Heat 87, Knicks 70 (MIA leads 3-0)
The Knicks had more than enough chances to put the Heat away during last night’s loss at the Garden but couldn’t capitalize when the opportunity presented itself. With the crowd fully behind them and LeBron James playing a poor first half, New York could not land the necessary final blow to put their opponent away for good. After playing to a stalemate in the first quarter, New York jumped all over Miami and built a double-digit lead which they saw evaporate after a late second quarter run that pulled the Heat back within four.
But with LeBron struggling in the first half, Dwyane Wade once again took advantage of the Knicks lackluster perimeter defense and burned them for 20 points while amassing 5 steals on the opposite end. And after putting together an inspired defensive performance in the first half, where Carmelo Anthony and company matched the Heat physically and limited them offensively, the Knicks just couldn’t find the bottom of the net and Miami completely turned the tables during the second half en route to a 17-point road victory in Game 3.
The third quarter was a slugfest—very reminiscent of a ‘90’s Heat-Knicks Playoff series as both teams looked to overpower each other. While LeBron was relegated to the bench with 4 fouls, his teammates picked up the slack and held the Knicks to just 3 field goals in the third.
Looking rested—and confident that his team would pick him up regardless of what happened—LeBron took over in the fourth and absolutely lit up the Knicks. As soon as the quarter started, he made it clear that it was his time and no one was going to steal his spotlight. James hopped up off the bench and immediately hit a three-pointer, followed a miss for another bucket, then hit another three to turn a two-point lead into a 66-56 cushion. From there, it was over for the Knicks. With LeBron in a zone, Mario Chalmers calmly hit two three-pointers in a row to stretch the lead to 14 with 5:40 to play. The next five and a half minutes were merely a formality as the Heat handed the Knicks their NBA-record 13th straight postseason loss.
Anthony finished with 22 points on 7-22 shooting while LeBron scored 17 in the fourth to finish with 32. —Peter Walsh (@goinginsquad)
Thunder 95, Mavericks 79 (OKC leads 3-0)
The first two games of the first-round series between Dallas and Oklahoma City were close-fought, down to the wire affairs that were each won by the home team from the Sooner State. The League’s leading scorer for the past two seasons dwells on that very same team and in each of the aforementioned games, Kevin Durant struggled from the floor. Scoring, the most unique attribute of a guy whose entire game and make-up screams, “unique.”
Durant was far from shutout from his role as an offensive factor in each of the two wins. Game 1, he hit the game-winner on a contested 18-footer that hit every legal portion of the basket and backboard before falling. In Game 2, he scrapped and clawed his way to the free-throw line 16 times; ending with 26 points.
Generally when a superstar that dominates so extremely on the offensive end isn’t great at that skill, his team (especially a young one) struggles to find postseason success. For the OKC Thunder to be up 2-0 against the defending champs and still waiting for the best of their own best; should put the entire League on alert.
Thursday night, Durant got going early and often en route to a 15-point first quarter; a 20-point first half and a 9-point halftime lead for OKC. As the home team from Dallas clanked shot after shot, Durant’s teammates scored on seemingly every possession. Russell Westbrook put in another borderline virtuoso performance in the third and the Mavs had to play much of the game’s final quarter with an arena littered with empty seats. Daequan Cook and Derek Fisher hit a slew of long-range shots and the team’s young legs were allowed even more rest as the visitors cruised to an extremely impressive 95-79 victory.
Durant finished with an efficient 31 points (on just 15 shots) and an obvious hop in his basketball step, knowing that his team had found the gear they needed to discover if they have true title aspirations. The Mavericks were just never on target either from the field or as a defensive unit. They never enjoyed a lead in the game and now face the mountain that is the 3-0 deficit.
How quickly did this series go from a very close one that could have been in the Mavs’ favor to one that is almost out of reach? How strong must the confidence be flowing for the Thunder as they look to close things out on Saturday night back in Dallas? These questions have simple answers. Human nature dictates that Dallas is in big trouble.
Heart of a champion, maybe? But after all the changes made in the offseason, maybe not the chemistry of one. —Cub Buenning (@cubbuenning)
Dunk of the Night: JR Smith with the crazy finish—where does this stack up among the best Playoff dunks? How much does it take away that the Knicks lost the game and are now down 3-0?