April 17, 2017, 9:35 pm
With the first round in full swing we had an eventful two games on Monday night. The Cavs avoided another near catastrophe thanks to their Big Three, and Kawhi Leonard willed San Antonio to an easy win against the Grizzlies. With that, here’s Tuesday’s Daily Dish.
Cavs 117, Pacers 111
The Cavs survived a fourth quarter onslaught by the Pacers to go up 2-0 in the series, leaning heavily on their Big Three. Kyrie Irving scored 37 points with four triples and Kevin Love chipped in 27 points and eleven boards in 39 minutes. Meanwhile, LeBron James dropped 25 points on 11-for-20 from the field, adding ten boards, seven assists and a stellar eight combined defensive counters. In fact, Cleveland’s entire starting lineup flashed a defensive intensity that seemed to be missing in Game One, despite facing another near implosion in the final frame.
J.R. Smith played just 18 minutes after suffering a left hamstring injury in the first half of the game, and did not return in the second half. Iman Shumpert started in his stead after the break, but didn’t contribute much statistically. Still, he logged some solid minutes against Paul George, and would be in line to see more minutes if Smith were to miss additional time. We’re still waiting on news of how severe Smith’s injury might be, so stay tuned.
The Pacers are now staring up from a 0-2 hole and face a must win scenario on Thursday back in Indiana. Both George and Jeff Teague were critical in their near fourth quarter comeback, as the duo combined for 55 points on the night. George in particular has been spectacular in this series, but he’ll need significantly more help if the team hopes to extended their season beyond a four game sweep.
Spurs 96, Grizzlies 82
San Antonio got practically nothing from their bench players not named Pau Gasol, but it made little difference. Kawhi Leonard played transcendent defense throughout this game, corralling ball handlers on the perimeter and altering shots inside. His offensive output was every bit as impressive. Leonard finished with 37 points, 11 boards and two assists, taking a whopping 19 shots from the charity stripe and sinking every one of them. The Grizzlies don’t have anyone remotely capable of staying in front of him with Tony Allen (right calf strain) out indefinitely, and Kawhi and company look poised to make this a short series.
It likely won’t matter in Round One but it’s worth noting that LaMarcus Aldridge, who disappointed all season, could not get anything going against Marc Gasol. He finished with just 11 points and four boards, struggling to establish position against Big Spain. It’s something to keep an eye on as the Spurs advance to face teams that can stretch them more than Memphis has… Danny Green is getting hot at the right time for San Antonio, and he drilled four triples on Monday. He can be a frustrating fantasy asset, but there’s no denying his importance as a 3-and-D contributor on a title contender.
It was a rough night for the Grizzlies, who – like the Pacers – now have to contemplate their playoff mortality after falling behind 0-2. Mike Conley looked phenomenal as the team’s offensive engine, finishing with 24 points, eight boards and plenty of extras. That said, the Grizzlies will need to get him some help beyond Marc Gasol if they hope to steal a game or two from the Spurs… Zach Randolph turned back the clock to double-double off the bench in 36 minutes. He feasted against Pau Gasol and David Lee’s porous defense, but you get the sense that the Spurs never felt all that threatened. Why would they?
That’ll do it for this Tuesday’s dish. Follow @HoopBallTweets for up to the minute updates or hit me up on Twitter (@AbyssAlsoGazes) if you have any questions. See you all next week.