Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.
There were big games and bigger performances all weekend long. Let’s check in on some of the most impressive.
Celtics @ 76ers – It’s not how you start (14-0 first 3:16) but rather how you finish (33-20 fourth quarter) as 76ers eek out 92-83 win
MVP: Andre Iguodala
Philadelphia’s lone all star showed up in a big way as his 76ers beat the Celtics to even up the best of 7 series. He knocked down all 3 of his three-point attempts, with each one seemingly more clutch than the one before it. The 3/3 day from behind the arc matched a season high for three pointers made without a miss. Iggy scored half of his points (8) in the dramatic fourth quarter, and was trusted with orchestrating the offense in the final minutes. He grabbed 7 rebounds and handed out 4 assists, as he did everything the 76ers needed. Philly has won the last 6 games in which he has recorded at least 7 rebounds or assists, proving his value.
Thunder @ Lakers – They call free throws easy points for a reason, as the Lakers accuracy dooms Thunder, 99-96
MVP’s: Joe Crawford, Zach Zarba, and Sean Wright
Don’t know these names? They are typically paid to have as little as impact on a game as possible, but there is no denying that they played a huge role in the Lakers ability to beat the Thunder on Friday night. The Lakers made as many free throws (41) as were totaled in the Celtics/76ers game despite scoring 76 fewer total points. Give LA credit for making their free throws (97.6%), but it is unheard of to score 41 points from the line and 46 points on two point baskets. In fact, the Lakers accuracy ranked second all time (behind only the 2003 Mavs) for a playoff team attempting at least 30 free throws. Maybe the Lakers were more aggressive, but it is still a huge jump from the games first two games. Los Angeles attempted 29 free throws in Oklahoma City, both losses. The Thunder’s starters went 15/16 from the line, with the NBA leader in FTA Kevin Durant making his 6 attempts. Kobe Bryant single handily made 18 free throws, with Andre Bynum making 11 freebies.
Spurs @ Clippers – Basketball is a games of runs, and Spurs prove it’s not how you start, but rather how you finish in a 96-86 victory
MVP: Tim Duncan
His claim for best power forward of all time continues to improve, as he led the Spurs back from a 24 point first half hole. Timmy out-scored and out-assisted the Clippers in the third quarter (Spurs won the quarter 26-8) with 11 points and 2 dimes. Duncan led the Spurs in minutes and rebounds as he provided a calming influence for San Antonio while they overcame a historic deficit. The Spurs were outscored by 10 points for the 10 minutes Duncan was not on the court, and were +20 when he was in (and that includes him playing most of an 11-33 first quarter). Duncan has never been as valuable this season as he has been this season, with the Spurs yet to lose in over a month.
Thunder @ Lakers – Do we have a new “most clutch” player in the NBA?
MVP: Kevin Durant
Mr. May is doing it again as KD tore the heart out of the Laker faithful with a 31 point game that included the game winner. Durant’s 11 fourth quarter points allowed the Thunder to turn a 9 point deficit into a 3 point victory. He was also the only player to record a double-double, as Durant managed a game high 13 rebounds. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are capable of dominating the boards, but the dynamic duo combined for only 14 rebounds. Durant’s rebounding is crucial, as he has the ability to turn a defensive rebound into a great transition look in a heartbeat. The Spurs are the hottest team in the NBA, but Durant may be the best player going, and gives his team a chance to win every single night.
Heat @ Pacers – Big Two simply too much to handle for 48 minutes, Heat pull away with 101-93 win
MVP: LeBron James
Wow. Words cannot describe what the King did last night, as he willed the Heat to even out the series at 2 games a piece, regaining home court advantage. All he did was lead Miami in FGA, FGM, FTA, FTM, Offensive Rebounds, Rebounds, Assists, and Steals. His historic 40 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists rank second all time in a single playoff game production, behind only Elgin Baylor in 1961. He scored at least 7 points in every quarter, including 14 in a third quarter that saw the Heat seize control of this game for the first time. There are numerous stats that paint an appropiate picture, but I believe this one takes the cake.
40 points (27 shots), 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 12/16 free throws
38 points (35 shots), 20 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 4/6 free throws
Spurs @ Clippers – San Antonio ousts the Clippers in 4 straight (18 straight wins) with 102-99 victory
MVP: Tim Duncan
The Big Fundamental isn’t the sexy name, but he is currently the best player on the best team going in the NBA. He did it again on Sunday, scoring 21 points on only 14 shots, grabbing 9 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots. Heck, he trailed only Chris Paul in assist to turnover ratio with a 4:1 mark. Duncan isn’t flashy, but he wins games, and that’s all that matters this time of the year. Timmy deserves all the credit he gets and more, earning him this weekends MVP.