LeBron James usually has big games in New York. Maybe it’s the Knicks’ fans, maybe it’s the Knicks themselves. Maybe it’s just occasion of playing in the Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t any different in Game 3, leading the Miami Heat to a 87-70 and a 3-0 lead in the First round series, scoring 32 points.
Kevin Durant didn’t have an easy time against the Dallas Mavericks during the first two games in the series, but as Russell Westbrook failed to dominate with his scoring once again, Durant took over, finishing with 31 points on a nearly flawless shooting night, leading the Thunder to a 3-0 lead in the series with a surprisingly easy 95-79 win.
James didn’t have it easy for three quarters. The Knicks’ fans were all over him, for obvious reasons. James flopping didn’t help his cause, and he scored only 15 points through the first three quarters, finishing the game with 8 turnovers. The Knicks’ defense also had something to do with James struggling, maybe buoyed by Tyson Chandler winning the DPOY award.
There was nothing even resembling defense in Dallas. Durant felt right at home, with the Mavs fans wearing all blue, the same color the Thunder were wearing in their first road game of the postseason. Everything Dallas had going for them in the close games in OKC were gone, as Dallas couldn’t create any offense besides the rare Nowitzki basket, finishing with 17 points.
James scored 29 point in his only game in the regular season when visiting the Knicks. The Heat won the game 93-85. There’s nothing even remotely close about this playoff series. James wasn’t discouraged by the crowd and by his offensive problems. He kept on suffocating Anthony and the Knicks’ falling-apart offense, until he woke up in the fourth, scoring 17 points. The Heat had a 2 point lead when they entered the fourth quarter. Clutch, not clutch, you be the judge.
The Thunder made a decision to let Jason Kidd try and beat him by himself, by penetrating. Leaving the lane open and make life a living hell for Nowitzki. Don’t leave Dirk open no matter what. It’s been working, as Kidd did score 12 points, but the Mavs shot a terrible 34.2% from the field. The just might be the second NBA champions to be swept aside in the first round of next year’s playoffs. The first team were the Heat in 2007.
If James and the Heat in general have been having a good and efficient series, Carmelo Anthony is complete opposite. There’s no direction or order in the Knicks’ offense. Anthony and JR Smith just shoot and shoot and shoot. Anthony has now taken more shots than he has scored point. Smith had more misses (5-18) than he had points. Incredible dunks don’t cover and make up for a terrible game of basketball.
Durant was 8-10 while pulling up from 15+ feet. When Durant is red hot when staying away from the basket, it’s very hard to beat the Thunder, nearly impossible. Russell Westbrook was and James Harden had no need to be great. Westbrook did score 20 points, on a bad night. Harden had only 10. And still the Thunder cruised to victory.
The top two MVP candidates had great nights, dominant nights. They’re both up 3-0, leading the best (except for the Spurs) teams in the playoffs right now. Being on the road, in rather hostile arenas didn’t matter. The Knicks have no substance when Anthony’s struggling, while Lin and Stoudemire keep being day to day decisions. The Mavs? The whole huge gamble Marc Cuban took earlier in the short off-season blew up in his face.