What had been rumored for a few days came true on Thursday: the Indiana Pacers declined to renew the contract of head coach Frank Vogel. On the surface, that seems a stupid move by the team, but I guess you have to trust boss Larry Bird. In six seasons as Pacers coach, Vogel had a 250-181 regular-season record and 31-30 playoff record, including losing in Game 7 to Toronto this season. Remember, Indiana was without superstar Paul George for basically all of the 2014-15 season. I'm not sure there's a better candidate on the market right now unless some big-name college coach is waiting in the wings. Maybe Bird calls former Warriors coach and Pacers player Mark Jackson. I'm quite sure that Bird isn't returning to coaching the Pacers himself. Bird told reporters that hiring Kevin McHale, his former teammate with the Celtics, was out of the question. Right now the Kings, Rockets and Knicks jobs are open, and I'd bet Vogel gets an interview with each of those teams.
Friday's Game 3: No. 1 Cavaliers at No. 4 Hawks (+3, 200)
TNT's Charles Barkley said the Hawks need to "take out a player" after Cleveland's 123-98 win on Wednesday to take a 2-0 lead in this series. Barkley's thinking is that the Atlanta players need to send a message to the Cavs in the wake of that embarrassment or this will be a sweep. Were this Barkley's era, I have no doubt that would happen. But that type of stuff gets you suspended these days, so I don't expect anything in Game 3. The Hawks should be ashamed of Wednesday's loss, which was over before it started. The Cavaliers hit an NBA record 25 3-pointers (regular season or playoff record) on 45 attempts. Cleveland hit 18 3s in the first half alone. There are six NBA teams that have never made 18 3-pointers in any game. The Hawks had just 11 first-half field goals.
J.R. Smith led the way with seven 3-pointers. Every Cavs starter but Tristan Thompson attempted at least four of them and made better than 50 percent. LeBron James led the Cavs with 27 points and had to play just 28 minutes in the blowout. No Cleveland player got more minutes than that. It was 35-20 after one quarter and Atlanta folded like a cheap tent. The Cavs have made more 3-pointers combined in the first two games than 2-pointers! Welcome to the modern-day NBA. About the only positive for Atlanta was that its starters also got plenty of rest since the team was down 74-38 at halftime. This team ranked second in defensive efficiency over the regular season but is allowing 113.5 points per game in this series.
Key trends: The Cavs are 8-3 against the spread in their past 11 Friday games. The Hawks are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 after allowing at least 100 points in their previous game. They are 1-6 ATS in their past seven after a loss. The "over/under" is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: The Cavs have won their past three games in Atlanta, two in last year's Eastern Conference finals. That won't change. Give the points, go over.
Saturday's Game 3: No. 1 Warriors at No. 5 Trail Blazers (+3, 211)
I'm a bit surprised there's a line up on this game, but clearly oddsmakers don't think Steph Curry is going to return from his knee injury on Saturday. And neither do I. It sounds like he will be listed as "doubtful." With a 2-0 lead, I wouldn't rush him back yet. Shoot, I might not play him at all this series. Curry has said he got a platelet-rich-plasma treatment in the knee, which is supposed to speed up healing.
To Portland's credit, it played well for three quarters of Game 2 in Oakland and led for about 43 minutes. The Blazers were ahead by 11 points entering the fourth quarter, but then the Warriors flipped a switch and outscored Portland 34-12 to win 110-99 (and barely cover). The Warriors shot 61.1 percent from the field in the quarter and pulled down 15 rebounds. Klay Thompson had another big game with 27 points (10 in fourth quarter) as did Draymond Green with 17 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots, the first player to reach all of those numbers in a playoff game since Tim Duncan in 2003. Green might go down as the best second-round pick in NBA history. Backup center Festus Ezeli hadn't played a minute in this series but was huge in the fourth quarter with eight points and six rebounds.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 25 points and C.J. McCollum had 22, but both were quiet in the fourth. Portland managed six points in the final 5:21. The Blazers were 5-for-19 from the field in the quarter, missed all six of their 3-point attempts and turned it over five times.
Key trends: The Warriors were 1-1 ATS on the road in Round 1 and 0-2 O/U. The Blazers were 2-1 ATS at home in the last round and 1-2 O/U. Portland was 1-1 ATS at home during the season vs. the Warriors and 2-0 O/U.
Early lean: No team has beat Golden State twice this season. And Portland won't. This will be a sweep. Give the points, go over.
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