Post Up: Rise Above

Wizards 75 – Bulls 69 (Wizards win series 4-1)

It wasn’t pretty, but the Wizards are heading to the second round of the NBA postseason for just the third time in 34 years.

As was the case in the previous four games, the Wizards were able to establish a first quarter advantage. Both teams traded baskets at the start of the contest, but Washington stretched the score to 23-15 thanks to some solid midrange shooting from all of it starters. That lead was extended to 12 in the second quarter after a Nene midrange jumper (a recurring theme in the series). Chicago battled back after Kirk Hinrich hit a couple of three-pointers and Taj Gibson converted on some points in the paint, eventually erasing the deficit and putting their team ahead. John Wall had all 7 of his squad’s points in the last 3:43 of the half and the score was knotted up at 41 apiece going into the break.

The second half was ugly, ugly basketball. The Bulls scored 11 points in the third quarter and 17 in the fourth, barely eclipsing their second quarter output. The Wizards weren’t much better, though they were able to clamp down in the closing minutes. Washington outhustled Chicago on the boards, usually the trademark of the gritty Tom Thibodeau-coached squad. During one particular possession late in the game, the Wizards collected three consecutive offensive rebounds, wasting a full minute off the clock. With a chance to ice the series in the closing seconds, Andre Miller missed back-to-back free throws, only to have Nene tip the ball back to Bradley Beal. Beal made the first from the charity stripe and missed the second, but the Brazilian big man grabbed another board that allowed Washington to waste even more time off the clock and eventually make it a 6-point margin.

Nene finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while playing tough defense on Joakim Noah (6 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists). Wall led all scorers with 24 points to go with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Beal added 17 and Trevor Booker was huge off the bench, providing 4 offensive rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks. The Bulls lost Gibson to an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, forcing Carlos Boozer (10 points, 9 rebounds) to log crunch time minutes for the first time in the series. Hinrich and Jimmy Butler each had 16 points.

Washington will face off against the winner of the Indiana/Atlanta series, which the Hawks currently lead 3 games to 2.—Alex Shultz 

Grizzlies 100 – Thunder 99 OT (Memphis leads 3-2)

Lol. Yep, laugh out loud. Because this series entertains me to no end. And I laugh when entertained. 

Series tied. Game 5. Chesapeake Energy Arena. You knew it was gonna be entertaining. 

Is it safe to say we should expect four-point plays and overtimes every night in this series? Because it sure seems that way.

Although Memphis had a 20-point advantage with 3:43 left in the third quarter, last night’s meeting went down to the wire and then to overtime for the fourth game in a row, a first time occurrence in NBA history. 

The Thunder struck as they usually do with a powerful 27-6 run spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter to take a one-point lead 79-78. 

The Grizzlies remained field goal-less after Marc Gasol, who finished with 11 points and 15 boards, tipped in a shot with 25.6 left in the third until Zach Randolph’s jump shot at the 4:54 mark in the fourth. Randolph recorded a double-double too, with 20 points and 10 rebounds.  

Game remained close and with hardly seven seconds to play and down by two, Russell Westbrook stole the ball from Mike Conley, ran the floor for a sweet slam at the other end to tie the game with four seconds left in regulation. Randolph’s subsequent layup came a tad late, and it was time again for free basketball.

Led by Mike Miller’s two three-pointers in the first minute and a half of OT, the Grizz rallied. But OKC rallied back. Kevin Durant, down 100-98 with 27.5 seconds standing between him and a 3-2 lead in a first round Playoffs series, stood at the line for free throws.

He hit the first. 

He dribbled once and was about to shimmy shake his shoulder before letting go of the second, when official Joey Crawford ran to him and took the ball. 

Something was wrong with the scoreboard, and Crawford felt the need to do what he did, which caused a 33-second delay. After the scorer’s table heard it from him, Durant got the ball back to shoot his second FT.  

He missed. 

The 100-99 score at that point would remain the score ‘til the end, as Serge Ibaka’s putback off a KD missed three was like, less than a half-second late.

Game 6 is tomorrow night in Memphis, and the home team has a chance to eliminate the West’s No. 2 seed that finished the regular season with the second-best record in the entire League. 

It’s no laughing matter, but as an NBA fan rooting for overtimes rather than any team in this year’s Playoffs (nod to @NBAGuru’s bio), I’m getting exactly what I wanted—and I’m all smiles.—Habeeba Husain

Warriors 103 – Clippers 113 (Clippers lead 3-2)

Hours after NBA commissioner Adam Silver scorched the Earth with his lifetime banishment of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, DeAndre Jordan had the game of his life.

The Clippers center, one of the best defensive players in the L, played with an unmatched focus, racking up 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots in the Clippers 113-103 win. “He was huge tonight—it was unreal,” Blake Griffin said of his good friend. “I’ve never seen him play a game like that. From start to finish, offensively, defensively, he was great. When he plays like that, it takes our team to another level.”

Confronted with the despicable Sterling tapes prior to game four, the Clippers seemed shook and off their game when they took the floor at Oracle in that loss but today they were a more confident and relaxed squad. Silver’s monumental decision to ban Sterling and eventually force him to sell the franchise helped put the Clippers at ease.

“I honestly didn’t think it would be as big as it was but I think it definitely made sense and it was the right thing,” Griffin said of the decision. “We knew a little before it broke but I don’t think we knew how big this was going to be. We didn’t really know the magnitude.”

Jordan had struggled badly in Game 4, finishing the contest scoreless but he promised Clippers coach Doc Rivers a better performance in Game 5 and he delivered magnificently. Chris Paul and Griffin struggled with their shot early on but the combination of Jordan and bench play of Jamal Crawford (19 points) and Darren Collison (15 points) proved to be huge.

Golden State played the Clippers tough throughout the game in a tight contest but each time they would close the gap on the lead, L.A. had an answer. Stephen Curry managed only 10 shots, finishing 17 points and 8 turnovers. Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 21 points while David Lee and Andre Iguodala each added 18 points.

Paul has been dealing with the Sterling controversy as both a player and as the NBA Players Union President. He credited Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson for stepping in to help carry some of the burden so he could focus on the game. CP3 said he didn’t know what to expect from Clippers fans on Tuesday night. “It was emotional and I can’t thank the fans enough,” he said.

Game 6 is Thursday night at Oracle Arena.—Nima Zarrabi