The 2013 NBA playoff action on Thursday night featured some stellar play from Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer and Ray Allen, as the Grizzlies, Bulls and Heat all claimed important wins. Here's a rundown of everything that happened in the NBA on Thursday.
Grizzlies 94, Clippers 82 | L.A. leads series 2-1
In the first two games of the series, Zach Randolph scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds combined. On Thursday night in Game 3 he stepped up his game and posted a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds as Memphis secured their first win of the series. When Randolph plays well the Grizzlies are a different squad, and team blog Grizzly Bear Blues hit on his transformation in the game recap:
Z-Bo had a bit of a coming out party tonight for the first time in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. He looked like an indomitable force from the start of the game, posting 13 points in the first quarter. Randolph also played very well against Griffin defensively, and only 2 of Griffin's 10 first quarter points came with Randolph guarding him. Over the course of the game, it looked like Z-Bo has finally figured out how to guard Griffin, which is to give him space and not let him spin around you for an easy dunk, so that's promising for the rest of the series.
The pace of the game favored Memphis, as things slowed down in the half court and both teams shot under 39 percent from the field. L.A. guards struggled to control the game, which played right into the hands of Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and company. Steve Perrin of Clips Nation noted in his recap that Chris Paul recorded more turnovers (five) than assists (four) for only the 10th time in 591 career games, and no other player in the backcourt stepped up to fill the void:
Paul (4-11), Chauncey Billups (3-8), Jamal Crawford (3-10) and Eric Bledsoe (0-4) combined to make just 10 shots in 33 tries. With Paul slogging through perhaps the worst playoff performance of his career, the Clippers might still have made a game of this had Bledsoe come into the game as his usual Grizzlyslayer persona. Instead he scored zero points, missing each of his shots in disturbing fashion. There's also a huge difference in 38.8 percent shooting with five offensive rebounds (the Clippers) and 38.8 percent shooting with 17 offensive rebounds (the Grizzlies); all those extra possessions actually made the Grizzlies offensive night fairly efficient, despite the poor shooting.
The Grizzlies played Game 3 within their comfort zone, and if they can replicate that in the next game we could be headed for another seven-game series between these two teams. Game 4 is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in Memphis.
Bulls 79, Nets 76 | Chicago leads series 2-1
The Bulls have never had a problem with winning ugly under Tom Thibodeau, and in Game 3 against the Nets they came through with another grind-it-out win. Brooklyn jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter, but then Deron Williams lost his groove and the Nets quickly fell off their pace. Chicago responded by mounting a quick 14-5 run to take a 19-17 lead, and from there they built up a big lead as Brooklyn's offense completely collapsed.
The Blog-a-Bull game recap summarized Brooklyn's failures well:
Over about a 13-minute stretch from midway through the first quarter to midway through the second, the Nets went 1-of-25 from the field and were outscored 28-4. Much credit obviously goes to the Bulls' defense, which was swarming all over the place, but the Nets were much to blame as well. Their shot selection was terrible and it's simply hard to run effective offense against a defense as good as the Bulls when there are so many offensive zeros on the floor. Again, just embarrassing.
By halftime the shot chart for Brooklyn looked like this:
Now let's cleanse our pallet with a Taj Gibson dunk.
The Bulls decided to make things hard on themselves down the stretch, because it seems that nothing can truly be easy for Chicago this season. They failed to score on a shot from the field in the final 5:47 of the game, and had to wait for C.J. Watson to airball a three in the final seconds to claim victory. The important thing is that they gained a 2-1 advantage in the series with another home game yet to come this weekend. Somehow, the Bulls are in a terrific position. All hail Thibs.
Game 4 of the series is set for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday in Chicago.
Heat 104, Bucks 91 | Miami leads series 3-0
Just as Ray Allen passed Reggie Miller for the all-time NBA record in playoff three-pointers made on Thursday night, LeBron James and the Miami Heat pushed past the Milwaukee Bucks as if they were frozen in time to snatch an authoritative 3-0 series lead. Allen finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-14 shooting in his playoff homecoming to Milwaukee, while LeBron James continued his stellar play and posted 22 points on 9-14 shooting, six assists and five rebounds.
The Bucks kept things close enough to get the home crowd engaged early, but Miami ripped off a huge second-half run to cement their stranglehold on the series. Jake McCormick of Brew Hoop summed up the 21-3 Heat run succinctly in the Game 3 recap:
21-3. Here's that run we all expected, yet never saw coming. It included a three and a half minute stretch at the end of the third quarter where the Bucks committed four turnovers and failed to even attempt a shot until Brandon Jennings heaved one in desperation at the buzzer.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis struggled to score efficiently, as they combined for 23 points on 7-24 shooting. J.J. Redick only played 17 minutes on the night, but he made the most of his time and put in 11 points on 4-7 shooting, including 3-6 accuracy on threes.
It was only ever a matter of time, but Brandon Jennings' prediction of a Bucks series win in six games is officially incorrect now. The Bucks limped into the playoffs for a matchup against the hottest team in the NBA, and now the Heat are just one game away from advancing to the second round. At least we will always have this Larry Sanders coast-to-coast dunk to remember:
Game 4 is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday in Milwaukee. In reality, it's time for Bucks fans to start thinking about free agency and what will happen to guys like Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy. The TNT crew certainly had their eye on Dunleavy in Game 3....or something: