It has gotten to the point that NBA fans are absolutely spoiled with the 2014 playoffs, and we aren’t even close to finished with the first round yet. Every night, there is something new and exciting to discuss, be it collapses from high seeds, incredible individual performances or even the dreaded officiating controversy.
Saturday’s schedule brings four more enticing games to the table, including the pivotal Game 4 of both the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks series and the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies series.
Grantland’s Bill Simmons sums up just how thrilling the early action has been:
Now THIS is a Round 1, my friends. Do you realize road teams have won 10 of 19 playoff games so far? Do you realize we’ve had 297 officiating controversies already? Do you realize three 50-win coaches are in real danger of getting canned within the next 10 days? Do you realize we have an 8-seed beating a 1-seed and a 7-seed beating a 2-seed? Do you realize Indiana is slapping together the Mother of All NBA Swoons? Do you realize LaMarcus Aldridge is morphing into some insane cross of young Kevin McHale, older Karl Malone, in-his-prime Buddha Edwards, and peak Kevin Garnett? Do you realize a Wizards-Clippers Finals is in play? Repeat: Do you realize a Wizards-Clippers Finals is in play?????
With all that happening at once, it’s easy to lose track of the bracket. No worries, an updated version of it can be found right here.
Here is a look at the complete broadcast schedule for all of Saturday’s action as well:
|Indiana Pacers at Atlanta Hawks||2 p.m.||TNT||2-1 (Atlanta)|
|San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks||4:30 p.m.||TNT||1-1|
|Miami Heat at Charlotte Bobcats||7 p.m.||ESPN||2-0 (Miami)|
|Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies||9:30 p.m.||ESPN||2-1 (Memphis)|
Now that we know what the schedule is for Saturday, let’s dig into some predictions.
Indiana Pacers Bounce Back
It is easy to pile on the Indiana Pacers right now.
After all, they certainly don’t look like the No. 1 seed that was seen during much of the regular season as the only true threat to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. Roy Hibbert has disappeared completely, with 28 turnovers and 23 personal fouls as compared to 27 points in his last six games, and Jeff Teague looks like Isaiah Thomas running the show for the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks.
There are some obvious matchup problems for the Pacers given that all five Hawks starters can shoot the three and stretch the floor, but rarely do we see a No. 8 seed dictate tempo like this.
Paul George called out his team’s toughness after the Game 3 loss, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): "We have a dream of winning it all. We've got to be much more tougher than that. I don't think it's there. Our toughness is questionable right now."
However, the last time the Pacers had their backs against the wall, they blew the Hawks out in Game 2 behind George’s 29 points. Indiana may not ultimately win the series, but it will respond in a similar matter Saturday.
Urgency plus talent is a difficult combination to beat, even if that talent has been struggling recently.
Charlotte Bobcats Steal a Game
The series between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Heat was over before it even began given that the Bobcats have not beaten Miami since LeBron James joined the squad. Al Jefferson getting hurt in Game 1 was just the icing on the cake.
Who wins Game 3?
Still, the Bobcats have battled, and there may be a case of looking ahead to a potential second-round clash with old rivals Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett sinking in for Miami.
The Bobcats were only down by a single point in Game 2 in South Beach with 10 seconds left and had a chance to force overtime in the final possession. Expect the Charlotte crowd to be in a frenzy and the Heat to be a bit lethargic with what appears to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
It will ultimately serve as a bit of a wake-up call for James and the Heat as they proceed to win in five games, but Charlotte will get to celebrate for one night at least.
Mavericks Put a Scare Into San Antonio
The fact that the talented Dallas Mavericks are the No. 8 seed seems almost unfair to the San Antonio Spurs, but as ESPN Stats & Info points out, they have dominated Dirk Nowitzki and Co. lately:
Mavericks win, snap their 10-game losing streak vs Spurs— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2014
The thought process here is that the Spurs will eventually win the series, but Dallas is going to use the momentum it has from a Game 2 blowout victory and the raucous home crowd to take a temporary 2-1 lead over San Antonio. It may just put some panic into the defending Western Conference champions in the process.
The Mavericks controlled almost all of Game 1 until a fourth-quarter collapse and dominated Game 2 in San Antonio.
Perhaps most worrisome for the Spurs is the that Nowitzki only scored 27 combined points in those two games, which is something we would expect in a single game instead. Dallas has been the better team for seven of the eight quarters in this series without serious contributions from its superstar, meaning that if Nowitzki does turn it on, San Antonio will be in trouble.
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