NBA Playoff Schedule 2012: Complete Guide to Tuesday's Game 5 Action
The 2012 NBA playoffs have already seen two teams progress through to the second round and Tuesday could see four more teams wrap up their series.
With the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers all leading their series 3-1, Tuesday shapes up as one of those make-it-or-break-it kind of days in the Association.
After being virtually flawless with my predictions yesterday, right down to the exact winning margin, this is the place you want to be for your complete guide to all the action.
So with four series on the line, let's take a deeper dive.
Orlando Magic @ Indiana Pacers
7 p.m. ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
As mentioned above, the Pacers currently lead the series 3-1 and will be looking to close things out when they take on the Orlando Magic at home. The Pacers dropped the opener, but have won all three since then.
With no Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic have been only a shadow of their former selves. The Magic are shooting at less than 40 percent for the series, and if they want to stay alive in the postseason, they have to do better against an ever-improving Indiana defense. They need to stop shooting from deep and readjust their focus back into the paint.
Glen Davis—playing for the injured Howard—is currently leading the team in points, rebounds and steals, but is simply not gaining enough traction against the Pacers big men. Orlando must work the ball inside and rebound better if it's to win this one.
For the Pacers, the key to victory is winning the rebounding battle—particularly on the offensive end. Roy Hibbert has been outstanding all series for the Pacers, grabbing a combined 18 offensive boards so far. And with the reemerging dominance of David West, Hibbert has had plenty of help in the interior.
The Pacers know that they almost threw away Game 3 and will be desperate to prevent that from happening again. At home, I expect their defense to be more focused, especially in the paint. As a result, they will secure their spot in the next round of the playoffs.
Indiana Pacers by 10 points.
Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks
8 p.m. ET at Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
In a dramatic opening round featuring injuries, ejections and overtime wins, the Boston Celtics have a chance to close out their series on the road in Atlanta.
Boston's Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are showing that they are still competitive. But for the C's, their playoff chances begin and end with Rajon Rondo. In just three matches—due to his suspension from Game 2—Rondo has notched up 57 points, 21 rebounds and an incredible 39 assists, as well as 11 steals.
Atlanta must find a way to restrict the star point guard in Game 5. In addition to limiting Rondo on defense, the Hawks offense needs a big night from Joe Johnson, who must step up with the series on the line. The perennial All-Star took just nine shots in the team's last loss.
I think Atlanta will tend to shoot more from the outside in this one—particularly early—because they won't want to get into another physical, grueling battle with the Celtics. They will try to keep the game fast-paced and take quick shots. If they do these things well, they could stretch this series to a Game 6 or 7.
However, I just can't see it happening. Boston is a complete basketball team, with the ability to hurt teams on offense and defense and will look to wrap up the series as quickly as possible. An aging roster will benefit greatly from the extra few days rest. The veterans will make sure the Celtics get over the line in this one.
The Celtics are a genuine threat in the Eastern Conference—especially with the decline of the Chicago Bulls.
Boston Celtics by six points.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Chicago Bulls
9:30 p.m. ET at United Center, Chicago, Illinois
If you would have said before the series that the Chicago Bulls would be down 3-1 heading back home to fight for their playoff lives, you would have been called crazy. But with injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and some strong play from Philly, here we are.
The situation couldn't be any clearer from the Eastern Conference's top seed: win or go home.
Losing Rose and Noah is a huge loss for the hosts, who must somehow find enough offense without their two best players. That responsibility will fall to Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, with all parties needing to light up the scoreboard for Chicago if they want to win.
The Bulls need to return to the disciplined offense and tight defense that led them to the East's top spot. Chicago must continue to work inside—even without Noah—and work hard at restricting the Sixers' second-chance points.
For Philadelphia, their go-to guy will likely be Jrue Holiday, who leads the team in points and assists throughout the playoffs. He's taken more shots than any other player, and will no doubt take on his fair share of shooting responsibilities in this one.
Without Rose and Noah, the Bulls shouldn't win. They looked completely out of sync in their most recent loss. However, the Bulls will find some magic in the United Center to extend this series to a Game 6.
Statistically speaking, they have largely outperformed the Sixers, and there comes a point when those numbers equate to results in the win-loss column.
I say Chicago takes this one fairly comfortably. It's all over by the end of the third quarter.
Chicago Bulls by nine points.
Denver Nuggets @ Los Angeles Lakers
10:30 p.m. ET at Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
The Denver Nuggets have no doubt pushed the Los Angeles Lakers more than most expected, but with a 3-1 lead heading into a home game, you would have to fancy Kobe Bryant and company's chances at pushing through to the next round of the playoffs.
Kobe's 113 points in the series easily leads all scorers on both teams. With great support from Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions, Bryant has put the Lakers in prime position to close out the series. He has commanded the ball and attempted twice as many shots as any other player on the Lakers, but then again, this is the playoffs—the Mamba's time to shine.
For the Nuggets, their shot at success lies in their ability to force the Lakers into shooting from the outside because the Lakers have shot just 19-for-74 from deep so far. If Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee can step up on the defensive end and negate the offensive rebounding skills of Bynum and Jordan Hill, then Denver may well stretch this series to a sixth game.
If not, we might as well pencil in the Los Angeles Lakers for the series win. And frankly, they don't look like they will be tested in this one.
I know the Nuggets have been competitive—perhaps more than they have been given credit for—but with the series on the line, they simply won't be able to match the Lakers in this one. Kobe Bryant will go off for his biggest night of the playoffs and send a message that his team is definitely a contender this year.
Los Angeles Lakers by 18 points.
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