Post Up: Thunder Storm Back
Clippers 104 – Thunder 105 (OKC leads series 3-2)
Chris Paul baffled us all.
Up two points with 17 seconds left in the game, Paul made a decision that set forth a crazy turn of events to close out Game 5. Following a Kevin Durant layup that cut the Clippers lead to 104-102, Paul caught the inbounds pass and as Thunder PG Russell Westbrook approached him quickly to foul him and put him on the line, Paul tried to time the foul and hoist a shot—hoping he’d be awarded three free throws as result of being in the act of shooting.
But Paul miscalculated and Westbrook used his quick hands to go for the ball, causing CP3 to adjust in midair, resulting in a turnover to Reggie Jackson, who opted to go at the Clippers’ Matt Barnes despite having a 3-1 advantage. Barnes poked the ball loose and it appeared that the ball was last touched by Jackson.
The officials reviewed the play and awarded the ball to the Thunder. Once the ball was inbounds, Westbrook decided to pull a three-pointer with about 7 seconds left on the shot clock, throwing up a brick before being bailed out by the refs on what was a very phantom touch of the elbow call. Westbrook hit all three from the charity stripe and somehow the Thunder found themselves up one with six seconds left.
Following a timeout, the Clippers inbounded the ball to CP3 who dribbled to the right side of the block and lost the ball to Serge Ibaka and time expired with the Thunder victorious, 105-104.
L.A. had led 101-88 with four minutes left in a contest they had dominated throughout. Paul’s crucial mistakes down the stretch cost the Clips and like a true leader, he took the blame for the loss at his post game presser.
“Everything that happened there at the end is on me,” a defeated Paul said. “The turnover with 17 seconds left—that’s probably the dumbest play I’ve ever made. To even put it in the officials hands to call that foul on the three..it’s just bad basketball.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was livid post game, extremely critical of the call late in the game involving Jackson and Barnes. With his tie undone and shirt loose, Rivers put it all on the referees. “Let’s take away the replay system then,” Rivers said. “That’s our ball and we win the game. We got robbed because of that call and it’s clear, everyone in the arena saw it.”
The loss overshadowed a monster 24-point, 17-rebound performance from Blake Griffin. Paul added 17 points and 14 assists, Jamal Crawford added 19 points off the bench and Matt Barnes posted 16 points and 10 boards.
The Clippers double-teamed Durant throughout the game, freeing up Westbrook on numerous offensive sequences. Westbrook finished with a game his 38 points while Durant added 27 on 6-22 shooting.
“I’ve just never seen a game like this with us,” Durant said. “That just shows that you can’t keep us down and no matter what happens we’re going to lay it all out. Offensively we struggled early on but we persevered through it.”
Paul described his performance as one of the most difficult things he’s had to deal with in basketball. He clearly believes he let his teammates down in a game the Clippers should of had. Instead, they will face an elimination game on Thursday night at home in Game 6.—Nima Zarrabi
Wizards 102 – Pacers 79 (Indiana leads series 3-2)
Going on the road, facing elimination, things weren’t looking good for the Washington Wizards. But backed into a corner, they swung a Polish Hammer right through the Pacers’ defense to send the series back to DC.
Marcin Gortat and John Wall dominated the game for Washington, taking the Indiana crowd out of it and sapping the Pacers’ effort. Both players broke out of major slumps to power the Wizards.
After 6 points and 13 rebounds combined in the Wizards’ two home games, Gortat disrespected Indiana’s front line from the opening tip and finished with 31 points on 13-15 shooting and 16 rebounds, both Playoff career highs.
“I was an offensive decoy the last two games,” Gortat told the Inside the NBA crew after the game. “We had a conversation with the coaching staff, obviously they told me they’re going to give me better looks, try to throw the ball inside.”
Meanwhile, the Pacers seemed content to allow Wall to take outside shots, and the All Star responded with his best game of the series. Wall knocked down 7-12 uncontested field goal attempts on the night, per NBA.com’s player tracking, and splashed in 3-6 from long range to finish with 27 points on 11-20 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
The Pacers lack of urgency in this closeout game was jarring. They looked nothing like the team that’s hung its hat on defense all season; the Wizards shot 50 percent despite going 5-18 from deep. Indiana was absolutely blasted on the boards, with the Wizards winning the rebounding battle, 62-23. That’s the most rebounds the Pacers have ever surrendered in a game, per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Despite missing 47 shots on the night, the Pacers only managed to grab 4 offensive rebounds.
“Everybody’s got to be on board for us to compete and win. Everybody’s got to play with the same level of intensity, same level of urgency, for us to be successful,” David West, who finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds, said to the media post-game. “We didn’t have enough fight as a group to compete with this team tonight. It’s very disappointing, because we blew a great opportunity.”
Indy definitely had opportunities early, with Washington handing the ball over frequently. The Wizards committed 12 turnovers in the first half, which the Pacers converted into 14 points.
It wasn’t enough to hold off the Wiz, though, as Gortat exploded for 17 and 11 in the first half alone, while Wall and Bradley Beal (18 points, 8 rebounds) each put up 10 in the first two quarters. The Wizards did all of this without the help of their bench unit, which coach Randy Wittman rode hard in the Game 4 loss. The Wizards’ reserves put up just 12 points, with most of that coming in garbage time, after scoring 32 points on Sunday.
After big efforts on the road, the Pacers’ All Stars shrunk from the moment at home. Roy Hibbert went back to being invisible, getting dominated in his matchup with Gortat and finishing with 4 points and 2 rebounds. Paul George shot 51.4 percent in Games 3 and 4, but his stroke went missing and he shot 5-15 on Tuesday on his way to 15 points. Lance Stephenson also never got engaged, finishing with 9 points on 4-8 shooting.
The Pacers, who have lost four of their seven home Playoff games, get another crack at closing out the series and stamping their tickets to their second straight Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday in Washington.—Brett Weisband