NBA Playoffs 2013: Most Intriguing Storylines to Watch on Day 5

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIApril 24, 2013

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 21:  Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 21, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Wednesday night's NBA action features three teams making their second attempt to steal the home-court advantage in the 2013 playoffs.

The Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers failed to pull off road wins in their series openers. They will have one more shot tonight to turn the tables on their opponents.

Here is a look at the NBA playoff schedule for Wednesday:

  • Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder—7 p.m ET on TNT
  • Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers—7:30 p.m ET on NBATV
  • LA Lakers at San Antonio Spurs—9:30 p.m ET on TNT

There are always stories and subplots within each series in the postseason, and these three matchups are no different. Here are the most intriguing storylines associated with Wednesday night's games.


Sweeps in Progress?

OKC Sweep Is Inevitable

The Thunder have too much firepower for the defensively challenged Rockets, and they also have the ability to buckle down on defense.

Both points were proven in Game 1, when they blasted the Rockets 120-91. The Thunder held the Rockets to just 36 percent shooting from field, while they were in a zone, nailing 53.6 percent of their shots.

This is the biggest mismatch of any series in the first round. The Thunder will roll again.


Atlanta's Last Chance to Make This a Series

I picked the Pacers to sweep this series, but it was with the least confidence of the three sweeps I predicted for the first round.

After watching the Pacers beat up the Hawks 107-90 in Game 1, I felt better about my prediction. If the Pacers win Game 2 convincingly, the Hawks will mentally submit and just go through the motions at home.

This team knows it can't go far into this postseason. A Game 2 loss would break them.


Players Who Must Step Up

Steve Nash

The Lakers defended and rebounded well enough to beat the Spurs in Game 1, but they didn't get the outside shooting they needed.

Nash is coming off injury, and he's never been a great defender, but he has to shoot better than the 6-of-15 he shot from the field in Game 1. 

Without the Lakers' guards and perimeter players making shots, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol won't get the space they need to effectively run the high-low post game.

Nash is possibly the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA. He needs to show it on Wednesday night.


Josh Smith

The Hawks need a leader. They need someone to make a statement that the team won't be bullied or outworked. In Game 1, the Pacers out-rebounded the Hawks 48-32.

Smith had a decent game with 15 points and eight rebounds, but Atlanta needs more. He is the team's most talented player and the man most capable of igniting his teammates.

If the Hawks are going to believe they can stem the tide in this series, the revival needs to start with Smith.


James Harden

Harden got the big bucks he wanted from the Rockets during the offseason; now it's time to prove he was worth it.

He averaged 25.9 points per game during the regular season, but superstars prove their worth in the playoffs. In Game 1, he was just 6-of-19 from the floor for 20 points.

Even if Harden averages 35 points per game the rest of the way, the Rockets won't win this series. But for the sake of assuring the team it has the type of star it can build around, he needs to play big in the games remaining.


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