Good defense and not-so-good shooting meant two first-round series became more competitive Thursday while another is on the verge of ending in a sweep:
Grizzlies 94, Clippers 82
Memphis’ size and brute strength finally took center stage on its home floor as C Marc Gasol, who accepted his Defensive Player of the Year trophy before the game, and PF Zach Randolph gave their team a 17-5 edge in offensive rebounds and a 22-4 advantage in second-chance points. Los Angeles still leads the Western Conference series 2-1.
Player of the game: Randolph rebounded from a tough start to the series to put up game highs of 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting and 11 rebounds.
Turning point: The Clippers trailed all game but trimmed the deficit to 74-69 with 8:39 left, but the Grizzlies put together a 9-2 run to keep them at arm’s length. When PF Lamar Odom made a three-pointer at 1:36, that marked the Clippers first field goal in six minutes.
Trending downward: Clippers C DeAndre Jordan, who only scored seven points in the first two games, registered his fewest points of the series. He finished with two on 1-for-3 shooting. His adversary, Gasol, had 16 on 6-for-13 shooting.
Next: Game 4 is in Memphis on Saturday (TNT, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Heat 104, Bucks 91
The most lopsided of all the first-round series is one game away from ending in a sweep as defending champion Miami went on the road to beat Milwaukee again with ease and take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference series.
Player of the game: SG Ray Allen came off the bench to score a game-high 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 5 of 8 three-pointers, in just 30 minutes of action.
Turning point: Nip and tuck with the Bucks throughout the third quarter, the Heat turned a 67-66 deficit with 3:01 left into a 78-68 lead entering the fourth with SF LeBron James scoring seven points. He finished with 22 on 9-for-14 shooting.
Trending downward: The guard play of Milwaukee was shut down again. PG Brandon Jennings and SG Monta Ellis combined to shoot 7-for-24 from the field for just 23 points and six turnovers. They were a combined 2-for-13 from three-point range.
Next: Game 4 is in Milwaukee on Sunday (ABC, 3:30. ET)
Bulls 79, Nets 76
Chicago was held without a field goal for the final six minutes but its defense was good enough to lock down visiting Brooklyn, which shot just 34.6% for the game, and take a 2-1 lead in this Eastern Conference series.
Player of the game: PF Carlos Boozer had 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Turning point: In a 90-second stretch of the second quarter, Bulls SF Luol Deng went 3-for-3, scoring eight points, to spot his team a 53-38 lead. The cushion was more than enough to offset Chicago’s 5-for-16 shooting in the fourth quarter.
Trending downward: The Nets only generated five points from starting SF Gerald Wallace and PF Reggie Evans. Wallace was 2-for-8 shooting. Evans went scoreless as he missed his only two shots. The reserves fare much better. Andray Blatche had seven points, Kris Humphries had four points and Jerry Stackhouse just one. Boozer combined with Deng for 43 points for Chicago.
Next: Game 4 is in Chicago on Saturday (TNT, 2 ET).