Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.
The Pacers closed out the Magic on Tuesday night, while the other three games saw the trailing team prevail.
Magic @ Pacers – Pacers win series with a 105-87 victory in game 5
MVP – Darren Collison
The true value in the Pacers’ style of play is that their opponent cannot possibly defend all of their weapons. They may lack a “super” star in today’s stud driven league, but with consistent production from their deep roster, they are a formidable opponent. Collison has been efficient of late, and he saved his best for the closeout game last night. Collison made 90% of his field goals, including his lone three-pointer, registering a game high 1.9 points per field goal attempt. He handed out 6 assists, compared to 1 turnover, and recorded a game high 3 steals. Collison came off the bench to pace Indiana, as they outscored the Magic 18-0 in transition. The reserve guard has 23 dimes and only the 1 turnover this postseason, making him the most efficient guard thus far. His solid play will give Indiana a shot in every single game, and he comes with relatively little risk.
Celtics @ Hawks – Hawks force series back to Boston with 87-86 win
MVP – Al Horford
A few short weeks ago, Horford seemed doubtful for even a deep playoff run. The Celtics would be resting for the second round if that was the case, as Horford controlled the play in the paint during Atlanta’s game 5 victory. His stat line was impressive (19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocked shots) but it was his end of the game defense on Rajon Rondo that secured the victory. Off of a turnover by Josh Smith, Rondo raced down the court with time dwindling. He tried to beat Horford baseline after a pick, but Horford denied the penetration. His agility caused a sloppy crossover that carried Rondo away from the rim, and resulted in the Celtics not getting a shot off. The Hawks are filled with athletes, but the skill and health of Horford is vital to their success.
76ers @ Bulls – Bulls live to play another day with 77-69 victory
MVP – Luol Deng
Without the reigning MVP (Rose) and emotional leader (Noah), the Bulls turned to their “other” 2012 All Star to send the series to a sixth game. Deng responded in a big way, recording a 63.2 eFG% while attempting more shots than at any point in the past month. The play making of Rose? Deng filled the void by draining 4 three-pointers and slashing through the lane on a consistent basis. The tenacity and energy of Noah? Deng took on that role too, grabbing 8 rebounds, swatting 2 shots, and registering 2 steals. If I didn’t know any better, I think I saw Deng change in a phone booth on his way to the post game interview. While a performance like this is all the Bulls fans can ask for, it has to be nauseating to think about the potential a healthy Chicago team had.
Nuggets @ Lakers – Nuggets dominate and manage to hold on late, beating LA 102-99 at Staples
MVP – Andre Miller
Forget MVP for the game, Miller has been the best Nugget this series. The reserve guard turned in another beauty, notching 24 points and 8 dimes in 28 minutes of action. His strength has given the Lakers’ back-court fits all series long, as they simply cannot prevent him from getting where he wants to on seemingly every possession. His 24 points came with a 81.2 eFG% while his 8 helpers came at the expense of only 1 turnover. He won’t make the game’s highlights, as he rarely makes the spectacular play, but he makes the correct play … every single time. The Nuggets are still facing an uphill battle, but with the best guard in the series, they’ve got more than a puncher’s chance at sending this to a decisive game 7.