NBA playoff dispatches: Lakers-Warriors lives up to hype; Hart heroic for Knicks
FOX Sports writers are providing takeaways from games throughout the NBA playoffs. Here are their thoughts from Tuesday.
Lakers 117, Warriors 112: Lakers-Warriors off to furious start
This is what we’ve been craving.
Typically, a playoff matchup between the sixth and seventh seeds isn’t thrilling. But this second-round matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers might be more interesting than the NBA Finals.
The Lakers took the first punch, winning Game 1 at Chase Center, 117-112. Now, basketball fans can only hope this series extends seven games because high-level basketball like this doesn’t come around often.
Trailing by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Warriors scored a dizzying 14 straight points to tie things up at 112 with 1:38 left after Steph Curry made a 3-pointer.
It was a chess match between two very different styles.
The Warriors made a whopping 21 3-pointers, while the Lakers only made six. But the Lakers attempted 29 free throws, nearly six times as many as the Warriors (five), as well as dominating in points in the paint (44-22).
It had the plot of a Hollywood movie.
In one corner, you have the defending champions who could be partaking in their so-called last dance together. In the other, you have a 38-year-old icon (LeBron James) who is desperate to win another title, and a guy nicknamed “Street Clothes” (Anthony Davis) who is desperate to shake off the dark cloud of injuries that have plagued his career.
Talk about intrigue.
Funny enough, it seemed as though the Lakers were doomed before the game even began. When James went to the scorer’s table to toss his talcum powder pregame, the bottle was empty (he looked around, dismayed, until he was brought a new one).
Lucky for him, Davis was sensational, finishing with 30 points, 23 rebounds and four blocked shots to help the Lakers steal home court advantage. Davis was everywhere, guarding long 3s and patrolling the block, making attacking Warriors have to change their shot at the last second to avoid his outstretched arms.
“Confidence booster for us,” Davis said during his walk-off interview with TNT, before tempering his words, ” … We didn’t do anything. We came in and got a game.”
Steph Curry (27 points), Klay Thompson (25 points) and Jordan Poole (21 points) each made six 3-pointers, but the one the Warriors needed most didn’t fly through the net.
With 9.7 seconds left and the Warriors down three points, Poole missed a deep attempt. The Warriors then had no choice but to foul Dennis Schroder, who went on to make two free throws to seal the game for the Lakers.
It was a doozy.
This series is the real deal, living up to every bit of the hype … and it’s only been 48 minutes.
— Melissa Rohlin
Knicks 111, Heat 105: Josh Hart is heroic for the Knicks
NEW YORK — Raise your hand if you thought that the Knicks getting Josh Hart before the trade deadline would wind up being one of the most consequential deals of the season? If you’re raising your hand, you’re lying.
That goes for the Knicks, too, by the way. Sure, they wouldn’t have surrendered a first-round pick (along with Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk, for those keeping tabs), if they didn’t believe Hart could help them. But inject Leon Rose and his front office with truth serum, and even they’d admit that they never expected, well, this.
Following their Tuesday night 111-105 home win over the Heat — evening this Eastern Conference semifinals matchup at 1-1 — the Knicks are now 22-10 in games where Hart plays. During the regular season, in non-garbage time minutes, they were 16 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass, with Hart averaging 10.2 points, seven rebounds, 3.6 assist and 1.4 steals in 30 minutes per game.
In the playoffs, Hart has been just as good. He blanketed Cavs star Donovan Mitchell in the first round (in 41 minutes of action matched up with him, Hart held him to 23.8% 3-point shooting and just six free-throw attempts, per NBA Advanced Stats), and without Hart’s heroics on Tuesday night, the Knicks would likely be heading back to Miami trailing the Heat 0-2. Per usual, he filled up the box score: 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and the Knicks outscored the Heat by 16 points in the 33 minutes Hart was on the floor.
“I think, in Josh’s case, he did everything,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the win. “That’s who he is. We talk about playmaking ability, the assists, the big 3s, the rebounding, the defense.”
Just like in Game 1, the Heat spent the night playing off of Hart, daring him to shoot. Instead, Hart attacked the zone and sprayed the ball out to teammates. His ability to collapse that zone was one of the reasons the Knicks were able to connect on 40% of their deep looks.
“The thing I like the most when teams play me like that,” Hart said after the game, “I’m able to get in the lane and, you know, find guys for open shots.” Later, he added: “I love it when they play me in that way. Just because I’m able to really play my game, that’s getting into the paint and just have fun, just play carefree basketball.”
Hart did pass up a bunch of open looks — until late in the fourth quarter when he buried a pair from the right corner. The first game with 4:45 remaining and tied the game. The second came 1:38 left and pushed the Knicks’ lead up to 4.
It’s worth pausing here to go over how exactly Hart has arrived at this point. The Los Angeles Lakers scooped him up during the 2017 draft with the last pick of the first round. He spent two seasons there before being shipped to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis deal. He then spent three seasons in New Orleans before being shipped to Portland as part of the CJ McCollum deal.
But now, in his sixth NBA season, Hart, it seems, has finally found a home. He’s become integral to everything the Knicks do, to everything they are. There’s a good lesson there. Hart’s not the only gem of an NBA player who was lurking beneath the surface. With some players, all it takes is the right mix of circumstances to unlock them.
— Yaron Weitzman
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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