2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Tuesday, April 22 1st-Round Action
We're staying east of the Mississippi River on Tuesday night, as all three first-round contests will take place between teams of the Eastern Conference.
It might have been the "Leastern Conference" during the regular season, but every one of these matchups provided a compelling Game 1, as the road team won in each case.
Here's what Tuesday's slate of games looks like:
- Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers: 7 p.m. ET, TNT
- Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV
- Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
For the higher seeds—Indiana, Toronto and Chicago—the pressure is on to come out firing and avoid leaving home down 0-2.
Meanwhile, the three road teams—Atlanta, Brooklyn and Washington—hope to build on their strong Game 1 performances in order to return home for Game 3 with all of the momentum.
East: No. 8 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 1 Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers 101, Atlanta Hawks 85—Series tied, 1-1
The Indiana Pacers finally started to play like the No. 1 seed in the second half on Tuesday, just in time to turn a third-quarter deficit into a blowout win over the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks exploited the Pacers' league-leading defense in Game 1 by spreading the floor and shooting 11-of-30 from three-point range, and they picked up right where they left off early in Game 2.
Atlanta blitzed Indiana from long range in the first half, shooting 8-of-16 from beyond the arc. Even power forward Paul Millsap got in on the action, hitting two three-pointers en route to 15 first-half points.
In a surprising twist, it was the Pacers bench that kept them in the game in the first half, as reserves Luis Scola (13 points) and C.J. Watson (nine points) combined for 22 of Indiana's 48 first-half points. Still, the Pacers went into the half trailing, 52-48.
The second half was a whole different story altogether. Throughout the regular season, Indiana had really dropped the hammer on its opponents coming out of halftime. And that is exactly what happened on Tuesday in the third quarter, as the Pacers tore through Atlanta like General Sherman, 31-13.
Indiana held the Hawks to 25 percent shooting in the period, while Paul George (eight points) and George Hill (10 points) scored five more points than the entire Hawks team.
The fourth quarter became academic, as the Pacers continued to dominate, pushing their lead past the 20-point mark until garbage time.
Paul George, Pacers: 27 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL
Lance Stephenson, Pacers: 7 PTS, 3 REB, 5 AST
Luis Scola, Pacers: 20 PTS, 7 REB
Paul Millsap, Hawks: 19 PTS, 4 REB
Jeff Teague, Hawks 14 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
The series will shift to Atlanta for Game 3 on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on NBA TV.
While the Pacers clearly found their old third-quarter magic in this game, they don't want to come out flat again in the first half, especially given the fact that they'll be on the road for their next two games.
As for the Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer chose to focus on this game rather than the fact that they will be heading home for Game 3, per The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner: "I think right now we're just thinking about what happened tonight and how we can improve."
But the Hawks shouldn't overreact to one terrible half. They must continue to trust the process that allowed them to play so well through the first three halves of this series. They still present matchup problems for Indiana with their ability to shoot the three at every position. Atlanta will just have to do a better job of protecting the ball and hope its shots start falling again.
East: No. 6 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 3 Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors 100, Brooklyn Nets 95—Series tied, 1-1
The Toronto Raptors may not have the experience of the veteran Brooklyn Nets, but they managed the fourth quarter just fine on Tuesday. Toronto relied on 17 fourth-quarter points from guard DeMar DeRozan to squeak past the Nets late, 100-95.
Brooklyn looked to step on the Raptors' throats early, jumping out to an 8-1 lead as the Raptors went nearly four minutes without hitting a field goal from the outset.
Toronto rallied quickly, thanks to the bruising inside play of center Jonas Valanciunas, who scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter.
Star Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry struggled in the first half, shooting 0-of-5 and committing three turnovers, but Toronto got a standout performance from his backup, Greivis Vasquez, with nine points, two assists and one steal.
The Nets were able to bring an 11-point deficit down to a more manageable six before halftime. Reserves Mirza Teletovic (11 points) and Andrei Kirilenko (four points, three steals) were big for Brooklyn, as most of the starters struggled.
The Nets reclaimed the lead in the third quarter thanks to a scalding-hot shooting performance from Joe Johnson, who scored 12 points in the frame. The Raptors, meanwhile, continued to wilt under Brooklyn's defensive pressure, with 17 turnovers in the first three quarters.
The fourth quarter was a tense, back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading impossible, body-blow buckets. DeRozan went to the bench with his fifth foul early in the quarter, but came out firing upon his return, with two clutch jumpers and a pass leading to a Lowry layup.
Nets forward Paul Pierce hit a pair of and-1 shots to help bring Brooklyn back, but missed a couple of three-pointers that could have turned the tide back in Brooklyn's favor. I guess he didn't stop by Walgreens to pick up a six-pack of clutch before the game.
Paul Pierce, Nets: 7 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST
Deron Williams, Nets: 15 PTS, 1 REB, 5 AST
Joe Johnson, Nets: 18 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors: 15 PTS, 14 REB
Kyle Lowry, Raptors: 14 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: 30 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
The series will shift to Brooklyn for Game 3 on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Tuesday night's win was invaluable for Toronto, as it learned it can hang with Brooklyn late in games. Still, the Raptors must do a better job protecting the ball. They turned the ball over 40 times in the first two games of the series.
As for Brooklyn, it will need to find a way to keep the bigger Raptors off the offensive glass. Toronto killed the Nets on Tuesday with 19 offensive rebounds.
East: No. 5 Washington Wizards vs. No. 4 Chicago Bulls
Washington Wizards 101, Chicago Bulls 99, OT—Washington leads series, 2-0
The Washington Wizards staged a fourth-quarter comeback and then nearly blew a comfortable overtime lead before finally finishing off the Chicago Bulls, 101-99.
The Wizards started the game on fire, jumping out to a 17-point lead late in the first quarter. The guard tandem of John Wall (seven points) and Bradley Beal (10 points) was not bothered at all by its struggles in Game 1.
Chicago got back into the game by benching the starting forward tandem of Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy. Instead, coach Tom Thibodeau used a two-point guard backcourt of D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich, while Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson joined center Joakim Noah in the frontcourt.
The Bulls pulled within one point near the end of the second half, but a late seven-point burst by Wall helped Washington head into halftime with a 56-49 lead.
Wall's performance at the end of the half was "huge," according to The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring, who also noted that "Chicago had all the momentum leading up to that point."
But the Bulls would not be denied their momentum in the third quarter. The ferocious Chicago defense reawakened, holding Washington to only 14 points in the quarter. Boozer (five points) and Dunleavy (seven points) came back rejuvenated offensively as Chicago turned a seven-point deficit into a five-point lead.
The Bulls stretched that lead to 10 in the fourth quarter, but Washington came storming back thanks to the clutch shooting of Beal, who scored 11 points in the final frame before missing a frantic fadeaway jumper for the win.
That last-second miss wouldn't come back to haunt Washington, however, as big man Nene Hilario took over in the overtime period, while Chicago's pop-gun offense couldn't quite take advantage of Washington's late-game tightness.
Joakim Noah, Bulls: 20 PTS, 12 REB, 3 AST
Jimmy Butler, Bulls: 12 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
Nene, Wizards: 17 PTS, 7 REB
Bradley Beal, Wizards: 26 PTS, 7 REB
John Wall, Wizards: 16 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST
The series will shift to Washington for Game 3 on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
While the Bulls will never be out of a series, it has to be dawning on the basketball world that they are not the more talented team in this series. Tom Thibodeau will have to find a way to squeeze more points out of this mediocre offense if the Bulls are to win a game in D.C.
As for Washington...free throws, free throws, free throws! The Wizards shot a pathetic 5-of-16 from the charity stripe in the second half. If they shot a reasonable percentage, this game does not go to overtime.
The Wizards can't merely settle for getting to the line against Chicago in Game 3, they have to make the Bulls pay.