When a team loses a game, especially in the playoffs, the blame and negative press targeted at the losing team is amplified. Brooklyn, Portland and San Antonio all had players who didn’t play up to par in their respective Game 1’s, and those players will have to step up on the road in Wednesday night’s Game 2’s to help get their teams back in the series.
Initially looking at Johnson’s stat line, he posted 17 points, leading Brooklyn in scoring, along with posting six rebounds and six assists. He also had a couple of steals. So not bad, right? However, Johnson, a capable jump-shooter, was all but capable on Sunday.
You could say it was for a variety of reasons: his legs gave out, he just doesn’t have it, he couldn’t deal with all the booing, etc. But his numbers were so abysmal, it probably was just one of those days. We’ve all had them.
Johnson went 6-17 from the field, missing all six of his three-point attempts and going 5-8 from the charity stripe.
A career 37.1 percent three-point shooter (35 percent career playoff), Johnson has to make more of an impact on the perimeter. Atlanta is a team that can swing the score in its favor in an instant. Having an efficient three-point game could neutralize the scoring Atlanta has done or allow them to keep up with it.
Although Johnson’s numbers dipped a bit this year, he was coming off a 40 percent season from three. He needs to hit the outside shot for Brooklyn to have a chance to win.
Portland’s Starting Backcourt
I kind of cheated with this one going two for one, but anyway, not only is it alarming to see that Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined to score 16 points on 6-29 shooting, but they allowed Memphis’ backcourt, that includes an ailing Mike Conley, to score a combined 27 points on 8-17 shooting. Plus they allowed Beno Udrih (Yes, that Beno Udrih) to score 20 points in a playoff game. He only had one 20-point scoring game all year, and that came about two weeks ago.
Defense is the glaring issue, especially against the Memphis guards. You know what Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are going to give you every night: scrappy points, a lot of rebounds and a whole lot of defense. Once you let the guards get an offensive game flowing, it’s nearly impossible to stop Memphis.
Of course, you can always counter scoring with scoring. Too bad Lillard and McCollum didn’t do that either. Both were active in other aspects, but scoring is the point of the game.
20 percent shooting from the both of them just won’t do the trick. Especially with the future of LaMarcus Aldridge in doubt, the pressure is on.
McCollum needs to attack the rim and get easy buckets. In his final nine games of the regular season, he averaged 15.6 points but managed three games where he didn’t attempt a single free throw. His running mate, Lillard, flat out needs to shoot the ball better. To be considered a superstar in this league, 5-21 performances won’t cut it.
Lillard had the same luck as Johnson from deep (0-6 from three), and uncharacteristically missed three free throws. Look for these two to respond accordingly, although Arron Afflalo could be back from a shoulder injury to take back the starting job.
There were several Spurs up for nomination on this list such as Boris Diaw and Danny Green, but it was Parker who takes home the dubious honor of being on the hot seat. The catalyst to the San Antonio offense, Parker was held to 10 points on 4-11 shooting, and he only dished out a single assist.
Where was the Parker we saw a month ago dueling against Kyrie Irving? We certainly didn’t see that Parker in Game 1. Perhaps Parker won’t be able to keep up with Chris Paul all series, and maybe all that basketball the past few years has taken too big a toll on his body. But you know Popovich and you know San Antonio, no nonsense.
What Parker needs to do better is take defensive pressure off himself. Parker must be able to limit the energy exerted while chasing around Paul, who had a magnificent game, scoring 32 points and dishing out six assists. Can Parker find an easier guard?
Also, can we see that patented spin move again, please?