Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Pacers Crumble, The Spurs Prevail, And The Heat Lurk And Rest

Add caption
After the Paceres had got back to even in their series against the Hawks, things seemed simple: the top seed was going to throttle the 8 in Game Five at home, order would be restored, and Indy was going to get some of that They Could Beat Miami gleam back.

But then they played the game, and the Hawks decided that making 2 out of every 3 shots would be fun, with guys named Mike Scott and Sheldon Mack (yes, I don't know who they are either) making shots like it was a video game. Especially from beyond the arc.

How crazy was it? Atlanta led by 30 before the Pacers finally got some traction and made a too little, too late run. The courtside mics picked up Pacer Fan -- singular, loud, profane -- giving his team business that would have got you tossed in New York. Your final was Hawks 107, Pacers 97, and honestly, it wasn't that close. Shocking is too soft of a word.

The thing to keep in mind is that the Hawks aren't, well, good. They've got two very good players in Jeff Teague and Paul Milsap, and if Kyle Korver can make threes he's worthwhile, but the rest of the roster is ballast, and they nearly spit the bit to the freaking Knicks, of all teams. In the playoffs, against what was the best defensive team in the East this year, Teague was going to struggle, Milsap wasn't going to be enough, and Korver would get exposed. They were going to be punching bags in front of a fan base that could care less, and be an object lesson of what happens when you ride the NBA's low tier playoff treadmill. And, well, none of these things are happening.

Why? Well, the Pacers are just unstable all over, and proof of why superstar-free teams never make it at the highest level. It's not just Lance Stephenson (owner of the clip of the night, when he stuck the ball against the board on a dunk attempt), though he's the poster child for shaky; it's also even Roy Hibbert and Paul George, and hell, maybe Evan Turner is just such a loser that he's dragging them all down. The Pacers' best players in their comeback tonight were bench guys who weren't going for hero ball or shrinking in the moment, which makes their chances of forcing a Game Seven even shakier.

The Pacers can, of course, still do this: as noted previously, the Hawks aren't good. But maybe they don't have to be.

Meanwhile out West, the Spurs ran off to a 20-point third quarter lead in their attempt to get back to even against the surprising Mavericks. Order would be restored, right? Not so fast, and not in 2014. Behind DaJuan Blair and Devin Harris -- in other words, fungible bench guys who have been around the league -- the Mavs got all the way back against the suddenly lead-footed Spurs.

It came down to the final four minutes, like seemingly every game in the playoffs. Blair got ejected with 3:08 left on what seemed to be an inadvertent kick to the head of Tiago Splitter, leading to a 3-point possession and a fresh lead. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker made plays, Samuel Dalembert did not, but Monta Ellis tied it with a 3-point play at the start of the final minute. Boris Diaw with a monster three with 35 seconds left, Ellis misses, but Dirk with the follow to make it a 1-point game. The Mavs send Manu Ginobili to the line; a monster miss, then a make. 10.4 left, 2 point game, yet another classic playoff game. These happen every night, right?

Ellis misses at the rack, so close, such a good look. Duncan with the board, gets it to Ginobili, who's fouled and makes two to ice it. 2-2 series, could have been 3-1 if not for Vince Carter's miracle in Game Three. The Spurs had beaten Dallas in 10 straight games before this playoff, and barely missed losing three in a row to them. Just another great series, in a month that is just chock-filled with them.

Earlier in the evening, and almost completely under the radar, Miami closed out the game but doomed Bobcats, who were without Al Jefferson. Charlotte never lost touch with the defending champions and acquitted themselves admirably, but they never had a chance once Big Al became compromised. The road teams are now 19-14, this is rapidly becoming the best first round in NBA history, Donald Sterling notwithstanding, and the Heat will likely get up to a week off before having to confront another highly flawed opponent in their increasingly inevitable run to the Finals.

So enjoy this while you can, folks. There's a reason the first round is the most fun. It has the least amount of Heat in it.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule