In the first round of the playoffs 5-of-8 series went to a Game 7. Will we get even one in Round 2? We find out Thursday night.
Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards (Pacers lead series 3-2). Washington center Marcin Gortat admitted he was dreading going home, where the Wizards have lost both games this series. They’ve already won five road games this postseason and are hoping to avoid becoming the first team to do so without reaching the conference finals. The Pacers, on the other hand, are trying to avoid a total collapse. Their Game 5 blowout loss might have already opened Pandora’s Box. This is a matchup of two teams that might be unconfident — the Wizards in their location and the Pacers in themselves.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Thunder lead series 3-2). When we talk about “playoff experience” we often focus on the nebulous “teams that know how to win” idea. What may be even a bigger part of playoff experience is learning how to deal with and respond to losses. Because there will be losses. The Clippers had a devastating one in Game 5 — up 7 with 49 seconds left they made terrible plays and decisions, plus got a swift kick from the referees, and they lost. The Thunder suffered a painful loss in Game 4, blowing a 16-point lead, but they came from behind to win Game 5 — they showed some poise. Do the Clippers have that in them? Is dealing with loss a lesson they have learned? If so, expect a Game 7 Saturday. If not their season ends.
The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.
That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.
Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.
Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.
New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.
That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.
Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.
Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.
Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.
He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.
The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.
Smart move, Jimmy.