On Friday, the NBA Playoffs featured four contests that were at Game 6, with four teams facing elimination and, obviously, four teams one game from advancing to the Conference semifinals. Two teams, the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics, were also looking to become the first team in decades to come back from being down 3-0 to advance.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on who you talk to, as the dust settled on the busy Friday night of basketball, there would be no history being made and no Game 7s from this group.
Friday’s contests did fill out the playoff brackets quite nicely though, which had been neglected since last Sunday, when the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs officially moved on to the next round and had to wait to see which team would be their next opponents. San Antonio found out on Thursday that they would square off against the Golden State Warriors, but the Heat will have to wait until Saturday to find out of they’ll meet up with the Brooklyn Nets or the Chicago Bulls as they are set to play their Game 7 at 8pm EST.
Boston Celtics – New York Knicks, 80:88
There would be no ‘funeral black’ on Friday, just a focus on getting the job done from the Knicks. Boston got to play another game at home and were looking forward to forcing a Game 7, after falling behind 3-0 in the series.
For New York, it’s the first time since 2000 that the Knicks have won a series in the NBA Playoffs, a fact that wasn’t lost on the players and their coach Mide Woodson.
It’s a major step for this organization, for our fans in New York who’ve been with us for many, many years. It’s been a total team effort, but it’s just one step. I’m looking at the big picture and I’m only in this for one thing and that’s try to win an NBA title. We made a major step today.
–Knicks coach Mike Woodson
If you’re a Celtics fan, this game was ugly early on. Boston couldn’t find their shooting rhythm in the first half and fell deeper and deeper into a hole that they were digging themselves. They tallied 10 in the first quarter, getting down 10:24 after the first 12, then they did manage to hold the Knicks to only 15 points in the second, but only scored 17 themselves. At the half they had fallen behind 27:39. That’s not a typo, the Celtics score 27 points in the first half.
In the third, the situation was much the same, with the Knicks outscoring their hosts 20:28 to get up 47:67 through 36 minutes. In the fourth, then Knicks opened with a 2:8 run that put them up 49:75. It was from there that something sort of remarkable happened, the Celtics when on a 20:0 run that lasted only four minutes, but took the score from 49:75 to 69:75 and got Boston back in the game. Afer Ian Shumpert’s lay-up killed the run, Avery Bradley got a lay-up of his own at the other end of the court and Jeff Green hit a pair of single. Carmelo Anthony dropped in a pair of singles to put the Knicks back up by six, but Bradley would throw down a dunk to get within four points. That would be the last time the Celtics would score for two minutes, while the Knicks would run off seven to get up by 12, 75:87, with just over a minute to play. Boston could only come up with five points in the closing minute, to New York’s lone free throw, to close out scoring 80:88
I told them after the game that I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys who went through a ton of adversity all year with all the injuries.
–Celtics coach Doc Rivers
Anthony was game-high with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Knicks. Shumpert added 17 points and 6 rebounds. Knicks’ 36-yr-old rookie Pablo Prigioni added 14 points and 5 rebounds, J.R. Smith added 13 points and 7 rebounds, Raymond Felton dropped in 11 points and 7 assists. Tyson Chandler contributed nine points and 12 rebounds.
Green was high-man for the Celtics with 21 points and 5 rebounds. Kevin Garnett scored a double/double with 15P/10R, Paul Pierce was off his mark on Friday, but still managed to score 14 points and haul in 7 rebounds. Jason Terry added 14, and Bradley contributed 10 points.
The Knicks will now face the Indiana Pacers, with Game 1 of their best-of-seven series to be played at New York on Sunday.
Atlanta Hawks – Indiana Pacers, 73:81
Coming into Game 6 with Atlanta, a game being played in Atlanta, the Pacers hadn’t won a game in Philips Arena in 13 tries. For Indiana, 14 was their charm, as they found the right combination to pick up a win in Game 6, eliminating the Hawks from the Playoffs, while the Pacers will now face the New York Knicks in the next round.
We finally got the monkey off our back in this building. We were more physical, and made them take tough shots. We’re happy, but we have to get our hard harts back on, as we have another game in less than 48 hours.”
— George Hill
The bottom line in this game was Atlanta’s shooting, or lack thereof. The Hawks could only manage to drop in 26 of 78 (33.3%) from the field and 3 of 19 (15.8%) from behind the arc. To their credit they were nearly perfect from the line, going 18 of 20 (90.0%) on the night. Indiana also out-rebounded the Hawks, 53-35.
I think the story of this game was our inability to make a shot. As bad as it was in the first half, we were still within striking distance . . . You have to give Indiana credit. They’re really good defensively. They’re really big. They put you in a lot of tough situations because their bigs do a phenomenal job in deep post position.
— Hawks coach Larry Drew
Things were looking tight in the first period as the two clubs fought it out to a 20:21 Atlanta lead. Atlanta could only manage to drop in one field goal during the second quarter, not that the Pacers did much better, only scoring 16, but at the half Indiana was up 29:37.
The Pacers didn’t let up in the third, adding seven to their lead by outscoring the Hawks 21:28, to head into the final 12 with Atlanta up by 15, 50:65.
Atlanta mounted a comeback in the final stanza, outscoring the Pacers 19:8 through the first eight minutes, to pull to within four, 69:73, with just under four minutes left on the clock. An Al Horford dunk with just under three to play brought the Hawks to within three, 73:76, but that would be it for the hosts as Indiana would account for all five of the points scored in the last two minutes of the game, bringing the score to 73:81, and sending the Pacers to the next round where they’ll face the Knicks starting on Sunday.
Indiana was led by David West and George Hill, both scoring 21 on the night with West also hauling in 8 rebounds and Hill grabbing 7. Roy Hibbert picked up a 17P/11R double/double.
Atlanta got 15 points and 7 rebounds from Horford, 14 points and 9 assists from Josh Smith, 14 from Devin Harris, 12 points from Kyle Korver, and 10 from Jeff Teague.
Houston Rockets – Oklahoma City Thunder, 94:103
Oklahoma City took the first step in getting back to the finals by taking their best-of-seven series with the Rockets after a 94:103 win in Houston Friday. They will next square off against the Grizzlies of Memphis.
Houston built the early lead, getting up by as much as 11 in the first frame, but OKC fought back to get within three at the horn, 29:26. The Thunder got the lead back with just over nine minutes to play in the first half when Derek Fisher dropped in a three-ball to bring the score to 31:33. Shortly after Nick Collison got a tip-in off a missed jumper from Reggie Jackson to put Oklahoma City up by eight, 36:44. James Harden knocked down a triple with 34.4 seconds to play in the half to cut the lead to four, 54:58, heading into the mid-game intermission.
The beginning of the third quarter looked like a shooting exhibition as the Rockets hit three triples inside the first two and a half minutes and the Thunder dropped in two jumpers at the same time. The last of the batch, Chandler Parsons’ second three-pointer within a minute of each other, gave the Rockets the lead back at 63:62, and started a 12:0 run that would get Houston up 72:62 with five minutes left in the half. As quickly as they built the lead, the OKC crew tore it down as they went on a 2:12 run that ended in a Kevin Durant put-back that knotted the score at 74. Harden closed out the scoring in the third with a turnaround jumper with five seconds left to get the Rockets within one, 77:78, with 12 minutes to play.
The lid fell on the Rockets’ bucket in the fourth as the Thunder pulled away early. A 4:14 run in the first four minutes got OKC up 81:92 with just over eight minutes on the clock. Harden hit a three-ball, but then dunks from Durant and Kevin Martin sandwiched a long-ball from Fisher to give the guests a 15-point lead, 84:99 with four and a half minutes to play. Harden, Parsons and Patrick Beverley were able to cut the gap to nine, but they ran out of time and the Thunder earned a trip to the second round to face the Grizzlies.
Everybody feels bad, but it’s the start of a journey for these guys together as a group collectively. The only way that journey gets to be fulfilled is you got to trust each other more. You’ve got to go out there and build trust with each other. You’ve got to build symmetry. You’ve got to build chemistry.
— Rockets coach Kevin McHale
Durant led the Thunder with 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Martin dropped in 25. Jackson scored 17 and added 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Fisher scored 11, Collison contributed 10 points and 9 rebounds. Serge Ibaka cored 10 and had 7 rebounds.
Harden was high-man for the Rockets with 26 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Parsons added 25 points and 7 rebounds. Omer Asik got a double/double with 13P/13R and Francisco Garcia scored 11, grabbed 6 rebounds and dished off 5 assists.
Memphis Grizzlies – Los Angeles Clippers, 118:105
The Memphis Grizzlies are moving on to Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs thanks to being able to consistently get to and connect with free throws. The Grizzlies wore a path to the line on Friday, going 38 of 47 (80.9%), compared to 16 off 24 (66.7%) for the Clippers, in a 118:105 win to take their best-of-seven series, 4-2. Memphis will now match-up with Oklahoma City in a series that will start on Sunday night.
The difference in the contest was the third quarter, where Memphis outscored LA 34:26. In the first frame the hosts got up by three, 29:26, and took a 58:53 advantage into the dressing room at the halftime break. With 10 minutes to play in the third the Grizzlies held a 61:57 lead and then went on a 13:2 run to get up 15 74:59, with seven minutes left. LAC cut the gap to eight with three minutes to play, but Memphis extended the lead back to 13 with a buzzer-beater by Jerryd Bayless to close out the third, 92:79.
The Clippers ran off seven unanswered mid-way through the fourth to pull to within six, 103:67, but Mike Conley countered with a triple, then Bayless dropped in a long-ball, followed by a Zach Randolph turnaround jumper and a series of free throws to build the lead back to 16 and close the door on a comeback, sending the Grizzlies to the Western Conference semifinals against the Thunder.
Of note, this was a physical, aggressive contest that not only had the two clubs on the line for a total of 71 free throws, but there were also seven technicals called during the game, resulting in ejections of Chris Paul and Randolph (two technicals each). The Clippers’ Barnes, Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin were also given technicals during the game.
Conley and Randolph led the Grizzlies with 23 points each. Tony Allen added 19, Bayless scored 18, Tayshaun Prince dropped in 11, Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter tallied 10 each.
The Clippers were paced by Barnes’ 30 point and 10 rebounds, and Paul’s 28 points and 8 assists. Butler added 14.