On some nights, the MVP of a given game is tough to find, as the box score may not tell the complete story. This weekend several players stepped up in big ways, ending series and starting new ones on the right foot.
Bulls @ 76ers – 76ers advance with 79-78 win
MVP: Andre Iguodala
Sure, the all-star made two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to win the game, but his impact was massive for the entire contest. He scored 25.3% of the teams points on only 16.4% of their field goal attempts, and did most of his damage when his teammates needed him most. In the fourth quarter, Iggy didn’t misfire once, netting 7 of the teams final 16 over the last 9:21. He easily led all players with 36 points produced, highlighted by his team high 7 dimes. The ball was in his hands for the majority of his 42+ minutes on the court, yet he didn’t record a single turnover against what is widely considered the league’s best defense. I’m not sure that the Celtics have somebody to match-up with Iguodala, as he could once again prove to be the deciding factor.
Hawks @ Celtics – Celtics advance with 83-80 win
MVP: Kevin Garnett
Close out a series in a game in which Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combine to shoot 6/18 from the field? Anything is possibleeeeeeee! Kevin Garnett turned back the clock and offered up a dominating performance when Boston needed it most. The veteran made more field goals (10) and snagged more rebounds (14) than rest of the Celtics front line combined for. He attempted as many free throws as the Hawks did, and was relentless in the paint. Garnett refused to settle for bad shots, resulting in his 62.1 TS%. His 5 blocked shots also out-did the Atlanta total, and enabled the Celtics to hold a 12 point edge in the lane. He was a step ahead of Atlanta all night long, as when they wanted to shoot, he was ready to pounce, and when they wanted to pass, he read the play like a book. His savvy led to a game high 3 thefts, and was a largely responsible for the athletic Hawks being held to a mere 80 total points. Garnett’s days of doing this 82 times in a season may be behind him, but the Celtics only need 12 more wins, and with KG playing at this level, it’s hard to count them out.
Lakers @ Nuggets – Nuggets force a game 7 with a convincing 113-96 victory
MVP: Ty Lawson
This game was never close, and the ex-Tar Heel’s hot shooting set the early tone. He tallied 8 of the games first 11 points (all of which went to Denver), the second straight game in which he has come out blazing. The Lakers never fully rebounded, as they trailed for the entire 48 minutes on Thursday. Lawson finished with a game high 32 points, registering an incredibly efficient 86.1 eFG%. He made all 4 of his first half three-pointers, and drove by the helpless Laker defenders when they over-pursued in the third. The result was a 13 point third quarter, and a safe 22 point advantage for the home team. Lawson spent the fourth quarter getting some well deserved rest, finishing with 32 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 0 turnovers in 30 minutes of action.
Grizzles @ Clippers – Grizzles front court forces game 7
MVP: Zach Randolph
Have we found “Mr.May”? All Z-Bo seems to do is produce in a massive way when the lights are the brightest in the postseason. The Grizzles’ big man led all players with 6 offensive rebounds and 16 total rebounds, on his way to enforcing his will on the interior all night long. He played his best when it mattered the most, as he tallied a game high 7 points in a fourth quarter that also saw him snare 4 offensive rebounds and block two shots. The Clippers had 60% of their players get at least one shot blocked, with Randolph leading the way with 3 shots swatted. Z-Bo is not more athletic than either Clipper big, but he has the body it takes to dominate, and he knows how to use it. He may have had 4 shots blocked, but he often stuck with the ball, resulting in layup. There may not be a more “valuable” player to his team, as the Grizzles feed off Randolph and will go as far as he can lead them.
76ers @ Celtics – Celtics trail for most of game, storm back to take game 1, 92-91
MVP: Rajon Rondo
Kevin Garnett recorded a season high in points for the second straight game and Ray Allen led all players with a +17 plus/minus ratio, but it was Rondo that took over down the stretch. His eighth career playoff triple double (13 points, 17 assists, and 12 rebounds) was capped by a spectacular final 19 minutes, as he had a hand in 11 of Boston’s final 14 baskets. He was the only player in this contest to record more than 2 offensive rebounds (he had 5) and matched Evan Turner for a game high 4 steals. Remember when the Celtics were the “Big 3 + Rondo”? Well, they are at their best nowadays when it is “Rondo + Big 3″.
Nuggets @ Lakers – Lakers defend home court, advance with 96-87 victory
We saw just how bad the Lakers can be on Thursday night, but on Saturday night we saw the team that many believe could be a sleeper in the West. Kobe Bryant is a great player, but this teams advantage lies with its extreme size and skill on the interior. Gasol and Bynum acted like a school bully taking the lunch money of the Nuggets, as the pummeled them for 39 points, 35 rebounds (20 offensive), and 10 blocked shots. The 20 offensive rebounds were 83.3% of the Lakers total o-boards, symbolizing just how valuable they were. They do two things most dominant big man don’t do … make free throws and stay out of foul trouble. The duo shot 81.3% from the charity stripe, making them nearly impossible to contain. The finesse of Gasol allows the starting front court of LA to affect the game from everywhere inside of the three point line, as he registered a game high 6:1 assist to turnover ratio. They averaged 42 minutes of action, and had enough gas in the tank to make 90% of their free throws in the fourth quarter. Kobe is the game’s best closer, but it is up to Gasol and Bynum to put this team in a position to close.
Clippers @ Grizzles – Clippers dominate fourth quarter on way to 82-72 win
MVP: Kenyon Martin
In a game where offensive excellence was difficult to come by, Martin was the only player to record a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds). With the help of Martin, the Clippers bench matched the point total (41) of the starters, saving Los Angeles in the process. Trailing by 1 point heading into the fourth quarter, the Clippers relied heavily on their bench, specifically Martin. He tallied 7 points, as Los Angeles outscored Memphis 27-16 despite getting 0 field goals from their starting unit. Kenyon Martin will not dominate a game, but without him, the Clippers would be arranging tee times instead of plane trips to San Antonio.
Pacers @ Heat – Heat sprint past Pacers with big second half, 95-86
MVP: LeBron James
The newly crowned MVP of the league found his rhythm in the second half, scoring 26 points as he played every second of the second half. His 32 points and 15 rebounds aided a Heat attack that took 16 more shots in the paint on their way to a 12 point advantage. The King added 5 dimes and only 1 turnover, as he was his typical do it all self to open this series. We all know that the Pacers are a great team that is missing a star, and if Miami’s star is going to play like this, Indiana can start making off-season plans.