the champs. Just sayin’.
    I’ll side the Spurs though. I’m excited to see how Pop defends the Thunder triumvirant.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Showtime

    I got thunder in 6

  • http://www.slamonline.com Dagger

    Spurs in 7. Better coach, more experience, better execution. Still, talent like that of Durant, Westbrook and Harden can always turn a series.

  • Cool dude

    I got spurs in 6. I have a feeling it will be a 3 point shooting contest

  • nofkksgiven

    thunder in 6

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    your probably right allen. I personally thought some of what happened last year was bc of giant mismatches on the floor. (read. dirk nowitzki JJ Barea P&R against an ancient fisher and a lethargic gasol) ,certain players (kobe due to knee problems, Pau for whatever reason) couldn’t step up plus LA couldn’t really defend the 3 against them. (although to be fair nobody could). This year though? w/ a slightly less suckish gasol, semi-rejuvenated Kobe and an emerging Bynum? they could’ve really given the thunder front court hell IMO.

  • ti-sizzle

    if spurs play bonner at the 4 and timmy at the 5, that will force ibaka to go out to the perimeter to guard bonner, which means less interior defense. then timmy can just go to work inside right? but okc will win this series in 5 or 6, because nobody can stop durant

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    also I honestly have no idea who wins between the thunder and the spurs. I’m sure popavich will figure out a way to make scott brooks shoot himself in the foot but the thunder just seem too overwhelmingly talented at this point.

    also trade bynum. like now. get dwight howard. Bynum won’t mind. SMH

  • T-Money

    i don’t see how you can beat the spurs without running any plays. okc better pray that its midrange game is 100%. pop vs brooks is the biggest mismatch of them all.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    The RS matchups were pretty close between SA and OKC, so I expect the same thing to happen in the playoffs. I think SA wins in 6 because I think their late-game execution will allow them to steal one game in OKC

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    Spurs in 6. Who’s backcourt will have a greater impact on this series, Parker/Manu or Westbrook/Harden?

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    @ Tmoney truuuuuuuuuu

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/3183/tex-winter-compares-kobe-bryant-and-michael-jordan Allenp

    Thunder shoot a lot of jumpers. Or finish at the rim on dribble drives.
    If you stop them from finishing at the rim so much, mainly Harden and Westbrook, they become strictly a jump shooting team. No post scoring, very little action getting easy looks for their bigs on the move.
    They run plays, Durant has some curl action he likes to use, and of course a variety of pick and rolls and pick and pops. But, the main problem is that if you slow them in transition and force them to execute in the half court they seem to take a lot of difficult shots.
    The Lakers should have won if they played together and everyone did their part. I don’t see the Spurs having the same sort of failings.

  • Riggs

    anyone else seen pau get frustrated with kobe in the 4th quarter? it was when pau set a screen for a pick and roll and kobe kept the ball. Pau was putting his hands up and just shook his head when kobe missed the [tough] shot. Kobe is incredibly tough to have as a teammate when it gets like that.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    Allenp, are you suggesting that the Lakers could have made this a series if Kobe hadn’t played like such a Majestic Galloping Unicorn?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CReHwsYaBg0&feature=endscreen nbk

    Allen, you honestly just made it sound like the Thunder’s offense has more variety than it really does. They run a high pick and roll with a baseline cutter. A High Pick and Roll with a flare screen for Durant. A high pick and roll with a pin-down screen for Durant’s little curl. And most often, an isolated high pick and roll with shooters in the corners and a big at the rim. Other than that, their offense is (from all of the various games I’ve watched) based on getting Durant the ball in the center of the floor. Either by him actually setting the pick, or another playing setting a pin-down screen for him on the baseline. (which they actually used as their late game offense against Memphis. Video by clicking my name).

  • http://slamonline Brion

    Being from Seattle, I gotta roll with the Spurs in 6.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    It’s weird Brion. Peeps in Seattle are one of two ways.
    A. Hate the Thunder. I mean like despise with vitriol type of hate.
    B. Root for them and love them like they are still the Sonics.
    LOL, I am kind of in between. I root for Nick Collison and Kevin Durant, but not the Thunder team.

  • BBaller

    I’m hoping the Spurs win, though how they handle Durant will be the pivotal factor in the series.On another note, what is with Boston’s bench and that double fist celebration after every time they score?It is SO… SO LAME.