Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
With the series being lead by Boston 2-1, Game 4 was virtually a must win for the Philadelphia 76ers. In terms of defensive efficiency during the regular season, that is points given up per 100 possessions, the Celtics and the 76ers were 2nd and 3rd respectively, however both were below average in offensive efficiency. That storyline would certainly play out in the first half of Friday night’s game.
It was a hard game to watch for the first 24 minutes, with off-balance shots and careless turnovers by everyone involved except for Doug Collins and Doc Rivers. The Celtics started out on a 14-0 run that had many giving up on the 8 seed and the lead would rarely shrink for the rest of the half. Boston cut off drives to the basket, content to give Philly passes and shots around the perimeter, which lead to a 23% shooting half from the home team while giving up 53% shooting to the C’s. Considering the context, a 46-31 deficit at half was a gift for the 76ers.
Philadelphia came out of the half with new life and worked the shooting rust off as they moved through the 3rd quarter. Lou Williams provided much needed offense, hitting three field goals, tallying 9 points as part a 13-1 76ers run and bringing the score to 51-46 at one point.
In the fourth quarter, the home team was able to feed off the crowd energy to find big buckets down the stretch. Thaddeus Young fed Lavoy Allen underneath for a layup, but Rajon Rondo countered by driving up the court quickly and getting to the hole to tie the game at 83-83 with 1:40 remaining. Then, arguably the 76ers’ best player, Andre Iguodala, took over, hitting a clutch pullup followed by an assisted three from Lou Williams to bring the lead to five with 37 seconds and effectively put away the Celtics.
The series is now knotted at 2 going back to TD Gardens in Boston. Kevin Garnett had possibly his worst game of the postseason, finishing 3-12 from the field with 7 turnovers. Although the Celtics dominated the paint in the first half, they lost the rebounding battle 52-38, including 17-5 on the offensive glass. The 76ers depth shined through as the game wore on, with the bench outscoring the Boston bench 44-12. Most glaring was the lost lead of 18 points, as Boston had been 31-0 when leading a game by at least 14 points at any point this season.
Despite all this, the Celtics can rest assured they outplayed the 76ers for the first three quarters and Kevin Garnett can’t possible have a worse performance than Friday’s. This could easily be a thrilling 7 game series so Game 5 will be pivotal as to who is on the brink of elimination after Monday’s matchup.
Series tied 2-2 _______________________________________________________________________________________
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers were backed into a corner after blowing a 7 point lead with 2 minutes to go in Game 2. There was plenty of blame to go around, however coming home to Staples Center will undoubtedly give them a boost to get back in the series. They jumped out to a 16-6 lead over the Thunder in in the first 7 minutes of Game 3. Oklahoma City grinded their way back into the game that turned into a very chippy and physical event.
One moment in the second quarter brought back memories of the infamous Ron Artest Metta World Peace elbow to James Harden’s temple near the end of the regular season. Russell Westbrook dove on the floor for a loose ball and Metta reached down to grab the ball as well. Westbrook took exception to his contact and had to be pushed away by the always polarizing Joey Crawford. Both Metta and Russell were assessed a technical.
It was a back and forth affair between two evenly matched teams from the second quarter, to the third quarter and then into the fourth. Through three quarters, the shooting percentages were around 40% but the teams were a combined 41-42 at the free throw time. In fact, at one point, they were 49-50 at the line, which would have broken a record set last year between the Thunder and the Mavericks had that line stood.
In the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant demanded the ball as always in crunch time and put in a runner with 1:40 left to go and then drew a foul on James Harden to get to the line in consecutive trips. After hitting both free throws, the Laker lead was one with just over a minute to go. Durant counters with a pullup jumper to retake the lead. A frantic Laker possession leads to Kobe returning to the line and hitting both. Serge Ibaka missed a baseline jumper with less than 10 seconds and eventually grabbed the board for another trip to the line, this time for World Peace. Another miss came with another two free throws for Kobe. A Kevin Durant 30 foot heave went begging and the Lakers drew to a 2-1 series with a 99-96 win.
The Lakers went 41-42 from the line and survived a 2-13 night from Andrew Bynum. Most other box score stats were similar, showing the close talent level between the two teams. Had the Thunder pulled this out, it would have been a veritable knockout blow for the association’s most high-profile franchise. However, the Lakers lived to play another day. Game 4 is a quick turnaround Saturday night, so it remains to be seen how the Laker respond on less than 24 hours of rest compared to the Thunder’s young legs. Keep coming back to Soaring Down South for the latest NBA playoffs news.
OKC Thunder lead series 2-1