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NBA: Conference playoff series begin

NBA

The New Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony takes the ball to the hoop against Brandon Bass of the Celtics during their Game 1 match-up on Saturday.

As the NBA finished up Game 1 of their Round 1 best-of-seven series one thing rang out from all eight contests, home-court advantage was definitely a huge advantage over the weekend as all eight home (higher seeded) clubs not only won, but seven of the eight games were decided by a margin of eight points or more, with the majority of the games (five) coming down to margins of 17+. The closest contest was Golden State at Denver, which came down to a last second lay-up to give the Nuggets a 1-0 advantage in their series. The biggest win came from the last game to be completed Sunday night, a 29-point pounding that Oklahoma City gave to the Houston Rockets, 120:91.

Western Conference
(1) Oklahoma City – (8) Houston, 120:91
The Oklahoma City Thunder took their first step towards getting back to the NBA Finals with a huge win over former teammate James Harden and the Houston Rockets, 120:91. The Thunder outscored Houston in every quarter by a minimum of six points, with the biggest gap being in the third when they put a 10-spot up on their guests, 29:19. The biggest shot of the night though came from a fan at half-time, hitting a half-courter and pocketing a cool $20,000.

OKC’s Keven Durant was game high with 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Russell Westbrook missed a triple double by two rebounds as he knocked down 19 points, dished off 10 assists and grabbed 8 rebounds. Kevin Martin added 16.

Houston was led by Harden’s 20 points and 6 rebounds. Patrick Beverley contributed 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.

The Thunder take a 1-0 series lead into Game 2, to be played on Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

(2) San Antonio Spurs – (7) Los Angeles Lakers, 91:79
For months one of the biggest questions of the 2012-13 NBA season has been if the LA Lakers would make the playoffs. Flirting with the No. 8 spot in the West over the second half of the season and they finally not only make the playoffs during the last few games of the regular season, but they jumped over the Houston Rockets to get the No. 7 spot. The San Antonio Spurs offered their congratulations on Sunday night by handing the Lakers their first loss of the playoffs with a 91:79 victory in San Antonio.

Los Angeles will play the entire post-season without leader Kobe Bryant due to a torn Achilles tendon that he had surgery on a week ago, but did get playmaker and No. 4 on the all-time NBA assist leader list, Steve Nash, back from a hip injury. San Antonio got what seems to be a recuperated Tony Parker back after some injuries late in the regular season, but seemed to be on form Sunday as he led his club with 18 points and 8 assists.

A key stat in this contest was the 40 points the Spurs got from their bench players and namely Manu Ginobili, who dropped in 18.

Los Angeles committed 18 turnovers during game, twice as many as San Antonio; of those 18 turnovers, the Spurs were able to convert them into nine points, 75% of their margin of victory.

The Spurs got the early lead taking the first frame 24:15, but the Lakers clipped one of those points off with a 21:22 score in the second to head into the lockerroom down 37:45. They basically duplicated the first half with a 20:25 Spurs advantage in the third and again 22:21 in the fourth to wrap up Game 1 with a 91:79 Spurs win.

Parker finished with 18 points and 8 assists, and Ginobili dropped in 18 as well. Tim Duncan contributed 17 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, just two shy of a triple/double.

Dwight Howard continues to embrace the role of the leader of the Lakers with a 20 point, 15 rebound game. Pau Gasol added 16 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 assists. Nash contributed 16 points and 3 assists.

Game 2 will be Tuesday in San Antonio.

(3) Denver – (6) Golden State, 97:95
In the hot game of the set of Game 1 contests, Denver held off a strong comeback by the Warriors to take Game 1 of their best-of-seven series, 97:95. The Nuggets entered the contest with a 23-game win streak at home and were looking to grab a quick lead in the series while keeping that streak intact.’

The hosts took the first quarter 28:25 to get up in the early going, but Golden State had a big second frame getting up by nine with just over a minute to play in the half. Denver ran off six unanswered points including a buzzer-beater by Andre Iguodala, to send the clubs to their dressing rooms with the Warriors up 44:48 at the break.

Denver covered the margin in the third and had a two-point advantage of their own with just under a minute to play when Andre Miller (two assists) and Corey Brewer (jumper and a triple at the buzzer) teamed up for the last five points of the quarter to give the Nuggets a seven-point lead heading into the final frame.

Three minutes into the fourth, Golden State had cut the margin to one, 78:77, in part by a triple from Stephen Curry and three deuces from Carl Landry. Shortly after Curry dropped in a layup to knot the score at 81, but then Denver ran off eight straight to get up 89:81. Golden State countered with five of their own to pull to within three with just over three minutes to play. They traded baskets until Jarrett Jack dropped in a pair of singles to bring the guests to within in at 93:92. Ty Lawson hit a driving layup to give Denver a three-point lead, 95:92, then Curry knocked down a triple with 14.5 seconds to play to tie things up at 95. Miller took matters into his own hands with the last 10 seconds as he held the ball until there were roughly four seconds to play, drove to the left side of the lane, made a quick step back between to defenders who were caught flat footed and kissed the ball off the glass for the lead. Golden State was out of timeouts so they couldn’t advance the ball and had no answer for their final attempt giving The Nuggets their 24th straight home win and a 1-0 series lead.

Miller finished with 28 points and 5 assists for Denver. Lawson added 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Wilson Chandler and Even Fournier added 11 points each, while Chandler also grabbed 13 rebounds. Brewer added 10.

Klay Thompson was high-man for the Warriors with 22 points. Curry finished with 19 points and 9 assists, Landry added 14 points, and the duo of Jack and David Lee added some impressive totals; each scored 10 points, while Lee added 14 rebounds and Jack narrowly missed a triple double with 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Lee is out for the remainder of the playoffs having suffered a torn hip flexor near the end of the contest.

Game 2 will be held on Tuesday in Denver.

NBA

Fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles hold up cutouts of Chris Paul and his famous fictional insurance agent brother, Cliff (with glasses), during the Clippers’ opening playoff game with Memphis.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers – (5) Memphis, 112:91
The Clippers got out to a 1-0 series lead with a huge fourth quarter to down the Memphis Grizzlies, 112:91. This was a fairly close contest until the fourth when LAC outscored Memphis 37:22.

One big stat that Memphis will have to figure out how to counter is the Clippers 47-23 rebound advantage. Even with a 24-rebound margin, Los Angeles had no players in double figures in the rebound column, as opposed to the seven they had in the scoring column…

The Clippers picked up the lead in the first, outscoring the Grizzlies 29:21. Memphis grabbed two back in the second, but still keeping the advantage on the LAC side of Staples Center. At the half the hosts led 57:51, including a tip-in at the buzzer by the Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe.

The clubs played even in the third, both marking 18 in the scorebook, but then the fourth rolled around and things fell apart for Memphis, while clicking for LA. The Grizzlies opened the fourth with a 2:7 run to pull to within one, 77:76. The hosts ran off seven unanswered after that and then had an 8:3 run, to set the tone for the rest of the 12 minutes. A 9:1 run by the Clippers late in the quarter sealed the outcome of Game 1.

Chris Paul was game-high with 23 points and 7 assists, while his famous fictional brother, Cliff Paul, from the All-State commercials, dominated the stands at the Staples Center as hundreds of huge head signs were handed out before the contest. Bledsoe added 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Chauncey Billups scored 14, Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford added 13 each, and Matt Barnes and Blake Griffin dropped in 10 each.

Jerryd Bayless led Memphis with 19, while Marc Gasol added 16 points and 7 assists. Zach Randolph added 13, and Mike Conley contributed 12 points and 5 assists.

The next match-up will be Monday in Los Angeles.

Eastern Conference
(1) Miami – (8) Milwaukee, 110:87
The Miami Heat made quick work of getting their title defense on track with a 23-point win over the Bucks of Milwaukee, 110:87. It was a close contest in the first half, but the Heat took care of business in the second, adding eight points to their advantage in each of the last two quarters.

Milwaukee held to within two after the first quarter, but the Heat started building their lead in the second, outscoring Bucks 26:21, to take a 52:45 advantage into the mid-game intermission.

Monta Ellis pulled the Bucks to within four, 52:48, with a triple right after the second half opened, but that set off a 9:0 run by Miami, a gap Milwaukee would never come close to for the final two quarters, giving Miami a 1-0 advantage in the series going into Game 2, which will be held in Miami on Tuesday.

The Heat got 27 from Lebron James, who also added 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Former member of the Buck’s organization, Ray Allen, added 20 points and 5 rebounds. Dwayne Wade added 16 points and 5 assists, Chris Bosh scored 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, and Chris Andersen added 10 points and 7 rebounds.

(2) New York – (7) Boston, 85:78
The Knicks used a big fourth quarter to pull off a come-from-behind win in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series with the Boston Celtics, 85:78. Heading into the final quarter, the Celtics held a 67:70 advantage, but that lead had been seven points with a little over a minute to play in the third frame.

Before the game got underway the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Celtics’ Paul Piece addressed the crowd at the Madison Square Garden with Anthony offering support and understanding to Boston after the bombings at last week’s Boston Marathon, while Piece thanked the New York fans for that support and vowed that Boston would be running again soon.

As they got down to business, the Celtics built a four-point lead through the first half. Anthony, the reining NBA scoring champion, knocked down 10 points in the first four minutes on his way to a game-high 36. The Celtics got to their lead with a 2:10 run to close out the first quarter, up 26:29. New York regained the lead early in the second, but the Celtics closed out the half up 49:53.

In the second half, Anthony continued to roll, but the clubs played evenly, 18:17, giving Boston a 67:70 lead heading into the final frame. To open the final 12, the Knicks got the first five to get up by two, 72:70. A 7:2 run by the hosts mid-way through the quarter got them a five point advantage with just under five minutes to play. Pierce cut the lead to three with a jumper, but Anthony drove the lane for two, then knocked down a deep deuce to get up six with just over a minute left. All the Celtics could come up with in the last minute was a pair of free throws, giving the Knicks Game 1 with an 85:78 win.

Anthony was game-high with 36 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. J.R. Smith added 15 points, Raymond Felton contributed 13 points and 6 assists, and Kenyon Martin dropped in 10 points while grabbing 9 rebounds.

Jeff Green paced the Celtics with 26 points and 7 rebounds. Pierce added 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. Avery Bradley contributed 15 points and 4 assists.

Game 2 will be played in New York on Tuesday.

(3) Indiana – (6) Atlanta, 107:90
The Indiana Pacers picked up a 17-point win to grab a 1-0 lead in their series, led by five starters in double figures including Paul George’s triple/double, 23 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds.

“He was all over the place tonight. That’s who Paul George is. He’s one of the most complete players in the game. He impacts the game in so many different ways — defense, rebounds, steals, blocks, 3-point shooting, getting to the free throw line, making the extra pass.”
— Indiana coach Frank Vogel.

The Pacers got out to a big lead in the first, outscoring the Hawks 34:26 in the first 12, and ending the first half with Indiana up 58:50. The hosts took control of the contest in the second half, but specifically the third quarter, by outscoring the Hawks 26:19 and getting up by 15, 84:69. The Hawks were able to cut the lead to under double figures with a 2:10 scoring run, but the Pacers took control again and countered with six straight and closed out Game 1 with a 17-point margin, 107:90.

George’s triple/double lead all scorers for Indiana. George Hill scored 18, Roy Hibbert added 16 points and 8 rebounds, Lance Stephenson and David West dropped in 13 points each, and Gerald Green contributed 11.

Jeff Teague paced the Hawks with 21 points and 7 assists. Josh Smith added 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Al Horford contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Ivan Johnson added 10 points and 5 rebounds.

(4) Brooklyn – (5) Chicago, 106:89
The Nets of Brooklyn took it to Chicago in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series, getting up by 25 at the half and eventually closing out the contest up by 17. The Nets led the contest from opening tip to final buzzer to set the tone for their series that will move to Game 2 in Brooklyn on Monday night.

The Nets got up by 11 after the first quarter with solid shooting and aggressive defense. Mid-way through the second frame they went on an 8:0 run bringing their margin to 20 and basically shutting the Bulls down. In the first half Chicago only shot 37% while the Nets pulled away to lead 60:35 at the intermission.

They Bulls outscored Brooklyn 17:27 in the fourth quarter to cut the lead back to 17, but the contest was over in the second frame.

Deron Williams led the Nets with 22 points and 7 assists, Brook Lopez added 21 points and 5 rebounds. Joe Johnson contributed 16 points, the duo of Gerald Wallace and C.J. Watson dropped in 14 each, and Andray Blatche scored 12.

Carlos Boozer was game-high with 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists for Chicago. Nate Robinson added 17 points, and Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler dropped in 13 points each for the Bulls.

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