Day 5 of the NBA Playoffs had a slate of three games for basketball fans across the globe. Two games in the Eastern Conference and one in the Western Conference.
Kicking off the Eastern Conference action once again were the 4th seed Boston Celtics as they hosted the 5th seed Indiana Pacers in the TD Garden. The Celtics relied on a great defensive effort in the 4th quarter to earn a come-from-behind 99-91 win.
The other Eastern Conference matchup pitted the laughably overmatched 8th seed Detroit Pistons against the high flying 1st seed Milwaukee Bucks. There were hardly any surprises here as the Bucks cruised to a 120-99 victory.
Rounding up the day’s action was the Western Conference matchup between the 4th seed Houston Rockets and the 5th seed Utah Jazz. The Rockets continued their dominance over the Jazz and secured a commanding 118-98 victory.
All the day’s victors now have a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. Here’s more from what went down during all the games held on April 17th:
Celtics Beat Pacers (Box Score)
After a dreadful offensive performance in Game 1, where they only scored 74 points, the Indiana Pacers looked to bounce back against the Boston Celtics and level the series. For the first three quarters, they seemed to be on course. However, just like a dreadful, eight point third quarter killed their hopes in Game 1, a dreadful, 12 point fourth quarter did the same in Game 2.
The Pacers had a complete collapse near the end of the game because of the stifling defence of the Celtics. With 12.1 seconds left and a chance to tie the game, Pacers’ Wesley Matthews threw the ball into the bench on the other side of the court during an inbound play. On the ensuing position, Jayson Tatum completed a three point play to give the Celtics a 97-91 lead. Shockingly, the Pacers turned the ball over again and the Celtics closed the game out from the free throw line.
Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 37 points. Jayson Tatum also added 26 points, including a thunderous dunk to punctuate a 10-0 Celtics run in the end. After watching the playoffs from the stands because of an injury last year, Irving was pleased with his performance in Game 2. He said: “It’s just been a long journey. From having those two knee surgeries and watching the team last year and finally getting chance to lace them up for the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs – it’s nothing like it.”
After a disappointing 4th quarter, Pacers’ forward Thaddeus Young said: “It’s always been one quarter that kills us in the second half. We’re getting good looks and shots are not falling. We gotta put together a 48-minute game and we haven’t been able to that.” The series moves to Indianapolis for Games 2 and 3 and the Pacers better find a way to perform better on offence or else they won’t be coming back to Boston for Game 5.
Bucks demolish Pistons (Box Score)
The Detroit Pistons are heavy underdogs in this series and they know it. They are also without the services of injured top scorer Blake Griffin. So even if they can make this series slightly competitive, it might be considered a moral victory. They tried an aggressive defensive strategy on Bucks superstar and MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo, and limited him to just 10 points in 14 minutes of action in the first half.
However, Antetokoumpo pulled the wheels from under the Detroit wagon by scoring 13 points in the 3rd quarter, including seven straight to start the quarter. He described his initial struggle and how he was eventually able to overcome it: “It is about will. I knew they were going to put guys in the paint, crowd me. I just tried to have patience.” During halftime, Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe had some piece of advice for Antetokoumpo. According to the a Greek Freak: ”Eric told me, `Be aggressive, it is going to come.’ That is what I tried to do.”
The Pistons really made an effort to win the game in the beginning. After falling behind early, they came back strong in the second quarter to close the half with a 59-58 lead. After getting outscored by 18 points in the third quarter, they came to within seven points of the Bucks in the fourth. However, that was as close as they got and the Bucks pulled away to a comfortable victory.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey, spoke about the game: “I thought we set the tone in the second quarter. Our challenge has been extending hard play, not getting bored with fundamentals, not getting bored kicking the ball out, doing those things offensively.”
Games 3 and 4 will be in Detroit and the Pistons must be hoping that those won’t be their final two games of the 2018-2019 season.
Rockets destroy Jazz (Box Score)
MVP candidate James Harden put on another spectacular performance for the Houston Rockets as they destroyed the Utah Jazz for the second straight game. Harden scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out 10 assists as he notched up his third playoff triple double.
Last year, the Rockets had lost Game 2 after blowing out the Jazz in Game 1 and they clearly had that in mind before the start of the game. They came out aggressive and outscored the Jazz 39-19 in the first quarter. Harden alone scored 17 points during that period. Rockets coach Mike D’ Antoni was highly impressed by his superstar’s performance. He said: “What he did in that first quarter was ridiculous. Just dicing everybody up. When he gets it rolling nobody’s better.”
The onslaught continued as the Rockets connected on 6 of their 13 three point attempts and finished the first half with a 70-44 lead. Chris Paul scored 17 points for the Rockets while PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon added 16 points each. During the game, Harden also had what could have been the most humiliating play in the history of the NBA. He crossed over Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio who fell on the ground. Harden stood at the three point line, did a shimmy and took a shot. Luckily for Rubio, he missed the shot, otherwise Rubio would’ve been shrouded in NBA infamy forever. Rubio spoke about his arduous task of guarding Harden: “He’s hard but I’m not going to quit. He’s one of the best scorers of all time and we’re going to keep trying to find ways to make his scoring hard.”
The series shifts to Salt Lake City for Games 3 and 4. The Utah Jazz have a very raucous and supportive home crowd awaiting them and they will hope to feed on their energy and bounce back into the series. So far the Rockets have been supremely dominant and it will need a herculean effort on the Jazz’ part to make this a compelling series.