The first round of the NBA playoffs officially ended yesterday afternoon as the Los Angeles Clippers won Game 7 over Memphis, while the second round continued, as Miami beat Indiana. TheSportsNotebook recaps both games and looks ahead to a doubleheader tonight…
LA Clippers 82 Memphis 72: Chris Paul shot 1-for-6 from three-point range and turned the ball over five times. Blake Griffin might as well have not made the flight, with eight points and four rebounds. The Clips shot 39 percent. And this is the team that won the game. How did this happen? Memphis was able to “counter” with an extraordinary display of shooting ineptitude from their top three guards. Mike Conley, Tony Allen O.J. Mayo combined to shoot 6-for-37 from the floor, a stunning 16 percent. As a team the Grizzlies missed all 13 three-pointers. That’s how you pull off the rarity of losing a seventh game in your own building and doing it to a team that played poor offensive basketball themselves.
In the media reports afterward, both coaches noted the play of their respective benches, good and bad and this was a big difference in the game. The Clipper reserves, led by forward Kenyon Martin and guard Nick Young, combined for 41 points/23 rebounds, while Memphis had only an 11/12 combined line. Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol each scored 19 for Memphis, but there was too much cold play elsewhere for that to be enough, so Los Angeles is moving to the second round for the first time in 16 years.
Miami 95 Indiana 86: Normally if I see a situation where LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, playing at home, against a non-marquee opponent, manage to combined for 24 free throw attempts—nearly as many as the entire Indiana team—it’s going to inspire a round of comments regarding David Stern’s desire to see the Heat advance. Not this time. The Pacers ended up with 10 fewer free throw attempts than their opponent, because they didn’t take the ball to the basket with authority, at least not in the fourth quarter of a game they led or were at least even most of the way. Indiana’s idea of an offense down the stretch was to pass it around the perimeter and then fire from long range. They were just 4-of-17 from behind the arc. Miami, like Memphis in the early game, didn’t make a three, but the Heat didn’t waste possessions trying, only missing six. LeBron ended up with a 32/15 line, while Wade scored 29.
In spite of this, Indiana did a lot of what they needed to do win, even allowing the bricked treys down the stretch. Chris Bosh left the game with an abdominal strain and is doubtful for Game 2. No one else contributed offensively, though Joel Anthony did grab seven rebounds. On the Pacers side, Roy Hibbert had a 17/11 game, and David West stepped up with 17/12, effectively exploiting the Miami interior. But the Pacers will not win games without Danny Granger, and the star did not meet the moment, scoring only seven points. As discussed in the series preview, it takes a lot in the NBA to overcome homecourt advantage and superior star power, and Indiana just didn’t hit on all cylinders.
The second round in the Eastern Conference continues tonight when Boston hosts Philadelphia. The Celtics were able to get a one-point win in the opener without a major contribution from Paul Pierce and virtually nothing from Ray Allen. At least one of the two–likely Pierce–has to step up and give some help to Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Philadelphia needs to get continued strong play from Andre Iguodala, and they need better rebounding from Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand. Neither team is good at hitting the boards, but the Celtics had a narrow edge in this area in Game 1.
Western Conference action in the second round opens tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers visit Oklahoma City. Look for that series preview here this afternoon. Then on Tuesday it’s San Antonio hosting the LA Clippers in the opener. TheSportsNotebook will preview that series tomorrow.