Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: Chris Paul. He was uncharacteristically un-clutch at the end of regulation, not even getting a shot on the final possession, but like he has for most of this series, he wound up as the difference-maker. He finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, including four huge jumpers in overtime.
That was ... wild. Not only did the drama exceed 48 regulation minutes, but all game guys on both sides were diving on the floor, flying out of bounds, and making plays through physical defense. It was just another entertaining battle in the playoffs' best series.
X Factor: Memphis' 47-36 edge on the glass. Once again, the Grizzlies dominated the rebounding battle, and it allowed them to hang around and force overtime, despite foul trouble for Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Recap | Box score
MVP: It's tough to argue that anyone deserves the MVP for the Spurs after a near collapse, but Manu Ginobili got his 3-point shot back in this one en route to 17 points and had some general Manu-ness going, making plays at big times for San Antonio. It's still a sour nomination for MVP, though.
Defining moment: In a game that felt like two completely different contests, one where the Spurs controlled and another where the Jazz dominated, the defining moment was the one that put an end to it all. Down just four with under a minute left, a Jazz turnover leads to a wide-open Ginobili layup on the other end that effectively ended any comeback.
That was ... different: Game 4 had a similar rhythm to Game 3 of this series, where it was generally close but never felt like the Jazz had done enough to be a favorite in the contest. Then the Spurs seemed to break it open, only to have their bench give away some of the lead. Then the San Antonio starters came in and nearly gave the rest of it back. And yet, the Spurs still held on to win.
ESPN The Magazine
Gregg Popovich saw how Tony Parker, his starting point guard, led Team France last summer to its best EuroBasket finish in 60 years and had only one question: Why doesn't he play that way for us?
Parker's answer: All you had to do was ask. That Pop did ask may be the biggest reason the Spurs are title contenders (again), even though 36-year-old Tim Duncan is dragging his left leg, Manu Ginobili has missed nearly half the season and five new faces are in the rotation.
Parker has long been part of the Spurs' Big Three, with Duncan and Ginobili, but he's tended to carry himself like the slight, sensitive 19-year-old who arrived 10 years ago. Popovich treated him accordingly, perhaps thinking it was simply Parker's nature to defer -- until he saw that refuse-to-lose drive last summer.
"With the national team, it's always been my team," Parker says. "I just tried to fit in here. Pop told me, 'This year, you need to lead, and Timmy and Manu will follow.' Only Pop could say that. I felt it was time too, but to me, it's always been Timmy's team."
Parker's role in earning France a EuroBasket silver medal irked Popovich, given Parker's tepid playoff showing less than five months earlier, when the top-seeded Spurs were upset by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies. Popovich's staff spliced together clips showing Parker leading all EuroBasket scorers with big shots and relentless defense and contrasted them with Memphis series lowlights, in which opposing point guard Mike Conley kept blowing by him and stripping him of the ball. "It gave me great fodder," Popovich says.
If Not Deron Williams, Then Who?
DALLAS -- When the Mavs opted not to offer Tyson Chandler and Co. long-term deals, this summer's free-agency crop was expected to be headlined by a few superstars.
The landscape quickly changed when Chris Paul exercised his player option for next season after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. It changed for the worse again when Dwight Howard surprisingly committed not to opt out of the final season of his contract with the Orlando Magic just before the trade deadline.
That leaves Deron Williams as the lone big fish. What happens if the Mavs don't persuade the guard, a native of The Colony, to come home?
"You've got to have your A, B, C, D and E and so on, but you also understand that this is a global plate tectonic," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "Things are moving and situations are fluid. You go into it with eyes wide open and hopefully you can come out of it with what you want."
NBA Video Channel
Questions? We've Got The Answers
It was so close to being a really interesting first round. Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Orlando and Chicago could all easily be tied 2-2 in their series, setting up genuinely meaningful Game 5s over the next three days and a lot of intrigue heading into next week.
Instead, we've had great games, but may not have any great series. It's possible, though unlikely, that we won't even have a Game 6. The Grizzlies and Clippers, who play Game 4 on Monday, remain the one hope for a series that's tied 2-2 after four games.
We shouldn't be presumptive, of course -- perhaps one of the five teams that trails 3-1 at the moment will buck the odds and become the ninth in league history to come back from such a deficit. But right now, it looks like Clips-Griz and seven teams with a few days off before Round 2. (Which, incidentally, will begin Saturday if everybody wins out.)
But it's one more reminder how big a role timely breaks play in the postseason. A few teams have such an advantage they don't need any help; most of them, however, are close enough that a late call, or a key injury, or some other piece of good fortune, can swing the advantage.
Nonetheless, we come away from the weekend with some big questions, and I've got answers. Here are eight that are bugging me, focusing mostly on the teams that appear soon-departed: