Golden State leads 3-0
Draymond Green recently recalled that a series of playoffs “didn’t start until a team won away from home.” The Warriors therefore opened hostilities for good by going to win on the Nuggets floor Thursday night (118-113). A third victory in a row for the Californian formation, which is already setting foot in the second round. But as expected, the mission was much more complicated in a white-hot room. The two teams did not let go, fighting each other throughout the evening.
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None of them really knew how to take off for 45 minutes. Until Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson hit the nail on the head at the very end of the game, helped by the defensive genius of Green and the incessant activity of Andrew Wiggins. A match that really reflects what we could imagine for the series: tactical, intense, tight, committed but ultimately won by a team that was far too talented on paper. Especially for an opponent deprived of his second and third best players (Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr).
Abused in the first two games, ejected for two technical fouls in Game 2, Nikola Jokic finally managed to gain the upper hand over the Warriors’ interior defense. The reigning MVP compiled 37 points, 18 rebounds and 5 assists. With several important baskets to keep his team afloat. But Green snatched the ball from him in a crucial possession 40 seconds from the siren. An interception that sealed the victory of Steve Kerr’s players.
Curry again came off the bench to register 27 points in addition to his 6 assists. Same total scoring for Poole, the young revelation of Golden State. Now a starter, he converted 9 of his 13 attempts including a decisive acrobatic lay-up in the last moments of the game. Thompson added 26 points. They form a formidable trio offensively. A trio far too strong for diminished Nuggets and now more than their backs to the wall.
Memphis leads the series 2-1
But how did the Timberwolves lose this game? Or how did the Grizzlies win it so miraculously? Led by 26 points during the game, Ja Morant (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and his partners finished the game 50-16 to finally win 104-95. Incredible. The most breathtaking comeback in franchise history in the playoffs. Minnesota scored only 12 points in the fourth quarter! Karl-Anthony Towns, author of 8 points over the whole meeting, illustrates well the offensive bankruptcy of his team in this Game 3.
Chris Finch’s players however attacked the match with a cannonball, with an advantage of 18 points after 12 minutes (21-39), then 26 from the start of the second quarter (21-47). The offensive power of the Wolves then posed serious problems for the Grizzlies. It didn’t last. Out of address (38% on shots, 34% at three-pointers), the locals were unable to keep up. And they collapsed.
Desmond Bane plunged them into doubt by scoring 26 points with 7 award-winning baskets to bring his team back to score. Brandon Clarke scored 16 of his 20 points after the break. Taylor Jenkins’ men then shocked their opponents by completely suffocating them at the end of the game to come back in front and secure their second victory in a row. Defeat is likely to hurt Wolves a lot. They clearly missed a chance to lead 2-1 before Game 4 in front of their home crowd. They are now almost forbidden to lose in the next duel.
Dallas leads the series 2-1
The series is far from over (really?) but it has just taken a decisive turn with the victory of the Mavericks (126-118) in Game 3. Even without Luka Doncic, the Texan players have still found the right formula to overcome a soulless and above all defenseless Jazz team. With a tactic similar to the previous game: play small, without a real pivot, let full-backs Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie attack their vis-à-vis to create gaps before possibly going to the circle or coming out for a shot at three- points. Still 18 award-winning baskets scored by Dallas (against 9 for Utah). 4 each for Davis Bertans and Maxi Kleber off the bench.
Brunson, already author of 42 points in Game 2, this time scored 30, when Dinwiddie finished with 20 pawns in addition to his 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. These two players aren’t necessarily stars but they really took over the show. Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points for the Jazz, Rudy Gobert added 15 with 7 rebounds in 29 minutes. But Utah was outplayed by 16 points during their outings. The Frenchman is less effective defensively when it comes to tracking more mobile players off the basket. On the other hand, he punished his opponents… when he was served. Only 6 shots, for as many baskets. Gobert has tried his luck 12 times since the start of the series, against 77 for Mitchell for example. The Salt Lake City franchise failed to take advantage of Doncic’s absence to make the break. And the Slovenian should now return in the next game. Something to dream Dallas, well on its way to the second round.
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