From now through the end of the playoffs, each day the team at PBT will give you a little preview of what will be coming that night and what to look for on the court. For Monday, the things to look for starts with the very basic question of whether Curry is even on the court.
1) Will Stephen Curry play for Warriors? Will it even matter? Stephen Curry has said he wants to play in Game 2 Monday. However, he did not go through practice with Golden State Sunday and is officially listed as “questionable” with a sprained ankle suffered in the Warriors blowout Game 1 win against Houston. Considering Curry’s ankle injury history (he’s had two surgeries on that same ankle) and his importance to their playoff run, Steve Kerr may be leaning toward having Curry sit out Game 2.
The real question is, can Houston do anything about it if he does sit? Technically Houston outscored Golden State by six points when Curry was on the bench through the first three quarters of Game 1 (which eliminates the garbage time of the fourth when Curry sat), but this will be different. The bickering Rockets tried to get James Harden going (17 points on 19 shots), but the Warriors did a great job of not fouling (zero free throw attempts for Harden), and the Rockets lack the shooters to prevent help from getting in the way of Harden. J.B. Bickerstaff has work to do looking for ways to get Harden playing downhill and back to being Harden.
This is simple for the Rockets: If Curry sits this is the road game Houston needs to steal to have any shot in this series. If the Rockets’ can’t, go ahead and start booking tee times.
2) Will DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry show up for the playoffs in Game 2? Toronto was the No. 2 seed in the East on the strength of their backcourt — the second best in the NBA — but the Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan who terrorized the league for much of the season didn’t show up for Game 1. They combined to shoot 8-of-32 from the floor overall, 1-of-10 from three, and they had nine turnovers. Credit the Pacers physical defense with some of that — they contested 20 of those shots and Lowry/DeRozan hit just four of them — but Toronto’s All-Stars are better than this.
Lowry and DeRozan — and coach Dwane Casey — said all the right things Sunday about them not being rattled by the pressure of history (the Raptors haven’t advanced out of the first round since the Vince Carter era), now they need to back that up. In part, that means coming up with play designs to create space for the guards, but then the duo just needs to hit shots. The Raptors didn’t play to their strengths or identity, that needs to change..
By the way, the Raptors don’t just need to adjust on the offensive end. DeRozan was assigned Paul George defensively much of Game 1 and was torched — George had 27 of his 33 points in the second half and keyed the Pacers’ win. Specifically, expect a change in who is on Goerge (Norman Powell?) from the Raptors, as well as how they deal with George on the pick-and-roll. Expect hedging and traps.
3) What can Rick Carlisle do to get Dallas buckets? Other than get back to playing Justin Anderson more. Dallas has far less talent than Oklahoma City. That’s not up for debate. The Mavericks’ only hope to make their first round series interesting was for brilliant coach Rick Carlisle to come up with some masterful stroke that neutralized Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the talent gulf. We’ve come to expect him to do just that. Except it didn’t happen in Game 1. Not even close, OKC won in a blowout.
For all the talk of the OKC offense it was the team’s defense that owned Dallas and decided that game. It was the best Thunder defensive performance in some time, they were active and aggressive. Carlisle has to find a way to get players not born in Germany some buckets to open up the floor — one way would be to play Justin Anderson more. The rookie started the six-game winning streak Dallas had to make the playoffs, and then Carlisle went away from him to get more minutes to trusted veterans. Stop it, go with what worked. To add to Carlisle’s challenges, for Game 2 J.J. Barea is out injured and Deron Williams is questionable. So that talent gulf just got bigger. What I’m saying is I do not envy Carlisle today.