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2016 NBA Playoffs: Cavs take commanding 3-0 lead; Spurs retake home court advantage

Yash Matange
984   //    07 May 2016, 12:20 IST
Iman Shumpert, Kevin Love and LeBron James starred for the Cavs

[1] Cleveland Cavaliers 121-108 [4] Atlanta Hawks [Cleveland lead series 3-0]

Down 0-2 in the series and desperately in need of a win in the series to remain competitive, the Atlanta Hawks started Thabo Sefolosha in place of Kyle Korver. The trick seemed to work right up until the Atlanta went cold on offense in the last eight minutes of the game.

Leading 103-99 with eight minutes to go, things seemed to go as per plan for the Hawks but the Cavaliers went on a 22-5 run to put their opponents in a place of no return. During this stretch, the Hawks committed as many as four turnovers and made only two of their final 12 shot attempts. 

No team in the history of the NBA Playoffs has returned from a 0-3 series deficit.

Also read: 2016 NBA Playoffs: Raptors claw their way to a Game 2 win, tie series 1-1

Till 8:03 left in the final quarter, Atlanta matched Cleveland shot for shot. They even withstood reserve Channing Frye’s playoff career night of 27 points. Frye’s game-high tally included seven three pointers to go along with his seven rebounds.

LeBron James (13 rebounds, 8 assists) and Kyrie Irving both had 24 points apiece as the Cavaliers became the only team in NBA history to have 20+ 3-pointers made in back to back Playoff games. This is how good Cleveland’s three point shooting has been in these Playoffs:

This win showcases the dominance the Cavaliers hold over the Hawks and the Eastern Conference. Cleveland has won their last 10 meeting with Atlanta (regular season and Playoffs). They have also won their last 14 Playoff games against Eastern Conference opponents.

For the Hawks, Jeff Teague led the way with 19 points and 14 assists. Paul Millsap filled the stat sheet 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Despite their opponents committing 20 turnovers, the Hawks failed to capitalise and lost the contest by 13 points. A large part of that is the lack of ability to rebound well. They ranked 24th in rebounding during the regular season and were outrebounded 55-28 in Game 3. 

Game 4 will be played on Sunday at the Philips Arena in Atlanta with the Cavaliers looking to close the series. 

[2] San Antonio Spurs 100-96 [3] Oklahoma City Thunder [San Antonio lead series 2-1]

Kawhi Leonard was a thorn in the Thunder’s side 

A hard fought Playoff battle between these Western Conference giants ended up with the San Antonio Spurs retaking the home court advantage and a road win in Game 3. It’s the second consecutive game in the season that a road team has won.

Also read: NBA Playoffs: Takeaways for the eliminated teams (Western Conference Edition)

Minimal turnovers, poise and a complete team effort helped the Spurs seal the deal despite some stellar defense played by the Thunder. On the other hand, OKC’s defence had taken a huge leap from the first two games, making LaMarcus Aldridge look human (24 points, 8 of 21 FG’s). However, a couple of costly turnovers down the stretch by Russell Westbrook allowed San Antonio to run away with the game.

Surprisingly, the problem for the Thunder in this game was their offence and not defence. Much of their defence in the second and third quarters was used to cut into the Spurs’ lead, one that they built when the Thunder went scoreless for a period of eight minutes in the second quarter. 

Kawhi Leonard had a crucial offensive rebound in the final minute of the game, to along with his 31 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists. Tony Parker, who the Thunder were daring to shoot all through the first half, rose to the occasion in the second and came away with an efficient stat line of 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. 

For OKC, Russell Westbrook had 31 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists while fellow All-Star Kevin Durant had 26 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. More importantly, this superstar duo had 10 of the team’s 14 turnovers, which is a big deal given the amount of time the ball is in their hands. Serge Ibaka chipped in with 15 points ( 5 3-pointers). 

Game 4 will be played on Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

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