Well, we’re now a week and a half into the 2012 playoffs. Half of the first round series are over, as the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic and now the New York Knicks have been sent packing, leaving the other four series to prepare for their respective game sixes. Somewhat appropriately, one of last night’s games ended the series, the other extended it. Let’s dive in.
Miami Heat 106, New York Knicks 94: Miami wins series 4-1
It’s really just as well this series is over. Sure it gave us a few entertaining moments, such as Amar’e Stoudemire punching a fire extinguisher after a game two loss (which led to a somewhat tasteless joke by the Miami PA announcer when he announced that Stoudemire had been “extinguished” from the game after fouling out) and the Knicks winning their first playoff game since 2001, but the series kicked off with Iman Shumpert’s devastating knee injury and didn’t get noticeably better from there.
What this series proves, more than anything else, is that LeBron James is significantly better than Carmelo Anthony. Sure, one game is an insanely small sample size, but observe their lines from last night’s game five:
Anthony: 35 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 15/31 FG, 2/5 3PT, 3/4 FT
I mean, it’s hard to argue with 35 and 8, but that’s a lot of shots. Compare with:
LBJ: 29 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 7/16 FG, 2/6 3PT, 13/15 FT
So LeBron scored six fewer points on 15 fewer shots, shot 11 more free throws and added six more assists than Carmelo and his team won by 12 points. And it wasn’t really that close. But that’s not the point. The point is that LeBron (and the Heat, by extension) is pretty freaking good. If he plays at this level going forward, the title is the Heat’s to lose.
Memphis Grizzlies 92, Los Angeles Clippers 80: Clippers lead series 3-2
Both games may have ended with 12 point margins, but this one was infinitely more interesting to watch. Well, the third and fourth quarters were, anyway. Memphis seized control early behind Zach Randolph’s 14 point first quarter and looked to be running away with it. But then again, they were running away with game one before they completely imploded and let the Clippers steal one. Something similar happened in game five.
As the lead ballooned to near 30 midway through the third quarter, the Clippers unleashed their ‘everyone on our team will now get a technical foul to confuse you’ initiative and quickly chopped the lead down to 12 going into the fourth as Memphis fans wavered in the face of overwhelming deja vu. The lead would shrink to six before Rudy Gay and company were able to respond and close out the game.
The other story of last night’s game in Memphis is the continuing trend of distressingly high profile injuries. Derrick Rose remains the highest profile example (*s0bs*), but Blake Griffin nearly joined him. Griffin drove hard to the rim and landed awkwardly on Marc Gasol’s foot, clutching at his left knee as he collapsed to the ground. For a few minutes, everyone held their breath as they hoped against hope that we wouldn’t be hearing about Griffin’s torn ACL the next day. Well, except for Grizzlies fans, who booed Griffin when he finally stood up and was escorted to the Clippers’ bench. There were a few excuses offered in the aftermath (a Clippers fan was being shown on the jumbotron, they assumed he was faking when he stood up), but this makes two separate instances of fans booing players for not being hurt enough (Philadelphia fans, of course, went the extra mile when Joakim Noah came down on the side of his foot and screamed like a wounded animal by cheering the initial injury and booing when he got up) and that’s completely unacceptable. I don’t understand it at all.
Oh, something else in the same vein was that Chris Paul appeared to injure his groin in the fourth quarter, hampering LA’s comeback bid. It was announced as a strained right hip flexor after the game ended — Griffin was said to have a strained left knee, nothing serious — but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward. If CP3 can’t go in either game six or game seven, the Clippers are screwed.
Thursday, May 10th:
Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers Game 6, 7 PM EDT, NBATV
Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics Game 6, 8 PM EDT, TNT
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Game 6, 10:30 PM EDT, TNT