Atlanta 98 Indiana 85: If the Pacers lose this series much will be written about Paul George as a scorer and as a leader. In this must win game he got his second foul very early and the Pacers were relegated to a perimeter team who missed a lot of shots. Not that the Hawks were any better at making shots. But every once in a while Jeff Teague beat his man and got to the rim. Or Korver set up for a three. Lance Stephenson goes by the nickname “Born Ready”. He was ready in this game, 21 points 13 rebounds. Paul George was a different story. He continued to disappoint , 12 points in the game, no fire or aggressiveness. He was joined by George Hill who was 1-11. And Roy Hibbert had 4 points, 2 rebounds. The Pacers had no answer for the Hawks spread offense other than to calm things down with David West. For the Hawks, Lou Williams and his energy off the bench kept a frenetic pace and exuberance at a fevered pitch in the Highlight Factory. The Pacers trailed by nine going into the fourth. But their perimeter defense continued to be one step two slow which was all that Shelvin Mack and Lou Williams and Kyle Korver needed. Luis Scola was tremendous off the bench and was the main reason the Pacers went on a 7-0 run to cut the Hawks lead to four. But then this happened: the miracle shot of the game. Hounded by Scola and as the shot clock was expiring Jeff Teague threw up a high arcing blind shot that went in. Even he was amazed. The only problem? The shot shouldn’t have counted. He was out of bounds. But the refs didn’t see it and couldn’t review it. Even Larry Bird had to cover his eyes by the bad luck of the Pacers. Kyle Korver hit another open three. Game over.
Memphis 98 Oklahoma City 95: Credit Memphis and their slow game into making the Thunder force shots. The tempo was senior citizen like, on pace for a score in the eighties. The Thunder’s best offense was Westbrook cutting to the rim. He had 9 points at the half. Kevin Durant had 12. Everything else was a struggle under the suffocation of the Grizzlies defense. The Thunder had a handful of fast break points, not enough to offset the fact that only two players on their team can score. Their bench was particular pathetic. Midway through the second quarter the Thunder had 26 points. For the Grizzlies, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol struggled offensively but their size in the middle slowed the pace. In the third quarter Memphis bullied the Thunder in the post taking a 17 point lead. The Thunder cut it to ten. In the 4th quarter with Westbrook on the bench and Durant looking fatigued the Grizzlies pushed the lead to seventeen again. But Westbrook came back in, the Thunder played tough defense and went on a 17-0 run to tie the game. The Grizzlies felt it slipping away until a Tony Allen steal and bucket gave them a 4 point lead. But it’s never over with the Thunder. They make you hear footsteps. Westbrook tied the game with a dramatic four point play. At the end, Memphis ran a play for Conley so he could be the hero. But he missed. Too much time on the clock for Durant who had not played like Durant but all he needed was a game winning shot. It was a three coming off a high screen that missed. In overtime Conley had five straight points as if to justify his taking the last shot. The Grizzlies went on a 7-0 run. A Westbrook and a Durant three both missed with twenty seconds left. The heart was willing but the legs were tired. Grizzlies hang on.
Clippers 98 Golden State 96: A flagrant foul was called against Matt Barnes with six minutes into the first quarter. That’s what happens when these two teams play. A bad sign for the Warriors: they missed twenty five three point shots. Bad sign #2 for the Warriors: for the third straight game Steph Curry did not impose his will by scoring. He did his best Chris Paul imitation and moved the ball. But no one was making shots and the Warriors turned the ball over. They were fortunate to only be down three at the half. In the second half Blake Griffin took over the game. Jermaine O’Neal was too slow. The double team could not get there quick enough. Blake imposed his dominance on the Warriors who continued to miss from three and turn the ball over. It was a Clippers sixteen point lead. Then eighteen point lead. Doc Rivers defensive game plan to smother Steph Curry worked to perfection. Chris Paul went out the game and Jamal Crawford came in and he took up the scoring slack. And the Warriors kept taking threes and missing threes. In the 4th the Clippers went away from Blake Griffin and the Warriors mounted a mini comeback trailing by seven. Curry hit a three to cut the lead to four. Blake answered with a dunk. Klay hit a turnaround jumper and the lead was one. Curry hit a deep, deep three to keep it a one possession game. But he couldn’t hit the game winning three because he was pushed by Chris Paul. No call. The Clippers win.