Derrick Rose was sorely missed by the Chicago Bulls, who fell at home, suffering their worst loss of the season, as the 76ers came out of Chicago with a 109-92 win. Rajon Rondo on the other hand wasn’t missed in Atlanta, where Paul Pierce took over for the Celtics in a 87-80 win. Lakers – Nuggets? Same ol’ Bryant, in a good way that is.
But we begin our nightly tour in Chicago, who knew they were going to be stuck offensively at some point, but no one guesses it’d be that bad. The Bulls actually led 55-47 at half time, but the Sixers won the third quarter 36-14, blowing the game away and heading into Philly with some home advantage.
The Sixers shot light out all game long, finishing with 59% from the field, with their trio of guards – Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams combining for 60 points. There was no defense from the Bulls, and no rebounding as well, losing the battle 32-38. The two guys who needed to take the next step offensively, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, both finished in single digits.
Paul Pierce took over, as he usually does when Rajon Rondo doesn’t play. The Celtics were 61.5% without Rondo during the regular season, and while there’s no doubt they’re a more dangerous team with him, having Pierce step up and completely take over the role of playmaker and executer isn’t such a bad idea.
Pierce had a game 1 to forget, but outscored the entire Hawks team 18-15 during the final 15 minutes of the game. Atlanta had a 65-54 lead late in the third quarter, but the Celtics turned up their defense and after Josh Smith left the game with a left injury that could mean he’s out for more than just this game there was no real chance for the Hawks without any of their top 4 big men.
Kevin Garnett had a good game with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but it was mainly about Pierce scoring 36 and grabbing 14 rebounds, playing 44 minutes. It was his third career 30-10 game in the postseason. Joe Johnson led the Atlanta Hawks with 22 points.
Kobe Bryant was the good ol’ Kobe, the one you expect to see in the postseason. All the talk about him struggling against the Nuggets in the regular season has gone out the window, as Bryant has poured 79 points against them in the first two games of the series, despite Denver putting up more of a fight than in the first game.
The Lakers led from the get go, like in the first game, although the Nuggets were harder to shake this time, having six players scoring in double figures, led by Arron Afflalo who scored 22 points. In my opinion they played too much with Koufos, while both JaVale McGee (6 blocks) and Timofey Mozgov did a better job when they were on the court. The Nuggets have yet to take a lead in the game.
For the Lakers, who moved the ball around well each time one of the big three saw a double team, it was another dominant performance from their starting five, without any need for help from the bench. Pau Gasol had a 13-10 double double, while Bynum added 27 points and 9 boards. Playing like this, the Lakers might actually look like title contenders.
Stat of the Night
Kobe Bryant had his 83rd postseason game with at least 30 points. That puts his at second place on the all-time list behind Michael Jordan, with 109 such games.
3 Games, 3 Players
Sixers (109) – Bulls (92) – Jrue Holiday with 26 points and 6 assists. Series tied at 1-1.
Celtics (87) – Hawks (80) – Paul Pierce with 36 points and 14 rebounds. Series tied at 1-1.
Nuggets (100) – Lakers (104) – Kobe Bryant with 38 points and 3 steals. Lakers lead series 2-0.
Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs (7 ET). Spurs lead series 1-0.
Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic (7:30 ET). Series tied at 1-1.
Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies (9:30 ET). Clippers lead series 1-0.