Post Up: Man on Fire

by April 28, 2013
nate robinson

Chicago 142, Brooklyn 134 (Bulls lead series 3-1)

The game seemed all but a wrap for Brooklyn late in the fourth. Deron Williams hit a 25-foot three from the right wing with 4:30 remaining. Brook Lopez knocked down a 19-footer on the next possession to extend the lead to 12. Gerald Wallace then threw down a driving dunk to make it a 14-point game with just three minutes to go.

It was supposed to be over. But not according to Nate Robinson. nate robinson

And otherworldly fourth-quarter performance from Robinson sparked a triple-overtime battle that fulfilled all the categories of an instant classic…

Unassuming Hero: It must’ve been Nate’s NFL-style tackle of CJ Watson in the second quarter that ignited the Bulls guard’s superhuman performance. Down 14 points with three minutes and change to go in the game, Robinson scored 12 straight points and finished with 23 in the fourth quarter alone (nearly breaking Michael Jordan’s Playoff record of 24 fourth-quarter points). Nate single-handedly put the Bulls on his back willed Chicago into an improbable overtime period, where he banked-in a 23-foot, one-legged heave to put the Bulls up 121-119. He fouled out in the second overtime, but his career Playoff-high 34 points in just 28 minutes was a thing of legend. He was unstoppable and he knew it.

Epic proportions: The Nets wasted a prime chance to even the series at 2-2. The crucial game saw Robinson hit shots no human would think to attempt, as the Bulls snatched a commanding 3-1 series lead. Players were cramping and hobbling toward the end of the four-hour affair, but the game’s ramifications served to only kick up the intensity notch after notch.

Mistaken identity: The Bulls set franchise Playoff records for points (142) and made field goals (58), as the normally smash-mouth Chicago squad went up-tempo. Chicago has now won both offensive and defensive games against Brooklyn.

Fallen Star: Deron Williams was held to under 30 percent shooting over their previous two losses combined, and typical of Williams’ up-and-down season, DWill couldn’t take over when needed in Game 4. The Nets guard missed 9-10 shots at one point and managed only one layup in the three overtime periods. He did drop 32 points, but his seven turnovers all seemingly led to Chicago fast-break points.

Knightly Effort: With six seconds left in the third quarter, Brook Lopez grabbed a loose ball 26 feet out, turned around, and nailed the first three-pointer of his career to put the Nets up eight. Lopez went on to carry the Nets through regulation, blocking Noah at the rim to send the game into a third OT and hitting crucial free throws down the stretch.

Throwback Attack: Playing the role of unsung hero in the first half, Kirk Hinrich absolutely owned the end of the second quarter. Fighting through screens, saving the ball defensively, stripping away passes and knock down jumpers, Captain Kirk led the Bulls on a 11-0 run. Despite picking up his fifth foul with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter, Hinrich stayed in the game and finished with an efficient 18 points (7-12 shooting), 14 assists and 3 steals.

Was It All A Dream? Robinson came thisclose to missing the second half after getting tangled up in the second quarter with Watson. The two exchanged shoves and went crashing into the scorers’ table, but the referees decided not to eject them. Without Robinson, the series likely would be tied 2-2 as it heads back to Brooklyn on Monday. —Ryne Nelson / @slaman10

Oklahoma City 104, Houston 101 (Thunder lead series 3-0)

No one knew how the Oklahoma City Thunder would respond in Game 3 without their mercurially talented point guard Russell Westbrook, who is out indefinitely as he recovers from knee surgery.

“It’s been an emotional time the last 48 hours,” OKC head coach Scott Brooks said. “We all love what Russell is about. He’s got probably the biggest heart I’ve ever been around.”

Would the defending Western Conference champs fall off without Russ? Would they be easily defeated? Would the Houston Rockets flip the script and get back in the series?

Hell to the no, said Kevin Durant.

The man who let it be known that he was sick and tired of being sick and tired, or, you know, coming in second place, went out and made a mutha-effin’ statement Saturday night at the Toyota Center, tossing in a spectacular 41 points to take a 104-101 win in the Houston Rockets’ house.

“I didn’t feel the same,” Durant said. “And I knew I just had to give my all from here on out … every game is for him. [Westbrook] texted me at halftime and right after the game. Just said congrats and that he loved me.”

But it wasn’t like taking candy from a baby. The Rockets gave the Thunder all they could handle, especially in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

After falling into 20-point deficit in the first quarter, James Harden & Co. battled all the way back, taking a 94-93 lead with 3:38 left in the game on the go-ahead three ball by Carlos Delfino. OKC retook the lead, but Francisco Garcia dropped an all-net poppin’ triple from the wing to go up 99-77 with 45.2 ticks left.

But Durantula took the air out of the building when he pulled up for a three at the top of the key and it bounced three times before falling into the cylinder to put the Thunder up 100-99.

“We didn’t want to give up any threes,” said Harden, who scored 30 points for the Rockets in the first Playoff game in Houston since 2009. “He just made a lucky shot. It was good defense. It just went in and took some of the energy out of us.”

Delfino had a chance to force OT, but his step back three was off target thanks to Serge Ibaka’s gangly outstretched arms on defense.

Reggie Jackson, who made his first career start in place of R-Dub, had 14 points, and Ibaka added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Chandler Parsons added 21 for Houston.

Game 4 is Monday night in Houston. —Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport

Memphis 104, L.A. Clippers 83 (Series tied 2-2)

The twin towers struck again. Led by the superb play of their artists in the post—Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol—the Memphis Grizzles cruised to a 104-83 victory in Game 4, tying the series at 2-2 and “holding serve” according to coach Lionel Hollins.

Randolph posted another spectacular line, finishing with 24 points and 9 rebounds on 11-17 from the field and Gasol dropped 24 points and 13 rebounds and 4 assists on 9-14 shooting. “When he gets it going he can hit anything he wants to hit,” Gasol said of Randolph. “He found Tony and Q two or three times and that makes it hard on the defense.”

Randolph was just as complimentary of Gasol in their dual post-game press conference, calling the big man “the best center in the game.” Clippers PG Chris Paul praised the big men post-game and said it was clear his squad needs to make some serious adjustments before Game 5. “Their synergy is pretty amazing,” Paul explained. “Z-Bo inside and Marc is another guard the way he passes the ball, shoots the ball. But we gotta run them. You gotta try to get them tired. Can’t leave them in a rocking chair, we need to make them uncomfortable.”

Memphis jumped out to a 20-8 lead to start the game, fueled by Tayshaun Prince’s offensive output and Randolph’s easy buckets in the paint. But the Clippers fought back with help from Eric Bledsoe and Lamar Odom off the bench and lead 47-46 at the half.

But Memphis blew the game open in the fourth quarter with contributions from everyone it seemed, especially point guard Mike Conley who pieced together another sensational game from the PG position with 15 points and 13 assists. Prince added 15 points and Quincy Pondexter was nice off the bench with 10 points in 28 minutes of action. “Q has been stepping up and we need the bench to come out and play cause that’s how we’re going to win the series if we’re going to win,” Randolph said.

Blake Griffin and Paul led the Clippers with 19 points each but the rest of the starters for LA struggled—DeAndre Jordan (2 points) Caron Butler (0) and Chauncey Billups (0). “We made their bench beat us by shutting down their three starters,” Hollins said proudly.

Memphis had six players in double-figures including guard Tony Allen who added 10 points. The Grizzles had 22 points come via second chance opportunities, continuing their edge on the glass by out rebounding the Clips 45-28.

For the Clippers to bounce back in game five, they will need to speed up the tempo and box out much better. According to Griffin, team defense must improve. “For us it starts on defense,” he said.

Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center. —Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree

Atlanta 90, Indiana 69 (Pacers lead series 2-1)

Last night, Atlanta made this an interesting series. They held Indiana to 27.2 percent shooting. Al Horford was the leader for Atlanta, dropping 26 and 16 while locking down Roy Hibbert.

Josh Smith only made 6-of-13 shots, but he was all over the place and finished with 6 assists, 6 boards and 3 steals. Jeff Teague was the only other Hawk in double-figures with 13, and he tallied 6 rebounds and 5 assists. That’s not the prettiest box score, but Indiana’s is the worst I’ve seen in a while.

The Pacers hit 22-of-81 shots. That’s really amazing when you factor in David West’s 7-for-14 effort (meaning the rest of the team shot 15-for-67). Paul George was 4/11. Gerald Green was 4/12. Roy Hibbet was 3/8. George Hill was 1/8. Lance Stephenson was 1/7. DJ Augustin, Orlando Johnson and Jeff Pendergraph were a combined 0-for-14. Pretty ugly.

The Hawks owned this one from beginning to end. They led by 13 after one and 24 at halftime. The Pacers were simply the better team in Games 1 and 2, but they sure didn’t look like it last night. I still think the Pacers take this series in 5 or 6, but the Hawks showed some guts that I don’t think many people thought they had on Friday night.

They’ve scored 90 or more points in each of the first three games, proving they’re not struggling too badly against Indiana’s strong defense. The Hawks have a chance to make this a real series. For them to do so, Josh Smith needs to step up. In the first three games of this series, he’s averaged a reliable 15 and 7. But they don’t need him to be a 15-and-7 guy; they need him to be a star. I’m very interested to see how (A) Indiana rebounds from this terrible performance and (B) Smith plays on Monday night. —Leo Sepkowitz