Court Vision: Playoff lessons from games on the brink of elimination
The Nets force Game 7, Mavs and Spurs battle and Houston and Portland go to Game 6.
Here's what we learned on Friday, May 2nd, in the NBA playoffs as the Nets stayed alive to force a Game 7, the Spurs battled the Mavericks and the Rockets tried to stave off elimination.
• We learned the old guys can still make a few plays. Kevin Garnett was particularly effective in the fourth quarter. After the Raptors made a furious fourth-quarter comeback, Jason Kidd went with Garnett to close the game, after benching him in the 4th of Game 5. Garnett played stellar interior defense and made two huge turnaround jumpers. As big of a letdown as Game 5 was, Game 6 was proof of why the Nets went out and got Garnett. Pierce finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
• We learned Deron Williams isn't dead, which is good to know. Williams, who had posters posted outside Barclays with "MISSING" on them, finished with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, and two turnovers. He hit the dagger to end the game and was largely efficient.
• We learned the Raptors still lose themselves for long stretches. They didn't play with energy or focus and dug a hole too deep.
• The Raptors have done this a few times, where they get down 10 in a game late, and instead of driving to kick for three, keep going into the trees instead of finding a momentum-turning 3-pointer. They took more 3's than the Nets, but you felt like they should have looked for another one.
• Jason Kidd inserted Alan Anderson into the starting lineup and while that move in and of itself didn't yield huge results, it did help them get out to a huge start.
• Just 25 bench points for the Raptors. When your starters struggle, someone has to step up. No one did.
• Deron Williams turned his ankle badly, but managed to stay in the game and hit that late dagger.
• We learned that there is no end to the greatness of these playoffs.
• The Mavs built a lead. The Spurs came back. The Spurs built a lead. The Mavs came back. The Mavs had it locked up... the Spurs hit consecutive threes to cut the lead to two.
• Then, after Monta Ellis scored 12 points in the 4th quarter, this insanity occured.
• The Spurs threw it into the frontcourt, the Mavericks knocked it out of bounds, giving the Spurs a chance to undo all that .04 seconds horror Derek Fisher put on them. But Patty Mills couldn't make magic happen, and we're headed to a Game 7.
• Now, to try and make sense of all this.
• One of the huge things for the Mavericks was DeJuan Blair, who you can read more about here. Blair was a monster vs. his old team, torturing them with 14 rebounds and four steals.
• Tony Parker has faded consistently in these playoffs in the fourth quarter but not in Game 6. Parker sliced and diced through Dallas' defense, eventually finishing with 13 points... but his final drive was stolen by Blair when he ran out of options.
• Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points on 20 shots, but it felt like a bigger, better game for him this time. He hit some huge shots. But, he also missed some big ones, especially a late corner three the Mavericks desperately needed.
• The Mavericks are largely using Nowitzki as a decoy, forcing the Spurs to switch in the pick and roll constantly. Usually the goal is to end up with a mismatch against Dirk, but the Spurs are planning for that and the result is the ball-handler, Vince Carter or Monta Ellis, getting the mismatch instead.
• Manu Ginobili, who has been fantastic in this series, really struggled. One of eight for nine points and five assists, and he just wasn't killing the Mavericks like he has in this series.
• Tiago Splitter, on the other hand, was once again arguably the Spurs' best player at both ends and was a huge part of their comeback.
• Just 25 bench points for the Spurs, compared to 37 for Dallas. The whole team usually contributes for San Antonio and that hasn't happened in this series.
• The two teams combined for 67 points in the fourth quarter alone.
• ... I don't really know what else to say.
• In a ballistically insane game inside of a maniacally crazy series wrapped in an unbelievable playoffs, that moment encapsulates all of it. The improbability, the never-say-die approach, the execution, how close Parsons was to blocking it, how close the clock was to expiring, how close it all was. Someone had to lose. Somoene had to win. And here we are.
• This seems like a good moment to talk about Lillard, and the boy who would be king. Lillard took the league by storm this season, and it wasn't just the All-Star hype or the buzzer beaters. Lillard was ROY last season, but there were serious question marks about his shot selection and ability to run an offense. But he improved on those so much this year, and all of that put him and the Blazers in the position to take that shot, to make that shot, and to send the Blazers to the second round.
• For Houston, yes, this stings. And it may be the end of Kevin McHale. In a pure-defense situation, McHale had James Harden on the floor for that final possession. He said after the game he told the players not to allow any threes, but clearly the message didn't get through. And beyond that, the Rockets were outclassed in this series from the get go, despie home court and more star power. McHale has done some quality things, but that stings.
• Jeremy Lin also doesn't come out of all this great. He had a killer late game turnover, let Lillard get free for most of his threes, and couldn't take control of the game like he needed to. The Rockets need a point guard upgrade. Don't be surprised if Lin, who is treated unfairly after Linsanity and is still a quality point guard, is traded this summer.
• But beyond that? This was year one for Houston, they'll be back. They knew from the get go they were scrambling to put together a team. And losing like this, to this team, this way, it's hard to say they failed in a substantial way.
• For Portland, their season continues, and will only get tougher, but they actually reach the second round before whoever they face there, as Dallas and San Antonio will play Game 7 Sunday. Portland gets extra rest.
• In the 4th quarter, McHale tried to hide James Harden defensively on Robin Lopez. Lopez took him in the post and scored on consecutive possessions.
• Thomas Robinson was a beast in this game. He made huge plays on both ends when the Blazers needed it.
• This Portland team, this point guard, these playoffs? They're special.
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