Deacons in the NBA: Duncan and Paul to Meet in Western Conference Semifinals
May 15, 2012
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - As the semifinal round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs gets underway only Wake Forest legends Tim Duncan and Chris Paul are left standing among the five Demon Deacon alumni who advanced to the league's postseason.
Unfortunately, either Duncan or Paul will be going home after this round as the pair of Deacons meet in the Western Conference Semifinals beginning Tuesday night in San Antonio.
Duncan and the Spurs are the top seed in the West and thus have homecourt advantage in the series. San Antonio will host Games 1 and 2 before the series moves to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4. If necessary, Games 5 and 7 will be played in San Antonio with Game 6 in L.A.
The Spurs easily dispatched of the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz in four games during the opening round of the Playoffs. San Antonio surpassed the 100-point mark in each of the first three games, winning by double digits in each of the three. The Spurs finished off the Jazz with an 87-81 win in Game 4 in Utah.
Duncan averaged 14.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game during the Utah series. He had double-doubles in each of the first two games, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds to set the tone in Game 1.
Former Deacon All-American Josh Howard was on the losing end of the San Antonio-Utah series. Howard, who completed his first season with the Jazz, started three of the four games in the series and averaged 3.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game. Howard was coming off a knee injury that required surgery in late March. He returned to the court for Utah's final two regular season games, helping the Jazz earn a postseason berth.
Paul and the Clippers had a much more difficult time advancing past the first round. The fifth-seeded Clippers needed all seven games to eliminate the Memphis Grizzlies. After taking a 3-1 series lead, L.A. gutted out an 82-72 win in Game 7 in Memphis, despite injuries to Paul and fellow All-Star Blake Griffin.
Paul averaged 20.4 points, 7.1 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals in 38.9 minutes per game to lead the Clippers to the series win over the Grizzlies. However, Paul's gutsy performance also included playing through a strained right hip flexor injury he suffered in Game 5. Despite the injury, Paul still finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in the series-clinching road win on Sunday.
Now, just two days after Game 7 in Memphis, Paul and the Clippers are off to San Antonio to face the well-rested Spurs. Game 1 is set for Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
The Spurs went 2-1 against the Clippers this season. The teams split two games in San Antonio, and the Spurs posted a road win in L.A. in mid-February.
Paul and Duncan have met just once previously in the postseason, during the semifinals of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Duncan and the Spurs beat Paul and the New Orleans Hornets in seven games to advance to the Western Conference finals.
In his third of six seasons with the Hornets, Paul led New Orleans to the Southwest Division championship and the second seed in the West. However, the defending champion Spurs fought back from a two-games-to-none deficit, winning Game 7 in New Orleans. The home team had won each game of the series up to that point. San Antonio went on to lose in four games to the L.A. Lakers in the Western finals.
Jeff Teague gave all he could in the Atlanta Hawks' first-round series with the Boston Celtics, but in the end the veteran Celtics proved to be too much for a Hawks squad that suffered some key injuries.
Teague, who finished his third season in the NBA, started all six games in the series, averaging 14.0 points and 4.2 assists in 37.5 minutes per game. He had 15 points and six rebounds in the Hawks' Game 1 win. However, Boston responded with three straight wins in the series, despite 23 points from Teague in Game 3 in Boston. Fifth-seeded Atlanta staved off elimination with an 87-86 win in Game 5 in Atlanta, but the Celtics closed out the series with an 83-80 victory in Game 6.
Smith, who finished his second year in the league, came off the bench for the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic in their first-round series with the Indiana Pacers. The Magic, who were without injured star Dwight Howard, won Game 1 in Indianapolis, but the Pacers responded with four straight wins to clinch the series.
Smith played in one game in the series, seeing five minutes off the bench in Game 3 at the Amway Center in Orlando. He finished with a block and a rebound.