2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Thursday, May 1 1st-Round Action
It's closing time in the first round.
The teams have once again switched venues for Game 6 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, and every one of Thursday's matchups has the potential to end tonight.
Here's what Thursday's slate of games looks like:
- Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks: 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV (Hawks lead series, 3-2)
- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies: 8 p.m. ET, TNT (Grizzlies lead series, 3-2)
- Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT (Clippers lead series, 3-2)
All three trailing teams were able to stave off elimination and humiliation, setting up an unprecedented three Game 7's on Saturday.
East: No. 1 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 8 Atlanta Hawks
Indiana Pacers 95, Atlanta Hawks 88: Series tied, 3-3
The Indiana Pacers were able to stave off elimination with a strong run late in the game to defeat the Atlanta Hawks.
The Pacers once again came out sluggish. Despite the fact that it was an elimination game, they let Atlanta built up a 10-point lead in the first few minutes.
Then Pacers coach Frank Vogel did something he had steadfastly refused to do throughout this series...he pulled struggling center Roy Hibbert after just six minutes and didn't bring him back for the duration of the half.
Indiana went to a smaller lineup, which immediately paid dividends, as Indiana cut the deficit to two by the end of the first quarter.
With a second-quarter burst, the Pacers finally managed to go into halftime with a lead, 44-39. The Hawks simply could not connect from beyond the arc, shooting 5-of-22 from three in the first half.
During the halftime interview, George told the reporter: "We gotta go small."
Pacers coach Frank Vogel didn't agree, however, as the Pacers continued to play big throughout most of the second half. They simply replaced Hibbert (who played only 5:52 in the second half) with backup center Ian Mahinmi (who played 12:58, including the final few minutes of the game).
While the Hawks were able to build a four-point lead in the closing minutes, it was another Pacers big man, David West, who saved the day. The veteran power forward was magnificent down the stretch, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers' defense shut down Atlanta late.
Paul George, Pacers: 24 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST
Lance Stephenson, Pacers: 21 PTS, 9 REB
David West, Pacers: 24 PTS, 11 REB, 6 AST
Paul Millsap, Hawks: 16 PTS, 18 REB, 5 AST
Jeff Teague, Hawks: 29 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
The series finale will take place in Indiana on Saturday, May 3, at 5:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
So this series is over, right? Atlanta had their shot to knock off the No. 1 seed at home, and they missed. There's no possible way they can win a Game 7 on the road.
Not so fast. Any team that relies on the three-point shot as heavily has the Hawks has a shot in any game. They were 9-of-35 from beyond the arc in Game 6, and still nearly pulled out the victory. If those shots start falling again, the Hawks will be a tough out.
This Game 7 might be affected by suspensions, as the Hawks' Mike Scott got into a scuffle with the Pacers' George Hill in the second quarter. Star forward Paul George appeared to take two steps off the bench, but Vogel is not concerned about a possible suspension, per the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner: "Vogel: 'I’m not concerned about any suspensions until we hear something.' But he followed with he doesn't expect a suspension."
West: No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 104, Memphis Grizzlies 84: Series tied, 3-3
The Oklahoma City Thunder regained their dominate form just in time to stave off elimination, blowing out the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6, 104-84.
Superstar forward Kevin Durant, who had been struggling throughout the series, finally started playing up to his MVP standards, taking it to the Grizzlies from the outset with 14 first-quarter points. Meanwhile, Memphis couldn't get anything going outside of its frontcourt—power forward Zach Randolph (10 points) and center Marc Gasol (6 points) contributed 16 of the Grizzlies' 17 points in the first quarter.
Durant cooled off in the second quarter, but the Thunder built their lead thanks to the dynamic point guard duo of Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson, who scored eight points apiece in the frame.
The Thunder took a 15-point lead into halftime, but it was no time to relax—not with the previous four games of this series having gone to overtime.
But there would be no extra period in this game. Oklahoma City never let off the gas, pushing their lead to 20 in the third quarter and never looking back.
Reserve big man Steven Adams helped protect the Thunder's lead by getting four of his five blocks in the second half, while Durant (18 points) and Westbrook (13 points) stayed hot down the stretch.
- Kevin Durant, Thunder: 36 PTS, 10 REB, 2 AST
- Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 25 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
- Serge Ibaka, Thunder: 8 PTS, 7 REB, 4 BLK
- Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
- Zach Randolph, Grizzlies: 16 PTS, 8 REB
Game 7 taking place in Oklahoma City on Saturday, May 3, at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.
This was a cathartic game for both of the Thunder's stars: Durant and Westbrook. Daily Thunder's Royce Young reminds us not to overlook what the Oklahoma City point guard did on Thursday night: "Durant's game is the storyline, but Westbrook played his best of the series. Calm, under control, but still ultra aggressive."
But it could be another point guard who decides Game 7. Grizzlies floor general Mike Conley departed the game with a strained hamstring, returned briefly, then departed for the locker room. If he is unable to go on Saturday, it will difficult for Memphis to win on the Thunder's home floor.
West: No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors 100, Los Angeles Clippers 99: Series tied, 3-3
The Golden State Warriors withstood injury, fouls and the Los Angeles Clippers to force a Game 7 with a 100-99 win.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry came out firing, with 14 points in the first quarter, but the Clippers were able to ride an unlikely scoring burst from forward Matt Barnes (8 points).
The Clippers went into halftime with a three-point lead, despite the fact that leading scorer Blake Griffin struggled, scoring just eight points. The Warriors looked to be in trouble, as veteran center Jermaine O'Neal left with a hyper-extended knee.
The Warriors appeared to be in trouble, with no true center left in their regular rotation. But Los Angeles was not able to capitalize in the third quarter, as Griffin shot an appalling 1-of-12 in the period. Golden State turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Things looked even more bleak for the Warriors as power forward David Lee fouled out early in the fourth quarter. But Golden State was buoyed by the strong play of reserves like Marreese Speights and Draymond Green.
The Clippers countered with a fine performance from their fourth-quarter closer, Jamal Crawford, who scored 11 points in the final frame. It simply wasn't enough to overcome the Warriors, however, as swingman Andre Iguodala hit a critical four-point play in the closing minutes to put the game out of reach.
L.A. hit a three-pointer to bring them within one, but with only 0.4 left, it was too little, too late.
Blake Griffin, Clippers: 17 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST,
Chris Paul, Clippers: 9 PTS, 5 REB, 8 AST
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: 9 PTS, 19 REB
Steph Curry, Warriors: 24 PTS, 9 AST
Klay Thompson, Warriors: 9 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST
Andre Iguodala, Warriors: 15 PTS, 4 REB, 9 AST
The series will end in Los Angeles. Game 4 will take place on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
Which struggling scorer will turn it around in Game 7? The answer might decide the series.
The Warriors got almost nothing from sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. But the Clippers also struggled to get production from Griffin (8-of-24) and J.J. Redick (2-of-10) from beyond the arc.
Thompson and Redick aren't likely to keep missing threes, and Griffin will be looking to dominate the Warriors frontline, particularly if Jermaine O'Neal isn't ready to go.