Tuesday’s NBA postseason ball doubleheader brought us Game 2 and Game 1, with the latter again bringing us the highly anticipated matchup between LeBron James and Stephen Curry. As we’ll discuss later, the Lakers’ Game 1 win really wasn’t about that “James vs. Curry” storyline. They are just two old rivals who have been around a bit, and their teams around them are as important to their success and they are. (That’s especially true for James, at least.) But I’m sure a lot of people watched to see these two superstars face off. In case you didn’t or couldn’t, here’s a catch-up on Tuesday’s slate scores.
Knicks 111, Heat 105 | The series is tied 1-1
How the Knicks won: By doing just enough. The team’s offense went through several periods of static and passive play, and the shorthanded Miami Heat team pushed New York throughout this game. But big wins count as much as “barely wins,” and a late push to take the lead in the fourth quarter for New York was enough for the team to tie that streak at one game apiece.
Why the Heat lost: Without Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro or Victor Oladipo, the Heat survived much of this game hitting 3s. It’s the league’s consistent equalizer, the number one indicator of who is most likely to win a given game. But the heavy minutes and oversized roles these Heat players carry, the ones that come out of necessity, have finally caught up with them. Less than 3 entered – Miami ultimately had only one mark more than New York – and the impressive performance went unrewarded. With Butler seemingly on track to be back for Game 3, Miami has hope on the horizon.
The decisive moment: Down six points, Jalen Brunson’s 3-point corner was scrutinized to determine whether it happened before or after Bam Adebayo bulldozed Isaiah Hartenstein – and, although it was an awfully close call, the referees felt that Brunson had been in his shooting motion. . What could have been a no-shot foul, had it been called before the shot, turned into a successful 3 and another free throw. New York’s offense was struggling, but Brunson came back on the next possession to tie the game with a nine-foot jumper. A few minutes later, the Knicks definitely took the lead.
The Unsung Hero: Josh Hart has been an extremely important addition for the Knicks since arriving at the trade deadline. He almost made a triple-double on Tuesday: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists. He’s a voracious rebounder for his size – heck, forget his size, just in general – and his shooting threat and contained play off the dribble are just what New York needs when the team’s offense is trending. to become obsolete.
The Knicks should feel… vulnerable. But of course, they should feel relieved, above all, to have won this game that keeps this series alive. New York can regain home-court advantage in the next two meetings in Miami.
The Heat should feel…encouraged. With Butler’s return imminent, why can’t the Heat continue their unexpected run in the East in these upcoming games?
And after: Game 3 will be played Saturday, March 6 at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Lakers 117, Warriors 112 | Lakers lead 1-0
How the Lakers won: Anthony Davis was the best player of the game. He has to be in this series for the Lakers to surpass Stephen Curry and the Warriors, but it’s hard to argue that Davis’ performance after Game 1 — 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists, four blocks — wasn’t Tuesday’s.
Why the Warriors lost: This game was there to be won by Golden State, don’t doubt it. Any game where a team has a 45-point advantage on all 3 made – with the Warriors hitting 21 while the Lakers have knocked down just six – is a game that should be won. But where the Warriors created 3s and paint points against the Sacramento Kings, their last opponent, the Lakers did a much better job of masking the Warriors’ routes to the edge while compensating for the 3-point disparity with layups and free throw attempts of theirs. Golden State may be better, but this one stung.
Further Reading: Hollinger: Contrasting Lakers-Warriors styles set the stage for myriad tweaks
The decisive moment: Jordan Poole took that potentially game-tying 3-pointer with the countdown to the last buzzer of the game.
It was far, but not ridiculous. It was a good look. Poole narrowly missed.
The Unsung Hero: D’Angelo Russell sometimes oscillates between looking like the league’s top scorer and someone who soon won’t even be there anymore. It’s the extremes that are present in his game, but on Tuesday he played a fairly ordinary game with several big, fast-paced shots. His 19 points on 19 shooting with six assists for a turnover was unremarkable. It was just good, solid basketball that helped the Lakers win the game.
The Lakers should feel…regal. In this clash between two of the league’s last three champions, the Lakers feel no more out of place than the Warriors – something that seemed unfathomable at the start of the season. The mid-season roster shake-up and Davis’ emergence as a monstrous two-way player left the team equally capable of being a sleeping threat emerging from the West, something that had always been attributed to the Warriors this year despite their own struggles.
The Warriors should feel… calm. Golden State is still the team we know, and a loss, even at home, won’t change that. Then again, if the team is also outmatched scoring around the edge, it will be hard to beat the Lakers despite this math problem between them. The Warriors won’t always hit that many 3s or have a Poole performance every night, but the Lakers can dominate the glass that much every time these two teams meet.
And after: Game 2 will be played Thursday, May 4 at 9 p.m. ET.
(Top photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)