Day 7 of the NBA Playoffs continued the slate of Game 3s from yesterday. The day’s slate included two games in the Eastern Conference and one in the Western Conference.
Kicking off the day’s schedule were the 7th seed Orlando Magic, who hosted the 2nd seed Toronto Raptors at the Amway Center in Orlando. The last time there was a playoff game in Orlando, was in 2012 when Dwight Howard was still around. The Raptors watched a 15 point lead evaporate but managed to hold on to a 98-93 victory.
The other Eastern Conference clash saw the 5th seed Indiana Pacers host the 4th seed Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana. The Pacers were desperate to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole but they couldn’t do much to avoid it as they succumbed to a 96-104 defeat. Teams down 0-3 in an NBA Playoff series are 0-132 in history.
The day’s action concluded in the Western Conference where the 6th seed Oklahoma City Thunder hosted the 3rd seed Portland Trailblazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Eager to not fall 0-3 in the series and make up for the poor performance in the first two games, the Thunder bounced back with a spirited performance and beat the Blazers 120-108.
Here’s more from what went down during all the games held on April 19th:
Raptors survive Magic (Box Score)
After a dreadful defeat in Game 1 of the series at home, the Raptors bounced back to win Game 2 in a dominating fashion and levelled the series 1-1. Because of their superior talent level, the Raptors were the favourites to win Game 3 at Orlando as well. Led by their power forward and Most Improved Player candidate of the year, Pascal Siakam, the Raptors did just enough to win the game and regain home court advantage.
25 years old Siakam scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the game. He scored from inside and outside with equal ease and even made the most clutch shot of the game with 1:33 left in the 4th quarter to snuff a furious Magic rally. Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry heaped some praise on Siakam after the game: “He’s unbelievable,. He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”
Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard, who had a splendid 37 points outing in Game 2, was battling illness before Game 3. During the game, he battled some highly questionable officiating as the referees swallowed their whistles even when he was repeatedly hacked by the Magic defenders. He still managed to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds for the game. Danny Green scored 13 points and Kyle Lowry added 12 points to go along with his 10 assists. He also grabbed a very crucial offensive rebound with 15 seconds to go and extinguished any hope of a Magic victory.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse also gave his opinion on the game: “It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight. I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”
For the Magic, Terrence Ross scored 24 points and Nikola Vucevic added 22 points to go Along with his 14 rebounds. In a post game interview, Vucevic lamented his team’s 16 turnovers: “Our turnovers hurt us again. We had too many of those. Empty possessions for us and against a team like that you can’t have that.”
The Magic had taken a 61-60 lead during the third quarter but then they allowed the Raptors to go on a 16-0 run, missing 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6.5 minutes. After Lowry gave the Raptors their biggest lead of the game (86-69) with 7:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Magic came charging back and brought the game to within three points with 41 seconds to go.
In the ensuing Raptors possession, Leonard missed his jumper but Lowry got an offensive rebound and Leonard calmly sank two free throws to ice the game.
Game 4 is also in Orlando and the Magic must try to win it at all costs or risk falling down to an almost insurmountable 1-3 situation in the series.
Celtics hold Pacers (Box Score)
Another night, another dominant defensive performance in the second half, another victory. The Celtics have used this formula to great success so far and if it ain’t broke, why fix it? They won Game 1 by allowing the Pacers to score just eight points in the third quarter. They won Game 2 by allowing the Pacers to just score 12 points in the fourth quarter. They won Game 3 by allowing the Pacers to score just 12 points in the third quarter.
Kyrie Irving, who scored an inefficient 19 points for the Celtics, spoke about the victory: “We’ve come a long way. We’re all making sure we’re giving each other confidence and doing the little things to ensure we win. When you have that type of camaraderie, executing is a lot easier. Now that the stakes are higher, we’re settling into who we want to be.”
The Celtics now hold a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. They can complete a sweep of the Pacers with a victory in Game 4. However, they don’t expect the Pacers to just surrender meekly. Jaylen Brown, who made 8 out his 9 shot attempts on his way to 23 points, spoke about the upcoming game: “In Game 4, we expect (Indiana) to take it to another level. We’ve got to come out and not take our foot off the gas. We’ve got to come out and play great basketball and try to close this thing out.”
For the Pacers, Tyreke Evans matched his playoff career high of 19 points. However, it proved insufficient in the end. Pacers coach Nate McMillan spoke about the chief reason behind his team’s third straight loss in the series: “In the third quarter, we lost our patience. We took quick shots, bailed them out, and lost our rhythm.”
Game 4 is an absolute do-or-die game for the Pacers as a defeat will end their season while their opponents will advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals to face the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks vs Detroit Pistons series.
Thunder outlast Blazers (Box Score)
After a terrible Game 2, where he made only 5 of his 20 shots from the field, Russell Westbrook had promised to be better for Game 3. And he lived up to it with a spectacular performance in which he scored 33 points and dished out 11 assists while making 4 out of his 6 three point shots. In the post game conference, teammate Paul George, who only made 3 of his 16 shots during the game, called Westbrook ‘a man of his word.’
The Thunder’s role players, who had struggled to have any impact during the first two games, performed admirably. Power forward Jerami Grant made 4 of his 5 three point shots on the way to 18 points. Back up point guard Dennis Schroder also added 17 points off the bench.
For the Blazers, superstar point guard Damian Lillard scored 32 points, including a spectacular 25 point third quarter which helped cut the Thunder lead to just four points at the end of the quarter. He made 8 of 11 shots during the third quarter but missed all four of his shot attempts in the fourth.
CJ McCollum, who had 21 points in the game, hit a three pointer early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 89 apiece. However, the Blazers couldn’t capitalize on it and the Thunder pulled away for the win.
Westbrook has been jawing at Lillard during the entire series and Game 3 was no different. During the third quarter, he made a jumper over Lillard and did his ‘rock the baby’ celebration. With 1:40 to go in the game, he made a wild three pointer to give the Thunder a 14 point lead while giving Lillard a mouthful.
Game 4 of what has been the most exciting series of the first round of the playoffs will also be in Oklahoma City as the Thunder look to level the series 2-2. However, if the Blazers manage to steal that game, they can go back to Portland with a commanding 3-1 lead.