Can Knicks be more than one-and-done against Heat?

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The last two games, the Heat did not bring their “A” game, and they still won one game against the Knicks and lost the other by two points. Conventional wisdom says Miami comes home Wednesday night, crank up the defensive pressure again and just run away and hide from the Knicks.

That could happen.

But the Knicks showed a few signs of life in Game 4, snapping their 13 game playoff losing streak. If all those things can repeat themselves and actually improve while away from Madison Square Garden the Knicks have a shot. Yes, I know the odds of that.

Here’s what has to happen.

• Mike Bibby has to play well. He’s the starting point guard, but really in name only — Carmelo Anthony has the ball in his hands most possessions, J.R. Smith will get some turns and Bibby will spend much of the game working off the ball. The Heat don’t fear him, as evidenced by Dwyane Wade’s comments (via the Sun Sentinel):

“We know Mike has made more shots in this series than he made all last year (with the Heat),” Wade said. “Send that to Mike.”

Bibby doesn’t have to do much, but when he does something he needs to be efficient — knock down the shot, don’t turn the ball over.

• Amare Stoudemire needs to have another big game. He was the unexpected boost for the Knicks in Game 4 — he was back from his hand’s run in with a fire extinguisher and really produced with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Even though he was one handed and couldn’t go left. This was the best Anthony and Stoudemire have played off each other in a long time and they will have to repeat and improve on that to win in Miami.

• Carmelo has to go off again. He had 41 on Game 4 and he’ll need similar numbers again. What I don’t get is why the Heat stick with Shane Battier as his defender most of the time — Anthony is shooting 52 percent against Battier this series. Anthony attacks and goes at the smaller Battier every time. Anthony likes isolation sets, LeBron is as good an isolation defender as there is in the league. Look for the Heat to be more aggressive in how they defend Anthony and he’s still going to have to produce.

We could from here get into a debate on how the last Miami Heat shot should be handled. But if Miami plays up to its potential, it can be Dexter Pittman because he’s in for garbage time. The Knicks need a lot of things to go right for them, they have no margin for error.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.