So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You’ll find takes on moments you might’ve missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Tonight, We Are All Mike Conley’s Face
Chris Ryan: As our buddy Jason Concepcion pointed out in slack-jawed wonder last night, the Grizzlies made one 3 in their Game 5 series-ending victory over Portland. One. And you know who made it? Tony Allen. Because of course this guy made the only 3 …
This was not a performance for your 2014-15 Memphis Grizzlies supercut. This was a game of Nick Calathes dribbling around in circles and going 3-10 from the field. This was a game of fadeaway Z-Bo jumpers — the kind where he starts talking shit to the opposing bench before the shot even lands. Not even a Vince Carter cameo could lift this up into the world of beauty.
The most compelling images of the night, by far, were the repeated cutaways to Mike Conley’s injured face.
After suffering multiple facial fractures in Game 3, Conley had plates surgically inserted into his face. THAT IS SO GRIZZ. Because of the extensive amount of METAL IN HIS FACE, Conley had a limited, shall we say, range of emotion while watching the game.
With only a few buttery Marc Gasol elbow jumpers to tide me over, so did I. The only thing that made me smile was imagining Conley coming out with the Daredevil mask for Game 1 against Golden State.
Watch out, Splash Brothers.
There Is Only One Memphis
The Future of Portlandia
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
Ryan: Portland fans are probably at home crocheting “STAY L.A.” tapestries right now. A first-round exit — with or without Wesley Matthews or a 100 percent Arron Afflalo — is not the way this team wanted to end its season, heading into what could be a turbulent free-agency period. So let us open our silver linings playbook, shall we? C.J. McCollum, who scored 26 on Saturday and 33 in last night’s series finale, is for real — a Harden-ish shooting guard whose game seems made entirely of layups and 3s. He may not provide the staunch defense that Matthews gave the Blazers, but McCollum’s play in this series put him on a lot of people’s radars and gave Portland a bit more breathing room regarding Matthews’s and Afflalo’s impending free agency.
Meyers Leonard is a 7-foot-1 stretch 5 with a little bit of an attitude, even if he looks like one of the kids from Stand by Me, and even if he did seem totally mystified when he got flagged by a Memphis fan.
On Wednesday, Leonard had nine points off of three 3-pointers (he shot 42 percent from behind the arc in the regular season, 77 percent for the series), admirably held his own when he got shoved by Z-Bo in the second half, and generally helped Portland space the floor in a way that Robin “Paint Me Like One of Your ’80s Big Men” Lopez did not. In the past, Aldridge has expressed his desire to play with a “dominant” center. If he stays in Portland, he just might — just not the kind he means.
Whatever the “Studying With Hakeem” of Backcourt Defense Is …
Dame needs to enroll in that class.
The Oral History of the Rockets’ Emojigate
Andrew Sharp: As you may have heard, the Houston Rockets found themselves at the center of a firestorm in recent days. There was a horse emoji, a pistol, and a public crying out for justice. Wednesday afternoon, the people got what they wanted. The Houston Rockets announced that they had severed ties with their social-media manager. In the aftermath, we talked to the people who lived it.
Emoji Guy: It was the fourth quarter. I watched Amar’e Stoudemire crash into four Rockets and lose the ball, and suddenly, I was reaching for my iPhone.
Mark Cuban: Sometimes you’re the bear, sometimes you’re the salmon. I won’t apologize for swimming upstream.
Daryl Morey: We had a plan for this team, these players. And this series, I think we finally saw it all come together. As soon as he hit send, that tweet was distracting people from a much better story.
Dwight Howard: [Making fart noises with his armpit.]
Rick Carlisle: We weren’t out of the game. We were never out of the game. That, to me, is what made the tweet so offensive. That and the horse getting shot in the head.
Rajon Rondo: Great tweet.
Emoji Guy: Was it too far? Maybe. But I was just having fun. Social media is supposed to be fun, right? J.J. Barea and Devin Harris played 64 minutes in Game 5. It’s not like the Mavs weren’t a dying animal begging to be put out of their misery.
Emoji Guy: I knew it was a problem as soon as I saw people screenshotting it. One of the most important rules for life in 2015: Never a good sign when people start screenshotting your tweet.
Rockets PR: We told him to delete it as soon as we saw it. We have a responsibility to our fans to put forth an image they can be proud of.
Dwight Howard: [Buys 50 assault rifles.]
Rockets PR: The optics weren’t great.
Emoji Guy: Honestly, I think emojis look much funnier on the iPhone than they do on the web. Maybe that was part of it.
Morey: It was a cost-benefit analysis for our guys. Simple X-and-Y stuff. When you run the numbers, retweets and favorites don’t help us enough to justify the backlash we were getting. This isn’t Rocket science, guys. [Chuckles for 10 seconds.]
Rockets PR: He uses that joke every f---ing day.
Mavericks PR: Needless to say, we decided to take the high road.
Rondo: I would have fired the guy who came up with that weak-ass response.
Rockets PR: We apologized.
The Mavericks Locker Room:
Rockets PR: Ultimately, we decided to sever ties with the employee in question. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was important to send a message about the character of this franchise.
Dwight Howard: [Stands before his teammates in the postgame locker room, recites a full 30-minute episode of Entourage.]
Kevin McHale: No, I will not play Ari. I don’t care how many times he asks. This is the goddamn NBA playoffs.
Rockets PR: We are ready to put this in the past. It’s time to focus on the second round.
Emoji Guy: Sad emoji.
James Harden: The tree of swag champs must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of social-media managers.
Daryl Morey: Remember when Mark Cuban acted like signing Chandler Parsons changed the balance of power in Texas? Holy shit.
Mark Cuban: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand. Think about that.
Emoji Guy: I don’t want to say I’m a martyr.
Dwight Howard: I’m a competitor. I’m a champion.
Emoji Guy: I’ll just say this. This isn’t about emojis. This isn’t about me. This is about us. You may think this is what you want. You may sleep better at night knowing that nobody in the entire world is offended. The horse emojis are safe. All dogs go to heaven. But when you cut the fat from the team Twitter account steak, you lose the flavor. Chew on that.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Danny Chau: Here’s a story about this Nets-Hawks series. In high school, my friend wound rolls upon rolls of tape into a dense spheroid the size of a soccer ball for reasons that probably weren’t interesting. One afternoon, in a stroke of idiocy, we doused the ball in isopropyl alcohol and set it on fire. We gathered in a circle on a dead-end street and kicked the flaming ball around. As luck would have it, a police car drove past us and promptly reared itself back into view, like police cars do in TV shows. The cops let us off on a warning. We went back into the house, then shot off dry-ice rockets in the backyard.
A fence separated the house and the local middle school, and the police station was just around the corner. We put ourselves in a position to be exposed. Maybe we knew we’d be caught. But it was a cheap thrill that seemed so necessary then.
The Hawks led by as many as 17 points in last night’s win over the Nets. They never gave up their lead, and the Nets never got so close as to tie the game. And yet, Spurs-Clippers excepted, last night’s WTF fest might’ve been the most fun I’ve had watching a playoff game this season. Watching Brooklyn’s Alan Anderson go off for 16 points in the first half on 6-for-6 shooting was its own bizarre rush. The rest of the Alliterative Assembly (charter members Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson both caught fire at different stretches in the second half) would soon follow. The Nets’ play this series has felt like one big happy accident.
It’s safe to admit it: You didn’t give this series more than a single thought before last night. You found yourself entranced by the randomness of the Nets’ multiple 11-0 runs. You felt something in the pit of your stomach — you weren’t not rooting for Brooklyn.
But all cheap thrills come to an end, and that feeling in your stomach was dinner-related. These Nets don’t have the same feel of the 2007 Warriors or the 2011 Grizzlies. The Nets aren’t a team with momentum, and they don’t have the kind of uproarious crowds that places like Oakland and Memphis have to amplify their immediacy. There is no movement here, only stalling.
The Hawks were coming away with this series one way or another, and they’ll probably finalize the process on Friday. The powers that be will put an end to the fun, but that strange, flaming ball of random happened. In what was almost a lost season for the Nets, hopefully that’s enough.
What a Game
Sharp: It’s important to savor the NBA playoffs while they’re here. These are the best players in the world, playing with everything on the line, with backs pushed against the wall. Every night brings all kinds of new drama. This is why we watch all year long.
We write these recaps every night during the NBA playoffs, and it’s probably more fun than anything we do all year. Our only job is to document how stupid and wonderful the night before was.
But: There are limits.
Last night was a close game in a close series. The Nets came up huge in the fourth quarter. Aside from an embarrassing air ball that was basically Hawks fan fiction brought to life, Joe Johnson hit big shots to keep Brooklyn in it. Jarrett Jack did that Jarrett Jack thing where he hits so many clutch shots at the end, you almost forgive him for every bad decision he made during the regular season. The Nets made it close, and then the Hawks answered every run with a big shot of their own. This was a good game!
But: Even in the fourth quarter, there were multiple possessions that ended with Brook Lopez isos turning into horrible shots or turnovers. Or maybe it just felt that way. Paul Millsap looks like he’s got cement in his shoes when he’s taking people off the dribble. Kyle Korver hit a 3 to put the Hawks up five, and started gesturing to the crowd, and it was like, “Wow. I miss the Warriors.”
Yes, Jeff Teague came through with nine points in the fourth, and his return to form is the story. If the Hawks are going to the conference finals or beyond, they need Teague. Horford and Millsap are banged up, and Korver can do only so much. Teague’s return makes the Hawks dangerous again.
This goes back to Brooklyn now, and the Nets aren’t scared of the Hawks anymore. This could absolutely go seven games, especially if Deron Williams decides to return from the dead again.
Yes, it’s the playoffs.
But: Wait, why are we still here? I’ll say whatever you want. What a game. Coach Budz was the conductor, and the Hawks symphony was making sweet music all night long, right up until Playoff Jarrett Jack crashed the stage to give a solo performance that almost stole the show. OK? Whatever you need to hear. Just please, no more Hawks-Nets. Let’s go to the second round.