The second round of the NBA playoffs kicked off on Monday evening with a pair of road teams stealing away home court advantage from the higher seeds.
The night began with the Indiana Pacers again choking away a home game to a supposedly inferior team. The Washington Wizards jumped all over the Pacers from the start, and the final score of 102-96 was not a fair representation of how the contest played out. Despite a reasonable second half push by Indiana, the damage had already been done in a first quarter that saw the road team outscore the Pacers by a 28-15 margin.
Once again, All-Star center Roy Hibbert put up a dud, scoring exactly zero points and pulling down zero rebounds in 18 minutes of play. Frank Vogel pulled the plug on his disappointing big man early, electing to go small. Luis Scola logged 27 minutes of court time and Evan Turner had 19 in Hibbert’s place.
Even without the Pacers’ massive center on the court, however, Nene and Marcin Gortat didn’t do an overwhelming amount of damage for Washington. Nene scored 15 points on just 6 of 16 shooting with 6 rebounds, and Gortat scored 12 points on 4 of 12 shooting, although he did pull down 15 boards.
Most of the Wizards’ offense was generated by the non-John Wall members of the back court. Wall was okay, putting up a 13-9-5 while shooting a disappointing 4 of 14 from the field, but Bradley Beal was outstanding, finishing with 25 points (8 of 18 FGs, 3 of 5 on three-pointers), 7 assists, 7 rebounds, and 5 steals.
The resurgence of Trevor Ariza continued as well, as the swingman posted 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting and grabbing 6 boards. Paul George played poorly once again, making just 4 of 17 shot attempts. In fact, nobody on the Pacers moved the needle in a positive way, really, and it was yet another dud on their home court. They’ll look to bounce back in Indianapolis on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. CT.
In the second game of Monday’s doubleheader, the home team was simply done in by an explosion of the best point guard in the game. Chris Paul went nuts on the Thunder, scoring 32 points including 8 of 9 from long range. That’s right, Chris Paul, who has averaged just 2.8 three-point attempts per game during his career. An unlikely source for a three-point breakout, to be sure.
Blake Griffin was also very good, putting up 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists while shooting 9 of 12 from the charity stripe. And outside of Paul’s three-point bonanza, the rest of the Clippers’ production was very well-balanced.
Russell Westbrook didn’t go down easily in the correctly-billed “Battle of the Point Guards”, as he scored 29 points of his own on a very good 9 of 14 shooting from the field. He did turn the ball over with regularity, however, tallying six turnovers to Paul’s two.
Durant also played well, scoring 25 points, but there wasn’t a whole lot of scoring being done by Westbrook and KD’s running mates. Serge Ibaka’s 12 points was the next highest total, and nobody else sniffed double digits. A key issue for the Thunder in their struggle (relatively speaking, of course) to get to the Promised Land reared it’s head again on Monday night in Oklahoma City. This series also resumes on Wednesday evening, with tip-off again coming at 8:30 p.m. CT.
Tonight, we’ll be treated to the Brooklyn Nets visiting the Miami Heat at 6:00 p.m. CT, and the Portland Trail Blazers down in San Antonio to take on the Spurs at 8:30 p.m. CT. The story line for the Eastern Conference series is, of course, the Nets’ 4-0 regular season record against the mighty Heat. For the West, it’s the old yet seemingly invincible Spurs hosting the young, upstart Blazers.
Enjoy tonight’s games, and check back for any updates on Wolves-related developments throughout the week!