Playoffs Roundup: Tuesday, April 29 2014

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/AFP Photo

Washington Wizards 75 – Chicago Bulls 69 (Wizards win series, 4-1)
The Washington Wizards advanced to the second-round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005 with an ugly, yet gutsy, series-clinching road win over the Chicago Bulls. John Wall paced the Wizards with 24 points, while Nene Hilario chipped in with 20 points and seven rebounds. Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler had 16 points apiece for the Bulls.

The Wizards got off to their customary quick start, closing the first quarter with an eight-point lead. But Washington’s offence dried-up in the second quarter, and the Bulls got back into the game with some solid shooting from beyond the arc (particularly from Hinrich).

The game was won and lost in the third quarter, however, as the Wizards held the Bulls to just 11 points—two more than their all-time playoff low of nine in a quarter. In the fourth quarter the Wizards kept up their defensive domination (the Bulls were held to just 33 per cent shooting for the game), and while they only generated 14 points of their own, the likes of Marcin Gortat and Nene dominated the offensive glass, generating extra possessions and draining crucial seconds off the clock.

On the face of it, the result of this series will go down as an upset: the Bulls had the better regular season record and had home-court advantage. But even those in the media who picked the Bulls to win the series weren’t exactly comfortable with their choice. As it turns out, the Bulls got exposed in this series. They’re a great regular season team, in part because Thibodeau coaches every one of those 82 games like it’s life or death, and they had a somewhat deceptive win total because of that. In the post-season where the opposition has the chance to zero in on your weaknesses—in Chicago’s case, a fatal lack of shot-creators—energy and toughness only count for so much. Talent usually wins out.

The Wizards are simply more talented. Being a young team, they were an unknown quantity heading into this series. That is no longer the case. The have young, athletic guards—John Wall and Bradley Beal—who can create off the dribble, or in Beal’s case, spot-up and shoot the three-ball. They also have scoring and rebounding in the frontcourt. Nene’s play against Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah, was a real X-factor in this series. The enigmatic Brazilian destroyed Noah at both ends of the floor.

Heading into the second-round, the Wizards will be heavily favoured against whoever comes out of the Pacers-Hawks series. And then, who knows? This is a very dangerous basketball team.


Photo: Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies 100 – Oklahoma City Thunder 99 (Grizzlies lead series 3-2)
Is this the greatest series of all time, OR IS THIS THE GREATEST SERIES OF ALL TIME??!!

The Grizzlies narrowly edged out the Thunder last night, taking a critical 3-2 series lead back home to Memphis after a record-breaking game that was the fourth straight matchup they’ve sent into overtime. The Grizzlies, leading by a 20-point, 10-rebound effort from Zach Randolph, blew a massive lead in this game, because, you know, no lead in this series is safe.

The Thunder came roaring back in the third quarter. An 18-4 run was fueled by Russell Westbrook, who finished with a triple-double (30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists), and Caron Butler who had 15 points off the bench. Westbrook also made a huge steal off Mike Conley in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, sending the game to overtime with a huge dunk.

Mike Miller, who seems to enjoy big Game 5s against the Thunder, nailed two threes at the start of the overtime period to calm Memphis’ nerves—Miller had a huge 21 points off the bench, going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka hit back for OKC, before Conley made a driving lay-up to put Memphis up, 100-98.

Durant then got to the free throw line looking to tie the game. After making his first, referee Joey Crawford effectively iced Durant as he was about to shoot his second, making him wait while he yelled at the scorer’s table to put another foul on the scoreboard. Durant missed the second free throw. Not cool, Joey.

Miller missed a three at the other end before Durant missed what would’ve been the game-winning shot. Ibaka tipped-in the rebound, but it came agonizingly after the final buzzer.

Game 6 will take place in Memphis on Thursday, where the Grizzlies will look to clinch the series. Expect more drama.


Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors 103 – Los Angeles Clippers 113 (Clippers lead series 3-2)
All the focus prior to Game 4 surrounded Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his vile, racist comments. Prior to last night’s Game 5, commissioner Adam Silver took firm and decisive action, banning Sterling from any NBA-related activities for life, and setting in motion an owner’s vote that could force Sterling to sell the team.

After Silver’s announcement, we can thankfully shift the focus away from Sterling and on to the game of basketball.

The Clippers, who seemed understandably distracted during their Game 4 blowout loss in Oakland, were able to regain their composure to triumph in front of their home crowd, ascending to a 3-2 series lead.

The Clippers were able to keep the Warriors at arm’s length, essentially from start to finish. When the Dubs closed to within four or five points, the Clippers seemed to have the extra gear required to pull away. Doc Rivers got big contributions from his front-line of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Griffin, who’s been unguardable in this series, finished with 18 and seven rebounds, while Jordan had an absolute monster of a game with 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.

The Warriors got some balanced scoring in the loss—every starter other than Draymond Green finished in double figures—but star-man, Steph Curry, only attempted 10 field goals. That will have to change if the Warriors want to win Game 6 and stay alive in the series.


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