The Miami Heat are going to close out this series tonight.
Sure, in theory in one game anything can happen (the NCAA bases a whole basketball tournament around that theory). Even Burnie (the Heat mascot you didn’t know had a name) will admit this Heat team is fully capable of playing a lazy, terrible game where they can lose to anyone.
But the truth of this series is that when the Heat are focused, when they defending, controlling the tempo and attacking, they are the better team and there is nothing the 76ers can do about it.
And the Heat know this — this is in essence Game 1 of the Celtics series. Miami vs. Boston starts Sunday if the Heat win Wednesday, which means three days of just practice, recuperation and preparation. If Philly wins Game 5, then Game 6 is Friday night and the Celtics series still starts Sunday. One-day turnaround — and the Heat’s home court advantage is virtually wiped. Out. Go to a Game 7 with Philly and Miami’s problems will be bigger than the short turnaround.
What the Heat need to do is get out to a fast start — the stat of the series is that the Sixers starting five has outscored the Heat starting five, 131-102. Not making that up. The Heat thrive when Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony get on the floor, but Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are impressing nobody. They need to in Game 5, the Heat need to announce their presence with authority.
Look for the Heat to get a lot of Chris Bosh early then a lot of either Wade or LeBron to follow. Look for them to really crank up the defensive pressure and turn that into a couple fast break opportunities. Look for the Heat to attack the rim and get to the line like they did in the first couple games. Look for them to own the boards.
For Philly, they need to generate some offense early in the clock before the Heat defense gets set, something they have struggled to do much of the series. They will need the injured Andre Iguodala to break out. They will need monster games from Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday to exploit the Heat’s weakness at the point.
In theory all that could happen. In reality, the Heat are the better team and will show it tonight.
Matthew Dellavedova is a hustler. Everybody knows that. Well, unless you want to argue he’s more about grit. It’s really your call.
But against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dellavedova came through with whatever you want to call it — hustle, grit, moxie, gumption.
As the first quarter wound down and the Celtics tried to inbound the ball, Dellavedova spied his opponents rolling the basketball in order to save time on the clock.
That allowed the Australian native to fly in and do this:
That’s a steal, a scoop, and a score all within 1.2 seconds.
Milwaukee won Game 4 and evened the series with the Celtics, 2-2.
Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.
Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.
The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.
Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.
LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.
James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.
Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.
The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.
So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.
Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.
Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.
For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.
The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.
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.