Things are starting to heat up in the NBA as the field is narrowed down to just four teams following the first round of playoffs.
We take a look at the first round of matches in the semi-final ties.
(3) Indiana Pacers 102-95 (2) New York Knicks (Pacers lead series 1-0)
The Indiana Pacers seized home court advantage when they beat the Knicks in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks again had their shooting woes as Carmelo Anthony shot 35% from the field and 25% from 3-point distance. J.R. Smith shot 26% overall. The Pacers got their offense going and did their defence was solid as always.
Boston and Brandon Bass in particular did a terrific job in the first round in guarding Carmelo and making him take contested shots. Likewise for Smith; the reason they failed to make it past New York was their stuttering offense and Indiana in Game 1 had no such problems.
David West had a superb game for them along with Lance Stephenson and center Roy Hibbert. HIbbert’s interior defense applied the brakes on New York’s scoring. New York are 19th overall in the league in terms of assists; they’re a team that favours isolations and that’s something the Pacers, boasting the second best defence in the league, will be able to deal with all night.
More ball movement on the part of the Knicks will be key in games going forward. Raymond Felton (18 pts, 66% FG%) found a lot of joy executing the pick-and-rolls and driving to the basket. Indiana stayed solid on D and propped up their attack and that got them the road win.
[Game 2 tonight]
(5) Chicago Bulls 93-86 (1) Miami Heat (Bulls lead series 1-0)
The Bulls are without Luol Deng who has been battling illness. Deng is one of the finest defenders in the league and does very well guarding Lebron James. But, they still got the job done against Miami in a stunning upset win over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their semi-final series. You just got to love Tom Thibodeau.
Grit, passion and a lot of heart saw the Bulls overcome the Heat. They did what they’re best known for, grinding out games. The Nets got eliminated in Game 7 and Joakim Noah and the Bulls continued from where they left off.
Nate Robinson (27 points, nine assists, three rebounds) turned in another great playoff performance and will no doubt hog the headlines, but 2nd year Small Forward Jimmy Butler was exceptional (21 points, 14 rebounds) and defended James with great success.
For the Heat, Lebron had a customary solid game with 24 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. But the rest of the team were poor and he will need his team mates to step up. The Heat are in a fight and it’s going to take their best to put down Chicago.
(5) Memphis Grizzlies 91-93 (1) Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder lead series 1-0)
Kevin Durant has to be one of the most cold-blooded clutch players in the league. His pull-up jumper with 20 seconds remaining on the clock capped off what was a monster night for him. OKC’s No.35 poured in 35 points and had six assists and 15 rebounds as well.
It was the help that he got though that eventually nudged the Thunder towards victory. Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher chipped in; Martin had 25 points shooting 57% overall and 60% from 3-point territory while Fisher had just eight, but perhaps more importantly was excellent on the defensive end marking Mike Conley. It was his steal from Conley and pass to Durant that set up KD’s pull-up jumper and was the difference between Memphis taking the lead and going three behind.
Having said that, the Grizzlies had a 12 point lead in this one and they made some uncharacteristic errors towards the end, even missed crucial free-throws. Marc Gasol (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (18 points, 10 rebounds) led the way for the Grizzlies but they failed to hold onto their lead and in the end the rest of the Thunder team helped OKC to stay in touch enough for KD to takeover and work his magic in the fourth quarter.
This is set up to be a real exciting series!
[Game 2 tonight]
(6) Golden State Warriors 127-129 (2) San Antonio Spurs (After 2OT) (Spurs lead series 1-0)
Manu Ginobili’s three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left turned out to be the final dagger as the Spurs showed all of their experience in clawing back to win the game.
Golden State continued to shoot in excess of 50% as they have for most of the playoffs. Klay Thompson (19 points), who struggled in the 1st round against Denver, also got going. They were shooting from everywhere led magnificently once again by Stephen Curry who had 44 points and 12 assists.
Curry once again went bonkers in the 3rd quarter scoring 22 points in it and Golden State opened up an 18-point lead. However, the Spurs mounted a 4th quarter charge that saw them come roaring back to tie the game and push it to OT.
Klay Thompson fouled out in the fourth quarter and that was a game changer. His replacement Harrison Barnes (19 points,12 rebounds) though pulled no strings and was equally lethal hurting the Spurs from beyond the arc. But, he too fouled out and those two incidents were crucial.
Jarrett Jack (15 pts), very underrated, had another stellar game as a supporting cast to Curry. He took the last shot, an attempted that rimmed off and fell to the Spurs as time expired.
Spurs got good contributions all round. Danny Green had a magnificent game with 22 points (6/9 3-pointers made) nailing some timely three’s, so did Kawhi Leonard (18 points, nine rebounds) and Manu Ginobili (16 points). Tony Parker led the scoring with 28 points to go with eight assists and eight rebounds and took the onus upon himself in the 4th quarter hitting jump shots, driving to the basket and dishing it for his shooters.
An entertaining game from start to finish, the Warriors would be a little disappointed as they’re hot shooting at one stage put them 18 points in front early in the fourth quarter. But, the Spurs, as they have done so often just refused to go away. What’s more, they did it without Tim Duncan, who was battling illness and did not play for much of the fourth quarter.
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