Memphis Grizzlies 105, Los Angeles Clippers 98 (series tied, 1-1)
After a miserable night of basketball that saw the Pacers and Spurs win by a combined 54 points, a reasonably competitive Clippers-Grizzlies contest was a needed tonic -- but hardly much to behold. It was sometimes fun to watch as Tony Allen and Zach Randolph worked their way back to respective health, and Chris Paul featured his typically pugnacious ways, but the back-and-forth never truly delivered.
You think Memphis cares? The Grizzlies hung in this one quite well, forcing 20 Clippers turnovers and essentially beating Los Angeles to every crease, or every either-way call. Paul was fantastic for most of the game, totaling 29 points on 17 shots (our man hit 4 of 6 threes) with five steals. He also turned the ball over five times to just six assists, and it was O.J. Mayo that absolutely hounded CP3 into oblivion.
Relatively speaking, of course. Chris Paul, for the most part, was still Chris Paul.
But kudos to Mayo -- "Eric Bledsoe didn't do a good job of keeping him out of the lane," said the typically teammate-gracious Chris Paul following the Clipper loss -- who matched that sterling defense with 20 points of his own. Marreese Speights had 11 points off the Memphis pine as well. And though the depleted Clippers bench tossed out Nick Young and Mo Williams dropping 11 points apiece, those two were terrible defensively in this loss -- on and off the ball.
Inspiring, but unsurprising for the Grizzlies? Rudy Gay finished broken play after broken play with those in-between shots. He went 9 for 13 and scored 21 points for Gay.
If the Clippers think a hometown crowd is going to push them over the edge as the series moves to Los Angeles, they're in for a rude surprise. Nothing against El Lay or Clippers fans, but this is the sort of series where these things just do not matter.
San Antonio Spurs 114, Utah Jazz 83 (San Antonio leads series, 2-0)
It's one of those nights where nothing seems to go right.
Where you think you've finally caught up, but you forgot about [insert Spurs trailer here, because every one of them seemed to get an easy bucket] streaking. I don't know if it was the early start, one that saw the Jazz playing at five in the evening Utah-time, or if I should relay the obvious joke about how the ancient Spurs are well versed in enjoying an early dinner. In the playoffs, though? I don't want to try to make a point that tells you the Jazz weren't ready for this game, or that they weren't enthused. They … they just got their asses kicked.
All the highlights will show are those extra Spurs passes and streaking finishes, but it was the out-of-nowhere defense from San Antonio -- a team that atypically was just ahead of the middle of the pack in terms of defensive efficiency this season -- that made life hellish for a Jazz team that seemed to be down 30 by the time the sun went down over the East Coast of the country. In what seemed reminiscent of San Antonio's ability to force teams into low-percentage mid- and long-range 2-pointers half a decade ago, the Spurs seemed intent on forcing the Jazz to try and finish a foot or four away from the rim. And the Jazz clearly were out of luck in that regard. Whether or not this will sustain for the next game or rest of the series (presuming the referees let it continue past this round) is up for debate, but on Wednesday the Jazz could not buy one.
Let's not dismiss the Spurs offense, while we're fawning. The Spurs made 10 of 22 3-pointers, and the 28 assists on 47 field goals actually feels like the sort of stat you'd expect from a road scoring crew, and not San Antonio's home cooking. Maybe it was the head swivel, between this contest and the Orlando Magic-Indiana Pacers tilt, but it just appeared as if some Spur was leaning in for a layup every time your eyes dashed over, and usually off a great dish.
Credit San Antonio for its quick decision-making and willingness to try to put this away early, but sometimes you'll get a malaise game at the strangest time. It's certain the Spurs are both more talented than the Jazz, and that they match up quite well with Utah (this is, by far, the worst matchup for Tyrone Corbin's crew). But this also was an unrepresentative 48 minutes.
San Antonio is this good. The Jazz aren't that bad, and while the Spurs are more than capable of making even playoff teams look "that bad," I just don't feel like this was the case on Wednesday.
The Jazz, of course, have just two more games to prove me wrong.
Indiana Pacers 97, Orlando Magic 74 (Indiana leads series, 2-1)
This slogfest actually featured a comeback, an honest-to-goodness run from the Magic to keep things interesting once the Pacers decided to stop forcing Orlando into driving all the way to the hoop. For a few minutes there, late in the first half, it appeared as if the Pacers would be letting the Magic all the way back into Game 2 by playing the typical percentages.
Usually, you want these Magic to eschew the interior flush or long-range bomb, but this is a different team than you're used to. This is a squad working without Dwight Howard and, apparently, Ryan Anderson (16 points on 31 percent shooting and 14 rebounds in two postseason games after averaging around 16 points and eight rebounds in the regular season). Without those two in place, this is a squad that is left to a litany of long twos, a shot that few teams successfully win games with.
Early on, though, the Magic made the long twos. Even Glen Davis. And they made a game out of it. And with an hour and a half to go before the Grizzlies and Clippers tipped off, we were excited about things for a spell. Until the Pacers realized the Magic really can't score on the interior any more, and that they are more than capable of covering all Orlando angles when the team was left up a creek without its All-Star in Howard and near-All-Star in Anderson. And their respective paddles, I suppose, if you really want me to follow through on this.
The Pacers eventually prevailed by taking advantage of delayed transition buckets — getting out on the break, surveying the matchups, making the extra pass and letting the team's scorers finish. Nothing that was whippet-quick, and there was no exacting half-court brilliance, just enough timely scores to outscore the Magic by 15 at home and pull away. Danny Granger was ahead of the pack, hitting five threes in nine tries, and he was a needed finishing touch in a game that seemed to feature a whole heck of a lot of finishing touches that you never thought would be appearing in an important playoff game.
Orlando's starting frontcourt rebounded the ball six times on Wednesday, by the way. In a game with 96 combined field-goal and free-throw misses to go around.
There will be different games on Thursday. We promise.