The Skip Pass is your home on FanRag Sports for insights and nuggets on each game played in the NBA. This is different from your regular game recap or box score. We want to take you inside the game and call out things you might have missed.
Games: Pacers at Cavaliers – Game 2, Grizzlies at Spurs – Game 2
CAVALIERS 117 – PACERS 111
Cleveland’s defense might not be at a championship level, but their offense is having no issues scoring on the Pacers, as the Cavaliers took a 2-0 series lead.
The “Big 3” for Cleveland was in full effect, as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love carried the Cavs. James put his all-around game on display, as he got wherever he wanted on the floor and made plays for himself and his teammates. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He would have had a triple-double if Love hadn’t been fouled so often inside and wasn’t able to finish through the contact.
Love had one of the more efficient playoff games ever, as he scored 27 points on just seven field goal attempts. He hit 6-of-7 from the field, 3-of-4 from behind the arc and 12-of-12 at the free throw line. The shooting was great, but where Love excelled most was in pinning defenders and forcing contact to get to the line.
The Pacers insist on switching almost every pick-and-roll, and Cleveland is abusing them at every opportunity. Usually, this involves James getting to the basket or Love posting up a smaller defender.
The other advantage for the Cavs of Indiana switching is that it gives Irving the opportunity to work against bigger defenders in space. And boy did Irving work in Game 2. He scored 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Over and over, he got the switch and simply destroyed whoever stepped out on him.
Aside from re-thinking their defensive strategy, the Pacers have to move Monta Ellis out of the starting five. He’s an offense-only player at this point. With Paul George and Jeff Teague dominating touches even more than they did in the regular season, Ellis is left standing in the corner. He’s not an effective outside shooter, so his man is dropping off to provide help on drivers.
And Ellis offers little resistance defensively. By switching to C.J. Miles, Indiana would have a bigger defender and shooter on the court and Ellis could play on the second unit where his scoring could have an impact.
George was spectacular again, scoring 32 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out seven assists. Teague stepped up on offense with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Thaddeus Young had a nice game with 16 points and six steals, as he was able to use his length and quickness to get in some passing lanes.
It was also good to see the Pacers show some fight, as they came back from a big deficit in the first and second halves to make Cleveland earn the win. Game 3 is in Indiana on Thursday, and the Pacers need a victory to stay in the series.
SPURS 96 – GRIZZLIES 82
“They’re not gonna rook us” and “Take that for data!” are sure to become a part of playoff lexicon following David Fizdale’s impassioned postgame press conference. The comments were in reference to a free-throw disparity that saw Kawhi Leonard attempt more foul shots by himself than the entire Grizzlies team, as San Antonio took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
Leonard was 19-of-19 from the charity stripe, and the team was 31-of-32 overall. The free throws helped San Antonio hold off a Memphis rally in the third quarter.
The perfect night at the line helped Leonard to a playoff career-high 37 points. Tony Parker also stepped up with 15 points, and Danny Green added 12 on 4-of-5 from deep.
Mike Conley led the way for Memphis with 24 points, and Zach Randolph added 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Unfortunately, Marc Gasol was just 4-of-15 from the field for 12 points. Because of their limitations on offense, the Grizzlies can’t survive against a team as good as the Spurs without Conley and Gasol both playing great. In Game 1, Gasol had a big night while Conley struggled and the reverse happened in Game 2.
Another issue for Memphis is that while the Griz are the godfathers of “grit ‘n grind”, San Antonio can play that style and excel. The slow-it-down-and-beat-a-team-up-inside style works against a lot of the Grizzlies opponents, but the Spurs are built to handle it. You might even suggest that San Antonio welcomes it and can outplay Memphis in that style.
The Grizzlies also need to consider scrapping Wayne Selden from the starting lineup. Selden is doing the best he can to replace Tony Allen, but he simply doesn’t have the ability to do so. Starting Selden leaves Memphis at a decided disadvantage because either he or Vince Carter has to defend Leonard.
Selden doesn’t have the size to keep Leonard from getting where he wants, and Carter no longer has the foot speed. This led, in part, to Leonard getting the 19 free throws. The only real option Memphis has is James Ennis, who has the bulk and speed to at least make Leonard work a little more to get his offense.
The Grizzlies go home for Game 3 on Thursday, and we’ll see if Fizdale’s comments provide any assistance for his desperate team.