Kurt Helin

Will Boston’s Isaiah Thomas draw fine (or more) for hit on Dennis Schroder?

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Game 3 between Boston and Atlanta felt like a real NBA playoff game. So yes, it got a little chippy.

To which the referees leaned in and called three Flagrant 1 fouls — all of which were borderline at best, in my opinion. Clearly the league has sent out a memo emphasizing their position that any blow to the head is a flagrant, because these were the kinds of fouls that come in physical playoff games (in my eyes) but the refs consistently called it too tight.

Which brings us to Isaiah Thomas‘ first-quarter shot to Dennis Schroder (video above). To me, I’d say “Welcome to playoff basketball” and move along. However, with the way things were called in this game, don’t be shocked if Thomas draws a fine from the league for that hit. That should be it at most, but as the league’s fines/suspensions come with the consistency of roulette to me, who knows? Maybe he gets more. But I would hope not.

Boston’s Marcus Smart with ridiculous, hysterical flop (that should draw a fine)

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Marcus Smart has a reputation for flopping to try and draw calls. But this one is hysterical.

Jae Crowder is shooting the corner three, and Smart tries to slide in baseline on the opposite side looking for a rebound. Kyle Korver is doing his job on the weak side as the shot goes up putting a body on Celtics looking for an offensive board. The second he touches Smart the Celtics’ guard goes down like the sniper in the grassy knoll shot him.

The league has slowed down handing out flopping warnings during the season (they would tell you their program of publicizing them has worked) but during the playoffs the warnings are gone and the first violation is a $5,000 fine. Smart has earned that, and we should see it come down soon.

Spurs take 3-0 series lead, beating shorthanded Grizzlies 96-87

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, left, and guard Tony Parker, right, watch during the second half of Game 3 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, April 22, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. The Spurs won 96-87. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Associated Press
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 96-87 on Friday night to take a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

The Spurs are a win away from their ninth postseason series sweep and third against Memphis. They finished the game on a 13-6 run in the final 3:41, and Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, scored 13 points in the quarter as he shot 11 of 22 for the game and 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili each added 11 points for San Antonio.

Zach Randolph led Memphis with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-21 shooting. Matt Barnes added 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Vince Carter had 11 and JaMychal Green was 5 of 5 for 10 points.

Game 4 is Sunday.

Data curated by PointAfter

With Jarell Martin out with an injured left foot, Memphis had only 10 players available, and the 6-foot-7 Barnes jumped the opening tipoff at center. A fan summed up the Grizzlies’ season by holding up a towel with the slogan: “So proud of my team … All 28 of you” in honor of the NBA-record number of players Memphis used this season.

The Spurs so dominated the first two games in San Antonio that Memphis led only once, by a point and for 25 seconds. This time, the teams swapped the lead eight times with seven ties. Memphis not only took its second lead of this series, the Grizzlies also won consecutive quarters, outscoring San Antonio 25-18 in the second to trail only 44-43 at halftime and 28-26 in the third.

Memphis coach Dave Joerger stuck with his starters much of the game, with Barnes leading the Grizzlies with more than 41 minutes and Randolph on the court more than 39. Leonard played a game-high 42 minutes, 23 seconds.

The Grizzlies led for more than 2 minutes in the third quarter, taking their biggest lead at 51-48 after a 3-pointer from Carter and a pair of free throws by Tony Allen. That set up a taut quarter where neither team led by more than three, and Memphis led 71-70 going into the fourth.

Boris Diaw scored as the shot clock was running down to put the Spurs ahead to stay with 7:47 left, starting the 7-0 run. Memphis last got within 83-81 on a tip-in by Barnes. Leonard hit a free throw off a defensive 3-second call on Allen with 3:41 to go, and the Spurs finished off the win forcing five turnovers in the quarter.

TIP-INS

Spurs: With this win, Duncan tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for third in career playoff victories with 154. Duncan trails Robert Horry (155) and Derek Fisher (161). Duncan already tied Horry for second with 244 postseason appearances. Fisher also leads that category with 259 playoff games. … Kevin Martin did not play because of illness. … The Spurs had a 17-12 advantage in fast-break points.

Grizzlies: Memphis went 4 of 18 beyond the arc, outshot by Leonard individually and the Spurs, who went 12 of 26. … The Grizzlies outrebounded the Spurs 48-39 and outscored them 44-28 in the paint. … They also had an 18-1 edge in second-chance points, taking advantage of 15 offensive rebounds.

Boston’s jumpers fall, Isaiah Thomas drops 42, and Celtics beat Hawks 111-103

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Now that felt like a playoff game.

It started with a playoff adjustment — Boston’s Brad Stevens inserted Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko into starting lineup — and suddenly the Boston jumpers were falling. In what was the opposite of the first two games, this time it was the Celtics who raced out to the big lead (20 points), put up 37 points in the first quarter, and were getting role players who stepped up (Jerebko had a put back dunk to set the tone). With the jumper falling, the floor opened up for Isaiah Thomas (who also was working off the ball more), and he had 16 first quarter points.

But just like in the first game in this series, the team that was behind battled back. Atlanta went on a 12-0 run early in the third quarter and by the end of the quarter had taken the lead.

This was the best playoff game the season, and it had everything: big shots, physical play, technical fouls — including some overly touchy flagrant foul calls by the officials — and a lot of smack talking. It was just fun.

The night ended with a 111-103 Boston win behind 42 points from Thomas. Atlanta is up 2-1 in the series, and this sets up a crucial Game 4 on Sunday back at the Garden.

Boston pushed back in this one, and they battled and defended like we have come to expect from Stevens team. The difference was the shooting thanks to Jerebko (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Turner (16 points) —  just having the threat of them out there created space that was missing with Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk out injured. Boston’s shooting was not great (8-of-19 from the midrange, 11-of-32 from three) but it was good enough to keep the Hawks from packing the paint on defense as they did in the first two games.

The Hawks front line of Paul Millsap and Al Horford did not have great nights, combining to finish with 16 points on 19 shots. Jeff Teague led the was for Atlanta with 23, Kent Bazemore had 20, and Kyle Korver added 17 despite being in foul trouble most of the night (he eventually fouled out). Atlanta needs to find ways to get Millsap and Horford looks they are more comfortable with in Game 4 — and those two need to knock down the bunnies they kept missing.

Boston can even this series with just a little more Garden magic. Well, that and keeping their jumpers falling.

Cavaliers hold off feisty Pistons 101-91, take 3-0 lead in series

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — LeBron James had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving made a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cleveland Cavaliers move within a game of a first-round sweep with a 101-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Irving scored 26 points for Cleveland, which overcame a gritty effort by the Pistons in Detroit’s first home playoff game since 2009. Andre Drummond scored 17 points for the Pistons, but Detroit fell behind toward the end of the third quarter, and a late rally came up short.

The Cavs lead the series 3-0, with Game 4 coming up Sunday night.

The Pistons have now lost 11 straight playoff games against Cleveland, and they’ve lost nine in a row overall in the postseason.

Down by nine in the fourth, Detroit went on an 8-0 run, forcing the Cavs to call a timeout. Irving responded with a 3-pointer, and J.R. Smith added one of his own to make it 95-90. Irving made it an eight-point game with a 3-pointer in the final minute.

A raucous, towel-waving crowd tried to give Detroit a boost. Pistons fans booed James early and often, although the Cleveland star threw down a two-handed dunk on his team’s first offensive possession.

Data curated by PointAfter

Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson, who seemed eager to get into a verbal battle with James and the Cavs after Game 2, scored nine points in a fearless first half Friday, but James had the final word before halftime, making a jumper with less than a second left in the second quarter to give Cleveland a 54-53 lead.

Cleveland methodically built a 79-73 lead after three quarters, and after a three-point play and a 3-pointer by James early in the fourth, the Cavs were up by nine. It was 87-86 after Detroit’s run, but the 3s by Irving and Smith helped Cleveland hold on.

With 1:34 remaining, the public address announcer at the Palace announced the results of a replay review with his popular “Deeeeeeeeeetroit Basketball” call, but it turned out he was mistaken and had to correct himself. Officials were giving the ball to the Cavs.

Detroit’s chances were all but extinguished when Irving sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 43 seconds remaining, and James ran back to midcourt for a celebratory chest bump.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Mo Williams (sore left knee) did not play.

Pistons: Reggie Bullock (left leg) missed the game. … Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2008 against Boston.