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NBA Playoff Recap - Tuesday, April 21

 

It was a night for home-court advantage in the NBA Playoffs. The league's two titans from Cleveland and Los Angeles grabbed 2-0 series leads, while Portland used home cooking to even its series with Houston at a game apiece.
 
The night began at Quicken Loans Arena, where the homestanding Cavaliers held off the Detroit Pistons, 94-82, but not before snoozing over the first 8:10 of the fourth quarter. After leading 77-50 at the start of the final period, the top seed in the Eastern Conference watched its bench fall apart. A prolonged stretch of--dare we say it?--cavalier play from Cleveland allowed the eighth-seeded Pistons to rip off a 27-5 run and pull within seven points (84-77) at the 3:50 mark of regulation.  Sufficiently alarmed by the course of events, Cavs coach Mike Brown had to re-insert his starters after putting them on the pine just minutes earlier. LeBron James and company were immediately able to get to--and convert from--the foul line, making six free throws in the next 70 seconds to push the Cleveland lead back to a comfortable margin at 90-77. The Cavs, despite holding serve at home, have to wonder if they've given the Pistons new reason to believe heading into Friday's Game 3 in Detroit.
 
In Los Angeles, the Lakers topped the Utah Jazz, 119-109, in another game that a highly-touted team won't want to replicate. Much as Cleveland lost focus against Detroit, the Lakers didn't act like the Western Conference's No. 1 seed against their eighth-seeded opponent. Even though Los Angeles shot 60 percent for the night (45-of-75) and hit 55 percent of its 3-point shots (11-of-20), coach Phil Jackson's club still had to sweat bullets when the Jazz crept within three points (109-106) with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. The Jazz had a chance to tie with a three, but a dropped pass by Utah forward Carlos Boozer led to a fast-break basket by Lamar Odom that allowed the Lakers to push their lead to five with 2:39 left. When Trevor Ariza nailed a three to give L.A. a 116-108 lead with 33 seconds left, a nervous night at the Staples Center finally gave way to relief. The Lakers weren't at their best, but they'll gladly take a 2-0 series lead into Thursday's Game 3 in Salt Lake City.

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In Portland, the fourth-seeded Trail Blazers defeated the fifth-seeded Houston Rockets, 107-103, in a game that amounted to a must-win for coach Nate McMillan's team. The Blazers couldn't afford to fly to Houston with an 0-2 series deficit weighing on their minds, and thanks to a pair of young studs, they won't have to. Brandon Roy poured in 42 points (the second-highest single-game point total in Blazer playoff history), while LaMarcus Aldridge racked up 27 points and 12 rebounds, as a young outfit unaccustomed to the rhythms of playoff basketball managed to find its footing and tie the series at 1-all. Houston's backup center, Dikembe Mutombo, had to be carted off the court after enduring a nasty fall in the first quarter, but when Roy--the heart of the Blazers--took a spill with 2:24 left in regulation, the results were decidedly different. Far from being injured, Roy was able to celebrate a made 3-point shot which he released while hurtling toward the floor. The pivotal play gave Portland a 96-90 advantage that the Rockets weren't able to overcome. A dead-even series now shifts to Houston for Game 3 on Friday night.

By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer


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