|Awkward / Effective|
In Atlanta, the Hawks came back in a fourth quarter where they didn't score for the five half of it. They won after Playoff Nightmare Paul Pierce hit what could have easily been yet another game-winning three, where he was somehow open despite everyone in the world knowing he was going to take shot. Pierce then told Hawk Fans that the series was over, without paying too much attention to the fact that there was eight seconds left, PG Dennis Schroder had spent much of the game getting to the rim, and that Al Horford was picking up offensive rebounds like they were daisies. Schroder got to the rack. Wizard PF Nene Hilario (aka, the only big on the floor for DC -- whoops) failed to secure the board. Horford scooped it up and laid it in like he was putting a baby in a cradle, and DC didn't even have a timeout left to try to get back the game winner.
Make no mistake about this: the Hawks escaped their own court with a win. They turned it over a ton, couldn't connect from the arc, and the next good game that Kyle Korver plays will be his first. The Wiz got back PG John Wall in this one, and he played reasonably well, with SG Bradley Beal continuing his breakout playoffs, following his injury-riddled regular season. These teams are both very flawed, and don't seem likely to me to get past the Cavs or Bulls in the next round... but that doesn't stop them very playing wildly watchable ball, with point guards that make their teammates better, fresh faces (well, with the exception of Pierce), all-in crowds that haven't been to a Conference Finals in their lifetime (anyone missing Celtic Fan or Laker Fan? Yeah, me neither), and two teams that don't seem able to get more than ten points away from each other. It's as much fun as you could hope for, really.
Then we had the nightcap, where the visiting Grizz came out to take a first quarter lead thanks to some skittish Warrior turnovers, only to watch MVP Stephen Curry microwave the lead away before the break, and Sweet Georgia Brown to start playing in the third quarter. This was the first game in the series where the Dub Bench, so good in the regular season, went into full effect, maybe because the lack of Tony Allen for Memphis meant that they saw way too much Vince Carter (can't guard anyone anymore), Nick Calathes (has never been able to guard anyone, at any time), and even Mike Conley, who looked out of sorts for the first time in this series. Dude bounced a pass off poor Marc Gasol's head tonight, and while it's not as if that mistake was all that costly, it was telling.
What comes next? I think Atlanta and the Wizards are going to go to Game Seven, and my only hope for that Game Seven is that everyone is healthy for it. This series has been far too defined by John Wall's injuries, whenever Beal falls down, and the various slights and dings that seem to be required in the league now.
As for Grizz-Dubs, you might think this will end on Friday, now that the Warriors have seemingly figured the Grizz out... but big blowouts don't always agree with the favorite on the road, and if Game Three Andrew Bogut shows up again, the Dubs can lose to anyone. It's going to require an actually good offensive game from the Grizz, though, and I'm not sure they can do that against the Dubs. Especially when it comes to the bench work of Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Grizz guards And since the other two series are also going to Game Six, there's no extreme urgency for either favorite to close things out, even though they will feel differently, of course.
Finally, this. Whoever emerges from the Dubs-Grizz *has to* win the next round, because it's the only way the Finals doesn't have intentional fouling. And if you want to root for that club to win the next round in four games, even though we have only 16 to 29 of Game left until Halloween, and should really just be rooting for seven games in every series... well, I can't argue with you. Because what the Rockets and Clippers have done to hoop is just unforgivable, and needs to be punished as strongly and unequivocally as possible. I would be totally OK with eliminating both clubs and bringing back the Spurs.
Enjoy the games, everybody.