Nightly Grades 5.1: Boston still alive
Recapping the night of playoff action in the NBA.
Nobody's dead yet. Boston responded with the best game of the series for them after New York said they were going to a funeral (and dressed like it). Paul Pierce was phenomenal, knocking down shots like the Truth of old. Kevin Garnett played heavy minutes and gave a vintage performance.
But the role players really need credit, too. Brandon Bass was aggressive on both ends of the floor and really stepped up for Boston. Jeff Green continues to be the best player for Boston, and needs the ball more late in games. And Terrence Williams... yes, Terrence Williams, was effective in limited minutes. Huge win for Boston and they bring this thing back home for Game 6 with a chance to tie.
They ran 27 isolation plays and scored 14 points on them. Twenty seven possessions. Fourteen points. They ran nine more isolations than spot-ups, opting not to pursue open jumpshots.
Meanwhile, they simply did not have the execution on the defensive end to force poor shots by Boston. They were locked in the first three games. They looked engaged and willing to attack at the level necessary. Then they got confident, got too much swagger, decided to showboat, and here they are. Going to Boston for a Game 6 and if they lose that one, all hell breaks loose. They need to use this game as a learning experience on multiple levels. If they do it may determine how far they go in the playoffs.
They just don't defend away from home. The Hawks were so good in Games 3 and 4 in making rotations and attacking on the perimeter and went completely away from it in Game 5. They just don't have the execution when they're not comfortable.
Jeff Teague was injured early and wasn't the same in the game. You saw the impact that had on the game as he wasn't able to create or score in transition. Meanwhile the Hawks didn't make the Pacers' pay from range like they did at home. No team goes from looking so good to so bad quicker than Atlanta in the playoffs. Except maybe the Nets.
They got what they wanted and looked like the better team, which they are.
Maybe the most important thing for Indiana is that they finally got David West involved. And when that happens, the Hawks' whole strategy falls apart. The Pacers bullied Atlanta, which plays to their strength. But will they do it in Atlanta to close this out or let the Hawks hang around, dangerously?
No one wins in OKC in the playoffs outside of Miami. And yet there it is. Houston walked into the Thunderdome down 3-1 with seemingly no hope of making this into a series, and behind a heroic effort from James Harden, pulled within a game of evening the series and forcing a Game 7.
Just an amazing effort for Houston who has found perimeter defenders in Patrick Beverly and Francisco Garcia. That defense was absent all season and now they've found enough to cause problems. Meanwhile, the Rockets' perimeter attack offensively allowed them to keep pushing the lead higher and higher.
Oh, and that Asik fella hit his free throws just well enough, too. Pay attention, Dwight.
Well, now this is trouble.
They could use Russell Westbrook, but he's not walking through that door, even if he limped through.
They don't have perimeter penetration outside of Durant who is getting shaded by multiple help defenders. They have no one to create their own shot and are relying too much on an inexperienced Reggie Jackson to take too much of a load.
Kevin Martin is giving them nothing offensively, and they let Houston set the tone.
Forget the long-term implications. OKC has a Rocket problem all of a sudden.
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