kevin garnett nets may 2014

The first round of the 2014 NBA NBA Playoffs came to a dramatic end this week in the form of five Game 7s. Many have said that this might be the best first round of the NBA Playoffs ever. Given the number of overtimes, road wins and Game 7s, it would be hard to argue.

Let's take a look back at the last few days of the first round.

Indiana Pacers vs Atlanta Hawks

roy hibbert may 2014Game 6 in Atlanta was a golden opportunity for the Hawks to pull off the stunning upset of the Pacers on their home floor. Unfortunately for Hawks fans, Indiana would not oblige.

Atlanta led by as many as eight in the first quarter thanks in part to their hot 3-point shooting. Roy Hibbert picked up two early fouls, forcing Frank Vogel to turn to his bench earlier than in the previous five games. This would have been disastrous earlier this season, but given how poor HIbbert has been playing, this was something of a blessing in disguise.

Indiana was able to take a five-point lead into halftime before Jeff Teague took over for the Hawks in the third. Teague had 12 points in the quarter including a personal 6-0 run to end the quarter and give the Hawks a 67-64 lead heading into the final period.

Paul George and David West came to play in the fourth quarter, combining for 21 in the final period. Despite their efforts, a Jeff Teague jumper put Atlanta up 84-79 with three minutes to play.

When West hit a jumper with 41 seconds left, the Pacers took the lead for good. The Pacers did their duty in Atlanta behind West’s first double-double of the series, getting the Game 6 win and sending it back to Indiana for Game 7.

In Game 7, we saw something we had not seen so far during these playoffs: Roy Hibbert be relevant and the Pacers defense locking down.

Hibbert came out and had eight points and three rebounds in the opening period, establishing the post for the Pacers early. Paul Millsap, perhaps Atlanta’s most reliable player through the first six games, missed his first nine shots of the contest. The Pacers scored the final seven point of the first quarter to take a one point lead.

In the second quarter, the Pacers used a 13-0 run, fueled by Paul George’s eight points, to take a lead that they would never relinquish. From the 9:34 mark in the second quarter, Atlanta missed 19 of its next 21 shots, spelling doom for the Hawks.

The Pacers closed out the 92-80 victory and booked their ticket to the Eastern Conference semifinals to take on the Washington Wizards.

Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder

russell westbrook may 2014Maybe it was just the win-or-go-home situation or maybe it was the "Mr. Unreliable" headline directed at Kevin Durant in their local paper, but the Thunder came out as the aggressors in Game 6.

Durant came out and scored all manner of baskets on his way to 14 points in the opening period. The Thunder took control in the second quarter when they went on a 14-2 run to close the half with a 15-point lead. The Thunder shot 36 percent through first four games of this series. They shot 58 percent in first half of Game 6.

With the Thunder up 18 and 2:35 remaining in the third quarter, Mike Conley fell to the floor in a heap while clutching his hamstring. Conley left the game and headed to the locker room immediately. Conley returned to the game for a brief moment in the fourth quarter but was pulled shortly thereafter because the game was out of reach for the Grizzlies.

Despite the game being out of reach, or perhaps because of it, Zach Randolph got into an altercation with Stephen Adams. Z-Bo shoved Adams high in what seemed like a brief fit of frustration that would be met with a technical foul and little else.

The Thunder closed out the 104-84 victory. Unfortunately for fans of basketball, Randolph was suspended for Game 7 because of his actions against Adams.

With Conley hurt and Z-Bo suspended, the last thing Grizzlies fans wanted to hear was that Tony Allen sat out the morning shootaround. Fortunately, both Conley and Allen were able to play and showed no ill effects. Without his running mate, Marc Gasol stepped up scoring 14 points in the first quarter and the Grizzlies took a surprising nine-point lead into the second period.

A 10-0 run by the Thunder in the middle of the second quarter tied the proceedings at 44 with five minutes remaining in the period. Durant’s 3 with five seconds remaining gave the Thunder the 61-58 lead at the half.

In the second half the Thunder took complete control leading by double digits for most of the third quarter. Westbrook got the second Game 7 triple-double of his career with 27 points, 10 rebounds and a whopping 16 assists. He becomes only the second player in NBA history to have amassed a triple-double in to Game 7s.

For his part, Durant was Mr. Reliable, scoring 13 points in the pivotal second quarter on his way to a game-high 33 points. The Thunder will take on the Los Angeles Clippers in a heavyweight Western Conference semifinals matchup.

Los Angeles Clippers vs Golden State Warriors

chris paul stephen curry clippers warriors may 2014Coming into Game 6, Stephen Curry and the Warriors hoped to break the franchise streak of seven straight elimination games lost. Curry decided he would not go down with only 10 shot attempts, which is all he was able to muster in Game 5. In the first quarter alone, Curry put in 6-of-12 attempts for 14 points, but it was only enough to keep his team tied with the Clippers headed into the second period.

The Warriors scored the first six points of the second quarter and held a lead until a pair of J.J. Redick free throws tied things before giving the Clippers a one-point lead with less than six minutes left in the half. When Chris Paul picked up his third foul with three minutes left before half, Darren Collison filled in admirably and helped guide LA to a three point lead at the break.

The game stayed close through the third period. In the fourth quarter, a 7-2 Warrior run keyed mostly by Mareese Speights’s energy off the bench gage the Warriors an eight point lead with 8:48 left. It seemed as if the Warriors were going to run away and hide, but the Clippers hung tough.

After an Andre Iguodala 3 gave the Dubs another seven-point lead with 2:31 remaining, Jamal Crawford connected on a 3 and Barnes drove for a layup to again tighten things up.

A pair of free throws from Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes drove the lead to four in the closing minute. A Matt Barnes 3 was timely, but too little too late as the Clippers failed to clinch over the Warriors, instead falling 100-99.

Game 7 was back in LA, and the Warriors were in search of more offense to finish off the Clippers. They got more offense in the person of Draymond Green in this one. Green had 10 points in the opening quarter and led the Warriors’ 3-point attack. Golden State hit four 3s in the period while opening up a 32-22 lead.

Jamal Crawford stepped in for the Clippers in the second quarter to give them 13 points off the bench. The Warriors continued their hot shooting from distance, capping things off with a four-point play when Curry drained a 3 while getting fouled near the end of the period. The Warriors finished the half 9-13 from 3 and were the owners of a 64-56 halftime lead.

The Clippers found themselves down by seven with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter. That is when they went on a 12-2 run to take a three-point lead with less than 5:30 remaining in the period. The Clippers were able to maintain their three-point lead and take it with them into the final period of play.

From there it was back and forth, nip tuck. Every time the Clippers would hit a big shot to extend their lead, the Warriors would answer to cut it back to one. With less than 2:30 left in one of these team’s season, the Warriors found themselves down one.

Curry put in 10 points in the final two and a half minutes and was helped by Draymond Green who finished the game with 24. But it was not enough, as the Clippers scored when they needed to down the stretch and hit key free throws to take Game 7, 126-121.

Houston Rockets vs Portland Trail Blazers

damian lillard rockets buzzer beater may 2014Houston had to win Game 5 at home in order to keep their season alive and force a Game 6 in Portland. The Rockets came out with that same survivalist attitude and built a 10-point lead near the end of the first quarter.

Both James Harden and Chandler Parsons got going early for the Rockets, combining for 20 first-quarter points. Damian Lillard closed the first period scoring the last nine points for the Blazers as Portland ended the period trailing Houston by one.

The second quarter took on the look of a true heavyweight bout as the teams traded big shots. Each team led by as many as four points only to see the other go on a run to retake the lead. By halftime, the Rockets held on to tenuous 58-56 lead.

Harden put in 10 points in the first six minutes for the Rockets before taking a back seat for the rest of the quarter. Not to be outdone, LaMarcus Aldridge scored nine points in the quarter and the Blazers only trailed Houston by one heading into the final period of action.

Dwight Howard asserted his dominance in the middle during the fourth quarter. Howard single handedly kept the Rockets in the game with 12 straight points for Houston.

Despite getting zero points from LaMarcus Aldridge in the fourth quarter, Portland was able to hang in by finding some unlikely sources for scoring. Robin Lopez chipped in with eight points and Thomas Robinson had four of his own as points were suddenly at a premium for both teams.

After a controversial Damian Lillard turnover with 28 seconds remaining, the Rockets had the ball in a tied game. Everyone in the building could guess who was getting the last shot for Houston.

Harden received the ball and stuttered step inside the 3-point line before releasing a shot that fell off the front of the rim. In the chaos that ensued, Chandler Parsons collected the stray ball and laid it in with just under one second left.

The Blazers called timeout and, with .9 seconds remaining, had one last shot to close the series. And that is what they did. With Damian Lillard running around a double screen, Chandler Parsons gave Lillard enough space to catch and shoot a lightly contested 3-pointer. The ball went in and it was pandemonium in Portland.

It was only the second time in the last 20 years that a team closed out a series with a buzzer beater. The last time it happened was in 1997 when the Rockets were the victims of John Stockton’s season-ending shot.

It was the first playoff series win for the Blazers in 14 seasons.

San Antonio Spurs vs Dallas Mavericks

manu ginobili may 2014Heading into Game 6, the Mavericks were 0-7 when trailing 3-2 in a seven-game series. They had history to shake if they were going to get a Game 7. The Mavs came out on fire from the field, putting in 34 points in the first quarter, a high in any quarter during this series. Dallas scored on runners, floaters, 3s, post-ups, jump shots and just overall dominated the Spurs defense.

In the second quarter, the Spurs found themselves down nine with eight minutes to play in the half. San Antonio ripped off a 7-0 run thanks to Khawai Leonard’s five points in a minute and a half. Still, Dallas held serve throughout the third quarter and had a 58-52 lead at the half.

Down six, San Antonio came out in the second half firing, hitting four of their first five shots. Dallas relied on Nowitzki for its scoring early in the second half. Dirk hit his first three shots while the rest of his team went 0-3 with two turnovers.

Monta Ellis scored eight in a row for Dallas as the Mavs maintained a one point lead with less than five minutes in the third quarter. Tiago Splitter and the Spurs second unit dominated action late in the third and gave the Spurs a five-point lead headed into the final quarter.

After a Monta Ellis 3, DeJuan Blair connected on an and-one to put the Mavericks up, 97-92. It was a lead that they would hold onto despite a flurry of baskets from Tony Parker late in the period. The Spurs had one last shot to tie it, and with six players on the court, they missed their final shot.

In the end, the Mavs were able to push it to a Game 7 in San Antonio with the 113-111 win

Game 7 in San Antonio did not live up to the hype created based on the closeness of the previous six games. Tony Parker got things started for the Spurs, scoring on 5-7 shooting for 14 first-quarter points. The Spurs shot 68 percent in the first quarter on their way to a 35-23 lead.

In the second quarter it was more of the same. The Spurs used a 16-2 run to open up a 53-27 lead on the Mavs with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half. Tony Parker finished the first half with 24 points and Dallas was able to trim the San Antonio lead to 18 before halftime.

The Spurs continued their dominance in the second half, going on a 10-3 run to close the third quarter with a 94-68 lead. In the end, Parker finished with 32 points as the Spurs closed out the Mavs in less than compelling Game 7 with a 119-96 victory.

Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets

paul pierce raptors nets game 7 may 2014The Nets franchise was 0-4 in playoff games where they were down 3-2. In Game 6 in Brooklyn, the Nets came out hoping to bust that streak. The old guys got it done for Brooklyn early as Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson each scored nine first-quarter points as the Nets opened up a 34-19 lead on Toronto after the first quarter.

Jonas Valanciunas got into foul trouble early for Toronto and had to take a seat. The absence of the Raptors’ defensive anchor in the middle opened things up for Brooklyn.

In the second quarter, the Nets improved upon their lead thanks to finally getting some production from Deron Williams for the first time this series. Williams finished the half with 12 points. The Raptors would have been totally blown out of the water without DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan had 18 first-half points as the Raptors trailed, 60-41, at the half.

In the third quarter, Williams and the Nets held on to their double-digit lead, inflating it to 23 on D-Will 3 that put the Nets up, 66-43. The Raptors then went on a 14-5 run capped by two Valanciunas dunks, but the Raptors remained down 20 at the end of the period.

In the fourth quarter, down by 22, Toronto went on an 11-0 run keyed by the frenetic play of Greivis Vasquez. A Kyle Lowry layup with 2:49 remaining in the game cut the Brooklyn lead to 10, but it was too little too late. The Nets took Game 6, 97-83, forcing Game 7 back in Toronto.

In front of a fired up crowd at Air Canada Center, Amir Johnson came on strong for the Raptors early. Johnson scored eight in a row and 12 total first-quarter points to put the Raptors on top 28-26 after one quarter of play.

Kevin Garnett came out in the second quarter and put his stamp on the game. Garnett had 10 points in the quarter as the Nets went on an 11-0 run to take a seven point lead with 6:17 left in the quarter. The Nets survived a brief Toronto run to take an eight-point lead into halftime.

The Nets maintained their eight-point lead throughout the third quarter and carried an 81-73 lead into the final period. In the fourth, the Nets were able to improve upon their lead and build it to 11 off a Joe Johnson tip-in. The Nets were up by nine with 4:12 remaining when things went crazy.

Paul Pierce missed an attempted 3-pointer and followed it up with a missed jump shot. Either shot may have sunk the Raptors, but they hung in there. The Nets were up six when the Raptors went on a 6-2 run to trim the lead to five. After consecutive made free throws by Patrick Patterson and Kyle Lowry, the Nets lead was down to two with 25 seconds to play.

After the Lowry free throws, Deron Williams was fouled on the inbound and missed the first free throw and sank the second to give Brooklyn the three-pnoint lead with 22 seconds remaining. Out of the Toronto timeout, a blazing drive and score by Lowry brought the Raptors within one with 16 seconds left.

Shawn Livingston was fouled on the inbound and hit both of his free throws to extend the Net lead to three with 13 seconds remaining. After a Raptors time-out, Terrence Ross drove for the layup to get the Raptors back within one with less than nine seconds left.

The Nets called timeout and Livingston inbounded the ball in Paul Pierce’s direction in the corner, but Terrence Ross was able to gain possession and throw the ball off Pierce before falling out of bounds.

The Raptors had the ball, down one point, with 6.2 seconds remaining. They were able to inbound Lowry, who lost the ball before collecting it and tossing up a layup in the lane only to have it blocked by Paul Pierce as time expired. The crowd saluted their team with applause. Lowry was an absolute warrior, scoring 28 points in the defeat.

The win was the first Game 7 victory for the Nets franchise. They move on to face the Miami Heat, who they beat in all four of their match-ups during the regular season.


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