NBA playoffs: Wins for Pacers, Thunder, Blazers
Pacers beat Hawks 92-80
Paul George piled up 30 points and 11 rebounds as host Indiana knocked off pesky Atlanta 92-80 in Game 7 to move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Lance Stephenson collected 19 points and 14 rebounds and Roy Hibbert had his most productive game of the series with 13 points, seven boards and five blocked shots for the Pacers, who will take on No. 5 seed Washington in the semifinals. George Hill added 15 points and David West hauled in 13 rebounds and had six blocks as Indiana became the first team in the series to win back-to-back games.
Kyle Korver scored 19 points to lead the Hawks, who shot 30.4 percent from the field. Jeff Teague scored 16 points and Paul Millsap struggled to 15 on 6-of-21 shooting but grabbed 17 rebounds and four steals for Atlanta.
Stephenson was hit with a technical foul with 10:56 left and Korver hit the ensuing free throw to pull the Hawks within nine, but George scored on two straight possessions and C.J. Watson’s transition layup pushed the Pacers’ lead out to 79-64 with 9:34 to play. The advantage reached 18 points on George’s free throws with 5:16 remaining and Atlanta never managed to get it to single digits again.
The Hawks were up one point midway through the second quarter but went the rest of the half without a field goal as the Pacers closed with a 14-2 burst to take a 47-36 lead into the break. A 10-0 run early in the third spread the lead out to 17 points but the Atlanta reserves got hot from beyond the arc in the final minutes of the period to cut the deficit to 71-63 heading into the fourth.
Durant scores 33, Thunder rout Grizzlies
OKLAHOMA CITY — It was only a matter of time before he showed up in full force. The Kevin Durant that had lit up the NBA on his way to a fourth scoring title and possible MVP selection was bound to make his presence known.
It took the magnitude of a Game 7 to bring out the true Durant, who scored 33 points to lead Oklahoma City to a 120-109 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I got out of my own way,” Durant said. “I was thinking too much, worried about what you guys were saying. I was just thinking too much. The game of basketball is played off instincts and I realized I started playing basketball to have fun. I didn’t want to take the pure fun out of the game.”
The victory advanced the Thunder into the Western Conference semifinals where they will play the winner of Saturday night’s Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors Game 7 game. This is the fourth straight season the Thunder have made it to the semifinals.
“I know that we’re going to keep fighting,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I know that we have a resilient group that loves to compete. We don’t like to lose. We always try to find ways to get better.”
After fighting through a hard-nosed Memphis defense for six games, Durant torched the Grizzlies in the winner-take all contest. He shot 12-for-18 to go with eight rebounds and five turnovers. Memphis coach Dave Joerger had no answer for the all-star forward.
“Durant made a lot of shots,” Joerger said. “He made some tough shots, but he was aggressive. Durant came one time and said ‘Hey, this is fun.’”
Guard Russell Westbrook was just as electric posting 27 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists. It’s his second triple double of the postseason.
Brooks said it’s the type of performance he expects from his point guard in close out games.
“I don’t want to go home,” Westbrook said. “We fought to hard to get to this point. We too hard to get ourselves in a position to come back home in front of our fans and let them down.”
In only his second game as a starter, forward Caron Butler added 15 points.
Playing without their leading scorer forward Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies went to center Marc Gasol to carry them. He led the team with 24 points, but was held to two rebounds. He made only one field goal after the first period. Guard Mike Conley chipped in with 20 points and nine assists, despite playing on a bad hamstring.
“Conley decided he was going to play no matter what,” Joerger said. “He just said there’s no tomorrow. He’s been so good for us. He’s put us on his shoulders during tough stretches during the season.”
With the home crowd behind them, the Thunder came out the gates swinging. They led by 11 before the first timeout.
But the Grizzlies didn’t waste any time going on a run of their own and taking the lead. Behind Gasol’s post skills and the Thunder’s seven turnovers, Memphis led 36-27 after 12 minutes.
Conley found his way into the lane for tough layups. Oklahoma City couldn’t control him as Memphis pulled ahead by 11.
It was Oklahoma City’s defense that finally began to assert itself midway through the second quarter. Westbrook made a highlight worthy block that brought the fans to their feet while forward Serge Ibaka shutdown Gasol the final three quarters.
But it was Durant’s shooting that put the Thunder ahead 61-58 at halftime. That included a 3-pointer right before the buzzer sounded.
Oklahoma City began the third on a 17-5 run. Durant drained a couple of more shots from behind the arc to ignite the crowd.
Memphis kept taking advantage of the Thunder turnovers and didn’t let the score get out of hand.
In the end, the Grizzlies had no answer for a man who was seemingly on a mission.
“You guys (media) motivated me a little bit, even though I told you didn’t,” Durant said. “I really looked at all my guys in their eyes and didn’t want to let them down. They didn’t think of it that way, but I didn’t want to let them down. I just wanted to play as hard as I could no matter what."
LATE FRIDAY: Trail Blazers 99, Rockets 98
PORTLAND, Ore. — With .9 of a second on the clock and Houston leading 98-97, it appeared that a Game 7 was on the horizon.
Then guard Damian Lillard buried a 3-point shot at the buzzer, lifting the Portland Trail Blazers to a 99-98 victory over the Rockets and touching off a mad celebration on Friday night at the Moda Center.
Lillard’s winner closed out the Rockets in six games and sends the Trail Blazers into the Western Conference semifinals. Portland will face the winner of the San Antonio-Dallas series, which is tied 3-3.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge collected 30 points and 13 rebounds and Lillard added 25 points for the Blazers, who won a playoff series for the first time since 2000.
“It was a hell of a win,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I don’t know that it could have been any more dramatic.”
Guard James Harden scored 34 points and center Dwight Howard contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Rockets.
Lillard’s winner came after forward Chandler Parsons had given Houston a 98-97 lead on a putback with .9 of a second remaining. After a timeout, Portland inbounded the ball to Lillard, who turned and launched a 25-footer that found nothing but net as time expired.
“I got a pretty good look,” said Lillard, who was 8-of-14 from the field and 6-of-10 from 3-point range. “I was able to get free and got squared up, and once I saw it on line, I thought, ‘It has a chance.’”
Lillard had won several games for Portland with last-second shots during the regular season.
“That’s definitely the biggest shot of my life — so far,” Lillard said.
“We didn’t execute very well,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “We said, ‘No 3’s.’ (Lillard) just took off running and got separation on the first step, and Chandler just never caught up. (Lillard) made a hell of a shot.
“We had a great opportunity to bring it back to Houston. That was our goal. We didn’t get it done.”
The Rockets started the third quarter on an 8-2 tear to go ahead 66-58. The Blazers gradually chiseled away at the lead, with Houston taking a 79-78 edge into the fourth quarter.
Howard scored on a putback and then converted a three-point play to push the Rockets ahead 96-94 with 1:47 to go.
Neither team scored again until Blazers forward Nicolas Batum hit a baseline fadeaway to tie the count at 96-96 with 39.9 seconds left.
On Houston’s next possession, both Howard and Harden missed shots, but the Rockets retained possession when Lillard grabbed the rebound after stepping inbounds. The Rockets worked the clock and Harden’s shot bounced off the rim to Parsons, who converted a reverse layup to give the visitors the lead with .9 on the clock.
Then Lillard buried the shot that sent the Moda Center denizens into a frenzy, celebrating the Blazers’ first playoff series win since 2000.