What you missed while watching your bracket go up in smoke…
Magic 108, Heat 102 (OT): If you were like roughly two-thirds of the people watching this game — flipping back and forth between it and the entertaining Washington/Marquette NCAA game — you felt lost. Each time you flipped back it felt like a new game.
The first half was fairly even, in large part because Jermaine O’Neal continues to by Kryptonite for Dwight Howard. O’Neal always wins that battle. We have no idea why either. Throw in some very flat Orlando defense and the usual dose of Dwyane Wade and you have a halftime tie.
The third quarter and the first seven minutes of the fourth were more what we all expected. Jameer Nelson woke up and penetrated, Orlando won the battle in the paint and even Rashard Lewis was draining shots. Orlando was in control.
Then with five minutes left and up 12, Orlando stopped playing. Their defense was non-existent and Miami scored on 8 of their last 11 trips down the court. Meanwhile Miami played its best perimeter defense in part because O’Neal was doing such a good job on Howard they didn’t need to double, and guys stayed with perimeter shooters. And even when Orlando got a good look, they missed. That opened the door, and like it was an NCAA game it was off to overtime.
Lewis scored seven points in overtime, including a dagger three from the left corner. It was a sign of how tired the Hornets were that he was wide open — top of the Magic scouting report is don’t give Rashard Lewis open looks from the corner. He’s 43.8 percent from where he hit that shot. (Lewis is shooting a higher percentage from the right corner than he does at the rim.) Add in a healthy dose of Vince Carter and the Magic pull it out. You don’t knock road wins, but that was harder than it needed to be.
Nuggets 93, Hornets 80: It is the worst back-to-back in the NBA — West Coast one night, then fly to the altitude of Denver the next night. Even the Nuggets lost the three times they did this last season. It’s a schedule-makers loss. This one live up to the billing. The game felt like it was over by the time TNT switched over — Denver just dominated early. They had 62 first half points by, 34 of those came in the paint, and they grabbed offensive boards on 48 percent of missed shots. Denver led by 25 at the half.
Denver just went through the motions in the second half, and the Hornets tried, but they didn’t have the talent and fresh legs to pull it off.
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.
In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.
We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.
Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”
Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.
“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”
The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.
The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.
Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.
The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.
Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.
Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.
The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.
Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.
So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.
Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.
What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.
That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.
The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.
Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.
It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.
The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.
On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.
Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.
Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.