Two hard-nosed clubs seek to close out their high-profile opponents Thursday as the action-packed 2013 NBA playoffs continue.
With their balanced attack, the Indiana Pacers seek to finish off Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. Coach Mike Woodson's club is just trying to find a way to score more efficiently and live another day.
In the West, Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs visit Oracle Arena as the Golden State Warriors fight to extend the series to a seventh game.
Will Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith find their groove and resuscitate New York? On a similar note, can the Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson get back in the saddle?
Find out as I predict the fate of both games.
Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks
Ever since their 26-point win in Game 2, the Knickerbockers have looked more like a No. 8 seed than a No. 2 seed.
The Pacers dominated the paint in the next two contests, turning 'Melo and J.R. into one of the most inefficient duos in playoff history.
It took Anthony 23 shots to score 24 points in Game 4, and his sidekick Smith took 22 shots to score 19.
Paul George and Lance Stephenson are slowing them down to a screeching halt, and it's killing New York's ability to put points on the board. There simply isn't enough firepower from the Knicks' supporting cast to beat Indiana when Smith and Anthony are struggling..
The Pacers are owning New York on the boards, and Game 4 was a perfect example of their three-headed monster controlling the game: George had 14 rebounds, Roy Hibbert had 11 and David West had 10.
With their backs against the wall at home, the Knicks will surely put forth a better effort in Game 5, especially on the offensive end.
However, it might not matter if the Pacers can rule the paint and thwart 'Melo and Smith's attempts.
Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire will both play a bit better at home, along with the rest of the Knicks' second-tier players.
That being said, I don't envision Pablo Prigioni or Jason Kidd helping out much, because they don't match up well against the quicker, stronger Pacers backcourt. With teams like Indiana, defensive intensity rarely changes from game to game, which means it will be competitive, if not victorious, in Game 5.
The factor that will push the Pacers to clinch the series is the offensive output of West. He's due for a 17-to-23-point night like the one he enjoyed at MSG in Game 1.
This one will be higher scoring than the games in Indy, but the Knicks won't be any happier when the clock hits zeros.
Prediction: Pacers 97, Knicks 90
San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors
Neither team has won two games in a row in this series, and that's not going to change in Game 6.
After choking down the stretch in Game 4, the San Antonio Spurs completed the first true blowout of the series in Game 5.
It was a quintessential Gregg Popovich victory, as his crew unloaded 30 assists. Five players reached double figures and 11 players took part in the scoring party.
While Tony Parker was terrific (25 points, 10 assists), Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were on the other end of the spectrum. See Curry's 4-of-14 shot chart below (via NBA.com):
Back in Oracle, the Splash Brothers will be infinitely more productive, and that will help open things up inside for the likes of Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry. The combination of inside-outside production will be enough to keep the Dubs in the game late, which is all they can really ask for.
San Antonio will be hungry to finish off the Warriors, so superstars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will be their usually excellent selves.
Meanwhile, it's highly unlikely that Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will combine for 33 points as they did in Game 5, so that should serve as an equalizer.
If the Warriors can clean up their defensive act, including a better-coordinated effort against Parker, they can be even or ahead entering the fourth quarter.
And if it's close in the final minutes at Oracle, I like Golden State's chances.
Prediction: Warriors 101, Spurs 95
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