The Lakers post season came to a grinding halt as the Oklahoma City Thunder won the series 4-1., winning the final game 106-90. Russell Westbrook top scored for the Thunder with 27 points, while Kevin Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“Oklahoma (City) really blitzed us there at the start of the fourth. It was tough to watch to say the least. We had the game under control but this team (the Thunder) is very explosive all of a sudden they go on an 8-0 run.”
— Lakers guard Bryant.
This is no doubt a big step forwards for the Thunder. They have achieved what they did last year, and now have the chance to take this franchise to the next level. It would be be a huge achievement for this team to make it to the Finals. However, they face a more than difficult challenge in the San Antonio Spurs, almost the opposite to who they are. It will be veterans against youth in a hugely exciting Western Conference Final.
A certain Kobe Bryant did everything humanly possible to stave off elimination, scoring 42 points in his final playoff outing of the year.
It took a monumental effort from Kobe Bryant but the Lakers handed the OKC their first loss of the post season with a 96-99 win at the Staples Center.
Kobe had 36 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds in one of him more complete performances of the playoffs. Andrew Bynum added 15 and 11 on a night where he saw limited touches.
“You’re not going to get a better look than a free throw against these guys.”
— Lakers coach Mike Brown
Kevin Durant led the way for the Thunder with 31 points while both James Harden and Russell Westbrook had 21 points apiece. Westbrook also handed out 9 assists.
20 points from both Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum were not enough for the Lakers to take down the Thunder in Game 2. The Thunder stormed to on a 9-0 run at the ennd of the game to steal the game from the Lakers. Durant led the way for the Thunder with 22 points including the game winner. James Harden added 15 off the bench in another consumate performance.
“I’ve been around these guys four years and they won’t quit. When we were down seven they could have hung their heads and we would have probably lost by 12 and gone on to L.A. It’s all about toughness with our guys. That toughness on the defensive end that’s our game. That’s who we are.”
— Thunder coach Scott Brooks
This series is heading into dangerous territory now for the Lakers. Next game at Staples is critical if the Lakers are to gather any momentum in this series, it has to start next game. Anything later is too late.
A couple of clutch triples from both Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake sealed the win for the Lakers as they took down the Nuggets at the Pepsi arena. 20 points from Danilo Gallinari was the only real standout for the Nuggets in the loss, with Andre Miller scoring 11 points in the opening minutes but going quiet for much of the rest of the game. Andrew Bynum continued to dominate the Nugget’s frontcourt with 19 points and 7 rebounds.
“They run very well, they’re going to beat our bigs down the floor, so our smalls are going to have to help out or Faried and McGee are getting dunks. We just said if they throw the ball in the post, guard them. Make them shoot jumpers, don’t back up and let them get to the rim.”
— Brown, on his team’s transition defense
Kobe Bryant flirted with a triple double all night with 22 points 8 rebounds and 6 assists. However perhaps the biggest reason for the Lakers win was the defence of Ramon Sessions on Ty Lawson, who tore through the Lakers last game. However, this time around, Lawson was held to just 11 points on 5-13 shooting. Now the Nuggets face the unenviable task of fighting for their playoffs lives in Staples.
San Antonio (1) vs. Utah (8)
Game 1 – Sun. April 29, Utah at San Antonio, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 2 – Wed. May 2, Utah at San Antonio, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Sat. May 5, San Antonio at Utah, 10 p.m., TNT
Game 4 – Mon. May 7, San Antonio at Utah, TBD
Game 5 * Wed. May 9, Utah at San Antonio, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, San Antonio at Utah, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, Utah at San Antonio, TBD
Things are much different this time around for the San Antonio Spurs. This time they’re not limping into the playoff but instead have all their superstars healthy and raring to go. Tony Parker is playing MVP basketball, Manu Ginobli has embraced his new role off the bench with vigor and Tim Duncan is doing the same he has for years, if only slower. The Jazz have the tall timber that could bother the Spurs in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap brusing their way through the lane. With no true defensive center left in San Antonion, this is where the Jazz can win the series. But the electric offense of the Spurs should be too much for the Jazz. Expect a reasobably easy series win here.
Oklahoma City (2) vs. Dallas (7)
Game 1 – Sat. April 28, Dallas at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 2 – Mon. April 30, Dallas at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Thu. May 3, Oklahoma City at Dallas, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 4 – Sat. May 5, Oklahoma City at Dallas, 7:30 p.m., TNT/R
Game 5 * Mon. May 7, Dallas at Oklahoma City, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, Oklahoma City at Dallas, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Dallas at Oklahoma City ,TBD, TNT
Surely the Thunder were hoping for an easier first round matchup than with the reigning champs. Championship experience runs deep in the roster and the Mavericks pose a real threat to the Thunders potential championship run. But the absence of defensive anchor Tyson Chandler, who now makes port in the Knicks key, will seriously effect the Mavs chances. Whether ageing center Brendan Haywood can stand in the way of the likes of Russel Westrook and Kevin Durant will hold one of the main keys to the series. Also, Serge Ibaka will have to stay with Dirk Nowitzki. Same thing with Shaun Marion on Kevin Durant. It’s there for the Mavs to win, but the Thunder will probably go on to the second round out of this one.
L.A. Lakers (3) vs. Denver (6)
Game 1 – Sun. April 29, Denver at L.A. Lakers, 3:30 p.m., ABC/R
Game 2 – Tue. May 1, Denver at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Fri May 4, L.A. Lakers at Denver, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 – Sun. May 6, L.A. Lakers at Denver, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Denver at L.A. Lakers, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, L.A. Lakers at Denver, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Denver at L.A. Lakers, TBD, TNT
Well the Lakers got here. And if it wasnt for Ron Artest’s flailing elbows, they would of arrived in one piece. Playoffs seem to turn this team into another creature. It’s said so often, but the Lakers are built for the playoffs. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol give them unmatched size and now with Ramon Sessions running the point, there’s even an element of speed in Lakerland. However, Sessions’ number one task will be to slow down rocket point guard Ty Lawson, who could very well claim to be one of the All Stars of the second half of the season. But Bynum’s improved low post play and rebounding will be the key here. There’s simply noone who can match up with him in the league, let alone on the Nugget’s roster. Look to him to have a big series and possibly an opinion changing playoffs as the Lakers get the win here.
Memphis (4) vs. L.A. Clippers (5)
Game 1 – Sun. April 29, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Wed. May 2, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Sat. May 5, Memphis at L.A. Clippers, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 – Mon. May 7, Memphis at L.A. Clippers, TBD
Game 5 * Wed. May 9, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Memphis at L.A. Clippers, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, TBD
The Clippers gave up homecourt advantage in the dying stages of the regular season and that could very well make all the difference as the Grizzlies building is one of the more hostile environments around the league. It’s a difficult building to win in, as the Spurs showed last time around. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin form a dangerous duo and one that could very well win the series for the Clippers. However, if the bustling Zach Randolph can get Blake into foul trouble early, then the Clippers could be in a bit of trouble. Paul is one of the better clutch performers in the league and the matchup between him and Tony Allen during crunch time is something to look forward too. The Clippers don’t really have anyone to match up with Rudy Gay, the hard running and slashing guard likely to cause some headaches for the Clippers. This one is almost too close to call, but the edge goes to Lob City in this one.
Mike Woodson was given yet another quandary in the seemingly endless drama in the Big Apple as the Knick’s got the win against the Hawks. With Tyson Chandler sitting the game out, Amare Stoudemire played his seemingly preferred position at the center, with Carmelo Anthony filling the power forward position. Whilst the Knicks were worse defensively, they got the win and Melo and Stat combined for 51 points, the kind of numbers Knick fans are more than happy to see. Which leaves Woodson with the question: Can all three of his potential All Stars play well in the same front court?
Serge Ibaka had 18 points 14 rebounds and 7 blocks but it was not enough as Kobe Bryant had 28 to lead the Lakers to a double overtime victory over the Thunder. However the biggest talking point of the night would end up being Metta World Peace’s elbow to the back of James Harden’s head. Looking much more like the Ron Artest of old, World Peace slammed his elbow into Hardens head with enough force to knock the man to the ground. Will be very interesting to see the type of punishment handed out by the league.
DeMarcus Cousins played big as the Sacramento Kings completely eclipsed the Charlotte Bobcats, winning by 26 points. Cousins had 29 points and 10 rebounds but perhaps Tyreke Evans was the real star of the show as he had 22 points on 10-11 shooting, including three assists and 2 steals.
The Heat scored 31 points in the fourth to overwhelm the Rockets 19 points as LeBron James’s 32 points lifted the Heat. With the loss the Rockets are no longer in playoff contention, despite Chandler Parsons’ 23 points.
40 points from the Toronto Raptor bench were not enough for to push the Raptors over the line as they lost to the Detroit Pistons. Despite none of the starters scoring in double figures for the Pistons, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon scored 19 points apiece to lead Detroit.
Manu Ginobli the Super Sub had 20 points off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs as they increased their buffer as the number one overall seed in the playoffs with a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 19 points.
It’s amazing how injury can destroy a promising season. The Timberwolves are the epitome of this. Playing without Kevin Love and many other notable absentees, the Wolves put up a good fight but were defeated by the Golden State Warriors. Charles Jenkins had 24 points.
JaVale McGee had 17 points as the Orlando Magic were held to just 30 points in the second half. Ryan Anderson had 24 points for the Magic to lead all scorers.
Chris Paul had 33 points and 13 assists as the Clippers outscored the Hornets by 19 as they won by 9. With the win, the Clippers stay in the race for the top spot in the Pacific Division with the Lakers.
The Toronto Raptors got a giant upset as they beat the Boston Celtics, ending the Celt’s 4 game winning streak. DeMar DeRozan had 22 to lead the way for the Raptors, on 13-13 shooting from the free throw stripe, while Rajon Rondo’s assist streak continued as he handed out 12 of them.
Marshon Brooks had 22 points and Gerald Green had 23 off the bench as they handed a loss to the seriously slumping Sixers. The 76ers were outscored 32-23 in the last quarter as the were overwhelmed by a determined Nets team. Jrue Holiday had 19 for Philadelphia.
Tracy McGrady had 11 points on 5-7 shooting and was a +31 on points differential as TMac and the Hawks went to Orlando and came out with the win. Filling in for the sizable absence of Dwight Howard, Glen Davis had 16 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Magic.
12 of the Pacer’s players came onto the court and all but 2 scored as the Pacers took down the Cleveland Cavaliers by 19 points. Danny Granger had 18 to lead all scorers while Omri Casspi had 14 for the Cavaliers.
The Washington Wizards found a solid brick wall awaiting them in Madison Square Garden as the left New York with their tail between their legs, losing by 38 points. JR Smith had 23 points in the huge Knick’s win, as Steven Novak, Carmel Anthony and Baron Davis all had 18 points apiece. Jordan Crawford had 17 to lead the Wizards, by shot appallingly, as did most of the Knicks team as they shot 28 percent from the field.
Dexter Pittman had 16 points off the bench and 11 players scored for the Heat as they beat the Charlotte Bobcats. LeBron James also had 18 points to lead the Heat. 2nd year forward Derrick Brown had 21 points to lead the Cats.
Brandon Jennings’ 20 points and 10 assists as well as Drew Gooden’s 26 points led the playoff chasing Bucks to a victory over the Detroit Pistons. Rookie point guard Ben Knight had 25points to lead the Pistons.
Paul Millsap had 17 and Al Jefferson had 19 but it wasnt enough as the Jazz lost to the New Orleans Hornets. Eric Gordon had 25 to lead the Hornets.
The Phoenix Suns stayed hot in the race for the playoffs as they took down fellow competitor Houston by7 points. Marcin Gortat had 20 points in a captivating, and at times fiery, duel with fellow international Luis Scola. Scola had 21 for the Rockets while Goran Dragic had 22 points and 7 assists.
Kevin Durant had 29 points and pulled down 9 rebounds while Serge Ibaka blocked 7 shots as the Thunder cruised to a routine victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Andrew Bynum matched his rebounding numbers with scoring as he poured in 20 points and 8 rebounds as the Lakers solidified their place in the playoffs. Still without Kobe, Matt Barnes had 24 and 10 to help fill the void. Andre Miller had 20 to lead the Nuggets.
Delonte West and Dirk Nowitzki had 21 and 24 points respectively as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Portland Trailblazers by 3. Nicolas Batum had 20 points for the Blazers in the loss.
Despite Kevin Durant’s 44 points and Russell Westbrook near triple double game weren’t enough for the Oklahoma City Thunder as they went down to the Indiana Pacers. Roy Hibbert didn’t led Durant’s monster mash stop him from playing a big game as he put in 21 points. Danny Granger also had 26 points for the Pacers.
Atawn Jamison had 25 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors by 4. The Cavs out scored the Raptors by 16 points in the final quarter to set up the win. Kyrie Irving was out for another game for the Cavaliers.
Net’s point guard Deron Williams scored 19 points and handed out 13 assists as the New Jersey Nets defeated the Washington Wizards. John Wall had 18 points to lead the Wizards in the loss.
Josh Smith had 22 points, 12 rebounds and swatted 3 shots as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Detroit Pistons 96-101. Rodney Stuckey once again lead the Pistons off the bench scoring 27 points to lead all comers. Jeff Teague had 24 points for the Hawks.
The Miami Heat were not able to overcome a slow start as they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies by 15. Six players scored in double figures for the Grizzlies, including Gilbert Arenas who went 4-5 from behind the arc to have 12 points. LeBron James had 21 points to lead the Heat as the Grizzlies ended the Heat’s 17 home game run.
Monta Ellis had 25 points and handed out 9 assists as the Milwaukee Bucks won a scrappy game over the Charlotte Bobcats. The Cats only got 2 points off their bench for the game, with the starters doing all the heavy lifting in both minutes and scoring. Byron Mullens had 31 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bobcats
LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down the game winner in overtime as the Portland Trailblazers stole a game from the Mavericks in Dallas. Raymond Felton had 30 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds to lead both teams. Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 14 rebounds in the heatbreaking loss.
5 players scored in double figures off the bench and Tim Duncan had 19 points as the San Antonio Spurs took the top of the Western Conference with a big win against the New Orleans Hornets. Eric Gordon was the only Hornets player to have any real influence, leading all scorers with 31 points in his return from injury.
Arron Afflalo scored 30 points for the Nuggets as they beat the Phoenix Suns at home. Al Harrington had 23 points off the bench for Denver. Shannon Brown had 18 points to lead the Suns.
Al Jefferson’s 30 point 11 rebound and 5 block game lifted the Utah Jazz over the Golden State Warriors. David Lee had 26 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Goran Dragic had 25 points and 11 rebounds while Marcus Camby pulled down 11 rebounds as the Rockets got a big win against the Lakers, winning 112 to 107. Kobe had 28 points in the loss.
Bargnani had 30 points as Toronto beat fellow cellar dweller Charlotte by 5 in Canada. DJ Augustin had 18 off the bench as Kemba Walker was given the start. Demar DeRozan had 20 for the Raptors to support Bargnani.
The game was won within the first quarter as the San Antonio Spurs shot 60% percent, destroying the hapless Cavaliers by 35 points. Aussie point guard Patty Mills lead the way for the Spurs with 20 points off the bench in 20 minutes playing time. Boris Diaw had 9 assists, while kyrie Irving had 13 points and 5 assists in the horror loss.
The Pacers launched a 40 point final quarter to defeat the New York Knicks despite Carmelo Anthony’s 39 points. Granger had 27 as the Pacers rolled right through and well over a final quarter deficit.
LeBron James’ season high 41 points lead the Heat to a win over ‘best of the rest’ contender Philadelphia. LeBron also pulled down 6 boards and handed out 4 assists as the Sixers’ Evan Turner had 26 points.
Still without Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic went down to the Detroit Pistons, despite a big effort from Glen Davis who had 31 points and 10 rebounds whilst trying to guard budding big man Greg Monroe/ Monroe had 22 and 11 to lead the Pistons.
Steve Nash had 18 and 12 assists as the Suns beat the Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus Cousins HUGE game of 41 points and 12 rebounds somehow was not enough for the Kings as the lost by 9.
Kobe Bryant had 24 points and rattled home the game sealing three as the Lakers beat the Nets without Andrew Bynum. Deron Williams had 20 points and Kris Humphries had 18 and 15 rebounds in the loss.
Ramon Sessions/Kobe Bryant-Los Angeles Lakers
A trade deadline union, Kobe and Sessions form a dangerous pair going into the playoffs. Whilst they haven’t seemed to gel as easily as Jennings and Ellis, Sessions has energised the previously sluggish Laker offense. Although Kobe seems to want Fisher back, that could only be for personal relationships, as Sessions has brought a palpable improvement to the Lakers. The Lakers are scoring at a much greater rate and Sessions is establishing himself as one of the better point guards in the NBA on the big stage.
As for Kobe Bryant, there’s not a lot to say. He is the best player at his position in the league, he is scoring at an astronomical rate and despite the supposed issues between him and coach Mike Brown, the Lakers are winning. They currently hold the 3rd seed in the West, behind only San Antonio and OKC. Bryant’s leadership through the coaching rumours and issues were vital, not letting it get out of hand and never suggesting that the locker room had turned on Brown. Sessions and Bryant are turning into one of the more dynamic backcourts in the league.
Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis-Milwaukee Bucks
When it comes to the Milwaukee Bucks-speed kills. With both Jennings and Ellis, the Bucks have one of the fastest backcourts in the NBA. These guys can get up and down the floor rapidly and are great scorers on the fast break. Jennings also appears to be rejuvenated by his new backcourt mate and they have formed one of the best guard tandems after the trade. Their continued success is vital to the Bucks’ push towards taking that 8th seed in the East off the New York Knicks. Whether or not they can make any kind of upset against the Heat or Bulls is unlikely, but they very well could steal a game off them.
They both play the passing lanes to the highest level, putting their speed to good use. Whilst Monta Ellis especially is quite undersized for his position, he fights hard on defence, especially after being united with defensive minded Scott Skiles.
Ray Allen/Rajon Rondo-Boston Celtics
One can barely shoot and the other is the greatest three point shooter the game has seen, yet these polar opposites complement each other wonderfully to form one of the best backcourt pairs. Like most of the Boston Celtics, they seem to be on the same wavelength, always seem to know where each other are going to go. Rondo will always know where Ray will be going on the fast break, and just as, if not more, important will always put the ball perfectly in Rays shooting pocket. This helps a shooter to no end, the very art of shooting based around repetition. Getting the ball in the same place every time means there is one less thing for Ray to worry about. He only has to worry about taking the shot. Rondos passing is one of the big reasons why Allen is still shooting at a high level.
Tony Parker/Manu Ginobli-San Antonio Spurs
Whilst Ginobli has been unhealthy for most of the year, the veteran championship pair is still amongst the best. Parker has been playing at an MVP level and is now the heart of the team. Ginobli fights for every step on defence and is still one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA. You have to respect his deadly jump shot, but if you close out poorly he will get around you and find a way to the hoop. Parker is playing close to career best basketball and is keeping the Spurs and Tim Duncan relevant. The Spurs contention this year rests on his shoulders.