Hornets, Blazers need a win; Thunder, Raptors seek 3-1 leads
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers are hoping a change in venue will provide some mojo in the NBA playoffs, while the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors look to take 3-1 leads in their first-round series Saturday.
Behind the revitalized play of Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat swept the first two games from the Hornets by an average of 22 points - Wade's scoring average in the series. The series shifts to Charlotte, where the Hornets were 31-10 this season.
Charlotte will be without small forward Nicolas Batum, the team's second-leading scorer, because of a strained foot. Either Frank Kaminsky or Jeremy Lin will start in Batum's place.
''Nic is a huge part of what we do,'' point guard Kemba Walker said. ''But we have been doing it all year - when one guy goes down the next guy steps up.''
The poor-shooting Trail Blazers also find themselves down 2-0 heading back to Portland. The Hornets and Trail Blazers face long odds. Since 2008, only two of 55 teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to advance.
The Raptors lead the Pacers, and the Thunder bounced back with road wins and lead their series against Mavericks, both 2-1.
A look at the four games today:
Raptors at Pacers, Raptors lead series 2-1, 3 p.m. EDT, TNT.
The Raptors have regained control of the series against the Pacers.
While DeMar DeRozan had his top offensive game of the series with 21 points in Game 3 at Indiana, the unsung hero was DeMarre Carroll. Not only did he score 17 points, but was the primary defender on Paul George, and limited the Pacers star to 6-of-19-shooting in the 101-85 win.
Carroll missed 42 games this season following knee surgery and didn't return until April 7. He's seen limited playing time the last two weeks until playing 35 minutes on Thursday night.
Carroll l said it is the best he's felt since surgery.
''He's just now probably getting his sea legs, the rhythm of the game, the speed of the game,'' Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ''When you go from the regular season to playoff intensity, that's a huge step.''
Heat at Hornets, Heat lead series 2-0, 5:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
The Heat have lived up to their moniker, shooting 58 percent in the first two games of the playoffs. Miami has ripped apart Charlotte's top-10 ranked defense, scoring 238 points on just 176 possessions, a rate of 1.35 points per possession.
''Their size is problem,'' Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. ''Wade and (Joe) Johnson, they're so big and such good passers, we are really having trouble with that. That's the biggest issue. ... They're able to see over us and they're make passes into the interior or crosscourt and it puts more pressure on our defense.''
Luol Deng, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic have also stepped up for the Heat.
Clifford said despite the lopsided losses, he wants his team to stick its game plan.
''You can't overreact,'' Clifford said afterward. ''You got to stay disciplined to what you're doing. So Dragic makes three threes against the under and then all of a sudden, we're overextending, we're opening up driving gaps.''
Losing Batum is a huge loss for the Hornets. He's averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the playoffs.
Thunder at Mavericks, Thunder lead series 2-1, 8 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
The Mavericks have been outscored by an average of 34 points in the two losses after Kevin Durant bounced back from the worst shooting game of his playoff career.
Oklahoma City shot 56 percent from 3-point range (15 of 27) to 26 percent for the Mavericks (6 of 23).
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said it hasn't been easy, and won't be in Game 4.
''We've been in some close situations with them,'' Donovan said. ''When you make 15 3-point shots to their six, the score can look lopsided. We know coming in here it's going to be a hard-fought, physical game when we come back in here and play again.''
Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki said the right knee he bruised in Game 2 felt fine after he scored 16 points and matched the team high with six rebounds in 33 minutes. J.J. Barea is hopeful as well following a solid showing in his return after missing a game with a right groin strain. Deron Williams, battling a sports hernia, sat out Game 3 and his status for Saturday night remains uncertain.
''We didn't lose the game because D-Will didn't play,'' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ''He's a great player and he would help us. We didn't play well enough and we didn't play with enough grit.''
Clippers at Trail Blazers, Clippers lead series 2-0, 10:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
The Blazers need their explosive backcourt of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard to start hitting shots if they hope to bounce back at home.
McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player on Friday, is 9 of 29 from the field so far in the series. Lillard is 13 of 39.
''We're not the first team to lose the first two on the road,'' Lillard said. ''They took of their home court and now we have the same opportunity.''
Said McCollum: ''We have had lapses and allowed them to get on runs. ... Those type of runs change the complexion of the game.''
AP Sports Writers Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, Michael Marot in Indianapolis, and Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.
Follow Steve Reed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SteveReedAP