Oklahoma City 100, Denver 97; Oklahoma City wins series, 4-1
Denver didn't match up well with Oklahoma City. There's just no getting around that. Believe me, Denver tried to get around that. No dice.
Everything Denver attempted -- good depth, point guard penetration, hard fouls and occasional wing scoring -- Oklahoma City either matched or even eclipsed the Nuggies in that particular area. It makes sense, too. The Thunder have taken on the Nuggets seven times over the last month, and six of the seven games went OKC's way. They have all the answers, provided they do things right and Russell Westbrook doesn't take a ton of bad shots in the fourth quarter.
Westbrook had another bad game on Tuesday, missing 12 of 15 attempts, but it hardly mattered as the Thunder doubled Denver up in the free throw make department (a whopping 17 to 34, all earned, don't complain) while destroying the Nuggets on both the offensive and defensive glass. Everything Denver tried, Oklahoma City did better. Makes sense that it turns out this way.
Kevin Durant, and there really isn't a better way to put this in my eyes, was pretty in the win. Just pretty, on his way to 41 pretty points. Serge Ibaka had one point and five turnovers, but he also had nine blocks in what was a ridiculous defensive turn that saw him swatting mostly on recoveries in transition. John Hollinger tweeted early in the game that the OKC scoring crew had Ibaka down for five blocks when Hollinger (who charts games) only listed him for two blocks -- but oh well, that's still six blocks then. Felt like twice as many, in half a day.
OKC re-affirmed their status, even with Westbrook shooting 33 percent over his last two games, as championship contenders. I can't call them anything less.
All Denver has is questions. Par for the course for that group. Wouldn't want anything else, by the way. We'll miss that team.
San Antonio 110, Memphis 103; Memphis leads 3-2
If you want to ride momentum and emotion and prestige (worldwide) until you find a way to suss out Friday's Game 6 based on what happened towards the end of Wednesday's Game 5, I can't blame you. I won't be, but I can understand any amount of credit you send San Antonio's way.
Because the team has earned it. They were a frightening prospect even with Memphis up 3-1 in this series, and they remain as frightening even when we consider that it took two desperate shots plus overtime to stay alive against the Grizzlies at home on Tuesday. The Spurs are the Spurs and they never die -- even if we forget that we're nearly four years removed from the team's last championship.
Memphis did well to hang around in this game. Tim Duncan came out full of fire, hitting for double-figure points in the first quarter, but the Grizzlies had the Spurs at apparent arm's length by the time the end of the fourth quarter rolled around. Memphis worked its way through a, howdoyousay, "curious" night out for the referees, and banked on clutch jumpers from Sam Young and a brilliant all-around game from Zach Randolph (26 points, 11 rebounds, six assists) to nearly put the game away.
And, as you know, the Spurs struck with two massive jumpers to end regulation. Memphis couldn't hack it in overtime offensively, before they knew it they were fouling in attempts to stop San Antonio from dribbling out the clock, and the Spurs had done it again. Never really trouncing their opponents in any one area outside of the part that gives them a "W," frustrating (but hopefully not enervating) the opposition along the way. San Antonio, through and through.
Game 6 is on Friday night. Pretty pumped for that bad boy.
Miami 97, Philadelphia 91; Miami wins series 4-1
It doesn't warn nor warm nor encourage nor frighten me that the Miami Heat held their own down the stretch against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. It was great to see a potentially-great team do things correctly, but I also have to be mindful of Philly's defense in this loss. The 76ers strangely helped on all sorts of drives or Miami post-ups, and as a result the Heat took in endless open perimeter attempts as they moved past the first round.
Miami took 30 three-pointers, a ton, and made 12 in the win. Mario Chalmers hit six in 12 attempts, 12 good attempts, and James Jones managed the same percentage on six attempts. All while Philly's perimeter defenders looked elsewhere. I understand that you should probably pay Dwyane Wade (26 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) a good deal of attention, as well as LeBron James (16 points after a slow start, 10 rebounds, eight assists), but this was a little silly.
So it goes for Philly, as the Doug Collins-helmed team was ridiculously inconsistent all season, but wildly entertaining in a way that didn't remind of previously Collins-coached outfits. This was a team worth falling for, as Lou Williams lost his man on the break, or Elton Brand knocked in another turnaround jumper. On paper and in our hearts, as much as we respect the talent and recent drive of this Miami team, it does surprise us slightly that Philly only took one game out of this series. These guys cared too much to go out as simple first round fodder.
That's what Miami does to teams, at least on paper. Chris Bosh was on fire with 22 points in the win, and Erik Spoelstra struck strong by starting Chalmers and Joel Anthony to start the second half.
This is the stuff that season-ending highlight videos are made of. You can't smartly say that Miami has turned a corner, nothing's been accomplished yet, but you can picture this team at its peak. And, just as it was last summer when Pat Riley put this group together, it's a frightening prospect.