What a coincidence last night was! The two games couldn’t have been more different as the Celtics and Sixers came down the wire and the Lakers and Thunder was over by halftime. But what was interesting was that two of the most storied franchises in NBA history were victims to teams who were younger, more athletic and out-executed these “veteran” teams. Curious right?
Philadelphia 76ers (82) vs Boston Celtics (81)
Series tied 1-1
This is they type of the series the Celtics wanted. Grind it out. Nothing pretty. Just ball and grits. And usually when the Celtics are in a dog fight, they out execute their opponents 9 out of 10 times and win the game on experience. Last night was one of the one time the Celtics couldn’t get their stuff together and ended up losing. If Garnett and Allen hadn’t hit two threes in the last 14 seconds, then the Sixers would have won by four at least. But this game was ugly. Yeah it was close at the end, but the third quarter was atrocious. Both teams were clanking shots for at least a good five minutes. It wasn’t until a 14 point run the Sixers put together that helped both sides put in some baskets. And it was pretty interesting that it would be the “Vet” team would be the one that couldn’t out execute this young team. All the talk had been how the Sixers had let Game 1 slip through their hands and right at the end of the game, this is where the Celtics wanted them. Keep it close, run their stuff, score their baskets. But unlike Saturday, these Sixers bounced right back and made key shots when they needed them. None of them bigger than the shot clock buzzer beater by Levoy Allen and a stumble lay-up by Evan Turner that proved to be the winning shot. And of course, the controversial (depends if you are Sixer or Celtic fan) offensive foul called on Kevin Garnett. Everybody on both sides were surprised with the call, even the Sixers. Many NBA analysts were dismayed that it would even be called, but Garnett had been already called for two moving screens. The analysts claim that Doug Collins had worked the officials all game and that finally they called Garnett for a moving screen. But at the end of the day, it should have been the players who should have an effect on the outcome of the game and not the officials. Whether or not that call was right, the official took it out of the players’ hands and took the game upon themselves.
For the Sixers, Jrue Holiday played out of his mind by hitting four threes and finished with 18 points. Andre Iguodala had 13 points but only hit two free throws out of seven. Evan Turner, who ended up being the game hero, made his free throws at the end of the game and added 10 points while no name Lavoy Allen had 10 himself. Both guys had major impacts on both sides of the court.
For the Celtics, Garnett didn’t have his explosive night like he did the other night but still finished with 15 points and 12 boards. Rajon Rondo had a subpar game with only 8 points, 13 assists, 7 boards. Paul Pierce disappeared and only finished with 7 points and four turnovers. His knee is probably worse than what he and the Celtics are letting on. He has no lift and can’t get to where he wants to go. Ray Allen came off the bench again and had a good game, finishing with 17 points. But it does seem that whenever Allen has a good game, the team does not.
After stealing home court from the Celtics, the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is set for Wednesday night. Tip off is at 7:00pm EST.
Oklahoma City Thunder (119) vs LA Lakers (90)
Thunder leads 1-0
While the Celtics and Sixers were battling in close proximity, this game was boring in that sense. OKC had a double digit lead going into halftime and then blew it up during the second half. At one point, the lead was up to 35 points. All the chatter for this game was about how OKC, James Harden and Metta World Peace would react when they collided. Much to both guys’ credit, neither one of them responded to what was just media hype. Even the crowd seemed subdued. But if the crowd had merciless (and they totally have justice) booed MWP, the Lakers might have just won that game. Before the game started, they had interviewed MWP and how he would react. Instead of hosting anger towards a (probably and should be) angry crowd, he just relished the moment, even mentioning how often does one person get the whole entire stadium look at him, especially when his name isn’t Kobe or Kevin Durant. So maybe after hearing that, the crowd chilled on the booing and instead of fueling the Lakers, they gave them the extinguisher.
After being down early in the game, thanks to MWP who hit two threes and set up Andrew Bynum for a thunderous jam, the Thunder took the lead after Harden’s drive, followed by an And-1. They never looked back. With eight days of rest, the youthful, more athletic Thunder took it to the weary Lakers. Less than 48 hours coming from their Game 7 victory against the young, athletic Denver Nuggets, the Lakers looked tired, didn’t rotate well on defense and couldn’t execute. It’s interesting to say that for a team that has won back to back and with such championship experienced Kobe Bryant. And the Thunder’s guards had seven games on how to beat the Lakers. Both Bryant and Bynum had 20 points, while Bynum had 14 boards to go along with those points. But their third piece, Pau Gasol was soft as ever. He only had 10 points and seven boards. Those are decent numbers for a second or third string center, not a big paying name. And if the Lakers want to be in this series, they have to learn to use their big men against the Thunder. The Thunder do not have answer for the big man and would be worse off if Perkins is more injured than he already was.
For the Thunder, their dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook came out to play. Durant had 25 points and eight boards, while Westbrook had 27 points, seven boards and nine assists. Sixth Man of The Year, James Harden chipped in with 17 points. The only negative of the night for the Thunder is the status of Kendrick Perkins. Back into action after a few days off with an injured him, it looked like that Perkins re-injured his hip as he went up for a dunk. Unable to get any lift, Perkins only laid it up and hobbled back on defense. Otherwise, it was a perfect evening as the game was highlighted by high flying dunks and spectacular play from the Thunder. Game 2 will say in OKC. Game time is at 6:30pm PST on Wednesday.