Western Conference First Round
No. 2 San Antonio at No. 7 Memphis (TNT, 9:30 p.m. ET)
2016-17 Regular Season (Tied 2-2)
Feb. 6 Spurs at Grizzlies (-1) 89-74 (Under 200.5)
Mar. 18 Spurs at Grizzlies (+4) 104-96 (Over 196)
Mar. 23 Grizzlies at Spurs (-8) 97-90 (Under 197.5)
Apr. 4 Grizzlies at Spurs (-9) 95-89 (OT) (Over 195.5)
2016-17 Postseason (Spurs 2-0)
Apr. 15 Grizzlies at Spurs (-9.5) 111-82 (Over 190)
Apr. 17 Grizzlies at Spurs (-10.5) 96-82 (Under 189)
**Game 4 will take place from Memphis’ FedEx Forum on Saturday.
After a pair of games where they failed to really challenge the Spurs, head coach David Fizdale struck the stiffest blow his team managed to land in San Antonio, questioning the officiating in an effort to try and get a few more calls for his team as they return home to Memphis to try and make a series out of this. Pointing out that Zach Randolph shot no free throws and Kawhi Leonard’s 19 attempts eclipsed his entire team’s despite the Spurs not taking the ball inside the paint as often as Memphis did.
“I’m not a numbers guy, but that doesn’t seem to add up. Overall, 35 times we shot the ball in the paint. We had 15 free throws for the game. They shot 18 times in the paint and had 32 free throws. Explain it to me,” Fizdale demanded post-game. “It was a very poorly officiated basketball game.”
Officials don’t typically take kindly to being called out, especially since Fizdale’s warning to not “rook us,” is coming from a first-year head coach of a team filled mostly by veterans. Depending on who is on the whistle, Fizdale may have a technical coming his way and could see his strategy backfire if the Spurs are aggressive. He was fined $30,000 by the NBA for disparaging the officials, although Memphis players and area businesses have volunteered to ensure the head coach won’t have to pay a dime out of pocket.
Thus far, Marc Gasol’s 32-point Game 1 has been the lone brightspot for a Grizzlies team that has lacked the consistency to even hang within double-digits thus far in the series. Point guard Mike Conley, coming off his best regular season, has struggled with being the focus of San Antonio’s defensive game plan, shooting 40.6 percent despite averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 assists. Although solid enough, those numbers aren’t going to help make a dent against a team as efficient as San Antonio, especially when you add a free-throw discrepancy into the mix.
Conley, Gasol and Randolph must all be better and need to get contributions from the team’s younger players who may be able to settle down more and produce at home. JaMychal Green has shot 2-for-8, while undrafted rookie free agent Wayne Selden has gone 2-for-10. Those two have started both contests. James Ennis and Andrew Harrison, key contributors off the bench, shot a combined 6-for-17 in San Antonio.
Unless somebody gets it going, the Spurs are simply going to continue sending extra help Conley’s way and daring others to beat them. Vince Carter has averaged over 30 minutes per game in the series and has managed just 8.0 points, so the Griz are going to need more from him too.
In case you’ve lost count, in order to have a chance to win, they’ll need better efforts from all their standouts, their fringe starters, older role players, younger bench guys, the fan base, referees and Fizdale himself.
There’s very little margin for error because the likelihood of containing Kawhi Leonard without Tony Allen available is so remote. Allen has been ruled out for Game 3 with a calf strain suffered when he was kicked there in the regular-season finale. During the regular season, he helped hold Leonard to 23-for-54 shooting.
Through two postseason games, Leonard has shot 20-for-34 (58.8 pct), averaging 35.5 points. He’s made all 28 of his free-throw attempts, wasting no chance to pile on. We’ll see what Fizdale has in store to try and slow him down, but any extra attention would likely help LaMarcus Aldridge get going since he shot just 3-for-8 in Game 2.
Only the Warriors had a better road record than the Spurs, besting a 30-11 mark by a single game. Although San Antonio lost both of its games at FedEx Forum this season, they won and covered in sweeping the Griz out of last year’s playoffs and won a pair there in the regular season too. In their last 16 encounters, the under has come in a dozen times.
San Antonio is favored on the road and has gone just 10-7 SU/7-10 ATS in this situation since Jan. 1. The Grizzlies are 8-8 SU/ATS when not favored at home this season, with the last win coming on March 18 against the Spurs. OKC beat Memphis on April 5 as a road favorite the last time the Griz were getting points at the Grindhouse.
Eastern Conference First Round
No. 2 Cleveland at No. 7 Indiana (TNT, 7:00 p.m. ET)
2016-17 Regular Season (Cavaliers 3-1)
Nov. 16 Cavaliers at Pacers (-2.5) 103-93 (Under 208.5)
Feb. 8 Cavaliers (+3.5) at Pacers 132-117 (Over 216)
Feb. 15 Pacers at Cavaliers (-6) 113-104 (Under 219)
Apr. 2 Pacers at Cavaliers (-8) 135-130 (2OT) (Over 214)
2016-17 Postseason (Spurs 2-0)
Apr. 15 Pacers at Cavaliers (-9) 109-108 (Over 208.5)
Apr. 17 Pacers at Cavaliers (-9) 117-111 (Over 210)
**Game 4 will take place from Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday.
Despite all the doubt cast on the defending champs due to an ugly final few months of the regular-season, the Cavs find themselves on the brink of taking control of this first-round series if they can take care of business as a road favorite.
Indiana missed a shot that would’ve won Game 1 and hung around to also cover on Tuesday, but its opportunity to advance may have already disappeared. At this rate, Thursday night’s game is a must-win to have a realistic chance at pulling off an upset since the Pacers would have to beat the Cavs four straight times otherwise.
Paul George has been honest in his assessment of what went wrong in Cleveland, but drew some criticism since it came off as finger-pointing. Although CJ Miles could’ve gotten the ball back to him for the final look in the series opener, he got off a clean shot that he should’ve made. Lance Stephenson, victimized by Kevin Love at both ends during the Cavs’ game-breaking third-quarter run where they took control, does need to better control his emotions. George isn’t beyond reproach, but he’s averaging 30.5 points, 6.5 boards and 7.0 assists and shooting just under 50 percent while often going toe-to-toe with LeBron James. He’s made 10 of 18 3-point looks and has stepped up enough to give Indiana a chance. That should continue tonight.
George shoots it better at home than on the road and averaged 24.4 points per game during the regular season, so it would be surprising to see him struggle. He’ll also be prepared to see Iman Shumpert, who caught the first DNP-CD of his career in Game 1 before coming in Thursday after J.R. Smith was diagnosed a no-go in the second half due to a hamstring injury. Not only did Shumpert come in with terrific energy on the defensive end, he hit two of his 3-shots and provided a lift over 20 minutes. That effort will be harder to replicate on the road with George ready to see him, but he’ll probably be in the rotation if Smith is ruled out. He’s currently listed as questionable.
Myles Turner had a disappointing first two games, shrinking away from contact and being victimized on the boards. James easily blocked one of his drives to the basket late in Game 2, putting a sour cherry on a night when the 21-year-old standout managed just six points and five boards in 37 minutes. For the series, he’s shooting 36 percent and averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, well below his regular-season averages (14.5, 7.3) despite more minutes. Turner has also been more productive at home, so perhaps familiar surroundings will do him some good.
For their part, the Cavs will be looking to improve to 13-0 after going up 2-0 in a series, extending James’ personal run of 18 consecutive first-round wins that includes his time in Miami. LeBron is averaging 42.5 minutes in the series and shooting 57.5 percent, averaging 28.5 points, eight boards and 10 assists through his team’s first two wins. Kyrie Irving comes off a 37-point game and is averaging a team high 30.0 in the series, while Love comes off a 27-point, 11-rebound game that featured a dominant game-altering stretch. He’s shooting a shade under 69 percent from the field thus far.
Although the Pacers have taken advantage of Cleveland’s continued defensive issues in averaging 109.5 ponints thus far, they’re surrendering 114. The Cavs won the last three games of the regular-series by averaging 126.7 points per game. Although there’s a double-OT game inflating that clip, Indiana hasn’t proven capable of containing their Central Division rival. The over is 7-3 in the last 10 games between these teams, prevailing in four of five.
Eastern Conference First Round
No. 3 Toronto at No. 6 Milwaukee (NBATV, 8:00 p.m. ET)
2016-17 Regular Season (Raptors 3-1)
Nov. 25 Raptors (-3.5) at Bucks 105-99 (Under 207.5)
Dec. 12 Bucks at Raptors (-8) 122-100 (Over 213)
Jan. 27 Bucks at Raptors (-5.5) 102-86 (Under 213.5)
Mar. 4 Raptors at Bucks (PK) 101-94 (Under 203)
2016-17 Postseason (Tied 1-1)
Apr. 15 Bucks (+7.5) at Raptors 97-83 (Under 197.5)
Apr. 18 Bucks at Raptors (-8) 106-100 (Over 194.5)
**Game 4 will take place from Milwaukee’s Bradley Center on Saturday.
This one might end up closing as a pick’em since the Bucks did enough up north to prove they can hang with the third-seeded Raps. Despite their collective youth, the Bucks won Game 1 convincingly and nearly stole Tuesday night’s contest in Toronto too.
Now that they’re back home in Milwaukee, Jason Kidd’s young team could take another unexpected step forward. The Bucks have lost five of their last six playoff games at Bradley Center dating back to their first-round series against Atlanta back in 2010, which includes a 120-66 loss that ended their last postseason run against the Bulls back in ’15. That won’t exactly bring back any fuzzy memories for Kidd, then in his first season at Milwaukee, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was then a 20-year-old in his second season. Only Khris Middleton and the injured Jabari Parker are left from that roster, so we’ll see what this group can do.
The Raptors had lost six of seven first round series before finally breaking through last season, beating Indiana and Miami in Game 7s to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, after losing yet another series opener, something they also managed three times in last year’s playoffs, they’ll be looking to win a fourth consecutive Game 3.
Kyle Lowry rebounded from a 4-point game in a series opener where he shot 2-for-11 by scoring 22 points in Toronto’s 106-100 win. DeMar DeRozan has averaged 25.0 points, but is shooting just 41 percent thus far in the series, so he’ll need to continue getting to the free-throw line to be prductive on the road since he’s completely cut shooting 3-pointers out of his repertoire. Between Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell, Kidd has a lot of options to throw at the All-Star shooting guard.
Antetokounmpo shot 13-for-18 in Game 1 but was held to just 9-for-24 shooting in Tuesday’s loss. Still, he added 15 boards and seven assists, so it’s going to be difficult to keep him from significantly impacting this oen now that he’s back home. P.J. Tucker and DeMarre Carroll will do their best to slow him down.
The Bucks and Raptors combined to shoot 25-for-52 from 3-point range in Game 2 as both put together flurries where they scored on one possession after another. The under had prevailed in seven of nine games prior to Tuesday, which marked the first time both teams had scored 100 or more points in the same game against one another since April 2014, only the second time that had happened in a 17-game stretch.