NBA Playoffs 2013: Predicting Winners for Saturday's Round 2 Games
With both series knotted up at one game apiece, the New York Knicks will look to regain home-court advantage against the Indiana Pacers, while the Memphis Grizzlies will try to exploit the one they have against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both the Knicks and Grizzlies are coming off bounce-back wins, though each bounced back for different reasons.
Memphis blew at late lead in Game 1 to Kevin Durant and the Thunder. New York got embarrassed on its own turf. Both of these losses called for some serious regrouping, which each team managed to do with the pressure escalating.
Saturday night features two Games 3s which will require some scratching and clawing to steal. Let's take a look and see what we're about to get involved with.
New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers (8 p.m. ET)
Frank Vogel has taken all sorts of heat for his mysterious timeout late in the third quarter of Game 2. With the Pacers making a run and leading by two, Vogel decided it was time to stop the game, remove Roy Hibbert and insert his secret weapon, Jeff Pendergraph.
There were three minutes, five seconds left in the third when the timeout and substitution were made. Check out New York's shot chart for the remainder of the quarter when Hibbert was sent to the bench:
The Knicks went 4-of-4 at the rim, which ultimately changed the momentum heading into the fourth.
Here's what Carmelo Anthony thinks of Jeff Pendergraph as a rim-protector. This came just a minute after he checked in:
From that timeout on, New York went on a 30-2 run. In the last 15 minutes of the game, the Knicks swept the Pacers off the floor like empty peanut shells at the circus.
The Knicks' defensive energy level was up. They were suffocating Indiana's point guards at half court and denying its big men on the interior.
But most importantly, Carmelo Anthony found the zone. He finished 9-of-15 from the floor in the second half, converting his pull-ups and step-backs while getting to the rim. Here's Melo's shot chart from the last 24 minutes of Game 2:
Indiana might want to take a look at this. Like most righty shooters, Melo is a lot more comfortable attacking from the left side of the basket.
The Pacers allowed Melo to find his rhythm, not necessarily because of their failure to defend him. But their inability to put points on the board offensively took some of the pressure off Anthony and allowed him to settle in.
Check out Indiana's shot chart in the fourth quarter. Just brutal.
Indiana made only four shots over the last 12 minutes. And in the process, Anthony found his groove.
Who you got in Game 3?
Amar'e Stoudemire will return in a limited role for Game 3, giving New York another body to throw at Indiana's front line. Knock Amar'e all you want, but the Knicks can't afford for Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler to get into foul trouble. An extra body who can contribute offensively will help keep that from happening.
J.R. Smith has been listed as questionable after apparently waking up with a fever of 102. Though even if he doesn't play, the reemergence of Iman Shumpert has given the Knicks some insurance. The team showed in Game 2 they don't necessarily need Smith to shoot lights out in order to outscore Indiana's underwhelming offensive attack.
The Pacers defense has carried them this far, but it's their inept offense that's going to haunt them in the playoffs. I don't think they have enough firepower to keep up with a New York team that thrives on confidence and rhythm. And the Knicks stole that rhythm back before heading to Indiana.
I'm expecting Anthony's strong fourth quarter Tuesday night to carry into Game 3.
Prediction: Knicks 104, Pacers 89
Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies (5 p.m. ET)
The Grizzlies bounced back after a devastating Game 1 loss to tie the series heading into Saturday night.
Down five points after the third quarter, Memphis showed why it is one of the most disciplined teams in the NBA. The Grizzlies made plays down the stretch on both sides of the ball, getting stops and executing when the pressure was at its highest.
Mike Conley had a game to remember, finishing with 26 points, 10 boards and nine dimes. With just under two minutes in the fourth quarter, he nailed a three to give Memphis the lead and a mid-range jumper for some cushion.
But the story here was Oklahoma City's supporting cast, which once again failed to provide much support in Russell Westbrook's absence.
Kevin Martin's inconsistent scoring touch is why he's considered a No. 3 option on a good team and not a No. 2. He shot 2-of-11 in the loss, forcing Kevin Durant to ride solo offensively.
Durant did what he could for most of the game, but he was really pressing down the stretch without any teammates who posed a threat. He made a crucial turnover late in the fourth, though you can credit Memphis' defense for closing the gaps.
Take a look at Durant's shot chart throughout the night. He finished with 36 points on an efficient 11-of-21 shooting.
Then check out the shot chart for the rest of the Thunder's rotation, without Durant.
I think Memphis understands that Durant is going to get his 30-plus points. The key is keeping Kevin Martin off his game. The Thunder will need 20 from their sixth man and second scoring option if they want to compete in a seven-game series with the Grizzlies.
Who you got in Game 3?
Memphis now heads home smelling blood in the water. Oklahoma City is badly wounded, and the Grizzlies are on the attack.
The Thunder needed 19 points from Derek Fisher just to keep it close in Game 2. I like Memphis by double digits in Game 3 and to ultimately take the series in either five or six.
Prediction: Grizzlies 97, Thunder 86
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