It might be now or never for Pelicans, Bucks and Celtics
Apr. 23, 2015
In theory, this is where the first batches of real postseason trouble are supposed to start presenting themselves to Golden State, Cleveland and Chicago.
Don't count on it happening.
The first road games of this postseason for the Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls all take place tonight. Golden State goes to New Orleans, Cleveland visits Boston and Chicago makes the short trek to Milwaukee — and each of the traveling clubs will go into their respective Game 3's with 2-0 series leads.
For the underdogs in all three series, the time is now: No team in NBA history has successfully overcome a 3-0 deficit in any series.
"I think we're due for a win now," Boston's Jae Crowder said.
Golden State was the league's best road team in the regular season, going 28-13 away from its raucous home floor.
But one of those 13 losses came in New Orleans, which gives the Pelicans hope.
"We have an advantage on our home floor," New Orleans star Anthony Davis said. "It's going to be a fun game knowing that we beat them last time here. We're definitely confident in what we're doing."
Chicago going to Milwaukee is a de facto home game for the Bulls, with only 90 miles separating the cities and plenty of red-clad fans always finding their way to Wisconsin for these games.
"It would be great to have that advantage in having some extra fans up there to make a little noise," Chicago's Mike Dunleavy said.
And then there's the omnipresent LeBron James factor.
He'll be in a postseason game at Boston — historically a nightmarish city for him — for the first time since Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, the game where he had a ridiculous 45 points and 15 rebounds to save Miami from elimination and essentially give himself a chance for what became his first title.
His last time there with Cleveland was memorable, too. It was his last game in his first seven-year go-round with the Cavaliers, though that was long before this team was assembled.
Boston coach Brad Stevens will be on the sideline for his first postseason home game — but he's experienced this atmosphere at TD Garden before, as a ticketholder in the 2008 playoffs.
"I have an idea what it's like," Stevens said, "and I'm looking forward to it."
Here's a breakdown of tonight's games, all times EDT:
Cavaliers at Celtics, Cleveland leads 2-0, Game 3, 7 p.m., TNT
LeBron James has 11 turnovers in the series' first two games, and says he has to clean that up.
If he does, a tough task for Boston will only get more difficult.
The Celtics had moments in each of the first two games, but the biggest challenge for them heading into Game 3 might be finding someone to help Isaiah Thomas on the offensive end. James and Kyrie Irving have both had 30-point games already in this series; for the Celtics, only Thomas has had as much as a 15-point game so far.
Boston coach Brad Stevens said he wants to see the Celtics "stepping up confidently and knocking down those open opportunities." And there have been plenty of open shots that Boston has simply missed.
But at this time of year, James savors time off. A short series now, he knows, won't hurt Cleveland's legs as the playoff grind gets deeper. So the Cavs will have plenty of motivation in Game 3 as well, looking to take full control.
"The great thing about series is of course it gives many chances for both teams to mix and match and to change and to adjust and to work on doing things better against what you're seeing in front of you," Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. "The flip side is that everything becomes more difficult because they know you better and better as well."
Bulls at Bucks, Chicago leads 2-0, Game 3, 8 p.m., NBATV
Here's a shocker: Two teams that don't like each other to begin with are in a series that seems to be turning chippy.
The Bulls will be without forward Nikola Mirotic for Game 3 with a left knee injury. Mirotic strained his quadriceps and bruised his knee during Game 2 on Monday night in a scrum for a loose ball with Milwaukee's Zaza Pachulia, who had drawn a technical for elbowing Mirotic in the head moments earlier.
That's hardly the only example of bad blood, Bulls-Bucks style.
Milwaukee center John Henson said his run-in with Chicago guard Aaron Brooks that resulted in a technical foul in Game 2 was the culmination of a season-long series of dustups between the players.
"For me with Brooks, going back four or five games, he shot me a couple elbows, a couple cheap shots," Henson said. "It was building up. It happens, that's part of the game. Just got to move on from there."
Chicago is hoping to have guard Kirk Hinrich (left knee) back for Game 3.
Warriors at Pelicans, Golden State leads 2-0, Game 3, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Home-court advantage for Golden State, and what Pelicans coach Monty Williams thought of it, was one of the primary narratives of the first two games of this series.
Now, it's New Orleans' turn.
The nothing-to-lose Pelicans figure to try and give the Warriors a taste of their loud-arena medicine in Game 3, hoping that's enough to get New Orleans back into the series.
"It's going to be a tough game," the Pelicans' Anthony Davis said. "They are the best team in the league, but we feel like we can beat them."
The Warriors are up 2-0 and didn't shoot particularly well in either game, making only 34 percent from 3-point range and a horrid 62 percent from the line in the first two contests against New Orleans. Take away "splash brothers" Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and the rest of the Warriors are at 41 percent from the field in this series.
If that holds, New Orleans could make this interesting. The Pelicans were 18-2 at home in the regular season when opponents shot under 45 percent.
AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, Andrew Seligman in Chicago, Genaro C. Armas in Milwaukee and Howard Ulman in Boston, and AP freelance writer Guerry Smith in New Orleans contributed to this report.