The Pacers, Wizards and Thunder all faced must-win situations Friday, and the Pacers, led by a triple-double from Victor Oladipo, were the only one of the three to extend their season. Follow along here for the latest analysis and commentary from The Post’s NBA reporter Tim Bontemps, and ask him questions in the comments section.
Russell Westbrook had altercations with fans as he left the court both at halftime and after the Oklahoma City Thunder saw their season end in a 96-91 loss to the Utah Jazz Friday night in Salt Lake City.
As Westbrook walked to the locker room at halftime, a fan leaned over the railing and yelled something at him, causing Westbrook to turn around and Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks to get between the two parties. The fan then sat back down, and Westbrook carried on to the locker room.
After the game, as Westbrook was walking out of the same tunnel, a different fan stuck his phone out as Westbrook was walking by to go to the locker room, though it was unclear what was the phone was pointing at or what the fan was doing.
Westbrook then slapped at the man’s hand and said twice, “Get that out of my face.” Security quickly intervened, as did Matt Tumbleson, the Thunder’s head of PR, and Westbrook walked away.
When asked about the incident after the game, Westbrook didn’t hold back.
“I don’t confront fans,” he said. “Fans confront me. Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here. With these fans, it’s truly disrespectful. They talk about your families, your kids, and it’s just disrespect to the game.
“It’s something that needs to be brought up, and I’m tired of just going out and playing and letting fans say what the hell they want to say. I’m not with that. Because if I was on the street, they wouldn’t just come up to me and say anything crazy, because I don’t play that s—.”
The final minute of Game 6 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz was pure chaos.
But despite all of the insanity that took place – including six shots and five offensive rebounds over a 43-second span — it was the final moment of that sequence that will come to define not just this game, but Oklahoma City’s season.
That moment was when Paul George pump-faked, got Jazz center Rudy Gobert up in the air, and went up for what would have been the game-tying three-point shot. The two men clearly made contact with one another as George went up in the air for the shot, and his attempt fell well short of the basket.
“He clearly banged into him,” Thunder Coach Billy Donovan told reporters postgame.
Donovan was right. The referees, though, did not to call anything.
Everyone on the Thunder protested. Russell Westbrook could be caught on camera saying, “That’s bull—-.” Everyone watching on television, or following along the internet, seemed to be in agreement with them.
“I think it could have been both ways,” Gobert said. “He jumped sideways. I got caught in the air, definitely. Sometimes it gets called, sometimes it doesn’t. I think it could have been both ways. It’s not one play that defines a series.”
At the end of the day, though, it wasn’t called. It helped end Oklahoma City’s season and could change the course of the Thunder franchise moving forward.
George, who went 2-for-16 and scored five points, wasn’t asked about the play after the game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s season came to an end Friday night in a blaze of missed shots and offensive rebounds at the end of a wild game in Salt Lake City.
In the end, Oklahoma City got six shots inside the final minute and missed them all — including four three-pointers — as the Utah Jazz escaped with a 96-91 victory to win their first round series in six games, advancing to face the Houston Rockets in a Western Conference semifinal series beginning Sunday.
The last of those missed threes, a heave by Paul George, is going to be the one that gets the most attention, as it pretty clearly looked like Jazz center Rudy Gobert plowed into him as George went up for the shot.
Then, after the ball was rebounded by the Jazz, it took the Thunder 10 seconds to commit a foul to send Donovan Mitchell to the free throw line. The rookie guard, who finished with 38 points, buried both free throws to end the game and give the Jazz the win.
Russell Westbrook had 46 points on 18-for-43 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and five assists. In doing so, he became the 14th player to shoot more than 40 times in a playoff — something he also did last year. Players who have done that are now 7-7 all-time — with Westbrook suffering two of those losses.
Paul George, meanwhile, had just five points on 2-for-16 shooting, and Carmelo Anthony was a game-worst minus-19 and had seven points on 3-for-7 shooting. Steven Adams had 19 points and 16 rebounds — including eight offensive rebounds — and was the only other Oklahoma City player in double-figures.
The Indiana Pacers have arguably been the better team in all six games in their first round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
They were unquestionably the better team in Game 6. That’s why there will be a Game 7 in this series Sunday afternoon.
Victor Oladipo had a triple-double with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, bouncing back from three straight subpar games, to lead the Pacers to a 121-85 demolition of the Cavaliers, sending LeBron James to an elimination game in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his illustrious career with the largest margin of victory in Pacers playoff history.
“Leave it all out there,” Oladipo said of Game 7. “Win or go home. It speaks for itself.”
James, who caught an elbow from Thaddeus Young in the face that left him bloodied late in the first half, had 22 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 31 minutes, but understandably sat out the entire fourth quarter as Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue reasonably chose to live to fight another day as the Cavaliers found themselves trailing by 25 points after three.
Indiana did just about everything right. It shot 56.3 percent from the field, 50 percent (15-for-30) from three-point range, and converted 15 Cleveland turnovers into a ridiculous 29 points, while the Pacers turned the ball over only seven times.
Jeff Green and Rodney Hood had 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Cleveland, which didn’t give James much support. Outside of James going 3-for-6 from three, Cleveland was 12-for-38 from three-point range. That simply isn’t going to get it done for a team that relies so heavily on its offense.
That’s why this series will go to a seventh game Sunday, when we’ll see if the Cavaliers can put up a better effort with a second shot at closing this series out.
If they can’t, LeBron James will see his season end far sooner than anyone could’ve expected.
Donovan Mitchell and Russell Westbrook took turns throwing haymakers in the third quarter, setting the stage for a thrilling final 12 minutes of Game 6.
Mitchell now has 32 points – including 22 in the third quarter alone – to stake Utah to a 78-70 lead. Westbrook, meanwhile, has 35 points – including 20 in the third quarter – while Steven Adams (15) is the only other Thunder player in double-figures.
Paul George has five points on 2-for-11 shooting, and also has five turnovers for the Thunder. Joe Ingles has 12 points and Derrick Favors 11 for the Jazz.
Now, after the Jazz blew a 25-point lead in the second half of Game 5, they’ll try to close this series out here in Game 6.
Carmelo Anthony has finally gone to the bench.
If Oklahoma City wants to win this game, he needs to stay there.
Anthony has become a liability at both ends. He isn’t a great spot-up shooter offensively, which is essentially what he is in this Oklahoma City offense. Defensively, meanwhile, Anthony is a disaster, and the Jazz have taken advantage of him at every opportunity.
Anthony is a minus-15 in this game. The next worse plus-minus for anyone on either team is worse than minus-10.
The Jazz may have this game in the bag anyway. But if the Thunder want to have a chance, Anthony should stay on the bench for the duration.
As the Rookie of the Year race between Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons has heated up over the past couple of months, the eligibility of Simmons – who missed all of last season with an injury – has been up for debate.
But the way Mitchell is playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a closeout game, perhaps he is the one who isn’t a rookie.
Ten straight points for Mitchell to start the second half – and 12 straight going back to the final bucket of the first – has put Utah in front with a five-point lead early in the third quarter. It’s been a remarkable turnaround after the Jazz looked completely lost offensively for much of the first half.
The fact it’s been created by a rookie is even more remarkable.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz are tied at 41 at halftime of Game 6, but the biggest development of the game might be Steven Adams picking up his third foul late in the second quarter.
Adams has been a one-man wrecking crew in the paint in this game, with nine points and seven rebounds. But Utah has won the games in this series that Adams has gotten into foul trouble, and any tentativeness from him in the second will play heavily into Utah’s hands.
With Ricky Rubio out for the rest of the game, the Jazz are going to need a lot from rookie Donovan Mitchell and swingman Joe Ingles, and both delivered late in the half. Mitchell tied the game with a beautiful move in the lane, and leads Utah with 10 points, while Ingles has nine after hitting two big late threes.
One thing Utah needs to change: it has to stop turning the ball over. Ten turnovers have become 14 points for Oklahoma City – and in a game this close, that needs to cut down in the second half.
The Utah Jazz are in trouble.
Coming into Game 6, the Jazz were heavy favorites to win against the Oklahoma City Thunder and close out this series. But that was before Ricky Rubio was lost to an injury, and the game turned into a knockdown, drag-out fight on every single possession.
While the Thunder have continued to play Carmelo Anthony, who remains ineffective at both ends, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams have dominated the action at both ends so far.
If it continues that way, the Jazz could be staring at Game 7 back in Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon.
The Utah Jazz suffered a huge blow to their chances of ending their first round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night when Ricky Rubio was lost for the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
On a team with a limited number of shot creators as it is, the loss of Rubio – who also is an excellent defensive player – is the last thing Utah needed.
Oklahoma City ended the first quarter with a 22-18 lead, as both teams struggled to get much offense going.
“We did a pretty good job,” Thunder Coach Billy Donovan said of his defense. “We fouled a little bit too much.
“But we’ve got to do a better job offensively.”
The Jazz would certainly agree, having already missed five threes and shooting just 7-for-18 from the field.
Game 6 of Thunder-Jazz should come down to one question: does Rudy Gobert stay out of foul trouble?
If he does, the Jazz should win easily. If he doesn’t, the Thunder will have a real chance to send this series back to Oklahoma City for a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon.
Gobert, the likely winner of this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award, has made Utah’s defense eight points better per 100 possessions during the opening five games of the series, and it was his absence from the game in the second half of Game 5 after picking up a phantom fourth foul and a dumb fifth one that allowed Oklahoma City to begin gaining momentum for its 25-point comeback.
If Gobert was in the game, that run likely doesn’t happen. If he stays in this game, Utah should win going away.
With LeBron James going to the bench with the Cavaliers trailing by 25 points after three quarters, it seems unlikely he will return.
And, as Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon points out, there is no reason he should.
If the Utah Jazz win Game 6 of their series later tonight, they will play the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time Sunday afternoon, and the Cavaliers and Pacers will play Game 7 at 1 p.m.
Every second of rest between now and then that James can get is crucial. That should begin now.
The Washington Wizards have a starting lineup that can go toe-to-toe with just about any fivesome in the NBA.
They are done for the season because their bench couldn’t stack up with Toronto’s.
With Fred VanVleet finally back in action for the Raptors, the bench depth advantage the Raptors had all season finally returned. The result was Toronto’s second-unit outscoring Washington’s 34-20 in a game the Raptors won 102-92 to end the Wizards’ playoff run in six games.
Toronto has had the best bench unit in the league this season, and it’s the reason the Raptors snapped a streak of 23 straight road playoff losses in games when they trailed at halftime. DeMar DeRozan wasn’t even good (going 6-for-18 and scoring 16 points) and John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 55 points, though they also had 10 turnovers.
While Kyle Lowry was great, it was the rest of Toronto’s roster that outplayed Washington and sent the Wizards home for the summer.
The Indiana Pacers are 24 minutes away from Game 7.
A strong first half from Victor Oladipo, who has 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting after going 12-for-50 the prior three games combined, has Indiana leading 57-47 at halftime in Indianapolis.
Remarkably, Cleveland’s nine turnovers have become an astounding 18 points for Indiana. Giving up two points per turnover is virtually impossible to overcome and something the Cavaliers have to change in the second half.
LeBron James has 14 points and five assists for Cleveland, but the rest of the Cavaliers have struggled outside of some early shot-making by J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. And, once again, any game where Indiana and Cleveland has the same number of three-pointers made – both have six at halftime – that is a win for the Pacers.
Late in the first half, LeBron James drove to the rim and caught an inadvertent elbow from Thaddeus Young.
It left James with blood streaming down his face.
It’s the latest moment in a half that hasn’t gone well for Cleveland, which trails 51-43 late in the first half.
One of the key turning points in Game 5 of Wizards-Raptors was Wizards Coach Scott Brooks failing to get John Wall a break at some point in the second half. Wall’s playing style is not conducive to playing 24 straight minutes, and like he did in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics last year, Wall ran out of gas down the stretch.
That’s why the final minutes of the third quarter were a crucial stretch for Washington. Wall exited the game with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter with Washington leading by two, and he checked back in with 11:33 remaining in the fourth with the Wizards leading by three.
Both getting Wall a break and holding the line without him was a huge swing for the Wizards. Now they need to close this quarter out to make sure this series goes to a Game 7 played on Sunday.
LeBron James should have been called for an 8-second violation in the first quarter when Lance Stephenson was bothering him the entire length of the court after an inbounds.
Luckily for us, though, the referees missed what was a blatantly obvious call, as it allowed us to see James – who has understandably grown tired of Stephenson’s non-stop antics – the chance to throw down the Dunk of the Night after getting around the corner on Stephenson and getting a full head of steam to the rim.
Victor Oladipo went 12-for-50 over the past three games for the Indiana Pacers. He’s already made five shots in the first quarter of Game 6.
The biggest adjustment the Pacers could make in this game was to get Oladipo going after his bad shooting performances in Games 3, 4 and 5 (5-for-15, 5-for-20 and 2-for-15 respectively). And, early on in Game 6, it appears that’s happened.
Oladipo had seven quick points in a row in the middle of the quarter to erase a five-point Cavaliers lead, and help Indiana take a 29-26 lead after one. Oladipo has 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, to go with five rebounds, two assists and four steals.
Now we’ll see how both teams respond when James and Oladipo, in theory, start on the bench to begin the second quarter.
OAKLAND, Calif. – The Golden State Warriors may have their leader back in time for the start of the second round.
Stephen Curry followed up his return to full practice Thursday with another full practice Friday – along with a 5-on-5 scrimmage afterward that was hidden from view of the media by a floor-to-ceiling divider.
Curry then spoke to the media for the first time in weeks, and deemed himself “50-50” to play Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series here at Oracle Arena.
“Still to be determined,” Curry said of his status for Game 1. “They come up with those snazzy words for [these situations] … doubtful, questionable, probable. I’ve learned a lot about what those words mean this year.
“[I’m] just trying to work my way back, do what I need to do, do whatever [athletic trainer Chelsea Lane], the rest of the athletic training staff, coach needs to see to get me back out there.
“That’s the only thing I can really focus on right now. But it’s good to be back playing basketball, doing basketball things.”
Even if Curry does return Saturday night, he presumably would be on a minutes limit. He also said he may not return immediately to the starting lineup, as he didn’t when he came back from an injury during the postseason two years ago against the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round.
But his presence alone would still be a boost to a Warriors team that should face a far stiffer test this series against the Pelicans — who impressively swept the Portland Trail Blazers — than they did in the five-game yawn-fest they just finished against the San Antonio Spurs.
There has been speculation Curry may not play until next weekend – a full six weeks after he suffered a sprained MCL when JaVale McGee fell into his left leg last month – when the series shifts to New Orleans for Game 3. But now, after participating the last two days, it’s a coin flip as to whether Curry will return Saturday.
“I have confidence I’m going to wake up tomorrow feeling good, then there’s another layer of conversation that needs to happen whether it’s the right move to play tomorrow,” Curry said. “But yeah, that’s basically where it’s at.”
The Wizards have been a team that’s thrived in transition for John Wall’s entire career. It needs to get back to pushing the pace in the second half of Game 6.
After scoring 10 quick fast break points in the opening minutes of Game 6, the Wizards only have scored two since. They’ve still hung onto the lead without getting out in transition, and Toronto has done a nice job of limiting Washington’s opportunities to push the pace by holding onto the ball (the Raptors have only four turnovers thus far).
Regardless, the Wizards need the tempo to change, and soon.
One very positive sign early on for the Cleveland Cavaliers: a hot start for J.R. Smith.
After going 0-for-8 overall and 0-for-6 from three-point range in Game 5, Smith has already buried two threes early in the first quarter of Game 6.
Smith has long been one of the most willing shooters in the NBA, and one cold game wasn’t going to change that. But if Smith and Kyle Korver can get going alongside LeBron James – let alone Kevin Love, who is playing with an injured thumb – that would give the Cavaliers a huge boost in their hopes of closing the series out tonight.
Here’s a stat that should make Wizards fans feel good:
The Toronto Raptors are losing at halftime. In the history of the franchise, that has happened 23 times in a playoff game.
Toronto’s record? 0-23.
Will tonight become 0-for-24?
An 8-2 run to end the first half for the Raptors moved them to within three of the Wizards, 53-50, at halftime of Game 6.
That ominous 0-23 stat aside, Toronto has to feel good about this, given how hot the Wizards were to start the game, the impact Fred VanVleet had in his first extended action of the series off the bench (two points and three assists in eight minutes) and DeMar DeRozan’s bad first half (3-for-10 shooting, including missing both threes).
Kyle Lowry has 15 points at halftime to lead Toronto, while Bradley Beal has 14 and John Wall has 11 points and five assists for Washington.
The Cleveland Cavaliers once again showed up to a game in matching outfits. And, once again, they will be without starting point guard George Hill.
Hill, who was one of four players acquired in the midseason swap fest Cleveland performed at the trade deadline, is sitting out for the third straight game since suffering a back injury in Game 3.
Jose Calderon is once again going to start for the Cavaliers in Hill’s place.
Regardless of who is starting at point guard for the Cavaliers, the Indiana Pacers are going to need more from Victor Oladipo in Game 6 if they are going to extend this series. Oladipo has gone 12-for-50 from the field the past three games as Indiana has dropped both Games 4 and 5 by slim margins. A few more baskets from Oladipo in both games and this series, realistically, could be over.
Where would the Wizards be without Mike Scott?
That, remarkably, is a serious question.
Washington leads Toronto 30-20 after the first quarter, in large part because of eight quick points off the bench from Scott. Signed on a minimum deal last summer, Scott has been a reliable bench scorer for the Wizards all season long – and particularly in this series.
Including his 3-for-4 showing in the first quarter, Scott is 26-for-38 in the series – an absurd number. Now without Otto Porter Jr. for Game 6, as well as a potential Game 7, Washington is going to need Scott to keep producing like this to help make up for what they’ll lose with Porter out of the lineup.
The Washington Wizards had precisely the start they needed in Game 6.
Playing without Otto Porter, Jr. and facing elimination, Washington needed to get off to a hot start. And, with three early three-pointers and 10 fast break points, that’s exactly what the Wizards have done.
Also important: Kelly Oubre Jr. knocking down his first three. As I said earlier, the Wizards need a big game from Oubre shooting the ball, after he has struggled since the all-star break and entered this game 3-for-16 in this series from beyond the arc. Oubre is likely going to need to hit a couple more for the Wizards to win this game.
If the Washington Wizards are going to force a Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors – and, ultimately, advance out of the first round – they are going to need the version of Kelly Oubre Jr. that showed up before the all-star break.
That was the case before Otto Porter Jr. was ruled out for the rest of the series after undergoing a procedure on his leg Friday. It definitely is the case now.
“Just got to take my energy drink a little earlier,” Oubre told my colleague Candace Buckner of starting Game 6 in Porter’s place. “Take my pregame caffeine pill and I’ll be good.”
More than taking a caffeine pill, the Wizards hope Oubre can remember how to hit a three-pointer again. Before the all-star break, Oubre shot 36.6 percent on threes – a more than respectable clip. Afterward? His percentage dropped to 29.3 percent.
In the first five games of this series, Oubre has gone just 3-for-16 from beyond the arc – including 1-for-7 in Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Raptors in Toronto, a game the Wizards led by five in the fourth quarter before falling apart late.
If there was ever a time the Wizards needed Oubre to bounce back to that early-season form, it would be now, as the loss of Porter is a real blow. Despite never looking right in this series after suffering a calf strain late in the regular season, and appearing to tweak his right foot/ankle early in Game 1, Porter still provided another threat to space the floor, as well as versatility in how Washington aligned itself.
Now that will fall to Oubre. Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said before the game that it is “a great opportunity” for the 22-year-old forward. And he’s right.
But if the Wizards want to extend their season beyond Friday, they’re going to need Oubre to take advantage of it.
Making matters worse for Washington is the reintroduction to the series of Fred VanVleet for Toronto. The leader of the Raptors’ league-leading second-unit, VanVleet has played only three minutes so far in this series because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Toronto’s regular season finale against the Miami Heat, and his absence has been notable.
For the team already trailing in the series, and needing two wins in a row to advance to the second round for a fourth time in five years, losing Porter while Toronto gains VanVleet is not an ideal situation for the Wizards to face.
- Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards, 7 p.m., ESPN News (Raptors lead 3-2)
- Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers, 8 p.m., ESPN (Cavs lead 3-2)
- Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz, 10:30 p.m., ESPN (Jazz lead 3-2)
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