2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Wednesday, April 30 1st-Round Action
The first round of the NBA playoffs continues to heat up, as each squad is looking to make a definitive statement in its respective series.
Here is the slate of games for Wednesday night:
- Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs: 7 p.m. ET, TNT (Series tied, 2-2)
- Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV (Series tied, 2-2)
- Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT (Portland leads series, 3-1)
In the first game, San Antonio held off a late-game charge from Dirk Nowitzki to defeat the Mavericks.
What will happen in the evening's final two contests?
West: No. 8 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 1 San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs 109, Dallas Mavericks 103—San Antonio leads series, 3-2
The Spurs started the game like wildfire, jumping out to a quick 24-11 lead in the first six-and-a-half minutes. Proud papa Tony Parker—who celebrated the birth of his first child on Tuesday—made each and every Maverick his son early on, scoring 10 quick points.
But Dallas closed the lead back to one by the end of the quarter thanks to strong contributions from reserves Vince Carter (five points) and Devin Harris (six points).
Carter stayed hot in the second quarter, pouring in nine points, but the Spurs were able to methodically build their lead back to nine with a strong close to the first half.
After a relatively nondescript third quarter, the pace of the game picked up in the fourth as long-dormant superstar Dirk Nowitzki finally started to find his shooting stroke. The big German scored 14 points in the fourth quarter—just off his 16.0 points-per-game postseason average heading into Game 5—as the Mavericks crept to within four.
Nowitzki's outburst was a special moment for longtime Mavs fans, like SB Nation's Andrew Tobolowsky: "...the major thing is we don't have a whole lot of time left for playoff Dirk and for a lot of this I figured it might already be over."
But San Antonio was able to match the Mavericks shot-for-shot thanks to the offensive brilliance of...Tiago Splitter? Yes, the Brazilian center was a scoring machine in the fourth, scoring nine points as the Spurs carved up Dallas' interior defense.
Carter tried to make the game interesting with a late three, but the Spurs hit their free throws and hung on for the win.
Tim Duncan, Spurs: 16 PTS, 12 REB
Tony Parker, Spurs: 23 PTS, 5 AST
Manu Ginobili, Spurs: 19 PTS, 4 REB, 5 AST
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks: 26 PTS, 15 REB
Monta Ellis, Mavericks: 21 PTS, 6 AST
Vince Carter, Mavericks: 28 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
The series will shift back to Dallas for Game 6 on Friday. The time and the network have yet to be decided.
The Mavericks may have lost this game, but they have to feel good about the performance of Nowitzki, who finally looked a bit like the player who carried Dallas throughout the regular season. The Spurs were able to dominate the Mavericks in the paint, as power forward DeJuan Blair was suspended and center Samuel Dalembert was hobbled by an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter. Blair will certainly be back for Game 6, and Dalembert will hopefully be closer to 100 percent.
As for the Spurs, they are a veteran squad that played 21 postseason games a year ago. They would like nothing more than to win in Dallas and rest up for the second round.
East: No. 6 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 3 Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors 115, Brooklyn Nets 113—Toronto leads series, 3-2
The Toronto Raptors blew a 26-point lead in the second half, but were able to hold off the Brooklyn Nets thanks to the brilliance of point guard Kyle Lowry.
After a tense back-and-forth first quarter, the Raptors blew Brooklyn off the court in the second. Toronto ended the first half on a brilliant 28-4 run, which was capped by a bank-shot buzzer-beating three from Lowry.
That wild shot gave the Raptors an 18-point lead going into the break.
Toronto kept up the pressure early in the third quarter, running their lead up to a seemingly unassailable 26 points.
The only Net able to stand up to Toronto in the period was shooting guard Joe Johnson, who single-handedly kept Brooklyn in the game with a 18-point third quarter.
What happened in the fourth? The team simply imploded, per Raptors coach Dwane Casey (via the National Post's Eric Koreen): "Every mistake you can think of we made in the fourth quarter."
No fewer than five Nets scored at least seven points in the final frame, led by Deron Williams and Alan Anderson, with 10 apiece.
Meanwhile, every Raptor with the exception of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Greivis Vasquez completely imploded, shooting a combined 0-for-5. Brooklyn tied the game on a Johnson three-pointer at the 3:16 mark, and the Nets seemingly had all the momentum on their side.
But the Raptors still had Lowry, who scored five points and drew a crucial charge in the final three minutes to help Toronto secure the win.
Joe Johnson, Nets: 30 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST
Deron Williams, Nets: 13 PTS, 9 AST
Paul Pierce, Nets: 10 PTS, 1 REB
Kyle Lowry, Raptors: 36 PTS, 6 AST
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: 23 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors: 16 PTS, 6 REB
The series will shift back to Brooklyn for Game 6 on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The network broadcast has yet to be determined.
What to make of this series? Brooklyn led at home late in Game 4, and simply forgot how to score. Toronto led by 26 in the second half at home in Game 5, and forgot how to play basketball.
The good news for the Nets is that they are returning home for Game 6. The bad news is that Toronto no longer fears the Barclays Center after winning there in Game 4.
West: No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 4 Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets 108, Portland Trail Blazers 98—Portland leads series, 3-2
James Harden finally showed up in the fourth quarter, and the Houston Rockets were able to stave off elimination with a 108-98 win.
Houston was able to jump on Portland early, thanks to the trio of Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley, who combined for 18 first-quarter points.
The Rockets continued to exert pressure in the second quarter, jumping out to a 17-point lead as struggling point guard Jeremy Lin started to pick up his game with eight points in the frame. But the Trail Blazers did what they've done all series—fight back. They cut the deficit down to eight points by halftime.
Portland got 18 points from Damian Lillard in the third quarter as the closed the gap to within five, and must have felt confident heading into the fourth quarter, where they have dominated Houston in this series.
Fortunately for the Houston fans, the All-Star combo of Howard and Harden performed well down the stretch. Howard dominated the Blazers on the defensive end, while Harden chipped in eight points and a block of Lillard in the closing minutes.
Portland power forward (and the league's leading scorer in these playoffs) LaMarcus Aldridge had by far his worst game of the series, with eight points.
- James Harden, Rockets: 17 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST
- Dwight Howard, Rockets: 22 PTS, 14 REB
- Chandler Parsons, Rockets: 20 PTS, 4 REB
- Damian Lillard, Blazers: 26 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers: 8 PTS, 8 REB
The series will once again shift back to Portland on Friday. The time and channel have yet to be announced.
Obviously, the Rockets can't afford to rest on their laurels. They still have to bring Wednesday's level of focus to Portland on Friday night, or the Blazers will blow them off the court.
But the Rockets might finally be solving the riddle that is LaMarcus Aldridge, and if they can continue to shut him down like they did on Wednesday, they stand an excellent chance of returning to Houston for Game 7.