The 2014 NBA playoffs feature three critical Game 5 matchups Tuesday night, which means there should be plenty of can't-miss action for basketball fans to consume as the playoff landscape continues to crystallize.
The Chicago Bulls are the only team whose playoff fate hangs in the balance on Tuesday, as the Washington Wizards are up three games to one and will be looking to close the series out on the road.
The Memphis Grizzlies are even with the Oklahoma City Thunder at two games apiece. The same goes for the Golden State Warriors and their current foe, the Los Angeles Clippers. Those teams are looking to gain a decisive advantage with a win.
With so much at stake Tuesday, let's take a look at the updated TV schedule for each game as well as predictions for how each matchup will turn out.
|Wizards at Bulls||WAS 3-1||5||8 p.m.||TNT|
|Grizzlies at Thunder||Tied 2-2||5||9 p.m.||NBATV|
|Warriors at Clippers||Tied 2-2||5||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
Full playoff schedule and bracket can be viewed at NBA.com.
Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have been lacking firepower for the duration of this series against the Wizards. Their only victory came in Game 3 and was largely due to Mike Dunleavy's career night, as he put up 35 points, well above the 11.3 points per game he averaged during the regular season.
For a disastrous encore, the Bulls mired themselves in a 14-0 hole to start Game 4 that proved to be too much to overcome.
Even in Nene's Game 4 absence, Chicago had a difficult time establishing a presence inside, as Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders helps highlight:
In today's game, Taj Gibson had more points in the paint than the rest of the Chicago Bulls combined.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 27, 2014
With John Wall picking the Bulls apart by playing more of a facilitator role (30 assists in four games), it's hard to see the Bulls picking up another game despite being at home.
The Wizards are carrying all the momentum right now and see Nene return in Game 5. They will close this one out on the road due to the Bulls' impotent offense.
Prediction: Washington wins
Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder
Missed opportunities won't haunt you for long in the NBA playoffs, mainly due to the fact that whiffing on those chances often means you will be heading home early. The Memphis Grizzlies learned this lesson on Saturday night in Game 4.
Reggie Jackson added himself to the list of the NBA's out-of-nowhere heroes in Game 4 of this series, pouring in 32 points off the bench and helping the Thunder pull out an overtime victory despite off nights from both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined to shoot 11-of-45 from the field.
ESPN Stats & Info chimed in on their disappointing showing:
Tonight was only the 2nd time in 474 games together (reg season & playoffs) that Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook both shot below 30%.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
By snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Grizzlies now have to head back to Oklahoma City with an even series rather than a commanding 3-1 lead. The Thunder were proud owners of a 34-7 home record in the regular season, and both teams should be fairly drained after playing three straight overtime games.
The Thunder are coming home at just the right time and will pull out a victory to take a 3-2 series lead over Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies.
Prediction: Oklahoma City wins
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers
It's unfortunate the Clippers have to deal with the recent scandal involving their owner, Donald Sterling. However, the team's return home should be complete with a strong showing of support from the fans.
On the hardwood, the key to this series seems to be how Stephen Curry performs from beyond the arc. In the Warriors' two victories, Curry has gone 9-of-20 from three-point land. In their two losses, he is just 4-of-15. Curry acknowledge the Clippers' strategy, via Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News.
"It seems like they've tried to take me out my spots a lot more than any team," Curry said. "Which makes it easy to get assists and get guys open. But over the course of a series, I've got to find a way to have an impact."
Golden State switched to a smaller lineup in Game 4 in order to re-establish its shooting touch, but this strategy should open up room for Blake Griffin to get back to terrorizing the paint like he did in Game 3, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
The Warriors have not been able to thwart Blake Griffin in the paint through 3 quarters pic.twitter.com/FeaStVe99X— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 25, 2014
Griffin will go off, Curry will stumble, and the home crowd will inspire the Clippers to victory and a 3-2 series lead.
This is going to be a difficult series for either team to close out, but expect Los Angeles to get back on track to take control.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins