Post Up: #LillardTime

Raptors 83 – Nets 97 (Series tied 3-3)

Andray Blatche and the Nets backed up their Game 6 guarantee and won in convincing style in Brooklyn on Saturday. Dray played solid minutes in the blowout W—where he dropped 8 points with 7 boards and 2 big blocks—but he wasn’t finished. After the game, Blatche extended his guarantee.

“We guarantee a win in Game 7,” Blatche said. “We’re going to take care of business and then go to Miami.”

It’s strong words once again from the forward, but given how the Nets have outplayed the Raptors for five straight quarters (Wednesday’s fourth quarter included), they’re going to be tough to beat. Brooklyn built a 26-point lead in the third quarter and didn’t look back. Four players finished the game in double figures, and no player was more important than Deron Williams, who appeared on a “Missing” poster outside of Barclays Center before the game. The point guard’s play has been closely linked to the team’s performance, and when he’s been bad, the Nets have been pretty awful.

DWill led the team with 23 points, 4 dimes, 5 boards and iced the game with a three with 1:13 remaining.

“It shows what he’s all about,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “He stood up to whatever was said, and he responded with one of his best games.”

Kevin Garnett played a big 27 minutes (a whopping six minutes more than the Nets normally would play him), and for good reason. The future Hall of Famer did what he does best—generate energy and shut down Raptors on the defensive end. He dropped 13 points, and even messed around in the post a bit. (He may not have had played with his back to the basket this much since the 2010 Finals.)

“There was no way in hell they were going to come here and get a win today,” Garnett said. “We were just desperate.”

After a solid fourth-quarter showing in Game 5, Alan Anderson got the start in Game 6, and like KG, brought an unexpected boost. Anderson snared a career-high 9 rebounds and contributed 9 points. Joe Johnson (17 points) commanded double-teams and made the right plays when the defense came over to help.

The Raptors, well…played as poorly as they did in the fourth quarter of Game 5. Kyle Lowry was virtually taken out of the game, and other than DeMar DeRozan (28 points), every Raptor struggled to put the ball in the basket.

“The way we started the game, it was the way we ended [Game 5] last time,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Tonight they got their foot on the pedal a lot quicker than we did.”

Interestingly enough, neither franchise has won a Game 7. Both teams will come out aggressive on Sunday in Toronto. As if there’s no tomorrow. The Truth knows what it’s all about.

“Game 7 is going to be fun,” Pierce said. “This is what the NBA is all about—these pressure type moments. These are the types of games that elevate the good players to great players.”—Ryne Nelson

Spurs 111 – Mavericks 113 (Series tied 3-3)

Did you expect anything less? Yes, we will have another Game 7 if you don’t mind.

Even though this is still Dirk Nowitzki’s (22 points, 5 rebounds) team, Monta Ellis (Playoff career-high 29 points, 3-6 on three-pointers) showed he’s more than simply a No. 2 option—he’s option 1b. Ellis took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 29 points and making big shot after big shot. No longer does Ellis take uncontested midrange jumpers as Carlisle has turned him into a driving shooting guard that only shoots when open. Now, he gets to play in the first Game 7 of his career.

Ellis did get help from the Mavs sixth man as Vince Carter (13 points, 6 rebounds) contributed 8 points in the fourth quarter. Dirk played much better against Splitter, who had been causing him fits up to this point in the series. The Big German might not have had his vintage play down the stretch but when Ellis and Carter become playmakers like they did in crunch time, the Mavs turn into an offensive machine. And that’s why they outscored the Spurs 37-30 in the final frame.

Speaking of machines, DeJuan Blair (10 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals) is a motor that just won’t turn off. When the former Spurs player is on the floor, his teammates feed off his incessant energy and seem to play more cohesively because of it. The Mavs clearly had a sparkplug missing in Game 5, as Brandan Wright (who didn’t play in Game 6) was too hesitant with his pick-and-roll defense. Blair did a much better and more decisive job of hedging and/or sticking to his man while also cutting off the pocket passes that the Spurs used so frequently and effectively Wednesday night.

With Blair’s quickness and size, he helped finally slow down Manu Ginobili (6 points, 5 assists, 1-8 from the field), who easily had his worst game of the series. The Spurs needed Ginobili’s playmaking late when the Mavs were surging, and it was nowhere to be found.

This game was very evenly played, though, as both teams had six players in double figures, with Tiago Splitter (Playoff career-high 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals) continuing his streak of dominance, besting his previous Playoff career-high in points (17) he set the game before. The Spurs center has turned into the focal point of an offense that already showcases Tony Parker (22 points, 6 assists), Tim Duncan (16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 7-9 from the field) and Ginobili.

The Mavs, though, are almost encouraging Splitter to have this type of series since they don’t want their perimeter defenders sinking in on him and leaving the 3-point shooters open. As long as the Spurs don’t have the long ball in their system (they only attempted 16 Friday night), Carlisle is content with his defense.

Danny Green (17 points, 7-7 from the field) found a way to work around this defense, starting the game on fire. Green hit all five of his first-quarter attempts and had 12 points in the first 12 minutes of play. He didn’t miss a shot for the rest of the game.

Duncan also had an efficient game, at one point making his patented bank shot look effortless. However, late in the game, he didn’t know what to do with Ellis coming off high picks or when the Ellis used his quick first step to get past his defender.

If this game didn’t have enough drama and excitement, an odd back-to-back sequence took place at the end of the game. After Ellis knocked down two free throws, Patty Mills (10 points), who bounced back from a subpar Game 5, drilled a pull-up 3-pointer to make the deficit 113-111. After the Mavs inbounded the ball to Ellis in the backcourt, he used his swiftness to almost dribble the entire clock out…key word: almost.

With about three seconds remaining, Ellis chunked the ball down court as if the game was over and his Mavs were victorious. Well, he left 1.3 seconds on the clock and gave the Spurs one more chance. So then, the Spurs inbound the ball…with six players on the floor. After the ball was knocked out of bounds, the number was reduced to five players and Mills misses a Lillard-esque 3-pointer to save Ellis’ skin. The consequence: we all have to watch another Game 7. Well shucks.

With the loss, San Antonio is now 55-2 on the year when going into the fourth quarter with the lead. Dallas should feel confident knowing they just accomplished something only one other team was able to do this season.

Will the Spurs fall apart in Game 7 as they did last year against the Miami Heat? Or will the top seed continue their re-pursuit of the Larry O’Brien trophy that was literally on the court, waiting to be raised by someone in black and white?

Will the Mavs pull off one the most unexpected and biggest upsets ever by taking down a healthy, top-seeded Spurs team that had beat them nine straight times going into the series? Or will this go down as just another first-round exit after their magical championship run?

No matter what happens Sunday, this will go down as yet another classic clash between two teams that know each other so well no matter what players are on each team. It is an understanding that the other team is and always will be a dreaded rival. They complete each other. Now—they play one more game to decide who continues their 2013-14 NBA season.—Jay Wallis

Rockets 98 – Blazers 99 (Blazers win 4-2)

Nine-tenths of a second. Houston Rockets up 98-96. All they needed was a stop and they’d even the series 3-3 and force a Game 7 back in H-Town. Portland Trailblazers have the ball. Coach Terry Stotts draws up a play for a desperation shot. For Houston, the defensive play was simple.

No threes.

Somehow, Damian Lillard breaks free from Chandler Parsons at the top of the key, gets the ball over his left shoulder on the inbound pass from Nicolas Batum while drifting to the left and rising all in one motion and lets it fly.


Dame over.

OMG what an incredible shot and an even more incredible ending. In the canon of NBA Playoffs lore, Dame’s Dagger was only the fourth series-ending buzzer beater in the modern NBA era. Yeah, you’d have to go all the way back to 1997 for the last buzzer-beater to win a postseason series. The shooter: John Stockton. The victim: Houston.

Kevin McHale after the game: “We specifically said no threes…”

Coach Stotts on Dame Diddy’s walk off 3: “He lives for those moments.”

Correction, legends live for those moments. With one shot, Lillard vaulted himself into the rafters of basketball’s shining moments while leading his Blazers to a 99-98 victory and their first playoff series win since the year 2000 (the longest active playoff drought in the L).

“That’s definitely the biggest shot of my life, so far, ” Lillard said.

Fun fact: Lillard was the second option on that last play. LaMarcus Aldridge was the first.

Lillard’s catch-and-release trey and subsequent court-storming by the entire Moda Center will likely dominate SportsCenter all weekend, but this was a game for the books even before the shot that turned “Clutch City” into “Crushed City.”

“It hurts,” Dwight Howard said. “When you put everything you’ve got on the floor and somebody hits you with a dagger like that, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Howard, despite Twitter trolls’ views to the contrary, carried the Rockets in the fourth (and the whole series), where he scored 13 of his 26 points, including the grown ass man put-back (and 1) with 1:47 left in the game. Jeremy Lin hit a trifecta with 48 ticks left that would have put the game out of reach, but it was waved off after Omer Asik fouled out trying to hold, grab and mug LMA on the closeout.

Batum tied it at 96, but on the other end, in a wild scramble for the rock after a James Harden miss, Parsons came up with the Spalding and put it in to all but seal the deal.

And then, well, you know the rest.

Harden led all scorers with 34 points on 9-15 shooting and Parsons added 16. Aldridge finished with a team-high 30 points and 13 rebounds, while the cold-blooded PG from Oakland, who joins Paul Pierce as only NBA players with 150 plus points and 20 plus 3-pointers in their first six career playoff games, chipped in 25.

“Go win the chip,” said Howard to Lillard after the game.

As Rip City moves on to the Western Conference semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of the San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavs series, winning the chip seems a helluva lot more plausible with a star in the making like Lillard running the point. He’s not afraid of the big stage and, as he demonstrated with the whole NBA world watching, he’s not afraid to rise, and shoot, to the occasion.—Maurice Bobb