There is a saying in the NBA, ‘it’s not a playoff series until the home team loses a game’. After the games tonight, it appears we have at least two series on our hands. The Raptors bounced back from losing game one at home behind a great performance by Cory Joseph and Kyle Lowry. The Mavericks recovered from the 38-point loss they suffered against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a win behind a gutty performance from Raymond Felton.
The Raptors stumbled out of the gates against the Indiana Pacers and Paul George’s monster performance in game one. Conjuring up ghosts of playoff pasts, Kyle Lowry struggled in the game going 3 for 13 from the field and 6 turnovers. Game two did not lead to an improved shooting night for Lowry but his seven assist, nine rebound night helped the Raptors to an 11 point victory. One unsung hero in this series has been Cory Joseph, who is the Raptors’ second leading scoring at 17 points a game, shooting 78.6% from the field and 50% from three over the two playoff games. Plays like the ones below from Joseph sparked Toronto in the fourth quarter. The first play he freezes the defender with a hesitation move and he finds his way to the rim. The second, Lowry finds a back cutting Joseph for another easy lay in.
The key for the Raptors will be to find a way to get Lowry and DeMar DeRozan going early in the game. There is no chance they will win the series if Lowry continues to shoot 26.9% and DeRozan shoots 27%.
The Pacers have to find a way to get more shooting on the floor, especially with their second unit. In game two, the Pacers went 4 for 20 from deep en route to their loss. They completed their mission by stealing a game on the road and now have to defend their home turf.
The Mavericks pulled out a tough win at the buzzer after getting drilled by the Thunder in game one. Felton followed his 2 for 10 performance in game one with an inspiring 21 points, 11-rebound game to even the series. The Mavs forced Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined to shoot 15 for 55 from the field, 26 misses is a career high for Durant.
It is unlikely that the Thunder’s dynamic duo will continue to shoot this poorly in the series but they need help. Durant played a total of 44 minutes in game two and Westbrook 38 minutes. The Thunder must find a way to get production from their bench. One player they should turn to is Cameron Payne who provided a spark off the bench for the Thunder early in the season. However he has not seen the court much since the Randy Foye trade. Late in games they can play Payne as the ball handler and have both Westbrook and Durant work off the ball.
The Mavs have to play as if they are unsatisfied with just one in the series and continue to play with the intensity they brought to game two. Carlisle is the maestro at pulling all the right chords but will have to create another masterpiece to get the series lead as it goes to Dallas.
The third game on the docket from last night was the Curry-less Warriors taking on the Rockets. Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston combined for 50 points on their way to a nine-point win and a 2-0 series lead. At this point the Warriors are playing with house money and could be willing to sit Curry for game three and give him more time to rest his ankle. Even if they were to lose game three, they would still be up a game on the Rockets.
This has been a disappointing season for the Rockets, chemistry issues have plagued them all year. It has all played out on the court like a movie where all the actors hate each other and the director. The lack of cohesion has led to the lack of help side defense like in the example below where Dwight Howard doesn’t even attempt to stop Draymond Green’s dunk attempt.
Game three for the Pacers and Mavericks will be about defending home court and for the Raptors and Thunder it will be about regaining their home court advantage. For the Rockets it will be purely survival, no team in NBA history has ever come back from a three game deficit. For the Warriors game three will be a decision of rolling the dice once more to rest Curry one more game. These are the storylines heading into game three for these teams.