Here’s what happened on day nine of the 2017 NBA Playoffs:
CLE 106 – IND 102, CLE eliminates IND
The Cleveland Cavaliers inflicted the first four-game sweep on the Indiana Pacers, to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It wasn’t easy though.
The defending champions had a 13-point lead, 96-83, with 9:29 left in the game, but Indiana zoomed back to take a two-point lead, 102-100, with 1:31 left, off a Thaddeus Young put-back of a Paul George miss.
Off a timeout though, Cleveland stole ahead for good, courtesy of a LeBron James triple. Back-to-back turnovers hurt the Pacers, but George was able to steal it back the second time. Unfortunately, his potential overtime-forcing shot with 1.9 seconds remaining failed to connect, and a split by James at the stripe closed this one out.
LeBron James had 33 points and 10 rebounds, plus four assists, four steals, and two blocks to lead Cleveland. Kyrie Irving added 28 markers, while Kevin Love made up for a 2-of-13 outing with 16 rebounds.
Indiana star Paul George had his worst outing of the series, just 15 points on 21 shots, but Myles Turner (20 points, nine rebounds) and Lance Stephenson (22 points off the bench), were able to pick up some of the slack. Just not enough to force a game five though.
HOU 113 – OKC 109, HOU leads the series 3-1
When you boil it down, Houston has the personnel that can make up for a poor James Harden outing. Oklahoma City, unfortunately, isn’t quite there.
Despite a 5-of-16 shooting night for James Harden, the Houston Rockets came out on top with a 40-point fourth quarter to go back to Houston armed with a 3-1 series lead.
Harden scored just 16 points, missed all seven of his triples, and saw his eight assists nearly equaled by seven turnovers. However, reserve center Nene was a perfect 12-of-12 from the field for 28 points, pairing nicely with his 10 rebounds. Bench gunners Eric Gordon and Lou Williams added 18 points apiece too, helping to carry the load.
Westbrook in contrast had a triple-double by the half, and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, and Jerami Grant all had great outings, combining for 43 points on 20-of-25 shooting.
However, the turning point came in the fourth quarter, when Houston went to Hack-a-Roberson.
Andre Roberson’s been solid for OKC, helping defend James Harden on one end, while actually managing to knock down triples on offense. However, the Rockets exposed his inability to hit free throws, sending him repeatedly to the line. He was just 2-of-8 in the fourth, 2-of-12 overall, and the tactic messed up the Thunder’s flow sufficiently down the stretch.
BOS 104 – CHI 95, series tied at 2-2
The Boston Celtics tied up their series against the Chicago Bulls.
Fueled early on by Gerald Green (18 points, 4/9 3FG, 7 rebounds), Boston went up by as much as 20 points, 41-21, and 45-25, in the second period of this game. Chicago however, wasn’t about to give up without a fight. Trailing 59-46 at the start of the third, a 19-4 run propelled them ahead, 65-63, following a Robin Lopez hook shot.
It didn’t last though. Boston responded with 12 unanswered points, 10 from Isaiah Thomas, and the remaining two on an Al Horford make that he assisted on, 75-65, 1:33 left in the third. The Celtics stayed in control the rest of the way, their lead never dipping below five points.
Thomas was sensational, finishing with 33 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Al Horford chipped in 115 points, 12 rebounds and four dimes, while Jae Crowder contributed 11 markers.
The Bulls drew 33 points from Jimmy Butler, but he was clearly gassed towards the end. He played just under 46 minutes, scoring 33 (7/16 FG, 19/23 FT), with five boards and nine assists. The team got a big boost from Isaiah Canaan, the team’s fourth-string point guard, as he scored 13 markers, while Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams both went scoreless.
UTA 105 – LAC 98, series tied at 2-2
Joe Johnson saved the day anew.
While the Jazz got center Rudy Gobert back, swingman Gordon Hayward played just nine minutes in the first half for three points, before sitting out the entire second due to food poisoning. With the Clippers up seven, 87-70, with 7:37 remaining, someone had to step up.
Enter Joe Johnson.
Johnson scored the Jazz’s next 11 points to put the home team up, 91-90, 3:55 still to play. He then assisted on three straight triples, two by Joe Ingles, and one by Rodney Hood, to turn the tide completely and put Utah up eight, 102-94, just under a minute remaining. DeAndre Jordan managed a field goal, but a split by Derrick Favors, and then two made charities by Johnson wrapped this one up nicely.
The “Armadillo Cowboy” logged a game-best 28 points off the bench, shooting 12-of-17 from the field, in addition to five rebounds and five assists. Rodney Hood had 18 markers, half via three-pointers, Derrick Favors chimed in 17 points, and Rudy Gobert had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds in his return after missing two games.
Playing without Blake Griffin, Chris Paul poured in 27 points and handed out 12 assists. Jamal Crawford came off the bench and waxed hot, dropping 25 on a 9-of-13 clip.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images