Five observations from three NBA playoffs games Friday evening, each scrutinized closely with the understanding that teams that win Game 3 historically go on to win 76 percent of these first-round series:
There was no shortage of angles, topics or second-guess aspects to Houston's 86-83 victory over Portland in Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round series. There was the Trail Blazers' tenacious comeback from 17 points down, showing off to a national audience a resiliency they had perfected all season. After all, Portland had dug out of holes of 10 points or more to win on 18 occasions during the regular season, the most by any NBA team since 2002-03. In 13 of their games in which they trailed or were tied through three quarters, they found a way to win, more than any other club in the league. They were on the verge of it again Friday, closing to 81-80 with less than 20 seconds left and 85-83 with 2.7 seconds to go.
There were other threads in play, including the lack of timeouts left in Portland coach
On a night when
The record will show that the Magic lost Game 3 against Philadelphia 96-94 when
But in truth, Orlando lost back in the middle of that fourth quarter when it had four chances to tie or take the lead, and the momentum, in front of the Philadelphia home crowd, yet failed. Down 88-86,
Eventually Orlando pulled even, Howard rising to the challenge of being put on the foul line by sinking a pair of free throws with 6.9 to go (he was 12-of-14 from there on this night). Had the Magic tied or crept ahead earlier, though, the Philly crowd might have quieted down, the 76ers could have felt more pressure and Young might have pressed just a little more, rushing to erase a deficit on that final Philadelphia possession without the fallback of overtime at home.
Philadelphia's defense continued to pester Orlando, which picked up its three-point pace to 8-of-20 this time compared to 11-of-41 in Games 1 and 2, but shot 42.5 percent overall Friday. A problem Magic coach
Never mind that "other than'' stuff; Lee was 2-of-9 Friday, slipping from 24 points Wednesday to just six.
I'll be honest: I never figured
"Ever since LeBron came to the team, it regenerated me,'' Ilgauskas, the Cavs' only real link to the franchise's miserable times before the 2003 draft, said recently. "It was hard to keep motivated in the losing seasons. There was a lot of frustration.''
And now? "We came in with the mind-set in October that we'd be playing in June,'' the big man said. "You have to have the mind-set that you're going to be the last man standing.''
It was a big night all around for reserves who boosted their teams to the potentially pivotal Game 3 victories. For Cleveland, it was well-traveled
The downside of savoring excellence of the sort we've seen and expect from James in the East and
The plus-minus numbers for the once-proud Pistons starting lineup through three games: