EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat
The Heat, led by the All-Universe LeBron James, hold a solid 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series over the veteran-heavy Nets squad.
Even as Brooklyn swept the regular season series 4-0 against Miami, most hoops-heads predicted the Heat in 5 or 6 games. Miami took Game 1 by 21 points and a closer Game 2 by 12 points. In the opening 48, Kevin Garnett failed to score a single point, while in Game 2 heavily-scrutinized PG Deron Williams put up a glaring goose egg.
For Game 3 back in Brooklyn, the Nets splashed 15 three-bombs to hand Miami its first postseason L this year.
And then came LeBron in Game 4. Hard. Assassin-style. He poured in 49 points and essentially willed his side to a tough, 6-point victory. The Heatles could very well finish this series tonight in the Sunshine State.
Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers
If ever a team in the 2014 postseason needed a psychiatrist or a detective, it is this Indiana roster. After securing the East’s number 1 seed, the up-and-down Pacers were forced to a Game 7 by the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks in Round 1. And now they find themselves in a battle with the hungry and young Wizards. Although they lead the series 3-2, they were embarrassed last night at home by 23 points, and it wasn’t even that close. As the Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat dominated inside with 31 points and 16 boards, Indiana grabbed a meager 23 rebounds, a playoff franchise low. After the Wiz took Game 1 in Indy, the Pacers rallied behind a rejuvenated Roy Hibbert (28 points, 9 rebounds) and won a close Game 2 to knot the series. In Game 3 Indiana crushed the Wizards 85-63 on their home court. And in a backbreaking loss, the Pacers came back from a 19-point deficit to take Game 4. Paul George exploded for 39 points and 12 boards in the demoralizing defeat. Indiana has two games to win one, but with a collective fragile psyche, who knows how this series plays out.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
In what is undecidedly the most exciting series this round, the Thunder hold a 3-2 lead by the slimmest of margins over the Lob City Clips. After both teams were taken to the 7th game in the first round, few prognosticators knew what to expect from these superstar-laden sides. In Game 1, LA routed OKC 122-105, largely fueled by CP3’s 32 points and 8 three-pointers. Coach Doc Rivers’ guys led by 14 after one quarter and 26 at the end of three. In Game 2, on the night KD accepted his first NBA MVP award, the league’s top scorer went for 32, 12 boards and 9 dimes and the Thunder prevailed. Assisting the Slim Reaper was Russell Westbrook, who tallied a triple double with 31, 10 & 10. Back in SoCal for Game 3, OKC’s dynamic duo did it again in a 118-112 victory. Between the two of them they combined for 59 points, 16 rebounds and 19 dimes.
In Game 4, the Clippers rallied from a 15-point, 4th quarter hole and came out on top 101-99 to even the series. Reserve guard Darren Collison led LA’s improbable comeback, adding 8 points in the final 3 minutes. OKC was outscored 38-24 in the final frame. Which brings us to last evening’s Game 5 back in Oklahoma. In an even more outrageous finish than Game 4, the Thunder erased a 7-point deficit in the final 50 seconds to snatch a controversial 105-104 victory. Russell Westbrook scored a career playoff-high 38 points and hit 3 crucial free throws with just seconds remaining to eke out the W. After the game Doc Rivers and his players were furious over a late out-of-bounds call that gave possession to OKC. They believed the ball went out off of the Thunder. Either way, Game 5 will go down as a playoff classic. The Thunder can close out this grueling series on Thursday night in LA, but look for the Clippers to defend home court and send it to 7.
Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs
In Game 1 the NBA’s number one overall seed won by 24 points. In Game 2, the Spurs defeated the Blazers by 17. Back in Rip City for Game 3, the machine-like San Antonio team scored a 15-point W. Up an insurmountable 3-0 in this Western Conference semifinals, NBA Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich’s guys were denied the sweep in Game 4, 102-93. As a team San Antonio shot 3-18 from deep ,and Manu Ginobili had just 2 points. Neither side performed particularly well. However, the proud Blazer squad played hard with the backing of one of the league’s most loyal fan bases. After a tough seven-game opening round against Dallas, look for the Spurs to end this series tonight at home where they were 32-9 in the regular 82.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of the best record in the league at 42-12, come to the Staples Center this evening to take on the 18-34 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Basketball Gods have been merciless on the storied franchise, and it has taken a horrible toll. The 16-time NBA Champs have lost 21 of their last 26 games.
The Lakers now sit in a virtual tie with Sacramento for the Western Conference’s worst record. In addition, coach Mike D’Antoni’s squad has lost their past six home contests.
With a loss tonight, this Lakers group will set a mark for the most straight home defeats. The franchise has not endured seven consecutive losses since moving to SoCal in 1960.
Injuries have plagued The Lake Show this season. Los Angeles continues to play without five of its key performers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry. Jordan Farmar has also missed 19 of the last 20 games, and Steve Nash will be sidelined yet again after exiting against Utah due to issues with his leg and back.
When the Purple & Gold played Tuesday night, they were bludgeoned by the woeful Jazz, 96-79. Eleventh-year center Chris Kaman led the team with 25 points and 14 boards.
The Lakers and Thunder last met on December 13th in the Sooner State. KD and company drubbed LA 122-97, outscoring the Lakers in every quarter. Durant, now the clear frontrunner for the 2014 NBA MVP, went for 31 points, 8 boards, 5 dimes and 4 steals in the one-sided affair. It was just Kobe’s third game back from injury, and he scored only 4 points, but managed to dish out 13 assists. Pau Gasol had 14 and 7 boards in the loss.
The surging Thunder have gone 14-2 over their last 16, including a 98-95 hard-fought W in Portland on Tuesday night. KD was his usual unstoppable self, hitting for 36 points and 10 boards. Second-year SG Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to add a crucial 19 points on 8-11 shooting.
Tune in to TNT tonight at 10:30 PM ET to see if Los Angeles, playing the unfamiliar role of struggling underdog, can stop OKC’s winning ways and prevent a dubious home loss mark.