2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Tuesday, April 29 1st-Round Action
Forget Donald Sterling—let's get back to playoff basketball!
The first round of the NBA playoffs is winding down, which means every game takes on added significance.
Here are the slate of games for Tuesday evening:
- Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: 8 p.m. ET, TNT (Washington leads series, 3-1)
- Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: 9 p.m. ET, NBA TV (Series tied, 2-2)
- Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT (Series tied, 2-2)
The Washington Wizards took care of business yet again on Chicago's home court, and sent the Bulls home for the summer after beating them, 75-69.
In Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies won perhaps the strangest game of their already-strange series with the Thunder, and will take a 3-2 advantage back to Memphis
The final game of the night features teams who have won two games apiece. Who will take advantage?
East: No. 5 Washington Wizards vs. No. 4 Chicago Bulls
Washington Wizards 75, Chicago Bulls 69—Washington wins series, 4-1
The Wizards began Game 5 much the same way they did the first four games of the series, by jumping out to eight-point lead in the first quarter. Power forward Nene Hilario, who was suspended for Game 4, led Washington with six points during the opening frame.
Chicago pulled even in the second quarter, as sixth man Taj Gibson added six points to his typical sterling frontcourt defense.
Throughout this series, the Bulls have repeatedly shot themselves in the collective foot by digging a big early hole. While they have usually been able to climb back into the game, they were simply not good enough offensively to keep up that kind of pace.
The same thing doomed them in Game 5, as the Bulls went back down by nine in the third quarter. Chicago simply could not score, as the Wizards held the squad to 11 points in the period.
Even when the Bulls made it to the rim, they simply couldn't convert. Through the first three quarters, Chicago missed a mind-boggling 15 layups.
After shooting guard Jimmy Butler missed badly on a desperation three-pointer, B/R's Andrew Bailey mused: "Certainly the Bulls offense can get looks than Jimmy Butler jacking threes from five feet beyond the line. Or maybe they can't."
The Bulls rallied after losing Gibson to an ankle injury, cutting the deficit to three. But the Wizards bullied Chicago on the offensive glass in the waning minutes, while the Bulls continued to miss bunnies at the rim. Butler botched one final layup in the closing seconds, allowing the Wizards to hold on for the win.
Per TNT analyst Marv Albert, the 75 points Washington scored on Tuesday was its lowest total ever in a playoff victory.
Joakim Noah, Bulls: 6 PTS, 18 REB, 7 AST
Jimmy Butler, Bulls: 16 PTS, 4 REB
Nene, Wizards: 20 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
John Wall, Wizards: 24 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
Bradley Beal, Wizards: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
After the loss, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau praised his players, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson: "I’m proud of the team. They gave us everything they had. There was nothing left. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for."
But this moment isn't really about the Bulls; it's about the Washington Wizards and their long-suffering fans. For just the second time in three decades, the Wizards will be playing in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Washington will face the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series. Atlanta currently leads 3-2, and Game 6 will take place on its home court on Thursday night. Still, it would be foolish to count out the top-seeded Pacers.
Though Indiana has been struggling of late, the Wizards might be better off facing Atlanta, whom they beat three of four times in the regular season. The Pacers won their regular-season series against Washington, 2-1.
West: No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder 100, Memphis Grizzlies 99 (OT)—Memphis leads series, 3-2.
Yet again, the Memphis Grizzlies owned the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime, 100-99.
The typically low-scoring Grizzlies ran roughshod over the Thunder defense early en route to 30 first-quarter points. Power forward Zach Randolph (13 points) and reserve sharpshooter Mike Miller (11 points) were unstoppable early.
Miller poured in another 11 points in the second quarter, while the Grizzlies held down the Thunder's superstar duo of Kevin Durant (zero points, 0-of-6 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (two points, 0-of-6 shooting).
The Grizzlies looked set to run away with the game in the third quarter, sporting a 20-point lead with 3:43 left in the period. But the Thunder came alive toward the end of the quarter, cutting the deficit to six.
Late-season addition Caron Butler was critical for the Thunder during that stretch. As Daily Thunder's Royce Young pointed out, Butler—a former All-Star with championship experience—was "giving the Thunder the playoff spark he was supposed to."
Oklahoma City continued to exert pressure on the Grizzlies, until a Durant three gave the Thunder their first lead of the game at the 6:46 mark.
But the Grizzlies fired off a quick 6-0 run and the Thunder's offense once again looked stagnant. Butler converted on yet another four-point play—the Thunder's third such play in their last four games—to get Oklahoma City back to within a single possession.
With 30 seconds remaining, and the Grizzlies up two, Grizzlies guard Tony Allen missed his second free throw, only to watch as teammate Tayshaun Prince tapped out the rebound. Memphis had a chance to ice the game, but Westbrook poked the ball away from point guard Mike Conley and converted a fast-break layup to send the game into overtime.
Ancient Thunder nemesis Mike Miller continued to haunt the Thunder in extra period, as he hit back-to-back threes at the outset.
Oklahoma City rallied to get back within two, but Durant missed one of two free throws (after an odd freezing out by referee Joey Crawford). The Thunder got the ball back, but Serge Ibaka's put-back was a hair too late, and Memphis held on for a one-point win.
- Kevin Durant, Thunder: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
- Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 30 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists
- Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: 11 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists
- Zach Randolph, Grizzlies: 20 points, 10 rebounds
- Mike Miller, Grizzlies: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
The series will return to Memphis, with Game 6 taking place on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. ET on TNT.
The Grizzlies look to be in control of the series, with a chance to finish off the Thunder at home. Every game they seem to fall into a horrible second-half scoring drought, yet they still have managed to pull their offense together just in the nick of time.
As for the Thunder, they have to get more from Reggie Jackson, who saved them with 32 points in Game 4 only to score six points on 2-of-7 shooting in Game 5.
West: No. 6 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers 113, Golden State Warriors 103—Los Angeles leads series, 3-2
The Los Angeles Clippers rode big man DeAndre Jordan, who dominated the Golden State Warriors with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
Jordan set the tone early, with 10 points (on 4-of-4 shooting) and five boards as the Clippers fed off a raucous home crowd an took a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Golden State cut that deficit in half, as the attacked the Clippers with a balanced offensive attack in the second quarter—eight different Warriors hit at least one field goal in the period. Los Angeles still managed to go into the half with a 55-50 advantage, however.
The teams played dead even in the third quarter, as point guard Chris Paul paced the Clippers with 10 points in the period.
Los Angeles started to pull away in the fourth quarter, as All-Star forward Blake Griffin—who had been struggling up to that point, started to pour in jumpers from mid-range. Reserve guard Jamal Crawford played the role of closer, with 11 points in the final frame.
Star Warriors point guard Steph Curry had perhaps his worst game of the series, with eight turnovers. Perpetually upbeat Warriors coach Mark Jackson tried to spin his point guard's game in a positive light, much the amusement of ESPN.com's Ethan Strauss: "[Jackson] said Curry played well save for the TOs, which is a little like saying Lincoln had a great time at the play, save for the end."
Blake Griffin, Clippers: 18 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST,
Chris Paul, Clippers: 15 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST, 5 STL
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: 25 PTS, 18 REB, 4 BLK
Steph Curry, Warriors: 16 PTS, 4 AST, 8 TO
Klay Thompson, Warriors: 21 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
Andre Iguodala, Warriors: 18 PTS, 8 REB, 8 AST
The series will return the Bay Area for Game 4 on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
The Clippers took advantage of the emotional energy present in the Staples Center hours after commissioner Adam Silver announced a lifetime ban for despised Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
The good news for Golden State is that they are returning home to their own loud arena, where they blew out the Clippers on Sunday. Those Clippers were still reeling from the Sterling news; will they come out more focused on the road in Game 6?