As we bid adieu to another team and move one step closer to the NBA Finals, we find ourselves at the crossroads of several narratives. LeBron and Wade’s tandem explosion against the Pacers puts to rest the question of the Heat’s toughness, at least for the moment, while Chris Paul’s clutchness has been brought into question, while Kobe and Kevin Durant’s one-sided duel in crunch time leaves similar questions on both sides. Also, the continued perception of the Spurs as boring looks dumber with every passing game. Let’s leave the overarching themes behind and get into Sunday’s action.
Miami Heat 101, Indiana Pacers 93: Series tied 2-2
The Pacers blew a golden opportunity here. They led by 7 after the first quarter, but they missed at least four or five wide open threes and could have led by a lot more. Making two more threes in that stretch could have made the final minutes totally different.
Having said that, it’s extremely hard to win games when the opponent’s two best players spring for 30-9-6 (Dwyane Wade) and 40-18-9-2-2 (LeBron James). Seriously. 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, two blocks and two steals. That is just wrong on so many levels. You know something special is going on when a guy puts up 30-9-6 and isn’t even remotely the best statline on his team.
Speaking of special, the last time someone put up 40-18-9 in the playoffs? 1961, when Elgin Baylor did it. That’s right, it’s been over 50 years since someone did what LeBron did today. In a must win playoff game. On the road. Against a quality defensive team. Without the team’s third best player. Yeesh. Un-clutch my rear end.
Anyway, Dwyane Wade finally showed up in Indianapolis after no-showing game three on Thursday and the first half of this game. He started 1/8 from the floor and finished 12/15, reminding everyone watching that he’s still a top-five player in the NBA. The Pacers had their usual balance, but Roy Hibbert battled foul trouble and disappeared for stretches, something the Pacers just cannot afford when Wade and LeBron get going. Also, Leandro Barbosa played entirely too much, given that he couldn’t find his shot and is completely useless aside from his offense, which, again, was MIA today. There’s no reason the Pacers can’t still win this series, especially with Chris Bosh still out for the foreseeable future, but it’s gonna be tough, to say the least.
San Antonio Spurs 102, Los Angeles Clippers 99: Spurs win series 4-0
Welp. As I mentioned yesterday, the ‘Clippers have no chance’ crowd apparently knew what it was talking about. Then again, the way the Spurs have been playing, I’m pretty sure Memphis wouldn’t have fared any better. When you’ve won 30 of your last 32 games and have won said games by an average of about 16 points, very few teams have much of a chance against you. Assuming Oklahoma City manages to close out the Lakers — they’re up 3-1 in the series and have home court advantage, so you’d think they’d hold on — we’re going to have an epic Western Conference Finals on our hands. I can’t wait.
For the Clippers, things get interesting now. Chris Paul has one more year left on his contract, which means you can start the rumor machine on that front. Meanwhile, thanks to long-term deals given to DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler and the presumed Blake Griffin extension, the Clips are pretty well capped out. So it’s hard to tell where they go from here. All I ask is that they fire Vinny Del Negro and find a real coach. Please.
Monday, May 21st:
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Game 5, 6 PM CDT, TNT
Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder Game 5, 8:30 PM CDT, TNT