NBA Game Previews for April 23, 2017
April 23, 2017 at 1:00 PM ET
Cavs Looking For Series Sweep
By Dan Bruno
The Indiana Pacers play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon. The Cavs lead the series 3-0.
Despite being very close in each of the first three games, the Pacers have fallen short each time. The most disappointing had to be their loss in Game 3, where they led by as many as 26 points, before the Cavs rallied back for the road win. After Game 3, Jeff Teague guaranteed that the Pacers would not be swept, but it is going to take a lot more than talk in order to force LeBron and the Cavs into having to play another game.
James went off for a triple-double with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, in 45 minutes in Game 3. Interestingly, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love did not see action in the fourth quarter of Game 3, as Cleveland's bench was rolling, contributing to the historic come back. However, both players will likely only use that as motivation to bring it early in Game 4.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers in Game 3, with 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, in 45 minutes, while Jeff Teague followed up with 15 points and seven assists. George and Teague have been the only two consistent players for Indiana, as the rest of the team has been up and down. The Pacers were held to only 40 percent shooting in Game 3, despite playing at home, and will need to do better to avoid being swept.
Posted on April 22, 2017 at 11:50 PM ET
Updated on April 22, 2017 at 11:51 PM ET
April 23, 2017 at 3:30 PM ET
Thunder Look to Even Series in Game 4 Versus Rockets
By Joel Bartilotta
The Oklahoma City Thunder host the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday.
The Rockets (2-1) were a three-pointer away from taking a commanding 3-0 lead in this series, but it fell just short from James Harden in that pivotal Game 3. The silver lining in that defeat is just how bad Houston played, as they were thoroughly dominated in the stat sheet. That may not sound good, but it's a great sign to see the Rockets lose by just two points in a game where they played so poorly. Harden didn't struggle though, as he collected 44 points, six rebounds and six assists in his best game of the postseason thus far. He needs some help though, as Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley combined for just eight points on 2-of-15 shooting. That surely won't continue, so the Rockets appear to be in good shape going forward.
The Thunder (1-2) were lucky to escape with a win in Game 3, as they nearly choked away a game that they dominated throughout. In fact, Oklahoma City led that game for all but one minute, as Houston had a three-point attempt at the buzzer that could've put the Thunder in a 3-0 hole. Luckily, Russell Westbrook was at the top of his game, as he continued to put up bonkers numbers. Westbrook has actually accumulated 83 points, 23 rebounds, 24 assists and seven steals across his last two playoff games. Those two triple-doubles made him the first player to record consecutive triple-doubles since Jason Kidd in 2002. They'll need him to keep doing that as well, as there's very little help for Westbrook on this Thunder roster.
Despite a 31-point win in Game 1 for Houston, this series has been close throughout. In fact, the Rockets won Game 2, 115-111, and the Thunder pulled out Game 3, 115-113.
Posted on April 22, 2017 at 8:40 PM ET
Updated on April 22, 2017 at 8:47 PM ET
April 23, 2017 at 6:30 PM ET
Bulls Host Celtics in Pivotal Game 4
By Joel Bartilotta
The Chicago Bulls play host to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs at United Center on Sunday.
The Celtics (1-2) looked dead when they suffered two home losses in the first two games, but they rebounded nicely by pulling out a road win in Game 3. That's just what the doctor ordered and they now find themselves just one win away from swinging the series back in the favor of their homecourt advantage. Defense was key in that Game 3 victory, as Boston held Chicago to 39 percent shooting, while forcing them to commit 17 turnovers to just 14 assists. They'll need to continue that form, as they still have some digging to do to get out of this hole.
The Bulls (2-1) have done a nice job of getting up in this series, but there's some serious red flags going forward. The biggest one is the loss of Rajon Rondo, who will likely miss the remainder of the series due to a thumb injury. Rondo was in the best stretch of his season too before that injury, as he was approaching triple-double averages across his previous eight games. That means it's time for Jimmy Butler to step up and that was far from the case in Game 3. In fact, Butler totaled just 14 points, seven rebounds and no assists on 7-of-21 shooting in that 104-87 defeat on Friday. That simply won't get it done without Rondo and he'll need to be a playmaker and distributor in Game 4 if they want to go back to Boston with a 3-1 lead.
Strangely enough, all four home teams won in the four regular season meetings, while all three road teams have prevailed in the three playoff games thus far in this series.
Posted on April 22, 2017 at 8:56 PM ET
Updated on April 22, 2017 at 8:59 PM ET
April 23, 2017 at 9:00 PM ET
Banged Up Jazz, Clippers Set To Continue Fight In Game 4
By Dan Bruno
The Utah Jazz Play host to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round playoffs, at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Sunday evening. The Clippers lead the series 2-1.
Despite losing Blake Griffin after he played only 18 minutes in Game 3, the Clippers managed to pull off an impressive win in Utah and take the 2-1 series advantage. Griffin left the game late in the second quarter with a foot injury that will cause him to miss the rest of the postseason. Chris Paul led the way for Los Angeles in Game 3 with a team-high 34 points and 10 assists, while DeAndre Jordan finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. The Clippers will need to lean even more on Paul and Jordan without Griffin in the lineup. The Clippers' bench chipped in 26 points in Game 3, but will need to step it up now that Griffin is out. Austin Rivers (hamstring) will also remain sidelined for Game 4, thus leaving it up to guys like Paul Pierce, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Marreese Speights to give their team a boost.
Meanwhile, the Jazz are dealing with their own misfortune, as Rudy Gobert (knee) has already missed Games 2 and 3, and is listed as doubtful for Game 4 as well. The Jazz managed to pull off the road win in Game 1, despite losing Gobert just seconds in to the game, but have fallen in the last two games, and certainly miss their elite big man. Gordon Hayward came up huge in Game 3, with 40 points, nonetheless the Jazz could not stop the Clippers, who shot 54.7 percent from the field on their way to the win. The Jazz need to rediscover their defensive identity at home in Game 4; which may be extremely difficult without Gobert, however, the Clippers are down a star player as well, evening the playing field. Hayward led Utah in scoring in Game 2 and 3, while Joe Johnson was the hero of Game 1, and has averaged 16.3 points per game over the first three games.
Posted on April 23, 2017 at 12:18 AM ET
Updated on April 23, 2017 at 12:39 AM ET