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NBA Playoffs: Rockets and Nets survive, Hawks even series

By Kristie Rieken

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 29 2013 11:03 p.m. MDT

Houston Rockets' Greg Smith (4) shoots against Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka (9) during the second quarter of Game 4 in their first-round NBA basketball playoff series Monday, April 29, 2013, in Houston.

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets escaped elimination with a 105-103 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

Chandler Parsons scored 27 points and Patrick Beverley added 16 points with point guard Jeremy Lin out with a bruised chest muscle. Houston avoided a four-game sweep in the best-of-seven series.

The Rockets led in the fourth quarter of each of the last two games only to end up losing. And it almost happened again Monday.

Kevin Durant scored five quick points to cut the Rockets' lead to two. James Harden missed two shots for Houston after that and the Thunder had a last chance.

Reggie Jackson missed a jump shot and Serge Ibaka grabbed the rebound, but missed a layup at the buzzer.

A stunned Ibaka fell to the court after the miss.

Durant scored 38 points in Oklahoma City's second game without injured All-Star guard Russell Westbrook.


NEW YORK — Kirk Hinrich was missing. So was Chicago's usual rebounding and defense.

Tom Thibodeau is used to being without key players, but counts on the Bulls having the other skills.

"He's not out there, but I think it was a three-point game with seven minutes to go. We've got to find a way to get it done," the Chicago coach said. "So we didn't play our best, the rebounding was a big problem and defensively we've got to get it together."

Brook Lopez had 28 points and 10 rebounds, Deron Williams added 23 points and 10 assists, and the Nets beat Chicago 110-91 on Monday night, cutting the Bulls' lead to 3-2 in their first-round playoff series.

Recovering from a collapse two days earlier that sent them home on the brink of elimination instead of tied, the Nets battered the Bulls on the boards and forced Chicago into being the team that wilted down the stretch.

"We came out very aggressive, as we have the past few games. I think the difference was just we sustained it for essentially a full 48 minutes tonight," Lopez said.

Andray Blatche scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and Gerald Wallace had consecutive baskets in the finishing surge as the Nets finally pulled away in a game they led most of the way, but never by too much.

Two days after rallying for a 142-134 triple-overtime victory, the Bulls were outscored 15-1 at the finish and failed to set up a second-round series with Miami. Instead they will host Game 6 on Thursday.

"It was just a lot of mental mistakes. A lot of mental mistakes," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I feel like we had our chances. We beat ourselves. They played well. You've got to give credit when credit is due and now it's on us to come back and be ready for Game 6."

If the Nets win that one, they would host Game 7 on Saturday.

Nate Robinson had 20 points and eight assists starting in place of point guard Hinrich, who bruised his left calf in Saturday's game and was in a walking boot Monday morning.

"For us, I knew it was going to be tough; it was going to be a challenge," Robinson said. "At the same time, we've been here before playing with a guy short. It's something we've got to do. We've just got to muster something and bring that energy and continue to play like we've been playing."

Jimmy Butler scored 18 points for the Bulls, who were outrebounded 44-33 and gave up 24 second-chance points. Brooklyn shot 50 percent from the field.

"That's the difference in the game, the rebounding," Thibodeau said. "If you defend fairly well and then you give a team a second and a third crack at it, it's hard to win like that."

Only eight NBA teams have overcome a 3-1 deficit, but the Nets remained confident after Saturday's collapse, feeling they had outplayed the Bulls for long stretches during the series. They have led by double digits in four of the five games.

"I believed that we would respond," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "We've bounced back all year too well, and as disheartening a loss as that was on Saturday, there's still been enough good minutes in this series. Neither of us are getting away from each other."

But they need two more wins against a Bulls franchise that is 12-0 all-time when holding a 3-1 lead.

"We feel like we're the better team," Wallace said. "We've just got to play a 48-minute game completely and stay in attack mode."

Robinson scored 29 of his 34 points after the third quarter Saturday in a game the Nets led by 14 late in regulation. Coming off his big game and agitating to opposing fans even when he's struggling, Robinson was loudly booed during introductions, and each time he touched the ball early on.

He made a jumper with 4:17 remaining to cut Brooklyn's lead to 95-90, but there would be no charge this time. Lopez converted a three-point play, and after a free throw by Butler, Wallace nailed a 3-pointer, then came up with a steal and dunk to give the Nets a 103-91 advantage with 2 minutes to go.

The Nets finished it off with ease, prolonging their first season since moving from New Jersey.

The Nets ran off seven straight points late in the first quarter, five from Lopez, to turn a 17-17 tie into a 24-17 lead.

Brooklyn got eight second-quarter points from Kris Humphries, then opened its biggest lead when Johnson and Wallace made consecutive 3-pointers before Lopez made two free throws to make it 50-40. The Nets led 52-44 at the break.

The Nets had the lead into double digits a few times in the third quarter but never built on it. The Bulls were back within four by the end of the period after making 11 of 16 shots (69 percent).

Butler made a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter and make it a one-point game, but Chicago never could grab the lead in the final period.

Wallace scored 12 points and Reggie Evans grabbed 12 rebounds as the Nets improved to 6-0 all-time in Game 5s at home. They have never lost a series when holding home-court advantage.

Notes: Carlesimo said it wasn't hard to ignore thoughts about his own future because the games come too quickly to worry about anything else. Though the Nets gave general manager Billy King a contract extension last week, it is unknown if Carlesimo will be back after leading the Nets to a 35-19 mark after replacing the fired Avery Johnson in late December. ... A number of New York Islanders were in the crowd at the franchise's future home. The NHL team plans to move from Long Island to Barclays Center in 2015.

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney


ATLANTA — Heading to his locker to get dressed, Josh Smith griped a bit when told he would have to go to the podium for the second game in a row.

Then he smiled.

No way the Atlanta Hawks forward was getting out of those duties. Not after the way he played Monday night.

Smith scored a career playoff-best 29 points as the Hawks built a 17-point lead at halftime, then withstood an Indiana comeback to even the series with a 102-91 victory in Game 4.

"You da one, Smoove," teammate Dahntay Jones said as he walked by Smith's locker. "You da one."

The one, indeed. After struggling much of the second half, the enigmatic Smith made every big play down the stretch. He swished a rare 3-pointer, came up with an offensive rebound to set up a 3 by Kyle Korver, and finished off a fast break with a right-handed dunk. Plus, he did another stout defensive job on Indiana star Paul George, who had to work for every one of his 21 points.

"When he plays like that," Hawks guard Devin Harris said of Smith, "we're a very good team."

With George scoring 18 in the second half, many on very difficult shots, the Pacers made a game of it. But they couldn't come all the way back from a 57-40 deficit at the break. Indiana got as close as four in the third quarter, and was within five numerous times in the final 10 minutes. But the Pacers expended so much energy getting back in the game they just didn't have enough to complete the comeback.

Tied at two wins apiece, the teams return to Indianapolis for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

"This is going to be one heck of a series right now," Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. "I thought we'd be able to at least split down here."

Korver added 19 points off the bench, most of them coming on his specialty: the 3-pointer. He knocked down five from outside the arc, including the biggest one with 2:33 remaining after Al Horford threw up a wild shot that missed. Smith snatched one of his 11 rebounds and spotted Korver lurking all alone on the outside.

"Energy and effort," Smith said. "If we play with those two words and play together — I take that back, make it three words — we're a pretty good basketball team."

Horford chipped in with 18 points, and Anthony Tolliver made all three of his shots from beyond the 3-point line, providing a big boost every time the Hawks needed one.

But it was Smith who made sure the Hawks got the game they absolutely had to have before going back on the road.

"Just his energy," Horford said. "When he plays with that level of energy, it makes such a difference. I'm not saying he doesn't do it all the time, but when he's so engaged and doing the little things, it makes a big difference to us."

Indiana was better offensively than Game 3 but still struggled to make shots, finishing at 38 percent on a 32-of-84 performance. George came alive after halftime, connecting three times from beyond the stripe, while every other starter was in double figures.

It wasn't enough.

The Hawks beat Indiana for the 13th straight time at Philips Arena, a streak that dates to 2006. But the Pacers can take solace with not having to win in Atlanta, as long as they take care of business on their home court.

"That's a great Atlanta team over there," George Hill said. "We knew it wasn't going to be an easy series. We knew they weren't going to lay down. It's always tough for us to play here. It's good we have two more games on our home court if necessary."

Then again, Indiana must be wondering how the series got to this point after the Pacers dominated the first two games in their building, averaging 110 points and a 16-point margin of victory.

The Hawks turned the momentum with a 90-69 blowout in Game 3. They did enough good things in the first half and the closing minutes to get the series back where it started as they head back to the heartland.

"We contested pretty much every shot they took," Smith said. "That's what it's going to take (to win at Indiana). "

The Pacers played with much more effort than they did Saturday, but it didn't matter in the second quarter. Not with the Hawks gunning away from the outside — they went 7 of 8 from 3-point range in the period — and running the court with so much abandon that coach Larry Drew had to call a 20-second timeout late in the first half just to allow his players to catch their breath.

Atlanta appeared on the way to a second straight blowout. Not so fast.

Indiana turned up the defensive pressure, while the Hawks began walking the ball up and the court and getting sloppy. The Pacers ripped off a 15-1 spurt that nearly wiped out an 18-point deficit, holding Atlanta without a field goal for a good chunk of the third quarter. After Horford's dunk with 10:05 left in the period, the Hawks didn't make another basket until Devin Harris' nifty dash from one end of the court to the other for a layup with 1:34 remaining.

"That was a real gutsy performance by our team," Drew said.

Atlanta was able to stick with its big lineup after 7-foot center Johan Petro dashed back from Miami on a private jet sent by the team owners after witnessing the birth of his first child. Jacob Petro was born about 2 p.m. and his father hustled off to the airport, making it to Phillips Arena about two hours before tipoff.

If the birth had taken longer, Petro was planning to stay in south Florida. Instead, he played 22 minutes with hardly any sleep the past two days, contributing four points and eight rebounds.

Atlanta dealt with an old bugaboo in the second half: free throw shooting. At one point, the Hawks had made just 8 of 18 before Horford knocked down five of six to make the percentage look a little more respectable. Still, they finished 25 of 38 at the line, squandering a chance to put the Pacers away earlier.

Notes: Smith appeared to be standing even farther behind the line than usual on free throws. It didn't help his percentage, as he made 9 of 16. ... Harris was late coming back out for the third quarter. Apparently suffering from dehydration, he took an IV in the locker room as a precaution before returning to the game midway through the period. ... The Hawks' bench outscored the Indiana reserves 30-19.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberryl963

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