Post Up: Smoove Sailing

Josh Smith went off in the second half to carry the Rockets to a 2-0 lead vs Dallas.
by April 22, 2015

Celtics 91, Cavaliers 99 (Cavs lead 2-0)

The Boston Celtics forced 18 turnovers defensively while Isaiah Thomas finished with 22 points and 7 assists but it wasn’t enough to steal Game 2 in Cleveland. Leading by only one at the break, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving helped shake a sluggish Cavs start to fuel a 17-4 run in the third quarter. The well-coached and scrappy Celtics never raised the white flag, however, and kept this one close until the final minutes before the 99-91 Cavs win was decided. The series now shifts to Boston with Cleveland leading 2-0.

After trailing 45-36 with under five minutes remaining in the first half, the Cavaliers closed the second quarter by scoring on seven of their last nine possessions to take a 51-50 lead. During the third-quarter, the Cavaliers kept that momentum going when James found Kevin Love on this half court lob that brought Quicken Loans Arena to their feet.

LeBron would go on to score 15 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to secure the Game 2 victory.

“I’ve been in this moment before and a lot of our guys haven’t,” James said postgame. “So I felt like it was important for me to just try to put a stamp on the game the best way I know how and that’s by being aggressive. I was able to make a few plays to help our team get the win and that’s what’s very important for me—just to be there for my team when they need it.”

Irving finished with 26 points in support of the King while Timofey Mozgov and Kevin Love added 16 and 13, respectively. Along with Thomas—who paced Boston in the scoring column—Jared Sullinger (14 points), Tyler Zeller (11 points) and Marcus Smart (10 points) finished in double figures.

—Brendan Bowers

Wizards 117, Raptors 106 (Wizards lead 2-0)

John Wall and Brad Beal struggled in Game 1, but Washington’s big men were there to pick up the slack Saturday as Washington jumped out to a 1-0 series lead.

The Wiz Kids’ backcourt was back on track Tuesday night in Game 2, as Wall (26 points, 17 assists) and Beal (28 points) led the way in a 117-106 dismantling of T. Dot. The Wizards have now won seven of their past eight road playoff games — so much for home advantage, huh?

The Raptors raced out to an early lead last night, but like in Game 1, Washington took the lead in a tremendous second quarter. Beal dropped 16 of his 28 in the period, and the Wiz led 60-49 at the half. Toronto cut it to two points in the third quarter, but Washington quickly expanded their lead once again thanks to Wall’s blinding speed. The Raptors made some progress in the final 12 minutes after being down 18 to start the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. The Raps even heard some boos from their home crowd. Drake, sitting courtside, could not have been pleased.

Washington shot a solid 53.2 percent (42-79) from the field, and they were 10-21 from beyond the arc. The Wizards dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Raps 45-28. Marcin Gortat came up big with 16 points and 8 rebounds. But the X-Factor was without a doubt young’n Otto Porter, who had his best playoff game to date with 15 points and 9 rebounds in 35 minutes of play. DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams each put up 20 points for Toronto, but the Raps sorely missed Kyle Lowry’s usual production. After fouling out in Game 1, he struggled once again with just 6 points on 3-10 shooting. The All-Star PG exited the game with an apparent left leg injury in the fourth quarter and wouldn’t return.

Game 3 will be played Friday night at the Verizon Center in DC.

Eli Schwadron

Mavs 99, Rockets 111 (Rockets lead 2-0)

For all the frustration, anxiety and detriment Josh Smith (15 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) has caused during his 10 years in the League, he seemed to make up for all of it in one game. The Rockets power forward dazzled in the second half and fourth quarter, becoming the first player in NBA history with at least 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 26 minutes or less in a playoff game. J-Smoove had more assists in the fourth quarter (seven) than the Mavs did in the second half (six).

He and Dwight Howard (28 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 10-15 from the field, 8-11 on free throws) put on an alley-oop display and embarrassed a Dallas frontline consisting of Dirk Nowitzki (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Amare Stoudemire (7 points, 3 rebounds)—two players who should never be on the court together for an extensive period of time. While shooting 12-19 from the field in the fourth, Houston also dunked home eight of their 14 dunks on the night. This is tied for the most in a single postseason game the past 15 years.

Behind all the flashy dunks is an even more impressive statistic: Howard made eight straight free throws in the game. With Howard and Smith seemingly having every facet of their games clicking down the stretch, James Harden (24 points, 6 assists, five rebounds, 5-17 from the field, 13-13 on free throws) watched from the bench during the Rockets’ 19-4 run that blew this game wide open. The Beard did, though, yet again make his living at the free throw line despite his shooting struggles.

The Mavs are falling apart right in front of the eyes of their heated rivals. After dominating offensively in Game 1, Nowitzki became a liability by going 3-14 from the field. And with his putrid defense in which he bends at the waist and reaches at the guy driving past him, he hurt the Mavs on both ends of the floor. Monta Ellis (24 points, 8-23 from the field) wasn’t much better, as he continues to look more and more like the chunker he was before his Dallas days. While these two shot 11-37 (29.7 percent) from the field, the entire team didn’t do much better as the Mavs finished the game shooting 37.1 percent from the field.

Dallas found a way to stick around in this game during a gritty third quarter because of Al-Farouq Aminu (9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) and J.J. Barea (13 points, 6 rebounds). Through all the gloom and awkwardness, these two guys brought scrappy energy and effort that allowed the Mavs to hold a three-point lead early in the fourth. However, when Howard and Smith find their groove like they did Tuesday night, energy and effort can only get you so far.

The Mavs coaching staff would have accepted any level of energy and effort from Rajon Rondo (4 points, 4 fouls, 9 minutes). The point guard hit a new low with the team by picking up an inexcusable eight-second violation with no Houston pressure, ignoring teammates during and after the game, and playing less than 10 minutes in a playoff game because of his lackluster play on both ends of the floor.

It’s hard to defend Rondo in any manner when he is simply playing bad basketball. The Rockets have outscored the Mavs by 36 points during Rondo’s 37 minutes of play in this series. His pesky defense and ball distribution have all but vanished. These struggles shouldn’t come as a surprise as Rondo had the Mavs’ worst plus-minus during the regular season. This pairing isn’t clicking and Rondo doesn’t care to try and fix it (a la Lamar Odom).

As much as a “basketball genius” Rondo has been proclaimed to be, his inability to work with others and establish any sort of scoring presence might force his current team into yet another overhaul this offseason.

Jay Wallis