Three Things to Watch in Playoffs Monday: Can Damian Lillard, Blazers replicate Game 3 performance?

Getty Images

This is not as detailed as the 6,397,326 Game of Thrones recaps on the web today, but it is a humble little look at what to expect in the NBA.

1) Can Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Mason Plumlee replicate their big nights? The Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum we knew from the regular season showed up in Game 3 — 59 points on 42 shots. Their jumpers were falling, combined they hit 10-of-17 from the midrange and 5-of-13 from three. Thing is, we knew they could do that once they got space. The big key for Portland in Game 3 was Mason Plumlee — he played the pseudo Draymond Green role as the passing big who helps the guards get free from traps, and he finished with nine assists. He also had 21 points and was a beast on the offensive glass, where Portland had 18 second chance points. It was an impressive performance all around, but the Clippers will adjust their defense and the question becomes can those three replicate their performance. Or will Al-Farouq Aminu finally start to hit some jumpers and open up the floor. Portland was more aggressive on defense in Game 3, but the Clippers will adjust to that, Portland will have to play better to even the series.

2) Can Charlotte replicate what it did to beat Miami last game? Charlotte put up it’s first win of the series in Game 3, with Frank Kaminsky (15 points) and Al Jefferson in the starting lineup and Jeremy Lin dropping 18 off the bench. But watch the game closely and it’s fair to question if this team can win the same way again. Their offense was not impressive, shooting 38.9 percent overall and hitting just five threes on their way to a 101 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions. What they did do well was get to the free throw line 22 times (hitting 21). If the Heat can limit fouls, Charlotte may well struggle to put up points. Also, after a dominant first two games from the Heat offense, it went stone cold in Game 3 — the starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade shot 11-of-33 from the floor, which was better than the bench shooting of 4-of-17. The Charlotte defense was better (they have played better at home all season), but Miami is going to hit more shots.

Bottom line is it’s going to take a much better game from the Hornets to even this series.

3) What can Dallas do to extend its season one more game (at least)? Like a cornered animal, teams facing elimination are desperate and dangerous. The problem for Dallas — who are 1-7 against OKC this season including the playoffs — is they do not have as much talent as Oklahoma City. Dallas needs to slow the game down, junk it up a little – which they did fairly well in Game 4, but turnovers and Oklahoma City trips to the free throw line won the Thunder the game. Dallas needs to play a near perfect, grinding game, and get big nights from Dirk Nowitzki and Raymond Felton to live another day. It would help if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could combine to go 15-of-55 again, but I wouldn’t bank on that.