NBA Playoffs Round 2: Winners and Losers from Tuesday Night
The New York Knicks rallied and then some to protect their home floor on Tuesday night, while the Memphis Grizzlies clawed their way to victory on the road.
After stealing home-court advantage, Memphis emerged as the night's biggest winner. A woeful 15-point effort in the third quarter didn't stop the Grizzlies from storming back to claim a 99-93 win in Oklahoma City.
For New York, it was all about saving face on its home floor. After trading punches for the first 36 minutes, the Knicks used a dominant fourth quarter to ease into a 105-79 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Scoring champions shined bright in both contests, with Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant leading their respective squads.
But an under-appreciated point guard stole the show with a masterful performance in the clutch for Memphis.
With all four teams set to hit the road before getting back at it again in their now best-of-five series on Saturday night, we're left to sort through the winners and losers of this twofer Tuesday.
Winner: Carmelo Anthony
...And, by extension, Boston Globe scribe Gary Washburn.
Washburn was the lone voter not to cast a first-place vote for LeBron James, opting instead for the first-time scoring champion Carmelo Anthony.
If Tuesday night was any indication, perhaps Washburn's ballot wasn't completely off base. Anthony poured in a game-high 32 points on a 13-of-26 showing from the field to lead the Knicks to the series tie.
The night didn't always appear headed for a prolific performance, as the typically stingy Pacers defense held Melo to just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting in the first half.
But Anthony solved Indiana's defensive puzzle and then some in the second half, tallying 16 points in New York's decisive 30-2 run before exiting to a well deserved ovation with 4:55 left in the fourth quarter.
For good measure, he added nine boards, three assists (his second-most generous showing in the playoffs) and two steals to his stat line.
Loser: Indiana's Fourth-Quarter Showing
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After 36 minutes, the Pacers were in a two-possession game, down 72-66.
Whatever Frank Vogel was preaching in his end-of-third-quarter huddle, his message fell on deaf ears. Indiana failed to score until more than a minute after Vogel emptied his bench.
The Pacers starters logged 11 offensive possessions in the period, but here are the ghastly results: eight missed field goals, three missed free throws and two turnovers, highlighted by the 6'8", 23-year-old Paul George having a three-point attempt blocked by the 6'3", 35-year-old Pablo Prigioni.
New York, meanwhile, shredded Indiana's defense, hitting on seven of its first 13 field-goal attempts. Indiana's six-point deficit ballooned to a 24-point gap in less than six minutes.
Winner: Mike Conley
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After sparring with Chris Paul in the previous round, Mike Conley entered the series as the heavy favorite at the point guard position versus the Russell Westbrook-less Thunder.
That edge on paper didn't translate to any on-court success early in the game, as Conley managed just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field in the first half. His 38-year-old counterpart Derek Fisher, meanwhile, enjoyed a trip down memory lane, pouring in 14 points before halftime despite spending the majority of those two quarters on the bench.
Conley connected on half of his six third-quarter attempts, then unleashed an offensive fury in the final period. He racked up seven points and an assist in the first three minutes, as Memphis turned a five-point deficit into a two-point lead.
But he saved his most magical moments for the final two minutes of the contest. He buried a three to give the Grizzlies a 92-90 lead with 1:58 left in regulation, then knocked down a jumper two trips later that proved to be the game-winner.
He scored a team-high 26 points and fell one assist shy of a triple-double, with 10 boards and nine dimes.
Losers: Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin
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With Westbrook out of the equation, the Thunder need someone to step up and fill the void left in his absence.
Only three Thunder players attempted more than 10 field goals, however, in Game 2. Kevin Durant got the biggest piece of the pie (21 attempts) and devoured it, scoring a game-high 36 points on 11-21 shooting from the field.
Ibaka and Martin accounted for 23 of the remaining 49 attempts. Ibaka missed seven of his 12 shots en route to a forgettable 11-point, five-rebound performance in 37 minutes. Martin looked even worse, misfiring on nine of his 11 looks and filling the remainder of his box score with nothing but singles.
The duo combined for just two points in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
Winner: NY Guards Not Named J.R. Smith
While Melo shined in his leading role in the Big Apple, his backcourt mates earned some Best Supporting Actor consideration of their own. Well, all of them besides Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith.
Pablo Prigioni rode a perfect 4-of-4 shooting night en route to his 10 points, four boards and four dimes (with zero turnovers) in 21 minutes. Raymond Felton chipped in with 14 points, connecting on both of his three-point attempts and tossing out a trio of assists (including a well-executed, but poorly timed off-the-backboard lob to Kenyon Martin in the third quarter) in his 26 minutes.
Jason Kidd had one of the more impressive scoreless efforts you'll ever see, dishing out four assists, swiping two steals and setting the defensive tone. Iman Shumpert (a guard by trade masquerading as a forward in Mike Woodson's small-ball lineup) chipped in with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, corralling six rebounds and offering up a powerful putback jam to the science world studying the aftereffects of a torn ACL.
It's hard to believe the Knicks actually won this game (let alone by such a wide margin) with Smith's struggles. He hit just three of his 15 field-goal attempts and shot 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also accounted for half of New York's six turnovers.
Losers: Indiana's Georges
Paul George and George Hill did not bring their best in the Pacers' home-court stealing, 102-95 win in Game 1.
The duo needed 31 field-goal attempts to reach 33 combined points, committing five turnovers along the way. But the Georges would have gladly swapped those stats for their unsightly Game 2 lines.
Paul George shot 50 percent from the field, 8-of-16, but stuffed the rest of his box score with a host of undesirables. He misfired on six of his nine three-point attempts, managed just four rebounds in a game-high 38 minutes and had just one assist and seven turnovers.
George Hill didn't have as bad of a night by comparison, but he would still like some of those seven missed field goals and four turnovers back.
The plus/minus statistic is at times misleading, but this duo's combined minus-45 rating was no fluke.
Winner: Memphis Defense
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Granted, this is how this Grizzlies team goes about its business.
Still, an anemic 15-point third quarter against a potent Thunder offense is almost always a death sentence.
But the Grizzlies' grit shined in their defensive performance in the second half, and they have that to thank for this win.
The Thunder tallied 51 points over the first two quarters, and 49 in the final two would've meant a victory. But Memphis minimized the damage of its quiet third period, holding Oklahoma City to just 23 points in the period.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, the Grizzlies only tightened their defensive grip. The Thunder stumbled to their lowest scoring quarter of the game (19 points) and managed just two field goals (including a meaningless Fisher three at the buzzer) over the final five minutes.
The Thunder shot 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range on the night, but Memphis' plus-eight margin on the glass (43-35) and plus-nine edge in the turnover battle (19 to 10) did all of the necessary damage.
Losers: Oklahoma City Bigs
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Ibaka's transgressions have already been detailed, but he wasn't the lone offender on the Thunder's front lines.
Kendrick Perkins looked nothing like an NBA starting center. He was manhandled in the post by Marc Gasol (24 points, 8-of-13), turned the ball over three times in 24 minutes, missed three of his four field-goal attempts and could not keep himself out of foul trouble. His six boards could've translated into a more meaningful contribution had his other shortcomings not earned him such a long spectator's view.
And it wasn't as if Brooks had anywhere else to turn to. Nick Collison needed all of 15 minutes to rack up six personal fouls. And he somehow found the time to turn it over four times in the process. Hasheem Thabeet gave the team three rebounds in 13 minutes, but he had his only field-goal attempt swatted away and otherwise left an empty box score save for a pair of personal fouls.
With the Thunder shooters not named Derek Fisher falling nearly silent from three-point land (the rest of the club shot 5-of-19), Oklahoma City needed an interior presence to keep the Memphis defenders honest.
Not to mention that Oklahoma City's poor showing on the glass could have been considerably worse if not for Durant's 11 boards.
Winner: Spike Lee
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Spike Lee, perhaps the most recognizable face among New York's star-studded faithful, needed this win.
Not only had he suffered through a decade of futility, spilling his orange and blue blood all over the Madison Square Garden floor in the process, but he was forced to face his longtime nemesis on the anniversary of one of his darkest days.
Former Pacers star Reggie Miller was on site handling the color commentary duties in TNT's broadcast. This in the same arena that 18 years ago to the day had witnessed Miller's magnificent game-stealing eight points in nine seconds performance, with no shortage of obscene altercations taking place between him and the courtside-perched Lee throughout that game.
Lee's Knicks were ousted by Miller's Pacers in that Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, but this crop of Knicks stars may have taken a big step toward avoiding a similar fate with their win in Game 2.
Loser: Jeff Pendergraph
It's not easy to make this list after seeing the floor for just seven minutes. But Indiana reserve Jeff Pendergraph carved out a series of unfortunate events and etched his name on the losers list.
Pendergraph didn't get off the bench until the 3:05 mark of the third quarter, meaning his arrival (coincidentally or not) brought with it New York's game-changing surge. He wasn't around for much of it, but he made his presence felt—and not in the way he would have liked.
Less than 60 seconds after entering the contest, he found an unsightly path to YouTube infamy by filling the Timofey Mozgov role in Anthony's production of Blake Griffin: The Story of a Rim-Rocker. Nineteen seconds later, he picked up an offensive foul and was immediately yanked by Coach Vogel.
Hey, at least this performance didn't draw the attention of the commissioner's office this time, which levied a $5,000 fine on the former reserve for his flop against the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round.