Cavs, Hawks, Spurs chase 3-0 leads
There have been verbal jabs, untimely injuries, and plenty of lopsided results.
One thing the three playoffs series moving to Game 3s on Friday haven't provided much of is drama.
That is expected to change as the Cavaliers, Hawks and Spurs look to take commanding 3-0 leads in their respective series. The will be facing desperate opponents, with the Pistons, Celtics and Grizzlies essentially fighting for their playoff lives.
San Antonio has been one of the most dominant teams thus far, winning each of its first two games against banged-up Memphis by an average of 29 points. Meanwhile Atlanta has taken advantage of a Game 1 hamstring injury to Avery Bradley to stifle a Celtics' team now 0-6 in the postseason under coach Brad Stevens.
It makes what's going on between the Pistons and Cavaliers all the more intriguing.
In Cleveland's Game 3 win, LeBron James took issue with Detroit's Marcus Morris after a play underneath the basket in which the two jockeyed for position. James is seen on video replays complaining he received an intentional elbow
It was one of several exchanges likely to only increase the intensity with the Pistons now in a must-win scenario.
"We want to play physical, we want to get up into those guys, make it tough on them, but like I said, the game is played in between the four lines," James said. "A video here, a video there, it means absolutely nothing. I took a shot, I'm ok. I'm still standing tall."
Here's a look at the three games Friday:
Cavaliers at Pistons, Cleveland leads series 2-0. 7 p.m., ESPN.
If the James-Morris incident wasn't enough, rookie Stanley Johnson added extra kindling to the increasing word war. After Game 2, he said, "Their whole team talks," while lamenting a bump he said he received from James at the end of the first quarter.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he had a talk with Johnson Thursday.
"You have to realize he's a 19-year-old kid going through this for the first time. You get him right after a game like that, and he's frustrated, and all of that," Van Gundy said. "We met, we talked, he knows how I feel, what my concerns are, but it wasn't — at least I hope he didn't take it as — it wasn't an anger session."
Cleveland forward Kevin Love said he's bracing for more physical play.
"Kind of figured after (the Game 1 win) that they were going to give us a different look and play a little more physical," Love said. "That's a physical team over there and Stan Van Gundy's teams have always played that way. We expect nothing different going into Game 3."
The Pistons have lost 10 straight playoff games to Cleveland dating to 2007.
Hawks at Celtics, Atlanta leads series 2-0. 8 p.m., ESPN2
Atlanta has yet to see Boston anywhere near full strength since Bradley went down, and may not for the rest of the series.
Stevens said Thursday though there were no surprises from Bradley's MRI, he is out for both Game 3 and 4 and likely the entire series as the team looks tries to focuses on his long term health. Center Kelly Olynyk is questionable with a sore right shoulder.
Slow starts have doomed Boston each of their losses in the series.
"It just seems like we're a step slow to everything. It's like we gotta get punched in the mouth for us to start playing the way we need to play," forward Jared Sullinger said.
All the history seems to be on the side of the Hawks.
Before this year, the Hawks had never won the first two games of any of the 11 playoff series that they had played against Boston (10 of them in a best-of-seven format).
What's more, the lone time Boston has come back from a 0-2 deficit to win a series was in the 1969 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Spurs at Grizzlies, San Antonio leads series 2-0. 9:30 p.m., ESPN
With the Spurs completely dominating the first two games, the Grizzlies hope to tap into some energy rejuvenating their makeshift lineup upon returning home. With Marc Gasol and Mike Conley forced by injuries to watch from the bench, the Grizzlies have scored only 13 and 11 points in the first quarter of the games in San Antonio.
Conley was on the practice floor Thursday putting up shots. At one point, Matt Barnes stood outside the right sideline and said if he made a shot from there, Conley would have to play in Game 3. Barnes missed.
Whether Conley plays or not, Vince Carter said the Grizzlies are playing to win.
"It's not just to get the series over with, to appease the rest of the world," Carter said. "We're playing to win basketball games. ... It's easier to come out here and play basketball because no one is expecting us to win anyway."
AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, Paul Newberry in Atlanta, Noah Trister in Detroit and freelancer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report
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