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Winning teams and losing teams all have concerns

Golden State dropped Game 3 in Houston, but is expecting Steph Curry back for Game 4. But what are everyone else's concerns? Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The first round of the NBA playoffs have been defined by a historically large number of blowouts -- and Steph Curry's injury.

Two teams -- the Spurs and Cavaliers -- are one win away from sweeping their opponents. Why should they worry? If you're wired like Gregg Popovich, you'll come up with some reasons.

With four games Saturday and four more Sunday, every team gets at least one more shot at improving their lot.

We asked our 16 writers to answer: What's the one thing each playoff team is worried about right now?

WESTERN CONFERENCE


Golden State Warriors
(No. 1 seed)

Stephen Curry, Stephen Curry, Stephen Curry. Of course, the Warriors are putting on a good front about how everyone else is making a big deal of this, as though it's totally normal for the MVP to just start missing playoff games. The encouraging news is that Curry's participation in practice is ramping up. Until he returns to game action, though, and looks like himself, the concern level is relatively high. -- Ethan Sherwood Strauss

Houston Rockets
(No. 8 seed)

Playing a complete game against a heavy favorite that is expected to have Steph Curry back for Game 4 on Sunday. If the Rockets want to truly threaten the Warriors in this series, they need to have a good start and sustain it.

"I think we're all committed," center Dwight Howard said. "We have to do it on a consistent basis and do it for the whole game -- that's the only way you can beat a team like this. As you can see, they don't stop playing; no matter who is out there, they continue to play throughout the game." -- Calvin Watkins


San Antonio Spurs
(No. 2 seed)

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he'd prefer to play a full-strength Memphis Grizzlies team because he's concerned his team might let up some, given the fact they've cruised thus far in the opening round.

"Absolutely, it's always scary when somebody else [has to] step up, you always worry about your team thinking the job might be a little bit easier; just subconsciously," Popovich said. "Everybody says the right things, but subconsciously, I think people don't have the same focus when a team is in a hole. So far, we've been able to do that. Let's see if we can keep it up." -- Michael Wright

Memphis Grizzlies
(No. 7 seed)

Down 3-0, the Grizzlies have plenty to worry about, but after a season of battling injuries, they can focus their concerns on the here and now. That means recovering from an emotional loss on Friday and getting ready to play the early game on Sunday, just 36 hours later.

To delay that seeming inevitability, what is their biggest concern for Sunday? "Energy," a weary Zach Randolph said after Game 3. "It's an early game. We'll be ready, because we know [the Spurs] are going to be ready." -- Bradford Doolittle


Oklahoma City Thunder
(No. 3 seed)

The Thunder claim utmost confidence in their crunch-time ability, blessed with two superstar clutch players and all. But their performance in tight games leaves plenty of worry. During the regular season, they lost more games when leading after three quarters (15) than any other team. And OKC is the only playoff team that was a minus this season in clutch-time situations (minus-22 in 171 minutes).

The two wins over the Mavs have been dominant, but the one close game? The Thunder shrunk on the offensive end and lapsed defensively. They'll probably get past the Mavs winning big, but what happens when the games are tight against the Spurs? -- Royce Young

Dallas Mavericks
(No. 6 seed)

Dallas only trails 2-1 in the series, but the 66-point differential is proof that there is a rather alarming talent disparity between the teams. "Look, their talent is a significant problem," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We know that. The way you mitigate it is to be really tied together and play extremely hard." -- Tim MacMahon


Los Angeles Clippers
(No. 4 seed)

Complacency is the biggest issue for the Clippers as they hold a 2-0 series lead against the Blazers. They've been here before. They were up 2-0 on the Memphis Grizzlies before losing four straight in 2013 and were up 3-1 on the Houston Rockets last season following back-to-back blowout wins before losing three straight.

"You can't underestimate a team or think you're already done with the series before you are," forward Blake Griffin said. "Just look at what happened last year, [up] 3-1, [now up] 2-0 -- it's pretty much the same thing. I think that's in our minds, and I think the way we practiced yesterday will be big for setting the tone for Game 3 and 4." -- Arash Markazi

Portland Trail Blazers
(No. 5 seed)

Portland is the youngest team in the postseason, and in losing by a combined 41 points over two games in Los Angeles, the Trail Blazers see that youth has its liabilities in the playoffs.

"People always give the more experienced team the edge because you don't get that experience until you get that experience," starting forward Al-Farouq Aminu said on Friday. "It's one of those things you can't teach. You just have to go through it ... It's a different game. The refs are allowing us to be a little more physical, and things like that. It's the game within the game that you also have to remember to do as well.

"The experienced team knows how to do it from the get-go, you know what I mean? We're learning to do it, but we have to learn not to get down on ourselves and learn and respond, just take it as a learning lesson that it's a series and not just one game." -- Kevin Arnovitz

Eastern Conference


Cleveland Cavaliers
(No. 1 seed)

"Worried" isn't a word LeBron James likes to throw around. The Pistons' Andre Drummond tried to take his head off with an elbow to the neck in Game 3, and all James had to say about it was: "Our front office and the guys there, they'll handle that. I'm up here, I'm talking, I feel great and I'll be in a uniform on Sunday."

James does have his wishes, however. And seeing the Cavs nearly blow a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter in Detroit on Friday is keeping James on his toes despite a 3-0 series lead.

"It's a team that's not going to quit," James said of the Pistons. "A Stan Van Gundy team never quits, and they got some guys with high character and are determined to try to get a win on their home floor, so now that's my focus right now. How we can be better." -- Dave McMenamin

Detroit Pistons
(No. 8 seed)

The Pistons don't want to get swept. This is a prideful and tough team that believes in itself and the culture it has created this season. The Pistons have to be worried about Andre Drummond's confidence in potentially the final game of this series. He has been rendered a non-factor late in these games because of his inability to make free throws consistently.

"Here's what it comes down to: We're all men," Stanley Johnson said. "I know I don't want to get swept by anybody. I think it's very disrespectful. So for us it's how much pride we have. If anybody out there thinks we're going to lay down just 'cause we're down 3-0, they need to think something else. We're going to come out and compete our ass off and just let it fly. We owe that to everybody." -- Nick Friedell


Toronto Raptors
(No. 2 seed)

That the Raptors keep their foot on the gas pedal and continue to bring the same intensity -- especially on the defensive end. "It's super difficult to [close out a series] because teams with their backs against the wall come out extra aggressive, extra hungry," Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry said. "We know how hard they are going to come out and play, and we have to match that intensity." -- Mike Mazzeo

Indiana Pacers
(No. 7 seed)

The consensus is the same with the Pacers: Lack of hustle. The Raptors continue to win the "50-50" balls against the Pacers. The Raptors have dominated the paint in the series. They've outrebounded the Pacers by 33 in the series and outscored them by 24 points in the paint in the past two games. Pacers forward Paul George said that's "probably the most difficult part to grasp considering what's at stake right now." -- Mike Wells


Miami Heat
(No. 3 seed)

For the Heat, there's pressure amid prosperity. On the surface, there shouldn't be much to worry about for a team that opened the playoffs in record-setting fashion on offense to score a combined 238 points in two blowout victories entering Saturday's Game 3 against Charlotte.

Yet, Heat star Dwyane Wade remains skeptical and on edge. Why?

"Because however you break it down, we haven't done anything yet that we weren't really supposed to do," Wade said. "For two games at home, we've played about as perfect as we could play. But this is a new team when it comes to going through the playoffs. We haven't done this before. I don't want us to think this is how it's always going to be." -- Michael Wallace

Charlotte Hornets
(No. 6 seed)

The Hornets' biggest concern is deciding how to replace versatile swingman Nicolas Batum, who missed the regular-season finale with a left ankle sprain and will miss at least Game 3 in Charlotte with a left foot strain. Batum keys the four-out starting unit that led the team to a 15-win turnaround.

Will Charlotte go smaller, with shooting guard Courtney Lee at small forward? Or turn back the clock and go bigger, with stretch-4 Marvin Williams moving up to the 3? "NBA players are used to it because you have to play so many games with a guy out," coach Steve Clifford said. "You play to the strengths of the guys that you have." -- Justin Verrier


Atlanta Hawks
(No. 4 seed)

Atlanta has some concern that Boston has found life, especially Isaiah Thomas, who had a career night in the Celtics' Game 3 win with some help from Marcus Smart and Evan Turner handling the ball more. Brad Stevens found some adjustments that work, such as starting Jonas Jerebko and Turner, too.

"[Thomas] had a little pep in his step," Hawks swingman Kent Bazemore said. "Coach Stevens is a great coach with X's and O's and he can get any of his players a shot. They had us spread out a lot tonight and they run a lot of secondary action that kind of occupies us off the ball, and by the time you turn around and look where the ball was, Isaiah Thomas was letting it go. Great adjustment on their behalf but we can be so much better."

-- Ohm Youngmisuk

Boston Celtics
(No. 5 seed)

Can the Celtics find a way to win if Isaiah Thomas doesn't have another monster scoring night? "We understand everybody is going to be locked in on Isaiah," said Marcus Smart. "We need other guys to step up and make plays."

Thomas had 42 points in Game 3, but Boston won in part because guys like Jonas Jerebko and Smart came up with big plays at both ends of the floor. With Jae Crowder struggling and Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk injured, can others besides Thomas shoulder the scoring load?

Said Thomas: "I feel like I gotta play at a high level for us to win. But other guys have to play at a high level for us to beat [the Hawks] because they're so well-rounded and talented." Thomas had only one assist on Friday. With more attention likely coming, he must continue to facilitate when the Hawks load up on him. -- Chris Forsberg