May 7 will be an important date in the 2012 NBA playoffs. There are two pivotal Game 4's set for Monday night, and these matchups will define their respective first-round series.
Game 4 has historically been one of the more important games in a seven-game set, and tonight will be no different. By Tuesday morning, an underdog could be out of the running, and an exciting sleeper pick could be staring at a 3-1 deficit.
NBA fans are lucky to have a double dose of crucial games on tap for tonight.
Here are previews and predictions for both games.
San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz
Time: 8:00 PM ET
Series: Spurs lead 3-0
Preview: Before the NBA playoffs even started, I stated that this series will be one of the most disappointing first-round matchups in the Association.
I wrote,"The real Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will crush Utah. It won’t even be close.”
So far, I’ve been right.
San Antonio has come out and played like the best team in the league, while the Jazz have looked like a team that barley squeaked into the postseason.
At the end of the day, the Spurs have higher hopes than a second-round series, and they should dismantle Utah with ease.
It was an accomplishment for Al Jefferson and company just to get into the playoffs, and no one really expected to them to be competitive.
Utah is a young team and will be better in future years, but San Antonio is the best team in the NBA and, unlike last season, is peaking at the right time.
The Jazz have lost the first three games by 58 points combined, with Tony Parker exploding for 24.3 points per game.
This game might be closer than the others just because of the determination of Paul Millsap and his team to not got swept.
Regardless of whether the series is extended, this was a mismatch from the start. The veteran presence of Tim Duncan and company is way too much for the inexperienced Jazz to even begin to handle.
I would like to see this young team get a playoff victory under its belt, but this is a Spurs squad that is far too dominant to let that happen.
Prediction: The first half is close and San Antonio takes a six-point lead into the locker room. The Spurs start pulling away halfway through the third quarter, and the Jazz shut down emotionally.
The home crowd gets Utah back in the game, but it is too little too late, and Gregg Popovich’s team wins by 14 to shut the door on the series.
Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers
Time: 10:30 PM ET
Series: Clippers lead 2-1
Preview: What a series! This matchup has routinely provided close game after close game, and has made for the best first-round entertainment in the NBA.
Game 4 will not disappoint.
The Clippers have always proved their adequacy late in the game, but this time the home team will be able to show their worth for four full quarters.
These two teams are so evenly matched that picking either the Grizzlies or the Clippers completely justifiable. Whereas the Spurs and Jazz are two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum, Memphis and Los Angeles are very comparable squads.
The Clippers will feed off the home crowd at Staples Center, and that momentum will not only make the fourth-quarter team more consistent throughout, it will make them even better when it counts.
That being said, L.A. needs to work on free throws in order to move on. The Clippers were only 13-of-30 from the charity stripe in Game 3.
You can’t consistently win games when you leave that many points on the line.
You also can’t win games when your two biggest stars have no chemistry to speak of. That is the problem that the Grizzlies face with Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay.
Both these players are top-notch scoring athletes, but the team thrives when one of them is on the bench.
In order for Memphis to pull out a win in Los Angeles, Randolph and Gay need to be on the same page.
Randolph in particular will have his work cut out for him when he matches up against fan favorite Blake Griffin. In addition, the Grizzlies will need Marc Gasol to put up points, grab rebounds, block shots and limit DeAndre Jordan.
Honestly, I can see this series going either way and it will be exciting to watch it all play out.
Prediction: The first half is even but the Grizzlies take a lead in the third quarter. Aided by the cheering home crowd, Chris Paul and company claw back in the fourth.
The Clippers go back to Memphis with a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Thanks for reading and please comment with your opinions and predictions below!