Rebounding was the story in the NBA last night, as the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs each hit the glass, and the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers either couldn’t or wouldn’t. The Pacers evened their series with the Heat at a game apiece and the Spurs took the opener of their battle with the Clippers. TheSportsNotebook recaps both games and looks ahead to tonight’s twinbill…
Indiana 78 Miami 75: Both teams shot under 40 percent from the floor, so there were plenty of rebounds available and it was Indiana who got 55 percent of the available boards. To a certain extent this was to be expected, as Miami was already a little overmatched down low by Indiana and then lost Chris Bosh to the abdominal strain that appears to have him sidelined for at least this series. So Miami has an excuse, but we still have to ask why Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony can only combine for ten rebounds. By comparison three Indiana players—David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George all matched or exceeded that by themselves. And George is a freakin’ guard! Yes, he’s 6’8”, but he should be outrebounding two centers by himself? Thus, even though LeBron got his 28 points and 9 rebounds, and Dwayne Wade got his 24, Miami’s giving up homecourt advantage. You certainly have to like Indiana’s chances right now—they have homecourt and have an inside edge they know they can hammer away at the rest of the series. But Danny Granger is still in a funk, with only 11 points last night. Depth is great and frankly I’d be heartened to see it prevail, but realistically you aren’t going to win a series with your best player persona non grata.
San Antonio 108 LA Clippers 92: No one can be surprised to see Tim Duncan grasp a big moment. With 26 points and 10 rebounds, the veteran big man sent a message to young Blake Griffin—not just yet. And Griffin didn’t seem inclined to protest the message too loudly, settling for 15 points and 9 rebounds. Now the point total’s not a big problem—it matches what Caron Butler had, and that was a nice game for the small forward. The rebound total is not a big problem—it matches what DeAndre Jordan had and that was a nice game for the center. But someone needs to tell Griffin words to the effect “You are Blake Freakin’ Griffin, guy who jumps over cars and sells Kia’s. 15/9 doesn’t cut it for you. 20/10 cuts it for you. And at this time of year, make it every night.” Griffin can take a lesson from Chris Paul, who might have struggled last night, but at least showed he recognized his role. According to the game write-up on ESPN.com, Paul corrected his son who told him “Good game Daddy.” The point guard informed the boy “Daddy had a bad game. Daddy couldn’t make a shot.” Indeed, he went 3-of-13, but shooting comes and goes. Leadership and understanding your importance to the team endures.
The other Los Angeles team, the Lakers, looks to get back on track tonight in Oklahoma City. Like the Clips, the Lakers best chance to win a road game early is realistically Game 2, since both Hollywood teams came off Game 7s over the weekend. The prereq to a Laker win is going to be both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol being into the game on both ends, and then Kobe being willing to give up the ball down low. If it’s left to Bryant—by circumstance of the superstar’s own insistence—it won’t work. Oklahoma City can more than match the star power. Los Angeles also needs Ron Artest to at least slow Kevin Durant, or shift him to guarding Russell Westbrook. The Thunder will get their scoring from those two, plus James Harden and all it takes it just a little defensive effort against one of them to swing a close game.
Boston goes to Philadelphia in the first series to have a Game 3. The first two in Boston where knockdown ugly affairs. The Celtics got Ray Allen going in Game 2 and now they need Paul Pierce to get off the schneid in this series. Philadelphia needs center Spencer Hawes to continue the strong rebounding effort he gave in the Game 2 win.