The complex layers of the relationship between Josh Smith, Atlanta fans and NBA fans at large run deep, and they’ve been there throughout his entire career. Not quite an All-Star. Incredible all-around talent. Not a jump shooter. But he can make them. Not a building block. But building-block level talent. In the third quarter against Indiana last night, with Atlanta slowly blowing what should’ve been an easy win, the Josh Smith demons came to the surface again. He was bricking free throws and jacking threes, and the Pacers whipped out an 11-0 run to get back into it. You could hear the crowd’s groans as the Hawks missed 12 straight shots. But before Indiana could come all the way back, the basketball gods flipped a coin and we saw the other side of J Smoove. Ironically, he later canned a triple with just over three minutes left to make it 89-81. It was probably the biggest shot of the game. On the following possession, Smith went to another aspect of his game, tipping an offensive rebound to himself and then kicking it out crosscourt to Kyle Korver, who dropped another three-pointer to make it a nine-point game. A few trips later, Smith ran the floor and finished a jam with his off-hand, giving him 29 points and 11 rebounds as Atlanta tied the series at two games a piece, 102-91. … The Nets forced a Game 6 last night in beating Chicago, 110-91, dominating the fourth quarter and getting monster moments from two unlikely heroes. First there was Andray Blatche. He finished with only 13 points and five boards but it seemed like so much more — with Blatche and the starters in at the start of the fourth, Brooklyn outscored Chicago 15-7. Then there was Gerald Wallace, who had only 12 points but had a triple, and then grabbed a steal and finished with a fast-break dunk to put the game away with two minutes left. Despite everyone calling Brooklyn softer than the Pillsbury Doughboy, they held off a second half Bulls charge, and got huge nights from their stars: Deron Williams had 23 points and 10 assists, and Brook Lopez had 28 points and 10 boards. … Nate Robinson started for the Bulls, had 20 points and eight assists, and caught D-Will badly on this semi-transition play.
The Rockets held off elimination against OKC, winning by two as Chandler Parsons played like a monster (27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists). With James Harden faltering down the stretch (10 turnovers, a ton of botched opportunities), the Thunder had a chance to send it to overtime. Forcing the ball out of Kevin Durant‘s hands (38 points, eight boards and had five-straight points in the closing minutes that had Chris Webber losing his damn mind), Reggie Jackson threw up some junk at the rim before Serge Ibaka rebounded it and missed a point blank layup at the buzzer. … Derek Fisher was getting away with everything in one of the ultimate throwback games, and then made a huge triple that was so obviously late that it felt like the refs had been paid off. But our favorite role player from last night was Carlos Delfino, who will probably find himself in every one of KD’s nightmares for the next week.