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Dose: Durant Does It All

Sunday, May 7, 2017


The Warriors pushed the Jazz to the brink on Saturday night, taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. We’ll review that contest and also preview the three playoff games scheduled to tip off on Sunday in this edition The Dose.

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Warriors 102, Jazz 91 - Golden State leads series 3-0 with Game 4 Monday at 9 p.m. on TNT

This one was ugly for the most of the evening. Other than Kevin Durant, the Warriors other sharpshooters struggled. Klay Thompson missed all four of his 3-point attempts and was 1-of-9 from the floor. He finished the game with just six points, one rebound and zero assists. Stephen Curry scored 23 points but was just 6-of-20 from the floor, including 3-of-11 from downtown. (Curry has now made at least one three-pointer in all 65 of his career postseason games, extending an NBA-record streak.)

When the Warriors signed Durant this offseason, it was for nights like this, when he could swoop in and save the day when the rest of the Warriors went cold. Durant poured in 38 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, knocked down four triples and chipped in a steal and a block. It was Durant’s second straight great game. He had 25 points and 11 boards in Game 2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, KD is the first Warriors player with at least 25 points and ten boards in consecutive playoff games since Hall-of-Famer Nate Thurmond accomplished that feat in 1972.

It’s quite possible that the Warriors don’t shoot this poorly the rest of the postseason, which makes it remarkable that they still found a way to win by double digits. Golden State has a good chance to enter the Western Conference Finals with a pristine 8-0 record. Then it becomes really interesting to see how deep they can get into the playoffs before dropping their first game.

For Utah, all five of their starters scored in double-figures, but Rudy Gobert did so with impressive efficiently. Gobert was a beast on Saturday, tallying 21 points (on 7-of-8 shooting), 15 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and zero turnovers. He joins Karl Malone just the second Utah player with at least 20 points, 15 boards and two blocks in a playoff game Since 1984. The only blemish on Rudy’s resume in Game 3 was his free throw shooting, missing eight of the 15 freebies he attempted.

Gordon Hayward scored a team-high 29 points and added six assists and two rebounds. He should have had more than six dimes, as Hayward was setting up his teammates consistently throughout the game, but they failed to knock down open shots. One such culprit was Shelvin Mack, who was just 3-of-11 from the field. Mack started at point guard in place of George Hill, who missed his second straight game due to left toe injury. Boris Diaw and Joe Ingles each finished with 10 points and five rebounds apiece.

The Utah bench was abysmal on Saturday. Joe Johnson (seven points and six boards) was 3-for-12. Rodney Hood had three points and missed seven of his eight field goal attempts. The bench shot a combined 4-of-22 from the field. They were a major reason why Utah shot just 39 percent from the floor as a team.

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Moving on to Sunday previews...


Cavaliers vs. Raptors - Game 4 - 3:30 PM EST on ABC
(Cleveland leads the series 3-0)

The Raptors are on the verge of extinction.

Kyle Lowry sprained his ankle in Game 2 and tried to fight his way back in the lineup for Game 3, but apparently suffered a setback as a result. "It was close, but I think I made it worse by trying to work out a few times," Lowry said on Friday afternoon. "I aggravated it a little bit more trying to out there and trying to do things, turn and jump and run. So it's more sore." Lowry said he didn’t think he would be able to play on Sunday. Cory Joseph started in place of Lowry in Game 3 but was ineffective in his 33 minutes of action. He scored just four points on 2-of-12 shooting. Backup PG Delon Wright had two points and three assists in 12 minutes off the bench.

DeMar DeRozan bounced back from an awful performance in Game 2 to pour in 37 points on Friday. Jonas Valanciunas also continued his impressive play. JV was inserted back into the starting lineup in Game 3 and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes. Alas, it wasn’t enough.

LeBron James continues to simply crush the souls of Eastern Conference competitors. In each of the last six years, the team with LeBron James on it has advanced to the NBA Finals out of the East. It sure looks like this will be the seventh straight season. The rest of the conference clearly feels overwhelmed, and Kyle Lowry voiced that frustration speaking with The Vertical on Friday: “They’ve got LeBron James,” Lowry said. “Nobody’s closing the gap on him. I mean, that’s it right there: They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him.”

 

Over Cleveland’s last ten playoffs games, dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 Finals, LeBron is averaging 34.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists per contest. The Cavs are perfect 10-0 in those contests.

This postseason, despite the fact that he’s 32 years old, LeBron is averaging career postseason highs in field goal percentage (56.6 percent), 3-point makes (2.4 per game), 3-point percentage (48.6 percent), effective FG percentage (62.4 percent) and steals (2.4).

For his career, King James now has more career postseason points than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, more assists than Jason Kidd, more boards than Hakeem Olajuwon, more steals than John Stockton, more 3-pointers than Kobe Bryant and more steals than Michael Jordan.

Remarkably, the Cavs have cruised to a perfect 6-0 record in the playoffs despite the fact that Kyrie Irving has yet to get on track. Irving is shooting just 39.6 percent from the floor, including 27.5 percent from downtown.

The Raps will be playing for pride on Sunday, hoping to delay the inevitable.

Celtics vs. Wizards - Game 4 - 6:30 PM EST on TNT
(Boston leads the series 2-1)

The Wizards entered Game 3 down 2-0 and, as expected, played like a team desperate for a win. They jumped out to an early lead and never took their foot off of Boston’s back, securing a lopsided 116-89 victory.

The series was already chippy over the first two games in Boston, but the physicality escalated on Thursday night. Kelly Olynyk set a hard screen on Kelly Oubre, which caused an enraged Oubre to bolt at Olynyk and shove him to the floor. Oubre was ejected and has been suspended for Game 4. With Oubre sidelined, starter Otto Porter will likely log additional minutes, and Bojan Bogdanovic will see an uptick in playing time as well. Bojan Bogdanovic led the Wizards’ bench with a playoff career-high-tying 19 points, including shooting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, to go along with 10 rebounds on Thursday.

The key for the Wizards defensively will be once again slowing down the dynamic Isaiah Thomas. After pouring in a jaw-dropping 53 points in Game 2, Washington limited Thomas to just 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting in Game 3. The focal point of Boston’s offensive attack, the C’s are 4-1 this postseason when Thomas scored more than 20 points, but just 2-2 when he doesn’t. Expect the Wiz to continue to run double teams at IT4, forcing other Celtics to beat them.

On the other end of the floor, John Wall has been beautifully orchestrating the offense. Wall has been incredible during the Wizards postseason run. He has scored at least 20 points and dished out at least seven assists in each of Washington’s nine playoff games. That is the longest such streak in the postseason over the last three decades. Wall had been tied with Michael Jordan, who tallied least 20 and seven in nine straight games back in 1992.

It the Wizards can tie it up on Sunday, this series may well go the distance.

Spurs vs. Rockets - Game 4 - 9:00 pm EST on TNT
(San Antonio lead the series 2-1)

As it turns out, reports of the Spurs demise have been greatly exaggerated.

After a brutal beatdown in Game 1, some pundits counted the Spurs out. However, Coach Pop and his guys have bounced back in a big way, not only winning Game 2 in San Antonio, but also regaining homecourt advantage by knocking off the Rockets in Houston on Friday in Game 3. That’s an ominous turn of events for Rocket fans, as teams coached by Gregg Popovich are 17-5 in best-of-seven series when leading 2-1.

The star of the show for San Antonio has been Kawhi Leonard, whose breakout season has carried over into the playoffs. Leonard is averaging 29.5 points per contest while shooting an absurd 54.5 percent from the floor, 51.2 percent from behind the arc, and 95.1 percent from the free throw line. Through the nine games the Spurs have played this postseason, Leonard leads his team in points, assists, 3-pointers, made free throws and steals. (And he has just one less rebound than LaMarcus Aldridge.)

Speaking of Aldridge, the Spurs forward finally arrived in Game 3. After averaging just 9.5 points (on 38.1 percent shooting) through the first two games, Aldridge responded with 26 points on 12-of-20 shooting Friday night. With Tony Parker (quad) sidelined for the rest of the postseason, the Spurs desperately need LaMarcus to step up and help Kawhi carry the offensive load. Dejounte Murray started in place of Parker in Game 3 and will do so again on Sunday. Murray had just two points and one rebound in his 14 minutes of action, but provided some solid defense. Patty Mills tallied 15 points, five boards, two assists and two steals in 30 minutes. Mills is a solid DFS option going forward if you are looking to save money at point guard.

James Harden did all he could in Game 3, finishing with 43 points, five assists, five treys and three steals. Clint Capela also stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 12 points, 16 boards, and five blocks. However, Houston got little else from the rest of its supporting cast. They will likely need a more balanced attack if they want to even the series up at two games apiece.




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