Every morning, we'll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.
1: Missed opportuniities...
There were four close-out games in 3-1 series last night. Three of those series are now 3-2.
In Atlanta, the Boston Celtics came out to a big lead, blew it, went down big to Atlanta, came back, and nearly stole an ugly game. Rajon Rondo stole an in-bounds pass with the C's down 1 in the final seconds, but he couldn't turn that into a shot attempt, and the C's fell 87-86. The Celtics looked sluggish and sloppy, thank in part to a hobbled Paul Pierce (knee strain). The Hawk got big minutes from Al Horford, which is encouraging... especially as they head back to Boston where the C's will try the closeout thing again.
In Chicago, the Philadelphia 76'ers found out that Chicago wasn't going to go out without a fight... and that was almost literally true. An early scrum showed the Bulls heart, as did an 8-2 run to close the first half. From there, the Bulls nursed a lead that hovered somewhere around 10 the rest of the way. The Bulls held Philly to 69 points on 32% shooting in the eight point win.
The Lakers couldn't finish the Nuggets off at home, meaning they'll have to hit the road to try to finish this series off. The Nuggets got some inspiration from Andrew Bynum, who said closeout games could be easy if the team quits. The Nuggets didn't, especially JaVale McGee, who had 21 and 14 off the bench for the Nuggets. The Nuggets had an 11 point lead going into the fourth quarter, but Kobe Bryant nearly won the game for the Lakers (more on that in a minute). He couldn't cap off the comeback, though, and Denver held on for the 102-99 win.
2: ... except in Indiana
We almost had a fourth close out game follow this pattern. The Orlando Magic took a two point lead into the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers... and then got dusted by 20. Danny Granger and Darren Collison took turns putting the Magic away. Collison had 15 points in the fourth quarter while Granger had 12. The final was 105-87, but it really was a battle for 36 minutes.
The Orlando Magic are done, and now wait for the drama to unfold there. The Pacers, meanwhile, wait for the Miami Heat to finish off the New York Knicks. The Knicks are starting Mike Bibby at point guard tonight... so.... yeah.... we just need a tip off time for Heat-Pacers Game 1.
Javale McGee with the offensive board, the dunk, and the foul
Josh Smith with the putback
Kobe Bryant with the... I'm not sure what he did exactly... but it went in
4: Line of the Night: Kobe Bryant - 43 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
14 of those points came in a 34-26 fourth quarter where LA almost came all the way back from a 15 point deficit with 6:30 left. Kobe make three 3-pointers in the span of 1:33 in a wild back and forth where the Lakers got as close as two points down... but they could never get any closer. The well ran dry as Bryant missed his final three shots.
5: You can quote me on that
"I wouldn't say the energy kicked in in the fourth quarter,'' Bryant said. ''I almost bailed us out, is what happened. That's something you can't rely on if you're going to win a championship."
-Kobe Bryant, on the Lakers fourth quarter surge
“He scares the hell out of me every time we go up against him.”
-Nuggets coach George Karl, on Kobe Bryant
"I haven't gotten into it. I'll have a conversation with a few people following the end of the season, and we'll see where we go from there."
-Magic GM Otis Smith, on whether he'll return next season
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