This week we’ve seen amazing comebacks, utter collapses, titanic individual performances, and a team’s worth of shrinking violets. When it was all said and done, our conference finals were set. Let’s take a look back at the end of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

Indiana Pacers vs Washington Wizards

pacers wizards may 2014Game 5 in Indiana came down to heart. Washington was on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 in the series while the Pacers had a shot at closing things out at home. The chance of advancing should have been enough motivation, but it sure didn’t seem to get this Pacers squad to play inspired basketball. In fact, to call the Pacers effort in Game 5 "uninspired" would be an understatement.

Washington played like a team fully aware of its mortality. The Wizards brought the energy that the Pacers forgot, and nowhere did it show more than on the boards. Washington out-rebounded the Pacers by a total of 62-23. It was the largest rebounding margin between two teams in a single playoff game in the last 43 years of NBA playoff games.

Marcin Gortat brought his A game for Washington. Gortat dominated the Pacers bigs, scoring 31 points on 13-15 shooting. With the game well in hand for the Wizards, Gortat left the game with 8:51 remaining having ripped down 16 rebounds. At that point in the game, the entire Pacers team had mustered only 15 rebounds. That stat says all you need to know about this game.

The Pacers lost an embarrassing one, 102-79.

In Game 6 Indiana finally played with the defensive tenacity and offensive creativity that landed them the No. 1 seed in the East. David West, Nene, Roy Hibbert and Gortat all set the tone early in this one, not by dominating the paint but by hitting midrange jumpers in the space between defenders.

Lance Stephenson was the difference early for Indiana with nine points in the opening quarter helping the Pacers to a 29-23 lead after the first period. In the second quarter, Indiana opened up a 15-point lead while Washington couldn’t buy a bucket, going without a field goal in more than five minutes in the middle of the quarter. Indiana took a 52-40 lead into halftime.

The Wizards found themselves down by 16 early in the second half before they went on an 11-2 run to tighten the game up a bit. The Wizards had stopped the bleeding and only found themselves down eight at the end of the quarter. Washington opened up the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run, capped by a Bradley Beal three that gave Washington its first lead since the opening quarter.

The Wizards’ lead was short lived as David West put the Pacers back on top on the very next possession. West absolutely carried the Pacers in this one. West hit seven of his team’s first 12 field goals in the second half including 10 third quarter points on his way to 18 second half points and 29 for the game.

Washington was unable to defend West or any of the other Pacers down the stretch as Indiana went on a 12-2 run after the Beal three. In the end, Indiana was able to close out the Wizards with a 93-80 Game 6 win.

Los Angeles Clippers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

kevin durant derek fisher may 2014Given all the excitement for this series coming in and all the controversy surrounding it thanks to Donald Sterling, it is only fitting that the play on the court is living up to the hype. Coming off an amazing comeback in Game 4 to tie the series, the Clippers were hoping that they had swung momentum to their side.

Like most of the games in this series, one team jumped out to a lead that the other had to spend the rest of the half coming back. This time, it was the Clippers who were hot out of the gate, sprinting to a 15-point lead thanks to 11 points by Blake Griffin in the first seven minutes. But the Thunder were able to get back into the game thanks to a 14-4 run that featured three three-pointers. J.J. Redick’s buzzer-beating three gave the Clippers a 58-52 halftime lead.

The Clippers maintained their six-point lead through the third period and into the final quarter. After the Thunder pulled within two points thanks to a Russell Westbrook layup, the Clippers went on a 11-0 run to go up by 13 with four minutes to play.

A 9-0 Thunder run brought the home team within four before a cold-blooded Chris Paul step back jumper gave the Clippers a 104-97 lead with 49 seconds to play. You would be forgiven if you thought a seven-point lead with 49 seconds meant the game was over, but it indeed was not over.

After a Thunder timeout, Durant hit a three followed quickly by a driving layup to cut the Clipper lead to two points with 17 seconds remaining. The last 17 are seconds that Chris Paul wishes he could have back.

Following the Durant layup, Paul turned the ball over off the inbound. The Thunder had the ball down two when Westbrook pulled up for a three with 6.4 seconds remaining before being fouled by Chris Paul. Westbrook sank all three free throws to give the Thunder a one point lead.

The Clippers had one last shot and as Chris Paul scooted his way into the lane his hand was poked by Reggie Jackson. The ball came loose and no foul was called. Serge Ibaka scooped it up and held on to run out the clock as the Clippers blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead to lose, 105-104.

In Game , the Clippers were out for revenge and more importantly to keep their season alive. In front of a boisterous home crowd, the hometown team went out to an early lead thanks to ninep oints by Blake Griffin and five assists from Chris Paul.

The Thunder struggled from the field, shooting a mere 4-15 to open the game. OKC’s shooting struggles were compounded by their six turnovers helping the Clippers to a 30-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second period Durant put the Thunder on his back and dragged them back into the game.

Durant hit threes on three consecutive trips down the floor, going on a personal 9-0 run. Durant’s charge brought OKC within five points before a J.J. Redick three ended the run. That basket sparked a 9-0 Clipper run punctuated by a DeAndre Jordan slam.

A Reggie Jackson leaner in the lane ended an 0-5 stretch for the Thunder as the half closed at 50-42 in favor of the Clippers. Durant came out in the second half and took up the scoring load for the Thunder as they attempted to claw their way back in the game. Durant scored 10 points in the first six minutes of the third quarter, pulling his team within four of L.A.

The Clippers held on to their lead and extended it to seven before Serge Ibaka left the game with a calf injury. The loss of Ibaka seemed to spark the Thunder as they closed the half on a 7-0 run, capped by Ibaka’s replacement Nick Collison, draining a three to tie things heading into the fourth quarter. The three was just Collison’s fifth of the season.

In the final period, Durant continued his dominance helping the Thunder hold on to a four-point lead for the majority of the first half of the quarter. With 6:43 remaining, Durant then drilled a three to put OKC up by seven.

The Clippers stayed within striking distance until two consecutive and somewhat controversial offensive foul calls took the wind out of their sails. A Chris Paul three-point play breathed life back into his team temporarily but steely shooting by Durant and Westbrook ended any hope of a Clipper comeback.

In the end, the Thunder eliminated the Clippers in six games with the 104-98 victory aw they head to their third Western Conference Finals in the last four years.

Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets

lebron james may 2014Game 4 had Brooklyn hoping to draw even in the series and avoid heading back to Miami down 3-1. Things started out chippy with four technical fouls being assessed in the first seven minutes, all for extracurricular jostling after the whistle had blown. After everyone settled down, LeBron James took things over for the Heat.

James had 12 first quarter points to help Miami to a five-point lead at the end of the first period. When LeBron headed to the bench for his customary rest at the start of the second quarter, the Nets went on a 12-2 run thanks to the offensive efforts of Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams. LeBron re-entered the game with 7:28 remaining in the half and put on a show, scoring 13 points to give Miami a seven-point lead at the break.

The Nets’ big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson emerged in the second half to pull their team within one point of Miami with 6:26 remaining. If it hadn’t been for LeBron James, the third quarter would have gone to the Nets. James scored 15 of his team’s 23 third-quarter points, including 13 in a row for Miami over a seven-and-a-half minute stretch.

Miami came out in the fourth quarter shooting threes in hopes of ending things early and giving their aging starters some rest. Unfortunately for them, the shots weren’t falling and Brooklyn was able to take the lead thanks to a putback layup by Deron Williams.

The two teams traded the lead five more times as the clock whittled down. Two Kevin Garnett free throws tied things with 2:30 remaining before a Bosh three-pointer and a pair of Ray Allen free throws gave the Heat the lead for good as Miami headed home with the 102-96 win and a 3-1 series lead.

Game 5 turned out to be the best of the series. With their backs against the wall Paul Pierce and the Nets came out shooting. Pierce had seven points in the first two minutes as the Nets fired out to a 11-4 lead. Dwyane Wade provided relief for the Heat, scoring 12 points in the opening quarter to help Miami to a 23-22 lead at the end of one.

The game remained close through most of the second quarter as the teams traded buckets. Deron Williams gave the Nets some breathing room with two threes as Brooklyn went on an 11-3 run to close the half.

The Heat opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run to tie things up thanks to the persistence of Dwyane Wade. It wasn’t enough to ward off a Brooklyn charge as Deron Williams hit another three while Joe Johnson began to heat up. Johnson finished the third period with 12 points, but saved his best effort for the final quarter.

Johnson scored seven in a row for the Nets as they opened up an eight-point lead with only 4:49 to play. Things looked to be going Brooklyn’s way, but then their offense just shut down. The Nets failed to score for the next 4:28 while the Heat scored 12 unanswered points to take a 95-91 lead with 21 seconds remaining.

A Joe Johnson three, bringing him to 34 points on the game, brought the Nets within one before LeBron split a pair of free throws 9.6 seconds remaining. The Nets had one last shot, putting it in Joe Johnson’s hands. Johnson got the inbound and dribbled to the top of the key, but handsy help defense from Ray Allen combined with pressure from James caused Johnson to lose the ball.

The Nets didn’t even get a shot off in their final possession, losing the game and ending their disappointing season. The Heat won their tenth straight playoff series to advance to their fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals.

San Antonio Spurs vs Portland Trail Blazers

kawhi leonard may 2014In Game 4, Portland was facing elimination in the form of a series sweep in front of their home crowd. The Trail Blazers came out desperate to avoid that embarrassment and translated that desperation into their high octane offensive attack. After leading for a grand total of 33 seconds in the first three games, Portland came out on fire in the first quarter of this contest and led for almost 10 minutes in the period. Progress.

In the second quarter the Spurs bench came to life. Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw took over, scoring 10 points before the starters returned midway through. Portland was able to weather the storm and take a 50-48 lead to halftime

After halftime, the Portland bigs asserted their dominance in the paint. Aldridge and Lopez combined for 12 points in the first seven minutes of the quarter as the Blazers opened up a six point lead. Aldridge and Nicolas Batum closed the quarter for Portland and the Blazers were the proud owners of a 17 point lead over the Spurs heading into the fourth quarter.

Duncan, Parker and Ginobili all sat out the final period as coach Gregg Popovich was content to cede Game 4 to the Blazers by a final of 103-92. Despite Damian Lillard’s 25 points, it was Batum who was the star for Portland. Batum amassed 14 points to match his 14 rebounds, and added eight assists for good measure.

In Game 5, the Spurs got something of a scare, but it didn’t come from Portland. Tony Parker went down with a hamstring injury after just 10 minutes of play. The loss of their starting point guard caused a little chaos for the Spurs, mostly on the offensive end.

LamArcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum combined for 13 of Portland’s 19 first-quarter points and ensured the game remained tied at 19 at the end of the first quarter. The Spurs opened up a 15-point lead midway through the second period thanks to hot shooting and aggressive defense from Kawhi Leonard. The Blazers made a 7-0 run toward the end of the period to stay within seven points of the Spurs at halftime

In the second half the Spurs broke things wide open with an 8-0 run to open the third quarter. A patented Tim Duncan jumper extended the San Antonio lead to 18 with 8:12 left in the period. Though the scoring pace picked up it seemed as if the Spurs had an answer for each Portland bucket.

In the fourth quarter, the Spurs opened up a 23-point lead when Danny Green hit a 25 foot three with nine minutes remaining. The Spurs reserves closed out the 104-82 win as San Antonio advanced to its third straight Western Conference Finals, a new record.


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