Hawks 85 – Pacers 101 (Series tied 1-1)
Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters pregame, “It’s not who we play, it’s how we play.”
The East’s No. 1 seed stormed out the gates of Game 2 to a 7-0 lead and briefly looked like the nearly unbeatable team we saw in 2013. But Atlanta weathered the storm and tied the game at 11 before taking a 26-21 lead after the first frame. The Hawks, looking to build off their momentum from their Game 1 upset, were chucking threes left and right in the opening period, shooting 8 of their 19 attempts from beyond the arc and making 4 of them.
The Hawks maintained control in the second quarter, swapping Lou Williams into Jeff Teague’s penetrate-and-dish role off the bench. Williams and Mike Scott both scored 11 points in the game off the pine while keying Atlanta’s second-period attack. On the other end, Luis Scola kept Indy in the game after scoring just 2 points in Game 1. Scola, who Larry Bird traded Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and an unprotected 2014 first round pick for, scored a huge 20 points in just 19 reserve minutes on 9-14 shooting for the game. His sequence of three-straight 18-foot jumpers in the opening two minutes of the second really set the tone for the rest of his teammates that looked ready to give up as the Hawks pushed the pace.
Atlanta would take a 52-48 lead into intermission, but it felt like the Hawks led by 8 or 10 points.
That tone quickly changed in the second half. In Game 1, Atlanta used a gigantic third quarter burst to blow the contest open. But it was Indiana who surged in the third in Game 2 to swing the game into its favor, outscoring the Hawks 31-13 in the third
The Pacers’ offense suddenly was full of motion. Using David West in both pick and rolls and pick and pops, Paul George got into the paint and finished at the rim on several occasions. Lance Stephenson and George Hill were able to attack from the wings as the defense slowly rotated to follow Indiana’s whizzing ball movement. Indiana tied the game at 59 with 8:33 left in the quarter and then finished the period on a 20-6 run.
But while things did look improved for Indy on offense, it was their patented defense that allowed them to score easy buckets on the other end. The Pacers forced 6 Atlanta turnovers in the quarter and limited the Hawks to 23.8 percent shooting too. At the tail end of that 20-6 run, Indiana closed off the quarter with an 11-0 spurt, capped off by Paul George’s exclamation-point 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer. When George’s shot dropped, the entire Indy crowd exploded.
Atlanta switched to a 2-3 zone to start the fourth to try and stop the bleeding, but it was too little too late. The Pacers led by as many 24 points before winning by 16. Paul Millsap had a team-high 19 points to go along with 4 rebounds for the Hawks. George looked like an MVP candidate, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. George Hill added 15 points on 5-8 shooting and C.J. Watson scored 10. But even with this crucial win, Roy Hibbert’s offensive struggles remain. The big man shot just 1-7 and struggled especially in post-up situations.
Well, on to Hotlanta for Game 3.—Jake Fischer
Nets 95 – Raptors 100 (Series tied 1-1)
The Nets are headed back to Brooklyn with the 1-1 series split that they were looking for, but the momentum is back in the Raptors’ possession. In a do-or-die game for The North, Toronto executed down the stretch to take a 100-95 win.
DeMar DeRozan bounced back from an atypically poor Game 1 with a dominating 30-point performance. The Raptors’ leader was forced to go to the bench after being whistled for his fifth foul mid-way through the fourth quarter. But DeRozan maturely collected himself before re-entering the contest, and sinking two mid-range shots and six key free throws to cap a 17-point fourth quarter.
Kyle Lowry, after shooting 1-8 through the first three quarters, also came up big with 8 points in the final 6:33. The team shot 75 percent (12-16) in the final frame.
Although they continued to cough up the ball at an alarming rate (21 TOs), the Raptors took advantage of their biggest strength: the glass. Jonas Valanciunas dominated the boards with 14 rebounds, and on offense, the big man cruised to an easy 15 points on just nine field-goal attempts.
Grievis Vasquez played another heady game, scoring 9 of his 11 points in the first half and handing out 6 of his 8 dimes in the second half. His +12 impact off the bench once again led the Raps. Amir Johnson showed up after a ghost of a performance in Game 1, leading the team in scoring at halftime with 14 points on 7-9 shooting.
The Nets jumped out to an 8-1 lead, but it was all downhill from there. Paul Pierce got in early foul trouble and didn’t connect on a field goal until 3:47 left in the game. The hero of Game 1 had a chance to give Brooklyn a lead with 24 seconds remaining, but he missed a wide-open three. Deron Williams couldn’t get his shot to fall all night and committed a crucial turnover during the final minute. Joe Johnson had a quiet night—outside of a 12 point third quarter—and seemed to struggle with Landry Fields guarding him for stretches.
The bright parts were few for BK. Kevin Garnett, in his 19 minutes, played great defense against the pick-and-roll and scored 13 points. Andrei Kirilenko had 4 thefts in his first 12 minutes, after not getting off the pine in the first game of the series. And with the entire team struggling to score in the first half, Mirza Teletovic knocked down 3 treys to close the gap to a manageable six points by halftime.
For a game that was made more interesting by Drake lint-brushing his pants, Game 2 will ultimately be remembered for DeRozan’s bounce-back performance. Brooklyn had a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the All-Star led Toronto’s insurmountable 36-point attack in the final stanza. In Game 2, Toronto got back to what they do best: big fourth quarters and getting to the line. And they figure to ride that same formula in Game 3 on Friday.—Ryne Nelson
Wizards 101 – Bulls 99 (Wizards lead 2-0)
With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bulls held an 87-80 lead over a defeated-looking Wizards squad. Washington had fallen victim to Chicago’s gritty defense—shots weren’t connecting and the home team was feeding off a reinvigorated crowd.
But 20-year-old Bradley Beal showed no signs of succumbing to the pressure. He knocked down a triple to cut the deficit to four. A few possessions later, he nailed another three-pointer. Then he tossed in a floater. With less than a minute to play, he tied the game with a free throw. Though a last-second fadeaway over the outstretched arms of Joakim Noah came up short, Washington’s youngest player had gifted his team five more minutes to make amends for a sluggish second half. And make amends the Wizards did.
The two Eastern Conference foes didn’t advance to overtime after 48 minutes of equally competitive basketball. The Wizards opened the game firing on all cylinders, scoring the first 7 points and eventually jumping out to a 29-12 advantage that the Bulls cut to 31-20 after the first quarter. Chicago caught up in the second quarter and seemed to get an emotional boost after Beal and Kirk Hinrich were involved in a scuffle that resulted in double technical calls. Taj Gibson erased Washington’s lead to a one-point game, but John Wall scored 7 points in a little more than a minute to put the Wizards up 56-49 at halftime.
The Bulls flipped the script in the third quarter, suffocating Wall and Beal in particular. Washington didn’t put points on the board until a Marcin Gortat layup with 8:38 in the period. Chicago got contributions from Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and especially DJ Augustin, who was deadly from the end of the third quarter until halfway through the fourth. A Jimmy Butler free throw with 6:58 remaining gave Chicago a 10-point edge, but it was all downhill from there. The aforementioned Beal took over and forced overtime.
In the extra period, Game 1 hero Nene had 6 consecutive points to give Washington a hefty cushion. The Wizards were abysmal from the free-throw line all night long (16-28), but managed to knock down four in a row during crunch time to keep Chicago at bay. With 38 seconds on the clock, Wall was called for an offensive foul on an inbounds pass that gave the Bulls life again. Chicago narrowed the deficit to 2 points and had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds when Hinrich was fouled on a layup attempt, but he missed the first free throw. He ricocheted his second attempt off the rim on purpose and Wall snatched the rebound, throwing the ball to the other side of the court as time expired.
Washington’s backcourt stepped up, as Beal (26 points, 7 rebounds) and Wall (16 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) showed why they’re such a dangerous duo. Nene added an efficient 17 points (8-13 shooting) and 7 rebounds. The Bulls got 25 points from Augustin, 22 and 10 boards from Gibson, and new Defensive Player of the Year Noah was as solid as ever with 20 and 12.
Game 3 in Washington, DC, is Friday at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.—Alex Shultz