Two more games in the NBA Playoffs on Friday night, and we’ve got a quick game preview for both match ups here. You can check them out below. Previews courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Indiana Pacers @ Washington Wizards
Tip off @ 6:00 p.m. MST
Series tied 1-1
Recap from last game
Wizards center Marcin Gortat heard the question and waited several seconds before speaking. He took a deep breath. Cleared his throat.
Asked whether he anticipates seeing Indiana’s Roy Hibbert show the same sort of energy Friday night in Game 3 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal that he did in an outcome-altering Game 2 performance, Gortat opted not to go there.
”I ain’t going to talk about him,” Gortat eventually said after practice Thursday. ”Next question.”
And yet, all of a sudden, the Wizards were talking plenty about Hibbert, trying to figure out how to slow him down. His role in the best-of-seven series, tied at 1-all, sure changed quickly.
The 7-foot-2 All-Star shot 10 for 13 and finished with 28 points and nine rebounds in the Pacers’ 86-82 home victory Wednesday. In the first 56 seconds alone, he won the opening tip, hit a jumper from near the foul line as the shot clock expired, then turned in a three-point play for a 5-0 lead. Fittingly, the game ended with the basketball in Hibbert’s hands on a rebound.
”He started to run the court a little bit. We saw on film where he kind of outran all of us. That showed him wanting the ball,” Wizards guard Andre Miller said. ”He wanted to win, and it kind of rubbed off on the rest of the team.”
In Game 1, Hibbert had zero points and zero rebounds, his second time in these playoffs with those stats.
The NBA, citing the Elias Sports Bureau, said Hibbert is the fifth player in league history to go from having no points in one postseason game to putting up at least 28 in the next.
”Definitely, that’s not what we expected,” Gortat said, relenting on the topic.
After all, Hibbert scored a total of 37 points in Indiana’s first eight playoff games, an average of 4.6.
”This is just a start,” Hibbert said after Game 2.
He’s aware that Washington will see what it can do differently against him. Wizards coach Randy Wittman spoke primarily about working to keep Hibbert away from the basket.
”I don’t expect to put up 28 points a game, but I expect to contribute,” Hibbert said. ”I want to be a part of something on both ends.”
On Friday, he’ll be on the court where he played most of his college home games at Georgetown.
The Hoyas’ coach, John Thompson III, attended Game 2 – and another former Georgetown player, Wizards rookie forward Otto Porter, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the man known around these parts as JT3 played a role in Hibbert’s resurgence.
”He definitely knows how to motivate you. He probably said something to Roy to tick him off; he probably took it out on us,” Porter said with a smile. ”At the same time, Roy is Roy. He (was) definitely going to get out of his slump and come to play in these playoffs.”
Setting aside Hibbert’s breakthrough, Wizards point guard John Wall called Game 2 ”probably the worst game we’ve played in the playoffs” – and he might as well have dropped the word ”probably.”
Washington made only 5 of 21 attempts on 3-pointers, hit 5 of 12 free throws, and did not have a single fast-break basket.
”We lost our pace from an offensive standpoint,” Wittman said, ”and that hurts us in the long run.”
He and Wall both rued one particularly quick 3-pointer the guard missed instead of being patient and looking for a better shot while trailing by three with about 1 1/2 minutes left.
”It almost felt like desperation on a couple of those possessions,” Wittman said.
Summing up the game, Wittman pointed to a theme echoed by his players: ”We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of.”
Hibbert did, for once, and all eyes will be on him in Game 3.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Clippers
Tip off @ 8:30 p.m. MST
Series tied 1-1
Recap from last game
Crawford didn’t cry or talk as long as Durant did when the Oklahoma City star picked up the league’s MVP award. But he thanked everyone he could think of on Thursday, especially his teammates and Clippers coach Doc Rivers for keeping them together in the wake of owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments that led to his lifetime ban from the NBA.
Crawford’s award was some of the best news the Clippers have had in the last 1 1/2 weeks, and the feel-good atmosphere during his acceptance speech could provide some necessary fuel heading into Game 3 against the Thunder on Friday night at Staples Center. The Western Conference semifinal series is tied 1-1.
Durant’s widely replayed, touching speech in which he credited his single mother for keeping their family together through tough times gave the Thunder an emotional boost going into Game 2. They responded with a 112-101 victory that wasn’t as close as the score suggested.
”They just beat us in every way,” Rivers said.
Now the Clippers will be out to grab back the momentum. First, they’ll have to contain Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Durant had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help the Thunder outrebound the Clippers for the second straight game.
”We have to take that and then add to that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”You can’t be satisfied. The intensity as the series goes along improves and it becomes greater, and we have to make the next jump.”
Rivers’ staff always asks him what his biggest fear is going into a game. His response before Game 2 was Westbrook’s offensive rebounding.
”Then he comes up with six of them,” Rivers said. ”We can box him out. We got to keep him off the glass.”
With his teammates cheering him and playfully mocking the suit and tie he wore, Crawford accepted his trophy as the league’s best reserve. He averaged 18.6 points as the NBA’s top-scoring reserve this season, and the Clippers will need his offense after he was held to seven points on 2-of-13 shooting in Game 3.
The Thunder’s defense didn’t allow Crawford room to operate. J.J. Redick, who finished with 18 points, was another key focal point for Oklahoma City.
”You’re talking about two of the quickest triggers in basketball in Redick and Crawford,” Brooks said. ”I thought our guys did a good job of closing that gap.”
Both teams took Thursday off, when the Clippers heard that Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly wants to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the team as the NBA tries to force new ownership on the franchise.
Mrs. Sterling’s attorney said she hasn’t been asked to stay away from games and she plans to attend Friday.
Rivers brushed off the latest chatter, something he’s done since the scandal broke.
”We need to be uneasy about Westbrook and Durant,” he said. ”That’s who we need to be really uneasy about because they’re putting more pressure on us right now.”