What We Can Learn from Saturday's Round 2 NBA Playoffs Games

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 07:  Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies takes a shot against Kendrick Perkins #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 7, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After the Oklahoma City Thunder-Memphis Grizzlies and the New York Knicks-Indiana Pacers series' have yielded splits of the first two games, we've still got a lot to learn in order to pin down a favorite.

All four teams have had a long time to sit and think about their second games, last playing on Tuesday night, giving them three days off to put together a game plan, rest up and fill themselves full of hatred for their opponents.

Most intriguingly, tonight's slate of games should feature the return of Amar'e Stoudemire, who gets back to work for the Knicks with somewhere around 10 to 15 minutes of floor time planned.

All four teams are certainly capable of taking the series and getting into their respective conference finals, and Game 3 is going to hold a lot of bearing on which teams advance.

With home court advantage now flipped to the lower seed in each series, both Memphis and Indiana are going to pull out all the stops to hold onto that advantage for dear life. This could mean even more physical play after an incredibly brutal first two games for all.

So let's go ahead and take a look at who's got the advantage going into Game 3, and what we can learn along the way.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies

To say that the Memphis Grizzlies have figured out a way to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder would be a bit short-sighted, but they have a solid game plan with the players necessary to execute.

Basically, they're intent on establishing a presence in the post offensively while trusting Tony Allen to do his best with Kevin Durant.

With Allen covering Durant for the majority of the game, Memphis is daring the rest of Oklahoma City to beat them, which has worked so far. The first two games have been decided by single digits: the Thunder winning Game 1 by two and Memphis winning Game 2 by six.

Durant has gotten the better of Allen, there's no doubt about that. However, when it gets down to crunch time and the game is close, they've done a great job of limiting KD to jumpers.

During the first two games of the series, Durant has taken eight shots out of 15 for Oklahoma City in the final five minutes of each game, making five and coming away with 11 points. However, eight of those 11 points came in Game 1, with just three coming in Game 2.

Better yet, each of those eight attempts were jump shots.

While Memphis is far from shutting him down, they have realized what some players on Oklahoma City seem to have concluded: Durant is the lone option in isolation at the end of games, so the defense can put more pressure on him.

Nick Collison, asked if KD has to do too much in crunchtime: "I mean, what are we going to do?"

— Royce Young (@dailythunder) May 8, 2013

As it stands, if you believe in momentum, then Memphis has to be favored in Game 3.

However, we saw how momentum can be a faulty argument with the San Antonio Spurs beating the Golden State Warriors in Oakland during Game 3 of their series.

What seems more intriguing from the first two games is that Lionel Hollins has out-coached Scott Brooks, just as he out-coached Vinny Del Negro in the first round of the playoffs.

Hollins knows the strengths of his team, and he doesn't back down from using the presence in the post to their advantage when opponents trot out a small lineup.

What can we Learn?

The big takeaway is going to be the early answer to our main question: hero-ball or grit-and-grind?

Obviously it's not going to be something we can take a conclusion from, but we can build an opinion out of Game 3 after seeing what each team had to offer in the first two contests.

There will be a handful of things to take away throughout the game, but they're all in some way related to our main argument for this series.

This could also be the game where Brooks addresses the fact that Kendrick Perkins' complete lack of offense should give way to more minutes for Nick Collison. The tide started to turn in Collison's favor in Game 2, but he was still used more to get out and foul guys, rather than actually play for long stretches with the offense.

As far as Memphis goes, the main sub-plot will continue to be how they approach covering Durant. If this game goes in the same direction that the first two went, expect the same approach for the rest of the series.

So long as Memphis finds a way to remain close near the end of games, they have given themselves an opportunity to win.

New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers

Once again we'll have to address whether or not momentum is a real factor from game to game, especially when there's a three-game layoff in between.

We saw the Miami Heat demolish the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of their series, followed by a squeaker of a win in Chicago on Friday night.

New York positively dismantled Indiana on Tuesday, winning 105-79, but was that representative of what New York will be able to do on Saturday night in Indiana?

Looking back, it seems as if putting too much stock in continuity would be foolish, especially when it comes to the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana was able to win their first two games of the opening round over the Atlanta Hawks by at least 15 points in each game. In the following two games, they lost by a combined 42 points.

So what did they do when back in the friendly confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse? They won by 23.

Of the teams remaining in the second round, Indiana has been the hardest to predict. 

Equally difficult to predict is what Stoudemire will add to the Knicks, which could be everything or nothing.

Not only that, there is now a question as to whether or not J.R. Smith, who has a 102 degree fever, will be able to play.

Smith has struggled since being suspended for Game 4 against the Boston Celtics (he's shot 57 times and scored just 53 points in four games since), but him not playing would mean a huge blow to New York's bench.

Ultimately, it seems that this game will come down to second chances. Indiana grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to New York's six for a win in Game 1, and then just seven to New York's 13 in a Game 2 loss.

That seemed to be the big difference in both games, New York finally getting into an offensive rhythm in Game 2 once they started getting second chances.

New York's game is predicated on some attempt at offensive efficiency, whether it be Carmelo Anthony taking and making good shots, or the team collecting offensive rebounds for second chances.

What can we Learn?

Most importantly we can learn more about the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of each team.

Indiana's bad seems to be downright atrocious: transition defense disappearing, offensive rebounding going by the wayside, and the establishment of a post presence being completely forgotten.

Their good, however, looks solid enough to work them into the Eastern Conference Finals. Roy Hibbert is actually making an impact offensively, the Paul George-David West inside-outside game scrambles defenses and the defensive effort is on maximum across the board.

Meanwhile, New York's defensive effort has been solid for most of the playoffs, but their offense has turned puzzling.

Carmelo Anthony has been relatively inefficient for most of the playoffs, and they've watched as J.R. Smith bobs up and down, Iman Shumpert remains unpredictable, Kenyon Martin scores in weird bunches and Tyson Chandler just doesn't shoot.

As surprising as it may seem, the most consistent scorer for the Knicks in the playoffs has been Raymond Felton, who has just two down games.

It's doubtful that both of these teams show definite continuity, as they haven't for the entire playoffs, but we could get a closer look into why they are so inconsistent. 

Game 3 for each series should be a pivotal event, with much to be learned about all four teams involved.


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