Two series down, two more to go. The Oklahoma City Thunder can make the Western conference finals if they close out the series against the Los Angeles Clippers in game 6, and the same goes for the Indiana Pacers in their series with the Washington Wizards, although the momentum situation is completely different in that one.
The key for the Clippers as they try to stay alive in their excellent series with the Thunder is putting the frustration of being screwed over by the referees behind them. Clinging on to that sense of unfairness will only draw away the focus from actually playing basketball. When you’re the inferior team (slightly), avoiding mistakes is a must, especially against a Thunder team that doesn’t always seem like the smartest basketball group in the world, but they punish teams for mistakes better than anyone else.
Kevin Durant wants to rebound from an awful performance, but it’s not completely up to him. The Clippers have found lineups, especially the small-ball ones, that make it very difficult for Durant to score. Double teaming him in the right moments with Matt Barnes and Blake Griffin doing an excellent job led to three and a half quarters of misery for the league’s MVP before finally coming through for his team in the final four minutes.
Russell Westbrook had a huge night and the Thunder need the same kind of relentlessness from him, although he brings intensity all the time. It’s the decision making and timing that were superb in the 105-104 win over the Clippers, while the exact opposite goes for Chris Paul who completely fell apart in that ending. Doc Rivers, if he’s done ranting about the referees, needs to somehow pick up his players from a very difficult spot.
The Pacers have the lead and no problem winning on the road in this postseason. But it’s impossible to tell which team will show up against the Wizards in game 6 following the humiliating 102-79 loss. It’s never about adjustments with these Pacers, or at least not in these playoffs. It’s always about what kind of motivation they’ll have stepping on the floor. Not just Roy Hibbert, but everyone, as losing by 39 rebounds and 23 points has more to do with a team giving up than one center under-performing.
The Wizards played at a very high pace and didn’t stop moving the ball. It creates open shots, it generates steals and easy points, and eventually, the open shots started dropping for them courtesy of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Marcin Gortat isn’t going to be huge every night, but Nene isn’t going to be that bad every night either. The key is with how Wall manages to handle a probably improved defense, and if the defense can once again make this into a track meet.