Kevin Durant and scored 23 points and Russell Westbrook combined for 72 points in Game 1 vs the Nuggets but last night, the Thunder’s dynamic duo scored a more modest 44 points (Durant had 23 and Westbrook 21). However, unlike in Game 1 in which the Thunder struggled to put away the Nuggets, Oklahoma City opened a 26-point lead early in the second quarter last night and cruised to a 106-89 win. James Harden chipped in 18 points while Ibaka added 12 points plus 12 and Perkins had 11 rebounds. The Thunder have now beaten the Nuggets four times in just 16 days, although only the last two ‘count,’ as the Nuggets will attempt to get back in the series when it shifts to Denver on Saturday.
Ginobili returned for the Spurs last night and led them with 17 points (added seven rebounds and four assists). Duncan had 16 & 10 plus Jefferson and Hill also added 16 points. San Antonio had no answer for Randolph and Gasol in Game 1 (combined 49 points and 23 rebounds) but did a much better job against them in Game 2. Randolph had just 11 points and five rebounds (made only 5-of-14 FGs) plus Gasol made only 2-of-9 shots while scoring 12 points (he did have 17 rebounds). While all five Memphis starters scored in double digits, the team shot just 39.8 percent (made 55.2 percent in Game 1), including a woeful 3-of-14 on threes. Still, when Sam Young hit a three-pointer with 14.9 seconds left to cut the lead to 89-87, Memphis ‘sniffed’ a 2-0 lead. However, the Spurs won 93-87 and now it’s 1-1 and on to Memphis for the next two games, the first of which will be on Saturday.
The Hornets shocked the Lakers in Game 1 (109-100), shooting 51.9 percent from the floor. The team's Game 2 performance was from the one we saw on Sunday, as the team which committed just three turnovers in Game 1 had 16 last night, while making just 39.1 percent of its shots and scoring only 78 points. That being said, the Lakers were never really able to ‘shake’ the Hornets, who lost by nine points (87-78). Kobe had just 11 points (3-of-10 FGs) for LA and for the second consecutive game, Gasol was a ‘no-show.’ After scoring eight points with just six rebounds in Game 1 (2-of-9 FGs), Gasol again scored just eight points (with five rebounds) while making only 2-of-10 shots. However, Bynum had 17 & 11, Odom 16 & 7 and Artest 15. The series shifts to New Orleans for the next two games, the first coming Friday night.
The next set of 16 games will see the lower seeds have the home court advantage and for the first time this postseason, we’ll have home underdogs. That’s the case in two of Thursday’s three games. TNT again features a doubleheader, the Heat at the Sixers (8:05 ET) and the Mavs at the Blazers (10:35 ET). The first game of the night is the Bulls at the Pacers (NBA Network at 7:05 ET). All three of tonight’s road teams in these series own a 2-0 advantage. Derrick Rose (37.5-7.0-6.0) has been unstoppable for Chicago but the Bulls needed a fourth quarter comeback to win Game 1 and were not able to ‘shake’ the Pacers in Game 2, either. Indiana PG Darren Collison may not be available after spraining his left ankle in Game 2. "Hoping for the best, but we're listing him as doubtful," Vogel said. "He's very sore still. He's going to try to give it a go. I'm preparing to not have him." If Collison can't go, AJ Price would start and TJ Ford would back him up. Chicago is favored by four points with a total of 189.
The 76ers won 26 home games this year (won just 25 games all of last season) and will have to win both games vs the Heat to get back in this series. That’s a daunting task, as the Heat went 28-13 on the road this season, the best of any team in the East and tied for the best in the NBA. Miami’s “Big 3” is getting the job done with LBJ averaging 25.0-10.5-5.5, Bosh 23.0-11.5 and a less than 100% Wade getting 15.5-6.5-3.5. Meanwhile, Philly’s two best players, Brand and Iquodala, have been flops. Brand is averaging 10.0-7.0 and while Iquodala has averaged 7.5 RPG and 8.5 APG, he’s made just 4-of-15 shots while averaging 4.5 PPG. The 76ers will have to score more than the 81.0 PPG they’ve averaged in the first two games. Miami is favored by 4 1/2 points and the total is 186.
The Blazers were a ‘sexy’ choice to upset the Mavs prior to the start of the playoffs but Portland ‘limps’ home down 0-2. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 33 points (18 in the 4th quarter) and 10 rebounds in Game 1 and then 28 more in Game 2. However, the Blazers find themselves in an 0-2 ‘hole’ not solely because of Nowitzki. “Old-timers” Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic have come out of nowhere to ‘kill’ the Blazers. Kidd had a playoff career-high six three-pointers in Game 1 (scored 24 points) and then Peja tied his playoff career-high with five three-pointers in Game 2 (21 points) while Kidd added another 18 points. The Blazers have gotten good efforts from Aldridge (51 points), PG Miller (18.0-6.0 APG) and Camby (26 rebounds) in the first two games but the team's other two starters, Matthews (15.9 PPG on the season) and Wallace (15.8-7.6 on 49.8 percent shooting in 23 games with the Blazers) have been way below par. Matthews has scored a total of just 15 points in the first two contests while Wallace is averaging a modest 13.0 PPG on just 10-of-24 shooting (41.7%). Portland is the lone home favorite tonight, laying 5 1/2 points with a total of 186 1/2.
A quick note on Dirk: He’s taken a lot of ‘heat’ over the years, as the Mavs have been huge underachievers in the playoffs during his career. Most notably losing the 2006 NBA Finals to the Heat (went up 2-0 and then lost four straight) and then after posting the NBA’s best regular season record the following year, getting bounced out of the playoffs in six games by the eighth-seeded Warriors in the first round. However, Nowitzki’s Game 1 effort marked his 40th career playoff game with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds. Since Nowitzki's rookie season (1998-99), only Shaquille O'Neal (62) and Tim Duncan (54) have had more such games. The fact is, Nowitzki is one of just four players in NBA history to average 25 points (25.6) and 10 rebounds (10.8) in his postseason career (now at 105 games).
Those following the Zig-Zag theory went 0-3 last night and are now 3-5 ATS in this year’s postseason. Plays tonight would be on all three home teams.