The NBA conference semifinals series move onto game 4, with the Chicago Bulls hoping to extend their lead against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers while James Harden & the Houston Rockets will be trying to bounce back facing the Los Angeles Clippers.
Derrick Rose stole the show in game 3 with his buzzer beater to win the game, but there was a lot more to this game than simply one player rising up and making a shot on the final play. There was LeBron James trying to do too much on his own (again), resulting in just 8-of-25 from the field and 7 turnovers. The 27 points and 14 assists don’t seem all that important somehow. And there were the other players who weren’t living up to the expectations.
Kyrie Irving had 0 assists, although that number can be misleading, while scoring just 11 points on 3-of-13 from the field. David Blatt said after the game that Irving is playing with an injury. The same is true for Pau Gasol for the Bulls, scoring just six points in 22 minutes. We’ve got a lot of aching bodies on both sides of the ball, but the Cavaliers played bad basketball regardless of injuries.
It’ll be interesting to see if Nikola Mirortic’s performance (12 points) is something that will have some carry over. It was his first decent performance of the postseason, and the Bulls could use a lot more where that came from. They can’t have Jimmy Butler and Rose doing everything, even if they do it very well and seem to have the slight upper hand in the backcourt battle.
To their opening loss the Cavaliers responded with an aggressive, attacking the rim style of start in game 2 – closing the game right off the start. Expect James to do the same thing in the start of game 4. Whether the Bulls once again take out everyone around him or Jimmy Butler tires out a little from guarding him twice every three nights will determine the outcome of the game, and maybe the series.
Rockets vs Clippers
James Harden, number 2 on the MVP voting, is having a bad series against the Clippers. Like Stephen Curry and LeBron, his team is behind in the series after three games. Sure, the Rockets could use better defense from everyone, some more accuracy from Josh Smith and Trevor Ariza or for Terrence Jones to be less damaging to his own team. But Harden needs to step up in a way that isn’t just getting to the line.
The Clippers are finding out about more and more weapons they have. Chris Paul is back, and Austin Rivers is booming with confidence. It’ll be interesting to see if he can actually string together two strong performances in a row. It hasn’t been the case for him so far in this postseason, but momentum can do strange things to someone’s confidence and ability.
The Rockets need a real dominant game from Dwight Howard for once. He had his way with Tyson Chandler in the first round, but so far it’s been a lot more difficult for him against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Unless he gets some help in the paint, even if it comes at the expense of stretching the floor, the Clippers are going to be closer to another routing night instead of tying the series.