2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping 1st-Round Action from Sunday
The NBA playoff show must go on.
It wants to go on.
The first round of the NBA playoffs continues Sunday with four pivotal games that will go a long way in determining which teams advance to the second round and which teams go home early.
A first-half offensive explosion, coupled with the Bulls' inability to score, allowed the Wizards to snag another victory and grab complete control of their first-round series.
The Clippers couldn't overcome owner Donald Sterling capturing headlines for all the wrong reasons (again), allowing the Warriors to send the series back to Los Angeles knotted up at two games apiece.
Toronto made up for a lousy third quarter display and went on a 14-2 run over the game's final six minutes to even their series with the Brooklyn Nets.
Finally, the Blazers emerged with a huge 123-120 overtime victory over the Rockets and have now pushed Houston to the brink of elimination thanks to 55 second second-half points and a 17-point output in the extra session. It was the third overtime game between the Rockets and Blazers through four games.
Things are heating up as teams play deeper into the first round.
Let the craziness continue.
East: No. 4 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards 98, Chicago Bulls 89—Washington leads series, 3-1
The Wizards withstood a late Bulls run to emerge from the Verizon Center with a 98-89 victory.
Led by Trevor Ariza, who scored 11 first-quarter points, the Wizards came out firing, scoring the game's first 14 points. Though the Bulls offense eventually got on the board, the Wizards never took their foot off the gas in the first half and entered halftime with a 55-40 advantage.
Things didn't get any better for the Bulls coming out of halftime. Their offense started hitting shots, but they couldn't find an answer for Ariza, who piled on another 10 points in the third quarter. The Wizards extended their lead to 20 heading into the fourth.
Then the Bulls came to life. They hit six of their final 11 shots and cut into Washington's overwhelming lead. But as soon as the Bulls came within single digits, the Wizards answered. And they kept answering.
Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Ariza each hit big shots during the final two minutes, putting the game out of reach for a Bulls offense with little firepower.
John Wall struggled to remain effective on the offensive end, shooting just 4-of-15 from the floor, but thanks to his 10 assists, a steady dose of drive-and-kicks and major contributions from his supporting cast, the Wizards had little trouble completing the wire-to-wire victory.
- Taj Gibson, Bulls: 32 PTS, 7 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK
- Joakim Noah, Bulls: 10 PTS, 15 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK
- Trevor Ariza, Wizards: 30 PTS, 8 REB, 2 STL
- Marcin Gortat, Wizards: 17 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK
- Bradley Beal, Wizards: 18 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL
The series will shift back to Chicago for Game 5 on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
After going up 3-1, the Wizards don't appear ready to slow down now.
While the Bulls aren't known for rolling over, the Wizards are poised to advance through to the second round. In fact, they'd already be there if not for an aberrant effort from Mike Dunleavy in Game 3, as Rashad Mobley of ESPN noted.
Unless Chicago is able to find more consistent sources of offense—only three players scored in double figures in Game 3—it's only a matter of time before Washington wins a series-clinching fourth game.
West: No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 6 Golden Warriors
- Blake Griffin, Clippers: 21 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
- Chris Paul, Clippers: 16 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL
- Stephen Curry, Warriors: 33 PTS, 7 REB, 7 AST, 1 STL
- Andre Iguodala, Warriors: 22 PTS, 9 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
- David Lee, Warriors: 15 PTS, 6 REBS, 2 AST, 2 STL
Golden State Warriors 118, Los Angeles Clippers 97—Series tied, 2-2.
Though the Clippers took the court in symbolic fashion for Game 4, they were unable to respond to owner Donald Sterling's latest self-foisted incident with an inspiring victory.
Stephen Curry came out guns blazing. He hit five three-pointers and scored 17 first-quarter points. Despite the Clippers shooting better than 55 percent from the floor, the Warriors headed into the second up 39-24.
Offense was hard to come by for the Clippers heading into halftime. They shot 6-of-20 from the floor while the Warriors stayed hot and took an 18-point advantage into the locker room.
Even after shooting almost 53 percent in the third quarter, the Clippers were unable to cut into Golden State's lead. They showed a little fight early in the fourth quarter, but the lead was too big, their offense too disjointed and their defense too shaky.
Foul trouble kept Chris Paul from having a significant impact, while DeAndre Jordan was a non-factor. The Clippers' performance was uneven from the tip, and they never found a way to get in sync.
Toss in the Warriors' hot shooting from deep (15-of-32), and it was all too much.
The series will shift back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
Sterling-related drama will continue to plague the Clippers until then. It will be up to head coach Doc Rivers to keep his players in check and their minds right.
"Sterling has helped cause a lot of Clippers losses over time, but this is a novel approach," CSN's Ray Ratto observed after the game. "Warriors were never threatened."
If the Clippers are still struggling to remain on the same page and settling for three-pointers instead of running their offense, this series could quickly fall out of reach.
"We didn't handle the competition right tonight," Rivers said, per ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi. "If it's because of the other thing, it's still my fault."
The Warriors, meanwhile, must continue finding ways to free up Curry. His showing from beyond the arc in Game 4 (7-of-14), is the main reason why they were able to run away with this win. When he's scoring in rhythm and isn't being chased off the three-point line, the Warriors, as they showed on Sunday, are a difficult team to beat.
East: No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets
Toronto Raptors 87, Brooklyn Nets 79—Series tied, 2-2
The Raptors played ugly. Not to be outdone, the Nets played uglier.
The Raptors were on fire early on. They dropped 35 first-quarters points on 61.9 percent shooting and brought a 13-point lead into the second quarter as the Nets struggled to initiate their half-court offense.
Neither team set the world ablaze in the second quarter. The Raptors cooled off while the Nets' offense picked up, but both squads continued to carom three-pointers off every part of the rim. They combined to go 1-of-9 from deep in the second quarter. Still, the Nets managed to cut into Toronto's double-digit and trailed by only seven leading into halftime.
What transpired in the third quarter was nearly unwatchable. The Raptors shot 4-of-21 from the floor and defended poorly. Had the Nets' futility at the free-throw line not reared its ugly head once again (6-of-12), the Raptors would have watched their lead disintegrate completely. Instead, they headed into the fourth quarter all tied up.
By this point, it was the Nets' turn to implode. They shot 3-of-17 from the floor, including 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. Although the Raptors failed to pull away, the Nets couldn't score at all down the stretch.
- DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: 24 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST
- Kyle Lowry, Raptors: 22 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL
- Amir Johnson, Raptors: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 2 STL, 1 BLK
- Paul Pierce, Nets: 22 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL
- Mirza Teletovic, Nets: 12 PTS, 5 REB
The series will shift back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday at a time that has yet to be determined. The game will be televised nationally on NBA TV.
If this game was a sign of things to come, the Nets are in trouble. The Raptors didn't play their best basketball, but they were also battling injuries, most notably that to Lowry, who was nursing a sore knee.
“We’d probably have got into a fight if I’d tried to take him out of the game,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry.
Toronto's point guard was productive despite battling through some foul trouble. With the way he's playing, coupled with the continued now-you-see-me, now-you-don't act of D-Will, the Raptors have to feel good going into Game 5 knowing the Nets have struggled to field two consistent scorers all series.
West: No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers 123, Houston Rockets 120—Blazers lead series, 3-1
The Rockets seized control of the game's first half, torching the Blazers defense to the tune of 54.8 percent shooting and 46.7 percent shooting from three while dropping 61 points over the opening 24 minutes.
In that span, Chandler Parsons scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting while D-League call-up Troy Daniels continued to bomb away from three.
However, the Blazers would not go quietly, outscoring the Rockets by five in the third quarter, which set up a classic fourth quarter shootout that included a plethora of lead changes and clutch moments from the series' brightest stars.
Before Dwight Howard tied things up at 106 with a shade over three seconds remaining, Mo Williams buried a three that put the Blazers up one with 18.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
A missed three from Williams as time expired then led way to the series' third overtime thriller in four games.
In the extra session, insanity ensued as the Rockets and Blazers traded blows, but it was Portland that got the last laugh after Wesley Matthews stripped Patrick Beverley in the game's waning seconds to ice things.
- James Harden, Rockets: 28 PTS, 4 REB, 6 AST, 5 TO
- Chandler Parsons, Rockets: 26 PTS, 8 REB, 2 AST
- Dwight Howard, Rockets: 25 PTS, 14 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers: 29 PTS, 10 REB, 2 STL, 4 BLK
- Damian Lillard, Blazers: 23 PTS, 1 REB, 8 AST
- Wes Matthews, Blazers: 21 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST, 4 STL
- Nicolas Batum, Blazers: 25 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
The Blazers will look to close things out as the series shifts back to Houston for Game 5, which will be played Wednesday and broadcast on TNT at 9:30 p.m. ET.
The Rockets have yet to win a playoff game on their home floor this postseason and will need to improve significantly on the defensive end to stave off elimination.
In addition, Houston will need to solve its fourth-quarter struggles. Through four games, the Rockets have yet to outscore the Blazers in the final period of regulation and have collapsed on the defensive end too often down the stretch.