2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Friday, April 25 1st-Round Action

Joe Flynn@@ChinaJoeFlynnContributor IApril 26, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Friday, April 25 1st-Round Action

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    David J. Phillip

    The teams have switched venues for Game 3 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, as each squad is looking to make a definitive statement in their respective series.

    • Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2 (Series tied, 1-1)
    • Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN (Series tied, 1-1)
    • Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT (Series tied, 1-1) 

    The Nets seized control against Toronto by winning their Game 3 at home, while the Bulls got back into their series by winning at Washington.

    Can the Rockets follow Chicago's example and get back into their series with a road win?

East: No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets

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    Brooklyn Nets 102, Toronto Raptors 98Brooklyn leads series, 2-1


    The Brooklyn Nets held off a furious late-game rally to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 102-98.

    For Toronto, the first half of Game 3 picked up where the fourth quarter of Game 2 left off, with DeMar DeRozan doing his best to carry the team. The All-Star shooting guard was terrific in the first two quarters, scoring 15 points and dishing three assists.

    But Brooklyn more than held their own, thanks to a resurgent performance from former All-Star point guard Deron Williams. Per the New York Post's Tim Bontemps, Williams really seemed to relish his matchup with Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry: "Deron Williams wants to beat Kyle Lowry as much as I've seen him want to beat any player this side of Jeremy Lin in three years covering him."

    The veteran duo of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnet were huge for the Nets late in the second quarter, pacing the Nets with some big-time buckets and bringing the slumbering Brooklyn crowd to its feet with hustle plays.

    The Nets pushed their lead into double-digits in the third quarter thanks to the scoring efforts of Williams (six points) and Joe Johnson (10 points). Meanwhile, DeRozan cooled off, shooting just 1-of-6 from the field.

    Brooklyn clearly had the game in hand midway through the fourth, sporting a 15-point lead with 5:02 remaining. But they completely fell apart in the final few minutes, allowing Toronto to make it a one-possession game in the final minute. 

    The Raptors actually had a chance to tie the game, as Brooklyn big man Andray Blatche fouled Patrick Patterson with 19 seconds left. But Patterson missed both free throws, and Landry Fields tipped the ball out of bounds. Pierce and Johnson hit their free throws to ice the game.

    Notable Performers

    • Joe Johnson, Nets: 29 PTS, 2 AST

    • Deron Williams, Nets: 22 PTS, 2 REB, 8 AST

    • Paul Pierce, Nets: 18 PTS, 5 REB

    • Kyle Lowry, Raptors: 15 PTS, 2 REB, 4 AST (fouled out)

    • DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: 30 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST

    • Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors: 10 PTS, 10 REB

    What's Next?

    The series will stay in Brooklyn for Game 4 on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.

    The Raptors have to feel good about making this into a game late, but they still do not look like the team that won the Atlantic Division this season. Starting small forward Terrence Ross is giving them absolutely nothing, and Lowry, their best player, has played well below his sterling regular-season level.

    Toronto will not be able to win a game in Brooklyn unless they get more production from players other than DeMar DeRozan. Coach Dwane Casey acknowledged this in his postgame comments, per NBA.com's John Schuhmann: "We just got to get more productivity out of one more position."

    The production (or lack thereof) from just one more position could decide whether or not the Raptors tie this series.

No. 4 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards

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    Chicago Bulls 100, Washington Wizards 97Washington leads series, 2-1


    The Wizards started the game on fire, riding the energy of a raucous Washington crowd to a quick 15-8 lead.

    But then the game quickly turned into the Mike Dunleavy show. The sweet-shooting small forward hit 4-of-5 from the field in the first quarter, scoring 10 points, as the Bulls climbed back to within two.

    Washington managed to keep a three-point lead going into halftime thanks to the strong play of their backcourt. Trevor Ariza (11 points), John Wall (13 points) and Bradley Beal (12 points) all scored in double-figures in the first half for the Wizards.

    The Bulls took the lead in the third quarter as Dunleavy continued his molten-hot shooting, pouring in 13 points in 12 minutes.

    The fourth quarter was a bizarre, back-and-forth affair. Washington big man Nene was ejected for head-butting Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, but the Wizards still managed to draw even.

    With 24 seconds remaining, and the game tied at 91, Butler swished a massively clutch three to give Chicago a 94-91 lead.

    It was a magnificent shot...and it was also the last made field goal in what turned into a sloppy foul-fest the rest of the way. The Wizards missed a shot at the other end, but got a steal on the resulting inbounds pass. Wall was fouled, hit the free throws to make it a one-point game. The Wizards fouled Butler, who hit both. 

    Up three, the Bulls intentionally fouled Wall, who hit one of two. More free throws for D.J. Augustin, Wall and Taj Gibson ensued, until the game finally, mercifully game to a close.

    Notable Performers

    • Joakim Noah, Bulls: 6 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST (fouled out)

    • Mike Dunleavy, Bulls: 35 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST

    • Jimmy Butler: 15 PTS, 5 REB

    • Nene, Wizards: 10 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST (ejected)

    • John Wall, Wizards: 23 PTS, 2 REB, 7 AST

    • Bradley Beal, Wizards: 25 PTS, 4 REB, 5 AST

    What's Next?

    The series will stay in D.C. for Game 4 on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.

    It should come as no surprise that Chicago has fought their way back into this series. Both Game 1 and Game 2 were close affairs. 

    So who will have more pressure in Game 4? The Wizards should feel confident going in, but if Chicago continues to play close, Washington might start worrying about blowing this two-game lead. 

    The league office could play a deciding factor, if they decide to suspend Nene for his head-butt, or if they determine that Wizards center Marcin Gortat left the bench during the altercation.

West: No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Houston Rockets 121, Portland Trail Blazers 116 - Portland leads series, 2-1


    It took overtime, but the Houston Rockets finally got their first win of the series, topping the Portland Trail Blazers in a 121-116 thriller Friday night at the Moda Center.

    The Rockets got off to a quick start, taking a 9-0 lead in the hostile environment. By the end of the first quarter, Houston was up 35-24 behind 11 points apiece from James Harden and Patrick Beverley. Beverley drained all three of his three-point tries over the first 12 minutes, setting the tone early.

    The Blazers would respond like they have all series, though. Portland embarked on a 16-0 run in the second period, taking a 42-38 edge. The two ballclubs would trade blows for the remainder of the half, with the Blazers eventually taking a 55-54 advantage into the locker room thanks to 16 first-half points from Damian Lillard.

    The third quarter featured more of the same, with punches being thrown from both sides (figuratively, of course). Harden, who went scoreless in the second quarter, added 11 more in the third, scoring in transition and getting to the cup in the halfcourt set. Houston held Lillard in check, but LaMarcus Aldridge put in 10 points over those 12 minutes after posting only four in the first half.

    The Rockets led 81-78 heading into the fourth quarter and started the final frame on a 13-5 run, stretching their lead to 11. Sound familiar?

    Just when it looked like Houston might be ready to secure its first win of the series, Portland rallied, going on a 27-16 run to send the game into overtime. Lillard scored nine points in the quarter, including an incredible circus shot that resulted in a three-point play. Both Lillard and Harden had chances to win the game at the end of regulation, but Lillard misfired on a jumper with four seconds left and Harden couldn't connect on a half-court heave as time expired.

    You could tell the players were gassed in the extra session. The Blazers took a 116-112 lead with 3:08 to go, but they didn't score for the remainder of the game. Houston closed on a 9-0 run, taking a 119-116 lead with 11 seconds left on a go-ahead three-pointer by rookie Troy Daniels, who only played in five games all season. Talk about a story.

    On the next Portland possession, Nicolas Batum had an open look from downtown, but he misfired. Harden was fouled after the rebound and hit two free throws to seal a thrilling 121-116 win for the Rockets.

    Notable Performers

    • James Harden, Rockets: 37 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST
    • Dwight Howard, Rockets: 24 PTS, 14 REB, 2 BLK
    • Patrick Beverley, Rockets: 16 PTS, 9 REB
    • Damian Lillard, Blazers: 30 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
    • Nicolas Batum, Blazers: 26 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
    • LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers: 23 PTS, 10 REB, 3 BLK

    What's Next?

    The Rockets dodged one heck of a bullet to avoid falling into the dreaded 3-0 hole, a deficit that no team in NBA history has ever climbed out of. Now, they'll have a chance to even up the series in Game 4, which is Sunday on TNT at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game will be played at the Moda Center.

    Most people expected this to be a close, hard-fought series throughout, and that is what we have gotten. Two of the contests have been decided in overtime, and the other was a slim seven-point margin. Should we anticipate anything less in Game 4? Probably not.

    Can Harden and Howard send this series back to Houston tied up? Or will Lillard, Aldridge and company take a commanding 3-1 lead heading into Game 5?

    It should be one heck of a battle. Don't miss it.