The San Antonio Spurs have a chance to get themselves a long rest before the conference finals as they head into game 4 with the opportunity to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers, while the Miami Heat will try to rebound from their first loss of the postseason against the suddenly slightly more confident Brooklyn Nets.
In Portland, they already have their arms up in the air, desperate. They’ve lost three games, none of them were close past the halftime mark. They have no answer to Tony Parker who is averaging 26 points per game in the series, while LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers’ best player in their previous series, has been limited (mostly by Tiago Splitter) to only 18.5 points on 32.6% shooting over the last two games.
A big problem for the Blazers has been Mo Williams’ injury. They knew depth was going to be a problem, but not having the ability to give Damian Lillard even the slightest bit of rest has been harming them as well. Lillard has been struggling with Parker on both ends of the floor, and it seems that barring a rare shooting performance from the Blazers that so far hasn’t happened to them in this postseason, there’s really nothing they can do to avoid the sweep.
In terms of history – it’s against Portland. No team has ever returned from an 0-3 hole in a best-of-seven series, although the Blazers have been the last team to take it back to 3-3 before losing the 7th game back in 2003 against the Mavericks. The Spurs have an advantage at every position except for Aldridge, but they’ve done a very good job of quieting him, and pretty much taking away hope from the Blazers of coming back.
In Brooklyn, things are closer and testier. The Nets might be the inferior team in this series, but they don’t act like it. Veterans have confidence and pride that is easily wounded. After looking bad in the first two games, the Nets amped up their defensive effort and started playing a lot smarter on offense. The problem for them, is that these kind of efforts from them usually don’t get an encore, as they’ve yet to win two games in a row in this postseason.
Three point shooting (15-of-25) was the key for the Nets in the previous game. The Miami Heat, aside from LeBron James, struggled getting any kind of rhythm offensively, which led to plenty of transition offense for the Nets. The Nets aren’t exactly a team built for running, but smart passing from Deron Williams and a great day for Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic made the Heat pay dearly for their defensive lapses.
There’s no special matchup that works better for either side. It’s about the Nets being able to, or not, withstand and equal the Heat in terms of physicality. If LeBron James will make those around him better and the Heat don’t get stuck in useless half court sets, it’s going to be very difficult for the Nets to even the series.