The Indiana Pacers look loose and sound confident.
They were laughing Christian Jones Jersey , smiling and joking around at practice Thursday as turned to a new task – protecting their home court this weekend against LeBron James.
Sure, his sensational 46-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 2 exposed flaws in Indiana’s defense and allowed Cleveland to even the series, but it sure didn’t shake the faith of the fearless Pacers.
”It’s a good sign when you lose by three and the best player in the world has a game like that,” Indiana point guard Darren Collison said.
The Pacers shouldn’t be rattled.
They are 4-2 against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs this season, fought back from an early 18-point deficit Wednesday with Victor Oladipo in foul trouble and still had a chance to tie the score on Oladipo’s wide-open 3-pointer with 27 seconds left.
They still can seize control of the series by winning the next two in Indianapolis.
To avoid such a plight, the Cavs could give their star player some help – or they will need more command performances from The King.
But finding a stronger supporting cast Friday night in Game 3 could be potentially problematic with Kevin Love trying to play through an injured left thumb. Love, who is right-handed, said X-rays of the hand were negative even though he sat out the final 3 1/2 minutes of Game 2 as the Pacers continued to close the deficit.
”He’s great, yes sir,” coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday. ”Ready to go.”
The Cavs did not have media availability Thursday.
Indiana, meanwhile, spent most of the day working on corrections.
”I’ve already watched it,” Oladipo said Geno Atkins Jersey , cutting off a question about whether he’d been studying film. ”But I’ll probably watch it again.”
While coach Nate McMillan didn’t provide specific details about what adjustments he might make, the Pacers figure the simplest solution to containing James and regaining control of the series will be focusing on themselves.
”I think offensively, we didn’t have the proper spacing and we were letting them push us off our spots, like we did to them in Game 1. And Victor got into foul trouble,” Collison said. ”There were a lot of encouraging signs from that game because we didn’t play our best basketball.”
RAPTORS AT WIZARDS
Raptors lead 2-0. Game 3, 8 p.m. EDT, ESPN2.
NEED TO KNOW: The Raptors had never taken a 2-0 lead in a playoff series until now. With DeMar DeRozan leading the way, this one could be over quickly unless the Wizards figure out how to play a little defense, particularly on the perimeter. DeRozan scored 37 points, shot 61 percent from the field and 50 percent on 3s in Game 2. In all, the Raptors have made 29 baskets from beyond the arc through two games, 11 more than the Wizards. Washington, meanwhile, has lost seven of its last eight Dorance Armstrong Jr. Jersey , dating to the regular season. Asked about where things stand right now, PG John Wall said: ”I’m just always cool. Just stay cool and understand that we didn’t play our best basketball.”
KEEP AN EYE ON: Washington’s starting lineup. Coach Scott Brooks has hinted about possibly removing C Marcin Gortat and inserting F Mike Scott. That would make Washington more athletic and nimble, and Scott’s ability to close out on outside shooters helps the defense against 3s. Plus, Scott offers more scoring punch.
INJURY UPDATE: Raptors G Fred VanVleet sat out Game 1 because of a bruised right shoulder suffered in Toronto’s regular season finale, and was out of sync in Game 2. It’s unclear how much – or if – he has practiced the last two days. Washington SF Otto Porter Jr. has been dealing with a strained right calf recently and a bum hip before that, but Brooks declared him ”100 percent healthy” heading into Game 3.
PRESSURE IS ON: Bradley Beal. The Wizards top scorer (22.6 points) is averaging just 14 in the playoffs. He was 3 for 11 in Game 2 and has struggled from 3-point range, too. Still, the Raptors know they must keep him under control. ”He’s one of the most dynamic players in our league,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. ”We’ve got to treat him as such and not look at him having a couple of games where he hasn’t shot well. We’ll treat him for who he is.”
CELTICS AT BUCKS
Celtics lead 2-0. Game 3, 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: The Bucks won at Boston on opening night and have since lost four of five in the series. Milwaukee’s only win during that stretch came April 3, at home. So the Bucks are hoping a change in scenery also helps them change direction. The Celtics expect to see a different team this weekend. ”You know they’re going to come out aggressive, they’re going to come out hard,” Boston guard Terry Rozier said. ”We’re coming out with the mindset that we can forget about taking care of the home-court (advantage).”
KEEP AN EYE ON: Bucks F Jabari Parker. The Celtics have been challenging Parker and Al Horford has taken advantage in the paint. Now Parker Corey Moore Jersey , who has scored only two points in the first two games while averaging 12 minutes per game, sounds frustrated as he tries to work his way back from a second serious knee injury. When asked Thursday about how he gets more minutes, Parker said: ”Be on my coach’s good side. Yeah. Whatever that is, just try to be on the good side.” Coach Joe Prunty said later he has no issues with Parker. ”He’s on my good side,” Prunty said. ”We need him and everybody to be ready to go Kyrie Irving is playing coy about the possibility of reuniting with his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate LeBron James next season in Boston.
The Celtics guard on Tuesday deferred when asked about the prospect of the team pursuing James this summer. The 33-year-old James has a player option to remain in Cleveland next season but could opt for free agency.
”In this business, I’ve kind of experienced it all and I’ve seen a lot, so we’ll see what management decides,” Irving said when asked if he would be open to playing alongside James again.
Irving was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers in 2011 and played three seasons with James, from 2014-17. The duo made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning a championship in 2016.
”Obviously, it’s a business at the end of the day,” Irving said. ”Ownership and management, they’re going to feel what’s best for our future and I’m fully supportive of (them). We’ll see what happens.”
Irving was traded to Boston last August and averaged 24.4 points and 5.1 assists over 60 games in his first season with the Celtics.
The five-time All-Star missed the last 15 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs after undergoing left knee surgery.
”To kind of have something like that unexpected, it was hurtful La'el Collins Jersey , because just a lot of what I wanted to accomplish with our guys and individually as one of the leaders of the team,” Irving said.
Irving also had a separate surgery in May to repair a deviated septum, a procedure that kept him away from the sidelines for Game 7 of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals series against James and the Cavaliers.
”Obviously, it wasn’t going to feel the same (not being there), but I was just so proud of our guys and what they did,” Irving said. ”They passed a lot of expectations, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Cleveland beat Boston 87-79 in Game 7 to send James to his eighth consecutive Finals series. The Cavaliers were swept by the Golden State Warriors, dropping James’ personal Finals record to 3-6.
The Celtics expect Irving to be completely recovered by the start of training camp in the fall.
”I’m feeling good,” Irving said. ”It was going to be a process coming back, just making sure I’m healthy enough for September. Just trying not to push it too hard.”
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