Celtics and Rockets stay alive on the road; Pacers win big to take series lead
What a difference two games can make. Just last weekend, fans of the Celtics and Rockets were wondering if their teams were going to able to win a game in the playoffs. On the other side of things, Knicks and Thunder fans were already wondering who their next opponent would be. Chances are that both the Knicks and Thunder will advance to the next round (no team has lost a series after leading 3-0) but it’s certainly putting plenty of heat on the number 2 seeds. We’ll get to them. The Indiana Pacers looked great last night, dominating the Hawks during the 2nd quarter and never looking back en route to a 106-83 victory. It seems like the home team is just going to dominate every game in this series. So far in this series the average margin of victory is just over 17 points so all signs point to the Pacers winning big after game 7 in Indiana. Could the Pacers close out the series tomorrow? Absolutely but they need to perform like they did last night, playing more physical than Atlanta with the type of defense that was expected from the start. But once again, it’s impossible to predict what either of these two teams will do as the series heads back to Atlanta with the Hawks on the ropes.
Was being on the brink of elimination the best thing that could have happened to the Celtics? It certainly seems so. Led by Kevin Garnett, the Celtics showed lots of heart, forcing the Knicks to a poor shooting night as they win in New York 92-86 and send the series back to Boston for game 6. Even though Garnett led the way (16 pts, 18 reb) for Boston, it was still very much a team effort as four other Celtics scored in double digits of at least 16 points. The Celtics showed heart and team unity, something that being put on the brink of elimination can bring out in a team with experienced veterans. It wasn’t easy as the Knicks stormed out to an 11-0 run to start the game but after halftime, it was all Boston as they never gave up their lead. New York needs to certainly do a better job of shooting the ball, particularly from behind the arc where they finished 5 of 22. Knicks players were quoted after the game saying that they still felt they have control of the series and the math agrees. But even though New York only has to win one of the next two games, the momentum looks like it has shifted in Boston’s favor. I can’t wait for game 6.
Speaking of a must-watch game 6, the Rockets and Thunder will be going to war tomorrow night. I think that of the two teams making comebacks from being down 0-3, the Rockets have the best chance of making history. James Harden’s big shooting night led the way for Houston as they frustrated the Thunder offense to take the victory 107-100 and keep their season alive. The Rockets had a great game plan from the start, controlling the Thunder with their defense and combining a good inside-outside game on offense. Harden’s 31 points (7 of 9 from 3-point land) was clearly the spark to lead Houston but what impressed me the most was the Rockets’ ability to keep the home crowd out of the game. OKC has one of the best crowds in the league but just as they were about to get going, Houston made a big shot to counter. Even though Durant finished with a great stat line (36 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast) it was clear that he was frustrated for most the night. Serg Ibaka and Reggie Jackson helped Durant out but when the Thunder were closing in late in the 4th quarter, the Rockets made it very tough for the Thunder to get a good shot. Don’t even get me started on that terrible “hack-a-Asik” strategy.