Celtics can sweep; Warriors, Raptors, Blazers aiming at 3-1
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The stars have been stars in these playoffs.
Kyrie Irving has Boston on the cusp of sweeping away Indiana Pacers. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Golden State are coming off a game against the Los Angeles Clippers where the Warriors looked very much like the NBA champions again. Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook are going at each other big-time in the Portland-Oklahoma City series.
And then there’s Pascal Siakam.
Toronto’s surprise story is no surprise anymore.
Siakam has been perhaps the biggest breakout player in these playoffs, adding to his breakout season for the Raptors — who lead the Orlando Magic 2-1 in their first-round matchup thanks largely to the 25-year-old from Cameroon and his 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game in the series.
It’s easy to forget that Siakam only started playing organized basketball seven years ago.
“Seriously?” Raptors guard Danny Green asked, unaware of his teammate’s unique background.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was amused by a recent question suggesting the Siakam was the team’s third option offensively behind Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Nurse said the way Toronto sees it, Siakam — “Spicy P” is what they call him in Toronto, and the team sent out bottles of hot sauce with his face on the box to NBA awards voters as part of his Most Improved Player campaign — has really been the second option all season.
At times in these playoffs, he’s been the first option. In other words, a star is being born.
“Hey, look, he was terrific,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said after Siakam’s 30-point, 11-rebound effort in Game 3.
There’s four games on tap Sunday: Boston has a 3-0 lead and can become the first team to advance to the second round if it wins at Indiana. All three other series on the schedule — Golden State at the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto at Orlando and Portland at Oklahoma City — have the road teams leading 2-1 and in position to all go home for potential closeout wins if they get victories on Sunday.
Here’s a look at Sunday’s games:
CELTICS AT PACERS
Celtics lead 3-0. Game 4, 1 p.m. EDT, ABC
NEED TO KNOW: Boston is seeking its first series sweep since 2011, when it rolled past the Knicks. The Celtics’ other 4-0 sweeps came in 1959, 1980, 1981 and 1986. The Pacers are trying to avoid a fourth straight first-round exit and their second 4-0 loss in three years.
INJURY WATCH: Pacers star Victor Oladipo, out since January with a right knee injury, is expected to be at Game 4. He was going to fly in for Game 3, but was delayed by weather.
PRESSURE IS ON: Boston. There’s no pressure on Indiana; no one has come from 3-0 down to win a series, so the Pacers won’t be expected to change that. Boston is playing for more rest before facing the Milwaukee-Detroit winner.
WARRIORS AT CLIPPERS
Warriors lead 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC
NEED TO KNOW: Golden State sent a very clear message in Game 3, blowing out Los Angeles by 27 with only one starter logging more than 30 minutes. And the Clippers have allowed a staggering 129.7 points in their last six games (going 2-4).
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Clippers’ first unit. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are great off the bench and play starters’ minutes, so this is somewhat misleading, but Doc Rivers can’t have just one starter in double figures — as was the case in Game 2.
INJURY WATCH: Andrew Bogut had eight points, 14 rebounds and five assists in his first game as DeMarcus Cousins‘ replacement for the Warriors.
PRESSURE IS ON: Patrick Beverley. The Clippers’ point guard is unquestionably tough, but four fouls and five shots in 18 minutes — like he had in Game 3 on Thursday — won’t cut it again.
RAPTORS AT MAGIC
Raptors lead 2-1. Game 4, 7 p.m. EDT, TNT
NEED TO KNOW: Entering Saturday, three players in these playoffs — Stephen Curry, James Harden and Pascal Siakam — had a 30-point double-double. Curry and Harden made a combined $68 million this season. Siakam made about $1.5 million.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Orlando guard Evan Fournier is 12 for 42 in this series and was 1 for 12 in Game 3. Among players with at least 10 shot attempts, there’s been only five instances in Magic history where someone shot worse in a home game.
INJURY WATCH: Bad news for Orlando: Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard was ailing for Game 3 with an illness, which may explain some of his 6-for-19 shooting effort. He’s expected to feel better Sunday.
PRESSURE IS ON: Orlando’s starters. Toronto opened on an 11-0 run (and 16-2) in Game 2 and a 10-0 run in Game 3. Another occurrence of that in Game 4 would be trouble.
TRAIL BLAZERS AT THUNDER
Trail Blazers lead 2-1. Game 4, 9:30 p.m. EDT, TNT
NEED TO KNOW: Oklahoma City clearly got its swagger back in Game 3. And Portland needs to buck this history: The Trail Blazers are 0-7 in their last seven playoff games immediately following a loss.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Damian Lillard-Russell Westbrook matchup is the premier head-to-head tussle so far in these playoffs. Lillard’s 25-point third quarter in Game 3 was phenomenal, but the Thunder held him to seven points in the other three quarters.
INJURY WATCH: Thunder forward Paul George struggled with his shot again in Game 3 — a season-worst 3 for 16, raising questions about his troublesome right shoulder. But he got to the line 17 times, making 14, so he’s clearly not shying from contact.
PRESSURE IS ON: Portland’s defense. Trail Blazer fouls sent the Thunder on the foul line 39 times in Game 3.