VIDEO: Check out all the highlights from Friday’s playoff action
NEWS OF THE MORNING
Rose back in bloom
| Rivers runs through Rockets
| Caution with Wall
| Rockets embarrassed
No. 1: Rose shot overcomes the thorns of comeback — How many hours in an empty gym or vacant rehab facility, with only his thoughts and his drive to accompany him, went into that shot? How many times did he push past the notion that something like this might never happen again? How much pain and misery did Derrick Rose let go of with that buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take down the Cavaliers on Friday night? Our man Steve Aschburner was there to describe the very special moment:
Your second thought was, how many times has Derrick Rose made that shot over the past three years — in an empty gym, maybe with a kid rebounding for him, as he shot and shot and shot alone, the crowd and the clock and the stakes conjured only in his imagination on another lonely day of rehab from his three knee surgeries?
As dazzling as Rose’s shot was in winning Game 3 of the Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Cavs Friday night at United Center, his back story — this guy, having this moment, in this building, this way — pushed it exponentially along the “special” scale.
Racing as he did to the right along the 3-point arc in search of space, getting just enough from Taj Gibson’s pick on Iman Shumpert and launching just over the fingertips of Tristan Thompson, high and deep and banking in off the glass, Rose’s game-winner to beat the horn, 99-96, would grab a spot among the NBA’s 2015 postseason highlights even if he were, say, Aaron Brooks.
Factor in his season-snuffing injuries in 2012 and 2013, though, and the close call he and the Bulls got with his third, less serious knee trauma this season, Rose’s shot to win and put Chicago up 2-1 in the series that continues Sunday felt a little like closure.
Leaping into Joakim Noah’s arms, detonating the sea of red 22,000 strong in United Center, doing it all against a familiar foil in LeBron James and his latest crew, it would have been a clichéd ending, too Hollywood, had it happened in a Game 7. But for a Game 3, with so much more basketball to play, both teams revving up, it was a opportune time for the Bulls and their fans to pause and reflect a little on Rose’s long, tortuous road back.
“Everybody in this locker room knows how much pain he was in,” said Gibson, who had hit possibly the two biggest free throws of his life with 23.5 seconds left for a short-lived 96-93 lead.
“Through all the years, going through the ups and downs. And how frustrating it has been for him. I’m just extremely happy for him. I’ve known he was capable of making big-time shots. I’m just happy he’s back out there with a lot of confidence, wanting the ball late.”
No. 2: Austin Rivers lifts the whole Clippers family — On the night when all of Clippers Nation was holding its breath over the condition of All-Star point guard Chris Paul in his return to the lineup, it was his backup Austin Rivers who gave everyone at Staples Center reason to gasp. The kid who plays for his father grew up as a big-time playoff star by taking over the game in the third quarter as the Clippers blew out the Rockets to take a 2-1 series lead. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register says all the young guard got publicly was a brief hand-slap from father Doc, but all of his teammates wildly celebrated the big delivery and event:
A soldout crowd at Staples Center chanted his name after Rivers delivered a scintillating third quarter, helping the Clippers blow out Houston, 124-99, Friday night.
And all he got from his dad, Clippers coach Doc Rivers, was a brief hand-slap.
The Clippers lead the Rockets, 2-1, in the Western Conference semifinals, with Game 4 Sunday night at Staples Center.
Rivers scored 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting in an 18-0 Clippers run to end the third quarter.
Paul, who recorded 12 points and seven assists in 23 minutes, turned to Doc Rivers and gave him permission to do the one thing he’s fought since acquiring his son in mid-January.
“This is one time you can be Dad and not just coach,” Paul said.
Doc Rivers didn’t listen, he stayed engaged in the game, calling Paul’s message almost “white noise.”
But he couldn’t ignore the chants; they were that loud. Jamal Crawford motioned for the crowd to say it louder – “Austin Rivers, clap clap clap clap.”
“That moment is priceless,” Crawford said.
Austin Rivers attacked the basket, drawing fouls and finishing through contact. He juked his way into space and hit step-back 3-pointers. He hit all seven of his shots inside the 3-point line, and behind it, he made half of his six attempts.
Rivers finished 10-for-13 for 25 points, a career playoff high. It’s the third time in these playoffs he’s scored 16 or more points – as many times as he did it during 41 games with the Clippers in the regular season.
“I had so much fun out there,” Austin Rivers said.
Rivers’ play helped the Clippers keep Paul from over-exerting himself in the second half in his return from a two-game absence from an injured left hamstring.
“Tonight, it was really important for one of the guards to have that night,” Doc Rivers said. “It really allowed CP to ease into it. “
No. 3: Wizards will wait and see on Wall — Though it seems quite unlikely that John Wall will be back in the lineup for Game 3 against the Hawks today, the Wizards will keep the door open right up to the opening tip for their All-Star point guard in Game 3 against the Hawks today. Wall tells our own John Schuhmann that he doesn’t want to hear any talk of missing the rest of the series and he’ll do what it takes to get back onto the court and contribute:
So Wall and Wizards coach Randy Wittman will wait and see if anything is different on Saturday. And they seem to be keeping the door open for Wall to return at any point. Wall doesn’t want to hear anything that says, “7-10 days” or “2-4 weeks.”
“I don’t want no timetable, he said. “I’m just taking it day by day.”
And Wall couldn’t even tell you where the five fractures are in his hand and wrist.
“When [the doctor] started talking about that, I just put my head down,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear no more, to be honest with you.”
The Hawks and Wizards have had three days off since Game 2, but now play every other day through Game 6 (if necessary), with Game 7 in Atlanta scheduled for May 18.
“We just got to go, basically, 24 hours at a time here,” Wittman said.
The five fractures are in Wall’s non-shooting hand, but Wall needs that hand to get where he needs to go and make plays.
“I can’t do anything if I can’t dribble,” he said. “You got to be able to dribble. If not, it’s basically just taping my hand behind my back and saying, ‘play with one hand.’ It’s not happening in this league.”
Even if the swelling and pain go away, the Wizards will have to determine if Wall is risking more damage to his hand and wrist if he plays. The point guard believes that decision would be up to him.
“If the pain goes away and I can dribble and do those things again,” Wall said, “it’s all up to me. Do I feel like it’s a risk to hurt my hand even more down the road, or do I feel like I can take the risk to play? … and how competitive I am. If I’m able to do those things, dribble, do what I want to do, and be myself, then there’s a great percentage I will play. But if I can’t be myself, there’s no point in going out there.”
No. 4: Rockets lost their post along with game — It is one thing that get hit with the surprise tsunami that was Austin Rivers and to feel the energy of the Staples Center crowd. But when the Clippers turned up the heat in Game 3, the Rockets lost their poise and fell completely apart, according to coach Kevin McHale and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Rockets coach Kevin McHale could only feel sick.
While Rivers soared, the Rockets panicked. They launched early 3s. They did not get back defensively. They failed to pressure ball handlers at all as the Los Angeles offense that had been rolling from the start and for all but one half of the series’ three games pounded them for five minutes that took a close game and made it a spectacular rout.
“Well, we didn’t play much defense at that point,” McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know, they were running, we weren’t getting back, played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say.
“I mean, the game got completely loose at that point, and they were playing with a ton of confidence and we weren’t.”
Mostly, the Rockets did not play with much poise. They had recovered from the Clippers’ offensive assault through the first half to put together a 10-0 run to end the second quarter and begin the third, pulling them to within three. The Clippers recovered, but after a Corey Brewer 3-pointer with 3:50 left in the third quarter, the Rockets were down just five.
On the next possession, Josh Smith slammed into Blake Griffin for an offensive foul. He followed that with a missed layup and a missed 3. In the final 3:50 of the third quarter, the Rockets missed all seven of their shots, six coming from beyond the 3-point line off one or no passes, and three turnovers.
“We did not do a good job of handling all the pressure, all the things that came with that little bit of a run,” McHale said. “We just let go of the rope, and they piled on us.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Pau Gasol’s hamstring makes him a question for Game 4 in Chicago…LeBron James didn’t take kindly to what Joakim Noah had to say…Big decisions last summer could be what put the Warriors over the top…Could LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin swap places? Really?…Deron Williams wouldn’t rule out a return to Utah…Good buddies Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan have put their friendship on hold while they beat each other up in playoff series…Raymond Felton is picking up his option in Dallas.
ICYMI(s) of The Night: A sequence like this illustrates why Paul George is among the best two-way players in the game today …:
VIDEO: Paul George gets the steal and then caps the break with a fancy jam