More of these wonderful NBA playoffs, with two game 4’s, as the Miami Heat try and complete a sweep against the Charlotte Bobcats while the San Antonio Spurs try and escape the predicament they’ve found themselves in against the Dallas Mavericks. The third series is a bit more advanced, as it’ll be game 5 for the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers.
There’s no doubt that the Mavs are a pleasant surprise. From a team criticized for how they’ve been playing defense, to a team finding the right adjustments to slow down Tony Parker and take away the 3-point shot from the Spurs, making things a lot more complicated for them. The Mavs haven’t been perfect, but a great game from Monta Ellis and a clutch moment from Vince Carter meant they took a surprising lead in the series.
The Spurs aren’t shooting that badly, but they’re not getting the shots they want. The Mavs have had long minutes of being able to keep Tim Duncan away from the ball and Tony Parker resorting to jump shots instead of driving to the basket. They can’t close all the holes the Spurs can punch through, but if they continue to do a good job on keeping the Spurs away from taking open 3’s, which means low bench contribution and almost nothing from Danny Green, it won’t be such a surprise to see them taking a two game lead.
In Charlotte, things are a bit simpler. The Heat hold a 3-0 lead against a team they haven’t lost to in the Big Three era. Their defense has stepped up, especially in the second half of all three games, as the Bobcats can’t really find a way to overcome Al Jefferson playing in a limited role. He is scoring early, but his foot injury is bothering him from getting to the line or defending well enough, not to mention remaining a threat late in the game.
The Heat aren’t playing perfect basketball, but their defense is better than what it has been like for most of the season, LeBron James isn’t wearing himself down leading his team, the ball is moving quite well and Dwyane Wade doesn’t look like someone with an injury problem. There’s only one sweep that might happen and it’s in this series. So far, we haven’t seen why it’s not going to happen.
The Pacers might have finally found a way to shrug off from the pesky Hawks. Paul George is guarding Jeff Teague. The Hawks point guard scored 28 points in game 1, but is averaging only 16.7 in the next three, having to face George for too many minutes to his own taste. The ball is moving well for the Pacers, finally not losing the turnover battle and getting more catch and shoot or off screen shots than before.
The Hawks are limited in weapons – they need to perfect execution. Put Millsap as much as possible in situations when it’s a bigger man guarding him, and trying to screen for Teague to come loose of George. No one is going to criticize the Hawks too much for losing in this series if it actually happens, but with the Pacers still wobbly in terms of confidence and consistency, it’s an opportunity that will be a shame to miss out on.