Grizzlies, Bulls wary even with big leads in playoffs
Apr. 27, 2015
The Grizzlies and Bulls head into their games Monday night in complete control of their respective series, needing just one more victory to advance to the next round.
What's the worst that could happen? Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs completed a sweep of the Boston Celtics on Sunday, but lost Kevin Love to an injury and may be without J.R. Smith when their second-round series begins after he was ejected for hitting Jae Crowder.
Even when series appear to be well in hand, things can go wrong. Tempers can flare at the wrong moment. An ankle can roll on a drive to the bucket. A desperate opponent can put up an unexpected fight.
"Everything is on Monday," said LaMarcus Aldridge, whose Trail Blazers are down 3-0 to the Grizzlies. "We have to come out here and try to get a win. He have to defend our home court."
The Blazers host Memphis and the Bulls go back to Chicago up 3-1 for Game 5 against Milwaukee. The Brooklyn Nets host Atlanta, trailing the Hawks 2-1 in that series.
After taking the first three games of their series against the young Bucks, the Bulls dropped Game 4 on a buzzer-beater by Jerryd Bayless that kept Milwaukee alive. It's possible the Bulls had one eye on a second-round matchup with LeBron James and the Cavs that appears inevitable, which may have led to some sloppy play.
Now coach Tom Thibodeau is trying to bring the focus back to the now.
"Just worried about the next game," Thibodeau said on Sunday. "That's it."
A look at Monday night's games. All times EDT:
Hawks at Nets, Atlanta leads 2-1, 7 p.m., NBATV
The sharp-shooting Hawks haven't been able to find the range during the first three games of their series against eighth-seeded Brooklyn.
After shooting 46.6 percent in the regular season, fourth in the NBA, the Hawks have hit just 39 percent of their shots against the Nets. That's the worst mark in the playoffs.
Kyle Korver went 1 for 8 from the field for two points in the Game 3 loss after scoring 38 points to help the Hawks win the first two games at home.
"I didn't get any good looks early and I tried to force a couple late," Korver said. "I need to be better on Monday."
If the Nets are going to tie the series, they sure could use some help from Deron Williams. He is 7 for 26 in the series and came out of Game 3 hurting with what appeared to be an injured tailbone. He did not play in the fourth quarter and Jarrett Jack helped the Nets take control of the game. Coach Lionel Hollins said on Sunday that Williams is hopeful to play.
Grizzlies at Trail Blazers, Memphis leads 3-0, 10:30 p.m., TNT
The Grizzlies dominated Portland in the regular season, and that has carried over to the playoffs with a 3-0 start to the series.
The last time a Western Conference team defeated another West team eight times in a season without a loss was when the 1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics went 8-0 vs Houston.
If they're going to complete the sweep, they will have to do it without Mike Conley. Their starting point guard will not play in Game 4 after he took an elbow from Blazers guard C.J. McCollum to the face in Game 3. Conley is one of the team leaders, and even with Marc Gasol becoming the first player since Tim Duncan to have at least 15 points, four assists and three blocks in three straight playoff games, replacing Conley won't be easy.
Beno Udrih has been nursing a sprained ankle, leaving Nick Calathes and seldom-used Russ Smith as the only healthy options coach Dave Joerger has at point guard.
"Obviously no one has ever come back 0-3," Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "That is the easy thing to say: 'No one has come back 0-3.' It's not impossible. We've got another game at home. If our minds are right and we take care of business at home — get a win, have some pride, do not get swept at home — it gives us a chance to steal one in Memphis."
Bucks at Bulls, Chicago leads 3-1, 8 p.m., TNT
Derrick Rose's eight turnovers drew the bulk of the attention after Milwaukee's 92-90 win Saturday, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was just as concerned with the 28 giveaways his team committed.
Thibodeau said the Bulls looked at all the turnovers and "obviously some were (Milwaukee's) defense," but some were due to Chicago's errors and decision-making.
"Usually, if you hold onto it too long, or you dance with the ball, or you're trying a risky pass, it's going to lead to problems," Thibodeau said. "Hit the first open man, be sound with the ball. When we did that, we got good shots."
Even with the ball-security issues, the Bulls had a chance to sweep the series. Forward Mike Dunleavy hasn't lost sight of the Bulls' strong position.
"Look, the reality is we didn't play very well, but we had the ball with 20 seconds left and a chance to win the game," Dunleavy said. "You turn it over 28 times and to be in that position, you're doing a lot of things right. We've just got to correct the things we're not doing right."
Bulls rookie forward Nikola Mirotic is listed as probable for the game with a strained left quad.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York, AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland and AP freelance writer Brian Sandalow in Chicago contributed to this report.