NBA Playoffs Update, Awards, Champions League.

Jonathan Daniel

The Playoffs are in full swing as three Eastern Conference games headlined last night, and three more games are on the schedule for tonight.

Both the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors evened their first round series at one game apiece with home wins. The Pacers pulled away behind a big game from Paul George, who went for 27 and 10, along with 6 assists and 4 steals. The Pacers bench also had a big night led by Luis Scola's 20.  Roy Hibbert continues to struggle offensively, as he shot just 1-7 from the floor, but the Pacers defense showed up, limiting the Hawks to 39% from the floor.

The Raptors had a tougher time, needing a big fourth quarter to beat the Nets.  Despite turning the ball over 20 times and going only 2-16 from three, the Raps won behind their free throw shooting and rebounding.  DeMar DeRozan made 12 freebies on the way to a 30 point night, and the Raptors continue to benefit from the Rudy Gay trade, as two of the players they received in that trade, Greivis Vazquez and Patrick Patterson, had double figures off the bench.

The headliner of the night, however, was the Wizards second consecutive road win over the Bulls, which puts them clearly in the driver's seat heading back to Washington.  It took a big fourth quarter from Bradley Beal to send the game to overtime after the Bulls had a 10 point lead with five minutes left, and then Nene took over in the extra period.  Kirk Hinrich missed two free throws that would have sent it to a second overtime, and the Wizards emerged with a 2-0 series lead.

In case you missed it, Gregg Popovich won his third Coach of the Year award, something only done before by Pat Riley and Don Nelson. Of course, Popovich could win the award just about every year, but the voters prefer to spread these things around.  The Spurs posted a league best 62-20 record following last season's Finals disappointment. As always, they executed on both ends of the floor as well as anyone, and Popovich showed his talent for controlling minutes to keep his aging stars healthy and his role players sharp.

Phoenix Suns rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek finished second in the voting after leading the Suns to the brink of the playoffs in what was expected to be a rebuilding year.

In Champions League action, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea played to a 0-0 draw in Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal tie. Chelsea more or less parked the bus, allowed Atletico all the possession, and rarely showed much even on the counter. It was a very defensive performance by the Blues, but to give them credit, they executed that plan pretty well. Atletico pressed and pressed, especially in the 2nd half, but were unable to generate any clear-cut chances against a packed in Chelsea squad. The teams meet next week in London for the 2nd leg.

Today, European heavyweights Bayern Munich are in Madrid to face Real in the first leg of the other semifinal. The big question ahead of this match is about the fitness of Real star Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been in training after missing the last four matches, but might only be available as a substitute today.  The game is at 1:45 Central time.

Back to the NBA, there are three more games on the slate for tonight:

Bobcats at Heat
6:00 pm Central 
TNT

The Heat will try to extend to a 2-0 series lead at home after the took control in the 2nd half of game one. The Bobs just don't have enough against the two time defending champs.

Mavericks at Spurs
7:00 pm Central
NBA TV

The Spurs needed a late rally to defeat the Mavs in game one, but as usual, they stayed calm and executed down the stretch. Game one might have been the Mavs chance to steal one, but we'll see what happens.

Blazers at Rockets
8:30 pm Central
TNT

Big pressure on the Rockets after the Blazers won a thriller in overtime in game one. LaMarcus Aldridge was a monster in game one, Houston will have to hope they can keep him under some control tonight, and also get a more efficient performance from James Harden, who really struggled from the field in the first game.

Today in history

1597: Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor premieres with Queen Elizabeth in attendance. 
1661: King Charles II crowned
1861: Robert E. Lee named commander of Virginia Confederate forces
1941: Greece surrenders to Germany
1954: Hank Aaron hits first major league home run

Today's musical birthday is Roy Orbison, born in 1936 (d. 1988).


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