May 9 will be another important date in the 2012 NBA playoffs. They are two incredibly pivotal Game 5's set for Wednesday night, and these matchups will define their respective first-round series.
By Thursday morning, a heavy favorite could advance, and an exciting sleeper pick could be out of the running. In that regard, a team plagued by injuries could live to see another day, and the Association's best series could just get better.
NBA fans are lucky to have a double dose of crucial games on tap for tonight.
Here are previews and predictions for both games.
New York Knicks at Miami Heat
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Series: Heat lead 3-1.
Preview: Do not let one game fool you. While it's easy to get caught up in the jubilant spirit of New York, it's just as easy to remember that these are the Knicks we are talking about.
I might get called a “Heat enthusiast” or a “Knicks hater” in the comment section, but I am neither. I would like New York to win another game and keep this matchup rumbling, but it won’t happen.
The Heat are calm, cool and collected in Miami and will quickly destroy any notion of a Carmelo Anthony-led upset.
James and company have beat the Knicks by an average of 21.5 points in Miami. They are the best squad on the court and work like a well-oiled machine.
The Knicks have been criticized for being just parts and not a whole. If they are going to win, they will need Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to be working together and giving gutsy performances.
New York won on Sunday partially because the Heat had an off day, Anthony and Stoudemire played extremely well, and they had the home crowd on their feet.
If they're going to take another game, they can’t count on an off day from Miami. Again, that isn’t going to happen. Chandler only had a single point in Game 4. That's unacceptable. Yes, his defense was amazing, but there needs to be some offensive prowess in Chandler’s game.
James is averaging 5.3 assists and 27.5 points per game in this series and is showing no signs of slowing down in South Beach. But a MVP-like force is not the only thing standing in the way for New York.
So is history.
There are 101 teams to lose the first three games in a best-of-seven NBA series. None of them prevailed.
New York was deep enough to fight through injuries and win a game, but they won’t be able to get through the Big Three.
Prediction: Anthony and company will keep the game in grasp early on. Heading into halftime, they will be only down by six points.
But in the third quarter, the Heat turn on the jets, and the game slowly begins to slip away. The fourth quarter seals the victory and Miami advances.
Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Series: Clippers lead 3-1.
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 5 will not disappoint.
These two teams are so evenly matched that picking either the Grizzlies or the Clippers is completely justifiable. Whereas the Heat and Knicks are two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum, the Grizzlies and Clippers are very comparable squads.
But I have to go with Memphis here. They are on their home court at FedEx Forum and will not let huge playoff dreams end like this.
The games in this series have been decided by an average of 3.25 points, and the Grizzlies have lost their three games by a combined six points. If a few more shots had dropped in favor of Memphis, this would be an entirely different series.
That's how close these two teams are.
The Grizzlies have been unlucky, but they do have problems of their own.
Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are the two biggest stars for Memphis, but have very little chemistry. 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 live to see another day, Randolph and Gay need to be on the same page. The duo has looked better in the playoffs, and if both continue to do their jobs, a win isn’t far away.
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.
Mike Conley has been fantastic as he as averaged a team-high 7.5 assists in this matchup, as well as producing 17.5 points per game against the super-clutch Chris Paul.
Only eight NBA teams have rallied to win a series trailing 3-1, but if any team can push that number to nine, it’s the hungry Memphis Grizzlies.
Prediction: Memphis comes out strong and angry to take an early lead. Blake Griffin and the Clip Show slowly claw back, and the match is even going into the locker rooms.
The Grizzlies begin to take a lead in the third quarter, and Paul almost leads a comeback in the fourth. But it's too little, too late. The home crowd rejoices, and this series is sent back to LA.
Thanks for reading and please comment with your opinions and predictions below!