The NBA’s dream of getting LeBron to go through Melo and Durant en route to a title took a hit in Game 3 of the NBA postseason’s second round. New York and Oklahoma City missed their first chance to reclaim homecourt advantage, losing in Indiana and Memphis yesterday. TheSportsNotebook start with these two matchups as we overview the four ongoing series, as they head for Game 4.
Normally I would applaud a three-point shooting team if they decide to pound the ball inside a little more, but for the Knicks, not airing it out from behind the arc clearly costs them some of their identity. New York only took 11 trey attempts in Saturday night’s 82-72 loss, connected on only three and the final score tells you how inept the offense was.
Indiana jacked up 30 attempts from behind the arc, which would bother me a lot if I’m head coach Frank Vogel. The Pacers were owning the interior. Roy Hibbert played his best game of the postseason, with 24 points/12 rebounds. David West had 12 boards. The team overall outrebounded New York 53-40, with Knicks center Tyson Chandler continuing to be a non-factor. Why, if you’re Indiana, do you not press the advantage and go inside even more?
Even though I continue to like the Pacers to defend their home floor again in Game 4 and win this series, its stuff like this that discourages any thought they could beat Miami. Which is unfortunate, because with Hibbert and West, they’re tailor-made to do it.
The Grizzlies turned in some tough defense, holding OkC to under 40 percent from the floor. Don’t blame Kevin Durant, who was a respectable 9-for-19 and had 25 points/11 rebounds. And don’t blame the absence of Russell Westbrook, at least in this game—his fill-in, Reggie Jackson, shot a respectable 7-of-15 for 16 points. You do want to blame Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka, who each went 6-of-17 and stunk the joint out in Saturday’s 87-81 loss.
I’m trying really hard to give the Thunder the benefit of the doubt and think they can at least scrape out wins in the Western Conference without Westbrook, but with each game it becomes harder to hold fast. Even two of the final three games at home, I don’t see them rallying from a 3-1 series deficit, so Monday night in Memphis is must-win time for KD and the boys.
GOLDEN STATE-SAN ANTONIO
Golden State had looked like the livest of live dogs after their series split in San Antonio that should have been a 2-0 sweep. But the Spurs looked every bit the part of veteran warriors on Friday night in Oakland. The defense got back to regular season form, and locked up Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter. Tony Parker was brilliant, scoring 32 points and Tim Duncan was steady as she goes, with 23 points/10 rebounds. Duncan, along with LeBron, seems to be one of those players where you can just pencil in his stat line before the game and be within a point or rebound of the final total.
The Warriors’ poor shooting night is also the risk that comes with riding a hot streak from great shooting on the perimeter. This series resumes Sunday afternoon, and I’d like think that Golden State can counter-punch and keep this a series (I picked San Antonio and am rooting for them, but I’d rather see a seven-game series more than anything). But the risk of being perimeter-oriented is that intensity and effort don’t always determine if the shots will fall.
On another note, this was the first game of the entire postseason where Golden State failed to cover the spread. If you bet the Warriors blind, they covered the line the first eight games, an amazing run that if you were a gambler truly made them “Golden” State.
Chicago came out fighting in more ways than one. On the one hand, they battled Miami to a draw through three quarters. On the other hand, they got players ejected and cost themselves depth on an already thin depth. LeBron churned out a 25/8/7 line and Norris Cole stepped up with 18 points from the perimeter, covering for an off-night by Ray Allen. But the big story was that Chris Bosh matched Chicago’s toughness with a load of his own. Bosh not only scored 20, he pulled down 19 rebounds and gave the Heat a slight edge on the boards. If Miami just breaks even on the glass, they aren’t going to lose to anybody, and Bosh stepped up like a warrior on Friday night in the Windy City.
The media consensus after the game seemed to be that order was now fully restored and that however hard Chicago may fight, they aren’t going to win another game. That was my view at the start of the series when I predicted a sweep in four competitive games. It continued to be my view after the Bulls stepped in and stole Game 1. It would quite naturally still be my view today.
The Game 4s are going to be stretched out for three days, as the NBA inexplicably has only one game set for Sunday afternoon. Golden State-San Antonio will play twice over Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, while the other series will play once.
San Antonio-Golden State (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
Miami-Chicago (7 PM ET, TNT)
Oklahoma City-Memphis (9:30 PM ET, TNT)
New York-Indiana (7 PM ET, TNT)
Golden State-San Antonio (9:30 PM ET, TNT)
TheSportsNotebook’s NBA commentary will return Wednesday morning to again overview each series. In the meantime, be sure and check our NHL analysis, which has similar overviews for all the first-round series and MLB coverage is focusing on both the American League and National League once a week.