Post Up: Grind Hard

by April 25, 2014

Pacers 98 – Hawks 85 (Hawks lead 2-1)

The first half of the Pacers-Hawks Game 3 can be summed up in one word: Meh.

In front of a nearly half-empty Philips Arena, the two teams basically played to a boring draw over the first 24 minutes, with Atlanta carrying a 39-38 lead into the break. The Pacers were shooting just 37.5 percent from floor and the Hawks were even more porous at 30 percent, barely clinging to a lead because of more trips to the charity stripe. Atlanta doubled up Indy on free throw attempts with 14 to the Pacers’ 7. With Roy Hibbert essentially a non-factor on offense, the Pacers struggled to get anything effective going in the paint, let alone at the rim. Meanwhile, the previously sharp-shooting Hawks went a cold 2-16 from downtown.

But the Hawks emerged from the locker room and rediscovered their offensive swagger they played with in Indy, jumping out to an 11-4 run over the first three and a half minutes of the third quarter. The Hawks’ ball movement was zipping just like it was in the beginning of Game 1, as all four of Atlanta’s baskets during the run were assisted, prompting a Pacers’ timeout.

Atlanta found its groove from beyond the arc as well, taking advantage of the Pacers switching nearly every pick and roll. The Hawks shot a blistering 6 of 12 from downtown in the frame capped off by a Lou Williams step-back triple to end the period and give the home team it’s largest lead of the game to that point with a 67-58 score in favor of the Atlanta.

But the Pacers wouldn’t go away. Even though Paul George (3-11), George Hill (1-11) and Hibbert (2-9) struggled mightily, Lance Stephenson and Luis Scola would not let the East’s No. 1 seed back down without a fight.

Just like he did in the second quarter of Game 2, Scola scored the Pacers’ first three buckets of the period to keep pace with the soaring Hawks. Lance then scored six-straight points for Indy, going on a 6-0 run all by himself to cut the Hawks’ lead to four. Lance went 4-4 for 12 points and 2 assists while Scola went 5-5 for 12 points in the quarter, but everyt ime Indy made a run the Hawks responded.

Sometimes it was a Kyle Korver three. Others it was Jeff Teague driving all the way to the rim or getting to the line. DeMare Carroll was big at the stripe as well, shooting 3-4 from the line in the quarter. Overall, Atlanta had an enormous advantage on free throws, shooting 30-37 to Indiana’s 16-21.

The biggest of counter punch was Teague’s three-point prayer with 2:42 left. Words literally can’t describe the play, only video and his MJ-esque shrug can truly show how nasty the shot was:

While the refs reviewed the heave to see it was a two or three-pointer, the replay did reveal Teague stepped out of bounds. But with the game not inside of the final 2 minutes, the refs could not over turn the huge made bucket.

Korver’s triple with 1:40 left was the dagger, giving Atlanta a 92-80 lead before cruising to a 13-point victory. Teague had 22 and 10 dimes, Millsap had 14 points and 14 boards. Korver finished with 20.

We have a historic upset brewing, y’all.—Jake Fischer

Grizzlies 98 – Thunder 95 OT (Memphis leads 2-1)

Overtime. In two out of the three games played so far this series. These are the NBA Playoffs.

Is this what it feels like to experience déjà vu? Maybe not—but there were similar scenarios between the ends of Games 2 and 3 in the Oklahoma City versus Memphis series this week.

For one, the Grizzlies won the game after giving up what you think would be a comfortable lead with 7:43 left in the fourth quarter of Game 3 last night. A nice double-digit, 17-point advantage at home, where they were on a 14-game winning streak.

It was also at home where they witnessed the Thunder score 17 unanswered points, just enough to tie the game. Memphis then woke up with a couple power plays executed just under the 1-minute mark thanks to Tony Allen, who finished with 16. Memphis reclaimed the lead, 85-81.

And then—the real déjà vu moment—eye-popping and mouth-dropping in all its incredulousness. Russell Westbrook sank a three and got fouled. The four-point play from OKC is a regular occurrence now, and last night, it gave the Thunder another chance in the FedExForum.

Russ handles the free throw. Tie game.

The remaining 26.6 seconds of regulation consisted of a missed layup by Mike Conley and a good look but off-the-mark three for Durant, who was cold from the arc the entire night. These teams headed to overtime for the second game in a row.

During the overtime period, the Grizzlies made up for their fourth quarter mistakes. Conley recorded five of his 20 points, the team as a whole held the Thunder to a mere 3-12 shooting, and Courtney Lee hit some very important clutch free throws to seal the win.

Six of the Grizzlies finished in double figures, and while both KD and Russ ended with 30 on the stat sheet, they shot 19 of 53 from the field.

Game 4 will be tomorrow night at 9:30 EST in Memphis. Make sure to add that to your calendar if you haven’t done so already. We have a serious series on our hands, and it’s kind of wonderful.—Habeeba Husain

Clippers 98 – Warriors 96 (Clippers lead 2-1)

In the closing seconds, Chris Paul had clarity. With the Clippers up two points with four seconds remaining, he knew the ball was going to Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry. “I knew who was getting it and I figured he was going to shoot it,” Paul explained.

After hitting two late three-pointers to put the Warriors back in the game late, Curry had a chance to win it all, but Paul forced him to his left and harassed him off his spot and Curry shot an uncomfortable three-pointer that fell short—the Clippers hung on for a 98-96 win on the road at Oracle arena.

Paul had put his left hand on Curry’s hip as he released the ball and seemed to expect a call after the ball fell short but the refs didn’t see it that way. Warriors coach Mark Jackson made it clear that he felt Curry was fouled on the shot. “He’s supposed to be able to land,” Jackson said post-game. “He wasn’t able to. I’m not looking for an apology tomorrow though.”

L.A. was once again led by Blake Griffin, who was spectacular to the tune of 32 points and 8 rebounds while withstanding the Warriors physical play. DeAndre Jordan tied a Clippers playoff record with 22 rebounds. He continued his dominance in the paint, setting the tone for the Clippers defensively.

“We got stops when we needed to but we can’t let them back in the game like that,” Griffin said.

Blake was referring to the Clippers’ 18-point lead in the third quarter that shrunk at the hands of Golden State’s small lineup. Fifteen fourth-quarter points from Klay Thompson helped shred the gap and Curry’s late bombs gave the Warriors a chance to win, but they couldn’t close out in the end. The Warriors struggled from the three-point line, shooting 6-31 for the game.

“We got good shots, 6-31 is uncharacteristic for us,” Thompson said. “We’ll probably hit half of those on Sunday. We just can’t let ourselves go down by 18 in our own building.”

Thompson led Golden State with 26 points and Curry added 16 points and 15 assists. They had balanced scoring with 6 players finishing in double figures but they’re going to need a bigger output from either Curry or Iguodala (11 points, 9 rebs) to keep up with L.A.

The Clippers contributions complemented Griffin’s dominant play, led by Jordan’s 14 points and another 14 points from JJ Redick and 13 from Jamal Crawford. Paul posted 15 points and 10 assists. Guard Matt Barnes jammed his toe late in the game, but was able to return, however it may be an injury to keep an eye on int he coming days. Game 4 will be played Sunday at Oracle.—Nima Zarrabi