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NBA Playoffs Day 18: Stemming the Tide

After big losses in game one, the Raptors and Spurs look to reverse course

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors at Cavaliers
6:00 pm CDT

The Cavs handled the Raptors with ease in game one of this series, with LeBron James dominating as he does and the Raps stars being merely good, not great. That’s not enough for the Raps, who need monster games from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to compete with a Cavs team looking to advance to its third straight Finals.

The Raps were unable to limit the Cavs from three, where they made 14 in game one, and worse were out-shot from the free throw line, something that can’t happen if they want to give themselves a chance. Free throws are a big part of the Raps offense, and only 20 attempts as they had in game one will not suffice.

In truth, they probably aren’t good enough to make much of a series of this, with the Cavs seeming to be finding their rhythm. The Raps best chance to grab a game in Cleveland was likely in game one after the Cavs had a week off, but instead it was the home team that had the initial spark. And when James is playing like he did on Monday, there’s really very little hope.

Rockets at Spurs
8:30 pm CDT

The Rockets absolutely blitzed the Spurs in game one in San Antonio with their pace and three point shooting, making the Spurs look old and slow. It didn’t help that the Spurs shot the ball poorly, but the Rockets did a great job of forcing the ball out of Kawhi Leonard’s hands and making other guys take the shots, which they could not make.

For the Spurs, it’s essential that the find a way to slow the game down and not allow the Rockets to get in transition and early offense, areas where the Houston shines. One of the factors here is that the Spurs need more shots to go in, which would limit the Rockets’ transition opportunities. Their secondary scorers have to be better: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, and Danny Green among others all struggled in game one, something that has to change tonight. The also need to show their top rated defense and make things tougher on the Rockets, who have been known to turn the ball over, which could be a big factor tonight.

The Rockets showed in the first round that they can win even when the threes aren’t going in, but they are obviously much better when the do, and they did in game one. They took over 50 on Monday night, and have no problem hoisting up as many as they can get. Most nights, they make enough of them to win. With James Harden forcing defenses to him, finding open shooters becomes fairly simple, and the Rockets make their living on Harden making decisions out of the pick and roll.

This is not a great match-up for the Spurs, but they won’t roll over. I’m still expecting a good series here, but if the Rockets are on fire like they were in game one, things could start to look quite dire for the home team.

Enjoy the games. Chat here.