Quantcast 2009 NBA Playoffs: 2009 NBA Playoff Coverage


NBA Playoff Recap - Thursday, April 23


Boston rediscovered defense, San Antonio lacked a clue on offense, and the Lakers succumbed to Carlos Boozer. That's how the NBA Playoffs continued on a blowout-heavy evening that ended with high drama out West.
In Chicago, the defending champion Celtics bounced the Bulls, 107-86, in Game 3 of their first-round series. The second seed in the Eastern Conference took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven set, as a much-hyped contest fizzled almost as soon as it began. Before tip-off, there was a growing sense throughout the basketball community that the seventh-seeded Bulls had the legs and the confidence needed to pull off a memorable upset, but Boston had other ideas. Coach Doc Rivers and his trusted assistant, defensive guru Tom Thibodeau, had to love the way in which the Celts locked down Chicago at the defensive end of the floor.
After getting shredded in the first two games by the hot-shooting trio of Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas, Boston held those three players to 11-of-35 shooting. In addition to their solid defensive rotations, the Celtics also clogged passing lanes to snag 15 steals. The bushel of takeaways allowed the visitors to silence the United Center by gaining easy buckets and damaging the confidence of a youthful opponent unaccustomed to playing a home game of such magnitude. The defensive clinic enabled the champs to gain a 59-37 halftime lead and coast from that point onward. Chicago will try to respond with a better effort in Game 4 on Sunday.

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In Dallas, the team that preceded the Celtics as an NBA champion didn't fare nearly as well. The San Antonio Spurs, owners of the 2007 league title, were the victims of an impressive defensive display in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal. The sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks thrived at home in the American Airlines Center, pummeling the third-seeded Spurs by an 88-67 score. Coach Rick Carlisle's team grabbed a 2-1 lead in this Western Conference series by holding San Antonio to just 42 points in the first three quarters. The Spurs--using only reserves--cosmetically improved their stat sheet with a 25-point fourth quarter, but even then, the final numbers were staggering for a team of their stature. Gregg Popovich's club shot just 32 percent from the floor, went 2-of-17 from 3-point range, and couldn't find a consistent offensive performer at any point in the proceedings. Tony Parker led San Antonio with just 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting; the only other Spur to crack double figures was backup center Fabricio Oberto, who collected all 10 of his points in late-game garbage time. The Mavericks, fresh off this unexpectedly easy conquest, will try to put the Spurs on the ropes in Saturday's Game 4.
In Salt Lake City, Carlos Boozer carried the Utah Jazz to a thrilling 88-86 win over Los Angeles, cutting the Lakers' series lead to 2-1. While Jazz guard Deron Williams hit the game-winning jumper with 2.2 seconds left, it was Boozer who kept his team alive in the first round of the playoffs. The Duke product, limited for much of the season by injuries, finally hit his stride in Game 3 by exploding for 22 points and a franchise-record 23 rebounds. Williams had the final say in this contest, but if Boozer hadn't beaten Lamar Odom for a layup with 47 seconds left, and then smoked Pau Gasol for a forceful lefty dunk with 16.9 seconds remaining, the Jazz wouldn't have been in position to win. Coach Jerry Sloan can only hope that Boozer will be able to throw down similarly large numbers for the rest of the series, which resumes with a suddenly intriguing Game 4 on Saturday at Energy Solutions Arena.

By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer

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