What a night! San Antonio needed a near-miracle to stay alive in their first round series with Memphis...and GOT that near-miracle with a 3-pointer at the buzzer when Memphis failed to fully protect the arc. Miami blew most of another 10-point late lead by failing to make field goals down the stretch before finishing off Philadelphia. And, in the Wednesday nightcap, Oklahoma City rallied from a late deficit and dodged a buzzer trey from Denver to wrap up their series.
Let's take them in the order they finished, since that's the order I wrote down notes!
MIAMI 97, PHILADELPHIA 91
2-point Pct: Philadelphia 51%, Miami 40%
3-point Shooting: Philadelphia 2/10, Miami 12/30
Rebounds: Philadelphia 41, Miami 47
Turnovers: Philadelphia 7, Miami 10
1's and 2's: Philadelphia 85, Miami 61
Miami finally had a big game from behind the arc (4-3-4-5-12 in the series), but they really fell apart in several other areas.
*Miami allowed 51% on two-point shots, their worst performance in the series by a mile (42-32-44-39-51).
*Miami was outscored by a whopping 24 points on 1's and 2's. This after winning that category in the first four games by 17, 30, 21, and 5.
*Miami only forced 7 turnovers, continuing a theme of trying to grab misses rather than take the ball away (8-12-6-13-7 takeways in the series).
*Miami scored a field goal at 5:11 of the fourth quarter. Then, they didn't make another field goal until Dwyane Wade ran in for a dunk rather than running out the clock when Philly had conceded in the final seconds. The Heat did pick up late points at the free throw line. But, they saw an 86-76 lead at the 5:11 mark turn into 90-89 and 92-91 before pulling out the win.
After three games, Miami looked like championship material except for their late game tendencies. Now, not so much! I think I mentioned the other day that they played over the weekend like they were hoping half-speed would be enough to get the job done. Tonight, it was more like three-quarter speed given the soft internal defense and the lack of takeaways.
The good news is that they finally made some treys. The upside is very high if and when everything clicks at once. The regression in 1's and 2's was startling though. We've got a lot to get to tonight, so I'll try to put together some notes on that for a Boston-Miami series preview in a few days.
SAN ANTONIO 110, MEMPHIS 103 (in overtime)
2-point Pct: Memphis 49%, San Antonio 51%
3-point Shooting: Memphis 3/10, San Antonio 7/22
Rebounds: Memphis 50, San Antonio 45
Turnovers: Memphis 16, San Antonio 15
1's and 2's: Memphis 94, San Antonio 89
It ain't over til it's over. Memphis learned that the hard way tonight. Their announcers were pleading with them to flood the 3-point zone to deny shots. I'm sure there are pundits out there who say they should have tried to force a short pass and then foul on contact. San Antonio's buzzer shot to force overtime will no doubt be replayed all day Thursday, and discussed in depth on the competetitive banter shows. We focus on data here, so I'll stick with numbers for now.
*Memphis has done an amazing job on 1's and 2's for an inexperienced #8 seed facing the Spurs. If the series was based only on 1's and 2's, they'd have won 4-1 already. Scores have been 83-80, 78-72, and 94-89 in favor of Memphis in the three games in San Antonio!
*San Antonio didn't do enough on treys until making the buzzer shot to counteract their other weaknesses. They've gone from averaging 8.4 treys per game to sinking 6-7-2-5-7 in this series. I guess it's clear now but it seems worth repeating that San Antonio just isn't anything special when they're not making a lot of treys.
*Depth is going to be important in Game Six. There's a quick turnaround with a Friday Night rematch.
For Memphis tonight:
Randolph: 44 minutes
Conley: 43 minutes
Gasol: 42 minutes
For San Antonio tonight:
Parker: 44 minutes
Ginobili: 42 minutes
Duncan: 40 minutes
If the Memphis crowd brings "6th man" energy, that could be a difference-maker. But, if the Grizzlies are in a state of shock after blowing a win they were already celebrating on the sidelines...these next two games could get away from them quickly.
Amazing the twists and turns so far in the Western brackets. That brings us to the Wednesday finale that had twists and turns in the final minutes before Oklahoma City finished on top.
OKLAHOMA CITY 100, DENVER 97
2-point Pct: Denver 47%, OKC 41%
3-point Shooting: Denver 8/18, OKC 6/24
Free Throws: Denver 17/21, OKC 34/42
Rebounds: Denver 38, OKC 51
Turnovers: Denver 18, OKC 14
1's and 2's: Denver 73, OKC 82
Denver led most of the night because of superior shooting. But, the Thunder would ultimately come back almost on the sheer force of their energy.
*Free Throws by +17 in makes and +21 in attempts, meaning they were being very aggressive in attacking the basket.
*Rebounds by 13, including a 16-4 edge in offensive rebounds. So, OKC wasn't just attacking the basket, they were attacking the boards.
*Turnovers, with a whopping 18 forced against a Denver team that had committed just 11-11-12-8 in the prior four games.
*1's and 2's, making it four straight games where the Thunder won that category. You don't have to worry about "live by the three, die by the three" if you're consistently excelling inside the arc.
Probably the most important stats are these though:
*Russell Westbook was 3 of 15 from the field, continuing his distressing tendency to keep forcing up shots when they're not falling...on a team that has other scoring options.
*Kevin Durant scored 16 of the last 20 points in the game, basically telling Westbrook "GET OUT OF MY WAY SO I CAN WITH THIS SERIES FOR US!"
I talked yesterday about the potential influences that growing up in Kobe Bryant country had on Westbrook. Saw some other stories out there today about Westbrook's desire to be an alpha dog (including this one at Hardwood Paroxysm featured today at Henry Abbott's TrueHoop). This could have been a very important night for the immediate playoff future of the Thunder in terms of establishing the star hierarchy. Or, it could be a game that makes Westbrook say "Oh, yeah, watch what I can do" in a way that messes things up...the way things were messed up for about seven quarters before Durant's late explosion. Feel like we're jamming in a lot of topics on such a busy night. More on that when it's time to preview OKC vs. the winner of Memphis/San Antonio in the next round.
As promised notes on the late Tuesday finisher...
LA LAKERS 106, NEW ORLEANS 90
2-point Pct: New Orleans 50%, Lakers 53%
3-point Shooting: New Orleans 10/21, Lakers 7/18
Rebounds: New Orleans 25, Lakers 42
Turnovers: New Orleans 17, Lakers 15
1's and 2's: New Orleans 60, Lakers 85
The Lakers demolished New Orleans inside, winning rebounds by 17 and scoring on 1's and 2's by 25 points. You'd think this would be something they could do more consistently with their size and playoff experience edges in the paint. Remember when the Lakers only forced 3 turnovers on this court in the series opener? They've forced 16 and 17 the other two times in Staples.
The Lakers make it look so easy when things are going well. The mystery is why that's happened so rarely the past few weeks. Something else to discuss when the schedule dwindles and we have more time to go in depth with the contenders.
Back late Thursday...