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NBA playoffs continue to thrill under Sterling's shadow

Carter's buzzer-beater headlines day of thrilling play
Carter's buzzer-beater headlines day of thrilling play
Photo by Tom Pennington

The NBA playoffs played second fiddle on the news on April 26. That was one of the smaller prices of Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling's alleged racist audio tape on TMZ. But while Sterling set off a firestorm, the actual NBA playoffs had their most thrilling finishes to date in the meantime.

It was a day where Vince Carter hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Dallas Mavericks another upset over the San Antonio Spurs. It was also a day where the Indiana Pacers saved their season with a late rally over the Atlanta Hawks, and where the Oklahoma City Thunder survived another overtime thriller with the Memphis Grizzlies. To a lesser extent, it was also a day where the Miami Heat remained the only favorite to hold serve in these playoffs.

The biggest event of the Heat's 98-85 Game 3 win over the Charlotte Bobcats was LeBron James's sideline interview, in which he said there is "no room" in the NBA for someone like Sterling. When it came to the actual game, the Heat were barely challenged as they went ahead by 3-0 -- remaining the only Eastern Conference favorite to have it easy.

The Pacers were nearly all but eliminated as the Hawks led late in Game 4. But clutch three-pointers from Paul George, David West spared the Pacers as they secured a 91-88 victory. With the series even at 2-2 and with home court going back to Indiana, the top seed may see some light at the end of the tunnel.

The West's top seed is now in more trouble, even after Manu Ginobli sank a go-ahead layup with under two seconds left. But the veteran Carter then sank a three from the corner at the buzzer, putting the Mavericks over the top by 109-108 and putting the eighth seed up by 2-1.

The seventh seeded Grizzlies almost took a 3-1 lead over the Thunder, especially with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook having off nights. Yet Reggie Jackson saved the Thunder by getting the last five points of regulation, as Oklahoma City then prevailed in its third straight overtime game by 92-89.

On any other day, the big story would be one of the great days in NBA playoff history. Yet Sterling made sure it wasn't any other day, and that this may become no ordinary postseason, despite how beautiful it had been before now.

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