Thursday’s SportsBIT Show: 3 NBA Playoff Series Shift Venues
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 7 Indiana Pacers
The Cavs lead 2-0 but failed to cover the spread either at home. Indiana has shown the rest of the NBA how weak the Cleveland defense is as the Pacers are averaging 115.3 points per game in this series. Alas, they are allowing 119.6 so far to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love & Co. Pacers star Paul George didn’t get the last shot attempt to tie in Game 1 and went public with his displeasure. Following the Game 2 loss, George publicly criticized Myles Turner, who did little in Game 2, and Lance Stephenson. What kind of mental toughness will this team have to respond to George’s biting remarks? The Cavs might be slightly weaker offensively in Game 3 if 3-point shooter J.R. Smith can’t play due to a hamstring injury, but they are better defensively when Iman Shumpert plays in Smith’s place. Shumpert did a solid job on George in Game 2 after Smith couldn’t return after halftime due to a hamstring injury. The guys’ “play of the day” is Cleveland -2.5 here.
No. 3 Toronto Raptors at No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto looked flat in its Game 1 home loss but was more energetic in the Game 2 106-100 victory. Yet the Raptors blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and the game was tied in the final minutes. The Raptors scored the game’s final six points, including a very tough clinching step-back jumper with around 10 seconds left by Kyle Lowry. He and fellow All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan combined to hit exactly 50 percent of their shots (9-for-32 in Game 1) and totaled 45 points in the victory. Much improved from Game 1. The Bucks now have the weight of expectation returning home as a slight favorite. They had good looks down the stretch in Game 2 but couldn’t cash in. “We had a chance to take the lead and the ball didn't go in. We did the right things, we had the right plays," star Giannis Antetokounmpo said. The Freak had 24 points with 15 rebounds, seven assists and two steals in Game 2.
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs at No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs have been totally dominant in taking a 2-0 series lead, just like they were dominant in the 2016 first round in sweeping Memphis easily. Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale had an epic rant about the officiating after the Game 2 loss, noting that Spurs star Kawhi Leonard took 19 free throws himself (making all of them) compared to 15 for the entire Grizzlies team. “That was unprofessional,” Fizdale said of the officiating. “Our guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game and they did not even give us a chance! I know Pop's [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] got pedigree, and I'm a young rookie. But they're not gonna rook us.” Fizdale was fined $30K, but Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said the players would pick up the tab. Fizdale played 40-year-old Vince Carter more than 33 minutes in Game 2 and he was predictably overmatched by Leonard, who has a true shooting percentage of 85.6 in this series and 69 points.