Miami 101, Boston 92; Boston leads the series, 3-1
Even with a double-digit lead in the first half, and in spite of some of the best play we've seen from Dwyane Wade's(notes) supporting cast all series, this felt like Boston's game until Wade took over in the fourth quarter.
For good reason. Boston had seemingly taken the worst of Miami's hits, and had come back to take the lead in the third quarter. The ball was moving, in the Celtic offense, and Wade's teammates (save for a drive here and there from Quentin Richardson(notes) and/or Mario Chalmers(notes)) just didn't have it in them to consistently compete with Boston's five-man attack.
So Wade set to scoring enough for five men at a time.
He was brilliant, rising up for three-pointer after three-pointer, tossing in 19 points in the fourth quarter after an 11-point third quarter, playing the entire second half without a rest. Boston was helpless as Wade made them pay for either going under or over the top of screens set to free him, and the barrage continued even as the C's set to trapping Wade early in the possession to get the ball out of his hands.
Forty-six points on just 24 shots for Dwyane, who turned the ball over six times but also added five boards and five assists.
And this is the part where I get negative about both teams on a morning where fans of either squad should be happy for entirely different reasons.
Heat fans? Your team lives to play another day, Wade is clearly staying in Miami, and he's as good as ever. But this was the work of a man on fire, and not something to count on. Wade's a streaky three-point shooter; he took three per game during the regular season and hit the long ball at a 30 percent clip, worse than the league average. And Boston played pretty sound defense on him. Wade was just feeling it, in a way that's hard to duplicate. If it weren't, he'd have entered Game 4 averaging 46 points per game.
This was an empty net situation for your team -- those three-pointers with a hand in his face, shot whether he was wide open or not -- and it worked. But it's nothing to bank on. The Heat will need just about all of this and more from the supporting cast if it's to beat an inspired Celtics team in Game 5 and beyond.
Celtic fans? Your team, as you've likely noticed since the calendar turned to 2010, doesn't typically play inspired basketball.
Sure, it kicked a little tail in Games 1-3, and it was great to watch. And as mentioned above, what were the Celtics supposed to do with Wade yesterday? Sure, you could have trapped him a little earlier in the fourth, but these were some ridiculous shots that you just can't do much about.
But counting on the Celtics just can't be counted on. So while heading home for a potential series-clincher might seem like good news, you of all people should know that the C's are just as likely to float as they are to finish things.
This has clearly been the best four-game stretch the Celtics have played since December, but you can't help but be dubious heading into Game 5.
And in spite of all the negativity, you have to like the way each team is playing. Miami still plays hard, and Boston hasn't looked this consistently good in a long time.
Cleveland 121, Chicago 98; Cleveland leads the series, 3-1
Wrong because, if it weren't for Derrick Rose(notes), Chicago would have won 25 games this year. Wrong because the Bulls played terribly on offense. Wrong because the Cavs are quite capable of beating Chicago without James, though the Bulls "triumphed" over Cleveland late in the regular season with James watching. Just wrong and weird and odd to point out.
But as much as the turnovers and poor shooting and fouling hurt the Chicago Bulls in Game 4, really it was just James, James, James.
From the second quarter onward, he just had an answer for everything. Everything. And though his teammates were fantastic (really a sound effort from Mo Williams(notes), Antawn Jamison(notes), Anthony Parker(notes), and even Delonte West(notes) for a second quarter stretch), all anyone should be talking about is how amazing LeBron was.
Thirty-seven points on 11-17 shooting, 6-9 from behind the arc (including a solid 45-footer as the third quarter ticked down), 12 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, one block and just one turnover despite dominating the ball for 36 minutes.
Can James be counted on for 6-9 three-point shooting as the series moves along? Shouldn't I give him the Wade treatment, considering the fact that he shot just under 33 percent from long range on the year, and makes a habit of falling in love with a shot he hits for a mark that is worse than the league average? Of course. But small sample size or not, James has really had the touch against Chicago from behind the arc, entering the game hitting 6-13 and now working at just under 55 percent from long range on the series.
It was obvious that this was going to be another typical Bulls game about midway through the second quarter, even before a quick burst gave the Cavs a sound lead heading into halftime. Kirk Hinrich(notes) started well, but finished the night missing 10 of 13 shots, and he's a shooting guard. Derrick Rose got his 21, but he needed 20 shots to get there, which is just a killer for a team if you're the main scoring option.
Luol Deng(notes) hit for 16 points on 17 shots because he only took long range two-pointers, while the team's bench shot 28 percent. One-hundred points on 100 possessions for Chicago, and that's awful. And it's worth remembering that that's an awful mark the next time you see Derrick Rose drop 26 points on 26 shots.
San Antonio 92, Dallas 89; San Antonio leads the series, 3-1
George Hill(notes) (29 points, 5-6 on threes) carried San Antonio. Absolutely carried them. Hit shot after shot to douse Dallas run after run, played absolutely superb defense and more than made up for a night that saw Tim Duncan(notes) connect just one time on nine shot attempts.
He was bailout boy, stepping forward to knock in jumper after jumper after a play had broken down. It was enough to bring San Antonio back from a double-digit deficit, and by the time Dirk Nowitzki(notes) missed a couple of makeable shots late in the fourth quarter, it was clear that Hill and Hill alone had put the Mavs on the ropes.
Dallas' early insistence was to go to Caron Butler(notes) and Shawn Marion(notes), and while both players combined to score 31 points, well, they also shot a lot. Thirty-one times combined, hardly the picture of efficiency or reliability.
Dirk wasn't much better, missing six out of 10 tries and coming up short in the final couple of minutes. Jason Terry(notes) had 13 fourth quarter points to help bring Dallas back, but the team started the game relying on the unreliable (Butler and Marion stepping forward down the stretch; they're not great shot creators), as a double-digit first half lead was frittered away by the time the third quarter was over.
Pity, because they did play sound D on Duncan. Tim missed some chippies, but he only got nine shots off, clearly a function of the Dallas defense. The Mavs just didn't have enough shot-makers running things in the second half, as Jason Kidd's(notes) 3-10 mark actually raised his playoff shooting percentage to 28.6 percent from the floor.
Even with all these nasty stats, this might be my favorite series thus far. Competitive basketball from two teams that just don't seem to know any better. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle should be on the hot seat for some of his rotation choices, but I'm openly rooting for seven games. Rotate accordingly, Rick.
***Utah 117, Denver 106; Utah leads the series, 3-1
Denver -- Carmelo Anthony(notes), really -- made an effort to make a game out of this, and I actually think the Nuggets were passable in the team's pick and roll defense for some stretches, but this game was Deron Williams'(notes) from the outset.
Are we noticing a theme here? Four games, four guys providing answers at every turn, working in ways that you just can't defend.
Williams was fantastic, keeping the Nuggets on skates as he drove, dished or tossed in long range bombs. Twenty-four points, 13 assists, and just two turnovers all night. Carlos Boozer(notes) tossed in 31 points, and the Nuggets just didn't have a chance with wing guys Wesley Matthews(notes) and C.J. Miles(notes) combining for 39 points.
Since George Karl had to leave the team, it's been Denver's M.O. to make excuses. Tonight was no different. They didn't defend well, whether they brought the effort or not, and this team refuses to take accountability. Feel sorry for Anthony (39 and 11 on Sunday, averaging 34.5 points and seven rebounds on the series) all you want, but he's a seven-year vet who is getting paid max money, and he's not making a bit of difference in the locker room.
Same with Chauncey Billups(notes), same with Kenyon Martin(notes). This team just makes excuses, and you could see it as soon as Karl went out. Right away, you knew what was going on with Denver, and it's carried over to the postseason.
(By the way, we're a week into the playoffs and what hasn't carried over into the postseason? Don't let them tell you that the regular season doesn't matter.)
For all I know, Denver could win the series. They could roar back for a Game 5 win because that's just so typical ("we knew our backs were against the wall, that we had to leave it all out on the court"), and they could take it from there on out because they're talented, and the Jazz have holes. But they could also lose by 12 at home. You just have to wonder if their minds are already made up.
I see nothing but excuses and pointed fingers from this team. They give up defensively and they lose sight of what they should be doing offensively.
Meanwhile, I'm watching a Jazz team that refused to let Boozer's contract situation become an issue. That refused to let the Boozer/Paul Millsap(notes) minutes crunch be an issue. That refused to fall when two starters, two former All-Stars, went down with injuries. One that showed patience in developing Miles (how many times could Jerry Sloan have given up on him?) and Matthews. A team that gets into sets quickly and finds the open hand, whether it's hot or not.
I don't like seeing Denver go out like this. But I quickly concede that they surely deserve it.