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Lengthy Time Between Games 2 and 3 Benefiting Pacers, Thunder

Thanks to extra days off between games, injured Paul George and Serge Ibaka could suit up for Game 3 for the Pacers and Thunder.

Paul George
Paul George

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Four days separate Games 2 and 3 of both the Eastern and Western Conference finals, and if there was ever a debate as to whether that span of time was too long, I’d bet the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs would argue yes.

Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George was diagnosed with a concussion following his team’s Game 2 loss Tuesday night, giving him four days to rest and pass the NBA-mandated protocol. With a lengthy gap between Games 2 and 3, George is expected to suit up Saturday night, which most likely would not be the case if Game 3 was scheduled for Thursday, possibly even Friday.

It’s a similar sort of tune for Serge Ibaka, who was once declared out for the entirety of the Oklahoma City Thunder-Spurs series. Ibaka is dealing with a lower-leg injury, and his absence allowed San Antonio to exploit the Thunder’s frontcourt for 66 points in Game 1. But because of the time between Wednesday’s Game 2 and Sunday’s Game 3, there is a chance Ibaka could make his way back into the lineup.

The NBA playoffs reverted back to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for this year, as opposed to the 2-3-2 format of years past. And while in terms of giving the higher seed a better home-court advantage it’s the right move, there is no basis for giving the team so many days off between travel days.

The unanimous vote to approve the 2-2-1-1-1 format came Wednesday during Stern’s final preseason meeting with his board of governors. Owners also voted to add an extra day between Games 6 and 7.

The league’s competition committee had recommended the change last month back to 2-2-1-1-1, which was used in all but one finals from 1957 to 1984.

Sure, traveling takes a toll on us and probably more so for players, but isn’t four days a bit over the edge? In the Pacers-Heat series, the teams can theoretically get into their planes as early as Tuesday night or even bright and early Wednesday morning. That gives them Thursday for a shootaround and ample enough rest to suit for Game 3 on Friday.

On paper, if either one of the series should go a full seven games, the conference finals could span two weeks. That includes seven games and nine rest days. How does that make any sense?

In the whole scheme things, the finals are just dragged out too long. The length, in this year’s case, benefits both the Pacers and Thunder, who have key players missing due to injury and can take advantage of that extra time between games to heal and return to the court.

Of course, the tables would be turned if San Antonio or Miami were without some of their important cogs because of injury, too.

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