How teams down 2-0 can rebound
Six teams are facing 2-0 series deficits in the postseason. What do they have to do to turn things around? Our crew weighs in.
1. What do the Grizzlies have to do to get back into their series?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: A devastated Tony Allen (who hasn't referred to Chris Paul by name since Monday night) said it best: Make Paul work on the left side of the floor. Easier said than done, but the Spurs have provided a template, one the Grizzlies have employed semi-effectively in the past. Memphis also needs to control possessions to compensate for its lack of perimeter shooting.
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: Narrow the gap in bench scoring. Memphis will never have the advantage in this battle, but the differential can't be as big as it is. It's always a goal for the reserves to play well, but with the Grizzlies' style of play, they have an even greater responsibility to keep the coaching staff from having to overexert the starters.
Andrew Han, Clipper Blog: Put it all together. In reality, the Grizzlies have already produced the elements they need to get back in the series: They shot the ball well in Game 1 and they closed the rebounding gap in Game 2. If they can do both in the same game, this series will tighten up.
Michael Pina, Celtics Hub: Memphis' defense was the NBA's second-best in the regular season, but against the Clippers the Grizzlies are allowing a devastating 1.15 points per possession. Also, their bigs (Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph) need to do a better job of passing out of double-teams whenever the Clippers swarm the paint -- which is always.
Robert Silverman, KnickerBlogger: The Grizzlies need to win the battle of the boards. They lost that battle in Game 1 (47-23) and in Game 2 (40-38). After finishing third during the regular season in offensive rebounding, the Grizzlies need to corral every extra possession they can muster.
2. What do the Bucks have to do to get back into their series?
Arnovitz: Hold a seance.
Chau: That depends. Is the city of Milwaukee into voodoo? A sweep could be prevented if enough fans hex the Heat. The Bucks' unremarkable home record in the regular season doesn't suggest a home-court advantage, but if they can keep games competitive for four quarters instead of two or three, winning is still somewhat in the realm of possibility.
Han: Experiment with their lineups. Much like Kevin McHale did in the second game of Rockets-Thunder, the Bucks need to feature their 3-point shooting and high-variance players (i.e., J.J. Redick and John Henson). What was the point of trading for Redick if he's not getting big minutes now?
Pina: Apart from brainwashing Erik Spoelstra into permanently benching LeBron James? The Bucks have attempted the fourth-most 3-pointers out of every team in the playoffs, but they're the second-least accurate. Make, instead of miss, 3s -- and good things will happen.
Silverman: Is there a hoop-centric way to induce boredom? For the most part, Miami has dispatched the Bucks with second-half runs that seemed to occur with the casual indifference of clipping a toenail. The scary part for Milwaukee is that Miami's offensive juggernaut, and LeBron James in particular, hasn't really gotten rolling in the series thus far.
3. What do the Celtics have to do to get back into their series?
Arnovitz: Find more economical ways to create a few decent shots. The Knicks aren't an exceptionally quick team defensively, so if the Celtics can move the ball side to side and execute some of those rotating pick-and-rolls on both sides of the floor they've run in the past, that could jump-start the offense.
Chau: It's a bit obvious after two games of watching their unbearable offense, but the Celtics need to seize every easy scoring opportunity they get and just hope the 3-pointers start falling. These are ugly, ugly games that we're used to seeing Boston gut out, but it's hard to win when every single offensive possession is a mystery.
Han: Stay the course. Boston's defense is working, keeping the offensive efficiency and pace of the Knicks below their regular-season averages. The difference has been New York's burst ability, its skill in tying quick, consecutive buckets together. If the Celtics can generate any kind of offense, they'll make a series of this yet.
Pina: Boston's offense has been historically poor in the second half of Games 1 and 2. In order to fix that, they need to reduce their dependence on Paul Pierce mismatches. Pierce is still a capable player, but Doc Rivers is asking too much from him offensively right now. The Celtics could probably stand to cut down on all their sloppy turnovers, too.
Silverman: Boston's defense has, for the most part, kept [Carmelo Anthony] in check. But the Celtics desperately need a performance like they received in the first half of Game 1 from Jeff Green, and someone in the backcourt has to step up and hit the open perimeter shots that the Knicks are conceding.
4. What do the Lakers have to do to get back into their series?
Arnovitz: Remember when Steve Nash and Dwight Howard were going to team up as a dynamic pick-and-roll tandem? Down 2-0, now's the time to brandish that weapon. Nash doesn't command the same respect from the defense he did in Phoenix, but with Gasol lifting to the high post and Howard diving hard to the rim, good things can happen.
Chau: Pray. Pray a lot. It was a long shot once Kobe [Bryant] went down, but it's downright impossible now with three of the Lakers' other top guards also battling injuries. Much has been made about the Lakers' need to post their two most talented active players, but it's futile if there aren't any players capable of scoring from the perimeter.
Han: Invent a time machine and steal the Phoenix Suns' training staff. As if the team wasn't struggling with enough injuries this season, Steve Blake hurt his hamstring in Game 2 and Steve Nash is clearly laboring up and down the court. The 2009 version of Dwight Howard could make a series of this, but at this point, it's more the Lakers versus health than the Lakers versus the Spurs.
Pina: Layer their defense to prevent Tony Parker from getting into the paint, particularly after facing multiple pick-and-rolls on the same possession. Eight of his 18 field goal attempts in Game 2 were at the rim (and that doesn't include his 10 free throw attempts). Letting Parker wiggle free into a driving lane nearly always results in a Lakers disaster.
Silverman: Take a trip to Lourdes. Jodie Meeks' ankle kept him from suiting up, Steve Blake suffered a hamstring injury, and Steve Nash was visibly limping during the fourth quarter. Unless the Lakers' guards get well fast, this series is going to be over quickly.
5. What do the Rockets have to do to get back into their series?
Arnovitz: Stay small, attack the Thunder off the dribble, kick the ball out to the perimeter, and find the open guy. They nearly upset the Thunder on the road with that formula, and it's really the only feasible strategy against a longer, faster, more athletic and cohesive opponent.
Chau: It'll be physically exhausting for the Rockets, but they'll need to continue what they did Wednesday night, when they almost evened the series heading to Houston. The rotation was shortened, and Kevin McHale de-emphasized their big-man rotation in favor of shifting his bigger wings up to dictate matchups. It's a double-edged sword, but it's the best weapon they've got.
Han: Do the thing they did in Game 2 and hope the Thunder haven't figured it out. Houston basically imported the vogue East's small-ball approach in Game 2, featuring one big surrounded by wings and guards, and achieved about as much success as anyone against OKC this season. And if Patrick Beverley can remain burrowed under Russell Westbrook's skin, the Thunder's ultraefficient offense may short-circuit.
Pina: First, they need a healthy Jeremy Lin. Second, they need to finish when they get to the rim. In Game 2, they attempted 48 shots at the basket, but positively converted on only 25 of them. The decision to go small was both gutsy and wise by Kevin McHale, but if it's to pay off, Houston needs to score when presented with easy opportunities.
Silverman: Keep doing what they're doing. The small-ball lineup proved an effective counterpunch, with Patrick Beverley in particular hounding Russell Westbrook and contributing 12 rebounds to boot. Even if Jeremy Lin is unavailable for Game 3, the Rockets need to continue attacking the rim and maintain their Game 2 advantage in points in the paint (50-30).
BONUS: What do the Hawks have to do to get back into their series?
Arnovitz: Incredibly, the Hawks have actually scored buckets against the league's top-ranked defense, but a series against the Pacers demands a serious display of physicality, and Atlanta's timid defense has made Indiana's decidedly average pick-and-roll attack look lethal.
Chau: Get more out of their stars. Considering this might be Josh Smith's final showcase before free agency, he isn't being a very good salesman. Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Smith have all had somewhat pleasant, though modest, individual performances in the first two games, but it's just not enough when there is little to no support coming from the bench.
Han: Pick their poison. While the Hawks have had reasonable success containing the Pacers' bigs, George Hill and Paul George are essentially tearing them apart. Atlanta needs to add one of the Georges to the containment field to have any hope of making this a competitive series.
Pina: The Pacers now have the most efficient offense in these playoffs. That's right. The stagnant, plodding, sometimes-ugly Pacers are scoring the ball at will -- mostly because Atlanta is failing to keep them off the offensive glass. If the Hawks can begin to put bodies on bodies whenever Indiana shoots, they can limit second-chance opportunities and keep the games much closer.
Silverman: Against a Pacers team that finished 23rd in scoring during the regular season exploding for 107 and 113 points in the first two outings, Atlanta looked openly frustrated and dispirited by the conclusion of Game 2. A serious attitude adjustment is job one if they have any hope of extending the series.