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If You Thought Last Night Was Crazy, You Better Buckle Up For Tonight's Slate Of Crucial Game 2s

Ahead of last night's Game 2s, I wrote a blog that broke down what NBA history tells us in terms of just how important it is for the team down 0-1 to win Game 2

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Unfortunately for all three of those teams, they couldn't get it done and now find themselves in quite a hole. As a reminder, teams up 2-0 go on to win the series 92.7% of the time overall and 93.4% of the time in the first round. One could suggest it's a pretty important swing game.

We're yet to see a road team win a game in these playoffs, and for the Suns, Pacers, and Mavs, if they have hopes of eventually winning their series, they need to start by breaking that trend tonight. Much like the Game 2s in the East, two of these three teams have deep run/NBA title expectations, so to lose in the first round would be a colossal disaster. You could even make the case for all three given the Bucks' injury issues, which is why tonight is so exciting. The pressure is starting to mount and we're getting "must win" situations for some of the biggest stars in the league. If that doesn't get your blood pumping, I'm not sure what will.

For the Suns, this is why you went all in on your superteam Big 3. You brought in KD and Bradley Beal to win NOW. This is your title window. Heading into the playoffs once we learned they drew the Suns, there was a lot of talk about their regular season matchup where the Suns won all 3 meetings, mostly by blowout. We all then saw what happened in Game 1

If we've learned anything so far in the early stages of these games, it's that the playoffs are a different beast. Whatever success you may have had during the regular season doesn't mean shit. You could make the case that the NBA playoffs are an entirely different sport compared to regular season basketball, and I think that's what we're seeing with all of these matchups.

The Suns have to figure out how to get more from Devin Booker (5-16, 2-6), but that's not exactly easy when the Wolves are throwing great length his way as the #1 defense in the league. I'm also not sure what they do when it comes to the rebounding issues, because if you have another game of 52-28 on the glass you are going to get rocked and your season is on life support. The problem is the Suns really only have 1 playable center in Jusuf Nurkic, and he can't play all 48. The encouraging sign heading into Game 2 is probably the fact that the Suns did hang around in the first half, but you're probably not getting another 2-12 from Mike Conley and a 4-10 from Naz Reid.

For the Pacers, I feel similar to this matchup like I do LAL/DEN. If the Pacers don't win Game 2, this will most likely be a sweep, even without Giannis. This is another one of those series where there was maybe a little too much hype around this matchup based on early regular season results, because the Pacers (outside of Siakam) did NOT look ready for the moment. Tyrese Haliburton, the guy who wasn't shy about talking his shit in November was nowhere to be found in his playoff debut, and even if he's not 100% he's still out there and can't only take 7 shots or whatever it was. 

The thing about the Pacers is we all know their offense is explosive, but that's regular season offense. Things get tight in the playoffs, defenses are tougher, players are trying for a full 48, closeouts are quicker, so it's not surprising that we saw a massive dropoff offensively from IND. The problem is in the playoffs to win a series you HAVE to be able to get stops. If you can't get stops, nothing else really matters, and if there's one thing the Pacers do not do, it's get stops. They want to outscore you 130-120 which hasn't really translated to postseason success historically. You have to be able to defend.

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I'm not sure how much of that we saw while Dame completely buried them

and the issue for IND is that eventually, Giannis will be back. That's what makes these first two games so important for the Pacers if they want to pull off the upset. You can't lose the non-Giannis games. If you're the Bucks, you win Game 2 and in my opinion that should buy you even more time to rest Giannis. No need to rush him back if you can seemingly beat the Pacers without him, which is what their motivation should be tonight. After all that shit talking we had on the Pacers side, to drop the first two without Giannis while Dame goes crazy would be pretty massive.

Of all the matchups we'll see tonight, nobody has more pressure to come through than the Mavs. They were one of the hottest teams in the NBA to close the season, they're healthy, we've been told that Luka is the MVP and that this is the best roster he's ever had, Kyrie hasn't gone haywire, and they got absolutely demolished by a Kawhi-less Clippers team. To drop another game that Kawhi probably doesn't play in is not something I would advise doing, because like Giannis, he'll be back eventually (fingers crossed). 

Look, at some point, if we're going to put Luka in these MVP type conversations, he needs to prove that his lone WCF run was not a fluke. Every other season has ended either missing the playoffs or losing in the first round. Should the Mavs lose tonight and fall 0-2, it's very likely things end in another first round loss. It's no different from the expectations that we have for every other superstar in the NBA. Stat padding in a blowout to make your final line look respectable isn't going to cut it. We can't live in a world that while the Mavs were winning they had a complete team and great depth, and then when they get killed in the playoffs it's Luka has no help.

Sorry, that's not how it works. It's on him (and Kyrie) as the best players to raise everyone around them and win. That's what MVPs do, just look at what Jokic did last night. If they can't find a way to take down a Kawhi-less Clippers, what do we think things look like once he's back? The Mavs already had enough problems stopping Paul George & Co

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and anyone who has watched the Mavs will tell you that their defense has been their achilles heel all year (18th). This was another series many picked the "upset" of DAL over LAC, especially with Kawhi's injury. To head home down 0-2 would certainly be surprising given all their hype entering the playoffs, and whether it's fair or not, as the best player and MVP candidate, that falls on Luka.

As a neutral fan, all I'm hoping for is more of what we got last night (outside of ORL/CLE). While blowouts are fun for whoever's favorite team pulls it off, I think we can all agree that nights like Monday night are WAY more enjoyable in terms of a viewing experience when you have zero rooting interest. Something tells me given the matchups and what's at stake, tonight should be just as crazy.