NBA Playoffs: Your Complete Friday Night Viewing Guide

So how about that Lakers-Thunder game last night? Pretty fun, right?

Russell Westbrook and Michael Jackson agree.

 

Here's the thing about Oklahoma City - they don't know any better. This can sometimes be a really bad thing. Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green take a ton of bad shots. Serge Ibaka follows up spectacular plays with silly ones. James Harden shoots too many threes. Thabo Sefolosha doesn't shoot enough threes. Even Kevin Durant takes some bad shots, considering how capable he is at scoring from anywhere.

But it can also be a really good thing, because they didn't have much business winning last night. The Lakers did everything a road team should do in that kind of atmosphere. They worked the ball inside, took the crowd out of the game right away and even got some open shots for perimeter sharpshooters like Derek Fisher. For most of the game, they held the Thunder at arms length. Then, Westbrook broke a play to go at Fisher and dunk on Lamar Odom, Harden hit a transition three and Durant hit a contested three that he really had no business taking. Tie game. That's not the conventional way to take control of a game, but the Thunder don't know any better. That's just how they roll.

Speaking of not knowing any better - how about Durant's defense on Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter? Kobe shot just 2-9 in the quarter, and Durant at one point actually blocked one of Kobe's fadeaways. Superstars aren't supposed to hold other superstars in check like that. Durant, like his teammates, just doesn't know any better. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is supposed to block Kobe Bryant's fadeaway. Durant did. He doesn't know any better. I'd argue that last night was one of Durant's best games of the season, even though he had a terrible shooting night. He dominated the glass, held down the best closer in basketball and hit big shots when it was needed. It was a pleasure to watch.

But enough Lakers-Thunder. Let's get to tonight's games.

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Boston Celtics at Miami Heat: Game 3, 7:00 p.m., ESPN

Game 2 in one sentence: The Celtics, led by Ray Allen and Glen Davis, dominated a Heat team that didn't really show up.

Problem the Heat must solve to win: Show up and try. I wish there was a more detailed problem that needs to be solved, but that's all I got. It'd help if Jermaine O'Neal drank some tough juice and Michael Beasley started to, you know, drive to the basket. 

Problem the Celtics must solve to win again: Glen Davis has had two big games this series, but he played far better in Game 2 with Kevin Garnett out due to suspension. What happens now that Garnett is back? Will this mean no Rasheed Wallace (answer: no).

Totally inconsequential thing I want to see happen: ESPN announcers talking about what will happen with Dwyane Wade this summer instead of talking about the game. Oh wait, that's the totally inconsequential thing I don't want to see happen. My bad.

Prediction: Sadly, I don't really see a lot of fight in this Miami team. Boston hasn't lost to them yet this year, and I don't expect it to happen tonight. Celtics 97, Heat 86.

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Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs: Game 3, 9:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 2 in one sentence: The Spurs got a bit more from their supporting cast, and the Mavericks forgot how to shoot, allowing the Spurs to tie the series.

Problem the Mavericks must solve to win: It sounds so simple, but they need to make more shots. As Kelly Dwyer wrote:

Save for the late comeback mentioned above (after trailing for double-digits for most of the contest, the Mavs got it down to five points before Duncan and Ginobili put it away), Rick Carlisle's team consistently failed to connect on shots that, I'm sorry, they've consistently made for years.

It was an epidemic. Even shots taken after the whistle - dead ball attempts after being fouled - weren't going in, missing badly, with Dirk Nowitzki working as the biggest example.

I figured the Mavericks wouldn't shoot as well as they did in Game 1, but I didn't figure they'd shoot as badly as they did in Game 2. Nowitzki in particular took the same type of shots he took in Game 1, when he dominated. He just missed most of them. If the Mavericks make shots, they'll probably win. Analysis!

Problem the Spurs must solve to win again: The Spurs had a lot go right for them in Game 2, but they could use a bit more production out of their bench (besides Tony Parker, of course). I'm talking about guys like DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner and Roger Mason. As SB Nation's Spurs blog Pounding the Rock writes:

[Blair] had some rebounds of course but a disappointing game otherwise, including some missed opportunities for layups. [Bonner] had a couple of nice threes and spots of decent D but was still generally tentative. It is almost like he is trying too hard to stay within his game instead of pushing his limits like he was doing last month.     

...

Mason still [stinks]. I feel bad for him, his confidence is shot and he was not even trying to get involved offensively any more. He was actually trying to hustle a little more but once your confidence is shot nothing good is going to happen. Mercifully for both him and us he was yanked after a dumb foul.    

Totally inconsequential thing I want to see happen: Maybe this happens in garbage time. Maybe, in a miracle, it happens with the game still in the balance. Regardless, I want to see Rick Carlisle put in Rodrigue Beaubois at the same time Gregg Popovich puts in Ian Mahinmi. Then, I want to see Beaubois run a high screen with whoever Mahinmi is guarding. The screen will be so good that Mahinmi will be forced to switch on Beaubois. Then, I'll be able to watch two of my random favorites (for no reason at all) in a one-on-one, isolation situation. I live for these moments!

Prediction: Dallas won't shoot that poorly again, and they know how to win in San Antonio. I see a classic, with the Mavericks prevailing in the end. Mavericks 107, Spurs 105.

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Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz: Game 3, 10:30 p.m., ESPN2

Game 2 in one sentence: The Jazz took a big lead in the third quarter and held on when the Nuggets rallied late, thanks in part to a very questionable late-game call.

Problem the Nuggets must solve to win: Deron Williams. Or, more specifically, the entire Jazz offense. Denver's defensive effort was pitiful in Game 2, as they allowed the Jazz too many easy looks in their half court sets. The Jazz are historically seen as a pick and roll team, but they actually get more points on their weakside cuts than on straight pick and rolls these days. Denver did a really bad job defending those cutters, and to make it worse, they also did a terrible job guarding whatever pick and rolls the Jazz also ran. Better defense is a must if the Nuggets hope to win.

Problem the Jazz must solve to win again: Keep Kyrylo Fesenko on the floor. You're probably thinking, "What? Kyrylo Fesenko??" But hear me out. With Fesenko off the floor, the Nuggets were able to drive to the basket easier and get to the free throw line. As SB Nation's Jazz blog SLC Dunk writes:

The game was decided with Fes on the bench. Of course, the boxscore suggests that Fes' +10 was the best out of both teams (if you follow the +/- stat), and the Jazz don't win this game if they're not up big in the 1st half (when Fes did most of his damage). Furthermore, it is my personal opinion that the Denver Nuggets (who were killing the Jazz with drives, drives and dishes, and post ups) were way more successful in the paint with Fes out of the game than with him in it. Denver got back into the game with these scores in the paint. Maybe if Fes doesn't pick up two dumb fouls (the 3rd one in the 2nd half, his 5th over-all, was not a dumb one, but the correct type of foul you want in the playoffs when a rookie guard tries to get a layup and you are 7'1 and 300 lb.) he plays a bit more in the 3rd and Denver has a harder time going on a 14-0 run?

Who is to say?

Totally inconsequential thing I want to see happen: I want to see Kosta Koufus do this again (watch the whole video and notice his lips). 

 

Prediction: Denver steps up their defense enough to get back on track for the win. Then, they'll completely lay down in Game 4, setting up a key Game 5 back home. It's the Nuggets way. Nuggets 113, Jazz 105.

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