The series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets, tied at 2-2, is wide open and completely unpredictable. Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies will try to conclude their business with the Portland Trail Blazers, heading back home with a 3-1 lead.
From a complete mismatch, the Nets-Hawks series has turned into the most exciting thing we have in this postseason East of the Spurs-Clippers. Something has changed, and the Nets are playing “Spurs” kind of basketball, something the Hawks were famous for during this season and suddenly everything has slowed down for them, making their ability to space the floor and stretch a defense slightly less effective.
Going back home, where the Hawks have won 24 of 27, is certainly something to rely on. All the games in this series have been close. Deron Williams seemed to be a non-factor until his explosion in game 4. Maybe it’s time for the Hawks to stop focusing on slowing down Brook Lopez. He’s going to get his points either way, but just him beating Al Horford isn’t going to win the series for the Nets.
For Brooklyn, it’ll be about keeping the pace of 180-190 points per game. They execute the half court offense better, and avoiding the sprinting battles of trying to keep up in transition offense. The Hawks can still win slower games that involve a different kind of direction from Jeff Teague, but it takes away their greatest advantage, although there’s also the experience factor which falls into the way this series has changed.
The Portland Trail Blazers are hoping that they’ve managed to change the series as well. One win at home before going on the road usually is meaningless, but maybe the injury to Mike Conley. He’s out for game 5 as well, and the Grizzlies won’t know more before the swelling around his eye to go down. That’s a great relief for Damian Lillard.
The Blazers haven’t been playing differently despite how things didn’t work out for them through the first three games. They’ve just gotten Arron Afflalo back (although he hasn’t been contributing much), getting more from C.J. McCollum and even Meyers Leonard but the key has been Lillard suddenly not having to deal with an elite defender like Conley, instead guarded by Udrih and Calathes.
And Lillard, especially while Aldridge is missing from every spot and bricking the place, is a player who can win games on his own. Game 4 got him going with 32 points in game 4, including 12 in the final quarter. That’s hot enough to try and take over the series, and although the Grizzlies have been dominant for the past three years against Portland home & away, this Conley injury is a very big game changer, especially in what it does to one of the best defenses in the league.