Friday is shaping up to be one of the most exciting basketball nights of the season.
You've got four Game 6s, all of which come in a five-hour span across ESPN and ESPN2. The 2013 NBA playoffs have already been captivating, and it's only the first round.
As Zach Lowe of Grantland noted, all the early drama makes you forget the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are sitting at home waiting to see whom their opponents will be.
Nuggets, Warriors, Knicks, Celtics all name-calling, meanwhile, you almost forget the Heat and Spurs are in the playoffs.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 2, 2013
There are three very good games on Friday night, and one that you can almost certainly forget about. Here are the times and channels for each of the four games, with a quick preview following.
New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Just when you think the Celtics are too old to advance in the postseason, they put on a performance like they did in Game 5. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated put it best:
Celtics to Knicks: Get off our lawn.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) May 2, 2013
It's humorous that Kenyon Martin didn't want to talk about wearing black and preparing for a funeral before that Game 5 loss (h/t Dan Devine of Ball Don't Lie). The stunt was either going to be entertaining, or it would blow up in the players' faces. In the end, it was kinda both.
With the game in Boston, it's hard to see the Celtics being eliminated. The crowd will almost will the team to victory, and guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett won't want to go out at home.
The Knicks need Carmelo Anthony to step up in a big way. When people question how good he truly is, they have the last two games in mind. In New York's two losses, Anthony has shot a combined 18-of-59 from the field, including 0-of-12 from behind the arc. He needs to be the killer in Game 6—or in Game 7 should it get there.
Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The less said about this series, the better. Not to offend Hawks and Pacers fans too much, but neither of these teams are a lot of fun to watch.
Zach Harper of CBSSports.com compares this to a not-so-entertaining Hawks series of the past:
This Pacers-Hawks series looks just like the Celtics-Hawks series from years ago. So that's fun. And by fun, I mean excruciating.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) May 2, 2013
During the regular season, Indiana only surrendered 90.7 points a game, second in the league. At the other end of the court, the Pacers were only scoring 94.7, 23rd in the NBA. Then you throw in Atlanta, which has had a definite ceiling in the postseason for the last five seasons. The organization should have blown up the team already and started anew.
The biggest problem with this series is that the games haven't even managed to be close. The Bulls-Nets series isn't a ton of fun to watch, but it's provided some captivating basketball. Here's the margin of victory in the five games between the Hawks and Pacers: 17 points in Game 1, 15 points in Game 2, 21 points in Game 3, 11 points in Game 4 and 23 points in Game 5.
With the Celtics-Knicks on at the same time, you at least know you can avoid this one for the most part.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This may be the most intriguing series of the first round. The James Harden vs. the Thunder storyline has lost a bit of its luster considering this will be the sixth game of the series. Now it's about the revitalization of the Rockets and whether Oklahoma City will be bounced in the first round.
The Thunder looked apathetic on Wednesday night. Their players, aside from Kevin Durant, weren't getting out on Houston's shooters. Harden and Francisco Garcia combined to make 12 three-pointers.
As Bill Simmons pointed out, that Harden trade hasn't been working out for the Thunder in the postseason:
James Harden outscored Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb 31-3.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 2, 2013
When OKC couldn't slow down the Rockets, Scott Brooks resorted to a hack-Asik strategy. It proved ill-fated as Omer Asik made 13 of his 18 free throws.
With the series turning back to Houston, the Rockets have all the momentum. The Thunder looked shell-shocked at the conclusion of Game 5.
If Oklahoma City's bench doesn't help out Durant more, this one will be going to Game 7. Kevin Martin—the main scorer involved in the Harden trade—has been the biggest underachiever, only shooting 17-of-56 for the series.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
What has happened to the Clippers? Los Angeles was one of the best teams during the regular season, but it's fallen off in a big way. In the Game 5 loss against the Grizzlies, Chris Paul went for 35 points, followed by Jamal Crawford's 15 points. The next leading scorer was Eric Bledsoe with seven points.
It's one thing to get contributions from a lot of different players, but the Clippers need somebody to help out Paul.
Memphis, on the other hand, is riding high. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are killing L.A. inside. There's a reason Gasol won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He's done a great job of nullifying Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
On the other end, Randolph has been the in the same imperious form he was when the Grizzlies beat the Spurs in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. In Memphis' three wins, he's averaged 25.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.
With this game in Memphis, don't be surprised to see this one end in six games.