Friday, May 2, 2014

Three Game Sixes, Three Game Sevens

Not A Big Baby Game
Deep into the best first round in NBA history, tonight saw back to back road wins by higher seeds to face Game Sevens, with all the feel of Papa Spank. And then in the late game, Papa got spanked. So much for an over-riding theme.

In the early game on the NBA TV ghetto, the Pacers woke up in the fourth, and got carried to a Game Seven by a great game from David West. Of course, waiting for the Pacers to crush the 8 seed is where we were in Game Five, when they woke up down by 30 in the third. So, um, who the hell knows. Let's go to games that are fun to watch, rather than just think about.

OKC beat the Grizz by 20 tonight, and might have made Game 7 a formality. How bad was it? Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were efficient and aggro, they got great bench work from Reggie Jackson and rookie center banger Steven Adams, and the Grizz lost point guard and de facto MVP Mike Conley. If Conley can't go for Game Seven, and it's a hamstring that looks terrible right now, this could easily be a runaway. But in a series with four straight overtime games before this one, don't bet the mortgage money.

The Clips-Dubs game was another fascinating forever war, while somehow not being that great of a basketball game. It had elimination intensity and West Coast playmaking and athleticism, but thanks to over-active officiating and odd coaching moves, it never achieved flow. When the already-thin home team lost back up big man Jermaine O'Neal to a rolling botch by fourth line thug Big Baby Davis, this one had the feel of a flyweight trying to stay with a heavyweight... but since the game had aspect of Rock Fight and a lot of bench badness and turnovers, it stayed close when it probably should not have.

Making matters worse for the home team was shaky work from the line, and I found myself watching and wondering how the Clips weren't winning by a lot. The answer was Blake Griffin dominating the ball, if not the scoreboard, in half court, Chris Paul struggling with health and foul trouble and the Dubs doing some reasonable team rebounding work. But when your PF (Griffin) can go 1 for 3 on the same possession, and you have to bring in your starter at PF (David Lee, odious for much of the night) with 5 fouls and a lead with 10 minutes left, only to see him leave cheerfully 30 seconds later... well, it got weird. Really weird.

Golden State got out to an 8-point lead in the fourth by going small and incredibly effective. Andre Iguodala's 3-pointer with 2:30 left, coinciding with Griffin fouling out, was the signature moment... but Jamal Crawford was Hero Mode Hot, and he took a 7-point lead down to 2 in a heartbeat.  The Dubs had missed 12 of 32 from the line (see what I mean about Rock Fight?) before the final 80 seconds, adding to the drama, but they turned that around late. JJ Redick's sixth led to Harrison Barnes making both to make it a 4-point game. Chris Paul misses at the rim, Curry turnover, and the Clips played volleyball for 20 terrible seconds before Matt Barnes made a three. Sadly for the Clips, that didn't go in until a second left. Curry, oddly, missed the first with 0.4 seconds left. With Marc Jackson yelling at him to miss, he did that, and the game was over.

Every series goes seven, and all three of them will happen on Saturday. Has never happened before. I think the home teams win all of these Game Sevens, but it's just one game. The Dubs are beaten down at bigs, but they are due for a much better game from Curry and Thompson. The Clips are vulnerable with Paul hurting, but when you've got the two best big men in the series (and coach, and home court), you should win. As for the others, anything can happen with the schizophrenic Pacers, and the Thunder just look like they've figured things out now.

Oh, and there could be three *more* Game Sevens on Sunday, if only the Nets, Rockets and Mavs come through tomorrow.

Best first round ever? Yeah, best first round ever.

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