In a matter of a couple days, the San Antonio Spurs went from a staggering Game 4 meltdown to a convincing Game 5 rout against the Golden State Warriors.
Now they're up 3-2, and they seek to end the Dubs' season with a Game 6 triumph on the road.
Tony Parker's 25 points and 10 dimes fueled San Antonio's relentless attack, as 11 different Spurs scored.
Golden State's stars weren't so fortunate: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 6-of-22, and no one could stop Parker defensively.
Can the Warriors tie up the series for a third time and force a nerve-wracking Game 7?
Time: Thursday, May 16, 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
Series Record: San Antonio 3, Golden State 2
Projected Starting Lineups
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker (PG), Danny Green (SG), Kawhi Leonard (SF), Tim Duncan (PF), Tiago Splitter (C)
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry (PG), Klay Thompson (SG), Harrison Barnes (SF), Carl Landry (PF), Andrew Bogut (C)
Key Storyline: Can Splash Brothers Pick Up Where Barnes Left Off?
Throughout the season and into the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors had feasted off the exploits of Curry and Thompson, while role players Harrison Barnes and Jarrett Jack played a peripheral role.
The last couple games, however, have featured more Barnes and Jack than the Splash Brothers.
Barnes, a 20-year-old rookie, exploded for back-to-back 25-point games, a first for any NBA newcomer.
His matchup against Tony Parker yielded a host of mid-range and post-up opportunities, as well as the intermittent triple. Unfortunately, the Warriors are going to have a tough time winning this series if Barnes is their highest scorer from here on out.
That's where Curry and Thompson come in. They must find their rhythm and, more importantly, find each other. Curry's ankle health could be the X-factor.
In Game 5, the Spurs held the Dubs to six threes. Golden State needs to almost double that for a Game 6 win.
Series Star So Far: Tony Parker
Barnes might be the man of the moment in Oakland, but Parker is the man of the series.
With 24.4 points and 5.8 assists per contest, he's constantly challenging the Warriors as a dual-threat playmaker. No guard in the NBA can get into the paint and cause mayhem like he can.
Parker's most recent masterpiece in Game 5 systematically broke Golden State down and sparked a San Antonio offensive barrage.
When he's roaming freely, making sound decisions and knocking down jumpers, the Spurs are difficult to defend for four quarters. His effectiveness and accuracy on the road will heavily influence Game 6's outcome.
The Spurs Will Win If...
...they push the pace, pound the paint and shoot 50 percent from the field.
Out of the Spurs' three wins in this series, only two of them were convincing expositions worthy of Gregg Popovich's stamps of approval.
Both of those contests featured an upper hand in the points-in-the-paint margin and 50-plus percent shooting.
It's not just about Parker advancing the ball for early offense or Duncan operating in the post. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green thrived in transition for easy buckets, while Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw exposed holes in Golden State's half-court defense.
The Spurs' biggest challenge to accomplish this is the four-quarter commitment to executing paint-oriented offense.
If the Warriors can't seal off the interior, San Antonio will cruise to the conference finals.
The Warriors Will Win If...
...they limit turnovers and Curry reconnects.
Back in Oracle Arena, the Warriors are more likely to deliver a sound defensive outing and use the atmosphere to fuel their possession-by-possession effort.
However, it's not that simple. They do need to take better care of the ball, unlike Game 5 (18 turnovers). That will limit San Antonio's transition chances and early-offense opportunities.
A scarcity of turnovers and protection of the paint takes care of one half of the equation, but what about the inconsistent offense?
The bottom line is the Dubs need a superstar-caliber demonstration from Curry, whose ankle will dictate whether he'll bounce back from a nine-point night in Game 5.
It doesn't need to be a ridiculous shooting spree or instant-classic onslaught. They just need him to shoot at an efficient rate in both halves while distributing the ball to guys like Andrew Bogut, Carl Landry and Thompson.
The two squads have traded punches this series, with neither team claiming back-to-back triumphs.
It's going to stay that way in Game 6, as it's the Warriors' turn to assert their game plan and make winning plays down the stretch.
You can bet the Splash Brothers will awaken from their recent slumber, and when they hit a lull, Mark Jackson can turn to his newfound stars Jack and Barnes.
An improved defensive front will make scoring a tough task for San Antonio in the second half, and steady production from all five Dubs starters will force a Game 7.
Prediction: Warriors 101, Spurs 95
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