The 2013 NBA Playoffs took a decisive turn for four teams on Wednesday night, as the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies clinched their series against the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder. Do-or-die Game 5 scenarios played out poorly for the Bulls and Thunder, as they both came out on the wrong side of games decided by a combined total of seven points. Here's a breakdown of how the Heat and Grizzlies each managed to advance to the Conference Finals.
Heat 94, Bulls 91 | Heat clinch series, 4-1
The bold font on the epithet for the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls will officially read "Here Lies the Lost Season of Derrick Rose," but the smaller subtext will definitely say "But His Teammates Sure Did Play Hard Anyways." Game 5 played out like a metaphor for their entire season, which unfortunately ended in heartbreak due to a big run by LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the final period.
Chicago fell behind early in the first quarter and generally looked terrible. Miami jumped out to a 20-4 lead that got the home crowd engaged in the game, and at that point everyone left the Bulls for dead. It was time for NBA Draft talk. Then, the Bulls suddenly awoke near the end of the first quarter and mounted a 20-5 run that put them back within six points of the defending champs by halftime. Carlos Boozer scored 19 of his team-high 26 points (on 7-of-9 shooting) during the first two quarters.
Tom Thibodeau's squad fought hard and rallied to take an eight-point lead heading into the final period, but the Heat exploded in the fourth quarter and escaped with the win. LeBron (23 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (18 points, six assists, five rebounds) played well enough to clinch the series. Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson both had chances to send the game to overtime with a last-second three-pointer, but the shots came up short and Miami advanced.
Matt Pineda has more on Miami's comeback at Hot Hot Hoops:
The Heat's climb back was sparked by a spirited better play by Dwyane Wade who had 18 points and 6 assists, as he played 37 minutes. Wade had a put back dunk and some euro-step type plays of his former self that sparked the crowd as he played with more passion than his previous games. Norris Cole ignited the crowd as he dunked over the defense of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Shane Battier connected on two shots from distance to close the gap after missing his previous four. And as always LeBron James played well with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
Grizzlies 88, Thunder 84 | Grizzlies clinch series, 4-1
Kevin Durant closed out his season with a 5-21 shooting night (21 points, eight rebounds, six assists), Derrick Fisher shot 3-11 from beyond the arc and everyone was left to think about Russell Westbrook and what could have been for OKC. Zach Randolph dominated by scoring a game-high 28 points and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds as the Grizzlies closed out the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and under 25 percent from deep, but that grinding style of play allowed Memphis to dictate the tempo and style of the game.
Thunder blog Welcome to Loud City resisted the urge to come out with the torches and pitchforks against head coach Scott Brooks after the loss:
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
First thought: Wow, the Thunder are really, really good with Russell Westbrook.
Second thought: I'm not sure anybody can be really disappointed with the way the Thunder gutted it out after losing their starting point guard for the rest of the season.
If there's one thing to say about Scott Brooks right now, it's that his team plays as hard as they can for him until the last second of the last game. He may not be God's gift to coaching offense, but he does get every ounce of energy out of his players for 48 minutes every night.