Pacers avoid Game 6, race to semifinals

On a night when four teams could have ended their first-round playoff series, only the Indiana Pacers claimed a spot in the Conference Semifinals.

After losing the series opener, the Pacers dominated the series against the Orlando Magic. In the clinching game, they outscored Orlando 18-0 in fast-break opportunities and 46-22 in the paint. For the series, they held a 69-13 advantage in fast-break points and outscored the Magic by 76 points in the paint.

Darren Collison dished out 23 assists and committed just one turnover during the series. Since individual turnovers were first tracked by Elias in 1978, he is only the fourth player with 20 or more assists and one or fewer turnovers in a playoff game. The others were John Paxson (1990 Bulls), Fat Lever (1988 Nuggets) and Eddie Johnson (1987 Sonics).

Dwight Howard's injury doomed the Magic before the series started. Including the playoffs, Orlando finished 5-12 without their starting center and 33-21 with him in the lineup. This was the fifth time in the last 20 years that a team was missing its leading regular-season scorer in the playoffs – all five teams lost in the first round.

Hawks with Al Horford On/Off Court
Game 5 vs Celtics

The Boston Celtics had a chance to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks, a team against which they had won nine of 10 previous playoff series. According to Elias, that .900 series winning percentage is the highest for any team against another in NBA history (with a minimum of six series played).

This was the 12th time under Doc Rivers that the Celtics had a chance to close out a series on the road; they have only succeeded twice. They return to the comforts of TD Garden on Thursday, where they are 7-3 under Rivers in potential close out games.

The key for the Hawks on Tuesday was Al Horford. In the 41 minutes that he was on the court, the Hawks outscored the Celtics by 10 points and grabbed eight more rebounds. While he rested, they were outscored by nine.

No. 8 Seeds to Defeat No. 1 Seeds
Current Playoff Format

With a chance to finish their series against the Chicago Bulls, the Philadelphia 76ers couldn’t even match their nickname in the point column. Philadelphia was held under 70 points in a playoff game for the second time since the shot clock was introduced in the 1954-55 season. The franchise low was 68 points against the Magic in the 1999 playoffs.

With the win, the Bulls avoided becoming the first No. 1 seed since the playoffs were expanded to 16 teams in 1984 to win fewer than two games in the playoffs. The four previous top seeds to lose in the first round all won two games before they were eliminated.

The Los Angeles Lakers were looking to win their ninth-straight potential series-clinching game, but lost at home to the Denver Nuggets. It was their first loss in a potential close out game since Game 6 of the 2009 Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. According to Elias, that was the fourth-longest such streak in NBA playoff history. The Lakers also own the longest, 12 straight from June 2000 to May 2004.

Kobe Bryant scored 43 points in the loss, the 84th time in his career that he reached 30 points in a playoff game. The only player with more was Michael Jordan, with 109. It was the 12th time that he reached 40 in the playoffs and first since the 2010 Western Conference finals.