Another crazy day in the NBA. A crazy day at Staples Center, that is, since the only two games happening both occurred in the same building, with the Clippers and Lakers hosting. In fact, both games followed a similar script: home team builds big lead, road team comes roaring back and takes the game in the end. They weren’t exactly the same, by any stretch of the imagination, but there were similarities. Anyway, time to get to it.
San Antonio Spurs 96, Los Angeles Clippers 86: Spurs lead series 3-0
Welp. It turns out that the ‘Clippers have no chance’ sentiment was a lot more accurate than we thought. The Clippers came out guns blazing and led by 22 after the first quarter. Blake Griffin was doing Blake Griffin things and there was no reason not to believe they could still turn the series around. However, reality asserted itself in the third quarter, where the Spurs outscored the Clips by 18, 26 to 8. No, that’s not a typo.
Blake Griffin had the game of his playoff life, with 28 and 16, plus 3 blocks and 2 steals. Chris Paul kind of got back to himself with 11 assits, but couldn’t hit anything, scoring just 12 points on 5/17 shooting. On the other side, Tim Duncan continued his excellent play, putting up 19-13-4 with 3 blocks of his own, while Tony Parker shot just 40% but still had 23 points and 10 assists.
Don’t count on a sweep just yet, though. There’s every reason to believe that LA could win game four, especially because it will be (as of this moment) the second game of a back-to-back. Hell, knowing what we do about Gregg Popovich, it’s not even remotely out of the question for him to rest Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, etc. and pick things up back in San Antonio with game five. I don’t think he will, but it’s on the table.
Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Los Angeles Lakers 100: Thunder lead series 3-1
Stick a fork in the Lakers. I mean, they could easily win game five or even game six, but I find it hard to believe they win a game seven in OKC. Really, I find it hard to believe they win a game five in OKC, but that’s beside the point. The point is that we’re discovering that the Thunder, when locked in (which they weren’t for much of games 2, 3 and 4), are just better than the Lakers. Also, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are really, really good.
Things looked (oddly) bleak early on. Kobe was cooking and Andrew Bynum was dominating inside and the Thunder couldn’t get enough stops to do much of anything. They trailed by 13 in the fourth quarter before Russell Westbrook decided to basically win the game by himself. He pulled them back to within seven before and then converted an and-one in transition to cut it to four, capping off a run of 9 straight points scored by Westbrook. Then Kevin Durant hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two before missing another pair of free throws that would have tied the game. Undaunted, he came back down and hit a fallaway from the baseline that did tie it before Kendrick Perkins scored on an offensive rebound of a Westbrook jumper to give OKC the lead. Kobe hit two free throws to re-tie it, Westbrook slipped on a slick spot (more on this in a minute) and turned it over, Pau Gasol panicked and returned the favor, allowing Durant to wind the clock and calmly step into a three off the dribble, giving the Thunder the lead for good.
A major storyline throughout the game was the condition of the Staples Center floor. The ice rink under the floor caused a substantial amount of condensation on the floor, leading to several players unexpectedly faceplanting as they attempted to do standard basketball actions. Bulls fans who happened to be watching may have experienced an unfortunate flashback when it was Westbrook who went down in a heap clutching his left knee after attempting to free himself for an inbounds pass immediately prior to halftime. He turned out to be fine (again, he led the Thunder comeback), but it was still a scary moment for everyone. Maybe there’s not really anything to be done about ice and its effects on basketball courts, but it’s a definite problem, as today showed.
Sunday, May 20th:
Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers Game 4, 2:30 PM CDT, ABC
San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers Game 4, 9:30 PM CDT, TNT*
*Word is that the game could be moved depending on what happens with the Los Angeles Kings, who play at Staples earlier in the day.