Four games in the NBA Playoffs on Sunday. We’ve got video highlights and a recap for all four games. Check them all out below. Recaps courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Washington Wizards 98 – Chicago Bulls 89 (SI Link)
Wizards lead series 3-1
Even with the team’s ”X-factor” suspended, the Washington Wizards had a No. 42 sitting next to the bench. The 57-year-old with graying hair couldn’t box out or grab a rebound, but owner Ted Leonsis waved his red towel and egged on a cheering crowd that chanted ”Free Nene!”
The Wizards did just fine without the suspended Brazilian forward. They scored the first 14 points and beat the Chicago Bulls 98-89 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series.
”I thought it was pretty hilarious that Ted had Nene’s jersey on,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. ”It kind of threw me off for a minute, but then I looked and seen it was Ted.”
Nene or not, the Wizards did what they’ve done all series: Take a quick lead and force the Bulls to use up energy trying to catch up. It was 15-8 in Game 3, 29-12 in Game 2, 19-13 in Game 1. Washington, seeking to win a playoff series for only the third time since the 1970s, can finish off the Bulls on the road in Game 5 on Tuesday night.
”We keep seeing this same kind of start for the last couple of games, and it’s frustrating,” said Taj Gibson, who came off the bench to lead the Bulls with a career-high 32 points. ”It seems like at times we get overhyped with just thinking we’re going to be OK, we’re just that good. But in this league it’s not about how talented you are, it’s about how hard you work and how much effort you put when you start the game off, and I don’t think we did that.”
Nene was suspended for the game after grabbing Jimmy Butler‘s head in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ Game 3 loss. Wall called Nene the ”X-factor” this week, and for good reason: Since the March 2012 trade that brought Nene to D.C., Washington is 65-63 when he plays and 21-41 when he doesn’t.
That said, the club did hold its own by winning 12 of 21 when Nene went down with a knee injury late in the regular season, an absence coach Randy Wittman said might have been a ”blessing in disguise” that helped prepare them for Sunday.
”I saw our guys bond together,” Wittman said. ”Like, “That’s OK, all right. Big fellow’s not going to be here, but that’s OK.’ And we were in tune right from the start.”
Trevor Ariza, getting some of the early looks that might have gone to Nene, scored a career playoff-high 30 points, making 6 of 10 3-pointers. Beal had 18 points, and John Wall added 15 points and 10 assists for the Wizards, who forced 16 turnovers and committed only six.
”I think we’re a smart enough group to understand that when one of your pieces goes down, you have to find ways and will to win,” Ariza said. ”Tonight was my night to take on the scoring load.”
Gibson went 13 for 16 from the field for Chicago, but his teammates combined to go 22 for 62. He made more field goals in the first half (8) than the rest of the Bulls combined (7). Mike Dunleavy, who scored 35 points in Game 3, scored only six.
Dunleavy jammed his left thumb attempting to take a charge in the fourth quarter. The thumb was swollen and was X-rayed after the game, but he said he didn’t think it was broken.
”It probably doesn’t really matter,” he said. ”It’s my left hand and it’s not going to make a difference for me.”
Washington stormed to a 14-0 lead, with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau calling a timeout after each Wizards ”touchdown.”
”Very disappointing to get in a hole like that,” Thibodeau said. ”I put that on me, and I’ve got to get it right. … It’s got to change or our season will be over.”
Trevor Booker started in Nene’s spot and had nine rebounds and three blocks. Beal called Booker ”a huge X-factor” – apparently the Wizards are cornering the market on that particular commodity.
”Just because they didn’t have Nene,” Gibson said, ”they just came out and played even harder.”
Notes: Ariza’s six 3-pointers tied a Wizards playoff record. … Wittman, who played during the Detroit Pistons ”Bad Boys” era, was asked to compare today’s game to those rough-and-tumble days. ”Not even close,” Wittman said. ”It’s like sixth-grade flag football compared to NFL tackle football.”
Golden State Warriors 118 – Los Angeles Clippers 97 (SI Link)
Series tied 2-2
The Los Angeles Clippers made a silent protest against owner Donald Sterling before Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series against Golden State. The Warriors made a different kind of statement during the game.
And just like that, a series pulled into a race-related scandal took another twist.
Stephen Curry made a career playoff-high seven 3-pointers and scored 33 points, leading the Warriors past the Clippers 118-97 on Sunday to even their first-round series at two games apiece.
”We wanted to come out and focus on all the work we’ve put in over the summer, throughout the course of the season to get ready for this moment in the playoffs and just have fun and enjoy it – not let one person ruin it for everybody,” Curry said.
The game almost became an afterthought – until tipoff anyway – after an audio recording was posted Saturday online by TMZ purportedly of Sterling making comments urging a woman to not bring black people to his team’s games. The alleged comments, which are under investigation by the NBA, have set off reactions of anger and calls for action through the league.
Clippers players made a silent protest against Sterling by shedding their warm-up jerseys and going through the pregame routine with their red shirts on inside out. They also wore black bands on their wrists or arms and black socks in a show of solidarity.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he knew what his players had planned but didn’t voice his opinion. He said he wasn’t thrilled about the demonstration, though he didn’t elaborate why.
Curry and company did a better job focusing from the start.
The All-Star guard made his first five 3s to give Golden State a 20-point lead in the first quarter that held up most of the way. Curry shot 10 for 20 from the floor, including 7 of 14 from beyond the arc, and had seven assists and seven rebounds to help the Warriors snap a two-game losing skid.
”I just thought they were the tougher team and it wasn’t even close. Should have been a first round knockout,” Rivers said.
Golden State outshot Los Angeles 55.4 to 42.9 percent. The Clippers had 19 turnovers, while the Warriors had a series-low 15 turnovers.
Both coaches and players agreed that Sterling’s purported comments effected their preparation, and neither side believed it was a determining factor in the outcome.
”I think both teams were somewhat bothered by what has taken place the last 24 hours,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. ”But my guys just played with great energy, great effort.”
Rivers blamed himself for not getting his players ready.
”I’m not going to deny that we had other stuff,” he said. ”I just believe when the game starts, the game starts and nobody cares anymore. Golden State surely didn’t care.”
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
Andre Iguodala added 22 points and nine assists, and David Lee, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes each scored 15 as the Warriors went to a smaller lineup to regain their shooting touch in front of a roaring, gold-shirt wearing sellout crowd of 19,596 that stood after every swish.
”It just all came together,” said Iguodala, who also had nine assists and four rebounds.
”Maybe our focus wasn’t in the right place would be the easiest way to say it,” Clippers guard J.J. Redick said.
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended the game and met privately with former All-Star guard and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is advising the players union on the Sterling situation. Johnson even held a news conference during halftime that spilled well into the third quarter.
Silver has said he hopes for a quick resolution after the league investigates, and that Sterling has already agreed not to attend Game 5. Johnson said the players trust Silver and are hoping for a quick resolution – and the harshest penalty possible if the audio recording is authenticated.
Once the ball was thrown up and the crowd roared, the Warriors quickly put the Clippers in a hole they could never recover from.
Curry’s five 3-pointers in the first quarter tied a franchise-playoff record for a quarter, matching a mark he and Thompson set last year. Golden State led by 20 in the first quarter, 23 in the second quarter and 66-48 at the half.
Jackson used a smaller lineup – with power forward David Lee playing center for long stretches instead of Jermaine O’Neal, whom Jackson said requested the switch – to spread the floor more than he had at any point in the series, which big man Andrew Bogut has missed with a fractured right rib.
The Clippers never closed within single digits at any point in the second half.
Curry kept on shooting – and kept on hitting – to send the series back to Los Angeles tied. And with so many in an uproar over Sterling’s purported comments, there’s no telling what the scene will be like at Staples Center.
”We’re going home now, and usually that would mean we’re going to our safe haven,” Rivers said. ”And I don’t even know if that’s true.”
NOTES: The Warriors have won 16 of their past 19 home games against the Clippers. … Sterling’s wife, Shelley, sat in a courtside seat across from the Clippers’ bench.
Toronto Raptors 87 – Brooklyn Nets 79 (SI Link)
Series tied 2-2
The most pressure-packed moments of playoff basketball, when the legs get heavy and the palms sweaty, seem to suit those young Toronto Raptors just fine.
Instead, it’s the veteran Brooklyn Nets who are fizzling at the finish.
When a fourth-quarter rally fell just short in Game 3, the Raptors just shook it off and handled the final period even better this time.
”That’s just us, man,” DeRozan said. ”We’re definitely resilient. We’re never going to give up until the game’s over.”
Amir Johnson had 17 points for the Raptors, who started fast, gave up all of a 17-point lead, then shut the Nets down over the final 5 minutes to snap a 13-game road losing streak in the playoffs that went back 13 years.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Toronto, with the series now guaranteed a return to Brooklyn on Friday for Game 6.
Paul Pierce scored 22 points for the Nets, who were 3 for 17 in the fourth quarter and didn’t have a field goal after Pierce’s basket with 6:13 left gave them a 77-73 lead.
It was baffling for a team that assembled a star-studded roster that will cost more than $180 million in salaries and taxes for a shot at a title, and now faces a huge fight just to get out of the first round.
”You get in a playoff situation, one guy, or two or three guys, wants to do it on their own instead of just running our offense, executing. And I think we got caught up into that,” said Pierce, adding that the Nets were rushing and pressing.
Kevin Garnett had 10 points for the Nets, but Joe Johnson and Deron Williams were mostly non-factors in getting outplayed by Toronto’s backcourt. Johnson had only seven points on seven shots after averaging 23.7 points in the first three games, and Williams was 4 of 12 for his 10.
Pierce nearly carried the Nets without them, but Toronto put it together down the stretch to pull it out.
Garnett gave the Nets their last lead with two free throws with 4:58 left, but DeRozan made two free throws before Greivis Vasquez made a 3-pointer for an 83-79 advantage. The Nets had a series of offensive fouls along with their missed shots, and Lowry made a high-arching basket over Garnett with 1:13 to go before closing it out with a pair of free throws.
”This is where we should be at our best, those late-game situations,” Williams said. ”We’ve been there before. They’re a younger team that doesn’t have as much proper experience, but they ain’t playing like it.”
Lowry bounced back nicely after the Nets banged him around in their Game 3 victory. He was still sore Sunday and a couple other Raptors were hurting beforehand but probably feeling a lot less pain by the time they went home.
”We’re really nicked up right now, so it was huge courage, really courageous by those guys,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.
Toronto nearly came from 15 down in the final 5 minutes to win Friday, and carried that momentum into a quick start Sunday.
The Raptors scored a franchise playoff-record 35 points in the first quarter, then managed just 32 combined in the second and third as the Nets surged ahead with a 22-4 run.
The Raptors were 4 for 21 in the third, but then turned to their defense down the stretch for their first road victory in the postseason since winning at Philadelphia in Game 1 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Now they won’t need to win on the road again, with home-court advantage back in their favor.
”That’s our team,” Lowry said. ”We’ve got a full team of guys who just want to win.”
The Raptors scored the first six points during a 13-2 start, extended it to 33-18 after five straight points by Amir Johnson, and were ahead 35-22 after one.
The lead grew to 47-30 after DeRozan scored eight straight Toronto points, but Lowry picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench with the Raptors leading 47-34, and Brooklyn cut it to 51-44 at the break.
Pierce opened the second with a 3-pointer and a layup. After Shaun Livingston‘s free throw, Garnett added another basket to make it 52-51, giving Brooklyn its first lead.
The game was tied at 67 after three.
Notes: Actor Michael K. Williams, a Brooklyn native, announced the Nets’ starting lineups again. He began by saying: ”Ladies and gentlemen, there is no room in the NBA for Donald Sterling.”
Portland Trail Blazers 123 – Houston Rockets 120 (OT) (SI Link)
Blazers lead series 3-1
LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points and 10 rebounds and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Houston Rockets 123-120 in overtime Sunday to take a 3-1 advantage in their first-round playoff series.
Nicolas Batum added 25 points in the first win for the home team in the series, which moves to Houston for Game 5 on Wednesday. It was the third overtime game of the series.
The Blazers haven’t advanced out of the first round since the postseason in 2000
Portland trailed by as many as 11 points, but rallied in the fourth quarter. Mo Williams‘ 3-pointer put the Blazers in front 105-104 with 18.9 seconds left. Dorell Wright missed the first of two free throws making it 106-104 with 8.3 seconds to go.
Howard dunked off a feed from Harden with 3.6 seconds left to tie it again and Williams missed a 3 at the buzzer to send the game into overtime at 106-all.
Chandler Parsons was hit with a flagrant foul on Aldridge, who made both free throws to give the Blazers the lead to start off OT. Nicolas Batum scooped up a layup before adding a 3-pointer to put Portland ahead 115-110 with 2:34 left and Damian Lillard added a layup.
After Aldridge made a long jumper, Houston rookie Troy Daniels nailed a 3 and Harden landed a jumper to narrow it to 119-117, but Lillard made free throws to extend the lead to four points with 17 seconds left.
Aldridge missed a pair of free throws and Troy Daniels was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three shots to narrow it to 121-120 with 8.9 seconds left. After a Portland timeout, Mo Williams made free throws for the final margin.
Aldridge opened Portland’s return to the playoffs with a franchise postseason-best 46 points in the Blazers’ 122-120 overtime victory in Game 1, then followed it up with 43 points in the 112-105 win. The Rockets won the third, 121-116 in overtime on Friday night at the Moda Center.
The two teams played closely for most of the first quarter, but the Rockets took a 29-22 lead after an 11-4 run highlighted by two straight 3-pointers from Daniels.
Daniels, who spent time in the D-League this season and only made his NBA debut on March. 5, was the unlikely hero of Game 3 when he drained a 3 with 11.9 seconds to go in OT that proved to be the winner.
Houston led 61-51 at the half, led by Parsons with 19 points. The Rockets maintained the lead through the third quarter and Harden’s jumper from the top of the key stretched it to 92-84 with 8:31 left.
Portland got to within 94-91 on Batum’s layup with 6:35 left. Lillard’s 3-pointer tied it at 94, but Harden answered with his own 3 for the Rockets.
Aldridge made a layup to put Portland up 102-97, but Howard made three of four free throws to narrow it before making two big blocks. Harden hit free throws to tie it at 102 with 1:11 left. Aldridge missed a layup and Harden hit another two foul shots to give the Rockets back the lead.
NOTES: Houston guard Patrick Beverly did not participate in shootaround because he wasn’t feeling well, but he started the game. …. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was at the game but he was not available to the media. Silver is facing a storm of controversy surrounding racist comments purportedly made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling. … The Blazers all wore black socks in solidarity with the Clippers. ”I wanted to do something to support our brothers,” Aldridge said.