In the first round of the playoffs 5-of-8 series went to a Game 7. Will we get even one in Round 2? We find out Thursday night.
Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards (Pacers lead series 3-2). Washington center Marcin Gortat admitted he was dreading going home, where the Wizards have lost both games this series. They’ve already won five road games this postseason and are hoping to avoid becoming the first team to do so without reaching the conference finals. The Pacers, on the other hand, are trying to avoid a total collapse. Their Game 5 blowout loss might have already opened Pandora’s Box. This is a matchup of two teams that might be unconfident — the Wizards in their location and the Pacers in themselves.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Thunder lead series 3-2). When we talk about “playoff experience” we often focus on the nebulous “teams that know how to win” idea. What may be even a bigger part of playoff experience is learning how to deal with and respond to losses. Because there will be losses. The Clippers had a devastating one in Game 5 — up 7 with 49 seconds left they made terrible plays and decisions, plus got a swift kick from the referees, and they lost. The Thunder suffered a painful loss in Game 4, blowing a 16-point lead, but they came from behind to win Game 5 — they showed some poise. Do the Clippers have that in them? Is dealing with loss a lesson they have learned? If so, expect a Game 7 Saturday. If not their season ends.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.