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GRIZZLIES AT THUNDER, 8 P.M. ET

TV:  TNT

  • The Grizzlies will have forward Tayshaun Prince back tonight. He played only four minutes in Saturday’s Game 1 before leaving with an illness. “He’s a lot closer to 100 percent tonight,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger before the game. “He’s done a great job against the premier [small forwards] in the league this season.” Prince will defend Kevin Durant, who now has the fourth-highest playoff scoring average (28.7 points) in NBA history. Durant led all scorers with 33 points in Game 1. However, when Tony Allen guarded Durant in Game 1 KD was just 4-for-11 overall and 1-for-4 on threes. He was 2-for-3 when Prince was on him.
  • The Thunder got off to a blazing start Saturday, leading by as many as 25 points in the first half. Durant said today he and his teammates must do that again. “They wanna start stronger than what they did last game and we know that,” he told reporters after the team’s shootaround. “We gotta be able to punch them first, instead of just layin back and waiting for them to punch us. We’ve gotta be the first hitter.”
  • The Thunder had 32 fast-break points Saturday. Joerger said his players “have gotta do a better job of getting back early” to slow down some of those transition plays. They managed to do that in regular season. In the four games they played against each other the Thunder averaged 11.5 points in transition.
  • Tonight’s magic number may be 100. The Grizzlies are 63-8 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 100 points. On the other hand, when opponents get to triple digits the Grizz were just 7-20 in the regular season. With the Thunder scoring exactly 100 points in Game 1, Memphis is 0-1 in this season’s playoffs when an opponent hits that number.
  • The Thunder are 21-8 in playoff games at OKC’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.

– Randy Renner

Daily Zap: April 20


VIDEO: Check out all of Sunday’s highlights

TRAIL BLAZERS AT ROCKETS, 9:30 P.M. ET

TV: TNT

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will make his postseason debut Sunday when Portland kicks off its playoff campaign in Houston. Although Lillard lacks experience playing under the spotlight of the postseason, Blazers coach Terry Stotts said there is no doubt that the second-year pro has the ability to thrive in the pressure-packed environment. “Damian from day one has shown that he’s poised and mature,” Stotts said. “Last year, everybody waited for him to hit a rookie wall for three months, and he never did. He’s gone on to prove this year he’s even better. Damian’s a remarkable player … so I don’t have any concerns about him being ready for this moment. He’s been ready for this moment for a long time.”
  • For all the havoc Lillard could wreak against the Rockets, Portland’s versatile leading scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge, could prove to be even more problematic for Houston. Rockets coach Kevin McHale plans to begin the series with Terrence Jones covering Aldridge, although he hinted that he may be open to experimenting with a two-centers lineup featuring Howard and Omer Asik if Jones fails to keep up defensively. McHale has not played Asik and Howard at the same time since Houston shelved the idea early in the season, when the unit proved to be highly inefficient, but Asik has limited Aldridge to 35.7 percent shooting when Asik and Aldridge have been on the floor together. “They were effective at stages, and this might be one of those games where if we’re having a heck of a time with Aldridge, we might try one of our big centers on him,” McHale said. “He’s a tough case because he’s a tough shot maker. … You’ve just got to keep on taking his temperature. You don’t want to give him open looks. You don’t want to give him feet set, 17-footers looking at the basket. We want to contest him.”
  • The big men on both sides will also play a pivotal role on the boards, as the Rockets attempt to spark their potent transition attack with defensive rebounds. Houston finished the season No. 1 in the NBA in fast-break efficiency, while the Blazers successfully stalled up-tempo offenses behind their league-best second-chance scoring. For Stotts, it’s all about winning the battle that ensues when Portland attempts a shot. “Transition is the first three steps [after someone takes a shot],” Stotts said. “If they get the first three steps on us, then we’re in trouble. So it’s about having the altertness or awareness to get back when you need to get back, or even before you need to get back, rather than wait and see what happens.”
  • The Blazers are 0-3 all-time in playoff series against the Rockets, who eliminated Portland from the playoffs in 1987, 1994 and 2009. The Blazers have lost in the first round of each of their last six postseason appearances, failing to reach the second round since they advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2000.

Matt Miller

WIZARDS AT BULLS, 7 P.M. ET

TV: TNT

  • The Bulls are in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, and a few of the players have been with the team through those playoff seasons. The Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Bulls had the No. 4 seed and challenged for the No. 3 seed to the final day, while the Wizards climbed into the No. 5 seed on the season’s last day. The Wizards ended up only four games behind the Bulls in the final standings. But Washington coach Randy Wittman said his team is not the underdog in the series. “We have proven we can play. Whether I think we are an underdog or you think we are an underdog, it doesn’t matter. It’s the first one to win four games. We have to win four games.”
  • This is Washington’s first playoff appearance since 2008. The last time the Wizards had a long break from the postseason, it was 2005, and they had not been in the playoffs since 1997. They were the No. 5 seed meeting the No. 4 Chicago Bulls, just as they are tonight, and they won that series 4-2. Oddly, the time previous to that example when the Wizards spent a long time away from the postseason was in 1997, when they were making their first appearance since 1988, and again they played the Bulls, losing the series 3-0 in a best-of-five first-round series.
  • Nene has been on a minutes restriction since returning from a knee injury with six games remaining in the regular season. He played 24 minutes in the season finale against Miami, but he reportedly will remain on a similar minutes restriction at least for Game 1 of the series. During practice Saturday he was wearing a red-white-and-blue knee brace. Nene started 37 games for the Wizards this season and there were early reports coach Randy Wittman would keep him coming off the bench, but just before the start of the game it was announced Nene would start and Trevor Booker would come of the bench.
  • Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it is a mistake to think the Bulls have a huge advantage in playoff experience only because they have been in the postseason for six straight years and the Wizards have missed the last five tournaments. “The only players who don’t have any playoff experience are (second-year guard) Bradley Beal and John Wall,’’ Thibodeau said. “They have done a good job by adding the veterans that they have.” The Bulls have two players with NBA titles, but neither is expected to play much. Backup center Nazr Mohammed won a title with the San Antonio Spurs and third-string point guard Mike James won one with Detroit. Washington’s Trevor Ariza won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kent McDill

Bobcats at Heat, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

  • Heat guard Michael Beasley (ankle) will not play. Beasley sustained the injury in the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • The other inactive for the Heat is Justin Hamilton.
  • Udonis Haslem will remain in the starting lineup. There was speculation center Greg Oden would get the nod, with the Bobcats featuring Al Jefferson.
  • The inactives for Charlotte are Brendan Haywood, Jeff Taylor.
  • Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said he is not concerned with the disparity in playoff experience between the teams. The Heat have a combined 1,069 playoff games to the Bobcats’ 127.

– Zachary Paul 

MAVERICKS AT SPURS, 1 P.M. ET

TV: TNT

  • Though the Spurs have assigned Boris Diaw, more than Tiago Splitter, to cover Dirk Nowitzki in many situations, coach Gregg Popovich said San Antonio will start with its usual five (Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tony Parker). Nowitzki has shot 50 percent from the floor against both defenders in one-on-one situations. “He’s a special player,” Popovich said. “But they can score in a lot of different ways. You can’t just stop one person. They have a good number of people who can get their own shot.”
  • Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle takes no comfort in seeing Atlanta, eighth-seeded in the East, defeat top-seeded Indiana on the road. The eight-seeded Mavs meet the West’s top-seeded Spurs. “It’s a different day and a different game,” he said. “Regardless of what happened yesterday, this game is what it’s about. We’ve got to make this happen ourselves.”
  • The Mavs are listing their usual starters: Samuel Dalembert, Shawn Marion, Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon.
  • The Spurs swept the regular-season series and have won nine-straight against Dallas. “We’ve got to hit this thing with guns blazing, especially with the way that it’s gone recently,” Carlisle said. “We haven’t played well. So from the beginning we’ve got to step it up. There’s not going to be any easing into this. If there is, someone’s going to be knocked on their heels.”

Tim Price

 

 

Daily Zap: April 19


VIDEO: Daily Zap for April 19

GRIZZLIES AT THUNDER, 9:30 P.M. ET

TV:  ESPN

  • Grizzlies backup point guard Nick Calathes has been suspended for 20 games by the NBA for testing positive for a banned substance. “We’ve had a lot of adversity all season long and now we’ve got to step up our games,” said Memphis coach Dave Joerger. “It’s an NBA deal and that’s where we have to leave it.” Calathes averaged 4.9 points during the regular season. He played in all four regular season games against the Thunder and averaged 4.0 ppg. He will be replaced  by recently acquired point guard Beno Udrih. “He’s really gotten himself in great shape,” Joerger said of Udrih, “he does some things better (than Calathes) and some things not as well.”
  • The Thunder were 6-4 in the last 10 games of the regular season, the Grizzlies were 7-3, including five straight wins to close out the regular season. OKC won the season series between the teams 3-1. Two games were low scoring and two were high scoring. The Grizzlies lone win was one of the low scoring games (90-87 in Memphis). That was Grizz center Marc Gasol’s first game back from a knee injury. Memphis is 33-13 with Gasol back in the lineup after the injury (40-19 overall this season with Gasol).
  • Oklahoma City is 20-4 with it’s regular starting five on the floor. “I’m excited now that we have everybody healthy,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said before the game. “There are no minutes restrictions with anybody.”
  • In last season’s Thunder-Grizzlies playoff series, Memphis routinely threw double and triple teams at Kevin Durant. That tactic was especially effective because the Thunder didn’t have Russell Westbrook, who had suffered his season-ending knee injury in the previous series. Any time Westbrook missed a game this season Durant also saw a heavy dose of double teams. “He’s seen it all and he’s done a really great job of finding open teammates and that helps our offense,” said Brooks. “We want teams to double him, that helps guys get open shots.”
  • Westbrook played in just two of the four regular season games against Memphis and averaged 24 points and 7.5 assists per game. Durant averaged 31.0 points against the Grizzlies on 51.8 percent shooting, but when Tayshaun Prince was guarding him Durant saw his shooting numbers drop to 40 percent.
  • The Thunder came back to win 14 of the 31 games they trailed by 10 points or more. That winning percentage of .452 led the NBA and was more than twice the league average (.214).
  • Only 17.1 percent of the Grizzlies shots in the regular season were 3-pointers, the lowest rate in the NBA.

– Randy Renner

HAWKS AT PACERS, 7 P.M. ET

TV: ESPN

  • On paper, two-time All-Star Roy Hibbert vs. 31-year-old Macedonian rookie Pero Antic should be a mismatch at center and it has been – but not in the Pacers’ favor. In the two games Antic played against Indiana, both Atlanta victories, he averaged 17 points and shot 72 percent while Hibbert produced two points and four rebounds on 1-for-13 shooting. Antic’s ability to spread the floor with 3-point shooting has proved vexing for Hibbert, whose comfort zone does not extend more than a few feet from the basket at either end of the floor. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Hibbert would be assigned to defend Antic but will need plenty of help from switches when Antic is on the perimeter.
  • The Pacers’ other chief concern is point guard Jeff Teague, whose ability to turn the corner on pick-and-rolls and break down defenders off the dribble has collapsed the Indiana defense, leading to open 3-point shooters for the Hawks. Vogel said containing Teague is the “No. 1 priority” for the Pacers. “The whole defensive game plan for keeping him out of the paint is the toughest challenge we’re going to have,” Vogel said.
  • Hibbert enters the series mired in the worst shooting slump of his career: 3-for-28 (.107) in his last four games and 31-for-106 (.292) in his last 12.
  • Indiana lost 13 of its final 23 games, including a 107-88 loss to the Hawks on April 6 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said it would be a mistake for his team to think the Pacers are anything less than a formidable opponent. “If you watched them play Oklahoma City a couple days ago (a 102-97 Indiana win) and you watched them all throughout this season and what they established, there’s a reason they’re the No. 1 seed,” he said. “They’re an excellent defensive team and I think there’s so many things they do well that if you think anything differently, it’s a big mistake.”
  • Andrew Bynum will not be available this series, Vogel said. Bynum hasn’t played since March 15 and has trouble with swelling and fluid buildup in his knee.
  • Indiana will start its usual lineup of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. Bynum and Solomon Hill are inactive.
  • Atlanta counters with Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Antic. Gustavo Ayon, Al Horford and John Jenkins are inactive.

- Conrad Brunner

 

WARRIORS AT CLIPPERS, 3:30 P.M. ET

TV: ABC

  • The Clippers will be at full strength for the first time in five months when they host the Warriors today in the opener of their Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center. Danny Granger was the final piece to the puzzle and he’ll come off the bench after missing nine games with a strained hamstring. “He looked good,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Granger’s practices leading up to the game. “For a guy who hasn’t played, he looked good.” Granger was one of three players the Clippers added before the trade deadline in late February and still remain with the team, joining Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu.
  • The Warriors are officially missing a key starter in 7-foot center Andrew Bogut, who’s out indefinitely with a fractured rib, an injury that occurred in the fourth quarter of an overtime loss last Sunday against the Trail Blazers. “He’s in serious pain,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said before the game. Jermaine O’Neal will start in Bogut’s place. Bogut, who is not with the team in L.A., had enjoyed a relatively healthy season compared to years past, averaging 7.3 points and 10 rebounds in 67 games while shooting 62.7 percent from the floor. With Bogut manning the middle, Golden State gave up an average of 98.8 points per 100 possessions. Without him, the Warriors surrendered 100.5 per 100. Golden State also went 30-13 this season with Bogut starting alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and David Lee, the third-best mark for a starting five in franchise history.
  • Clippers center DeAndre Jordan signed an offer sheet to play for the Warriors in December 2011, but that was quickly matched by the Clippers, one of the moves that has helped elevate the franchise into a championship contender. Jordan led the NBA in rebounding (13.6) and shooting percentage (67.6) during the recently completed regular season, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Dwight Howard as the only players to accomplish that feat. With the Warriors down their starting center, expect big things out of Jordan if he can remain out of foul trouble.
  • The series could come down to 3-point shooting, as the Clippers led the NBA in 3-point defense during the regular season at 33.2 percent, while the Warriors tied for the fourth-best clip at 38 percent shooting from long distance. Curry and Thompson have formed the top long-range shooting tandem in NBA history, posting the highest total of 3s made in 2012-13 (483) and then bettering that by one this season.

Dan Arritt