The Pacers' collapse is nearly complete after going down 30 at home in a critical Game 5, while the Spurs and Mavericks fought in another instant classic in Dallas.
5 things to know
Indiana's collapse is nearly complete
It might be years before we learn what really went wrong with the Indiana Pacers, how a team that started this season 25-5 can now find itself on the brink of elimination in the first round. The Pacers' issues started well before the onset of the playoffs -- they were only 16-14 after the All-Star break -- but a series with an Atlanta team that finished six games under .500 was supposed to serve as the perfect tuneup for bigger things to come. So much for that.
The record books will show the Pacers only lost by 10 on Monday, but the game was never that close. This was a true beatdown that saw the Indiana trail by as many as 30 points in the third quarter. When you're getting smoked by Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott on every possession, it might be time to call it a season.
No one is going to officially write off the Pacers before that decisive fourth loss, but Game 5 felt like it was full of signs foreshadowing an end in sight. There was Paul George, the 23-year-old face of the franchise, getting heckled mercilessly by the home fans. There was Lance Stephenson launching for a tomahawk dunk, only to slam the ball between the rim and the backboard. There was Roy Hibbert, a man with a max contract, finishing the night with zero points, zero rebounds and four fouls over only 12 minutes. Mostly, there was team president Larry Bird shaking his head like a disappointed father at the entire debacle.
What else is left to do? Just months ago, it looked like the Pacers were on their way to a dream season. At this point, Indiana is just biding its time before it can finally wake up from this nightmare. -Ricky O'Donnell
Give credit to the Hawks
So, who do you trust more in a Game 6? The 38-win Hawks who barely snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the East, or the Pacers who have slowly unraveled in real time over the last three months? At this point you have to like the Hawks’ chance who took control of the series by running Indy off its home floor during a 41-19 second quarter that was led by the likes of Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack.
The Pacers’ epic struggles are the obvious storyline here, but give credit to the Hawks who have managed to get themselves one win away from advancing to the second round without star center Al Horford. They hit 50 percent of their shots and were a sensational 15-for-27 from behind the arc. Scott and Kyle Korver hit 10 of those triples and Korver’s deep three in the fourth quarter ended all hopes of a frantic Indy comeback.
Add it all up and the Hawks are one win away from playing in the conference semifinals. Deep breaths, Atlanta. It’s all happening. -Paul Flannery
Spurs survive without really thriving
There would be no Vince Carter heroics in Game 4. With the Spurs again up two in the closing seconds, the Mavericks instead gave the ball to Monta Ellis, who zoomed all the way down the lane before blowing the lefty layup. The Spurs rebounded, Manu Ginobili hit two free throws and they regained home-court advantage.
Still, it wasn't easy, which should concern Spurs fans. For a time, it looked like it might be. Led by Ginobili, the Spurs closed the first half on a big run, then started the second half the same way. They looked like ... well, they actually looked like the Spurs, with the fluidity and pep in their step that we've come to expect. But the Mavericks wouldn't lay down, dusting off DeJuan Blair and a lineup featuring four reserves to come all the way back. Hell, if it weren't for Blair's ejection for kicking Tiago Splitter with three minutes left, maybe Dallas completes the comeback.
San Antonio got its split in Dallas, but they still haven't found perfect answers for the Mavericks' ingenuity, sagging defense and endless lineup combinations. A series that looked like a walk remains very much a dog fight. Mike Prada
The end of the Bobcats
Game 4 was supposed to be the proud last stand for the Charlotte Bobcats, one final act of defiance in the face of a decade of misery. A win against the Heat -- even if it was just one game -- would have reaffirmed the steps Charlotte undoubtedly had taken this season. A shocking series win would have made up for years of ill-advised draft picks, ugly uniforms and playing Sean May 24 minutes a game in 2006. Well, at least a little bit.
Alas, the Bobcats didn't beat Miami. Instead, they were swept for the second time in their brief playoff history. With their first-round exit putting an end to the season, the hope is that the team in North Carolina stops acting as a bottom feeder in the Eastern Conference. The team has long been a source of endless jokes (mostly about Sean May) but with the Bobcats namesake retired without a single playoff win in 10 years, maybe those jokes will finally end. The Bobcats are dead. Long live the Bobcats. -Dane Carbaugh
Barking up the right tree
What follows is the transcript of a real conversation that happened.
MAN IN SHINY SLEEVELESS SHIRT: OK, listen dog. I'm going to stand up, and when I'm standing up, I want you to run a lap around my neck. Then I'm going to do a forward tumble and I want you to run along my torso and butt parts like you're on a treadmill while I'm tumbling. Got it? OK. And then I'm going to balance on one hand and spin very slowly, and while I'm doing that I want you to stand on my back on your hind legs and, hey, could you maybe pump your paws real fast while you're standing there so it looks like you're playing a little invisible dog piano?
DOG: Yo, I'll do whatever if you give me pieces of meat.
MAN IN SHINY SLEEVELESS SHIRT: Great. This will be great. We'll do this at basketball games.
DOG: You'd think the fact that I can talk would be the bigger attraction, but I guess you're the idea man.-Seth Rosenthal
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