May 8, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) dunks the ball as Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes (9) and center Andrew Bynum (17) watch during game five of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at the Staples Center. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs 2012: Nuggets stave off late Lakers rally

May 8, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard George Hill (3) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic during game five in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Orlando 105-87. Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Orlando Magic 87, Indiana Pacers 105
Pacers win series 4-1.

After opening the first quarter on a 28-14 run, the Pacers allowed Orlando to buckle down and, eventually, chip away at the lead until they took a two point lead at the tail end of the third quarter. The lead shifted a couple times in the beginning of the fourth but Orlando’s season wasn’t in need of drastic resuscitation. Yet. But, on the strength of Pacers backup point guard Darren Collison and his 15 fourth quarter points, Indiana closed the game on a 32-13 run effectively ending Orlando’s tumultuous 2011-12 campaign, and possibly Stan Van Gundy’s tenure as head coach in the process, on the spot. The Magic did convert on 11 3-pointers but they were dominated again in transition offense.

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May 8, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) celebrates defeating the Boston Celtics in game five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 87-86. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Boston Celtics 86, Atlanta Hawks 87
Celtics lead series 3-2.

The Atlanta Hawks will live to fight another day. Last night was the prototypical Hawks win; unnecessarily close, a lot of one-on-one ball stopping offense and, occasionally, actual ball movement. Atlanta could have added to their lead in the third quarter and made their lives a lot easier but instead of building on their 10-2 run they allowed Boston to all but eliminate the lead on a 10-0 run of their own. Rajon Rondo followed an unimpressive first half performance with eight points and 10 assists and Paul Pierce knocked down a couple of shots late in the fourth quarter.

But the game wasn’t decided until the last possession of the game. After the Celtics foiled a sideline out of bounds set with Marvin Williams inbounding the ball, the Hawks were pressed into a timeout. Larry Drew curiously inserted Josh Smith as the inbounder instead. Smith forced a pass that had absolutely no shot at connecting with Joe Johnson and Rondo jumped the passing lane for a critical steal. Rondo brought up the ball past half court quickly before receiving a screen from Kevin Garnett. The Hawks switched the screen and Rondo was one-on-one against Al Horford. Horford used the sidelines masterfully, forcing Rondo towards his right hand. By then time had nearly expired and Rondo fired a pass to KG that Smith broke up at the final buzzer. The Celtics made a nice run but to no avail.

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May 8, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard John Lucas (15) is fouled by Philadelphia 76ers point guard Lou Williams (23) during the second half of game five in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the United Center. The Bulls won 77-69. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

Philadelphia 76ers 69, Chicago Bulls 77
76ers lead series 3-2.

The Chicago Bulls extended their season for, at the very least, a couple of days. They won despite amassing a mere 77 points because Philadelphia executed worse offensively, shooting 32.1 percent from the field. The only discernible advantage for Philly was their 24 free throw attempts that helped close the gap. The Bulls nearly lost another key piece to the rotation, Taj Gibson, to injury. The severity of his injury is still unknown but, if he were to miss significant time, the Bulls would be down yet another intricate piece to the rotation. Luol Deng added 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting and Carlos Boozer scored 19 points on 9-of-20 shooting. The significance of Deng’s performance was evident in the box score. Only two Bulls finished in double-figures and without Deng’s contributions offensively there would be no virtual way for the Bulls to recover this series.

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May 8, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) is defended by Denver Nuggets players Kenneth Faried (35) , JaVale McGee (34) , Ty Lawson (3) and Andre Miller (24) during game five of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Denver Nuggets 102, Los Angeles Lakers 99
Lakers lead series 3-2.

The fourth quarter was an exciting back-and-forth affair between the Lakers — more specifically, Kobe Bryant — and the unusual tandem of Andre Miller and Javale McGee. Miller was controlling the pace of the game and he was finding McGee for a couple of dunks down low. Miller’s size also allowed him to bully Steve Blake down low, adding another asset to the Nuggets offense. McGee got into a little bit of trouble when he ventured past his limited offensive repertoire. McGee isn’t a guy that you feed down low and space the floor but yet the Nuggets did just that on a couple of fourth quarter possessions. Eventually, McGee settled back into the game where he continued to utilize his elite athleticism against Andrew Bynum. As the game waned, Bryant took control of the game — whether through grabbing the rebound, controlling transition offense, knocking down transition 3-pointers or taking advantage of Danilo Gallinari. Bryant missed a crucial shot inside the paint that would’ve tied the game at 98, however. I think he desperately wants that one back.

Tags: NBA Playoffs 2012

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