Saturday night featured 2nd round playoff series experiencing quite the change in scenarios. The Thunder shakily left the comforts of their rambunctious Chesapeake Bay Arena crowd to the much less popularized ‘Grind House’ of the Memphis Grizzlies. Several hundred miles up north, the New York Knicks–along with their egos–took a familiar postseason road for the organization, having to travel to the remote fields of Indiana.
Not only are they off the beaten path in terms of NBA attention and media hubs, but Memphis and Indiana were unanimous underdogs in their fights against their respective ‘Goliaths’. Yet they each have taken unexpected 2-1 series leads, and have their scrutiny-ridden counterparts searching for answers.
The Pacers and Grizzlies, in no hurry to seize the fascination of the general NBA public, have held fast to their unappealing styles of play. These underdogs have clearly held their own in front of their home crowds, each using one particular facet of the game–hard-nosed defense–to stifle their over-bearing opponents. The Pacers held the ice-cold Knickerbockers to 18 points or less in three of the game’s four quarters. The Grizzlies allowed only two quarters of more than 18 points for a once explosive Thunder team.
In Memphis’ case, it seems as though their performance on Saturday afternoon was more definitive and perhaps more indicative as well: I think the Grizzlies have a great chance to continue their sublime play and win their next two home games (therefore reaching the conference finals).
The Pacers, on the other hand, are up against a different animal: volatility. The Knicks have shown that they are an endless cycle of unpredictably–though not always an ominous sign. While one night J.R. Smith may appear like a dead man, the next game he’ll show you why he’s the league’s best sixth man. The same goes for the team superstar: Carmelo Anthony can go from shooting 6-16 from the field to connecting on 13 of 26 field goal attempts from one game to the next. This may not be the most effective way of success in the NBA, but it’s gotten New York to a 2-seed, and in my estimation, a gateway to the conference finals.
Above all, the Knicks MUST win Game 4 on Tuesday night in Indianapolis (it would be a grisly sight watching New York with their backs against the wall in Madison Square Garden for Game 5). A FG% hovering around 50% (and the standard 25+ points) from Melo, along with a resurgent double-digit point resurgence from Smith, might do the job. Expect this series to not die off too quick, possibly even reaching the pinnacle of sports playoff series, a seventh game.