NBA Playoff Dispatches: Lakers-Warriors Live Up To The Hype; Hard heroic for Knicks


FOX Sports writers provide game insights throughout the NBA Playoffs. Here are her thoughts from Tuesday.

Lakers 117, Warriors 112: Lakers-Warriors to a furious start

This is what we’ve been longing for.

Normally, a playoff matchup between the sixth and seventh seeds isn’t exciting. But this second-round matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers might be more interesting than the NBA Finals.

The Lakers took the first hit and won Game 1 at the Chase Center, 117-112. Now, basketball fans can only hope that this streak extends to seven games, as high profile basketball like this doesn’t come around often.

As much as 14 points behind in the fourth quarter, the Warriors scored a staggering 14 straight points to tie things at 112 with 1:38 left after Steph Curry made a 3-pointer.

It was a chess game between two very different styles.

The Warriors made a whopping 21 3-pointers while the Lakers only made six. But the Lakers attempted 29 free throws, nearly six times as many as the Warriors (five), and dominated in points in the paint (44-22).

It had the plot of a Hollywood film.

In one corner you have the defending champions who could take part in their so-called last dance together. On the other hand, you have a 38-year-old icon (LeBron James) desperate to win another title and a guy nicknamed “Street Clothes” (Anthony Davis) desperate to shake off the dark cloud of injuries which he has strained his career.

Talk about intrigue.

Funnily enough, it seemed like the Lakers were doomed before the game even started. When James went to the scorer’s table to throw his pregame talcum powder, the bottle was empty (he looked around in dismay until a new one was brought to him).

Luckily, Davis was sensational, finishing with 30 points, 23 rebounds and four blocked shots to help the Lakers steal home field advantage. Davis was everywhere, guarding long 3s and patrolling the block, causing attacking Warriors to have to change shots at the last second to avoid his outstretched arms.

“Confidence boost for us,” Davis said during his walk-off interview with TNT, before softening his words, “…We didn’t do anything. We came in and got a game.”

Steph Curry (27 points), Klay Thompson (25 points) and Jordan Poole (21 points) each made six 3-pointers, but the one the Warriors needed most didn’t fly through the net.

With 9.7 seconds left and the Warriors three points behind, Poole missed a deep try. The Warriors then had no choice but to foul Dennis Schroder, who subsequently took two free throws to seal the game for the Lakers.

It was a chump.

This series is the real deal and lives up to the hype in every way… and it’s only been 48 minutes.

— Melissa Rohlin

Knicks 111, Heat 105: Josh Hart is heroic for the Knicks

NEW YORK — Raise your hand if you thought the Knicks’ acquisition of Josh Hart before the trade deadline was going to be one of the most consequential deals of the season? If you raise your hand, you are lying.

The same goes for the Knicks, by the way. Sure, they wouldn’t have made a first-round pick (along with Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk, for those keeping an eye on) if they didn’t think Hart could help them. But inject Leon Rose and his front office with truth serum and even they would admit they never expected it, well, The.

After their 111-105 home win over the Heat Tuesday night — 1-1 on the night of that Eastern Conference semifinals game — the Knicks are now 22-10 in games Hart is in. During the regular season, in non-garbage time minutes, they were better with him, according to 16 points per 100 ball possessions cleaning the glasswith Hart averaging 10.2 points, seven rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals in 30 minutes per game.

In the playoffs, Hart was just as good. He covered Cavs star Donovan Mitchell in the first round (in 41 minutes of action matching him, Hart kept him at 23.8% 3-point shooting and only six free throw attempts per Extended NBA statistics), and without Hart’s heroics on Tuesday night, the Knicks would likely return to Miami trailing 2-0 against the Heat. As usual, he topped up the boxing score: 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and the Knicks topped the Heat by 16 points in the 33 minutes that Hart was on the ground.

“I think in Josh’s case he did everything,” said Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau after the win. “He is. We’re talking about the playmaking ability, the assists, the Big 3s, the rebounds, the defense.”

Just like Game 1, the Heat spent the night playing Hart and challenging him to shoot. Instead, Hart attacked the zone and sprayed the ball to teammates. His ability to bring down that zone was one of the reasons the Knicks were able to bond with 40% of their deep gazes.

“What I like best is when teams play me like that,” Hart said after the game, “I can get on the lane and find guys for open shots.” He later added, “I love it when they play me like that. Just because I can really play my game, that’s getting into the paint and just having fun, just playing light-hearted basketball.”

Hart missed a few open looks — until late in the fourth quarter when he buried a pair from the right corner. The first game with 4:45 remaining and the game tied. The second came 1:38 to the left, extending the Knicks’ lead to 4.

It’s worth pausing here to see exactly how Hart got to this point. The Los Angeles Lakers drafted him in 2017 with the last pick of the first round. He spent two seasons there before being shipped to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis deal. He then spent three seasons in New Orleans before being shipped to Portland as part of the CJ McCollum deal.

But now, in his sixth NBA season, Hart appears to have finally found a home. He’s become an integral part of everything the Knicks do, of everything they are. There is a good lesson there. Hart isn’t the only gem of an NBA player lurking beneath the surface. Some players just need the right mix of circumstances to unlock them.

— Yaron Weitzman

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Refueling to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boldest Trial in Professional Sports History.”.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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