In the last two days, we've seen what teams are made of. The Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder both went back home for Game 3 down 0-2, and both put forth desperation efforts to prevent nearly hopeless 3-0 deficits. Game 4 for these Conference Finals has now become pivotal, and both road teams are in dire need of adjustments. So which team has the best chance of the tying the series, Boston or Oklahoma City?
I'm going with Boston.
What many writers and analysts took from Game 3 in Boston was the re-emergence of Kevin Garnett as his team's leader and most important offensive player in these playoffs. More importantly, Garnett's ability to take advantage of the depleted front line of the Miami Heat, who even threw LeBron James on KG for several possessions to try and slow him down. The reason I think Boston has a better chance of tying the series than Oklahoma City is largely due to their comfort level at home. Every Celtic player who played more than ten minutes was on the positive side of the +/- including Marquis Daniels, who Doc Rivers went to for the first time this postseason, and contributed nine points and five rebounds in sixteen minutes for +16. Meanwhile, all of Miami's players finished in the minus, even LeBron James with his 34 point eight rebound performance finished -6 and just 1-5 from the free throw line. Boston's toughness and pride is magnified at home, where they beat Miami on the glass 44-32 and limited to just seven second chance points in Game 3. Despite a much needed win, Boston should still be in desperation mode. To go down 3-1 to Miami would also be discouraging to their chances. Game 4 in Boston will be a slug fest, and Boston has the entire city in their corner.
Oklahoma City did exactly what they were supposed to at home. Whenever a team goes down 0-2 the 'sweep' notion can sometimes lurk quietly. We all know how electric Oklahoma City is in their building, and as I wrote prior to the series, the Thunder are completely capable of beating the Spurs. But I think OKC is in more danger than Boston. The playoffs are about adjustments, and I think Coach Popovich is looking forward to challenging his guys to make those adjustments after their first postseason loss. Losing Game 3 was probably necessary for a team that had only lost two games since March. Not to say Miami won't make their adjustments also, but I don't think San Antonio can come out much sloppier than they did two nights ago. Despite my belief that Boston has a better chance of tying their series with Miami, I think Oklahoma City will have a tight shoot out with San Antonio tonight and it will come down to execution. In which case I lean towards the Spurs, but OKC's shot-making at home could be the difference in the game down the stretch.