Around The Association
MVP: Chandler Parsons. Can you say "coming out party"? The Rockets forward had the game of his life, scoring on an assortment of drives and pump fakes, finishing with 27 points and just two assists shy of a triple-double.
LVP: James Harden finished with 10 turnovers but, perhaps even worse, went into hero-ball mode for the last three possessions of regulation. Luckily, the Rockets were able to overcome thanks to the contributions of his teammates.
That wasn't reality: Late in the third, Carlos Delfino stole the ball and took it the length of the floor before slamming it down in Kevin Durant's face. It was like being in some bizarre, alternate universe in which nothing makes sense.
MVP: Brook Lopez has been incredible this entire series, and this game was no exception. Lopez put up 28-10, was aggressive in the paint, and held Joakim Noah in check. He did everything you need him to do in an elimination game.
X factor: The Nets have been playing three-on-five for most of this series because of the offensive holes in Gerald Wallace's and Reggie Evans' games. Crash hit a clutch 3-pointer in the last three minutes and made a statement of a transition dunk the very next play.
That was how you close out a game: The Nets were up 14 with 3:15 left on Game 4 and they found themselves in a similar situation Monday night. Instead of missing wide-open dunks and letting Nate Robinson do insane Nate Robinson things, they played tight defense.
MVP: Bad third quarter aside, Josh Smith was all over the place, finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds, four dimes and three steals. Smoove also kept Paul George in check for the first three quarters when he was on the Pacers' star.
X factor: Kyle Korver always looks good in his pregame warmups, but Monday night he looked extra smooth. That translated over to the game, with Korver going 5-for-8 from deep and finishing the game with 19 points.
That was foul happy: The first half was relatively clean. Second half? The teams combined to attempt 49 free throws, somewhat spurred on by what appeared to be a hack-a-Smoove strategy in the third quarter.
Miami Rooting For Brooklyn
In the fourth quarter of the Heat's series clincher against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, LeBron James dribbled around Chris Andersen after the big man came up high to set the pick-and-roll. Over in the left corner, Ray Allen hid in his favorite spot while James penetrated the Bucks' defense toward the paint.
James gained steam, and Allen waited in the corner. If this were chess, the Heat just called "check."
Do you collapse into the paint and help create a human shield in front of the rim? Or do you stick on Allen in the corner and hope for the best with James barreling toward the basket? Which door do you choose?
This is what the Heat try to accomplish on every possession: force the defense to make difficult decisions. And this one might be the most vexing problem of all to solve. Sure enough, Monta Ellis opted for the first door: Ellis shaded toward the paint and left Allen open briefly in the corner.
James hit Allen, Allen hit the shot.
The corner 3 may be the most important shot in the game, ranking right up there with a typical layup in terms of efficiency. It yields a similar payoff to a point-blank shot, and research shows that corner 3 attempts correlate more strongly with successful offenses than layups do. At its best, the Heat's offense pressures the opposition in such a way that the defense must pick its poison between stopping James' penetration or preventing his passes to the corner.
This quandary is why SportVU's 3-D tracking cameras found that James' drives, which produced 1.68 points per drive, were more efficient than those of any other NBA player this season. Stopping a driving James is the basketball equivalent of slowing down an armored tank that's equipped with passes that dart like homing missiles.
The Bucks couldn't solve that problem at any point in their first-round series with Miami, and as a result they lost every game by double digits. Led by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's system, predicated on movement and space, the Heat have found the precious corner 3 more than any other team in the playoffs, firing up 44 corner 3 attempts for an average diet of 11 shots per game. No other team has shot more than nine per game.
But do you want to know which team defends the corner 3 better than anyone?
Series Of Events
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'Every game is an elimination game'
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets know what's at stake on Monday night: their season.
"Every game is essentially Game 7 for us," Deron Williams said several hours before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center. "Every game is an elimination game."
The Nets are just two days removed from their heartbreaking 142-134 triple-overtime loss in Chicago.
"The last one definitely stung. It's definitely still there," Williams said. "There's a lot of frustration, a lot of looking back. You wish you could've done more or done something different. At the end of the day, it happened. It's one of those games where everything went wrong at once.
"We have a chance to make it right tonight."
Bruce Bowen and Israel Gutierrez discuss Jason Collins and his decision to come out as the first openly gay active NBA player with ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz.
Lakers must focus on what's next
When Kobe Bryant hobbled off the court with a ruptured Achilles on April 12, it marked the end of the Kobe era in Los Angeles Lakers history. That's not to say that Bryant won't come back (he will), or even that he won't excel after surgery to repair his Achilles tendon. But his uncertain status means that, for the first time since the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2004, Bryant won't be the focal point of everything the team does.
The Lakers have been preparing for this moment. Throughout franchise history, the Lakers have been able to find a replacement whenever they have lost a superstar. Ideally, this transition will be like when Magic Johnson took the conch from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the mid-1980s, increasing his scoring while Abdul-Jabbar slid into a smaller role in the offense.