These playoff weekends are spectacular. Huge game after huge game, and so far, it's exceeded our expectations. Especially in the Western Conference, where the talent level is so deep, the quality of these games and series is, I believe, unprecedented for the first round.
A quick recap of yesterday:
The Pacers eked out a series tying 91-88 win in Atlanta behind Paul George, and mostly thanks to their defense and Atlanta's poor shooting, as the Hawks only managed 35% from the floor. Nonetheless, it was a close game that was only decided when Pero Antic missed a desperation three that would have tied the game at the buzzer, which followed two missed George free throws.
The Heat are the one top seed that is cruising, as they extended out to a 3-0 series lead against a game but undermanned Charlotte Bobcats. Al Jefferson's foot injury hasn't helped, but he played well yesterday; the talent gap is just too wide in this one. No doubt the Heat are enjoying seeing everyone else beat up on each other.
In what is turning into a great series that rests on the layers of recent history, the Mavericks took a 2-1 lead over the top seeded Spurs when Vince Carter hit a buzzer beating three, just after Manu Ginobili had scored to give the Spurs a lead. What a fantastic, back and forth game with terrific execution on both sides. Monta Ellis finished with 29, including 12 in the fourth quarter and two massive baskets in the final minute to keep the Mavs alive for Carter's last second heroics.
Finally, the Thunder survived the third straight overtime game in their series with the Grizzlies to even it up at 2-2 after the Grizz had taken overtime thrillers in games 2 and 3. The hero tonight was reserve Reggie Jackson, as both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant had off nights. Jackson finished with 32, including 5 straight points at the end of regulation to tie the game, and six free throws in overtime to allow the Thunder to escape and regain homecourt advantage. This is turning into a classic, with the Grizzlies physicality and inside play playing the Thunder's explosive perimeter scorers to a standstill. The Grizz might live to regret this one, as it isn't often Kevin Durant manages only 15 points or goes 5-21 from the field. Also worth mentioning that Tony Allen is having a massive series at both ends of the floor.
That brings us to today's games:
Bulls at Wizards
12:00 pm Central
The Wizards took the first two games in Chicago, but the Bulls bounced back with a win in Washington. The Wizards need to get one on their home court to take control of the series, but the Bulls were never going to be an easy out. The Wizards needs to take advantage of their scoring potential up front, with Nene and Marcin Gortat. A nice appetizer.
Clippers at Warriors
2:30 pm Central
How will the Clippers respond after the distraction of their owner's racist rant? They are up 2-1 in the series, and Blake Griffin has just been too much for the Warriors to handle. They got their win in game one, when Griffin was stifled with foul trouble, but since then, he's been the difference. For the Warriors to win, they are going to have to get hot from beyond the arc, something they are certainly capable.of. Of course we will also be watching to see if the players make any overt protest concerning Donald Sterling.
Raptors at Nets
6:00 pm Central
The Nets have a chance to take control, up 2-1 and at home. They have looked the better team in this series, and Raptors need to find a way to make their youth and athleticism work for them. Brooklyn has been one of the best teams in the East throughout the 2nd half of the season, and have the opportunity to make that insane payroll pay off.
Rockets at Blazers
8:30 pm Central
Finally, in what has been another fantastic Western Conference series, the Blazers try to win at home and take control of the series after two wins in Houston and a loss in Portland. These have been terrific games, all close, with two of them going to overtime. LaMarcus Aldridge was the huge star in Houston, while Damian Lillard almost won game three for the Blazers. The Rockets finally got a big game from James Harden in game three (though he remained inefficient), and won due to a big night on the offensive glass, thanks in part to a lineup change that saw Omer Asik replace Terrence Jones in the starting lineup, as Jones had proven incapable of bothering Aldridge's jump shot. This is a great way to cap a fantastic weekend of basket ball.
Talk about it all here.