Apr 20, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dunks against the Indiana Pacers in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Cleveland defeats Indiana 119-114. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
On Day 6 of 2017 NBA Playoffs Roundup, LeBron James keeps making history, the Pacers collapse, Greg Monroe shines, the Raptors need a eulogy and the Grizzlies won’t be rooked.
The 2017 NBA Playoffs are already in full force, and even if we end up with the Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers Finals matchup everyone’s expected since the offseason, would anyone be upset about it if long as the playoffs leading up to it are this entertaining?
The first week or so of postseason action has been filled with surprising upsets, big-time performances and unexpected role players stepping to the forefront of the playoff conversation. Day 6 of the playoffs on Thursday followed the same pattern.
As we advance through the postseason, we’ll be taking a look at what stood out from each day of playoff action. Here’s what we took away from the Cavaliers’ historic comeback in Indiana, Milwaukee’s dismantling of the Raptors and the Grizzlies bouncing back to beat the Spurs.
LeBron Keeps Making History
The Cleveland Cavaliers were down 25 at the half in Game 3. They trailed by as many as 26 against a Pacers team that was 29-12 at home during the regular season and desperately needed a win to keep its season alive.
Passing Wes Unseld for seventh on the NBA’s all-time playoff rebounding list? Check.
Passing Kobe Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list? Also check.
Posting a 40-13-12 triple-double that was first 40-13-12 line in NBA playoff history? Check, again.
Erasing a 26-point deficit to tie the largest comeback in NBA playoff history? CHECK.
But it wasn’t just the historical accomplishments over the course of Game 3 that stood out. Even without all those accolades attached, LeBron absolutely took over that game in the second half.
His back-to-back three-pointers at the end of the third had Cleveland within seven heading into the fourth. His passing picked apart the Pacers down the stretch. And his vicious dunk in transition to give the Cavs their first lead since the first quarter all but assured his team the victory — both for the game and the series, as if the latter were ever in doubt.
On the one hand, it’s probably not a great sign that it took a historic LeBron performance, 21 three-pointers AND a Pacers collapse to eke out a win against a team like Indiana. On the other hand, LeBron James is too busy making history to care just yet.
Apr 20, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan talks to forward Paul George (13) during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Cavs Comeback? Or Pacers Collapse?
For every unforgettable comeback, there’s always the other side of the coin — the collapse that allowed it to happen. Game 3 was probably more of a Cavs comeback than a Indiana Pacers choke job, but as it always the case in such a drastic turnaround, it’s a little of column A, little of column B.
In the first half, the Pacers looked like world-beaters. They dropped 74 points en route to a 25-point halftime lead, and all they really needed was a strong third quarter to force the Cavs to pack it in, rest their starters for the fourth and essentially hand Indiana the victory.
Instead, they were outscored 35-17 in the period and Bankers Life Fieldhouse had to watch in horror as the lead was whittled down to seven. From there LeBron James took over and the Pacers were outscored by 12 in the fourth in a defeat that was devastating for more than one reason.
Paul George wouldn’t stay now if Indiana could give him $700 million more than any other team.
In the second half, Indiana scored a grand total of 40 points on 13-of-51 shooting from the field (25 percent) and 6-of-24 shooting from downtown (25 percent). They made more field goals in the first quarter (14) than they did in the entire second half, and nearly scored as many points (37).
Paul George did his part on paper, finishing with 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. But he had just 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting in the second half, and with such a historic collapse sealing Indiana’s fate in this series, Game 4 might be the last time fans ever get to watch PG-13 play in a Pacers jersey.
Apr 20, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) looks for a shot against Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) in the second quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Moose On The Loose
There’s not much to talk about for Game 3 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. The Bucks were up 50-19 at one point in the first half, held the Raptors to 46 points through three quarters and wound up waltzing their way to a 27-point win at home.
Instead, let’s give some long overdue love to Greg Monroe, who’s absolutely dominated Toronto so far in this series.
Has any player turned his rep around this season/playoffs more than Greg Monroe?
Monroe has been a revelation off the bench for Milwaukee all season, but now that people are paying attention to the Bucks, he’s finally getting the credit he deserves. Through the first three games of the series, Moose is averaging 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field.
In only 23.6 minutes per game off the bench, Monroe has controlled the tempo to manage leads while Giannis Antetokounmpo sits, battled on the boards and made Jonas Valanciunas all but unplayable. His defense has improved, his effort is there on both ends and the Bucks are winning thanks to his contributions as an X-factor with the second unit.
Monroe’s transition to a bench role was seen as a demotion when it first happened. Now, he’s finished his season as a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate and is helping a surprising Milwaukee squad surge toward the second round. There’s a Moose on the loose with a bunch of young Bucks, and it’s a joy to watch.
Apr 20, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; The Toronto Raptors watch the game in the closing minutes as the Raptors lost to the Milwaukeee Bucks 104-77 in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Raptors had 12 points in the first quarter and 30 at halftime. They stood at 46 points heading into the final frame, which still would’ve had them down 11 points if they had put that up in the first half.
At no point in Game 3 were the Raptors even remotely competitive. Kyle Lowry slipped back into Playoff Kyle Lowry, going 4-for-10 from the floor. DeMar DeRozan was even worse, finishing with eight points — all from the foul line — on 0-of-8 shooting. Lowry and Delon Wright were the team’s leading scorers with 13 points apiece.
This is not the Eastern contender we were promised.
This is a franchise-altering kind of loss for Toronto
Thursday night’s bloodbath was not only a revelation for the series (i.e., the Raptors are completely outmatched against Milwaukee’s length), but also for this core’s long-term future. Remember, Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker are all free agents this summer.
Unless we see a drastically different Toronto team in Game 4 and for the rest of the playoffs, what reason does general manager Masai Ujiri to blow all his cap space on a core that continually falters when it matters most? R.I.P. Raptors.
Apr 20, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guards Vince Carter (15) and Mike Conley (11) celebrate during the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis defeated San Antonio 105-94. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Grizzlies Won’t Be Rooked
Grit-N-Grind. We should’ve seen this coming, especially after David Fizdale’s “TAKE THAT FOR DATA” rant galvanized an entire organization and its fan base.
And yet, there was something pleasantly surprising about Game 3’s beatdown of the Spurs, even if we’ve come to expect these kinds of scratch-and-claw efforts from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Mike Conley led the way with 24 points and eight dimes on 7-of-13 shooting. Marc Gasol pitched in 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Zach Randolph put up 21 and 8 on 9-of-16 shooting. The usual suspects carried the load, even with Tony Allen still sidelined.
But as much as they did the heavy lifting, the other guys chipping in made the win even more satisfying. JaMychal Green was a +17 in 24 minutes. James Ennis added 12 points in the starting lineup. Wayne Selden had 10 points off the bench and is wanted for the murder of this innocent rim:
It’s impossible to tell whether the Grizzlies can replicate this effort for Game 4 to tie up the series, especially against a Spurs juggernaut that will be seeking revenge. Maybe the could use another Fizdale tirade in the meantime.
Either way, at least we’ll always have this vintage Grit-N-Grind performance, which ended a 10-game playoff losing streak to the Spurs and handed Kawhi Leonard the first postseason loss to Memphis of his career.
Apr 20, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobli looks on during the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis defeated San Antonio 105-94. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Manu, Where Are You?
Most likely, the San Antonio Spurs will bounce back in Game 4 and wrap this series up with a gentleman’s sweep in Game 5. Kawhi Leonard is too good, the Spurs are too balanced and Gregg Popovich is too good of a coach for this team to come out flat again on the road.
But Game 3 was a concerning performance, not only because it showed what happens when Kawhi isn’t the best player on the floor, but also as it pertains to a future Hall of Famer who’s suddenly gone M.I.A.
Thursday night, Manu Ginobili scored zero points on 0-of-2 shooting in 10 minutes off the bench. That alone is not cause for alarm…until you remember that through the first two games of the series, he’s scored a grand total of zero points on 0-of-8 shooting.
Ginobili had a great season at age 39, but as we’ve seen the past few seasons, the playoffs have been unkind to him. The Spurs don’t need him to get past Memphis in the first round, but they be able to count on Manu for potential playoffs series against the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors down the road? Right now, it’s not looking like it.