Post Up: Thunder Hold On

by April 25, 2013

Spurs 102, Lakers 91 (Spurs lead series 2-0)

Well, it was a good run there for the old, old Lakers. In hindsight, maybe that 8-2 finish to the season was borderline miraculous, considering what we know now and how dangerously they toed the edge of disaster the whole time.

But it’s probably over now. The Spurs won Game 2 102-91 Wednesday night. Steve Nash succumbed to a bum leg and Steve Blake’s hamstring gave out on him. This was never meant to be a racehorse, but here it is in the middle of the track with a broken leg. You’ve got to feel for it a little bit.

By the end of it, the Lakers’ crunchtime backcourt was Darius Morris, whom fans were pleading to cut earlier in the year, and Andrew Goudelock, who wasn’t even on an NBA team this season until three weeks ago.

Here’s the updated list of the Lakers’ infirmary: Nash, Blake, Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks. You can also call that the only NBA-quality guards on the roster.

When you look at it that way, the Lakers’ effort was straight up valiant. Pau demanded the ball in the post. Dwight did everything he could to be dominant despite a night of dual-sided ticky-tack calls. Metta took control at the end, trying to power his way in the post over Kawhi Leonard.

It almost worked. But the Spurs are built to put down teams like this.

The Spurs ended the first quarter on a 10-3 run. They then ended the second quarter on a 12-4 run. It was all Ginobili, who made three contested 3s in those mini-charges.

Manu only played 19 minutes again. He only scored 13 points. All of those points came when the Lakers thought they had a chance, and he quickly reminded them that they didn’t.

Truth is, if Ginobili was on the Lakers, he would’ve played 48 minutes tonight even if his pancreas caught fire in the middle of the game. He’s being used as a wild card for the Spurs in a series that Popovich knows he can win without using a full tank of gas.

Want proof? In the middle of the 4th quarter, right after Steve Blake’s hamstring gave way and he crawled to the bench, the Lakers started playing inspired ball. Goudelock and Morris’ fresh legs created fastbreak points. Metta felt like this was his team, so he began crazily bulldozing people like he did on that Rockets team he led to the Western Conference Finals. LA went on a 10-2 run in 3:30 to cut the lead to single digits with four minutes left.

Gregg Popovich didn’t call a timeout as the air in the building started to peter out. He could not have cared less. He eventually reacted by taking Tim Duncan out because he was bored of it all.

He was right. They hung on and the game just sort of ended.

Now the Lakers’ starting backcourt on Friday looks like it might be Goudelock and Darius Morris. Their backup will be Chris Duhon and, if they win, there should be a g-ddamn Disney movie made about the whole thing.

The Spurs were better this whole time. Sorry, Lakers. It’s not your fault, old boy. It’s not your fault. —Ben Collins / @globesoundtrack

Pacers 113, Hawks 98 (Pacers lead series 2-0)

Paul George is a lot better than Kyle Korver. In Game 1, George tallied a triple-double and held Korver to 2-of-7 shooting. Wednesday’s Game 2 wasn’t much different. The Pacers’ star wing hit 11-of-21 shots on his way to 27 points and 8 boards. He also added 3 assists, 4 steals and a block without committing a single turnover. Wow. On the defensive end, he held Korver to a 3-for-10 night. In a 15-point game, the 18-point differential (as well as the massive talent gap) between opposing small forwards was the difference.

Indiana led by six after the first quarter and held a nine-point halftime lead. They nearly blew the game open in the third, but Atlanta hung in there and trailed by 12 after three. They never got within 10 in the fourth.

David West was uncharacteristically quiet for the Pacers, making 1-of-4 shots for 7 points with 1 rebound in 20 minutes. He sprained an ankle in Game 1, so perhaps that factored into the off night. They can beat Atlanta minus West, but they’ll need the big man if they want to go deep into the Playoffs.

George Hill picked up much of the slack, going 7-for-12 with 22 points. He knocked down 4 treys. Roy Hibbert just missed a double-double with 15 and 9 with 3 rejections, and Gerald Green dropped 15 off the bench. Green scored 11 in Game 1, and his success is nice to see after an up-and-down first season with Indiana.

Josh Smith and Al Horford were each good-not-great for the Hawks. Smith went for 16 and 6 and Horford scored 13 with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. It’s basically exactly what they did in Game 1, and it’s just not going to be enough against a superior Pacers team. The Jeff Teague-Devin Harris backcourt was pretty good, combining for 33 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.

These games are exactly why the Hawks never seem like a threat to win a Playoff series. They’re not a bad team and they have good players, but it’s clear that none of them are really capable of elevating his game enough to lead the Hawks past a very good team. We’ll see what happens when the teams face off in Atlanta on Saturday night. —Leo Sepkowitz

Thunder 105, Rockets 102 (Thunder lead series 2-0)

Missed it by that much. The Houston Rockets, after a furious 21-2 rally capped by a go-ahead three pointer by Carlos Delfino in the fourth, came oh so close to stealing a Game 2 win in Oklahoma City last night, but still fell 105-102 to the defending Western Conference champs.

It was evenly matched throughout the night, with the Rockets coming into Chesapeake Arena ready to battle, ending the first quarter up 29-28 behind the stellar play of Patrick Beverly, who started for the first time in the playoffs at guard. PB pitched in five quick points and all kinds of hustle in the first 12 minutes. James Harden herked and jerked his way to 10 in the first, while Kevin Durant, who finished with 29, was off to the races with 15.

Things got a little heated in the second when Beverly went for the steal as Russell Westbrook was calling a timeout. The Chicagoan bumped Westbrook’s knee, causing a visible sign of frustration for Russ, who slapped the scorer’s table like the Incredible Hulk on a smash mission and limped around for a bit.

Westbrook, who finished with 29 points, stayed in the game and went to work on ’em, but he and Beverly weren’t done selling wolf tickets. On a foul by Beverly, Russell slapped away a helping hand to get up from the court.

“It’s part of basketball, playoff basketball. Everyone wants to go out there and win,” Beverley said. “Anyone who knows me, knows my character, that I’m not going to back down from anyone, Russell Westbrook or anybody else.”

And back down he didn’t. Beverly had nine points, six rebounds and five assists at the half, but OKC went in the locker room up 57-55.

The Thunder did their usual damage in the third behind a 11-0 run after Serge Ibaka blocked a dunk attempt by Omer Asik to go up 72-63 with 4:12 left in the third. It was the first time the home crowd really ignited like a bonfire. But Houston wouldn’t go away. They went on a 21-2 run in the fourth, prompting Rockets fans to pick up the phone to report a 2-11 in progress.

But one of their own—a former one of their own, at least—Kevin Martin, made them all put down the receiver when he hit a dagger three-pointer from the wing.

“We all stuck together,” Westbrook said. “They made a run when we weren’t able to make shots, but I thought everybody had a big role toward the end of the game and we came up with the win.”

In the waning minutes, OKC hung on for the W and, more importantly, a commanding 2-0 lead heading back to Houston.

“We were down 15, we could have just given up the game and said, `Let’s go to Game 3,’ but we fought back and took the lead,” said Harden, who finished with a game high 36 points. “So, we definitely have some confidence going into Game 3 and going back home.”

Game 3 is Saturday at the Toyota Center. —Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport