Each day that there’s a playoff game, we’ll have three things to watch in the NBA playoffs. Each note will be accompanied by a contest. We’ll announce winners after each round. Here’s today’s three things to watch:
1) The series swings back to Indiana. The Pacers & Knicks split the first two games in Indiana in odd fashion — the Pacers controlled Game 1 from start to finish, the score (102-95) salvaged only by a late Knicks run, and the Knicks dominated Indiana in Game 2, 105-79. After four days of rest, the series swings back to Indiana for Game 3. In three road games in the playoffs, the Knicks have gone 2-1, but Carmelo Anthony has only shot 29-83 (.349%) from the field on the road. New York’s success often hinges on how effective Anthony shoots — in wins, Anthony shoots 46.5% from the field and 39.4% from 3, in losses, Anthony shoots 41.4% from the field and 34.1% from 3. Against Indiana’s top-level defense, who will come out on top?
2) Upset City? Oklahoma City is the #1 overall seed in the Western Conference, but an injury to star guard Russell Westbrook leaves them heavily reliant on Kevin Durant — and as Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated notes, the presence of Kendrick Perkins has severely limited their offensive success in the playoffs. With the series swingig back to Memphis for Game 3, picking the Grizzlies — replete with defensive juggernauts Tony Allen and Marc Gasol — may not be an upset after all.
3) Well-roundedness in Indiana. Tonight’s two series are quite similar: one team with a transcendent scorer (Carmelo Anthony/Knicks, Kevin Durant/Thunder) against a well-balanced lineup known for their class-of-the-league defense. The Pacers-Knicks series has swung mostly on the starters — in Game 1, all five Pacers players scored in double figures in the first three quarters, and in Game 2, Knicks starters shot a scorching 60% from the field and matched the entire Pacers’ scoring output alone. For Indiana, not reliant on one scorer like the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony, to make good on our first prediction, they’ll need a well-rounded output from their starting lineup.