Odds are when two subpar defensive teams meet in the playoffs it might be epic. It was. LaMarcus Aldridge set the tone with a magnificent first quarter scoring 12 points and pacing the Blazers to a seven point lead. But when Aldridge sat down the Blazers cooled off and the Rockets three point tempo game took shape. Chandler Parsons had 17 points early. But the real winner was the Rockets pace, they pushed it at every opportunity and used their athleticism to try to wear the Blazers down. Howard, frustrated by Robin Lopez, got a technical foul which cut the Rockets lead to 3 and gave Portland momentum. Robin Lopez is enough of an agitator to get Howard thrown out. But as was the case all year long the Blazers have no clue as to how to stop James Harden. He came out in the third quarter, when Howard was on the bench, and he dominated the Blazers, building the Rockets lead to double digits. It got physical with Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the fourth quarter. Lopez got a technical and Howard was clearly upset at Lopez’s physicality. But every time Howard went to the line he missed. The Blazers hung in there and trimmed the lead. The Rockets felt the pressure as the Blazers upped their intensity and the game was tied with two minutes left. But the Blazers had no answer for James Harden. Howard came up big in clutch, made two free throws. But then LaMarcus Aldridge scored a tough basket in the paint to tie the game. A Harden desperation missed and the game went to overtime. Then it really got crazy. Howard had a three point play. Then Jeremy Lin had a three point play. Then LaMarcus Aldridge made a three. Then Nic Batum made a three. It was enough to make you dizzy. Needless to say this was the best game of the night. Howard blatantly traveled and it wasn’t called, instead he was awarded two free throws. Aldridge fouled out on a moving screen, a stupid play on his part. But Lillard finished off a three point play. Fouled, Howard made a free throw to give the Rockets a one point lead. But in this game no one could get stops. Lillard answered back and gave the Blazers a one point lead. Howard then fouled out on a tangled possession with Joel Vreeland, LaMarcus Aldridge’s replacement. It was a bad call. Vreeland gave the Blazers a one point lead. Harden couldn’t finish it off, missed the last second shot. Blazers come up big on the road 122-120. MVP: LaMarcus Aldridge 46 points, 18 rebounds
San Antonio 95 Dallas 90- The Dallas Mavericks cannot beat the San Antonio Spurs. They have lost ten in a row. In the first quarter the Mavs scored 12 points. Then they woke up, thanks to Devin Harris who looked like the Devin Harris of 6 years ago. He led the pick and roll attack, he sliced to the rim, he found shooters for three pointers. The Spurs offense went through Tim Duncan and he was magnificent though he gave everyone a scare when he asked to be pulled out the game because of a banged knee scrum with Monta Ellis. But it was nothing serious and he returned scoring on a jump hook over Brandon Wright and a finger roll at the rim that cut the Mavs lead to six. The Mavs problem all year long has been closing games out and this game was no exception. A 10 point lead was erased within a span of three minutes. The Spurs went on a 15-0 run. The Mavs offense was beyond pathetic, bad three point shots, missed shots at the rim, zero offensive rebounds. Nowitzki will take a lot of the blame for his 11 point, sleepwalking performance. But his leadership disappeared too. The Mavs made one basket in the last seven minutes, a garbage time layup as time expired. This was a game they let get away. MVP: Tim Duncan, 27 points, 7 rebounds, 37 minutes
Miami 99 Charlotte 88-Not only has Charlotte not been to the playoffs in the Michael Jordan era they have not been on national television. Al Jefferson dominated play early until he left in pain because of a foot injury. He returned but he wasn’t the same. Josh McRoberts, the former Laker had a good start making three of his four shots. Throughout the first half Miami didn’t look particularly interested, as if they knew they could turn up the volume which they did going on a 9-0 run. Outside of Jefferson, Charlotte doesn’t have enough scorers. Although trailing by 7 at the half they took the lead back in the third quarter on the exploits of Kemba Walker and their hard nosed defense. Jefferson wasn’t as efficient as he as before the foot injury but Charlotte’s grit and toughness on each possession slowed the game down to a crawl. Everything Miami did they had to work for. Spoelstra added James Jones on the perimeter. And the Heat took advantage of a hobbling Al Jefferson who struggled, especially defensively; he was basically immobile. For Miami, Dwayne Wade was brilliant as he begins his season and Lebron James was efficient enough. MVP: Dwayne Wade 23 points.
Washington 102 Chicago 93- John Wall and Bradley Beal make a formidable backcourt duo rivaling the Splash Brothers but it was NeNe who dominated the game with his mid range shots and bullying at the rim. He went 24 and 8 and played with high energy but it wasn’t particularly infectious. The rest of the Wizards had yet to realize this was the playoffs. Still they led most of the first half until the Bulls offensive rebounding of Taj Gibson and timely three point shooting of Kurt Hinrich and their relentless energy gave the Bulls a six point lead at the half. Although the Wizards are the more athletic team they are young and it showed. The Bulls took control of the second half with back to back threes by Mike Dunleavey. The Wizards couldn’t respond. They fumbled the ball and missed shots. Eventually they understood the energy level that is required in playoff basketball and cut the Bulls double digit lead to three. In the 4th, Andre Miller settled the Wizards down and set up his offense in the post, either taking shots or passing out the double team and the Wizards were in striking distance, down one point with five minutes left. As he did all game Nene came up big, filling in for the obvious hole in John Wall’s game, ineffective shooting. The Wizards defense in the last three minutes was scintillating, trapping shooters, chasing rebounds. Even as Beal and Wall missed shots Nene and Gortat made shots and the young Wizards won a road playoff game. MVP: Nene 24 points 8 rebounds