Chris Paul wasn’t having a great, memorable night, but he played well enough while carrying a groin injury to lead the Clippers through one of the franchise’s most incredible playoff wins, coming back from 24 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98, hitting the winning free throws, calm and cold as ice.
It was Nick Young who actually sparked the huge comeback, scoring three straight from beyond the arc, beginning his shooting spree with 5:08 left on the clock and 12 points behind. Memphis couldn’t score on five straight possessions, and the Clippers were too hot and confident to stop in the end.
The Clippers win their first playoff game since 2006, and proved that keeping your head up and playing till the end pays off. Starting to show up on defense, something inconsistent with this team this season, helped them make the huge turnaround in Memphis as well, as Nick Young led the way with 19 points. The Grizzlies lost despite hitting 11 of their 16 three point attempts, proving it’s about when you hit the shots and not the amount of them.
Josh Smith may have been the most impressive guy on the court, continuing his maturing and development of 2011-2012 into the playoffs with a true performance of leadership and simply great basketball, finishing with 22 points and 18 rebounds, but Rajon Rondo’s ejection and probable suspension was the big talking point of the Hawks 83-74 win over the Celtics in Game 1.
Rondo first got called for a technical, and it appeared that his bump into the official was more than a mere accident. Adding the fact that Rajon Rondo has a bit of a negative reputation regarding his behavior on and off the court, you wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss game 2.
The Celtics were frustrated. Coming in too confident about their ability to win on the road, a team that prides itself in being physical got out-muscled by the Hawks, especially in the first quarter, falling 31-18 behind. They chipped away with great defense, keeping Atlanta at 35% the rest of the way, but that wasn’t enough, despite both Rondo and Garnett scoring 20 points. No Ray Allen while Paul Pierce was only 5-19 from the field meant not enough offense for the C’s.
There is this theory that the Nuggets can beat the Lakers by playing up tempo basketball, running the Kobe Bryant gang off the floor, cancelling their advantage in size and length. The regular season’s results between the two teams would tell you differently. The Lakers taking Game 1 after a 103-88 win would tell you differently.
The Nuggets weren’t out rebounded by a big margin and were able to do a decent job with offensive boards on both ends of the floor, but Bynum was too much of a menacing presence in the paint, especially on defense, finishing with a triple double of 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks. A new franchise record for blocks and the first playoff triple double for a Lakers player since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA finals.
Kobe Bryant was what you expect of him in the playoffs, especially against a bad defensive team. He finished with 31 points, leading six Lakers in double figures, even from the bench that usually gets loads of criticism for being too short, especially with MWP suspended.
People (including me) kept talking about how the Spurs won the first spot in the West last season, only to lose the first game in the first round against the Grizzlies and finding themselves knocked out of the playoffs faster than you can say…
Not this time. A better Spurs team, with a better bench, and Tony Parker playing the best basketball of his career. Manu Ginobili scored only 7 points while playing 25 minutes off the bench, but the Spurs rolled to a 106-91 win over the Jazz anyway.
Like we said, this was Parker’s night, finishing with 28 points, as the Spurs won a Game 1 for the first time in their last six playoff series. Tim Duncan was great with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while the Utah Jazz did do well in the front court, as expected, with Jefferson, Millsap and Hayward combining for 53 points, but got only 7 from their starting guards. Not enough against the deepest and most versatile basketball team in the NBA.
4 Players, 4 Games
Jazz (91) – Spurs (106) – Tony Parker with 28 points and 8 assists.
Celtics (74) – Hawks (83) – Josh Smith with 22 points and 18 rebounds.
Nuggets (88) – Lakers (103) – Andrew Bynum with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks.
Clippers (99) – Grizzlies (98) – Chris Paul with 14 points and 11 assists.
New York Knicks at Miami Heat (7 ET), Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers (7:30 ET), Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder (9:30 ET).
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