NBA PM: Can History Be Made?
Can one of the teams that was down 0-3 (Portland or Milwaukee) make history by advancing to the second round?
Can History Be Made?
No team in the history of the NBA has ever come back from an 0-3 series deficit. While the odds are seemingly stacked against them, several teams will be looking to do just that to keep their season alive.
The Bucks stunned the Bulls and fans in attendance last night in Chicago to cut the Bulls’ series lead down to 3-2, with the teams headed back to Milwaukee on Thursday. The Trail Blazers stayed alive behind Damian Lillard’s playoff career-high 32 points, but face a huge task going back to Memphis.
Even the Mavericks are looking to stay alive down 3-1 with Game 5 in Houston tonight. Each team trailed 0-3 in their respective series; which squad has the best chance of making history?
Here’s a look at each team heading into must-win situations:
Milwaukee Bucks (Down 2-3):
Don’t look now, but Jason Kidd’s young Bucks squad has now won two in a row and had Game 3’s double overtime outcome gone in favor of the Bucks, this series would look completely different.
Down 1-3 in the series, the Bucks never backed down from the challenge on Monday night and played well enough to see another game. Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton came through in the clutch to lead the Bucks over the Bulls, combining for 43 points on 18-of-31 shooting. Carter-Williams added nine assists, eight rebounds and three blocks to go along with his 22 points. Carter-Williams proved to be the X-Factor and star of the game, outplaying Derrick Rose by a landslide.
Game 5 was a stark contrast from the previous games in the series. Rose and Jimmy Butler have lit up the Bucks all series, despite the Bucks coming in with one of the best defenses in the league. Rose was averaging 21.5 points per game in the previous four games while Butler was averaging 28 points per game, but the Bucks defense returned to form to slow down the Bulls and limit Rose and Butler to a combined 10-of-41 shooting from the field.
Now the Bucks turn to Game 6 back on their home court on Thursday. All series long the team has preached to take it one game at a time and will continue with that mindset. Once the Cavaliers closed out the Celtics on Sunday, it seemed like everyone except Milwaukee started to look ahead to next round. The Bucks clearly have the momentum of the series, having won the last two games. Once the series shifted to Milwaukee, the Bucks were able show that they could compete and took the Bulls to two overtimes before falling in Game 3.
They’ve already shown that they can win on their home court so they’ll be playing with confidence knowing that they’ve done it before. If the Bucks can pull out one last win on their home court, it’ll be anyone’s game in a winner-take-all Game 7 in Chi-Town.
Portland Trail Blazers (Down 1-3):
The Trail Blazers know what’s in front of them. They know that no team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit. They came out last night playing with an urgency that we hadn’t yet seen from them this series. They led at halftime for the first time this postseason, but would eventually fall behind by 10 points in the fourth quarter. The difference on Monday night was the team was able to hit clutch shots when it mattered.
Damian Lillard dropped a playoff career-high 32 points to lead them to the Game 4 victory over the Grizzlies, their first win in eight tries against Memphis this season. C.J. McCollum chipped in 18 points off of the bench, including a clutch three-pointer down the stretch that help seal the win. After scoring just eight combined points in the first two games, McCollum averaged 22 points per game in Portland’s two home games.
The Blazers surely have their work cut out for them throughout the rest of the series. They return to Memphis for Game 5 on Wednesday, where they lost by an average of 14.5 points in the first two games of the series.
Like McCollum, Lillard struggled in those two contests as he averaged 16 points per game on 27 percent shooting from the floor. In contrast, Lillard shot 53 percent from the floor and averaged 27 points per game at home. A trip back home appears to have gotten McCollum and Lillard back on track and they’ll have to continue to play well for the Blazers to attempt their comeback.
Helping the Blazers’ cause will be the absence of Grizzlies starting point guard Mike Conley. The Grizzlies greatly missed Conley’s stifling defense on Lillard from earlier in the series. The Blazers figure to keep exploiting that mismatch as Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih were unable to stop Lillard. While both of those players performed well offensively with Conley out, they were just unable to keep up with the more talented Lillard. Conley underwent surgery on Monday to repair a facial fracture, and while his timetable to return is unclear, he’ll at least miss the rest of this series, which will give the Blazers a better chance of staying alive.
Dallas Mavericks (Down 1-3):
The Mavericks rebounded from a tough last-second loss in Game 3 to take Game 4 of the series on Sunday night, 121-109. The Mavs shot 54 percent from the field in Game 4 and were able to contain Dwight Howard on the glass. Howard pulled down a playoff career-high 26 rebounds in Game 3, but was held to just seven boards in Game 4.
Dallas will hope to carry over their solid defense into tonight’s matchup in Houston. The Mavericks held the Rockets to just 7-of-31 shooting from three-point range and forced them into a stretch where the Rockets missed 17 consecutive shots. During that time, the Mavericks were able to build a 20-point lead and hold on for their first victory of the series. The Rockets can get hot quickly from three-point range, but if the Mavs can take away the long ball again, they’ll have a fighting chance.
The Mavericks benefited from J.J. Barea as his first start of this postseason proved to be his most effective game. Barea recorded 17 points and 13 assists to lead Dallas to the win. Barea gave the Rockets fits throughout the entire game as he was able to move at will through the defense on his way to 7-of-15 shooting from the field. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle may have found an effective starting lineup by putting Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu alongside his starting five. Aminu also notched his first postseason double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. His biggest contribution seemed to be on the defensive end as he kept James Harden in check from three-point range (1-of-7 from deep).
The Mavericks will need to play the same exact way tonight as they did on Sunday to have a chance. They’ll need Houston to stay cold from three-point range and they’ll need to keep Howard off of the glass. Harden will get his 20+ points, but they’ll need to limit other players like Terrence Jones and Josh Smith. Barea brought the offense alive in Game 4 and kept the pace uptempo to catch the Rockets off guard. With the Rockets back on their home floor, the Mavericks face perhaps the toughest test between the Bucks and Blazers in keeping their series going, but they have the weapons to do so.
As the playoff matchups are currently constructed, it appears like the Bucks have the best chance at coming back. They return home on Thursday for Game 6 and a win on their home floor would bring up Game 7 at Chicago, a place they have already won before.
The Blazers and Mavericks are both coming up on tough games on the road, but are coming off of encouraging performances in Game 4 to keep hope alive.
Kevin Love Likely to Miss the Rest of the Postseason
Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said on Tuesday that it is “highly unlikely” Kevin Love will return this postseason.
Love dislocated his left shoulder in Sunday’s win over the Boston Celtics when he was caught up with Kelly Olynyk chasing after a loose ball. Replays showed that Olynyk appeared to pull Love’s shoulder out of the socket on the play, with Love running straight back to the locker room after the collision.
Love underwent tests on Monday that showed that he’d miss the Cavaliers’ second-round series against either the Milwaukee Bucks or Chicago Bulls. However, further tests revealed that Love suffered an acute anterior inferior glenohumeral dislocation with ligament/labrum tearing that will now most likely keep him out for the rest of the season.
“I don’t want there to be any expectation on Kevin he’ll be back,” Griffin said.
Olynyk was suspended for one game by the NBA on Monday. He’ll serve his suspension in the Celtics’ first game of next season.
The loss of Love to the Cavaliers will prove to be a critical blow to the team as Love improves the offense greatly. According to ESPN, the Cavaliers averaged nearly 121 points in 100 possessions with Love on the floor while they averaged just 97 points in 100 possessions with Love off of the floor. In addition, the team’s field goal percentage rises to 48.6 percent with Love on the court versus 37 percent without him.
The Cavaliers will also be without J.R. Smith for the first two games of the second round after the NBA suspended him for hitting Jae Crowder during Sunday’s game.
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