Deron Williams, nominal franchise player, took nine shots in Game 2 and missed all of them. D-Will also took zero free throws, which put him in the not-so-exclusive club of prominent NBA players who have put up a postseason bagel. Step aside, Roy Hibbert. Make room, Kevin Garnett. There’s a new scoreless wonder in your midst. You have to go all the way back to his rookie season to find the last time Williams failed to score in a game, and that was playing backup minutes.
What makes D-Will’s disappearing act all the more troublesome is the Nets could have found a way to win this game if they had received even average production from the player formerly known as the second-best point guard in the league. Brooklyn slowed the pace, hit a bunch of threes (thanks, Mirza Teletovic) and threw all kinds of funky lineups at the Heat in an effort to steal a game that was there to be stolen.
Instead the Nets go back to Brooklyn with their season hanging in the balance and the crushing weight of unmet expectations on their one-time savior. -Paul Flannery
The relentless machine
San Antonio is an offensive machine. Against Portland on Thursday night, the Spurs took everything they wanted from the Trail Blazers. San Antonio allowed Portland to force them into midrange jumpers, which they took in rhythm and with ease, particularly from the right elbow and left wing. Then, there was Kawhi Leonard. Quietly, the Spurs' third-year wing put down eight of his nine shots, including all four from three-point range, and looked absolutely unstoppable. Portland had no answer for any of the Spurs from beyond the arc, allowing San Antonio to shoot 12-of-20 on threes in Game 2. Terry Stotts' defensive gameplan is built to stop threes and limit percentage at the rim, and on Thursday night, the Blazers did neither.
The Spurs are like a hand built restoration of an old steam-powered locomotive. Every beautiful piece is crafted with the sole purpose of doing one job, revolution after revolution, for decades at a time. Old school in design, new school in execution and precision. Whether it's their sideline pick-and-roll, their spot-up three-point shooting or Tim Duncan's endless, reliable shoveling of 15-foot jumpers into the boiler of an NBA playoff game, the Spurs are built to last. The machine is here, and it's not slowing down in Portland. -Dane Carbaugh
You might not have noticed it because of the public and violent manner in which the Indiana Pacers crumbled after the All-Star break, but the Miami Heat actually weren't much better to finish the season. The Heat closed the metaphorical second half 17-14, and rarely resembled the team that left nothing but scorched Earth on its way to the last two NBA championships. Despite all that, it didn't seem like anyone was all that concerned about Miami's chances before the onset playoffs. At this point, it's public knowledge that the Heat can flip a switch when the games start counting for real.
That's exactly what happened Thursday as Miami closed out the Brooklyn Nets for their sixth straight win of the postseason. It wasn't always easy because of a relative off-night from LeBron James, but the Heat were still able to hit the gas in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. A team that finished dead last in offensive rebounding grabbed three on one possession to ice the game late in the fourth quarter. Ray Allen, who saw his numbers dip across the board this season, turned in throwback effort with 13 points and eight rebounds. Chris Bosh's 18 points were also huge with struggling LeBron. The situation called for it, so the Heat turned it on in a way we haven't seen in a long time.
While the rest of this year's playoffs have been defined by close scores and Game 7s, the Heat keep rolling on drama free. You don't have to worry about them coasting anymore. The switch has been flipped. -Ricky O'Donnell
Off the LaMarcus
To paraphrase an oft-used NBA cliche: Terrence Jones isn't walking through that door. That's LaMarcus Aldridge's sad reality right now. After torching the hapless Rockets defense in Round 1, Aldridge is finding life much more difficult against the San Antonio Spurs.
You can thank Tiago Splitter for that. The Spurs' big man has used his length to push Aldridge off his spots and contest his attempts. He's funneled Aldridge into the Spurs' traps, and Aldridge has taken the bait. Even when he got to the basket, he couldn't finish, hitting just 2-13 in the paint. In the paint! It hurt because Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum had bounce-back performances, at least offensively, but Aldridge still couldn't get it going.
Now might be the time for Terry Stotts to mix things up, because those left-block post-ups aren't working. The Blazers may need to use Aldridge more as a pick and roll player, where he can get clean perimeter looks and use his mobility to take the Spurs' big men off the dribble. Anything to get Aldridge back to his first-round level. -Mike Prada
The next Spurs superstar
There are moments when you, a Kawhi Leonard booster, doubts the breathless predictions of a superstar future. None of those moments were present on Thursday night. Leonard finished with 20 points on 8-9 shooting, hitting all four of his threes and adding five rebounds, two blocks and two steals. That type of night would be impressive for anyone. But for a 22-year-old in a high-pressure situation, it means even more.
What Leonard has become is, in a way, a new Shawn Marion: the rare three-and-D superstar. On those great Suns teams, Marion was the Swiss Army knife that allowed Phoenix to make interesting roster and rotation decisions. He filled the gaps. He was, basically, a superstar roleplayer. That's where Kawhi is: he's not going to drop 30 or tally a triple-double, but he's going to lock down an opposing scorer, create some open-court opportunities and hit enough shots to make you feel it.
If there is a Next Big Three of the Spurs, Kawhi's right at the center of it. What a steal by San Antonio. -Tom Ziller
Indiana Pacers at Washington WizardsSeries tied 1-1 | 8 p.m. ET, ESPNVerizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles ClippersSeries tied 1-1 | 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNSTAPLES Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
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