NBA Playoff Schedule 2013: Analyzing Thursday's Elimination Games
The San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers are each one win away from advancing to the conference finals to meet the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat, respectively.
But they have to get through the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks first.
The Warriors and Knicks will fight for their lives on Thursday, backed by raucous home crowds. The Spurs and Pacers may hold the series advantage, but winning at Oracle Arena or Madison Square Garden isn't exactly a walk in the park.
Here's a look at how I see Thursday's (elimination?) games panning out.
Indiana Pacers (3) at New York Knicks (1)
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: 8 p.m. ET
Not only do the Pacers have a significant advantage on the glass, but the Knicks can't hit the broad side of the Atlantic Ocean right now.
It was predictable that the Knicks would struggle on offense to a degree, given the Pacers held opponents to 42 percent shooting during the regular season, but what has transpired in the playoffs is frankly embarrassing.
The Knicks are shooting 41 percent for the series against the Pacers. NBA scoring champion Carmelo Anthony is shooting 41 percent himself. Iman Shumpert is shooting 37 percent. And J.R. Smith is shooting a ghastly 28 percent while going 6-of-26 from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Pacers have averaged more than 10 rebounds per game more than the Knicks in the series. That is a huge gap. They out-rebounded the Knicks in Game 4, 54-36.
Indiana may be headed to Madison Square Garden in Game 5 on Thursday, but, then again, that didn't stop the club from winning Game 1.
Expect Indiana to take Game 5 and move on to the Eastern Conference finals.
San Antonio Spurs (3) at Golden State Warriors (2)
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
When: 10:30 p.m. ET
This should be a great game in Oakland.
It was only a matter of time before the Spurs would get it going from the field, and that time came in Game 5. After shooting 42 percent for the first four games of the series, the Spurs caught on fire, knocking down 52 percent of their shots on Tuesday, led by Tony Parker (25 points), Kawhi Leonard (17 points) and Danny Green (16 points).
But I'm not ready to hand the series to San Antonio just yet.
An interesting trend has developed. In every other game since Game 1, both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have struggled from the field, only for one of them or both of them to rebound the following game.
Guess how both of them fared in Game 5?
Who will win on Thursday?
That's right, Curry and Thompson combined to go 6-of-22 from the field.
It sounds a bit silly to read too much into the trend, but more than anything, it points out the simple fact that Curry and Thompson are too good of shooters to both have off-nights in consecutive games.
If the Spurs don't shoot lights out, it's hard for them to beat the Warriors because Golden State generally wins the battle of the boards (averaging about six rebounds per game more than San Antonio in the series). A lot of that has to do with the work of center Andrew Bogut, but it's not just that. The entire team has stepped up in double-double machine David Lee's absence. Small forward Harrison Barnes and guard Jarrett Jack combined for 17 rebounds in the Game 4 win in Oakland. Seven different Warriors collected five rebounds or more.
I expect the Warriors to force a Game 7 on Thursday.
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