Lakers, Suns put on a triple-overtime show of shows

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This was the most entertaining game of the season.

Not the best played, there was plenty of slop (Vince Carter’s 2-of-13 from three) and some odd decisions — Lamar Odom, why in the name of Unbreakable are you fouling a three-point shooter up three with a second to go?

But there were also amazing plays — Marcin Gortat playing point guard, Odom hitting everything — some good defense and a whole lot of made shots over good defense.

And there were overtimes. Three of them. When the dust settled the Lakers won their fifth in a row 139-137.

Only the Suns bring this kind of play out of teams, with their open style, questionable defense and the dynamic play of Steve Nash. We are going to really miss Phoenix in the playoffs this season.

Kobe Bryant dropped 42 for the night, and in the third quarter he took over and it looked like the Lakers were going to run away with this, going up 21. Kobe had 12 points of 5-of-7 shooting in the third.

Then the Suns bench started whipping the Lakers bench. Nash started the push but it was Aaron Brooks leading a 10-0 run that made it a game again, one that was nip and tuck the rest of the way. The Lakers helped that run along by falling into the Suns trap of tempo and taking jump shots, which fueled the Suns transition play.

Odom helped keep the Lakers in it — he finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds starting for Andrew Bynum (sitting out the second game of his two-game suspension). On the flip side, Gortat had 24 points and 16 rebounds. They both made huge plays in overtime.

The reason there were three overtimes was a decision made by Odom at the end of the first one. The Lakers were up three and the Suns had just 5 seconds left to tie it. The Suns Channing Frye got a look at a game-tying three and missed it — but Steve Nash tracked down the rebound and got it to Frye with a second to go, but Frye was 26 feet away with his back to the basket. So he turned and started to shoot — and Odom fouled him. The Lakers had a foul to give – fouling a guy not in the act of shooting would have been a great play. But Frye was starting his shooting motion; Odom was just late and soft with the foul.

Frye hit all three free throws and we were on to a second OT.

With a minute to go in OT numero dos the Suns were down one and the Lakers did a good job trapping Nash against the sideline — then Nash, falling out of bounds threw a perfect no-look bounce pass to Gortat at the arc. With nobody between him and the basket Gortat pretended he was a guard and attacked on the dribble, then when the defense rotated he made a perfect kick out pass to Frye for a three. Suns up two.

That might have won it, but at the other end Kobe drove baseline, got in the air, hung, then found Pau Gasol in the lane and hit him with an amazing bounce pass. Gasol attacked, was fouled, hit two free throws and there was another OT to be played. ‘

In that one, Kobe drained a pull up three over Jared Dudley (it was well defended) to put the Lakers up by one, then Artest picked Nash’s pocket and got a breakaway dunk to put the Lakers up three. After another defensive stop by the Lakers Ron Artest hit a bad shot — a running leaner off one leg. Because he’s Ron Artest. Lakers up five and while the Suns pushed that ended up being the ballgame.

All those moments were just a fraction of the show these two teams put on. It was a game of highlights and fantastic runs.

It also was a game the Suns were desperate to have. They are now three games back of the Grizzlies for the last playoff in the West. They are going to need this kind of play — except for winning in the end — if they are going to make it happen.

Warriors put up historic 45 in first quarter on way to 128-103 Game 4 rout, sweep of Blazers

Associated Press
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This game was never in doubt. Much like the entire first-round series.

Golden State had Kevin Durant back and he hit a three to open the game, and pretty soon the Warriors had stretched the lead to 12-0 on a Klay Thompson three.

That led to the Warriors putting up a historic 45 points in the first quarter, the most in an NBA first quarter ever. The Warriors were up 23 after one, and never looked back on their way to a 128-103 Game 4 rout, completing the sweep of Blazers.

There’s not much to analyze here, this game is was similar to so many games over the past couple seasons where the Warriors overwhelmed their opponents. Portland fought, but this was not going to be their series. Here are some highlights.

Stephen Curry had 37 points, Draymond Green 21, and Klay Thompson had 18.

Damian Lillard had 34 points for Portland.

It may have been a disappointing ending to the season for Portland, but the team found a center late this season in Jusuf Nurkic who balances out what Lillard and C.J. McCollum bring on the outside. The Blazers have to figure out become a better defensive team this summer, but they took a step forward after the All-Star break that they can build on.

The Warriors will get some rest before taking on the Jazz or Clippers in the next round.

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

Associated Press
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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.