For the last time this season, on Saturday, the NBA rolled out a three-game slate in one day—and what a day it was.
Three Game 7s in one day—a first in the league's history—saw three thrilling affairs, with the home team and better seed winning each battle. The Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder all saw past grueling, seven-game marathons in hard-earned victories Saturday to keep their seasons alive.
In the process, the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies all saw the light go out on their title hopes.
There's plenty more action set for the rest of the weekend and beyond as the playoffs are just getting underway. Let's break down how the postseason looks entering Sunday and round up Saturday's results.
Updated Playoff Bracket
The latest bracket can be viewed at NBA.com.
Complete Results from Saturday
Game 7: Pacers Finally Show Pedigree, Top Hawks, 92-80
After ending the regular season as the top overall seed and eyeing a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals with the Miami Heat, it's safe to say that Game 7 against the sub-.500 Hawks isn't where Indiana expected to be at the end of the first round.
Instead of letting the vast criticism they've taken in recent weeks get to them and falling victim to a dangerous Atlanta squad, they got back to midseason form in a 92-80 victory.
Inspired by its home crowd, Indiana jumped out on top early with an 11-point halftime lead. The gritty Hawks kept it within a dozen at times in the second half, but the Pacers dominated the boards with a 55-38 advantage and held the Hawks to just 30 percent from the field—killing their comeback bid.
Paul George had his best game of the series with 30 points and 11 rebounds, putting him with elite company per ESPN's Jeremy Lundblad:
Game 7 was also a bounce-back moment for Roy Hibbert. The maligned center netted 13 points, seven rebounds and five key blocks in what seemed like his best game in weeks.
Few teams have struggled more than Frank Vogel's in the last month or two, and it will have to shake it off quickly and build momentum from Saturday. If Jeff Teague gave Indiana trouble, then the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal won't be any easier.
Game 7: Thunder Get Hot Late to Squash Grizzlies, 120-109
Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies proved to be the Kryptonite to Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City's Superman for much of their first-round series. The Thunder star has looked out of sorts game after game against the pesky Grizzlies.
Or maybe he was just saving it for Games 6 and 7.
Durant posted his second straight magnificent performance. One game removed from his 36-point Game 6, he hung up 33 with eight rebounds on Memphis as the Thunder took control of the game shortly after halftime and didn't let the No. 7 seed back in it.
Durant splashing home all of his five attempts from three-point range bodes well for the Thunder moving forward. He was just 4-of-21 in his previous three games before the outside outburst in Game 7.
The Thunder star wasn't alone in his dominating offensive performance. Russell Westbrook was also on point, notching a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and a whopping 16 assists.
As ESPN's Kevin Pelton put best, the good side of Westbrook was on display Saturday:
Westbrook commented on his performance, per the Thunder's official team site:
“It was just trying to find a balance between getting my teammates the ball and staying aggressive. My teammates have done a great job spacing out and making shots, which makes it easy for me to see where my reads are and I’m able to get them shots.”
After having to rattle off two straight wins, the Thunder passed a huge early test by getting past the team that knocked them from the postseason picture last year.
Things only get tougher, however, as the Clippers await the Thunder for a best-of-seven series. It will be a serious change of pace, as OKC will be able to run and gun with the Clippers and not have to worry about the suffocating defense that the Grizzlies boasted.
But with that could come another mismatch. The Clippers' frontcourt of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin is a matchup nightmare for any team, and the Thunder's bigs will have their hands full in dealing with that athleticism.
Game 7: Clippers Hold off Warriors in Tight Finish, 126-121
In a series that had all the makings of being a classic, it was only fitting that the battle between the Clippers and Warriors came down to a Game 7 with the lead switching hands by the possession in the final minutes.
After withstanding an early fourth-quarter surge from Jordan Crawford and the Warriors, Los Angeles made its presence at the rim felt in the final few possessions and held on for a 126-121 Game 7 victory.
Golden State set the tempo early on with a 10-point lead to close out the first quarter and an eight-point advantage at the halftime break. But when the Clippers answered back and took the lead entering the fourth, it was apparent that it would go down to the wire.
In the end, repeated lobs to Jordan and Griffin put the Clippers on top. A few key offensive rebounds, clutch free throws and key stops later, the Clippers were dancing onto the next round.
The noticeably high-scoring affair was on par with the styles of both of these teams, but it left a mark on the history books, per ESPN Stats and Information:
After a hard-earned series victory that went the distance, the Clippers will face a team that saw a similar road in the opening round. Just like L.A., the Thunder went all seven games and struggled quite a bit more than they expected in the first round.
Both teams have plenty of stars, but whichever team is able to take more from its experience in the first round will likely be able to make the adjustments in order to take the next step.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!