2014 NBA Playoff Conference Semis: LeBron James puts Heat up 3-1, Blazers stay alive with win
Sunday night was all about comebacks but Monday night’s two games in the league were quite pleasantly different. While one game was all about a single player’s dominant, determined effort, wiling his team to a commanding lead in their series, on the other hand the other was about a team with it’s backs against the wall retaliating on their home floor.
(2) Miami Heat vs (6) Brooklyn Nets (Miami won 102-96, lead series 3-1)
It was the LeBron James show at the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.
James set a Heat franchise Playoff record and tied a Playoff career high scoring 49 points on 16 of 24 shooting from the field and 3 of 6 from behind the three point arc responding to a quiet final three quarters of Game 3 which the Heat lost, their first and only loss so far in the post-season. He also recorded 6 rebounds and 3 steals on a night where the Nets managed to stay afloat despite the James performance until the final minute of the game.
However, it was the other names in the Big 3 of the Miami Heat that sealed the win, as Chris Bosh hit a three to take the Heat ahead 97-94 with 57 seconds left on the clock and Dwyane Wade had two huge offensive rebounds in the Heat’s next possession following a Joe Johnson miss from eight feet out.
As they chase history of being the first team since the Celtics of the 80s to make it to four consecutive Finals, with this win the Heat created a record of winning at least one road game in their last 14 Playoff series, a feat never achieved in the history of the league.
The three point shooting that won them Game 3 deserted the Nets as they shot only 23% on Monday, but still kept the game interesting up until the final minute. Joe Johnson led the scoring for Brooklyn with 18 points followed by veteran Paul Pierce’s 16.
Brooklyn can talk as much as they want about this series not being over, but the fact of the matter is that the Heat are the better team and are the favorites to not just advance to the next round, but do so in Game 5 itself.
James’ dominating performance in Game 4:
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (5) Portland Trailblazers (Portland won 103-92, San Antonio lead series 3-1)
The Spurs entered the Moda Center in Portland with the objective of sweeping the Trail Blazers and making it to the Western Conference Finals for the third straight time. However, in an elimination game scenario, Portland made the right adjustments in Game 4 to win and stay alive in the series, even if it meant for just one more game perhaps.
It was neck-and-neck at halftime, but from the Blazers’ point of view that was a major improvement, as they had always trailed by double figures at the same point in previous games this series. To win this series the Blazers had to step up their defense, not their strength, and be more efficient on their strong point – their offense.
Doing just that the Blazers scored 35 points in the third quarter, their most of any quarter in this season’s Playoffs so far. However, it was the zero turnovers and the opponents’ 20 points which was crucial to the Blazers’ success. Another area of concern throughout this series for the Blazers had been their bench and with Mo Williams out with a groin injury the chances of a healthy bench production seemed thin. But Will Barton and Thomas Robinson picked up the slack to fill that void too.
Barton had 17 points and Robinson had 9 off the bench as part of some much needed bench scoring for the Blazers. Another adjustment which won the game for the them was putting Nicolas Batum, a 6 foot 9 forward, on Tony Parker, thus restricting his activity in the paint. Batum nearly had a triple-double in this game with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists to show on his box score.
In Game 4, Portland’s two All-Stars came to play as Damian Lillard scored 25 for the game while LaMarcus Aldridge scored 19 points. The Blazers made the right choices and changes to win this game, but will have to do it on a consistent basis over the course of the next three games to beat a veteran team like the Spurs who will no doubt bounce back hard on their home court in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
James leads the Top 5 plays of the day with a monster dunk: