Sports: The early birds in the NBA Playoffs second round
San Antonio and Oklahoma City swept their respective first round assignments in the National Basketball Association playoffs to gain headway in their quest for a possible conference finals showdown in the Western Conference while Chicago is in danger of an early ouster versus Philadelphia.
The Bulls won yesterday’s Game 5 duel with the Sixers via a 77-69 triumph in Illinois despite the absence of main man Derrick Rose who’s definitely out for the season after tearing his ACL in Chicago’s Game 1 triumph over Philadelphia last week.
British NBA player Luol Deng led the Bulls in scoring with 24 markers while Carlos Boozer added 19 points for Chicago in that low-scoring game. Philadelphia will try to wrap things up in Game 6 away from the United Center this time where the Sixers won Game 2 sans Rose.
Meanwhile, the Spurs blanked No. 8 Utah in their own best-of-seven duel for the Western Conference semis highlighted by a huge 87-81 Game 4 triumph at the Jazz’ homecourt to arrange a second-round meeting with either No. 4 Memphis or No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers.
San Antonio enjoys home court advantage in the entire Western Conference and if the Spurs takes the West finals slot and the Bulls lose to Philadelphia, Tim Duncan and company will surely gain the needed edge when it comes to playing games at their home turf against any ballclub from the East, be it Miami or Indiana or Boston, in the 2012 NBA Finals next month.
On the part of the young Thunder, Kevin Durant and company also scored a 4-0 sweep of deposed NBA champion Dallas earlier than the other playoff quintets and are awaiting the winner of the LA Lakers-Denver Nuggets first-round setto with the Tinseltown squad holding a precarious 3-2 series advantage.
The Lakers lost to the No. 6 Nuggets yesterday over at the Staples Center despite Kobe Bryant’s 43 points with Denver posting a humiliating 102-99 triumph against the hometown crowd behind Andre Miller’s 24 markers off the bench. Big man JaVale McGee added 21 points and 14 caroms for the Nuggets also as a reserve.
Kobe, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol led the Lakers in winning Games 1, 2 and 4 and were fancied to win Game 5 at home with momentum in their side after taking their fourth meeting with the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center a few days ago.
But Coach George Karl’s charges had other things in mind in last Wednesday’s meeting as Denver outscored the home team in the first three quarters of the said outing, 26-23, 23-20 and 27-22 with the Nuggets leading 76-65 going into the payoff period. Bryant’s scoring spree in the final period almost won the game for LA but his efforts went short despite the home team’s 34-26 scoring advantage.
As for the Clippers, ‘Lob City’ took Game 4 on the road via a 101-97 victory in overtime for a 3-1 series lead and a possible second-round meeting with the top seeded Spurs as Blake Griffin scored 30 points on top of five rebounds and seven assists. Game 5 will be played in Tennessee.
Over in the East, the Pacers eliminated the Dwight Howard-less Magic in Game 5 by scoring a decisive 105-87 triumph at home anchored on Danny Granger’s team-topping 25 points. The Pacers won their first playoff series since 2005 by outlasting Orlando.
Finally, Atlanta nipped Boston, 87-86, in Game 5 at Philips Arena in Georgia to cut the Celtics’ series lead to 3-2 with Game 6 set at the Boston Garden tomorrow while today, Miami hosts New York in Game 5 with the Heat leading the series, 3-1.*
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