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                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                                Friday, April 24
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 
 (2) HOUSTON ROCKETS (2-0) AT (7) DALLAS MAVERICKS (0-2), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Things have become very complicated for the Dallas
 Mavericks over the last few days, but they'll try to stay together when they
 face the Houston Rockets Friday night in Game 3 at American Airlines Center.
 
 After the Mavs fell down 0-2 in this best-of-seven Western Conference
 quarterfinal series Tuesday, the problems for head coach Rick Carlisle and
 company actually intensified.
 
 Chandler Parsons, a prize free agent, who jumped ship from the Rockets in the
 offseason, sat out Game 2, then was shut down for the season with a knee
 injury.
 
 The bigger, sexier storyline revolves around Rajon Rondo. The All-Star point
 guard, who was acquired during the season from the Boston Celtics, was benched
 after 10 minutes of destructive play.
 
 On Wednesday, it was announced Rondo suffered a back injury, but Carlisle made
 it clear that Rondo's presence was no longer welcome.
 
 Carlisle was asked if he expected Rondo to ever wear a Mavericks uniform again
 on Wednesday, and he replied, "No, I don't."
 
 Rondo dealt with self-inflicted foul trouble and played less than 10 minutes.
 He didn't return to the game after picking up his fourth personal with 11
 minutes remaining in the third quarter. He also picked up a technical foul for
 shoving James Harden.
 
 So Rondo, a free agent in the offseason, will be done through the playoffs.
 Dallas, hopefully distraction-free, needs to get back into this series if it
 has any chance of upsetting the Rockets.
 
 The Rockets took Game 2, 111-99.
 
 Houston turned a nip-and-tuck affair through three quarters into a rout after
 exploding during the first half of the fourth. And it occurred with MVP
 candidate Harden on the bench.
 
 Josh Smith came alive in the second half, posting 13 points, nine assists and
 six rebounds after the break to lead the Rockets.
 
 "Kept making plays," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of Smith.
 
 That he did, especially in the final frame.
 
 Smith, who tallied just two points on 1-of-5 shooting during a woeful opening
 24 minutes, recorded six assists during Houston's game-changing 19-4 run in
 the fourth. Three of those helpers were alley-oops to his former high school
 teammate Dwight Howard.
 
 "Josh and Dwight were being big in the middle," McHale said.
 
 The surge turned an 84-81 deficit into a 100-88 lead with 5:39 left.
 
 Houston was never threatened again.
 
 Howard had 28 points and 12 rebounds and Harden finished with 24 points, six
 assists and five rebounds for the Rockets, who won Game 1 by a 118-108 score
 on Saturday night. Corey Brewer netted 15 points for Houston.
 
 Monta Ellis supplied 24 points, while Dirk Nowitzki provided 10 points and 13
 boards, but was just 3-of-14 from the floor for the Mavericks. J.J. Barea, who
 is expected to start in place of Rondo, had 13, followed by 11 from Tyson
 Chandler.
 
 The Mavs are 8-2 in the last 10 against the Rockets in Dallas.
 
 Game 4 will be Sunday night in Big D.
 
 
 (4) TORONTO RAPTORS (0-2) AT (5) WASHINGTON WIZARDS (2-0), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Wizards will go for a commanding 3-0 lead
 over the Toronto Raptors Friday night when the Eastern Conference first-round
 series shifts to the Verizon Center in D.C.
 
 The Wiz swept the two games in Toronto, including Tuesday's 117-106 victory in
 Game 2.
 
 John Wall was at his very best on Tuesday, tallying 26 points and 17 assists
 to lead the fifth-seeded Wizards.
 
 Bradley Beal scored a playoff career-high 28 points and Marcin Gortat added 16
 and eight boards for the Wizards, who shot 53.2 percent and posted a dominant
 45-28 advantage on the boards.
 
 "John and I didn't play well in the first game," said Beal. "Our biggest thing
 is that we have to be more physical, we have to hit them first."
 
 The Wizards finished the regular season 17-24 on the road, but the playoffs
 have told a different story over the past two seasons. With this win, they
 improved to 7-1 in their last eight postseason games away from home.
 
 "It's hard winning four games in a series," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman.
 "And we only have two, so there's a lot of basketball to be played."
 
 DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams, who was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year
 on Monday, paced Toronto with 20 points apiece. Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick
 Patterson scored 15 each and Amir Johnson chipped in 10 off the bench.
 
 Tuesday was another forgettable night for All-Star starter, Kyle Lowry. After
 he fouled out in Game 1's overtime loss, Lowry left Game 2 with an ankle
 injury and didn't return. He didn't do much before he got hurt, scoring six
 points on 3-for-10 shooting. Lowry is expected to play on Friday.
 
 Toronto, which led by five after the opening quarter, trailed by 11 at
 halftime and 12 after Paul Pierce split a pair of free throws 15 seconds into
 the second half, when Terrence Ross bookended a 12-2 run with 3-pointers.
 
 The Wizards called a timeout with their lead down to 63-61 and completely
 flipped the script out of the huddle, scoring the game's next 10 points. They
 ended any hopes of a comeback with another flurry at the end of the quarter.
 
 Wall jump-started what ended up being 16 points in just over two minutes with
 a three-point play, plus a technical free throw. Ramon Sessions, Wall, Drew
 Gooden and Otto Porter all hit from deep on the next four possessions, and the
 Wizards took a 97-75 lead into the fourth.
 
 Toronto had it down to 10 with a Greivis Vasquez trey at 3:23, but the margin
 never dipped into single digits.
 
 "We had the pace we wanted," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "I thought the
 change of the game was the second quarter. They ran us. That was the
 difference in the game."
 
 The Raptors have won three straight in Washington.
 
 Game 4 will be Sunday night.
 
 
 (3) LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (1-1) AT (6) SAN ANTONIO SPURS (1-1), 9:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The only even series in the playoffs shifts to San
 Antonio Friday night when the defending champion Spurs host the Los Angeles
 Clippers at AT&T Center.
 
 Of the eight postseason series, this is the only one in which both teams have
 a victory. Three are already 3-0, and four more are 2-0, but this one, which
 was expected to be exciting, has lived up to the hype.
 
 Game 2 in Los Angeles was a classic, won ultimately by the Spurs, 111-107, in
 overtime.
 
 Tim Duncan turned back the clock once again, this time with 28 points, 11
 rebounds and four assists. Duncan was forced to play 44 minutes, more than he
 logged in any of San Antonio's 23 playoff games last season, but the 38-year-
 old still found a way to produce when it mattered most.
 
 "He continues to amaze me," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his star big
 man.
 
 Duncan became the fifth player in NBA postseason history to score at least
 5,000 points. It was also his 100th career playoff game with 20 points and 10
 rebounds.
 
 The game was tied at 101-101 with less than two minutes to play in OT when
 Duncan hit an off-balance runner over the NBA's leading shot blocker, DeAndre
 Jordan. Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard put in layups on the next two trips to
 make it 107-101.
 
 The Clippers wouldn't go down without a fight. Chris Paul hit a 3-pointer on
 their next trip and after Mills made it a five-point game with a pair of free
 throws, J.J. Redick potted a 3 to make it 109-107.
 
 Mills, who forced overtime with two foul shots late in regulation, stepped up
 to the line once again and put the game away with two more. He finished with a
 playoff career-high 18 points off the bench, while Leonard, the NBA's
 Defensive Player of the Year, tallied 23 points and nine boards for the
 reigning champs. Boris Diaw gave 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
 
 Blake Griffin posted a triple-double in the loss with 29 points, 12 rebounds
 and 11 assists. Paul scored 21 points and Jordan tallied 20 points and 15
 boards. Redick chipped in 16.
 
 "We made a lot of mistakes," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "I don't know if
 we played our best game tonight, I think that was pretty obvious, yet we still
 had a chance."
 
 The Spurs avoided going down 0-2 in a first-round series for the first time
 since 1999.
 
 Tony Parker injured his right Achilles in the fourth quarter and did not
 return. He finished 0-for-6 from the field and is questionable for Friday
 night.
 
 Late in the fourth quarter, with the Spurs ahead, they employed the strategy
 of fouling Jordan, one of the league's worst free-throw shooters. He finished
 the stanza 6-for-17 from the stripe but went 3-for-6 late to pull the Clippers
 close.
 
 Another issue to watch in this series has been the play of the benches. In
 Game 2, four San Antonio reserves played about 19 minutes each, while four
 Clippers starters logged 43-plus minutes.
 
 The teams split two meetings this season in San Antonio.
 
 Game 4 will be Sunday afternoon.
 
 
 04/24 10:17:37 ET

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