2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping First-Round Action from Saturday
This Saturday boasts an NBA first. For the first time in playoff history, three Games 7s will occur on the same day.
That should tell you all you need to know about how competitive these series have already been. It should also offer a hint about what's to come.
The Indiana Pacers will look to resolve their months-long identity crisis by putting away the Atlanta Hawks. Thanks to an untimely suspension, the Memphis Grizzlies will face the Oklahoma City Thunder without star forward Zach Randolph. And then the much-discussed Los Angeles Clippers host the Golden State Warriors in what could be the day's best game of all.
Here's a rundown of the action and where you can watch it:
Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers - 5:30 p.m. ET - TNT
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - 8 p.m. ET - TNT
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers - 10:30 p.m. ET - TNT
Keep it here for scores, recaps and highlights.
East: (8) Atlanta Hawks vs. (1) Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers 92, Atlanta Hawks 80 - Pacers win series, 4-3
After scoring nothing in his last two games, Roy Hibbert proved he's still a factor for the Pacers, notching 13 points and blocking five shots. Though Paul George ultimately outshined the big man with a 30-point game, it was an important sign for the Pacers nonetheless.
But the big story on Saturday was Indiana's defense.
The Pacers held Atlanta to just 80 points on 30.4 percent shooting from the field. It was the active, energized defense we've come to expect from head coach Frank Vogel's team.
The other decisive factor was, of course, George. Though he wasn't striking regularly from long range, he had a huge game attacking the basket and relying on his in-between game. He got plenty of help from swingman Lance Stephenson, who collected 14 rebounds and was all over the place on both ends of the floor.
The game remained close throughout the first half until the final minutes of the second quarter when Indiana surged to an 11-point halftime lead. The Pacers outscored Atlanta 23-13 in the second period. Atlanta's Paul Millsap didn't score his first points until late in the quarter, starting the game 0-for-9 from the field in the first half.
- Paul George, Pacers: 30 PTS, 11 REB
- Lance Stephenson, Pacers: 19 PTS, 14 REB, 5 AST
- Roy Hibbert, Pacers: 13 PTS, 7 REB, 5 BLK
- Jeff Teague, Hawks: 16 PTS, 5-for-16 shooting
- Kyle Korver, Hawks: 19 PTS, 5-for-10 on three-pointers
The Pacers go on to face the Washington Wizards, who took their series with the Chicago Bulls 4-1. Indiana won its season series with the Wizards two games to one.
The Pacers certainly won't lack for confidence facing Washington. George believes the Wizards are better suited to their style of play, per The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner: "We’re ready for those guys. It’s going [to] be just as tough as this matchup. We feel like this is more of our playing style."
Look for Hibbert to return to relevance after an abysmal series. He'll be pivotal against big men Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat. Also look for both teams to try and turn their respective defenses up a notch. Both coaches are firm believers that defense wins championships and will look to put that hypothesis to the test.
There will be plenty of star power to boot. George will face off against an emerging star in Washington's John Wall. The point guard has lightning quick speed and could give the Pacers' vaunted defense fits.
West: (7) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder 120, Memphis Grizzlies 109: Thunder win series, 4-3
The Oklahoma City Thunder regained their dominant form just in time to advance from a brutal and terrifying first round, blowing out the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7, 120-109.
Oklahoma City had a clear advantage in this game, as the Grizzlies were playing without suspended power forward Zach Randolph. But the Thunder have never made things easy for themselves during this series, and the first half of Game 7 was no exception.
Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger used a smaller lineup without Randolph, but the Thunder were burned by another Memphis big: center Marc Gasol. The Spaniard tore through the Thunder defense in the first quarter, scoring 13 points as the Grizzlies built a 36-27 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But the Thunder would respond in the second quarter, as star forward Kevin Durant came to life, pouring in 13 points of his own in the period. Though Memphis had stayed with the Thunder, trailing by only three at the half, it appeared as if the shorthanded Grizzlies had already taken their best shot.
Oklahoma would push their lead to double-digits in the third quarter, as Durant stayed hot. Gasol seemed to run out of gas in the third, missing all six of his shot from the field.
The game turned into a bit of a laugher in the fourth, as the Thunder pushed the lead to 20.
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was magnificent, notching a triple-double and putting his early-series struggles to rest. ESPN's Kevin Pelton was certainly impressed, tweeting, "A performance like this is the reward for sticking with Russell Westbrook through the frustrating moments."
- Kevin Durant, Thunder: 33 PTS, 8 REB, 2 AST
- Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 27 PTS, 10 REB, 16 AST
- Serge Ibaka, Thunder: 12 PTS, 4 REB
- Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: 24 PTS, 2 REB, 6 AST
- Mike Conley, Grizzlies: 20 PTS, 5 REB, 9 AST
While it might not have been the cleanest of first-round series, the No. 2 seed Thunder are moving on to the second round. They will have to wait a few hours to learn the identity of their second-round opponent, as the Clippers and Warriors tipped at 10:30 p.m. ET.
For what it's worth, the Thunder went 2-2 against the Clippers and 2-1 against the Warriors in the regular season.
West: (6) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers 126, Golden State Warriors 121: Clippers win series, 4-3
The Los Angeles Clippers overcame the Donald Sterling controversy and a tough Golden State Warriors team, and now they're headed to the second round.
Golden State came out on fire in an attempt to take Game 7 on the road, jumping out to a 32-22 lead by the end of the first quarter. Forward Draymond Green was the surprise high scorer for the Warriors, pouring in 10 points in the opening frame.
With their starters struggling, Los Angeles turned to sixth man Jamal Crawford, who led the team with 13 points in the second quarter, including a four-point play. Not to be outdone, Warriors point guard Steph Curry matched Crawford's four-pointer with one of his own, as the Warriors went into the locker room with an eight-point lead.
The Clippers came storming back in the beginning of the third quarter, taking their first lead of the game. Shooting guard J.J. Redick started to heat up, with 10 points in the period.
L.A. was able to maintain control in the fourth thanks to the frontcourt duo of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Jordan was an absolute beast, blocking a Green layup and finishing lobs and put-backs over Warriors smaller front line. Meanwhile, Griffin bullied the Warriors for tough layups.
That was the series in a nutshell: The Warriors put up a heck of a fight, but with starting center Andrew Bogut out with an injury, they simply couldn't match the Clippers' size.
Blake Griffin, Clippers: 24 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST,
Chris Paul, Clippers: 22 PTS, 2 REB, 14 AST
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: 15 PTS, 18 REB
Steph Curry, Warriors: 33 PTS, 9 AST
Klay Thompson, Warriors: 15 PTS, 7 AST
Draymond Green, Warriors: 24 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST
The Clippers will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals set for Monday.
This is likely to be the best matchup of the second round. Both teams have star power, with Griffin, Paul, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and they were separated by just two games in the Western Conference. As far as the head-to-head matchup, it was dead even, with each team winning two.
Does it get any better than this?