Two of the series that resume Saturday have been defined by All-Stars absent as much as those present.
The Indiana Pacers have clearly missed their interior anchor Domantas Sabonis against the Miami Heat, left with just Myles Turner and a smallball scheme that isn’t working against Bam Adebayo and all of Erik Spoelstra’s shooters.
The Rockets? Well, they haven’t seemed to miss Russell Westbrook so much, getting increased efficiency from others without a second ball-pounding guard on the floor.
So, the Rockets are up 2-0 against the Thunder and the Pacers are down 2-0 to the Heat.
Which series has the better shot to become competitive?
I’ll go with the Thunder-Rockets, for three reasons…
Chris Paul isn’t this bad:
The man most responsible for negotiating the players’ way into the bubble may be a primary reason his Thunder team leaves it. After a brilliant regular season, Paul has an unfathomable net rating of –31.2 during the first two games against Houston, one of his former teams. Small sample size? But based on the backdrop of some of his playoff flameouts, he needs to get going. He likely will, at least for a couple of games.
Indiana has no answers:
It was clear, with Sabonis out and TJ Warren somewhat shaken by Jimmy Butler, the Pacers’ guards needed to be great in their series with Miami. But Goran Dragic, a late and reluctant add to the starting lineup after a sterling season as a sixth man, has outplayed both Vic Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon so far. It’s hard to see that changing and, if it does, Miami just has too many shooters for the Pacers to track and counter. Duncan Robinson didn’t take long to figure out the Pacers’ plan, and he’ll likely repeat something close to his 7 three-point outburst.
We’ll get at least one bad Harden game:
It’s coming, isn’t it? He typically has one in a playoff series, when he shoots 9-of-26 and the officials don’t fall for every dive. He has a lower usage rate
than Eric Gordon so far in the series, while averaging six assists and a reasonable 19 shots, and that’s opened things up for Jeff Green and Danuel House, among others. But figure that changes in Game 3, and if he’s off, it’s 2-1.
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