Three series in the NBA playoffs move into the switching cities phase, as we get to game 3. The Oklahoma City Thunder hosted by the Dallas Mavericks (tied at 1-1), Toronto Raptors going to the Indiana Pacers (tied at 1-1) and the Houston Rockets bring the Golden State Warriors over for a visit, hoping to win for the first time in this postseason.
Thunder @ Mavericks: Despite stealing home court advantage and getting some momentum, the Mavericks aren’t overly confident heading into game 3. Dirk Nowitzki is playing with a knee injury. David Lee is out for now. J.J. Barea and Deron Williams both have injuries they’re dealing with. Devin Harris is on that list as well. Rick Carlisle put it quite accurately: We know from a manpower standpoint we’re at a pretty big disadvantage, and we know we’re not going to outrun or outdunk or outskill these guys.
Right no both accounts. So what should the Mavericks do? This series is not up to them. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant shot a combined 15-for-55 from the field in the game 2 loss, and it still came down to one tip in by Steven Adams that was ruled to have not come out of his hands in time to beat the buzzer. Raymond Felton had a huge game with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but missed clutch free throws that allowed the Thunder to be in a position to win the game.
For the Thunder, it always feels like it’s about making shots. But in their home loss to Dallas, a first after five straight wins including the regular season, they allowed an older, worse team to bully them from the get go. And being aggressive on the boards and in the paint sets the tone for them, allowing them to play at a pace the Mavericks simply don’t have the manpower to match.
Raptors @ Pacers: The Raptors have pretty much conceded they’re not going to be able to stop Paul George, averaging 30.5 points in this series after two games. They’ve also understood that the Pacers defense is going to make it difficult for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to have a good shooting day. In the 98-87 win they shot a combined 9-for-31 from the field. Sounds very similar to game 1, doesn’t it? What changed?
The Pacers not getting Jonas Valanciunas into foul trouble was the difference. He played 31 minutes, grabbed 15 rebounds (5 on offense) and scored 23 points, this time not wasting away all those second chance opportunities. And as good as George is, on offense, it’s going to be difficult for the Pacers taking hold of this series again without someone else stepping up offensively, and finding an answer to their inferiority under the basket.
Warriors @ Rockets: No Curry doesn’t mean that much. It might make it easier for the Rockets to defend some of the time, but they’re still severely outmatched against a team that’s not just more talented than them but also smarter. Yes, the officiating can be more fair as the Warriors continue to do things no other team in the league is allowed to, but their advantage over the Rockets has a lot more to do with their ball movements, shot making and ability to lock down the defense for long periods of time.