Thursday, April 28, 2011

NBA Playoffs: Night Twelve

Eastern Conference
Philadelphia 76ers (7) @ Miami Heat (2)
4/16: Game One--HEAT 97, 76ers 89 (1-0, Miami)
4/18: Game Two--HEAT 94, 76ers 73 (2-0, Miami)
4/21: Game Three--Heat 100, 76ERS 94 (3-0, Miami)
4/24: Game Four--76ERS 86, Heat 82 (3-1, Miami)
4/27: Game Five--HEAT 97, 76ers 91 (4-1, Miami wins)
The Sixers competed hard for a full 48 minutes in this one, but pure talent won out, as the Miami Heat advance to face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The  Heat  never outscored the 76ers by  more than four points in a quarter
Mario Chalmers' big night last night
sends the 76ers to the golf course
last night, but they finally got some balance to their scoring attack to hold off the pesky Philadelphia squad. The Sixers won Game Four by limiting Heat plays not named James, Wade, or Bosh to 17 total points. Last night, though, Erik Spoelstra's crew got a big performance from reserve point guard Mario Chalmers, who collected 20 points and had a +2- +/- rating in Game Five. Coming into the night, he was averaging 4.3 points per game in the playoffs on only 28.6% shooting--but he broke out when the Heat needed him most. Chalmers shot 6-12 from downtown and 7-14 overall (both 50% shooting), including 11 points on three treys in the opening quarter alone. The Heat outscored the Sixers by 13 during Chalmers' 7:33 of game action, turning a nine-point deficit into a four-point lead. Despite the six Heat players besides Chalmers and the Big 3 combined for only 13 points in the game, Miami was able to get the win because they got a fourth player over 10 points scored for the first time all series.

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzles (8) @ San Antonio Spurs (1)
4/17: Game One--Grizzlies 101, SPURS 98 (1-0, Memphis)
4/20: Game Two--SPURS 93, Grizzlies 87 (Tie, 1-1)
4/23: Game Three--GRIZZLIES 91, Spurs 88 (2-1, Memphis)
4/25: Game Four--GRIZZLIES 104, Spurs 86 (3-1, Memphis)
4/27: Game Five--SPURS 110, Grizzlies 103 (3-2, Memphis)
Manu Ginobili always seemed to be one
step ahead of the Grizzlies' defenders
Another close game in a series that should never have been close--but this time the Spurs pulled it out to keep their Championship hopes alive. Though the Spurs' play through five postseason games thus far makes me think they are too old and broken down to make a deep playoff run, they did gut out a close win in San Antonio despite superb play from Memphis' front line. I've been praising the Grizzlies' combination of Marc Gasol and All-Star Zach Randolph all series long--how strong they've been on the offensive end and how old they've made Tim Duncan look with their defense. Last night was no exception, as the pair combined for 37 points, 27 rebounds, and seven assists. The difference in the game--just like in the Spurs' Game Two win--was the play of Manu Ginobili (see right).  Ginobili returned from sitting out Game One with a sprained right elbow to score 17 points with a +16 +/- rating in the Spurs' Game Two victory.  Last night, with San Antonio facing elimination, Manu stepped up again for the Spurs. He scored a game-high 33 points on 10-18 shooting (55.6%) from the field, to go along with six rebounds, six assists, and four steals. In overtime, Ginobili got a critical rebound with 18 seconds remaining, and he hit the ensuing free throw to ice the game for the Spurs. While Zach Randolph was impressive (26 points, 11 rebounds, six assists), Manu was just too much for the visiting Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
 Denver Nuggets (5) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (4)
4/17: Game One--THUNDER 107, Nuggets 103 (1-0, Oklahoma City)
4/20: Game Two--THUNDER 106, Nuggets 89 (2-0, Oklahoma City)
4/23: Game Three--Thunder 97, NUGGETS 94 (3-0, Oklahoma City)
4/25: Game Four--NUGGETS 104, Thunder 101 (3-1, Oklahoma City)
4/27: Game Five--THUNDER 100, Nuggets 97 (4-1, Oklahoma City wins)
Nene and the Nuggets had no answer Kevin
Durant in the fourth quarter
What a night for Kevin Durant. There isn't much more to say than that. Durant had 41 points on 14-27 shooting, and he blocked J.R. Smith's potentially game-tying three-point attempt with nine seconds remaining to seal the victory--and the series--for the Thunder. Facing a seven-point deficit with 5:50 remaining, Durant exploded. He scored 16 points on 6-8 shooting, as the Thunder outscored the Nuggets 20-10 the rest of the way. Oklahoma City had been stuck in a three to nine-point hole the entire fourth quarter, and Durant's personal domination of the Nuggets led his team to the second round. Though Kevin Durant led the Thunder's fourth-quarter comeback and sealed the series victory for OKC, Serge Ibaka had the most peculiar line of the game. In 35 minutes of action, the sophomore power forward had only one points, and he didn't hit a single field goal. He also turned the ball over five times, meaning that he cost his team several possessions in a tight game. Despite his utter ineptitude on the offensive end, however, Ibaka was an absolute monster on the defensive end of the floor. He pulled down eight boards, including four offensive, and also got two steals in the game. Most impressively, though, Ibaka blocked nine shots last night, more than he Nuggets (three) and his Thunder teammates (five) combined. He blocked five shots in the first quarter alone, setting the tone defensively for Oklahoma City. Ibaka's biggest rejection came with 35 seconds left in the game, on an attempted layup by Nene. The block preserved a one-point Thunder lead, which Durant promptly turned into a three-point edge with two free throws. Durant on offense and Ibaka on defense--and the Thunder are moving on.

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