NBA Playoffs Round-Up as of May 13
As we near or arrive at elimination games for each NBA playoff series, let’s take a look at where all remaining teams stand at the moment.
In Sunday’s set of games, we were treated to a double-dose of comeback as both the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers rallied from large deficits to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Washington Wizards, respectively. As for Monday’s set of games, let’s take a look.
Wizards-Pacers: The Wizards squandered a golden chance to even the series at two games apiece. They led by as many as 19 points before a disastrous third quarter brought them crashing back to earth. They were outscored 33-17 in that quarter and lost control of the game to a Pacers team that before this round had major questions about whether they would even put up a good fight against the Wizards. The Pacers were led by a Herculean effort by Paul George, who has quietly had one of the best postseasons for any player in 2014 so far (seriously, go look up his stats). George finished with 39 points and 12 rebounds against one of the game’s better perimeter defenders in Trevor Ariza; he also made seven triples which isn’t too shabby. Wizards star guard John Wall struggled yet again after a minor eye injury in the previous game. He said it wasn’t a problem before the game, but it might be more of a problem than he is letting on. He will need to return to the All-Star level he played at during the regular season for his team to have any chance of advancing. The Pacers have a chance to move on with one more win and with game 5 being in their building, I’d say they get it done.
Thunder-Clippers: An absolutely fantastic game that just about no one saw the Thunder losing until the late stages of the fourth quarter. They started out gangbusters against a very talented Clippers team and held a double-digit lead for much of the game before a series of runs by the Clips brought them The Clippers were sparked by Darren Collison as he replaced J.J. Redick for much of the final quarter. His defense and surprising help on offense were key in finally overtaking the Thunder in the waning minutes. Chris Paul’s defense on Kevin Durant coupled with aggressive double-teaming by his teammates forced several crucial turnovers in the fourth quarter that the Clippers turned into easy points. The most important stretch of the game came in the final minute as Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided not to tell his team to foul with only a few seconds differential between shot clock and game clock. While this move should have backfired in a major way, Blake Griffin, with the assist of Collison shot the ball way too early and gave the Thunder a chance for the tie or win, but Russell Westbrook’s questionable shot was off the mark and the Clippers survived. Terrible late-game execution by both teams, but Brooks’ inability to get Durant the ball in optimal positions for him to score, as well as Durant and Westbrook’s lack of awareness in recognizing those spots as well was the Thunder’s downfall. The trio are not a bunch of rookies who need another year or two of seasoning to figure these types of things out. One is this year’s MVP, one is a top 5-10 player and the other is a veteran coach who took much of this very team to the Finals just a couple years ago. If they don’t learn from their mistakes and soon, quite possibly the most talented team in the West will be eliminated far too early and Brooks will be the one to answer for it. The blame is not entirely his, but he will be the only one to answer for an early exit. The series is tied at two games as they head back to Oklahoma City for game five. I still feel pretty confident in the Thunder and when both Westbrook and Durant are on, they are almost impossible to beat. I say we go back to Los Angeles with the Thunder up 3-2.
Nets-Heat: There’s not much else to say about Monday’s game other than the fact that LeBron James is extremely difficult to guard. James finished with 49 points last night, tying a career-high, after some interesting comments were made by the Nets, in particularly Paul Pierce, who requested to guard James before game four. James, as he put it himself, was in attack mode all night and was completely unguardable. His outside shot was falling and he was dominant in getting to the rim and finishing. Despite his superhuman night, the Nets did hang tough with the Heat, even leading by a few points late before some key buckets by Chris Bosh. The Heat took a 3-1 series lead after Monday’s win and their series victory seems inevitable. The teams return to Miami and it’s very hard to see Miami losing at home in a series-clinching game. If the Nets want any shot at extending the series, Deron Williams will need to emerge as the max-money player he is being paid to be because right now, he is simply not that kind of player.
Trail Blazers-Spurs: The first three games of the series came as a surprise to me, not for the result, but the fashion in which the Spurs were dispatching of the Blazers. The Blazers came into this series with a red-hot LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but the Spurs well-oiled machine limited their effectiveness with three stellar defensive performances. They won each of the three games by a wide margin and it seemed as if a sweep was likely. However, the Blazers came out with energy and purpose on Monday night as they fended off last year’s NBA Finalists for at least one more game. Lillard found his game, especially in the fourth quarter, and Nicolas Batum’s all-encompassing game was tremendously important to their victory last night. They will need much more of that energy and attack in the following game if they hope to extend the series as well. The shots that fell for Aldridge, Lillard and Batum seemed to finally fall in game four and that is a good sign, but there is a chance they spent too much energy to win this one game and get back in the series. Game five will be fun to watch and I do have faith the Blazers can get back in the series. I think the Blazers will push the series to a game six with another performance like Monday night’s in game five.
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