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NBA Playoffs: Three Series Headed for Game Seven

We entered the night with three teams looking to close things out. We left it with three game sevens on the schedule.

Mike Zarrilli

Three teams tried to close out their first round series' in game sixes last night, and all three failed, as the Pacers, Thunder and Warriors all won to send their respective series to game sevens.  This is the most compelling NBA first round in my memory.

The Hawks and Pacers were back and forth all night in Atlanta. The Hawks got off to a strong start, but the Pacers were once again able to use their small lineup effectively and take a five point halftime lead. That evaporated in the third quarter, and the fourth was a tight battle that saw the Hawks eventually take their own five point lead with three minutes left.  Several big plays by David West, however, saw the Pacers take control, and they were able to make their free throws down the stretch and hang on.

A couple of things about this game: Roy Hibbert only played 12 minutes and did not start the 2nd half. He has been rendered useless in this series, in part because the Hawks don't have anyone he can guard, and in part because he is playing so poorly. On the other hand, the Hawks only made 9-35 threes, which doomed them. They have been reliant on the three all series, and sometimes they just don't go in.  This looked a lot more like a Pacers game then most of the series has, as they were able to muck things up and disrupt Atlanta's ball movement and spacing. It also featured a scuffle that could have ramifications. Mike Scott and George Hill got into a bit of a shoving match near the Pacers bench, and it looked like Paul George and another pacers stepped away from the bench, which could lead to league discipline. We'll see. Back to Indy for game seven.

The Thunder took control of their game in Memphis early, and cruised. After four straight overtimes, it was weird to see a rout, but that's what we got. Kevin Durant, chastised earlier in the Oklahoma City paper, broke out of his shooting slump early in this one, with 14 first quarter points. The Thunder never really looked back, as they opened up a 15 point half time lead and cruised from there. The Grizzles got nothing offensively from their perimeter guys, going 3-14 from three, while Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, and Tayshaun Prince combined to shoot 4-17 overall.  Just a poor shooting night for the Grizzlies.

Finally, in a game I didn't stay up to watch, Golden State hung on to beat the Clippers 100-99 in Oakland, despite making only 7-24 from three.  They were able to limit the Clippers' interior strength, as Blake Griffin scored only 17 points on 24 FGAs.  It was poor shooting night for both teams, as neither managed 40% from the field, and both missed a number of free throws.  Jermaine O'Neal left the game with a sprained knee after a collision with Glen Davis, and Chris Paul was showing signs of discomfort from a strained hamstring.

All three of these games sevens will be on Saturday.

And...three more game sixes tonight!  IT NEVER ENDS!

Raptors at Nets
6:00 pm Central

The Raps will look to close things out at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn tonight after a bizarre game five in which it looked like they were cruising to a blowout win until the Nets hung 44 on them in the 4th quarter to get the game tied. Thanks to Kyle Lowry, the Raps escaped that one, but one wonders if their confidence was shaken. At any rate, these teams are back at it tonight.

Spurs at Mavericks
7:00 pm Central

The Spurs looked somewhat more like the Spurs in games four and five, taking back control of the series, but the Mavericks refused to go quietly, battling to stay in both games late. The Spurs depth of talent was on display, as Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw have both come off the bench to be decisive players in the series. Meanwhile, Vince Carter has been putting on a display, making over half of his threes, and forcing Gregg Popovich to remind his players what Carter looks like. Dirk Nowitzki, who had been struggling with his shot, seemed to find it in the 2nd half of game five, and the Mavs will need him to have a big game if they are going to force a game seven.

Rockets at Blazers
9:30 pm Central

Unlike the Raptors and Spurs, the Trail Blazers have the chance to close out their series at home. They were unable to get the job done in Houston in game five, as the Rockets controlled the glass and got a big contribution from their bench.  Tonight is another chance for the Blazers, this time in front of their home crowd. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had been such a force all series, struggled in game five, it would help the Blazers if he could get back on track.  Houston, meanwhile, is still waiting for the James Harden explosion.


  • The owners advisory committee agreed on a conference call to move forward with ousting Donald Sterling as "expeditiously as possible" and will reconvene next week. 
  • The NBA is reviewing the Pacers-Hawks scuffle to see if any further discipline is merited. David Stern used to be very strict on the leaving the bench rule--one step and he would suspend a player. Hopefully it won't come to that, as losing Paul George for game seven when he took a step and immediately stepped back without getting anywhere near the incident would be unfortunate.
  • Any of today's games that result in game sevens will have those games on Sunday. meaning we could have six game sevens over two days this weekend.
Today in history

1670: Hudson's Bay Company receives royal charter from Charles II
1863: South wins battle of Chancellorsville, VA. 
1919: First U.S. air passenger service begins
1933: Hitler bans trade unions in Germany
1936: Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf premieres in Moscow
1945: Russian army takes Berlin
2011: Osama bin Laden killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan

Today's musical birthday is folk singer/actor Theodore Bikel, born in 1924. Here he is performing with Judy Collins: