Four teams could advance in NBA playoff action

The Sports Network
5/3/2013 11:20:41 AM
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(Sports Network) - With the funeral on hold, the New York Knicks will get another chance to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night when they visit the Boston Celtics.

Much was made of the Knicks holding a "funeral" for the Boston Celtics before Game 5. The team dressed in black on their way to Madison Square Garden.

"We need to stay out of the paper and just concentrate on playing," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "What you wear has nothing to do with how you play on the basketball floor."

The Celtics may not have appreciated it, but the deciding factor in Game 5 wasn't wardrobe. It was shooting percentage.

The Knicks, a team that relies heavily on the outside shot, only managed to go 39.5 percent on Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony enjoyed a particularly difficult night, hitting just 8-of-24 from the floor.

"Well, we were going to a funeral, but it looks like we got buried," Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith said. "Basketball is a very humbling game."

It was humbling for Smith as well. After returning from a one-game suspension, Smith went 3-for-14 from the field.

The Knicks only had 13 assists on 32 made baskets.

"There are a lot of things we can do better offensively," added Woodson. "It's more about moving the ball, side-to-side. We have to get that figured out."

The Celtics seemed to figure some things out offensively in Game 5. Mostly, Boston just made more jump shots than most nights in the series, but the Celtics shot 45.7 percent from the field.

"We are looking at each one of these as Game 7s. We are playing a really good basketball team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We know that. We have to be really good defensively. We know our limitations on the other end. For us to move on we have to be really great on defense."

They were on Wednesday.

One decision Rivers made in Game 5 that paid off was the shortening of his bench. Rivers only played Jason Terry and Terrance Williams off his bench and Terry really stepped up in the two Boston wins.

On Wednesday, Terry went 5-for-9 from long range and had 17 points. Jeff Green paced Boston with 18, Brandon Bass also netted 17 and Kevin Garnett was amazing, once again. He scored 16 points, as did Paul Pierce, and pulled down 18 rebounds.

"No shenanigans, no nothing. We know what they're running, they know what we're running, it's just all out," said Garnett. "Who wants this? This is what it is."

No team in NBA history has overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. Only three have forced a Game 7, so the Celtics are still fighting an uphill battle. Momentum, though, is on their side.

"It's not going to be easy by any means going to Boston and getting a win there," Woodson said after practice on Thursday. "But still, we control our own destiny. We have won in Boston. We have to see what we're made of now."

If the Celtics win on Friday, Game 7 will be Sunday in New York.

Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks

(Sports Network) - The Indiana Pacers will try to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night when they visit the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.

Home-court advantage has been the storyline in this series. The home team has won each game and each time, the margin of victory has been 10 points or greater.

All nine meetings this season, including the four in the regular season, have gone to the home team.

Indiana moved within one game of the next round on Wednesday with a 106-83 thrashing of the Hawks.

Now, the series shifts back to Atlanta and that is bad news for the Pacers. Not only has Indiana dropped both games down south in the postseason, they've dropped 13 in a row in Georgia and haven't won there since 2006.

"I think psychologically, you can't look at 13 in a row. You can't look at we've lost two in a row," explained Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "I think you just got to look at the fact that they play a different brand of basketball at home. They are really, really good at home. Obviously we made some adjustments that hopefully will pour some sand on the fire to what they did to us down there."

The Pacers played brilliantly on Wednesday. They brought the defensive tenacity that saw them finish in the top of the league in both points allowed and opponents' field-goal percentage.

In Game 5, Indiana held the Hawks to 83 points, a series-low for Atlanta, and 33 percent shooting.

The Hawks were whistled for five technical fouls.

"It was going to be a situation where we were going to have to earn this win," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "In order to do that, we would have to maintain our composure throughout the game. We did not do that."

Indiana got David West on track in Game 5. The veteran bruiser had 24 points, but the whole Pacers frontline was strong. Most Improved Player Paul George had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Roy Hibbert added 18 points and nine boards.

George Hill enjoyed a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists and Lance Stephenson grabbed 12 rebounds.

The Hawks changed the complexion of the series in Atlanta when Drew inserted Johan Petro into the starting lineup. That move sent Al Horford to the power forward spot and Josh Smith to the three-spot.

The move didn't pay many dividends in Game 5. Horford and Smith both had 14 points and Petro only managed five points. Devin Harris and Kyle Korver both scored in double figures for the Hawks.

Atlanta is back home and the Pacers know recent history is not on their side.

"We just have to fight. We can't have those spells on somebody else's floor," said West. "In four-six minutes we're turning the ball over and giving them extra opportunities. We've got to be able to go in there and handle that environment and control the basketball game by setting the tone defensively."

If needed, Game 7 will be Sunday in Indiana.

Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies

(Sports Network) - The Memphis Grizzlies are one game away from dispatching the Los Angeles Clippers and avenging last season's first-round playoff loss.

They can advance with a win at home Friday night.

The Grizzlies pulled ahead in the series with a 103-93 victory Tuesday in Los Angeles. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley all scored over 20 points and Memphis only committed seven turnovers against a Clippers team that forced the most turnovers in the NBA this season.

"We played the way we've been playing the last few games," Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said.

In last year's first round of the playoffs, the Clippers took Game 7 in Memphis to win and advance to the semifinals.

But now the Clippers are at a disadvantage. They know they've won some huge games in Memphis, not just the critical Game 7 one year ago.

"Last year, we went in and won Game 1 and we needed to win that game, not having home court advantage that flipped the series for us," said Clippers star Blake Griffin. "At the end of the season, we needed that win to get home- court advantage to help us out. We know what's at stake and hopefully we can use that experience and kind of harness that and realize what we did in those games to put us on top."

Griffin was referring to an April 13 road victory.

Griffin landed awkwardly on Lamar Odom's foot in practice on Monday. Griffin exited the game midway through the third quarter and never returned.

"It's unfortunate timing, a freak thing," said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro.

Griffin is expected to play in Game 6.

Chris Paul led the Clippers in Game 5 with 35 points. Jamal Crawford was the only other player for the Clippers to score in double figures.

"We have to find a way to get everyone involved, me as a point guard, I have to find a way," said Paul.

The four other Los Angeles starters combined for 18 points. The bench, led by Crawford, who finished second to the New York Knicks' J.R. Smith for Sixth Man of the Year, tallied 40 points.

Despite being one of the NBA's best teams in recent memory, the Grizzlies have won only a playoff round once in their existence, which dates back to the 1995-96 season.

In 2011, Memphis, as an eight seed, toppled the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. The Grizzlies gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a run in the second round, but fell in seven games.

If the Clippers survive on Friday, Game 7 will be Sunday at the Staples Center.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

(Sports Network) - The Oklahoma City Thunder once again have a chance to advance in the Western Conference playoffs Friday night, but they'll have to contend with the pesky Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center

The Thunder built a 3-0 lead, but the Rockets clawed back with wins in Games 4 and 5. On Wednesday, the Rockets stole a rare win in Oklahoma City to keep the series alive.

"Even when we were down 0-3 this team never quits," Chandler Parsons said Thursday afternoon. "We're resilient, we never hang our heads, we never argue and we stick together. We're just a tough team that wants to win."

Houston led by 11 after three quarters of Game 5 and won 107-100.

"We gave up too many points in the third quarter," acknowledged OKC coach Scott Brooks.

The Rockets went small in Game 5 with Francisco Garcia and Parsons starting at the forwards. Houston had a well-balanced attack with six players in double figures.

James Harden led the way with 31 points, followed by 21 from Omer Asik, who added 11 rebounds and handled OKC's strategy of fouling him to try and extend the game. Asik went 13-for-18 from the free-throw line.

Garcia chipped in 18, Patrick Beverley added 14 and Parsons and Aaron Brooks both had 10.

Starting point guard Jeremy Lin missed another game with a bruised chest. Harden was diagnosed with strep throat on Thursday, but will play Friday. Key bench figure Carlos Delfino has some foot issues and his availability is in question.

"He's got bone spurs, he's got a little fracture of a bone spur, he's got a lot of different stuff going on," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "He hasn't said a word about it."

The Thunder won't cry for the Rockets on the injury front.

Russell Westbrook, an perennial All-Star, tore his meniscus, underwent surgery and is done for the postseason.

Kevin Durant has still been sensational for the Thunder. On Wednesday, he scored 36 points, pulled seven rebounds and handed out seven assists.

Reggie Jackson has done an admirable job replacing Westbrook. He scored 20 points in Game 5 and Serge Ibaka, who had 14, was the only other Thunder player in double figures.

But defense has been the problem in Oklahoma City's losses. The 107 points the Rockets posted on Wednesday established a new series best and the 37 points allowed in the third quarter was unacceptable.

The Thunder are not the same team without Westbrook. They are sputtering with back-to-back losses, but aren't worried just yet.

"I'd rather be up 3-2, than down 3-2," Brooks said on Thursday. "We feel confident. We didn't play well last night. We have to play better basketball. We still feel pretty good."

If Houston wins on Friday, Game 7 will be Sunday in Oklahoma City.

Carmelo Anthony (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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