OK, so in general, blowouts have been the order of the day in the 2017 NBA playoffs, but with just four teams standing at the end of the night tonight, some fantastic games have gone down. Here’s The Grueling Truth’s Alex Golden on his favorites so far…
5. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers (Round 1, Game 3): The King, The Bench and The Comeback
The Indiana Pacers had some success on the road against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers but failed to come away with a win. As the Pacers went home trailing 2 games to none, they were confident and ready to defend homecourt. As the game was underway, it appeared as if Indiana was the more desperate team, while Cleveland was just sleep walking. The Pacers took complete advantage and led by 26 points.
The Cavaliers looked ready to throw in the towel at the end of the 2nd quarter, but that didn’t stop them from regrouping during halftime. Cleveland came out in the 3rd quarter and cut Indiana’s lead to 15. It appeared as if the Pacers had already considered this one a wrap and completely lost the aggressiveness they had been playing with in the first half. LeBron James went on a tear and led the Cavaliers to a 35-point quarter while holding Indiana to 17 points.
The 25-point lead at half, was taken down to 7 to start the 4th. Indiana looked as if they were completely shocked that the greatest player in the game today could just take over a game like that. Well, little did they know that he was just warming up.
In the 4th quarter, the Cavaliers didn’t miss a beat with starters Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the bench. Channing Frye and Kyle Korver posted 25 points against the Pacers to cap off the victory.
LeBron James posted one of his best statistical performances of all time, scoring 41 points with 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He also shot 50% from three and 52% from the field. The Pacers fell completely apart in the 2nd half, and LeBron reminded all the regular season doubters on how great he still is.
4. San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Round 1, Game 4): Leonard vs. the Grizzlies
The San Antonio Spurs had taken a commanding 2-0 lead, which led to the epic Post-Game Press Conference from Memphis Head Coach David Fizdale. He completely annihilated the refereeing throughout the series, and stated “You ain’t gonna rook us” along with “take that for data”. There wasn’t a single member of the media that disapproved of his comments and it lit a fire under his Grizzlies team and fanbase.
The Grizzlies went on to win Game 3, but the task ahead of Memphis still wasn’t completed. The Grizzles had to win Game 4 to avoid being down 3-1, and this is when the greatness happened. As the Grizzlies looked to take control of the game, Kawhi Leonard had other plans.
With time winding down in the 4th quarter, Leonard took over the game for San Antonio scoring 16 straight points to force an overtime. As overtime was winding down the Spurs looked to their hero, Leonard once again. With time winding down on the shot clock, the Spurs needed a three to tie the game. Kawhi Leonard received the ball in the corner, and he drilled the three-point shot to tie the game at 108.
Many Memphis fans were in awe of the Leonard performance and were anxious for the Grizzlies finally possession in overtime. Conley threw the ball into the high post where he found Marc Gasol. Gasol immediately put the ball on the floor and looked to attack LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs defense was solid, but Gasol took a highly-contested running floater from 17-feet out and sealed the deal for the Grizzlies.
It was incredible to see the resilience from Memphis after Kawhi put up one of the most incredible performances we’ve seen this season.
3. Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Round 1, Game 1): Iso Joe Somebody
This is one of the craziest things we have seen in a playoff series. The very first possession of the game (11 seconds in), the Utah Jazz lost big man Rudy Gobert for the rest of the game. Gobert had been the defensive anchor for the Jazz and this was just a major blow to the team.
As the Clippers looked to take advantage of this situation, the Jazz were having none of it. The man they call Iso-Joe went to work for the Jazz, playing the stretch four position and looking to lead this team. As both teams continued to trade baskets the Jazz went on a run to lead 90-79.
Chris Paul was not going to let this game get away as he scored 10 straight points for the Clippers to make this a 1-point game (90-89). Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson then hit two shots to make it 94-89. Then JJ Redick from the Clippers hit a layup to bring it back to three at 94-91. The next possession for the Clippers, Blake Griffin drove to the basket and was fouled by George Hill. Griffin made both free throws and we had ourselves a one-point ball game with 23 seconds left.
After the Clippers forced the Jazz to throw the ball to Favors, Griffin immediately fouled. Favors went 1 for 2 from the foul line and gave the Clippers the ball back with 17 seconds left, trailing by just 2. Remember earlier in this game how Chris Paul had erupted for 10 straight points? Well, he went to work again. Paul made a 6-foot two point shot to tie the game. Usually, a coach will take a time when his team is looking to score on the final possession, but coach Snyder allowed the Jazz to run a play without advancing the basketball with a timeout.
Joe Johnson (a.k.a. Iso Joe) had the ball with Griffin right in front of him, the Jazz attacked Jamal Crawford here on a pick and roll, and got Crawford switched on to Johnson, instead of the longer, more athletic Griffin. As time was winding down, Johnson made his move to the basketball and shot a floater that hit off the iron and bounced in as the clock expired. The Jazz won a huge game on the road, and did it without their second-best player.
2. Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs (Round 2, Game 5): Manu’s Mission
In game 5, the series was tied at 2 games a-piece. The Rockets were looking to win another road game and take care of things, but the Spurs once again had other plans. We were expecting a competitive battle between both teams and that is exactly what we got.
An unimaginable injury to Kawhi Leonard forced the Spurs to rely on the “unsung heroes” that had been consistent throughout the series. This is when the 40-year-old veteran Manu Ginobili stepped up to the plate, and took on the role of “leader”. Manu has been in this spot several times, seeing he has been a Spur since the late 1990’s and his ability to create shots and keep this team in the game was huge.
The Rockets and Spurs traded baskets back in forth, but it wasn’t until overtime when Danny Green stepped up to the plate scoring 7 of the Spurs 9 overtime points. The Spurs went wild after Green drove to the basket and was fouled, completing the and-1. The Spurs were leading 109-107 but the Rockets had the ball. Guard Patrick Beverly of the Houston Rockets then turned the ball over and fouled Green to stop the clock. Green went one for two from the free throw line and made the score 110-107. The Rockets still had a chance to force this into another overtime.
The ball was in Eric Gordon’s hands, but he lost the ball, dove on the floor and he and Patty Mills (Spurs) had gained possession of it. This resulted in a jump ball. The taller Gordon won the tip and Ryan Anderson (Rockets) gained possession. Anderson found the teams’ best player James Harden and let him go to work.
However, Harden struggled to find a look he wanted so he had to take a highly-contested jumper from behind the arc. As Harden rose to shoot, Ginobili made a sensational block which sealed the deal for the San Antonio Spurs. The “Meme-Game” was forever changed as Manu’s block was one of the cleanest, yet gutsiest plays of the Playoffs.
1.Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics (Round 2, Game 6): The Failed Funeral
The Washington Wizards were facing elimination against the number one seed, Boston Celtics. The Celtics and Wizards have failed to win on each-others homecourts throughout the entire season and post-season. Dressing in all black (to represent a funeral or the end of the Wizards’ season), Boston was looking to rewrite the script and steal a game from the Wizards. This is when we got see one of the gutsy performances of the entire season. The Celtics were up by 5 points as the game clock approached the 1:30 mark.
After both teams traded turnovers, Bradley Beal drilled a three to cut the lead back to two. John Wall came down the court and blocked Isaiah Thomas and was fouled immediately to prevent an easy basket. Wall knocked down both free throws and the Wizards had tied the game at 87 all. As the game was tied with 41 seconds, Brad Stevens drew up a play for his shooting guard Avery Bradley who was playing a terrific game on both ends. The ball went through the hoop and the Celtics had regained the lead. The Wizards immediately countered the jumper, as Beal kissed a floater of the glass.
The Celtics were looking once again to end the Wizards’ season on their homecourt, as the biggest free agent acquisition (Horford) in the East drilled an unintentional bank, to give the Celtics the lead once again with only 7 seconds left to play. This is when things got interesting. The Wizards drew up a play for Beal to get the ball and score but the Celtics did a great job denying him the basketball.
Washington’s All-Star point-guard John Wall then came to the aid of Otto Porter who was end bounding the ball and took matters into his own hands. With three seconds on the game clock, John Wall decided that he wasn’t going to attack the rim and try to force an overtime. He took two dribbles, planted and squared his feet and netted a three-point shot to give the Wizards a one-point lead. The Celtics had one more chance to win the game, but they failed to get a good look and Isaiah Thomas shot a running three-pointer that clanked off the rim.
Emotions were high and John Wall jumped on the scorers’ table and exclaimed his love for the DC Family as he “popped his jersey” in dramatic fashion. This was a huge victory not only for the Wizards, but the Washington D.C. fanbase. Moments like this will forever be remembered for each and every Wizards fan this season.