NBA playoff action heats up
As of Wednesday, all four NBA conference semifinal series have been reduced to best-of-three affairs. The Pacers/Heat, the Nets/Pistons, the Timberwolves/Kings and the Lakers/Spurs series are all knotted at two games apiece.
Indiana jumped out to a two game lead, winning both games at home (94-81 and 91-80) thanks in part to forward Ron Artest, who was the Pacers’ leading scorer in both games. Coach Rick Carlisle’s squad was also able to take advantage of the fact that the Heat were coming off a grueling seven game series with the New Orleans Hornets.
When the series went back to Miami, the Heat continued their unbeatable play at American Airlines Arena during the playoffs. Rookie Dwayne Wade scored 25 to lead the Heat in a 94-87 victory.
In the series’ fourth game the Heat won with a balanced scoring attack. Wade, Caron Butler and Lamar Odom had 20, 21 and 22 points, respectively, as Miami won 100-88 to nullify Indiana’s momentum. The series resumes Saturday in Indianapolis.
After making short work of the Knicks in the first round, Jason Kidd and the Nets got a reality check when they faced a legitimate NBA playoff team in the Detroit Pistons. Detroit won both games at Auburn Hills in convincing fashion, 78-56 and 95-80. Guard Richard Hamilton shared the scoring lead in both wins.
The Nets woke up when the series went to Continental Arena for game three. Forward Richard Jefferson dropped 30 in the Nets’ 82-64 win. Jersey tied the series in game four, winning 94-79 behind a triple-double by Kidd. Game five is Friday back in the Motor City.
Out west, the Lakers looked like they would fall short of their championship expectations after dropping the first two games of their series to Tim Duncan and the defending champion Spurs. Duncan had 30 in the Spurs’ 88-78 game one win. French guard Tony Parker matched the feat in the 95-85 victory in game two.
The Lakers held Duncan to only 10 points (4-14 from the field) in game three at the Staples Center and won handily, 105-81. Kobe Bryant scored 42 and Shaquille O’Neal notched a double-double to lead the Lakers to a 98-90 game four win. The squads return to the SBC Center in San Antonio for game five on Thursday night.
The Sacramento Kings are the first team to have won on the road in the conference semifinals, thanks to guard Mike Bibby’s 33 point game in the Kings’ 104-98 game one win over the T-Wolves. MVP Kevin Garnett led Minnesota with 28 as the Wolves won 94-89 to tie the series at one. The teams then split games two and three at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
The Timberwolves won 114-113 in overtime to take game three. The Kings then answered back in game four with a 87-81 win in which forward Chris Webber poured in 28. The Kings and T-Wolves meet again at the Target Center on Friday night.