NBA Today complements Keith Smith’s “NBA Yesterday” feature, “The Skip Pass.” While Smith’s feature emphasizes what we “saw,” this will focus on what to look for in the night’s upcoming games.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) at Indiana Pacers (7), Cavaliers lead series 2-0
7 p.m. ET, TNT
The interest in this series is not over who will win. That’s a foregone conclusion. The Pacers just don’t have enough to beat the Cavaliers four times in the next five games. That is just unrealistic. The real question here is when the proverbial “switch” will be flipped if there is one to flip at all. No, seriously. Do a Google News search for “flip the switch,” and basically what you get is talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The “switch” everyone is referring to is the defense, which we basically haven’t seen since the 2016 NBA Finals. And it’s a really valid question whether the proverbial “switch” exists at all.
The Cavaliers’ offense has been magnificent during the playoffs, but so has the Pacers’ offense. And, surprisingly, the Cavaliers’ 2.7 net rating makes this the closest Eastern Conference series.
The problem is the Pacers’ offense is actually not very good. To illustrate, here’s a look at every team’s offensive rating during the playoffs, as well as how much each has changed from the regular season. Teams north of that offensive line have above-average offenses in the postseason. Teams below it have below-average offenses. The higher on the chart the team is, the more its offense has improved compared to the regular season:
What makes this chart fascinating is records. The Pacers are 0-2. The rest of the teams on the positive side of that line have a combined record of 13-1. Every single one of those teams, other than Cleveland, is holding their opponents to below their regular-season production.
So, the very valid question here: Is there a switch to flip at all? Maybe Thursday the Cavaliers will find it and hit it, but each game that passes makes one wonder if there’s just not one to find.
Toronto Raptors (3) at Milwaukee Bucks (6), Series Tied 1-1
8 p.m. ET, NBA TV
The Raptors and Bucks have presented one of the more entertaining first-round series. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been fantastic, with averages of 26.0 points, 11.6 boards, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 0.5 blocks through the first two games.
Kyle Lowry is the difference-maker for the Raptors. In the first game, he scored four points on 11 shots. In the second game, he scored 22 points on 12 shots. Wanna guess which game the Raptors won?
San Antonio Spurs (2) at Memphis Grizzlies (7), Spurs lead series 2-0
9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
The Spurs dominated the first two games of this series, a nice little run from the Grizzlies here and there notwithstanding. They’re just a better team. But not only that, they’re about the worst possible matchup for the Grizzlies’ “bully ball” style of play. The Spurs are just not a very easy team to bully.
And then there’s Kawhi Leonard, who has beyond insanely good. His Player Efficiency Rating is a LOL-worthy 46.0. His 85.6 true shooting percentage through the first two games is the highest of anyone in playoff history with at least 10 shots per game. So, yeah, he is “Kawhietly” having a brilliant postseason.