Quantcast 2009 NBA Playoffs: 2009 NBA Playoff Coverage

 

NBA Playoff Recap - Saturday, April 25

 

 
New Orleans stayed alive, Dallas passed a crucial test, Miami roared, and the Lakers got their groove back. The first round of the NBA Playoffs is beginning to reveal the true personalities of the teams involved.
 
In New Orleans, the seventh-seeded Hornets were fortunate to escape with a 95-93 win over the second-seeded Denver Nuggets. Up 90-79 with three minutes left in regulation, Byron Scott's team fell asleep at the switch and gave the Nuggets a chance to win in the final seconds. After committing a turnover on an inbounds pass with just over 20 seconds remaining, the Hornets gave Denver the ball in a 94-93 contest. Carmelo Anthony had a 14-foot jumper from the left elbow with six seconds to go, but the shot caromed long. After New Orleans reserve James Posey split a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds left, Anthony attempted a halfcourt heave that bounced short off the left side of the rim. The Hornets were hardly consistent, but behind 32 points from Chris Paul and an efficient 17-point outing from Rasual Butler, they managed to cut Denver's series lead to 2-1. Game 4 is set for Monday in New Orleans Arena.
 
In Dallas, the Mavericks closed within one game of taking out San Antonio by stopping the Spurs, 99-90. Rick Carlisle's crew now owns a 3-1 series lead because of a gallant second-half effort that held the West's No. 3 seed to just 35 points. Tony Parker exploded for 43 points, and Tim Duncan chipped in 25, but the two Spur superstars didn't get any help from their supporting cast, and that's where the Mavs maxed out. The sixth seed in the West received balanced production from several players, getting five double-figure scorers--led by Josh Howard's 28 points--and step-up performances from reserves Antoine Wright (9 points) and Ryan Hollins (8 rebounds). Winning playoff basketball requires unheralded efforts from role players willing to do a lot of dirty work, and Dallas clearly surpassed the Spurs in that regard. Dallas finished with a plus-eight margin in offensive rebounds (14-6) and a plus-11 margin in terms of made free throws. Lots of statistics lie, but those two sets of numbers truly told the tale at the American Airlines Center. Game 5 is Tuesday back in San Antonio, where the Spurs will try to extend the series and stave off elimination.

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In Miami, the homestanding Heat dealt Atlanta a Game 3 thrashing every bit as lopsided as the Hawks' Game 1 romp. Coach Erik Spoelstra's squad rolled to a 107-78 win behind a complete team effort that left the Hawks reeling. Miami had a plus-seven margin in blocked shots (12-5), a plus-13 spread on the glass (48 rebounds to 35), and a terrific 12-of-23 performance from 3-point range on an evening when everything went right for the East's No. 5 seed. Atlanta might have begun this series with home-court advantage, but after losing Game 2 in Georgia on Wednesday, the Hawks now find themselves in trouble. No one on coach Mike Woodson's roster excelled on Saturday in American Airlines Arena. Leading lights Joe Johnson and Josh Smith hit only 9-of-31 shots combined, as the fourth-seeded Hawks failed to get easy baskets the way they did in Game 1. At the defensive end, things were little better; if Miami superstar Dwyane Wade wasn't scoring one of his 29 points, he was driving to the basket and finding a teammate for a wide-open 3-point shot. While Atlanta's players hoisted tough shots off the dribble, Miami was able to get open perimeter looks off passes and catches. That, in short, is why the Heat were able to produce a 29-point romp. Game 4 is on Monday, as Atlanta will need to find a way to win a postseason game on the road.
 
In Salt Lake City, the Los Angeles Lakers rediscovered their mojo, led by their shining star. Kobe Bryant, fresh off a 5-of-24 nightmare in Game 3, hit 14 of his first 17 field goal attempts to throw down 38 points and lead the Lakers to a 108-94 win in Game 4 at Energy Solutions Arena. The top seed in the Western Conference now enjoys a commanding 3-1 lead in the first-round series, while the eighth-seeded Jazz appear ready to call it a season. Utah played a solid first half, as guard Deron Williams popped in 17 points for Jerry Sloan's club, but the Jazz and their prime point guard couldn't produce a complete game. Utah scored just 16 points in the third quarter, and Williams--defended well by the Lakers' guards--tallied just 6 points after halftime. On the other bench, the story was different. Bryant received help from six teammates who all scored at least 9 points each, as the Lakers continued to score the ball in the second half. Phil Jackson's juggernaut twice attained a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter before a late rally by Utah cosmetically improved the score. The game wasn't as close as the final margin might suggest. Game 5 is Monday back in Los Angeles.

By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer


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