The first round of the NBA playoffs ended this weekend with no less that five deciding Game 7s. One indication of just how competitive this year’s basketball playoffs are is that the both No. 1 seeds, the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and the Indiana Pacers in the East, were stretched to seven games by the 8 seeds.
In Saturday’s action, all the top seeds prevailed, with Indiana beating the Atlanta Hawks, 92-80; the Oklahoma City Thunder thumping the Memphis Grizzlies, 120-109; and the Los Angeles Clippers overcoming the Donald Sterling saga as well as the Golden State Warriors, 126-121.
On Sunday afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets held off a late rally by the Toronto Raptors and won 104-103 thanks to a game-ending Paul Pierce block of a Kyle Lowry jump shot.
The Brooklyn forward was in foul trouble much of the game and wound up scoring only 10 points, but he came up big at the most important moment of the game.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Pierce said after the game. "I saw [Lowry] split the defenders, I saw him go up, I went up with him. I got my hand on the ball – game over."
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Joe Johnson led the Nets with 26 points, and Kevin Garnett had 11 rebounds.
Next up for the Nets are LeBron James and the Miami Heat, who swept the Charlotte Bobcats, but who lost all four of their regular-season games to the Nets.
"That goes out the window," Garnett said. "This is the postseason. They're playing very well. They went right through Charlotte without a beat and they have a lot of confidence."
In the other Sunday game, there wasn’t much suspense. San Antonio jumped out to a 12-point lead over the Dallas Mavericks after one quarter and 22 at the half. The final was 119-96, with Tony Parker (32 points) and Manu Ginobili (20 points) leading the way.
The Spurs’ next opponent are the surprising Portland Trail Blazers, who defeated the Houston Rockets in six games. How do the veteran Spurs expect to keep up with the young and energetic Blazers?
"Can I get a couple of hours?" Ginobili asked. "We haven't watched them at all; we played them a few times. What we know is that they are packed with shooters. They can really shoot the ball. The fact that you've got to contest them and not let them take easy 3s creates a lot of room for them to attack the rim. It's going to be very important to have a very good one-on-one defense because when they start hitting 3s and getting to the rim, it gets really hard."
The series opens Tuesday in San Antonio.
Round two of the playoffs begins Monday night with the Washington Wizards facing Indiana and the Clippers playing the Thunder.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.