It was the last Sunday of the NBA regular season. The Indiana Pacers hosted the Oklahoma Thunder on national television. It was an important game for the Pacers. A win would guarantee them the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and home court advantage throughout. They played a tough, energetic game and led for most of it until the Thunder made a fourth quarter comeback. With less than a minute to go Pacers guard, Lance Stephenson, made a three pointer to give the Pacers a six point lead. It sealed the victory. But as sweet a moment as it was for the Pacers organization this is what ESPN commentator Jon Barry noticed. He was In Indiana covering the game for ESPN Radio. He observed that after Stephenson made the shot none of his teammates celebrated on the bench. Their attitude was blasé. Jon found that striking and said, “there is something wrong with that locker room.” Now we know what. Adrian Wojnarwoski of Yahoo Sports and Marc Stein of ESPN reported that before the playoffs began there was a physical confrontation between Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson. At a time when players are normally united for a common goal the Pacers are coming apart. Selfishness does this, it ruins all men. And so here we are. The Pacers must win a game in Atlanta, a place they have had a hard time scoring victories. But they have a zombie like, dead man walking feel. Hibbert wears a pained, insecure expression similar to his Georgetown days. George Hill is a shadow of himself. Paul George is finding out it is hard to be a superstar. David West can’t keep the crazies- Turner and Stephenson- from tearing down the asylum. And the Pacers have to find a way to stop Atlanta who has a lot of confidence. Good luck with that.
Memphis vs. Oklahoma City: As great as Tony Allen is as a defender he cannot stop Kevin Durant. Only Durant can do that. He was unusually grumpy after the last game. Expect him to bounce back big time. Russell Westbrook wasn’t mashed potatoes and gravy the other night either. He’ll get his game together too. They are the key to everything OKC does. They have taken 60% of the team’s shots. But they need to find a way to work in Ibaka. Reggie Jackson has to do more coming off the bench. As for Memphis they just have to continue with the script. Feed Zach Randolph. Rely on Marc Gasol. Find Mike Miller for open threes. Let Mike Conley get into the paint. Cross your fingers that Courtney Lee is making shots. Rebound the ball and slow the pace. And oh yeah, stop Durant. I give KD the edge. He is the MVP this year. I suspect he shows up large and the Thunder win a close game.
Golden State vs. Clippers: The Clippers haven’t won up north in two years. Chris Paul is not 100% with a sore hamstring. The Warriors feed off of that crazy crowd they have and so another 40 point loss will not be in the making. Steph Curry has to be more aggressive with his shot taking and Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala have to stay out of foul trouble. Harrison Barnes has been in a funk all year. The Clippers will have a solid diet of Blake Griffin and JJ Reddick. They will rely on bench scoring from Jamal Crawford. But the Warriors will be just as frenetic as the Clippers were in game two. It will get nasty and ugly and crazy and loud. The Warriors survive the craziness.