For the first time in these playoffs, we have venue changes on Thursday night as Indiana, Milwaukee and Memphis host their first postseason games, with the Pacers and Grizz probably looking at being swept if they don't win Thursday. One advantage of being a marquee team like the Cavaliers or Spurs is that you tend to get more days off in between playoff games because the major TV network partners want to position those teams on the best nights possible. So while the Cavs-Pacers and Spurs-Grizzlies series had two games off between the switch of cities, the Raptors-Bucks only got one. Them's the breaks when you are relegated to the second-tier NBA TV series. Here are Thursday's Game 3s.
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Cavaliers at Pacers ( +2.5, 211.5)
TNT game at 7 p.m. ET. Cleveland took a 2-0 lead with a 117-111 victory Monday, again failing to cover the spread. The Cavs' Big 3 was brilliant as Kyrie Irving had 37 points (although just two assists as the point guard), LeBron James had 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Kevin Love put up 27 points and 11 rebounds. Good thing those guys were all huge because no other Cavalier scored more than nine. It didn't help matters that shooting guard J.R. Smith left at halftime with a hamstring injury and didn't return. He finished with three points on 1-for-3 shooting and one turnover in 19 minutes. Smith thinks he can play here. Iman Shumpert, who did not play in the Cavs' 109-108 Game 1 win, started the second half in Smith's place and finished with five points in 20 minute overall.
The Cavs played much better in Game 2 until allowing Indiana to cut an 18-point fourth-quarter lead to four with 19.5 seconds left. Paul George did hit a few ridiculous shots in that quarter. He finished with 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Shumpert did do a pretty good job on him. Jeff Teague added 23 points. However, starters Myles Turner (3-for-10, six points) and Monta Ellis (1-4, two points) were invisible. I honestly don't know why Ellis is even playing. George called out Turner and Lance Stephenson after Game 2. George is a great player, but he's starting to sound like a whiner. He also made some comments after Game 1.
Key trends: The Pacers are 8-0 against the spread in their past eight games. The Cavs are 1-6-1 ATS in their past eight at Indiana. The "over/under" is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: LeBron's teams dating to his Heat days have won 19 straight first-round games, but I'll give Indiana this one. Go over.
Raptors at Bucks (-1, 197)
Tips at 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV. Toronto is lucky to not be down 2-0 heading to Wisconsin. Tuesday's Game 2 north of the border was tied at 100 late, but the Raptors scored the game's final six for a 106-100 victory. Kyle Lowry hit a very tough step-back deep 2 with a guy in his face for the clinching points with less than 10 seconds left. Lowry's a great player, but I doubt he makes that even 40 percent of the time. He finished with 22 points and DeMar DeRozan 23. Both hit exactly 50 percent from the field, a great sign with their recent playoff shooting troubles. Yet this game was in doubt late. Serge Ibaka was questionable with an ankle injury but played and had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.
The Bucks got 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists from Giannis Antetokounmpo in 42 minutes. Khris Middleton had 20 points and Greg Monroe 18 off the bench. But rookie starters Malcolm Brogdon and Thom Maker combined for only 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova both missed wide-open 3-pointers with the Bucks down 102-100. The Raptors made some adjustments and limited the Bucks' fast-break points. Milwaukee had a 17-4 advantage in Game 1 but it was 12-12 in Game 2. The Bucks have to win that battle because they are much more athletic but struggle in the half court.
Key trends: The Bucks are 6-2 ATS in their past eight after a loss. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Milwaukee.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Spurs at Grizzlies (+3, 185.5)
Starts at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT. While I believe the Pacers will get one home game vs. the Cavs, I don't give the Grizzlies much shot to get one off San Antonio barring an injury to Kawhi Leonard or LaMarcus Aldridge. After winning Game 1 by 29, the Spurs took Game 2 96-82. San Antonio led for all but 13 seconds in winning its 10th consecutive postseason game over Memphis. Leonard was awesome with a career-high 37 points to go with 11 rebounds. He made all 19 free throws to become the first player since Dirk Nowitzki in 2011 to hit 19 or more in a row from the charity stripe in the playoffs. Seriously, Leonard does everything well.
On the bright side, the Grizzlies overcame a 19-point halftime deficit (as large as 26 in the second quarter) to pull to within four points at the 10:08 mark of the fourth quarter. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale had a post-game tirade at the referees that got him fined $30K. I somewhat can't blame him and it was pretty dead-on. His main point was that Leonard had four more free throws attempted than the entire Grizzlies team. "Zach Randolph, the most rugged guy in the game, had zero free throws," Fizdale said. "But somehow Kawhi Leonard had 19 free throws. First half, we shot 19 shots in the paint, and we had six free throws." The Grizzlies have attempted 28 more field goals in the paint this series, but the Spurs have taken 25 more free throws.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a loss. The under is 8-3 in the previous 11 meetings.
Early lean: Spurs and over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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