Close out Friday:
The Celtics resoundingly won the 4th quarter, disguising the pounding they had been taking most of the evening, and bouncing them out of the playoffs with an 8 point loss. It was a loss emblematic of the state of the team, heading into the offseason with new uncertainties but still able to finish without real embarrassment. After all, the Knicks were actually supposed to win this time.
The Knicks advanced for the first time since the year 2000. You might remember that as Patrick Ewing's last year as a Knick, where they eventually lost to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Carmelo continued his recent trend of less than stellar shooting, but it just didn't matter because for most of the game the Celtics had fewer field goals than they had turnovers.
The Atlanta Hawks started out in St. Louis, where they won a Finals and lost three (all in series with the Russell-Cousy Celtics). In 1968 they moved to Atlanta. They were an odd group, with a 37 year old Richie Guerin coaching, and occasionally throwing aside the clipboard and subbing himself in. Their stars were Zelmo Beaty, Lou Hudson and Bill Bridges (taller brother of Jeff and Beau). In '69 they went to Western Finals and lost to the Wilt-Jerry-Elgin Lakers, something there's no shame in. The next year saw Zelmo jump to the ABA and the arrival of Walt Bellamy, but the team once again fell to the Lakers in the Western Finals.
That must have seemed like a good moment to come East, which is exactly what the Hawks did in 1970. Since then, things haven't exactly worked out; over the next 43 years the Hawks made the Eastern semi-finals 15 times, were bounced in the first round 12 times, and didn't even make the playoffs 16 times.
So with that in mind, this recent first round loss to the Pacers was nothing out of the ordinary. Indiana put on the defensive pressure and added just enough offense. Lance Stephenson had 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and refrained from shooting the ball too much. David West and Paul George each threw in 21 points, while Roy Hibbert was downright respectable with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, the Hawks pretty much just had Al Horford.
: One of these close outs had to actually take place on the victor's home court. The final score was Memphis 118 to Clippers 105. That feels about right. While I wouldn't call it a beatdown, the game never felt like the Clippers were in it. Jamal Crawford has been bailing out the Clippers all season long, but was left rotting on the bench after being cold early. Chris Paul was pointlessly ejected with about 2 and a half minutes left.
It's not often that Chris Paul gets thrown out of the final minutes of a playoff game and it simply doesn't matter, but I think this fit the bill. Moments later, Joey Crawford kept the feeling of being a big man going by tossing Randolph. Z-Bo wasn't going to let the NBA's answer to the principal from the Back to the Future movies rain on his parade, so he threw his headband to the stands and skipped off dramatically to the delight of the crowd. As an interesting side note, each time a player got thrown out, Matt Barnes would assume it was him and get in Crawford's face. Yet, he never actually got thrown out. Total mindfuck. On the final day of their season, Matt Barnes led the team with 30 points.
Grant Hill made his first appearance of the playoffs, and perhaps the last of his career. He played 20 minutes and had a +/- of 0.
This one was always going to happen, right? The Rockets may have delayed the inevitable somewhat, but I'm not sure if anyone outside of James Harden's mother had them in this series. Kevin Martin and his funny looking jumpshot did all they could to keep Sam Presti's cat alive, providing 25 points that were more efficient than the bearded one's 26. Harden had more assists and rebounds etc... but that's to be expected. Bottom line: the Rockets did what they could, but even on a so-so night, Durant is still going to put up 27, 8, and 6. All he needed was a little help, and Friday night he got it.
Shut out Saturday:
|The many faces of victory|
Watching the Nets lose this game, it was hard to tell that it was in Brooklyn. Occasionally the crowd would chant the borough's name, but besides that there were few indications. The Bulls certainly played with more energy, which is why they won the game. When you're playing without most of your backcourt and Luol Deng is flirting with meningitis, extra energy is a must.
Due to his limited mobility from plantar fasciitis, Joe Johnson had mentioned before the game that he was going to function as "a decoy" and "a spot-up shooter". Perhaps he should've leaned a little harder on the decoy role, considering he only made 2 of his 14 attempts, including 8 misses from deep. Usually, the guy on the team with the biggest paycheck isn't best used as a decoy, but the Nets would've likely been better served spreading the ball around.
Joakim Noah loomed large with 6 blocks, most of them absorbed directly by Brook Lopez.