MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The San Antonio Spurs know finishing off a playoff series is challenging. Being a win away from sweeping an opponent is even harder.
The Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of advancing in in the postseason and setting themselves up for a little extra rest.
The Spurs can cap off their fifth series sweep in the past five postseasons Sunday, and their second in that stretch against Memphis. San Antonio hasn’t swept a first-round series since ousting the Lakers in 2013, and the Spurs’ last sweep came against these Grizzlies in the 2013 Western Conference finals.
“This is the hardest, especially on the road,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said Saturday of completing a sweep.
The Cavaliers can also knock out feisty Detroit.
Golden State seems to be in total control against Houston, but the Warriors are up 2-1 against the Rockets. There has been a lot of talk about the NBA’s announcement that James Harden should have been whistled for an offensive foul on his game-winner in Game 3. But despite the chatter, the Rockets can even the series with a win at home.
The Boston Celtics are also looking to even their series against the Atlanta Hawks, though they may need another Herculean effort from Isaiah Thomas.
A look at the four games Sunday:
Spurs at Grizzlies, Spurs lead 3-0, 1 p.m. EDT ABC.
Kawhi Leonard pulled the Spurs through Game 3 with another impressive playoff performance. The two-time defensive player of the year scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter. Leonard also blocked five shots with no turnovers, becoming the first player to score at least 30 and do that in a playoff game since Shaquille O’Neal on May 20, 2000.
“He’s our go-to guy, and he continues to step up and grow,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said of Leonard. “And (to) see him change and his confidence grow every game is amazing to watch.”
The teams face a quick turnaround with the first tipoff Sunday, and that hurts the Grizzlies, who have just 10 healthy players. Coach Dave Joerger stuck with his veterans Zach Randolph and Matt Barnes in Game 3. Vince Carter was the only starter to play less than 33 minutes with Barnes on the court for more than 41.
Cavaliers at Pistons, Cavs lead 3-0, 8:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
Cleveland’s trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love has been too much for the Pistons. The Cavs have now won 11 straight postseason games against Detroit, one short of the NBA record set by the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat Seattle 12 consecutive times from 1980-89.
Detroit started fast Friday in its first home playoff game since 2009, but the Pistons faltered offensively in the second half. Now a candid Stan Van Gundy hopes his players can maintain their intensity in the face of long odds.
“It’s tough at 0-3,” the Pistons coach said. “Cleveland makes a run, are you really going to stay the course and everything else? I have not been in this situation, but I’ve been on the other side of it. I’ve seen teams that give a good effort, but then you make a run on them, and you get them down a little, and they just sort of go away, because there’s not a great belief that they can still win the series.”
Warriors at Rockets, Warriors lead 2-1, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC.
It might be just a coincidence: Golden State losing and Stephen Curry set to return. Then again, maybe it’s not.
Both coach Steve Kerr and Curry expect the reigning MVP to play Sunday after the Warriors upgraded his status to probable with the right ankle he sprained in the opener of this series. This series took a two-day break between Games 3 and 4, giving Curry more time for treatment and rest.
The Warriors haven’t lost back-to-back games in their record-setting season. They certainly don’t want to start in the playoffs.
“We just don’t like the feeling and you don’t want to have that continue,” Curry said. “So … we get kind of angry I guess. We’ve done a great job of being resilient. It’s kind of a stubborn confidence that if we lose a game it’s not supposed to happen again and come out and get it done.”
Hawks at Celtics, Atlanta leads 2-1, 6 p.m. EDT, TNT.
Isaiah Thomas was asked what he could do for an encore after scoring a career-high 42 points to help Boston avoid a 3-0 hole against Atlanta.
“Get 43?” he told reporters after practice Saturday, cracking a big smile.
“Nah, just win the game,” he added.
The Celtics are happy that Thomas can take the floor at all on Game 4 on Sunday. He avoided a suspension for taking a swing at Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder in the first quarter. Thomas said he got the word from Celtics President Danny Ainge.
“We’re happy he’ll be around tomorrow, no question about that,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Forward Jae Crowder said the Celtics talked about maintaining their composure as the teams become more familiar and perhaps more antagonistic.
“We try to play the right way,” he said. “We don’t ever want to take a cheap shot.”
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen, Noah Trister and Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.
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