On Thursday the phrase “win or go home” truly meant something for the Orlando Magic, New Orleans Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers. All three faced elimination, and after Thursday’s action, all three are going home.
Atlanta Hawks 84, Orlando Magic 81 (Hawks win series 4-2)
For the first time in franchise history, the Hawks beat the Magic in a playoff series. Atlanta has not lost a home playoff game in which it had a chance to clinch the series in the last 15 years. The last team to beat the Hawks in such a situation was the 1995-96 Indiana Pacers led by Rik Smits and ESPN analyst Mark Jackson. The Hawks will look to win two playoff series in the same postseason for the first time since moving to Atlanta in 1968.
The stars of the game were Jamal Crawford, who once again outscored the entire Magic bench 19-17, and Joe Johnson, who grabbed a playoff career-high 10 rebounds en route to his first career 20-10 playoff game.
The Magic finished 0-5 this season in Atlanta, regular season and playoffs combined. Their 3-point shooting was a huge issue as the Magic shot 26.3 percent in this game and 26.2 percent in the series. That's more than 10 percentage points below their regular-season average (36.6 percent).
Dwight Howard averaged 27 points and 15.5 rebounds per game, while making 63 percent of his field-goal attempts. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that over the last 30 years, only one other player had a playoff series in which he averaged 27 points and 15 rebounds per game, while making at least 60 percent of his field-goal attempts. That was Shaquille O'Neal (38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, 61.1 percent) for the Lakers against the Pacers in the 2000 Finals. In earlier playoffs, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reached those levels in four series, and Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Lanier each did it once.
This was the earliest the Magic were bounced from the playoffs in the Stan Van Gundy era. In each of his previous three seasons, they won at least one series.
The Hawks move on to face the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. Chicago took two of the three meetings this season, with the lone Hawks win coming in Atlanta after the Bulls blew a 17-point halftime lead.
Los Angeles Lakers 98, New Orleans Hornets 80 (Lakers win series, 4-2)
The Lakers led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter and won their first-round series for the fourth straight year. Phil Jackson improves to 56-21 (.727 win percent) in potential series-clinching games, which is the second-best mark in NBA history to Gregg Popovich (minimum 15 games). Kobe Bryant finished with 24 points including 22 in the first three quarters. Bryant had a string of eight straight 30-plus point games in road potential series-clinchers snapped. The Lakers, however, are 8-1 in their last nine potential road clinchers with Bryant averaging 38.7 points per game. Overall he is 32-14 in potential series-clinching games.
The Hornets fall to 0-5 in playoff series that go six games or more. Chris Paul finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, which would have been his second of the series.
1st Round vs Lakers
Paul was less aggressive on the offensive end in Game 6 compared to the earlier games in the series. In the four losses to the Lakers, Paul averaged 18 points and 10 assists, which is very respectable. Unfortunately for the Hornets, they couldn't win without their point guard playing nearly flawless basketball. In the two wins, Paul averaged 30 points and including assists, was responsible for more than 60 points per game.
So who will the Lakers take on in the Western Conference semifinals?
Dallas Mavericks 103, Portland Trail Blazers 96 (Mavericks win series 4-2)
The Mavericks advance past the first round for just the second time in the last five postseasons. Dirk Nowitzki led the way with 33 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the series. Nowitzki improves to 10-7 in potential series-clinching games, averaging 26.2 points per game in those games. It's the second-highest scoring average in potential series clinchers among active players.
Gerald Wallace led the Blazers with a playoff career-high 32 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Brandon Roy added nine points off the bench. In Portland's two wins he averaged 20.0 points per game, while he averaged 4.0 points per game in the four losses.
The Mavericks will now face the Lakers in their first playoff meeting since 1988, which means Bryant and Nowitzki will be playing their first-ever playoff series against each other. The last time the Mavericks and Lakers met in the playoffs it was a Mark Aguirre-led Mavericks team against a Byron-Worthy-Magic-Kareem-led Lakers team. The Lakers won the Conference Finals in seven games and went on to win the NBA Finals.