2014 NBA Conference Semifinals: Thunder and Pacers regain home court advantage in Game 3
There has been a lot of important off-court news announced by the league in the last couple of days, with Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers receiving the award for the Sixth Man of the Year and Dick Parsons the former chair and CEO of Time Warner (a parent company of Turner Network and NBA.com) being named the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers for the next few months.
Meanwhile on the court, from the fan’s point of view, it was a mixed day of basketball with the two matches played in the Playoff Semis on Friday night being of contrasting styles.
A recap of Friday night’s action:
(1) Indiana Pacers vs (5) Washington Wizards (Indiana won 85-63, lead series 2-1)
The suffocating defence of the Pacers that brought them the success that it did early on in the season was back in Game 3 and so was big man Roy Hibbert. Although not quite duplicating his Game 2 performance, Hibbert was seen smiling; he had some of his swagger back and the change in his body language and attitude became infectious as the Pacers restricted the Wizards on their own home floor to just 30% shooting from the field and a total of just 63 points for the entire 48 minutes of the game.
Unlike his passive presence in the earlier series against the Atlanta Hawks, Hibbert was seen going at it physically with opposition center Martin Gortat in the paint where he had 3 blocks to go with his 14 points and 5 rebounds, but it has been his efficiency in shooting that has impressed many with a 6 of 9 night after a 10-13 outing in Game 2.
David West had 12 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists while his teammate in the front court Paul George had 23 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Lance Stephenson had a productive game with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
On the other hand, barring Trevor Ariza (12 points, 15 rebounds on 4 of 8 shooting), it was a far from productive night for the Wizards who were even struggling to knock down free shots from the free throw line at an efficient rate. Their 63 points is the lowest in the franchise as they shot only 52.4% from the charity stripe. Bradley Bead top scored for them with 16, while John Wall had 15 and 6 assists.
After the Pacers struggled to keep Jeff Teague of the Hawks from penetrating the lane and running his team’s offence, there was more than one analyst out there who felt the Pacers would struggle against the back court of John Wall and Bradley Beal. But the team not only slowed the pace of the game down to help their defence, but also got into some good offensive rhythm themselves in the third quarter.
“This was probably the ugliest game of the post-season thus far. This is our style of basketball. Every now and then this team is fortunate to get hot offensively, but what we do is play defence.”
- Paul George
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (3) Los Angeles Clippers (Oklahoma City won 118-112, lead series 2-1)
Would it be fair to compare OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to the duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen?
Maybe it’s too early to do that, but one thing is for certain: Westbrook is making up big time for missing the Playoffs last season. His play has been tremendous this post-season to say the least. On returning from a knee injury he has developed his combo guard skills and now makes the game so much more easier for his team-mates, especially Kevin Durant. He seems to have understood the balance of making plays as a point guard and being aggressive when needed, and this allows Durant to do what he does best – shoot.
Durant was huge once again with 36 points; he also had 8 rebounds and 6 assists while his partner in crime almost had another triple double with 27 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds. Serge Ibaka, who had 20 points in Game 3, was always going to be instrumental in this series in stopping Blake Griffin from establishing his dominance in the post, and he has been quite successful at doing that as he made Griffin work for every point of his 34.
Griffin and Chris Paul (21 points and 16 assists), the Clippers’ 1-2 punch, neutralized Durant and Westbrook in a game that seemed to be a contest between the supporting casts. For the Thunder, Caron Butler, who has been a big free agent pick for them, scored 14 points and so did back up guard Reggie Jackson. On the Clippers’ stat sheet, Jamal Crawford with 20 and Matt Barnes with 14 were the next notable contributions after Paul and Griffin.
Friday night’s game was the Clippers’ first loss at Staples Center this season when leading after three quarters of play, but there would be many losses to come for the Clippers if they are not able to stop the Thunder’s duo from doing what they do best. This is a series between two offensive-minded teams, so the team that can play good defence down the stretch will end up victorious.
Durant and Westbrook’s highlights in Game 3:
Top 5 plays of Friday night: