April 16, 2017, 8:24 am
Welcome to The Dish! I’m Jordan Smith, returning hot on the tail end of two weeks off to come back and cover Saturday’s playoff action on Sunday!
We had four excellent playoff games yesterday and the best part is we had some intrigue and surprises. That doesn’t happen a lot in first round series so absorb the best of it while you still can. We’re going to go over the box scores from each game like normal but it’s really just an excuse to talk some playoff hoops. We’ll talk about some of the games more in depth than others so there might be some bonus paragraphs for any given team. So let’s dive in!
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Pacers 108 Cavs 109
The Pacers truly had an opportunity to steal this game away as C.J. Miles got the last shot of the game down one point with just under 10 seconds remaining. He got a decent look, and that’s the most you can ask for in a tough road environment. The big story from the game was the revival of Lance Stephenson as his former playoff Pacer persona. Stephenson came off the bench to score 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds and three assists. He was a whirlwind of energy, dysfunction, and playmaking in only the way that Born Ready can be. Paul George didn’t get a lot of love this year in a cramped and weird Pacers offense that has taken the ball out of his hands more than it should. George of course was a man on fire to end the season and he continued that play here as he scored 29 points with five rebounds, seven assists, a steal and six 3-pointers while shooting 9-of-19 from the field. He was spectacular and the Pacers would be lost without him.
Monta Ellis drew the start at shooting guard and played 27 minutes, likely something you’ll see less of as this series goes on as Ellis is still a sieve defensively and really just puts more unnecessary ball handling on the floor now that Stephenson is in the rotation and playing well. Myles Turner scored 11 points with eight rebounds and four steals and 5-of-12 shooting from the floor in his first playoff appearance, a solid performance for such a young player. He did pick up four fouls and that’s likely to become a problem as this series progresses. Bottom line is the Pacers aren’t going to get a great performance out of Lance Stephenson every night and when they don’t they’ll have to find offense from somewhere else.
So far through one playoff game it looks like the Cavs are drawing legitimate criticisms for their lack of defense down the stretch of the season. The Pacers had a good offensive night and it’s going to be tough for Kevin Love to stay on the floor if he’s getting eaten up in the pick and roll and not rebounding. Love scored 17 points on a super efficient 5-of-9 (two 3-pointers) shooting night while adding just four rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. The Cavs got out rebounded 41 to 34 in a game where Love, James, and Tristan Thompson played heavy minutes. Thompson had a good game as he scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting with 13 rebounds, and as usual he brought good defensive switching that is helpful against teams like the Pacers. LeBron James scored 32 points with six rebounds, 13 assists, three steals and two 3-pointers while shooting 12-of-20 from the field and 6-of-9 from the line. James is going to dominate this series as George can’t quite matchup with him and the Pacers really have no other answer to throw at him. Kyrie Irving struggled from the field as he only shot 11-of-27 including 1-of-9 on his 3-pointers for 23 points with six assists, two steals, and a block. He was a plus on the defensive side of the ball which is a good sign for the Cavs, but Irving also only managed to get to the line once in 27 shot attempts. That’ll surely change and when it does this series could be over very quickly.
Bucks 97 Raptors 83
Some thought that Giannis Antetokounmpo could struggle in this series and in the playoff in general as he’s not as good of a shot creator or jump shooter as his spectacular season would seem to indicate. That was not the case against the Raptors in game one as Giannis ate the Raptors alive for 28 points on 13-of-18 shootring with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Giannis was a monster in transition and if the Bucks can continue to keep this pace up and avoid half-court settings as much as possible then their offense will continue to thrive. Even more impressive was Khris Middleton who had a team high +27 while scoring just 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting. That’s because he had nine assists and was just an absolute mismatch for DeMar DeRozan and Corey Joseph as a playmaker. Middleton brought fantastic defense and was one of the primary reasons that DeRozan and Lowry had such bad offensive nights.
Thon Maker played just 15 minutes but had an impressive impact as he scored four points and blocked three shots in that time. He’s a talented young player and when he starts to put everything together on defense he’ll be a really fantastic fantasy asset. Malcolm Brogdon started at point and played 34 minutes as a rookie to end with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting (four 3-pointers) with six rebounds and two assists. Brogdon brought nice solid defense and he acts well as an off-guard as Giannis and Middleton run the offense for the Bucks. Greg Monroe held up defensively as he played 26 minutes and scored 14 points with 15 rebounds in this game. Serge Ibaka will need to take more advantage of him if the Raptors are going to keep Monroe’s rebounding and scoring off the floor.
The Raptors always start the playoffs off poorly and this game was no exception. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antentokounmpo just ate the Raptors alive on defense and the Raptors had an incredibly bad passing game as the ball was just stuck in DeRozan’s hands far too much. DeRozan scored 27 points in this game but needed to shoot 7-of-21 in order to get there, though he did end up at the line to hit 13-of-14 freebies. He grabbed eight rebounds but only had one assist which cannot continue to happen if he’s going to have the highest usage on the team by a wide margin. Kyle Lowry scored just four points on 2-of-11 shooting with six assists and two steals. Whether it’s because he’s till working his way into form from his injury or he just didn’t have it this game it leads a bad trend of postseason performances for Lowry.
Serge Ibaka was a bright spot for the Raptors as he scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting with 14 rebounds and three blocks. His defense was as valuable as ever but he may need to be even more effective on the offensive end in order to keep Greg Monroe’s offense off the floor. Ibaka and P.J. Tucker are going to be invaluable in trying to contain the Bucks fast break opportunities in game two. The Raptors have a lot to worry about as they’re going to need to figure out a way to move the ball more effectively and limit the Bucks transition blitzkrieg.
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Grizzlies 82 Spurs 111
This game looked interesting in the first quarter as the Griz jumped out to a 30-25 lead on the back of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. That quickly disappeared as the Spurs hammered the Grizzlies for the next three quarters. Marc Gasol ended up with 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting (three 3-pointers) and a perfect 7-of-7 from the line while adding five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Mike Conley scored 13 points with five rebounds, seven assists, three steals, a block and two 3-pointers of his own. Both had nice games but they simply don’t have enough help on the floor. The Grizzlies have traditionally had a fantastic defense but that’s going to be difficult to maintain with Zach Randolph and James Ennis playing so many minutes. Randolph scored six points on 3-of-13 shooting while adding three rebounds, but he was a massive -39 in his 26 minutes on the court. He simply can’t guard out to the 3-point line and the Spurs are as good as ever at spacing the floor and dissecting defenses. The Grizzlies are in a tough spot as they don’t have any forwards on their team that can deal with LaMarcus Aldridge getting his shot or Pau Gasol stretching out to the 3-point line. Tony Allen (calf) is out indefinitely so there’s not going to be any help coming on the defensive end. Unfortunately it’s going to be an ugly series for the Grizzlies and both Conley and Gasol will see an early exit they don’t deserve.
The Spurs look as good as ever and will continue to be underrated as a the conference two seed. Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting and made a living at the line as he hit all nine of his attempts there while adding three rebounds, five assisists, two steals and a 3-pointer. He’s gotten some buzz as an MVP candidate and is undoubtedly one of the best two way players in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20 points with six rebounds and two assists while shooting 8-of-18 from the field. The scary thing is he could have even more monstrous games as the Grizzlies just do not have an answer for him and he can get his Dirk-esque 15 foot jumper whenever he wants it. Tony Parker scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with two assists and though he doesn’t look like the Parker of old he can still bring it on occasion, just don’t expect that to happen consistently. The Spurs bench are going to dismantle the Grizzlies as Pau Gasol stretching out to the 3-point line either draws his brother’s defense away from the paint or brings out a forward who can’t handle Pau’s high skill level. The Spurs bench scored 39 points and it was spread out all over the place. This is probably going to be a series over in four games.
Jazz 97 Clippers 95
It’s our first big upset of the playoffs, but it unfortunately comes with our first injury as well. Rudy Gobert has been diagnosed with a bone bruise, an injury that’s been notoriously difficult for NBA players to get back from quickly this year, and the primary example of that is Gobert’s teammate Derrick Favors. It occurred on the very first play of the game and forced Boris Diaw into playing 23 minutes this game and Joe Johnson to play 31 minutes. Diaw scored seven points with six assists and four rebounds and was able to hold up defensively with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute as a proper hiding place for him. Gordon Hayward struggled to shoot the ball as he drew Mbah a Moute’s defense, Hayward shot 7-of-18 to score 19 points with 10 rebounds, three assists, and a steal though he did also turn the ball over five times. Hayward struggled in the regular season against Mbah a Moute and that could continue here. Derrick Favors ended up taking over the primary defensive responsibilities at center and did so admirably considering he’s still trying to find a rhythm on the team after prolonged absences this season. Favors scored 15 points with six rebounds, two assists, and a block. Favors is going to be the pivotal piece for the Jazz if they’re going to continue to play well and achieve this upset, and so far Favors has looked excellent.
George Hill scored 16 points with four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a 3-pointer and was able to provide the presence at point the Jazz have always needed in the playoffs. He struggled with Chris Paul defensively at times, but that’s not abnormal even for a player of Hill’s stature on that end. Joe Ingles started this game and scored eight points with two assists, two steals, a block, and a 3-pointer. Ingles is an underrated NBA player but he’s not a 32 minute a night starter for a good playoff team and we’ll see the type of action the Clippers bring out to start taking advantage of Ingles and Diaw getting large minutes on the floor. Joe Johnson had probably the best game of any Jazz player as he scored 21 points off the bench and added three rebounds, three assists, three steals, a block and three 3-pointers while shooting 9-of-14 from the field. He played Blake Griffin excellently on defense as Joe Johnson is still one of the strongest players in the league at his position. The Jazz won off a Johnson floater as Iso-Joe took advantage of Jamal Crawford being on the floor for a clutch playoff bucket that led to a big road win.
The Clippers just couldn’t generate enough offense, and that’s a troubling beginning to a series where the Jazz lost their defensive player of the year candidate on the first play of the game. Chris Paul was brilliant as he scored 25 points with seven rebounds, 11 assists, three steals an a 3-pointer. He’s still one of the smartest defensive players in the league and he may need to score even more in this series if Mbah a Moute is not going to be guarded and J.J. Redick is only going to get six shots. Blake Griffin scored 26 points on 9-0f-21 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and two 3-pointers. He committed six turnovers which really hurt the Clippers and in the end Griffin is going to need to take more advantage of Joe Johnson than he was able to this game. The Jazz have to play one of Ingles or Diaw on the floor this entire series now that Gobert is hurt and there’s no reason Griffin shouldn’t be able to either destroy one of them in the pick-and-roll with Paul or threaten a volley of lob passes to DeAndre Jordan as Griffin himself threatens to score.
DeAndre Jordan scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting with 15 rebounds and three blocks, and he didn’t end up taking any free throws in 36 minutes. If the Clippers start to get their offense together more you’re going to start seeing the Jazz start hacking Jordan in order to slow down Clippers. Jamal Crawford played 29 minutes off the bench and scored eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, Doc Rivers played him over J.J. Redick much of the time which may have ended up costing them this game despite what the plus/minus totals seem to indicate. The Clippers need Redick’s shooting on the floor at all times and he’s a significantly better team defender than Crawford. Redick was not having a good game as he scored seven points and turned the ball over four times but he’s simply the better option of the two. He’ll play better than what he did this game and that will probably be the difference the Clippers needed. This would be a very scary series for the Clipppers if Rudy Gobert were healthy, but now that he’s injured I’d expect the Clippers to find their rhythm on offense and take advantage the Jazz smaller lineups now.
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