There’s something special that comes out in a person when they’re backed into a corner with only one way out. This isn’t just a hoops thing, it’s a life thing. But we did get a glimpse last night of what goes down when a team realizes that they’re playing for their playoff life. For the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets, last night got dangerously close to closing time. And we all know what goes down at closing time. It’s that last glimmer of good times before everything gets shut down (and you go home and carbo-load). Tonight, it looked like nobody was trying to get shut down. And it made for some sick basketball … It may be a little bit self-serving, but we were hoping for Denver to pull out a win in Game 5 against OKC. Alas, Kevin Durant (41 points) happened and took over the final few minutes, making a nine-point Denver lead evaporate in the Thunder’s 100-97 win. Our love for this series isn’t because we’ve been won over by the powder blue (though we might be getting there). It’s because we just wanted to see more games with all this young talent running up and down the floor. Exhibit A: Durant got airborne on a transition alley-oop from James Harden, screaming before he even hit the ground. Lord willin’ we should have another 10 years of this to look forward to … And don’t forget about Serge Ibaka. Our man put caution tape all over the paint, logging nine blocks (one shy of the playoff record). The biggest one came down the stretch on Nene â€“ an open Nene who had the ball cocked and ready to stuff … And ya think Russell Westbrook (14 points) heard a few of those critics pandering about his 30-shot Game 5 performance? We think 3-15 shooting says yes. Hey Russ, just do you. Don’t worry about some dudes sitting around in their snuggies doing game recaps. We got your back … In this one, it didn’t matter either way. All of those 41 points for KD were huge like Donald Trump‘s balance sheet. Was it the foul-line runner with five seconds left on the shot clock late in the fourth that sealed it? (His shot is pure). We say no way. It was the block on J.R. Smith by Durant on that final possession that truly brought the house down … Unfortunately for Nugs fans, Gary Neal is not on their team. A contested Arron Afflalo (15 points) trey that missed would be all she wrote for a Denver squad that scrapped and clawed and fought for every bucket, but came up just short. For Durant and OKC, it’s on to the next one …
As an eight seed, up 3-1 on the road, the Memphis Grizzlies had a little bit of a situation on their hands. You know you have that Game 6 at home to fall back on if you can’t close it out in five. BUT, you definitely don’t want to give guys with rings (plural) any more confidence than they might already have. The Grizz came out like they just did not give a (bleep). Not sure if something got lost in translation, but if Tim Duncan (13 points, 12 rebounds) is gonna sit on the elbow and smooch two jumpers off the glass, you’d think the third time around Marc Gasol (11 points, 17 rebounds) might decide it’d be a good time to put a hand in his face. In the first quarter, this ain’t what happened. Despite having a body that looks like our dad’s, Gasol redeemed himself soon after, swooping through the paint off a lob to toss in a fadeaway reverse, putting in the free throw to finish off the three-point play. That was cool to watch, but it was not the story of the game. This was: after Manu Ginobili (33 points) hit an almost-three â€“ an NBA play that is specifically designed for Manu Ginobili where the tip of his foot barely touches the line â€“ Zach Randolph‘s (26 points, 11 rebounds) two clutch free throws extended the Spurs deficit to three. But Gary Neal is not a huge fan of deficits. He is, apparently, a huge fan of overtime, hitting a buzzer-beating three that saved the Spurs’ season. San Antonio went on to take this one in OT, 110-103, and lives to fight another day … First off, our flat-brims go off to the 76ers for channeling their energy and grit into year-long overachieving, a season which finally ended last night after their six-point loss in Miami. Let’s face it, the Miami Heat just straight out-talent them (they out-talent a lot of other folks too), and the Sixers were able to steal a game and make this series competitive. As Dwyane Wade (26 points, 11 rebounds) said after the game: “this team is resilient.” We agree. Despite coach Doug Collins‘ smarts to pack the paint and take away Miami’s penetration, the Heatles brought their shooters to the party â€“ with James Jones and Mario Chalmers (20 points) combining for nine threes. When those guys are hitting their shots, we’re just not sure how that team gets beat. But we will keep thinking about it. Last night, they won despite big nights from Elton Brand (22 points) and Andre Iguodala (22 points, 10 rebounds). Miami takes the series in five. Next up, the Celtics and what could be an all-timer. We’re not sure if you can tell, but we’re cheesin’ just thinking about it … For a non-playoff side note: Chauncey Billups had his $14.2 million option picked up by the Knicks. But we’d bet he’d give it all back to still be in these playoffs. Well, maybe not all of it … We out like Ramen noodles at our corner store (because we don’t have a $14.2 million option).
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