The 2013 NBA playoffs have been anything but predictable.
Apart from the Miami Heat’s dismantling of the Chicago Bulls, every second-round series has featured parity, intrigue and the potential for long series to be decided in six or seven games. We’ll see two of those series play out Tuesday evening with a couple pivotal matchups.
The New York Knicks dropped a low-scoring affair in Game 3 of their second-round series to fall behind the Indiana Pacers 2-1. Frank Vogel’s squad has played tremendous defense all season, and it has exceeded expectations thus far against a streaky Knicks team. For New York to come away with a Game 4 victory on the road, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have to get hot and stay hot.
Tuesday’s second contest may be even more highly anticipated, though.
The San Antonio Spurs entered their matchup with the Golden State Warriors as the prohibitive favorite to earn a spot in the conference finals. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have had other ideas, though.
The guard duo has been fantastic in the first four games of the second round, accounting for 46 combined points per game in that span. With Harrison Barnes beginning to fire on all cylinders and a San Antonio squad that has struggled to contain all three perimeter scorers, Golden State is well on its way to a massive upset.
Let’s take a closer look at Tuesday’s matchups and highlight what to watch for as second-round action continues.
Indiana vs. New York
San Antonio vs. Golden State
Miami vs. Chicago
Oklahoma City vs. Memphis
New York vs. Indiana
Golden State vs. San Antonio
Memphis vs. Oklahoma City
Chicago vs. Miami
Full schedule can be found at ESPN.com.
New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers: 7:00 p.m. ET on TNT
J.R. Smith hasn’t exactly been the most consistent shooter this season, but his offensive troubles in this series have been magnified by the league’s second-best scoring defense. In three games against the Pacers, the shooting guard shot just 26.2 percent from the field and 18.7 percent from behind the arc.
Anthony hasn’t been much more effective. The league’s leading scorer has averaged 26.7 points in New York’s three second-round contests, but he too has been largely ineffective from the field (41.4 percent), due in large part to poor shot selection and a stingy Indiana defense.
While Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton have each contributed at times throughout the series, it’s Smith and Anthony who must pick up the slack at the offensive end. The Pacers allowed just 90.7 points per game in the regular season, and they have continued that tremendous defensive play in limiting New York to 90.3 points per contest in the playoffs.
Indiana presents a tough matchup for nearly every team in the league—especially a team like New York that lives and dies by mid- and long-range shooting. If the Pacers can limit Smith’s and Anthony’s shot selection and continue crashing the boards as they did in Game 3 (53 rebounds), there’s a good chance Indiana closes out this series in five or six games.
Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs: 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT
San Antonio and Golden State boast a lot of firepower, but Thompson, Curry, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will continue to steal the show in this series.
In the last two games, the Spurs’ dynamic scoring duo has accounted for 45.5 points per contest, including a 55-point combined effort in their Game 3 win Friday night. If San Antonio is to escape Golden State’s guard-driven offensive attack, Duncan and Parker must continue producing big scoring totals.
The Warriors have used David Lee sparingly in the series (11 minutes in last two contests), and fending off Duncan in the paint has fallen on the shoulders of both Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry. Don’t expect either player to successfully contain the big man Tuesday night.
Which player is under the most pressure to produce Tuesday night?
Golden State won’t have to contain Duncan if Curry and Thompson continue filling up the stat sheet, though.
The Warriors’ own pair of scoring threats has provided most of the team’s offense throughout the playoffs. Despite combining for 12-of-37 shooting from the field and 6-of-14 from behind the arc in Game 3, Curry and Thompson have done enough to give Golden State more than a fair shot at taking down the Spurs in the second round.
Curry was able to battle through a banged-up ankle Sunday night in boosting the Warriors to a Game 4 victory, but his mobility will be worth keeping an eye on Tuesday night. Should the point guard experience any ill effects from that injury, Golden State may well be staring down the barrel of a 3-2 deficit against the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed.