Clippers-Spurs a rare bit of intrigue in dud of a 1st round
Sure, the Celtics-Cavaliers series got testy in Game 4. And Steph Curry's 3-pointer in the corner of Game 3 against New Orleans was something to behold.
But the first round of the NBA playoffs has been a bit of a dud, with three sweeps already in the books and the Grizzlies, Bulls and Rockets each winning the first three games of their series.
Thankfully, the Spurs and Clippers are throwing haymakers at each other the way most expected when the series began. It's tied 2-2 with Game 5 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
''They are a good team. It's not like we were supposed to have it easy,'' Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. ''They are tough and we're going to have to play much better and not make so many mistakes.''
The Rockets host the Mavericks in the other game Tuesday night, needing a win to get the series back home to Dallas for a Game 6.
The Brooklyn Nets evened their series with top-seeded Atlanta with a victory Monday night and the Milwaukee Bucks won their second straight over Chicago to force a Game 6 and add some much-needed drama to those matchups.
But the Clippers and Spurs have been going back and forth since Game 1, with each team responding so emphatically after a defeat that no feasible momentum has been established either way. Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan are leading the way for San Antonio while Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are trying to get to the Clippers to play with a sense of urgency every night.
Both teams are playing with a welcome edge in this series, having already experienced how thin the margin for error can be.
''We know we're getting beat by 30 if we don't,'' forward Matt Barnes said, referencing the 100-73 shellacking in Game 3. ''This is a team that ... they play at an 8 consistently, sometimes a 9. If you don't match that or go above it, you're going to lose. If you don't play a complete team game, you're going to get blown out. I think we finally realized that now.''
A look at Tuesday night's games. All times EDT:
Mavericks at Rockets, Houston leads 3-1, 8 p.m., TNT
Clinging to their playoff lives in Game 4, the Mavericks called on the two most obvious candidates to keep them in the series - Al-Farouq Aminu and J.J. Barea.
The two role players had huge nights - Aminu had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Barea added 17 points and 13 assists - to breathe some life into a team that desperately needed it. Now the Mavericks will hope they can bring a similar energy in Game 5.
''Farouq is pound for pound one of our better rebounders so that does help,'' said coach Rick Carlisle, who called the 52-28 rebounding advantage the key to their win. ''It doesn't matter who's out there. We just have to have five guys in a pursuit mode, in a pursuit mindset going after everything that's in the air.''
The Rockets may have gotten a little complacent with a 3-0 lead and now will have to adjust to a new-look Dallas lineup.
''We didn't give our best effort,'' Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said. ''They're not just going to lay down. They're not a team that's just going to sit down. We should have come with a better effort which we didn't. But (Tuesday) we have to give maximum effort.''
Spurs at Clippers, Tied 2-2, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Little by little, the Spurs are seeing more of the old Tony Parker. And that's not a good sign for the Clippers.
Parker has been bothered by injuries for much of the season and was hobbling around for much of the first two games of the series. But he was more aggressive in Game 4 when he scored 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting.
''He is starting to feel a lot better,'' Duncan said. ''It was great to see him going to the basket and making some plays for us. That will make a big difference with the rest of this series.''
The Clippers have been trying to speed up the game, getting out in transition with Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan against a Spurs team that is better in the halfcourt. Griffin said the key to playing that way starts on the other end of the court.
''When you have to take the ball out of the net every time, it's hard to push the ball,'' Griffin said. ''That pace starts on defense for us.''
AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham in Los Angeles, Schuyler Dixon in Dallas and Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.