A busy ending to the weekend with four game 4’s in action, with all of them teams leading 2-1 trying to take a step closer to finishing the series: The Los Angeles Clippers hosted by the Golden State Warriors, the Portland Trail Blazers hosting the Houston Rockets, the Washington Wizards entertaining the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets at home to the Toronto Raptors.
The Clippers right now are in the eye of the storm, but for nothing the players did. Donald Sterling has taken the attention of everyone, not just in basketball, while Doc Rivers and the players prefer focusing on their advantages against a Warriors team that they have close to on the ropes. Trying to make this about bigs is taking a lot out of the Warriors, who are still without Andrew Bogut and probably will be for the rest of what remains of the postseason.
The Warriors have three players that make or break their games: Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. They are the guys who can play bigger than they are and create mismatch problems for the Clippers, who have learned from their offensive mistakes after the opening game. As long as Blake Griffin stays out of foul trouble, it’s very hard for the Warriors to be consistent defensively, but they should stop focusing on trying to rattle his cage and simply play basketball, or whatever it is Mark Jackson believes in.
The high scoring series in Portland continues with the Blazers holding a 2-1 lead. All the games have been epic, with two overtimes, no defenses and plenty of points. LaMarcus Aldridge was finally halted in game 3 as Dwight Howard spent a lot of time on him while the Rockets once again played with the twin tower concept. Robin Lopez isn’t hard to handle for Asik, while Dwight making things difficult for Aldridge.
But it’s not only about the centers. James Harden has been horrific in his shooting and defense, but the ball remains in his hands, which makes the Rockets unpredictable and prone to mood swings. Damian Lillard needs more than just the help of Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews – the Blazers need someone from their bench to step up, although their defense has been doing a decent job compared to the expectations.
In Washington, the Wizards should be worried. Their big advantage through the first two games, Nene, has lost his head and is now suspended for one game by acting like a brawler on the streets rather than a well adjusted person. This means a much easier time for Joakim Noah, as the Bulls moved away from letting him run their offense after Washington did a good job of stopping that in the first two games.
This is John Wall’s time to step up. With no Nene, Washington won’t get something special from any big they have on the bench. However, their point guard is probably the best players in this series in terms of talent, and for them to overcome the big hole they have in the paint right now which should make life a lot easier for the methodical and patient Bulls they need Wall to have a special kind of playoff night for the first time in his career.
The “hatred” series in Brooklyn continues, as the Raptors are hoping that a short resting time helps them like it did in the second game. The Nets hold the lead and will once again try to feed off the energy the crowd and Kevin Garnett brings them, but mostly utilizing their size advantages with Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce, who need to stop their up & down habits and bring some consistency to the table.
The Raptors lost the previous game partially because of one bad moment on the free throw line from Patrick Patterson, but overall they need to stay away from the mismatches the Nets are forcing them into, while trying to speed up play and create more transition opportunities. Jonas Valanciunas needs to be more dominant than in game 3, and going to him early might set the tone for the rest of the game.