The San Antonio Spurs look like a team on a mission, the Memphis Grizzlies showed some heart and the Indiana Pacers showed their back in form in Wednesday night’s NBA playoff games. TheSportsNotebook recaps the three games and looks ahead to two more tonight…
San Antonio 114 Utah 83: I know beating the 8th-seeded Jazz is nothing to get all crazy about, but how can you not be impressed with the way the Spurs have just systemically demolished their opponent in this series, as they now head to Salt Lake for the middle two games. Last night was an offensive symphony. As a team they shot 57 percent from the floor and nailed 10/22 from behind the arc. But its how all the component parts of the symphony blend together that really make San Antonio a special team. While nobody scored 20 points, seven players were in the 10-18 range. And that did not come at the expense of having a clear go-to player. As has been the case throughout the year, Tony Parker led the way with 18 points, and Tim Duncan hauled down 13 rebounds. Then the role players, be they starters or coming off the bench, just filled in their niches. Last night was big for Kawhi Leonard, who hit 3 of 4 from trey range and scored 17 points. The Utah starting frontline was non-existent, with all three starters getting 14 rebounds, barely edging Duncan as a group.
Memphis 105 LA Clippers 98: The Clippers played as well as you can play in terms of offensive rhythm, hitting 57 percent of their shots and converting 9/16 from three-point land. Chris Paul scored 29 and Blake Griffin had 22. So what went wrong? Turnovers to start with. Paul, uncharacteristically sloppy, had five on his own and Memphis forced 20 turnovers on the night. Then there’s rebounding, where the Grizzlies held a 37-28 advantage. Finally we come to the free throw line, where it was a 31-13 scoring margin for the home team. That home cookin’ in Memphis must be awfully tasty. But that aside, the effort Memphis put into the rebounding area—something they did not do in Game 1, is to be applauded and they got balanced production throughout the lineup. Conversely, Los Angeles has to find someone else besides Paul and Griffin who can do something offensively. The injury to Caron Butler is a killer here, and it’s like two-guard Randy Foye who’s going to have to step up and hit some shots from the perimeter, which Paul can create through his dribble penetration.
Indiana 97 Orlando 74: This is the Pacer team I was expecting to see in the playoffs and this is the Roy Hibbert I’ve been waiting for. The Indiana center took full advantage of the Howard-less Magic with an 18 points/10 rebounds night and small forward Danny Granger acted like a leading man on offense should, in putting up 26 points. It’s important to note that Indiana shot 47 percent in this game, meaning that it’s not as though this was just a game where everything went right for them. They won because they controlled the interior and defensively the contained the Orlando backcourt. Jason Richardson, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick combined for just 28 points and that’s not going to be nearly enough for the Magic to win a series. With homecourt advantage back in hand, Indiana looks like a heavy favorite to advance again. The question is whether they can do it in less than seven games—meaning one more road win, either Game 4 or Game 6—and be rested for an anticipated second-round battle with Miami.
It’s a TNT doubleheader in the playoffs tonight, just like a regular NBA Thursday…
*Miami-NY Knicks: How badly does Miami want the fast knockout punch? Given how many minutes LeBron logged during the regular season, I can see the case that the Heat want to get this over with ASAP—ideally sweep two in MSG, but at least pick up one and close it out back home in five.
*Oklahoma City-Dallas: A lot of intrigue surrounds this one, as Dallas’ near-misses in each of the first two games make it realistic they can defend their home floor the next two games and make this a series again. I suspect the Mavs come out like champions for Game 3, with the ultimate fate of the series resting on whether OkC can steal a win in Game 4.