Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: What to watch for in three Game 3s on Friday

We're six days into the 2021 NBA Playoffs and the action continues with three Game 3s.

The action tips off as the Milwaukee Bucks series with the Miami Heat shifts to South Beach, where the Heat look to get their first win of the series. Out West, both series are tied 1-1 as the Los Angeles Lakers host the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center while the Denver Nuggets pay the Portland Trail Blazers a visit at the Moda Center.

With each series switching locations, can Miami step up in a must-win situation? Will Los Angeles and Portland take advantage of stealing home court? There's plenty to keep an eye on…

What to watch for: Bucks-Heat Game 3

A must-win for Miami

In the history of the NBA Playoffs, no team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

The Heat have to do everything in their power to avoid such a situation.

Because of how quickly the Bucks pulled away in Game 2, there isn't too much that can be taken from the game. It wasn't pretty but it still counts as just one loss for Miami. To get back on track, however, the Heat will need more from Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro.

Adebayo led the trio in Game 2 with 16 points but he has looked uncharacteristically tentative on the offensive end at times. And while Butler is 8-for-32 (25.0 percent) from the field in his first two games, Herro is coming off of a performance in which he scored just four points on five shots.

That must change on all fronts.

Giannis on a mission

Last year, this same Heat team eliminated the Bucks in five games last year, it was back to the drawing board for the back-to-back MVP.

After a slow start to the series in Game 1 and a rout in Game 2, Giannis has an opportunity to play loose and freely with an opportunity to lead his team to a historically insurmountable series advantage. Miami has the personnel and schemes to make things difficult for Antetokounmpo but if his teammates can continue knocking down shots, he'll have plenty of space to operate.

Since he's seen things go bad from this position before, Giannis will have it on his mind to avoid a repeat of what happened two seasons ago in the East Finals.

What to watch for: Suns-Lakers Game 3

Chris Paul's status

While Game 2 came down to the wire, Phoenix's leader was held out of the action by Monty Williams, who acknowledged the physical struggles of the All-Star point guard postgame.

With just one day off in between games, will Paul be ready to go for Game 3? If so, will he be himself? If not, who steps up?

In Game 2, Cameron Payne stepped up in a major way but that level of success might not be sustainable. Game 1 saw Devin Booker come into a larger playmaking role but it's a big ask for the 24-year-old to continue to score at a high level while also facilitating.

It all hinges on the availability of the Suns' MVP.

Another gear from LeBron?

We saw Anthony Davis step up in Game 2, while LeBron James hit some tough shots to finish with 23 points, nine assists, four boards and two steals.

And he's still seemingly getting a feel for things.

We've seen it time and time again and James could come into Game 3 with the mentality to impose his will earlier while getting Davis and Andre Drummond involved with his playmaking. We also saw James' plea with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to get going as a shooter meaning LeBron could again be assertive to get more out of the others, from Caldwell-Pope to Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma.

With an opportunity to swing the series, LeBron is a scary sight.

What to watch for: Nuggets-Trail Blazers Game 3

Who steps up for the Blazers?

In Game 2, CJ McCollum scored 21 points (on 9-for-12 shooting) while Damian Lillard got out to a monster first half before Denver's defensive adjustment of covering him with Aaron Gordon slowed him down in the final 24 minutes.

After those two, Norman Powell was the only other double-figure scorer with 15 points (on 5-for-9 shooting).

Where Portland needs more is from Jusuf Nurkic, who scored just seven points (on 2-for-8 shooting) while the second unit scored just 21 points one game after Carmelo Anthony (18) and Anfernee Simons (14) combined to score 32 points off the bench in Game 1.

Are the Blazers too reliant on Anthony and Simons? Can they rely on Derrick Jones Jr.? They'll need the most out of their depth pieces to take a 2-1 series lead.

The Joker's dominance

Nikola Jokic is figuring things out and getting to his spots, meaning the Blazers' defence could very well be on its heels in Game 3.

Game 2 saw the MVP favourite finish with 38 points, eight rebounds and five assists while shooting 75.0 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from 3-point range and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. By his standards, Jokic has been limited as a playmaker so far, dishing out six assists over two games but his scoring hasn't been an issue.

Should Jokic continue to dominate as a scorer, Portland might have to adjust its defensive approach, which could open things up for other teammates.

Could we see a big scoring night from Michael Porter Jr.? That would be the last thing the Blazers need.

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