Post Up: Clips Shock Grizz

by April 30, 2012

Spurs 106, Jazz 91

The Spurs were a team on a mission in Game 1 of their matchup with Utah in the Western Conference Playoffs. For the first time in four years, San Antonio won the first game of a first-round Playoff series.

The Big Three looked to continue their dominance near the end of the season and carry it over into the playoffs. The Spurs have won 11 straight games dating back to the regular season. San Antonio wanted the world to know that they haven’t entered this series in the same state of mind as last year’s Playoffs, getting shocked in the opening round by Memphis.

“I think everybody knows what happened last year,” Parker said. “Everybody’s motivated this year, but we don’t even talk about it.”

Tony Parker was great in the first game, putting together his best Playoff game since 2009. Parker scored 28 points on 10-19 shooting from the field. He was constantly on the attack, and it showed with his free throw attempts as he got to the line for 10 foul shots in all.

The Jazz, on the other hand, hung in the game for the first three quarters of action. Paul Milsap was solid—scoring 20 points and pulling down 9 rebounds in the contest. Despite shooting a solid field goal percentage in the game, the Jazz could not keep up with the barrage of threes from the NBA’s best three-point shooting team.

It will be interesting to see how the young team adjusts to defend the different options of the Spurs in the second game of the series on Wednesday. —Christian Mordi (@mordi_thecomeup)

Lakers 103, Nuggets 88

Andrew Bynum messed around for a triple-double and Kobe Bryant added 31 points to help lead the Lakers to an impressive 103-88 victory over the Nuggets in Game 1. Bynum looked like a 7-foot free safety in the paint, protecting the rim against Denver’s thirst for easy buckets, blocking 10 shots—to tie an NBA record and set a new one for the Lakers franchise—and altering many others, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds, a continuation of his domination against the Nuggets this season.

“His timing was impeccable tonight,” Bryant said of Bynum at the post-game presser. “He just really understood the rhythm of the offensive player, he wasn’t leaving his feet too early, just leaving at the exact moment to either change the shot or block it.”

LA jumped out early thanks to some cold shooting from Denver and spirited play from their bench, with nice showings from Jordan Hill and Steve Blake. Devin Ebanks filled in nicely for the suspended Metta World Peace, leading the Lakers in scoring for the first half with 12 points.

The Nuggets were 5-20 from the floor during the first quarter and didn’t get a very good game from leading scorer Ty Lawson, who turned the ball over on the very first play of the game and never found the proper touch, finishing with 7 points. “Ty has had some great games for us, tonight was not one of them,” Karl said. “The Lakers had him as their No. 1 priority to take out in their pick and roll coverage. The way they covered the paint was impressive.”

Karl spent a little time during his presser to work the officials for game two, noting that Bynum was “zoned up good”, a nod to Karl’s belief that he played plenty of illegal defense during the game despite the Nuggets getting one such call. Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 19 points and Andre Miller added 12. All five Lakers starters scored in double figures—Ramon Sessions finished with 14 and Pau Gasol added 13. Game 2 is Tuesday night in LA. —Nima Zarrabi (@NZbeFree)

Hawks 83, Celtics 74

Game 1 started rather ominously for the home fans. The buzz around Philips Arena was almost nonexistent. There were no free t-shirts given away at the door. And the rally towels they did have were passed out by 6:30pm. Had you looked up to the 300 sections around 6:45, you would have noticed scores of empty seats.

Thankfully, by 7:15, those empties were filled. And maaan, did they get loud.

Early in the game, there was plenty for Hawks fans to cheer about. Jeff Teague looked relaxed behind the wheel. Kirk Hinrich was on point, knocking down a couple of treys in the first half. And Josh Smith was playing like he had made a bet with a teammate that he’d have a double-double by halftime. He won the bet. 15 and 11 at the break. Atlanta was coasting as a team too, 49-35.

But like you’d expect from the veteran Celtics, they had a few runs in them in the second half. Rajon Rondo (20 points, 11 assists for the night) wasn’t overwhelming on the offensive end, but he did keep things fairly respectable while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (they shot a combined 13-38) stunk it up. Somewhere around the 7-minute mark in the fourth though, KG decided to make a shot. And then another. And another. The Cs got it down to four. But unlike past Hawks squads, this one didn’t get shook at the sight of Boston inching back into the contest. They just kept playing their game, letting the Celts make the mistakes.

Or, more specifically, they let Rondo make the mistake. With 41 seconds left in a tight game, Boston’s Brandon Bass (8 and 5 for the game) and Atlanta’s Smith (22 and 18) scrambled for a loose ball. In the ruckus, official Marc Davis called a foul on Bass. Rondo, who had a decent look at the play, was none too pleased with the call and stepped to the ref. As he approached in a huff, Rondo bumped Davis. Can’t do that, young fella. Automatic ejection. Game over for the Celts.

At the postgame presser, coach Doc Rivers deemed “the bump” completely unintentional, and totally unworthy of a suspension. As for one writer’s inquisition about the incident, Rivers had some harsher thoughts…

Writer: I’m curious to get your take on Rondo arguing that call since it was kinda on the ground and he wasn’t involved in it.

Doc: Well, he’s in the game, isn’t he?

Writer: Right.

Doc: When you’re in a game…I didn’t know there was a rule that the guy only involved in the play is the only one that can argue the call.

Writer: Vehemently, that’s my point.

Doc: By the way, as a coach, I’m not in the play either. I argue calls vehemently. I don’t get the point there. They are all 10 competitors. If you’re standing right there, and you see what you see, you have a right to argue just as much as anybody else. I think it’s great. I think it’s getting the guy’s back on your team.

With or without Rajon “Run Up on a Ref” Rondo, Game 2 will go down on Tuesday in Atlanta. —DeMarco Williams (@demarcowill)

Clippers 99, Grizzlies 98

Wait. What the hell just happened?

Let’s say it as plainly as we can: In the greatest comeback in NBA Playoff history, the Los Angeles Clippers crawled back from a 24-point deficit with eight minutes left to beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-98.

That is, apparently, how you write what happened without getting melodramatic about it.

Let’s get melodramatic about it.

It’s the morning after and none of it seems real, still. If you’re a Clippers fan, this morning is like a walk of shame out of Mila Kunis’ house. If you’re a Grizzlies fan, this morning is like a walk of shame out of an actual beehive.

To say the Clippers weren’t in this game would be giving them compliment. The Clippers weren’t even playing the same sport for the first 40 minutes of this game.

It’s a weird, fuzzy memory, at this point, but the Grizzlies’ first half had us all convinced they were Finals-bound. No exaggeration. Mike Conley was running some sort of awesome Warriors-in-’07 tribute offense. Everybody got a free jumpshot. OJ Mayo was subletting property on the space he had to shoot 18-footers. Z-Bo was in perfect form. Marc Gasol was taking guys off the dribble from the three point line. Dante Cunningham Blake Griffin’d Blake Griffin.

It was like a “We’re finally clicking as a team!” montage in a kids sports movie. Everyone was comfortable, high-fiving, writing their game stories, changing it Mad Men to get an update on Fat Betty Draper.

Then there was a blur, a few quick buckets, an 11-0 run in three minutes, a couple of Reggie Evans rebounds, a Chris Paul bucket, a couple of Eric Bledsoe jumpers, then I think the lights went out or a man fell from the ceiling or something. Everything got real quiet, real fast. The 24-point lead was down to 12.

Lionel Hollins called timeout. But he apparently only called timeout to scare the living hell out of all of his players.

Just like he drew it up, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley dribbled around for a while before taking a couple of terrible shots. No one closed out on Nick Young on three consecutive possessions. He was wide open in the right corner behind the three-point line each time. He hit all of them.

The Grizzlies technically had a last shot to win it, but they really didn’t. That basket could have had an industrial strength Dyson in it and nothing was going inside of it. It sounded like a car accident out there.

Of course, this should change nothing about the Grizzlies’ chances. This Clippers team may be the best group of players in the history of any human sport when the game devolves into sheer madness and chaos, and that’s what that game turned into for eight whole minutes last night. You just have to prevent Chris Paul from being Caligula and everything will be fine.

But now that Chris Paul knows he can do this with these pieces, is there really any turning back?

This will be the party line in Memphis in the next few days: It’s happened before. It happened last year to Dallas, even, up 11 with 4:45 left against Portland in Game 4 of Round 1. That team lost that game and won the whole thing.

But that’s not 24 points in eight minutes. Twenty-four points in eight minutes is an asteroid hitting your living room.

Everything exploded. Everything’s changed. You can keep saying, “That could’ve been anybody’s house.” But it was your house. —Ben Collins

Dunk of the Night: Dante Cunningham puts his junk on Blake Griffin. Unfortunately it came in the L.