For some, Game 2s in NBA playoffs provide bounce-back chance
Duncan Robinson made eight 3-pointers for Miami. Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 25 rebounds for New Orleans. Anthony Edwards scored 36 points for Minnesota in his playoff debut. Phoenix’s Chris Paul became the oldest player in postseason history with a 30-point, 10-assist game.
Game 1s brought greatness out of some.
Game 2s will give others a bounce-back chance.
A trio of Game 2s are on Tuesday’s NBA schedule — Atlanta at Miami, Minnesota at Memphis and New Orleans at Phoenix. The top-seeded Heat in the East and top-seeded Suns in the West both opened the postseason quests with double-digit home wins, while the seventh-seeded Timberwolves struck first on the Grizzlies’ home floor.
Atlanta’s Trae Young was held to a career-worst-tying 1-for-12 shooting and a season-low eight points by a swarming Miami defense on Sunday. Memphis’ Ja Morant scored 32 points, but missed 10 of his last 13 shots from the floor against Minnesota on Saturday. And New Orleans’ CJ McCollum scored 25 points, keeping his team in it much of the way Sunday, though started 2 for 12 and finished 9 for 25.
“I didn’t push tempo enough. … Playing against the No. 1 seed, you’ve got to make shots and got to be able to score with them,” McCollum said.
The Pelicans and Hawks were both playing a third game in a span of five days Sunday, each doing so in three different cities. They had play-in games at home on Wednesday, then traveled for another one Friday — Atlanta to Cleveland, New Orleans to Los Angeles to face the Clippers — then had to get back on planes for Game 1s in Miami and Phoenix.
Monday will be a day to get settled, and it stands to reason that Tuesday will be smoother for both.
“We cannot be an excuse team,” Atlanta’s Danilo Gallinari said. “We have to be ready to play.”
Adjustments will be made, as always, between Game 1 and Game 2. The Hawks must find ways to get Young to his spots. The Pelicans can’t let Paul shoot 12 for 16 again. The Timberwolves know they’ll get Memphis’ best shot, since the Grizzlies clearly can’t afford to go down 0-2 at home.
Veterans know Game 1s are never worth making snap judgments over, because series narratives can and often do change in Game 2s.
“You never get too high, never get too low,” Miami guard Kyle Lowry said. “I’ve lost a bunch of Game 1s and won the series. I’ve won a couple Game 1s and lost the series. You’ve got to be able to stay even-keeled, no matter what.”
HAWKS AT HEAT
Miami leads 1-0. Game 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: Young was held below 15 points on five previous occasions this season. In the game immediately following those contests, he averaged 30.8 points on 54% from the field and 98% from the foul line. He will be super-aggressive on Tuesday.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: The Heat won by 24 and got only 12 points, combined, from Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. The Heat didn’t need them to score much, not with Robinson scoring 27 off the bench, but it’s also tough to expect both Adebayo and Herro to remain quiet in Game 2.
— INJURY WATCH: Hawks C Clint Capela (knee hyperextension) expected to remain out.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Miami. The Heat can’t give Atlanta momentum to go home with. The Hawks, including the play-in, have gone 28-14 at home this season and that — statistically improbable as it may seem — includes a 10-game losing streak. The Hawks lost every home game they played from Nov. 27 through Jan. 15, but are 20-3 in their building since. That’s the best home record in the NBA over that span.
TIMBERWOLVES AT GRIZZLIES
Minnesota leads 1-0. Game 2, 8:30 p.m. EDT, NBA TV.
— NEED TO KNOW: The Timberwolves led the NBA in 3-pointers made during the regular season and showed that prowess in Game 1, outscoring Memphis 48-21 from beyond the arc. What should further concern the Grizzlies is that they allowed 130 points on a night where D’Angelo Russell shot just 2 for 11.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Morant. Memphis’ best player was 5 for 5 in the first quarter of Game 1, 3 for 13 from the field the rest of the way. He attempted 20 free throws, which speaks to his aggressiveness, but the Grizzlies can’t have Morant making three baskets over 36 minutes and expect success.
— INJURY WATCH: Nothing of great significance. Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns was limping a bit in the final minutes of Saturday’s win after turning one of his ankles, but finished the game.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Memphis. Completely, totally on Memphis. If the Grizzlies watched Minnesota’s play-in game (and they obviously did), they would be aware of the atmosphere that awaits them when this series shifts back to Minneapolis later this week. A 2-0 deficit will prove very tough to overcome. Tuesday is absolutely huge to the Grizzlies’ hopes.
PELICANS AT SUNS
Phoenix leads 1-0. Game 2, 10 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: All five Suns-Pelicans games have been decided by double figures this season, Phoenix now going 4-1 in those matchups. Paul, a couple of weeks shy of his 37th birthday, was a maestro in Game 1.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Even though Phoenix won Game 1, a 55-35 rebounding deficit will need to be addressed in Game 2.
— INJURY WATCH: New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram seemed to be laboring through some ankle issues in the second half of Game 1.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Phoenix. New Orleans shouldn’t feel any pressure in this series, even if elimination looms. The previous team to make the playoffs with a 36-46 record or worse was the Boston Celtics in 2004. The Pelicans are playing with house money the rest of the way and the Suns probably would be wise to not give them more reasons to believe.
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