(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
Time: 1 p.m CST
Pacers lead 2-1.
After giving up Game 1, the Pacers blitzed the Magic by running out in transition and creating efficient offense. The Pacers couldn’t muster up anything of significance behind the arc, shooting 20 percent. Their assist totals were also abnormally low but against a depleted Magic team, it didn’t matter. Five Pacers scored in double-figures, including four with at least 17 points, showing that their depth could be the deciding factor in the series.
Game 3 played out the same way. Indiana completely dominated in transition, their nine steals allowing them to ratchet up the pace, holding Orlando to zero transition points. The Pacers starters scored 75 points and they nearly doubled Orlando in points in the paint. Other than an impressive showing from Glen Davis, Orlando finished Game 3 without much to hang their hats on.
Final verdict. Pacers by eight.
(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
Time: 3:30 p.m
Series tied 1-1.
While Game 2 couldn’t possibly match Game 1 in terms of intensity and narrative, it showed that these teams could be heading for a taut, physically taxing playoff series. The Clippers depth, or lack thereof, won’t do them any favors against a team that thrives on pressure, defensively. But as long as Chris Paul, and his innate ability to take reigns of the entire game, is playing point the Clippers will always have some semblance of a chance in this series.
Final verdict. Grizzlies by four.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Time: 6:30 p.m
Thunder lead 3-0.
Instead of holding a 2-1 lead — Dallas would even take a 1-2 deficit at this point — here they are. Playing an elimination game in what might be their last game as defending champions. Oklahoma City Thunder hasn’t considerably outplayed Dallas in this series but, with the benefit of a generous rim and Game 1, the Thunder are now in position to finish the Mavericks off tonight and accumulate rest before they face the Lakers or Nuggets. I’m still not worried about any team in particular, as a Spurs fan, but the Thunder are one of the few teams in basketball that can hang with the Spurs offensively.
OKC’s offensive philosophy is much different than San Antonio. The Spurs pepper the defense with ball movement — I would argue that this is the most efficient way of scoring points– while the Thunder rely on their three best shot creators (Durant, Harden, Westbrook) to, well, create shots. Oklahoma City Thunder scores 0.87 PPP in possessions classified as isolations, good for second in the entire league, according to MySynergySports. Against Dallas, OKC has seen that rise to 0.93. They still go through stretches where Durant and Westbrook hand over the ball and situate themselves into the weak side corner but the fact remains, they are a damn good offensive team.
Final verdict. Thunder by seven.