One of the most memorable opening rounds in NBA playoff history came last season. One of the least memorable is playing out this season.
And if it wasn’t for the Clippers-Spurs series, fans might be begging for the days of the best-of-five format to return so this one-sided first round could end faster.
Seven of the eight series started with a team taking a 2-0 lead. San Antonio’s 111-107 overtime victory in Los Angeles on Wednesday night knotted up that series and ensured at least one matchup will have some added intrigue as home court switches for Game 3.
Dallas hosts Houston, and Washington welcomes Toronto on Friday night. But the Clippers and Spurs will headline the triple-header when they meet in San Antonio.
“This is going to be a hell of a series,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
No other matchup could make that claim through two games.
The Wizards were the first team to win on the road, but they did it twice in Toronto to swipe most of the drama from their series. Houston handled the undermanned Mavericks twice, and there’s little to suggest the series will last long.
The lopsided matchups are quite a change from a year ago, when there were a record 24 road wins and eight overtime games in the first round. Five of the eight series also ended in a Game 7.
Of course, there’s still time for this season’s trend to change.
“It’s like the tortoise and the hare,” Wizards forward Paul Pierce said. “The hare is messing around, chilling on the side. Simple and plain: We can’t turn around, look back and look at the lead. We just got to keep going running through the finish line and we’re going to be all right.”
Here’s a breakdown of Friday’s games, all times EDT:
Rockets at Mavericks, Houston leads 2-0, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Mavericks have been better without Rajon Rondo this season. Now they’ll have to be a lot better without him or their season will be over soon.
The Rockets rolled through the first two games in Houston, winning 118-108 and 111-99. The series shifts to Dallas for Game 3, and Rondo will no longer be around.
The Mavericks said Rondo injured his back before getting benched again by coach Rick Carlisle, who doesn’t think the pending free agent will ever wear a Dallas uniform again.
“I like our team,” Carlisle said. “The guys that we have available are going to fight their butts off and our crowd’s going to be into it and we’re going to have to make it happen.”
The good news for the Mavs is they’ve won 66.7 percent of their games without Rondo and 54.2 percent with the point guard since he was acquired in a December trade with Boston. Devin Harris also is probable to return from a left big toe injury.
The bad news is Chandler Parsons is out for the rest of the playoffs with a right knee injury. And of course the Mavericks still have to contend with James Harden, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and the rejuvenated Rockets, who have thoroughly outplayed them.
“Stay in attack mode,” Harden said of Houston’s mindset. “Don’t get relaxed. Don’t get comfortable.”
Raptors at Wizards, Washington leads 2-0, 8 p.m., ESPN2
The Wizards are the only team to go 2-0 on the road in these playoffs; the other teams went a combined 1-13 away from home to open the postseason.
Now they have to protect home court.
“We’ve got to just play desperate. We’ve got to play the same way we’ve been playing the first two games. We know they’re going to come out locked in, ready to go,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “They already said they needed to be more physical, so we’re going to expect a tough game.”
Indeed, Toronto’s All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry called Game 3 “a must win,” and forward Patrick Patterson said: “We understand we’re pretty much playing with our backs against the wall. Plain and simple, black and white, we cannot lose.”
One big problem for the Raptors has been Lowry: He has more fouls (10) than assists (eight) so far, and left Game 2 with a bruised left shin.
Beal, meanwhile, said that if he appeared to be playing with extra attitude in Game 2, “It’s my ‘Inner Brad.'” When a reporter wanted to know whether Beal can make sure that version shows up, he deadpanned: “He comes out when he wants to come out.”
After shooting only 6 for 23 in Game 1, Beal went 12 for 21 in Game 2, with 28 points, including 16 in the second quarter.
Clippers at Spurs, Tied 1-1, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Age is just a number. Just look at Tim Duncan.
The future Hall of Famer turns 39 on Saturday and has shown he can still get things done. No, the seemingly ageless big man is not the biggest question for the Spurs heading into Game 3 on Friday night in San Antonio.
Instead, the status of Tony Parker’s ailing right Achilles tendon is the main concern for the defending champions.
Parker left late in Game 2 with what the team termed tightness in his Achilles. The 32-year-old point guard, the catalyst of San Antonio’s space-and-pace offense, also twisted his left ankle and bruised his left quadriceps in Game 1.
Parker was hopeful to play. His teammates were hopeful he can play at a high level.
“We need him for that. He’s a big part of what we do,” Duncan said.
The Clippers rallied from 10-point deficits in the third and fourth quarters of Game 2 but couldn’t close out the Spurs, who now have homecourt advantage. But the Clippers are confident heading to San Antonio, where the teams split two games this season.
“We’ll have to be poised,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “But we’ve shown the ability to win there. Their team is not going to beat themselves. You’ve got to go out there and beat them, and we’ve got to come in ready for Game 3.”
AP Sports Writers Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, Howard Fendrich in Washington, Kristie Rieken in Houston and Beth Harris in Los Angeles, and AP freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.
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