More NBA playoffs, with game 5’s, as one series could be over by the end of it as the Portland Trail Blazers try to finish off the Houston Rockets, while things are a bit more even in the tied series between the visiting Dallas Mavericks and the hosting San Antonio Spurs, while things are similar North of there as the Toronto Raptors try and get their first lead over the Brooklyn Nets.
In terms of basketball, the Mavs vs Spurs series might be the best we’ve seen in this postseason. The Spurs got the defensive stops they wanted in game 4 and probably realized they can’t give up on Manu Ginobili, who has been involved in everything important for them so far. They keys were Boris Diaw stopping Dirk Nowitzki and Kawhi Leonard doing the same to Monta Ellis, and they’ll need that kind of defense efficiency to take the lead back.
The Mavs have been doing a great job of stopping the Spurs hitting 3-pointers: They’re shooting only 33.3% from beyond the arc in comparison to just below 40% during the regular season. For a team attempting around 20 shots from long range in each game, that’s a significant point-swing they haven’t been always able to make up for. A big problem for the Mavs will be DeJuan Blair, who was excellent in game 4, until he kicked Tiago Splitter in the head, resulting in a one-game suspension.
The Houston Rockets have star power and talent, but seem to be struggling in realizing what to do with it. The real effective players have been those making less money: Troy Daniels coming out of nowhere, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones. But James Harden has been horrendous, Dwight Howard seems to be frustrated defensively, Omer Asik has been up and down on both ends of the floor and Jeremy Lin has been used in all the wrong ways.
The Rockets won’t change all of a sudden, probably. It’ll be up to Harden to make shots, and hopefully put in some effort on defense. The Blazers are getting solid production from Mo Williams off the bench, but this team is about their starters and specifically four players who can all end up scoring 20 points or more: LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. The Rockets need to find an answer to that.
In Toronto, the Raptors need to take charge of the series. They’ve come back from behind twice, and this is their moment to change things up. The Nets are usually better after a good long rest which they’ve had, but just like the Raptors, their up and down ways need to stop, because the two teams have been too close so far, which means it’ll come down to one play here or there instead of playing better overall.
For the Raptors, it’ll be about playing quickly, getting to the rim instead of taking bad jump shots while getting some big defensive moments from Amir Johnson. As always, Jonas Valanciunas getting hot early is important. The Nets will go to the same three players: Williams, Johnson and Pierce, hoping that they make or break this game in their favor, without getting too caught up in trying to win it by themselves, which happened in game 4.