The madness of the NBA playoffs and the first round continue with another round of game 6, as the Houston Rockets try and stay alive at the Portland Trail Blazers, while the Dallas Mavericks hosting the San Antonio Spurs and the Brooklyn Nets doing the same to the Toronto Raptors have home court as support in their backs against the wall effort.
The highest scoring series of the playoffs heads back to Portland, as the Rockets possibly figure out a way to slow down the Blazers. It has something to do with staying on LaMarcus Aldridge with multiple and changing defenders for most of the game and keeping Dwight Howard on him in the fourth quarter, when things slow down. They limited Aldridge to 8 points in game 5, and although the Blazers have other weapons on offense, it was the one causing the most concern to the Rockets.
On offense, they have also been shown the way: Make it more about Jeremy Lin and sharing the ball than the one-man show of James Harden. It has been proven in the past, but Houston love falling into the same honey trap again and again. In Portland, their basketball isn’t going to change, but their defense of keeping Howard away from the post and trying to keep it about tough outside shots instead of punching holes through the middle is their main objective.
In Dallas, it’s time to worry a little bit. The Spurs found, for the first time in the series, a way to make their outside shooting work (hitting 50% of their attempts). Players moved off screens and on cuts towards the basket a lot better than in the previous games, resulting in the 109-103 win and a big game for Tony Parker after some struggles while guarded by Shawn Marion previously. Manu Ginobili remains the team’s best player in the postseason.
The Mavericks need to tighten back on defense or at least figuring out a way to keep up with all the moving parts on the Spurs offense, but also make their offense about the team, which means involving Jose Calderon and Shawn Marion more, or at least setting them up with easier shots. If it’ll be another night of Nowitzki, Ellis and Carter doing their thing without making at least an attempt of spreading the ball, it will get quite easy for the Spurs.
Somehow, the Raptors – Nets turned into a battle between crowds. The funny thing is that the Nets have been insulting their own fans about the noise level and passion they’ve been generating when compared with the raucous Raptors crowd. Kevin Garnett, who can’t do anything on the court so he simply talks to make up for it, will probably try and play the party starter role better than he does the big man role on the court.
For the Raptors things begin with Kyle Lowry and end with Jonas Valanciunas. A dominant game from the two of them makes them a better team than Brooklyn, who remain dependent on the individual whims of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce. Pierce had an awful performance in game 5, and it might be up to him to save the Nets’ season, as another slumbering performance from him will mean the end of the season and probably the chances for this current group to do anything meaningful.