In one of the greatest series in playoff history, the Los Angeles Clippers eliminated the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in seven games in the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Dropping a game the last night of the regular season in New Orleans, the Spurs fell to a #6-seed in the Western Conference where otherwise they would have finished #2. It turned out to be fateful.
Five of the seven games were classics with only games one and three being exceptions. The Clippers took game one at home 107-92 highlighted by a 10-for-18 night from three. San Antonio battled back in game two, taking a thrilling 111-107 win in overtime. L.A. missed 17 free throws, and Blake Griffin had a crucial turnover late. Game three was the throwaway, and the Spurs rolled 100-73 to go up 2-1. Then we saw three consecutive road wins in the series with backs against the wall.
Los Angeles took game four, 114-105 leading most of the way. Chris Paul was dazzling, scoring 34, and Griffin added 20 and 19. San Antonio lunged back at Staples, winning by a familiar 111-107 count to take a 3-2 lead going home. The Clippers were only one-for-14 from three while the great Tim Duncan led with 21. The Spurs always close it out, but they did not this time. Gregg Popovich called them soft as the Clippers dictated the terms, escaping 102-96 with Paul dishing 15 assists.
Game seven was the 120th such game in NBA history, and the most compelling reason going in not to buy the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. There were 16 ties and 32 lead changes in this all-timer. L.A. was 14-for-27 from behind the arc, and Paul was heroic overcoming a severe hamstring injury to tally 27, including the game-winner with one second left, 111-109 Clippers. Now the questions come about the future for the aged Spurs, while it is a date with Houston for the Clippers.
Other than that, the first round was not very eventful. In the East, Atlanta struggled with Brooklyn before a strong 111-87 closeout win on the road in game six. They will meet Washington in the second round. The Wizards swept Toronto. The other side of the Eastern bracket has Cleveland and Chicago. The Cavs swept aside Boston but lost Kevin Love for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. The Bulls won the first three against Milwaukee, and then dropped two before administering a historic 120-66 beating in game six to clinch the series.
Out West, the Golden State Warriors were spectacular in a sweep of New Orleans. Game three was the keeper as the Warriors overcame a 20-point deficit in the final seven minutes to force overtime in the 123-119 victory. Next for G.S. is Memphis, the Griz ousted Portland in five games. Houston defeated Dallas in five as well, including an exciting 130-128 win in game three.
The second round started with some surprises as the road teams took three of the four game ones, including both in the East. But a wrist injury to John Wall could prove a major issue for the Wiz’ against the Hawks. No Kevin Love is trouble for Cleveland. Game one against the Bulls was the first time in 85 playoff games for LeBron James, where his team never led in the game, losing 99-92. Golden State did win at home easily over Memphis (they are 42-2 at home), and the Clippers continued their impressive run winning 117-101 in Houston without Chris Paul.