Post Up: Rivers Run

Austin Rivers went off as the Clippers evened the series 2-2.
by April 27, 2015

Cavaliers 101, Celtics 93 (Cavs win 4-0)

Sometimes when you win, you really lose. The famous words of Gloria Clemente were never more applicable than they were for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4. Despite eliminating the Boston Celtics by a score of 101-93, Cleveland lost Kevin Love six minutes into the contest with a dislocated left shoulder.

The injury came as a result of an MMA-style arm-bar from Kelly Olynk, which somehow went without so much as a common foul being whistled. In response to the overall chippiness throughout, J.R. Smith was later ejected in the third quarter for a wild elbow up near the chin of Jae Crowder. After the game, Love spoke on the play from Olynk that set the tone for a generally awful basketball game.

“I thought it was bush league play,” Love told the media postgame. “I was out there, Olynk was in a compromising position, had no chance to get the ball. It’s just too bad that he’d go to those lengths to take somebody out of the game and do that to someone. I have no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose.”

Whether it was intentional or not, the Cavaliers now face the possibility of losing Love for an extended period of time. They may also enter Round 2 without the services of Smith in Game 1 who could be facing a suspension for the Flagrant 2 on Crowder. That’s two starters potentially out for a Cavaliers team who has only gone about 8-9 guys deep throughout the first round.

Love’s ability to space the floor offensively and generate points in the paint is something the Cavaliers can ill-afford to lose as they advance in the postseason. He will undergo a series of MRI’s when he returns to Cleveland to determine the severity of his injury. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it looked on the replay.

Meanwhile, LeBron James (game-high 27 points) and Kyrie Irving (24 points) led the Cavs in Love’s absence by combining for 51 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists to close out the series. Iman Shumpert finished with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double while Timofey Mozgov added 12 and 10. The Celtics were paced by Jared Sullinger and Isaiah Thomas who each finished with 21 in their season finale.

Brendan Bowers

Clippers 114, Spurs 105 (Series tied 2-2)

It’s getting interesting.

Who didn’t have an Austin Rivers nepotism hot take at some point this year? The basketball world was practically in unanimous agreement that it was absurd the Clippers gave up three players and a second round pick for a totally underperforming combo guard…who just happened to be related to the head coach. The trade looked bad from the get go, and Rivers would go on to average only 7 points and 2 rebounds for the year coming off the horrid Clipper bench. But on Sunday in San Antonio, the Austin Rivers trade made Doc Rivers look like a savant, if only for four quarters.

Rivers came out of nowhere to have the game of his life in Game 4, helping the Clippers to a 114-105 win over San Antonio, and tying the series at two games apiece. He had 16 points in 17 minutes, attacking the basket, and helping the Clippers survive when Chris Paul was out of the game with foul trouble. The Clippers bench would have their best performance of the playoffs thus far, combining for 32 points behind big games from Rivers and Jamal Crawford (15 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds).

The Clippers started off hot, scoring the first six points of the game after trailing for the entirety of game 3. Chris Paul (34 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds) was absolutely dialed in, roasting the Spurs on D, whipping passes with fury and hitting all 10 of his free throws.

CP3 played most of the fourth quarter with 5 fouls but never fouled out. Instead, he killed San Antonio with his mid-range jumpers, and definitely got the game ball. Blake Griffin (20 points, 7 assists, 19 rebounds) also dominated, especially on the glass, where he had a playoff career high in rebounds.

For the Spurs it was another relatively anemic game for their old guard. Tony Parker (18 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds), Tim Duncan (22 points, 3 assists, 14 rebounds), and Manu Ginobili (10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) were very flat late in the game, and the Spurs just couldn’t seem to find a rhythm offensively. They were 6-25 from three, missed 10 free throws and seemed uncharacteristically off towards the tail end of the game. Danny Green (0 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds in 28 minutes!) had just a brutal game on both ends of the floor, contributing next to nothing on offense and getting roasted by J.J. Redick (17 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds).

The series is now tied at 2 apiece and all bets are off as we head into the final stretch of games. The best series of the playoffs thus far rolls on.

Russell Simon

Wizards 125, Raptors 94 (Wizards win 4-0)

Six Wizards scored in double figures as Washington completed its first sweep of a seven-game series in franchise history. The home team was blisteringly hot from the start in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,356 at the Phone Booth in DC; the Wiz shot 10-14 from the field and 13-15 from the charity stripe in the first quarter. Kyle Lowry — who had a miserable series plagued by foul trouble, injuries and sickness — had three personals and a tech called against him during the opening period alone. Washington led 36-22 at the end of one.

The Raptors cut the deficit to eight in the second quarter thanks to five quick points from Lou Williams and a 3-ball from Greivis Vasquez. But Washington bounced back with a couple of threes from Drew Gooden (13 points, 3-4 from deep) and Otto Porter, who were invaluable off the bench for Randy Wittman’s squad in round one. The Wizards reclaimed their double-digit lead and entered halftime up 66-50. Post-intermission play was more of the same, as Paul Pierce (14 points, 4-6 from beyond the arc) drilled two 3-pointers within the first two minutes of the second half. Marcin Gortat carried that momentum, getting jiggy for 11 of his 21 points in the third quarter. John Wall (14 points, 10 assists) played his usual role of court maestro, giving the Polish Hammer the rock in his favorite low-post spots for high-percentage shots. Ramon Sessions — Wall’s backup PG, who was acquired in exchange for Andre Miller prior to the trade deadline — got in on the action by nailing two 3-balls at the end of the third. The Wizards had a field day against the Raptors’ porous defense. They led by 32 entering the fourth quarter and didn’t look back.

Bradley Beal had himself a game, dropping 23 points and committing 4 robberies. Beal, Pierce and Gooden combined for 10 of Washington’s 15 threes — the most the franchise has ever made in a playoff game.

In fact, the Wiz looked a lot like who they’re likely to face in round two: the Hawks; Washington shot 55.4% from the floor and 57.7% (15-26) from 3-point range. The losing side had trouble defensively to say the least, but there were some bright spots on the other side of the ball. Kyle Lowry overcame his early foul trouble to score 21 points on 8-15 shooting to go along with 8 rebounds. However, he did have 6 turnovers. Jonas Valanciunas shot 7-10 for 16 points and pulled down 9 boards. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan finished with 14 points but had some trouble getting his shot off with Porter draped all over him.

Toronto won the regular season series against Washington 3-0, but the Wizards got it done when it mattered most. We The North? Nah, fam. Sweep The North.

Eli Schwadron

Mavericks 121, Rockets 109 (Rockets lead series, 3-1)

The Mavericks fought for all of Game 3, only to fall by two points thanks to the Beard’s soft touch. They came out in Game 4 with the exact same amount of effort and picked up a commanding 121-109 victory to stay alive in the Playoffs.

Monta Ellis (31 points, 6 rebounds, 13-21 from the field) was the catalyst behind the Mavs’ first victory in this series, reaching the 30-point plateau for the second straight game. His jumper started falling early, which opened up some driving lanes in the second quarter. It all came together for the shooting guard in the third, as he reminded Dallas why he was at one time considered an All-Star snub this season. Whether you want to blame Rondo or not, Ellis has looked and played like a different player these past two games.

Rondo’s replacement in J.J. Barea (17 points, 13 assists) played a phenomenal game by doing everything Rondo couldn’t (or wouldn’t). The (listed) 6-0 point guard pushed the pace, got his teammates involved and notched his first career playoff double-double in the process. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu (16 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block) both earned the start in Game 4, helping Dallas avoid a sluggish start as in Game 3. Aminu’s scrappiness seems to be contagious when he’s on the floor, which his weak defensive team needs at times. If the Mavs want to extend this series any further, they need these two sparkplugs to keep injecting pace and grittiness into the Mavs.

Beyond any specific player, the Mavs as a team became the aggressors for the first time in this series. They fought in Game 3 but weren’t as aggressive as they were Sunday night. They did allow their opponent to shoot 68.4 percent from the field in the first quarter; however, Houston only shot 40.3 percent in the final three quarters in large part due to the Mavs’ rapid and active help defense. While the 3-point shot has been a necessity for the Rockets up to this point in the season, it became a detriment for the Rockets on Sunday, as they only shot 7-31 (22.6 percent) on 3-pointers.

The Rockets couldn’t seem to figure out what to do with Barea and Ellis off pick-and-rolls. They tried hard hedges along with switching, but the two Mavs’ ballhandlers had their way most of the night. James Harden (24 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) finished with a strong line but never really had any game-changing shots or plays. Aminu did an effective job containing the MVP candidate for long stretches.

Other than Tyson Chandler (10 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks), who remained the defensive anchor down low, most of the Dallas big men have struggled defensively in the first three games. Game 4 was a different story. Amar’e Stoudemire (12 points, 6-11 from the field) and Charlie Villanueva (8 points, 6 rebounds) held their ground and helped slow down Dwight Howard (13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) down the stretch. After scoring 10 points on 5-5 shooting in the first, Houston’s big man only scored three more points on 0-2 shooting the rest of the way. The Mavs also outrebounded the Rockets 52-38, containing D12 to only seven rebounds after he grabbed 26 in Game 3.

The Rockets made a late push behind four fourth-quarter treys from Josh Smith (23 points, 6 rebounds, 4-5 on 3-pointers), but the Mavs held off their opponent by sticking to what worked all night—giving Ellis the ball and remaining persistently aggressive. Even though Dirk Nowitzki (16 points, 8 rebounds) didn’t have the type of monster scoring performance as he did in Game 3, the Big German came through with key one-legged jumpers down the stretch.

The oddest part of this wild game came at the free throw line. These two teams seemed to be trying to make life as hard as possible by clanking free throw after free throw. The Mavs ended the game shooting a putrid 9-21 (42.9 percent) from the stripe while the Rockets didn’t do much better, shooting 26-40 (65 percent). Howard and Smith, who were both purposefully sent to the line, combined to shoot 6-19 (31.6 percent) from the line. If this trend continues for one of these teams in Game 5, it could be the difference.

— Jay Wallis