NBA Playoffs Update, Coaching Note, Premier League Update

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After home losses in their respective game ones, the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder both rebounded with game two wins to even their series' at one game apiece.

Hey, that Roy Hibbert is an all-star!  After being rendered practically useless over the first eight games of the playoffs, which followed a terrible second half of the season, Roy Hibbert actually took over a game on the offensive end for the Indiana Pacers. Time and time again he posted up, and the Wizards bigs could not handle him, as he scored 28 points on 10-13 from the field.  It was an entirely incongruous performance that was desperately needed by the Pacers, who needed every bit of it to hold off the Wizards 86-82 in the second game of their series.

The Pacers made just enough plays down the stretch, including a steal and two big baskets in a row by Paul George to give the Pacers a three point lead, and a huge Lance Stephenson jumper to put them up five, after which they hung on despite a late three by Bradley Beal.

The Wizards struggled to score, especially from beyond the arc where they went 5-21, which is not a winning formula for them. They also went only 5-12 from the free throw line, and those two things doomed them. John Wall, who has been playing terrific basketball despite not scoring a ton, went only 2-13 from the field as the Pacers invited him to take jumpers all night. Overall, it was not a particularly pretty game, but then Pacers games never are. The Wizards, despite their failure to make threes, were right there at the end.  They are in pretty good shape heading back to DC with an even series.  This one could go a while.

In the late game, the Thunder beat the Clippers in something of a mirror image of the first game of the series. This time, it was the Thunder who got out early and the Clippers who couldn't get back into the game, though the Thunder were only up five at halftime.  A quick run in the third quarter gave the Thunder control of the game, and they eased to a series evening win, on a night when the team and crowd celebrated Kevin Durant's MVP award.

Regardless of what you think about the Thunder offense, when both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have it going, they are nearly impossible to beat, and that happens often enough that they are the number two seed in the West. Last night, they went for 32 (Durant) and 31 (Westbrook) on 22 shots each.  Westbrook had a triple double with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while KD missed added 12 rebounds and 9 assists.  As a result of the attention they drew, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha were able to get plenty of open looks as well, and each scored 14.  That's the way the Thunder are supposed to work, and it's impressive when it does.

The Clippers weren't bad, they just couldn't get stops consistently enough to stay in the game. This is developing as the theme of the series, as each team has taken turns being too hot to stop.  There is so much offensive talent in this series that they could trade off this way for five more games.  That would be fun.

Two more tonight:

Nets at Heat
6:00 pm Central
ESPN2

The Heat overwhelmed the Nets in game one of this series, and frankly after watching them both over the course of the playoffs, it's hard for me to see the Nets mounting too much of a challenge.  However, I've been wrong before, and I suppose the Nets do have the weapons to do so if everything goes right. Primarily, they need Paul Pierce to get it going offensively opposite Joe Johnson. The Heat seem to have found their playoffs gear, at least so far, winning their first five games. It's amazing how easy it sometimes looks for LeBron, who controls so much of the game whether he's scoring big or not.

Trail Blazers at Spurs
8:30 pm Central
ESPN2

The Blazers actually had their shots contested in game one against the Spurs, unlike what they experienced for most of the Rockets series, and it showed. They shot only 38% from the field and made only 4-16 threes. Meanwhile, the Spurs were at their best, with Parker devastating on the PnR, their shooters making shots, and their depth coming through.

The problem for the Blazers is that they absolutely need big games from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, plus efficiency from Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum (especially from three) in order to win, because they don't have much of a bench to rely on. Even in a blowout loss like game one, only one player (Mo Williams) got double figure minutes off the bench.  They really need to make some threes early tonight to loosen things up.

Notes

  • The Warriors have apparently already contacted Steve Kerr about their coaching job.  When, exactly, did Steve Kerr become Red Auerbach?  He'll obviously have his choice of jobs, despite never coaching before.
  • On the Wolves front, it may have been a throwaway, but Doogie tweeted yesterday that the Wolves won't seriously move forward with their search until they get a definite no from Tom Izzo.  I guess he's their guy, and I guess I should write about him. College guys...worrisome.
  • Manchester City scored four second half goals to rout Aston Villa to go top of the table with one game left. A win or a draw on Sunday and Man City are champions.
  • At the other end of the table, Sunderland defeated West Brom to guarantee safety after being bottom at Christmas. It was an impressive run in under Gus Poyet, with wins over Chelsea and Man United among others to escape relegation.
  • Which leaves Fullham, Cardiff, and Norwich headed down for next season, while Burnley, Leicester City, and an undetermined team will be up.
Today in History

1541: Hernando de Soto "discovers" Mississippi River. (Actually, he wasn't likely even the first European to see it). 
1792: British Captain George Vancouver sites and names Mt. Ranier
1861: Richmond, VA named capitol of Confederacy
1879: George Selden submits first patent for gasoline powered automobile
1886: Atlanta pharmacy sells first Coca-Cola
1945: Germans officially surrender; V-E Day, end of war in Europe
1967: Muhammad Ali indicted for refusing induction into the army
1973: After 10 weeks, Native Americans holding Wounded Knee in protest against federal government surrender. 
1977: David Berkowitz pleads guilty in "Son of Sam" shootings
1996: South Africa adopts a permanent post-Aparthied Constitution

Today's musical birthday is Robert Johnson, born in 1911 (d. 1938)



Good Thursday to you all.












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