Two Game 2s on the docket for Monday night. Here’s what to look for.
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder lead 1-0). Oklahoma City is not going to get a soft first half from the Grizzlies where OKC can race out to a big lead like it did in Game 1. Expect this to be a meaner, more physical Memphis team from the opening tip. Memphis knows it doesn’t have the offensive weapons to dig out of a big hole and win against the Thunder, they instead are going to try to grind this game down.
Memphis needs a better outing from Zach Randolph, who was rushed and pressured by Serge Ibaka (Randolph had 21 points but on 21 shots). Also expect a healthy Tayshaun Prince for Memphis (he practiced Sunday)… who still should give way to Tony Allen early (he was the best Memphis player Game 1). Memphis also needs much more out of their role players — Beno Udrih, Mike Miller and Courtney Lee were no help in Game 1. That lack of depth was a big issue in Memphis not being able to maintain their third quarter run.
You know Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will put up numbers again for OKC, but they need another high energy game out of Serge Ibaka and another rock solid steady game from Caron Butler (who played 31 minutes in Game 1). Ibaka was flying all over the place protecting the rim (he had four blocks) and he helped even the balance with the Grizzlies in the paint. He needs to do that again, if the Grizzlies own the paint completely they win.
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers (Warriors lead 1-0). Don’t expect Game 2 to look like Game 1. Blake Griffin will play more than 19 minutes (he was limited by foul trouble). Stephen Curry will have more than 14 points on 16 shots. Chris Paul will not have six turnovers and he will make better decisions late. The referees won’t call the game as tight (we can hope, in particular Griffin and Andre Iguodala picked up ticky-tack fouls that shouldn’t be fouls in the playoffs). Both teams were sloppy in the final couple minutes. We will see if any or all of that changes the outcome, but the game will look and feel different.
For the Clippers, they need more from Griffin who must dominate David Lee. They also need more consistent defense — they trapped Stephen Curry on the pick-and-roll but he did a good job finding the open guy, look for a coverage change from LA. Finally Los Angeles needs a lot better production from their bench — Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison and Danny Granger combined to shoot 5-of-26. There is pressure on the Clippers — go down 2-0 at home and they are likely not advancing. (There is already pressure with this loss, they haven’t won at Golden State since Christmas Day 2011, that now has to change.) Golden State needs another big game from Klay Thompson to go with what we can expect as a much better game from Curry. Another quality Draymond Green outing wouldn’t hurt.
As if Golden State was not already a prohibitive favorite Saturday night.
DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the last two games for Sacramento with a strained back and that will continue Saturday. Our old friend Bill Herenda tweeted it first.
Not only are the Kings 1-6 without Cousins, but they were also on their way to beating Charlotte Monday until Cousins had to leave the game.
Golden State will likely be without Harrison Barnes in this game after spraining his ankle in the last game. Expect Andre Iguodala to get the start, or if interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t want to mess with the bench rotation he could go with Brandon Rush.
Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.
It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.
Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.
The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.
That is just cruel.
An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.
Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.
We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.
But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.
With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.
That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.
The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.
But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.
If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.
The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.