6 down, 2 to go
We are now officially halfway through the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs and besides the injuries, there have been no real surprises in terms of winners so far. The Oklahoma City Thunder swept the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The San Antonio Spurs dominated the paint against the Utah Jazz and won that series in four games. Then, the Pacers beat the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic in five games and the Miami Heat, who are probably the favorites to win it all this year, won their series against the New York Knicks in five. That left four series which had yet to be decided. Two of those were settled yesterday as 3 game 6’s were played out last night.
The first, was in Philly, as the Philadelphia 76ers tried to upset the number one seed Chicago Bulls, and they did. The game came down to who could make key free throws. And Omer Asik was contestant number 1. With seven seconds left, he missed a pair of free throws that would have put the Bulls up 3. However, because he missed both, the 76ers took the ball down the court where it ended up in the hands of Andre Iguodala who drove, got fouled and did what Asik could not and put his team up on. The Bulls had no more timeouts so C.J. Watson had to throw up a prayer from behind mid court which hit the back of the rim, but couldn’t fall. It is unfortunate that the Bulls went out, but they had so many injuries this year that it really ruined their chances at going for a championship.
The second game of the night went down at the TD Garden in Boston. The Boston Celtics were trying to beat the Atlanta Hawks, and they had a great chance to do it. Being up 3-2 in the series and playing on their home floor, the odds were in their favor. To add even more incentive for the Celtics to win this game, they need as much rest as possible because their aging core of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett need the rest. KG must have felt this more than ever as he put in a game high 28 points and 14 rebounds with five blocked shots and three steals. The Bit Ticket was running on all cylinders last night and the Celtics needed it. The game was very back and forth but the Celtics won this game with one run back in the second quarter, where they scored 16 points in a row and outscored the Hawks 27-18 in the quarter. They also dominated this game in the paint, scoring 42 of their 83 there. Like the Philly Chicago game, this one also came down to the finals moments but the Celtics prevailed 83-80. Atlanta actually had a chance to take the lead in the dying seconds. With the Ball in Josh Smith‘s hands, he dribbled and ran down the clock but had to settle for a long contested fad-a-way 2 pointer which fell wide to the left side of the rim. Ray Allen grabbed the rebound, was fouled and that was the ball game. One of the reasons for the Hawks loss, was their poor shooting from their two starting guards, Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague. Johnson, the Hawks best scoring option, only shot 7-17 from the field to finish with 17 points. Teague played even worse as he struggled with his shot early. Teague didn’t hit his first shot until the third quarter and finished 2 for 9. Another player who couldn’t get it done was Smith. J Smooth had great difficulty finding the bottom of the net during game six, going 7-18 for a total of 18 points. The Celtics will play the 76ers next round, which is sure to be a great series.
The final game of the night was played out in the mile high city of Denver Colorado. The Denver Nuggets were hosting the Los Angeles Lakers and were trying to force a game 7. The Nuggets, the huge underdog in this series were never supposed to be playing this late in the season. But with their group of average joes who had decided to come together, and they made the playoffs. Anyone who has seen the mini series on NBA.com “The Association: Denver Nuggets” will be cheering for the Nuggets, which is exactly what I did. Unfortunately there were a couple negative stories in the making on May 10th 2012. Chris Anderson, forward for the Nuggets, was being investigated for online crimes against children, and Kobe Bryant was violently ill throughout the morning and did not participate in the shoot around. Bryant was listed as highly doubtful for the game. Unsurprisingly, he played. After all it is Kobe, did anyone really think he would miss a playoff game because of the stomach flu? Didn’t think so. But even though Bryant played, it wasn’t enough to beat the running and gunning Nuggets. I can’t even begin to sit and wonder what that game would have been if Kobe didn’t play because he scored 31 points and was the only Laker with more than five made field goals and 15 points. This really wasn’t even a game as the Nuggets had themselves up 28 points at one point. Moreover, Ty Lawson awoke from his playoff hibernation and scored 32 points and was 5 of 6 on 3 pointers, four of which came in the first quarter. With the return of Metta World Peace for game 7, Denver will need to find new ways to score as World Peace is an excellent defender. Game 7 is on Saturday and it is sure to be a great one.
The first round is almost over with just two more series to be decided it is going to be a fun weekend. After that the games will only get better, as hard as that is to believe (they are already amazing) and the pressure will rise. This is where teams are made, and players names become house hold names. The NBA playoffs is the best time of year, (behind March Madness of course) and I can’t wait to see more!